Episode 12 - Jamie Finch-Penninger

 

  

 

In this episode, we talk to Jamie Finch Penninger, a Journalist who mostly covers Australian  Cycling and Cyclists. He works as a freelancer and works with SBS Cycling Central, and has published articles with Ride Magazine, Cyclist UK, Cycling Tips, Ella, Peloton Café and  Bike Magazine.

 

In this episode we cover: 

  • The story of how Jamie started his journalist work in the cycling industry
  • His unique perspective on the article he wrote about Racing the Tour de France in the fashion of the world cup
  • What keeps people tuning in to the sport
  • The interesting things about joining races, especially Tour de France
  • His thoughts on GreenEdge ad transitioning to a GC team with less Australian riders and what he thinks influenced this decision
  • Preparations and requirements for joining races
  • How cycling is different from other sports
  • Jamie’s thoughts on the surprise packets and who will be on it this year
  • His thoughts on the NRS and who will be the next big thing
  • A discussion on the commonality of rookie riders’ mistakes or common problems
  • The most interesting Jamie has seen in cycling
  • Jamie’s thoughts on Richie and BMC and how they will go this year

 

Links:

 

Transcript:

 

FELICITY:

This is episode 12. I have here today, Jame Finch-Penninger who is a journalist who mostly covers Australian cycling and cyclists. Jame works as a freelancer and works with SBS Cycling Central. Has published articles with Ride Magazine, Cyclist UK, Cycling Tips, Ella, Peloton Café and Bike Magazine. Being a journalist involves writing, editing, publishing content online, engaging on social media, posting video highlights and appearing on the Zwift Cycling Central podcast to name a few. Jame also produces his own podcasts called the BrakeDown podcast which focuses on the NRS, the National Road Series and what our Aussie cyclists are up to overseas. Welcome Jame.

JAMIE:

Thanks Felicity. Thanks for having me.

FELICITY:

And, so pleased that you can join us since you're working long hours with the Tour De France. I really appreciate that and I'm sure our listeners do too. You're not only writing, editing and publishing content plus having your BrakeDown podcast, tell us how did you start? Why cycling?

JAMIE:

It's a long story but I’ll keep it short. Essentially, I was in a dead end job. I mean, I was half way through a law degree at uni and I decided I hated it so I decided to go out into the industry and take a few internship jobs and see if I was interested in doing it. I decided I wasn’t interested in doing it and then spent some time doing some menial manual laboured jobs and went, well, this isn’t what I want to do with my life. What do I actually want to do? And, I thought about what I was passionate about and following cycling is something I've always been really interested in and I decided to start blogging. So, writing my own blog for about a year. And, then I sent my writing off to some editors around the cycling industry and I happened to strike lucky with a few different editors here and there. They liked my stuff so they started publishing me and basically it snowballed from there. I started off just writing previews for cycling races and these days I do a bit of everything when it comes to journalist work in the cycling industry.

FELICITY:

So, you haven’t come from a traditional cycling background or anything like that which is quite unique.

JAMIE:

Yeah. I mean, I do cycle a bit. Mostly recreational and I have tried a few races but I get nervous amongst the bunch so I'm not exactly a good racer in that regard. But no, I mean, I mostly come from the side of being a fan rather than being already involved in the industry as a rider. So, yeah. I suppose in that way it is different.

FELICITY:

Yeah. I noticed in a recent article you wrote about racing the Tour De France in the fashion of the world cup. That you broke down the riders by country. That’s a unique perspective I thought and take on looking at and thinking about the teams in the Tour De France, isn’t it?

JAMIE:

Yeah. From a personal perspective, I suppose that comes back to being originally a fan. You look at things — so, I've been working a bit on the world cup as well. I'm doing some video editing work for that and you look at that event and you think, okay, well what can we take from that? And, then transfer it over into cycling and to make cycling better. And, with the Tour De France, I feel there’s some disconnect between the average fan or the casual sporting fan who might only switch on the Tour De France once a year and a bigger engagement with the race. It's quite confusing I think to some people that the trade teams have a number of different nationalities amongst them and most people just want to just switch on and support the Australians or support the Columbians or support the French, whatever. And, I don’t know if it's a barrier to understanding the sport but certainly would be a lot clearer and a lot more simple for people if it was just based on country lines but I don’t know. I don’t think it would ever happen to be honest. It happened back in the day, back in the sixties I think was the last time we had national teams riding the Tour De France. These days everything’s a lot more corporate and based on sponsorship so I'm not sure if we’ll ever see it in my lifetime but it would be an interesting exercise I think.

FELICITY:

And, as you mentioned the fan base and parochialism of supporting your own country in other sports and the experience that that creates with both events having such a rich history which is very true, both events have a quite a few similarities.

JAMIE:

Yeah. Well, of course, I mean we’re up to 105 Tours De France now and the world cups been going since 1930 I think. So, I mean, they're both successful events obviously and they have a great history within, you know, sporting culture within just general culture in terms of (05:20) of the world. That is obviously a major part of what gets people tuning in that it is such a pinnacle of sporting achievement.

FELICITY:

Absolutely. And also, it's got fantastic aerial shots and it really involves you with France and if it goes to any other European countries, it's actually really delectable, isn’t it? You know, as far as the food, the towns that they go through. How people dress up the towns. It's just such a visual delight as well as the excitement of the racing.

JAMIE:

Well, that’s one of the great things about cycling that you don’t get with any other sport. Almost every other sport is just entirely enclosed within a stadium. Within a sporting field or even in the cases of marathons and stuff, you're not going the same distance that you go with a cycling event. And, you get to see a bit of a travel log of the region that you're going around and it's interesting with the Tour De France actually you’ve got — it's a broad church we've got over at SBS. There’s people who watch entirely for the racing and will get angry at you on social media if we have like a Gabriel Gateaux cooking segment or if we spend time looking at the scenic shots of the churches, that sort of thing. And, then there’s people who absolutely hate it if you leave that sort of stuff out. So, you have to balance things and I think the beauty of the regions is a major draw of what makes cycling great, what makes the Tour De France great. And, I can see the lure and why people just tune in to watch that above anything else.

FELICITY:

I guess, I can see that if you're a die-hard cyclist and that’s all you want to watch but I actually know quite a few people that don’t cycle and actually love the Tour De France. So, I think it actually then has a much broader appeal for listeners and watchers for opening up a broader demographic so that could get more people into cycling that way. Because they're actually drawn in another way not just traditionally loving cycling but, you know, drawn in from other funnels of interest.

JAMIE:

Yeah. And, I’d love to see that translate into more people supporting cycling locally. I mean, because there’s a lot of people who watch the Tour De France but they're never going to go down and watch a local crit at their local cycling club or watch an NRS race or even, you know, know who the local riders are. I would love to see that translate a Tour De France viewership into local viewership as well.

FELICITY:

Absolutely. I can see that for sure. What are your thoughts on GreenEDGE transitioning to a GC team and therefore less Australian riders?

JAMIE:

I've actually written quite extensively on this and spoken to people. I had a long interview with Shayne Bannan who’s the general manager for GreenEDGE and essentially, he said that it's part of the evolution of the squad. They started off with, however many it was, there was about 15 Australian riders at the start of their world tour tenure and it slowly whittled down, I mean, I think there is still 10 or 11 or so but he made the point that if you're going to go out and get the best riders to win the grand tours, not all of them are going to be Australian and you're not necessarily going to find the sort of rider that you need to achieve that if you're just shopping in one region. But I think we are seeing, you know, losing a bit of that Australian identity now. I mean, it's not quite the same Aussie team that it once was that identified solely as being Australian and was, you know, fighting for Australians like the Aussie battler team. I mean, I think that with Caleb Ewan being left out of the Tour De France, that was probably the biggest repudiation of that fact because Caleb is arguably Australia’s best young talent and we wanted to see him go up against the very best in the world. I mean, imagine him going up against Fernando Gaviria in the sprints at the moment at the first few stages of the tour. It would be a sight to see and I think a lot of Australians would get really excited about that.

FELICITY:

What influenced that decision, do you think?

JAMIE:

Well, part of it is the reduction in team size going from nine riders down to eight riders and there’s just less space to take on a dual focus team. So, a team that can do both supporting a general classification bid and supporting a sprinter. The weird thing about it was that they — I mean, from the team’s selection perspective leaving Caleb out wasn’t a problem. The problem was that they announced it back in December that Caleb would be going and he spent his entire season building up around that. Taking instances where he was going on altitude camps before going to races. Long training camps as well and they compromised his performance before the tour so he would have later gains at the tour and he’d be better there. But they then went back on their word. Reneged essentially and said, no, your results weren't good enough in the lead up and to be honest that was what really rankled with me and probably with a lot of people in the public because that’s the reason that you tell somebody that they’ve got a guaranteed spot on the team so they can take those risks that maybe weren't guaranteed performance earlier on, so you can be a bit better later. That was a bit annoying.

FELICITY:

Being a team, I would have thought that would have been managed by, you know, the team manager or the coach or whoever’s responsible for that because I would have thought that each individual has different requirements that they need to get up to speed. You know, to play their A game. To ride at their A game. It takes different training. Obviously, he’s a sprinter so that requires different, you know, requirements and preparation than, you know, the other riders. So, I'm a bit surprised by that. I would have thought that it would have been perhaps a bit more clearly mapped out.

JAMIE:

Yeah. It's a funny one these days because often riders will have their own coaches but the coaches will then have to interface with the team staff. And, you’ve got general managers. You’ve got directeur sportif’s all making decisions that go into it. So, it's a complex process getting fit these days and obviously there’s a lot of very intricate science that goes into it. It's always interesting. Especially when you see somebody breaking the mould like a Matt Hayman winning Paris-Roubaix or Steele Von Hoff coming back and winning the commonwealth games and you wonder, well their preparation was awful so I mean, how much does it matter that they were using all this amazing science and doing everything to the exact - - -

FELICITY:

Degree.

JAMIE:

Exactly.

FELICITY:

But then you’ve got AFL footy, like they, you know, really take it seriously and they have someone that manages the whole team, don’t they? And so, you know, they know what's going on and they're really quite particular with their guidelines and what they're allowed to do and not allowed to do. So, it's interesting the contrast.

JAMIE:

Sometimes to their detriment in cases like Stephen Dank, I suppose. It's a different scene in cycling and I think because cycling is a bit more individualistic because riders are seen as more professional and able to handle themselves because a lot of them, you know, do. I mean, it's quite a lonely sport in a lot of ways, cycling. Especially for Australians. They have to go across and essentially uproot their lives and move over to Europe, live there. I've spoken to a few cyclists this year, I mean, for all intense and purposes, they're Europeans now not Australians. I mean, Jack Haig for instance, he hasn’t been back in Australia for three years. He's essentially an Andorran these days because that’s what you need to do if you're going to be one of the top riders of the world.

FELICITY:

That’s right. That’s something we discussed with actually Jason Baker and he mentioned that, you know, riders really need to use their initiative and be focused and I'm trying to remember the other word he used but it's very true. They're really quite independent and it's definitely different than every other sport.

JAMIE:

I've spoken to Jason actually not so long ago and he was very angry about the Caleb Ewan situation.

FELICITY:

I bet. Absolutely. So, every year there’s a surprise packet. Who will it be this year do you think?

JAMIE:

At the Tour De France?

FELICITY:

Yeah.

JAMIE:

I think Egan Bernal who is the youngest rider in the race and a Team Sky guy. He’s an absolutely phenomenal rider, climber, time trialist. He’s one of the best I think we've seen in his generation and he’s going to go a very long way.

FELICITY:

And, more on the local ground since you follow the NRS, who do you think will be the next big thing to come there and go pro?

JAMIE:

I will give you one from the women’s, one from the men’s. In the women’s, although it's a bit of a vexed question whether they can actually go pro because it's not exactly the best circumstance for women in the elite cycling ranks. But Georgia Whitehouse for Sydney Uni, Staminade. She is one of the best talents I think we've seen come out of the NRS in the last few years. She’s sort of a sprinter come strong rider. I think she’s got the talent to go to the world tour. The question is whether somebody gives her a chance and allows her to go up there. And, I think she probably will ger the chance because of the amazing work with Australians are doing over in the women’s world tour at the moment and doing some really strong results. In the men’s — the problem with the men’s is, there’s such a great depth of talent so it's hard to single one person out but I’ll go for a youngster and Kaden Groves is a guy who hasn’t signed a world tour contract yet but I think he might before the end of the year. So, there you go, there’s an inside scoop on somebody who’s going to be a big name to follow.

FELICITY:

Fantastic. We’ll follow those and see what happens. What rookie mistakes or common problems do you see over and over again with riders? Is there a commonality?

JAMIE:

Well, I'm always surprised by the ways that riders find themselves in trouble and I think a lot of it comes with over enthusiasm or maybe a keenness to show that they're willing to do pretty much anything and they expose themselves to some of the dangers of sport. I think in particular over-training is a big one. We see a lot of cyclists affected with chronic fatigue causing themselves injuries because they’re pushing their body a bit too hard before it's entirely ready for it. I mean, there’s a number of really promising cyclists who I can think of off the top of my head like, Oscar Stevenson, Ben Dyball who have been really badly affected by over training and, you know, guys that would be on the world tour otherwise that probably are keeping themselves from that. Yeah, that’s probably the biggest one I can think of.

FELICITY:

Yeah, right. That’s interesting. So, it's hard to recover from that if they’ve pushed themselves too far then and got chronic fatigue.

JAMIE:

Yeah. It probably extolls the virtue of having a coach who can look at your power data. Look at the efforts your making and look at it dispassionately and say, well look you're probably doing too much here, you probably dial it back a bit. Have at looked at from a non-emotional third perspective. So, you're not just making these decisions within your own head.

FELICITY:

That’s right. What's the most interesting thing you’ve seen Jamie: ?

JAMIE:

I don’t know. I saw a wombat almost take out a Breakaway once when I was riding behind in a team car. That was fun I suppose. I actually told Con Chronis who’s the event photographer at the race. Con’s a great guy actually. You should have him on the podcast. And, he was back photographing the peloton at the time actually and he was like, why didn’t you tell me, that would have been a great shot. That’s the sort of shot that goes on the front of a daily newspaper. It was funny. It almost took out, I think it was Ben Hill and Patrick Burt in the breakaway at the Tour of King Valley and it was a pretty funny sight.

FELICITY:

Well, there’s that video about the kangaroo that wiped someone out. I think I've seen it on Facebook. That would be pretty horrific. It's not something that I really want to see. I don’t want to see anyone get hurt so that’s a good thing that it didn’t actually happen.

JAMIE:

It would be like hitting a sofa or something because they're sturdy creature’s, wombats.

FELICITY:

They are. That’s right. Exactly. Plus, we don’t want to hurt the wombat. Don’t want to hurt ourselves but we don’t want to hurt the wombat.

JAMIE:

This wombat just barrelled out of the side of the road and just went straight across it. I mean, it wasn’t looking after itself maybe.

FELICITY:

No. So, what are your thoughts about Richie and the BMC since they're looking for a new sponsor? How do you think he will go this year?

JAMIE:

I think BMC is a very professional outfit and I think from their history and from what we’re looking at, at the tour at the moment, they are very dedicated outfit and they’ll be okay. I mean, there’s often competing loyalties when riders are coming to the end of their contracts and in this case, it looks like all the riders are going to have to be looking for new contracts next year. The thing is, it helps if you're part of a winning Tour De France team and I think everyone knows that. They’ll be looking to help Richie along the way. Apart from anything, if Richie has indeed signed with Trek-Segafredo as reports have indicated, he’s going to have some swing over there about who they sign and I think most of the domestique’s on his tour squad know that and they want to be the guys who get a contract over at Trek-Segafredo alongside Richie. I don’t know too much of this but it is something to bare in mind at least.

FELICITY:

And, it gives them a really good extra focus I guess because it really depends on how they go, what they move onto next.

JAMIE:

Yeah. Well, it's often called the contract year syndrome where riders who have to perform suddenly they magically do perform. I think in particular in recent years, Phillipe Gilbert has been a good example of that. He had a few years where he barely got a win or two and then all of a sudden it comes up for his contract year and he suddenly winning all over the place.

FELICITY:

Well, there is a thing called the law of supply and demands so perhaps that’s a good trigger for that and they’ll all do well.

JAMIE:

What else? Necessity is the mother of invention as well.

FELICITY:

Exactly. That’s right. Well, I really appreciate you joining us today. In case our listeners wouldn’t realise but Jamie: ’s been working late in the morning preparing the journalistic requirements that you need to do for SBS Cycling Central. So, thank you for joining us today Jamie:  and we would like to refer our listeners to the SKODA Tour Tracker to watch the Tour De France on or SBS.com.au/cyclingcentral. So, check that website out as well for any details and as you know the latest cycling goss and stuff that’s on around. So, appreciate your time today and I’ll look forward to chatting again at some point.

JAMIE:

Cheers. Thanks for your time Felicity.

FELICITY:

You're welcome. Thanks Jamie.

Thanks for listening to the All Torque podcast. We’d love it if you would leave us a rating and review on iTunes. This helps us to deliver content you want to hear about. Please take a moment to share it with your friends and family on Instagram and Facebook. I'm Felicity Dales. See you next episode for another story of inspiration and motivation on the All Torque podcast. 

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