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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Wednesday, April 29, 2020

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2019 Tour de France | 2019 Giro d'Italia

No one should be ashamed to admit he is wrong, which is but saying, in other words, that he is wiser today than he was yesterday. - Alexander Pope

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Pandemic check-in: Quality Bicycle Products's president, Rich Tauer

Bicycle Retailer & Industry News posted this insightful interview:

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. (BRAIN) — With a few exceptions, almost every bike retailer in the country has an account with Quality Bicycle Products, giving the Minnesota-based distributor a wide view of what's happening across the IBD nation. BRAIN spoke with QBP president Rich Tauer late last week to get his perspective of how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting business.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Rich, we've been asking a lot of suppliers for their view of what is happening in retail during the pandemic. Recently several have estimated that about 20% of shops are completely closed. What's your estimation?

For us two weeks ago, that 20% number would have been accurate. Today I don't think it is anymore. A few weeks ago retailers were still trying to figure out if they were deemed essential or not. A lot of retailers felt conflicted and some closed voluntarily while others stayed open and figured out how to do business in a new way. Then another set struggled with how they could do business in this new environment.

Over the past two weeks we and other companies have sent out information to retailers on how to work in this environment: so, what is the protocol when somebody brings in a bike, how to do service, how to deliver it and make sure there is safety all the way through. And how do you keep your store open without really being wide open, so switching to doing appointments and that kind of thing. So I think best practices are being figured out and that 20% number isn't accurate anymore.

My guess is less than 10% at this point.

Even if only 10% of shops are closed, that's still huge. On April 7 John Burke said he thought sales would be down at least 40% industry-wide in April and then about the same in May. What do you think?

From our perspective, we were experiencing some pretty significant drops in sales in March. Alarming. We were looking at those and wondering what the heck was going on out there.

But the end of March was where we bottomed out and then we've slowly been creeping back up. I mean it's still ugly numbers regardless, but it's less ugly than it was. I was certainly in the same camp that John was. But I've been pleasantly surprised that I was maybe a little more pessimistic than I needed to be. For us at least it hasn't been 40% in the last couple weeks.

You can read the entire interview here.

Interview with Bora-hansgrohe's Lukas Pöstlberger

The team posted this:

E-Racing instead of road races - for the first time, as part of "The Digital Swiss 5," professional cycling races were held virtually. One of the participants of the event was BORA-hansgrohe pro rider Lukas Pöstlberger. We talked to the 28-year-old Austrian about his experiences with online showdowns and his opinion about online racing.

Lukas Postlberger

Lukas Pöstlberger wins the first stage of the 2017 Giro d'Italia. Sirotti photo

Lukas, you were one of the BORA-hansgrohe riders to take part in "The Digital Swiss 5.” How was this new experience for you?

Lukas Pöstlberger: Online racing is very different from real racing. These differences start with how to ration your efforts, and go all the way down to specific details about how to take on the downhill and uphill sections. For me, "The Digital Swiss 5" was my first ever online race - a completely new experience.

Are you someone who enjoys riding on the Smart Trainer anyway?

Pöstlberger: Yes, especially in winter, when I’ll ride on the trainer more often. In my hometown in the Salzkammergut in Austria, it’s often very foggy in the cold season and there’s a lot of grit covering the road surfaces. In those times, the trainer is often the better alternative. So when we got the chance to ride "The Digital Swiss 5,” I put my hand up right away.

The peloton has been on hold for almost two months now due to the coronavirus crisis. To what extent was "The Digital Swiss 5" a replacement for the races that would otherwise have taken place?

Pöstlberger: It was certainly not a replacement, and the sporting value is not equivalent to the normal road races. Nevertheless, I was happy to take part in this exciting new format. After all, I am a racer and not a training world champion - so I’m always happy when I have the opportunity to participate in competitions. Especially in the current situation, events such as these are not only important for us riders, but also for the world of professional cycling to continue to showcase the sport.

How did you prepare for the online races?

Pöstlberger: I came into the race directly from training. After a good start to the season at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad [Pöstlberger finished 20th], I took a three-week break from training. Since that time, I have mainly been training my foundations - so I was surprised that my performance was quite good.

What is important in virtual bike races? Are there certain types of riders who, for instance, have an advantage in this discipline?

Pöstlberger: As it looks now, riders with a big engine and a good ability to set the pace are at an advantage - plus good time triallists. Ultimately, aerodynamics doesn’t play a role, but it's still a matter of putting out the same amount of power over a longe period of time. This was certainly demonstrated on the first day when Rohan Dennis took the win. He's not a proven climbing specialist, but he still dominated the field.

You are especially strong in the Classics, but also fast in the race against the clock. So did this type of racing suit you?

Pöstlberger: On paper, yes. But there are a few other factors that are part of a real race, which didn't play a role in this event. On the time trial bike, for example, I benefit from my aerodynamic position. And in a road race, in addition to the wind, there’s a tactical component that also comes into play. I still had to get used to this new type of racing.

There could very well be more online events this year after the Digital Swiss 5. What did you get out of your participation in the premiere event?

Pöstlberger: One thing was certainly that you shouldn't overheat. I used a table fan and an ice pack for my second race, and that was quite helpful. The more experience you gather in online races, the more you learn how to improve.

Do you think that such formats have a future beyond the coronavirus crisis?

Pöstlberger: I think so. The UCI has already planned to organise an indoor World Championships event in the future. Moreover, there are a lot of other organisers which are already active in this area. I will always love classic road cycling, but especially for people in big cities or with less time on their hands, this could be a viable alternative. For real competitions, however, there are definitely still some problems to be solved - for example, the different Smart Trainers and performance values of riders need to be calibrated more precisely. In any case, I’m curious about what’s still to come.

How do you see yourself in the coming weeks?

Pöstlberger: Training, training, training. Unfortunately, there is no fixed race calendar at the moment, so it's just a matter of maintaining a good foundation - and at the same time keeping up morale. In Austria, we can train outdoors, thank goodness, because it is certainly easier here than in other countries.

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