Friday, 26 September 2008

No exclusive interviews here.

That Chris Hoy exclusive - not.

It seems that cycling weekly's exclusive interview with the Mighty Robert Millar is actually not all it appears to be.
Robert agreed to answer a couple of questions via the medium (is that the right word?) of Brian Smith. The couple of questions was to promote the auction of some of Roberts old jerseys for the Braveheart fund (oh if only I had the spare cash).
Now I don't know about you, but I don't really think this constitutes an interview. If it does then I'll be posting the exclusive interview I have with Chris Hoy, you know the one at the Velodrome where I was carrying my bike into the track centre and Chris held the door open for me, it goes like this:
Me: 'Come on Chris'
CH: 'No come on you've got the bike'
ME: 'Cheers Chris'
CH: 'No problem, enjoy your ride'
Whilst it's far from an interview (the RM one, not the CH one), it certainly makes a good exclusive, I don't think anyone else outside grub street would attempt to pass of a couple of questions via a third party about three old cycling jerseys as an exclusive, so you have to hand it to Cycling Weekly. God I'm glad i canceled my subscription I really am.
For what it's worth (and that's not a lot) Robert can live his life as he want's whilst I'd love to hear from him (as any fan surely would)I totally respect his right to privacy and to do what he wants with his life. That he still supports cycling is brilliant.
The fact the Cycling Weekly seem to be using Roberts good nature / name and desire to help young cyclists further their careers as a tool to sell more copies is about as far from brilliant as it could be. In fact on a scale with Brilliant at one end and crappy old turd at the other CW would fall towards the end that smells.

Life, give em life. (the rant....)

What's wrong with two year bans for doping? I'll tell you whats wrong with two year bans for doping, the problem is that the twats come back to cycling. Not only does scum float back to the surface, but it floats up totally unrepentant and for pretty decent money I'd hazard. Next year will see a host of 'high profile names' or floaters as I like to call them, return to the peloton, Basso is back and the Chicken is talking of a return , God knows where it will all end, in tears I suspect.
What I don't want to see when I turn on and tune into a race is the massed ranks of unrepentant ex-dopers at the front of the peloton. I don't want to have my inelegance, my love of the sport, have cycling as a whole sullied by having to see those that have basically insulted every fan and club rider in the world, turn round and laugh in our faces as they ride past stuffing their pockets with Euros.
In addition to life bans I have always believed all contracts should have clauses in them allowing the team to claim back all monies paid (wages and bonuses) to a doped rider whilst they were with that team.
Along with the UCI drawing up a list of Doctors, trainers, managers, etc etc that riders are not allowed to work with under penalty of life bans. The UCI should also insist on anti doping programmes to be delivered by each national federation to it's young and amateur riders, under pain of exclusion from the worlds / Olympics for failure to do so.
Riders should have a maximum number of days that they are allowed to race, I mean if you've done 130 days from Feb to October what's gong to keep you going as the season winds down?
Of course this would require one thing that is unlikely to happen, the UCI getting tough on doping. I mean why worry about doping when you can have a stand-up row about TV rights and the money generated with the race organisers.

Failing all that, there is one solution to the doping problem, give me a baseball bat and a line of 2nd test failures and I'll sort the problem for you, it'll be hard to make a return when you've got no kneecaps.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

It brings a tear to the eye.

Hein Verbruggen is to pack it all in. The man who has done so much for cycling over the years (all of it bad) is to hang up his UCI blazer to give himself more time to study history. (according to CN) .
Before he goes though he managed to pass comment on a few things, doping for instance - "The problem of doping is not greater in cycling than in other sports. But unfortunately we have this image and the image is often more important than the facts."
Indeed so Hein, the problem for us is not greater than other sports, but the image is a lot worse, perhaps you should have done something about it when you had the chance? Oh I'm sorry you did, you went on holiday.

And so to the big news of the week, I cleaned my training bike, oh sorry, you don't want to know that, well how about Mr Armstrong then? Here's something I don't get, why is Lance using a different testing programme from the rest of the team? What does that say about Astanas testing programme?. Dick Pound (why do I laugh every time I hear that name?) says "If it's not an (IOC) accredited laboratory the mere fact scientist X says 'I think Lance is ok' (means nothing)," Still it's kind of Lance isn't it? It made me smile, he'll do things his own way and the rest of you can eff off up the highway.

If any of you are looking for additional riders for your cycling club for the 09 season, you could do a lot worse that AC (that's Alberto Contador and not AC from operation Puerto) he'll be looking for a ride soon, I suspect he might well want more than a free bike and a jersey with the name of the local butcher on it, but you never know. He will however insist on being team leader, which could put the noses of any 1st cats you have slightly out of joint. Still it might be worth asking the question eh?
As each day passes AC (that's Alberto Contador and not AC from operation Puerto) get's more and more pissed off. As he does I suspect his lawyers are getting more and more excited at the prospect of some nice legal fee's and his manager makes more and more phone calls to other teams. Who would have the budget for a three times Grand Tour winner? Not many that's for sure, some sponsor is going to have to dig very deep to get him to sign on the dotted. Still if he's a pissed off as the rumors would have you believe he may well go for less than he's currently on. Assuming he does walk it will have to be for a team that can help him through the mountains in the GT's and lets face it there aren't any of those currently leaderless. What ever happens the next few weeks promise to be very entertaining.

So what's the score with the worlds TT course? No one except those that won medals seemed happy with it or their ride, no one could get 'on top' of the course and as a result just about everyone felt they could have done better. have a look at the mens list and there's certainly a lot of class TTers below Dave Millar, Gutierrez, Rogers, Boasson Hagen etc, and so on and so on.
Still from a GB perspective was there any chance that a medal would be won? Er, no, not really. So it's all hands on deck, all cards to play, do or die, now or never for the next few days, can't wait.

Whilst there were undoubtedly long faces and surprised looks from the TTers, you would have to go a long way to find looks as bizarre as the one Greg Lemond offered up to the worlds press at the Lance fest Las Vagas, get a load of this.....

What's all that about? It's a look that says 'You have to be joking / taking the piss / completely barking, if you expect me to believe that'.
You know I was never sure about Lemond as a rider, but since he's stepped back into the limelight I've come to totally love the guy. His interview in Procycling a few months back was excellent, great prospective and views on training and racing. The stand he took against Landis and what he had to endure on personal level moved him way up the ranks of the good guys if you ask me. I'd love to get his take on the whole Lance to return business, but I think maybe that look says more than words ever could.

What has been made clear on the LA to return front is quite clearly that nothing is clear. Might be a year, could be just until July 09, could be two years. Lance could be team leader, AC (that's Alberto Contador and not AC from operation Puerto) could be team leader, Levi could be team leader. Johan will of course have a big say, now lets all try and guess what Johan's going to say............. yep I think you'll be right.
The cancer message is admirable and I'm sure that for Lance is a big, the biggest motivator here. But I just get the feeling he want's to put the record straight to some extent. You know, I was a nice guy, I was clean, I was fair, you can like me now. Whether the record will ever be straight or indeed could ever be straight is open to question. I guess the next few months may well show a new side of Lance Armstrong, I suppose it's up to fans worlds wide to hold and pass their own views. Good luck to 'em.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Lets all go down the Strand - hava a banana.

Who was busiest at Le tour de Britain? The riders? The team managers? The team mechs? The fans? Wrong, wrong, wrong. It was the comms. Most of their time was spent trying to fine Rock Racing. In the end the 'unrepentant' walked away with £1500 of fines, it would have been more but the poor comms were so confused by the continual change of team kit that they had no idea which one was the official jersey and so in the end gave up bothering. Hamilton must have been the main recipient of these fines (about the only thing he's likely to win) as the jersey he wore each day was about as far from the official US national champions jersey as it was possible to be. I wonder if US racing will be handing out some bonus fines on his return?

Meanwhile on the come back trail (no not him) - Ivan Basso - returns for the Japan Cup, I can hardly wait. He'll trot out in his new Liquigas kit (or lickey-gas, if your name is Duffield). That will be the same Liquigas team that signed the UCI pledge that it wouldn't sign any riders that had been banned for doping offenses for four years from the start of their ban. Still four years, four months, what's the difference, time fly's when you're running a busy professional cycling team.

Now here's something I bet you didn't foresee, I certainly didn't. Laurent Brochard want's to come back - "Some directeurs sportifs know that I'm still able to ride, they have my number, they're welcome to call me," say the man who was was with Festina in 1998. My only advice is, go out and enjoy yourself mate, if you sit by that phone you'll be waiting a long time.

Who will be next? It's starting to get farcical, it really is. But in some ways it reminds me of freegans at your local supermarket. They're the people who go round the back of the store, scavenging through the bins for all the crap the store has binned. They then take it home and eat it. I was starting to think all the bad apples had been chucked out, but not only has someone gone round and collected them, but they've taken them back into the store and are trying to restock the shelves.

AC (that's Alberto Contador, not AC from operation Puerto) says -
"I think I've earned the right to be the leader of a team without having to fight for my place,"
So he's happy then. Hopefully we'll be heading for a toys and pram situation here. Where's the tub of glee?

Well we're into Worlds week now and the first race mens U23 TT has happened. What else has happened is the riders are pulling out citing general knackeredness as their excuse. Kirchen and O'Grady join Cancellara and Cav on the sidelines. All citing too long a season, still don't worry the UCI know what they're doing. Lets make the season nice and long and have the worlds right at the end. How are you supposed to maintain competitiveness from April to October? Answers on a postcard please to either Uncle Pat or Dr Fuentes - I'm sure one of them will have an answer.

Monday, 22 September 2008

Should we make cycling global? Nah, lets make dessert.

So what I don't understand is this, in order to restore 'confidence' in the 'markets' various governments are giving money away. Apparently they seem to be giving it to the banks, isn't that a bit like walking into a meeting of alcoholics anonymous and saying 'oh, you guys look a bit thirsty, here, have this create of whiskey.' just a thought. As is...

New sponsors for the GB Nat Pro squad. The U23ers rode with the Sky logo on their skinsuits. The comic (so called cos it treats professional bike racing in the same way the Beano does) seems to think that this means that Sky will be sponsoring the team currently known as Nat Pro.
Well I don't know if that's true, I'd heard a rumor that there was a three way sponsorship deal about to be signed with the following: 'Poundland', 'Me Neep - the turnip grower.' and 'Ruf - the German maker of creamy deserts.'

Whoever it is there is one thing that's perfectly clear, British Cycling are crap!
The money can't come too soon, this plan to be number one may be well and good, but there are areas of world cycling the BC don't dominate.
Take a look at this..... It's this years world championships for indoor cycling. Now I thought GB were world number one indoors, but oh no, apparently we only rule the boards of your average velodrome. When it comes to indoor cycling we're officially crap, not a rainbow jersey in sight, pathetic if you ask me.
So any injection of extra cash will clearly be spent on getting British athletes to do this...

Indoor cycling consists of two events, cyclo-ball (football on bikes, look on youtube for radball) and artistic cycling, although what could be more artistic than the GB team pursuit squad destroying the worlds record is beyond me.
Apparently both are very, very, very popular in Germany where there are 10,000 license holders. This will be the same Germany, where despite a flourishing 6-day scene track racing is dying on it's arse.
Still German domination aside we must make success at these events top an imperative. I'm sure the talent teams could extend their nets a little further, instead of picking kids who manage good times at test events they should be picking kids that fall over the handlebars and ride their bikes in to each other. Like this elusive Le tour de France winner, we have an artistic cycling world champion out there, it should be the job of British Cycling to find him or her.

Sunday, 21 September 2008

World domination - keep the faith.

Back in the mists of time a man called Peter Keen stood up at a British Cycling meeting (then BC Federation) and said he had a vision, that vision was the GB would soon become number one ranked nation in the world.
And so (I'll spare you the finer details) it came to pass. This week then sees an interview with Brian Cookson widely reported, in which he talks about a Le tour team for 2010. Now I don't know if this a new interview or if someone has dragged up a few good quotes and pasted 'em onto a site, with other editors following suit, still none the less it helps build on the momentum of the Worlds, Olympics, Le Tour de Britain.

This then is the much heralded Nat Pro, a professionally sponsored team that will feature mainly British riders, but be able to give up those riders for major events such as the track worlds.
So will it happen? Well BC have good contacts with major sponsors, who are or have been involved in other aspects of the sport, Tesco, DHL, Halfords, Fred's pluming supplies . The new deal with the track squad having Sky on their jerseys proves that cycling has major appeal to big name sponsors. The Sky deal was of course done before the Olympics, before the marketability of cycling went sky high. So there is the high profile, the success and the riders. It looks like everything is in place and all that is needed is the deal to be done.
If a deal is to be done then Dave Brailsford is the man to do it. I don't know who has been instrumental in signing what BC sponsorship deals, but DB has the profile and the gift of the gab and if he needs to wow sponsors with Olympic Gold and Rainbow jerseys he has them a plenty to call on. So I guess it's just a matter of sitting back and having faith.

Hang on, hang on, I said the riders, where are they? Well this year sees Ben Swift and Jonny Bellis sign for the big time and looking at the performances of the Academy squad in Italy the next few years should see a steady stream of quality riders, who know how to win and more importantly do win. Add to that production line riders of the quality of Cummings, Froom, Thomas, the experience of Hunt and Hammond, the step ups for Dan's Lloyd and Fleeman and there are certainly already riders with the ability to make a solid core of a good team.

What of Cav? Well the cannonball has just extended at Columbia and I doubt he'll appear in the first version of the Nat Pro team, he needs a solid lead out train and Columbia can give him that. But there's no reason why with a few good signings that couldn't be replicated at the Nat Pro set up.

The BC high up's have always said that there's a British kid capable of winning Le tour de France, it's just up to them to find him. Have faith.

But before all of that all of this - The Worlds, U23, Womens and Mens road races take place.
In the womens Nicole Cooke must start as favorite, it's a course that should suit her and she'll have a strong team to support her, with Pooley, Laws, Allen and Armitstead all doing the team job to get Nicole into the final selection. It'll be tough, with the German and Italians out to make amends for messing up the Olympics. I doubt that being favorite will worry Nicole too much she's has maintained her amazing form, winning the sprints and points in Ardeche as well as finishing 6th, Sharon Laws finished 5th and Emma Pooley won the mountains prize - not a bad few days work. Whilst the Worlds course doesn't have an Olympic size hill it'll still be test enough and in Emma Pooley GB have the best climber currently riding. It will be a tough race, but rainbow to cap a brilliant season for Nicole? Don't bet against it.

In the U23 race GB has a number of riders capable of winning, Swifty will lead the team with Jonny Bellis (3rd last year). Both have had great seasons, and next year will see them both riding for 'soraway top pro teams' (sorry I'm getting into tabloid mode here). But along with Swift and Bellis Peter Kennaugh is well capable of winning should he get into the right break. They will be well supported by both Dowsett and McEvoy. So again, podium as very real possibility and I guess there will be disappointment if the team come back with no medal.

Finally, the mens race, no potential winners, and to be honest no chance of a podium. Cummings and Millar should be close to the final selection, but will they have anything after the TT? With Cancellara missing there will be a number of riders who could fancy their chances, will Millar be one of them?

In Spain it's all got very exciting hasn't it? Oh, OK then. Meanwhile in Spain ZZZZZZZ, with a little extra ZZZZZZZ. Astana first and second and Sastre third, after saying Riis smells of poo, oh come on, as parting shots go I'm sure you could have done better than that.
For God sake, move the race back to to May, you might find that the non Spanish peloton then see's riding it as something of value, rather than something to be endured after a long season.
Still, congratulation to AC for his second grand tour of the year and the third of his career. That's AC as in Alberto Contador, no AC as in AC of operation Puerto, after all as Alberto said 'What do they want, my blood?' - er.........

Meanwhile in Belgium.

Saturday, 20 September 2008

Hein Verbruggen - Cycling's greatest visionary .

There is a bizarre rumor that Lance is going to buy Le Tour de France.
Now normally I'd ignore this as silly season empty paper talk. But this, I'm scared to say, has the ring of truth, not because LA is involved, oh no, the reason it looks like a possibility to me is the involvement of Hein Verbruggen.
I'd rate the LA inspired takeover of Le TdF as possibly one of the worst things ever to happen to the sport, I haven't got a concrete reason (I'll work that one out tonight). You see disasters for the world of cycling and the name Hein Verbruggen seem to go hand in hand. Major crisis at the 98 Tour? Hein goes on holiday, UCI to take a major roll in the fight against drugs? Hein seems well hidden away. The madness that was the ProTour? Hein's bright idea. No if there's a disaster on the horizon there's safe money to be made in betting out Hein is behind it. Mere mention of the mans name is enough to make my blood run cold.
In all seriousness if you want to manage the future of world cycling you could replace Hein with a trained chimp, all the chimp would have to do is pull slips of paper out of the hat. You could get school kids that know nothing about cycling to write ideas on slips of paper, stick 'em in the hat and chimppy could pull 'em out one at a time and they could all become official UCI policy.

'I want a rabbit' - Each UCI team to employ at least 1 rabbit.
'I've put a saucepan on my head' - All helmets to be replaced with saucepans.
'I don't want to eat the cabbage' - New blood test introduced, excessive amount of cabbage residue equal a two year ban, pending appeal.
'I want a biscuit' - all race food to be biscuits - new sponsorship opportunities here me thinks.
'I want to ride bike' - All team bikes to have stabilisers fitted until monkey boy pulls out one saying...
'I want to ride with no stabilisers'
'I don't want to go to bed' - All races to be nocturnes
'I don't like mummy' - Womens races are banned
'I don't like daddy' - Mens races banned

And so on until you lose the will to live, which when Hein is around is pretty damn quick.

Did you know that cycling journalists have their own world championships? Why, couldn't this be re named as your average 4th cat chipper? Ever wondered what happens to all those beautiful test bikes? Well here they are in their full glory. I'm just not sure that when the worlds premier bike makers hand over their lovingly prepared machines they had the vision of a bunch of wanna be journos bashing them to death. Still a rainbow jersey is awarded apparently for the winner of the race and not the most sycophantic piece of writing. Shame that.

Friday, 19 September 2008

Ride faster, ride longer - the secret of success.

As a coach I am often asked how can I go faster? My reply is simple, how much can you pay me?
Well I now have the answer, today I put a new speedo on my training bike and that new speedo was set to kilometers not miles. Bingo, the numbers for speed are up, the numbers for distance are up.
Gone are the days of plodding up hills with 12 showing stubbornly on the dial, it's 20 all the way now. As for distance, I sail with ease past 100 and am still fresh enough to cut the grass on my return home.

Now I see from the web site known as 'the comic on line' that Rapha are doing a range of cyclo cross specific clothing. Now here's what I don't get, if you're riding a cross race you are more than likely to have club / team issue kit to wear and so the market for the Rapha cross gear must by definition be on the small side. Will anyone be racing in this - no. Will you see poseurs hanging round cross events with it on? Not in my neck of the woods, so I guess that just leaves those that ride the weekly cross event that takes place in London Kings Road then.
Whilst on the Rapha site I had a good laugh, sorry that should read a good look round. Now I must hold up my hand here and say I quite like the look of some of the Rapha kit, they look well made and stylish. But the prices? For God sake, they really take the piss don't they. The new winter range sells softshell gloves for £90. Now I've got a couple of pairs of soft shell gloves, both were bought for about £25 - £30 from outdoor shops in the lakes. Their lightweight softshell jacket looks great, but I've got windblocker jackets from Gore, Castelli plus one from my club the whole lot cost less than the Rapha one. You just don't, in my experience, see real cyclists in Rapha kit, there's nothing wrong with it, but in my mind there's a strong link between Rapha and the famous saying 'all the gear, no idea'. I'll be happy to be proved wrong.

Hang on, hold your horses a full day in the cycling media has gone by without a Lance story. Still there's supposed to be a 'big' announcement on Wednesday, where he's riding, who he riding with, what bike he'll be on, what he'll have for breakfast and the preferred brand of toilet paper no doubt.

Meanwhile in the real world Jez Hunt signs for the Cervelo Test Team (why teat team? does anybody know the answer to that? I mean apart from the obvious one, cos I doubt they will be testing new bikes on every ride)So that's four Brits now, Dan Lloyd, Dan Fleeman and Rog Hammond. Plus some bloke from Span who's supposed to have won something over the summer, dunno what that was.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

The finish is by the burnt out car.

'The finish is by the burnt out car', was the instruction given to the riders at the last cross I went to, needless to say it wasn't in the bit of Europe across the water. Where finishes are more likely to be next to beer tents, so much more class in Belgium I always thought. In the UK the first mud baths of the season are getting under way and soon the big UCI events will be kicking off across the continent.
New teams, riders moving about and new beer tents make the coming season just as exciting as it always is.
Sometimes people stop me in the street and ask me to stop following them, sometimes they stop me in the street and ask me why I love cyclo cross so much, so here are the top reasons to go and watch a cross race across the water.

1. Beer tent, once upon a time races used to go through the beer tent, it was stopped allegedly because the fans were getting too rowdy, I suspect is the real reason was that by the time the final circuit was due most of the riders had climbed off and were now on the piss.

2. It's very, very, very hard. We all like to see some poor sap suffering on a bike, why else do we go to races? But in cross not only do they have to suffer on the bike, you get to see em carry the bikes up steeply daft hills.

3. The riders crash a lot - and you can enjoy it without feeling guilty. See a rider crash out on the road or the track and it looks painful see a rider go over the bars and face first into a swamp is as funny as seeing Hein Verbruggen fall down the stairs. (well OK maybe not that funny, I doubt if anything could be, but it's pretty rib tickling none the less).

4. Small teams don't have the win at all cost mentality of big ones and cross is full of little teams, oh sure there are the 'big' boys who are likely to win, but there are plenty there who seem just to be in it for the craic.

Look, Fidea are the worlds top cross team and this is what they have in their team bus! How good is that!!!

Hang on, I'll just get the crystal ball out and predict the future. Wait, the clouds are clearing and I see 2 monthly cycling publications, someone is opening them and wait, it can't be, it is wall to bloody wall Lance Armstrong.
I don't think you need a crystal ball to predict the next months ProCycling and Cycle Sport will be crammed cover to cover with the return of Lance, lets face it there's hardly been a month since he jacked it in that he hasn't appeared in one or the other of the UK 'premier monthly bicycle racing publications'. 'Lance running a marathon', 'Lance not running a marathon', 'Bruyneel on how he misses Lance', 'Lance on how he misses Bruyneel', 'Lance - a look back at the tour wins', 'The tour without Lance', 'Absolutely nothing about Lance this month, whoops we've just said Lance, so here's a picture of him', 'Great photos of Lance that you've seen a hundred times before', 'Blah, blah, blah' .

Over on the web has predicted that lance won't be riding for Columbia. Great, so here are my predictions of who Lance won't be riding for, 100% ME, Rapha Condor, Team Halfords Bikehut, or Landbouwkrediet-Tönissteiner, which is a shame as Sven Nys is going there, I think Lance would be good at cross, remember Paul Sherwen wetting himself when Lance rode across a bloody field, why? It was not, as Sherwen said 'the greatest bit of bike handling ever' it was a bloke on a bike riding across a field. (Incidentally just how many times a tour does one or the other of ITV4's dynamic duo say 'I've never seen anything like this before'?).
Now Lance jumping off his bike for a few beers n the beer tent - that would be news.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Clean, cleaner, cleanish

LA, that's the once and future rider, not the place in America, was interview recently about 'the return' and said that the generation he rode with was the dirty generation...

'There's this perception in cycling that this generation is now the cleanest generation we've had in decades, if not forever. And the generation that I raced with was the dirty generation.' Says Lance.

This then will be the same Lance then, who rode against Filippo Simeoni in 2004 because Simeoni had chosen to testify against Ferrari (at that time LA's doctor), or maybe it's a different LA, maybe he's got Tyler Hamilton twin syndrome?

Indeed it makes deeply disturbing reading to look through the lists of podiums and jersey winners of the 3 grand tour over the last decade and play the caught, banned and disgraced game. Well actually disturbing is perhaps the wrong word, more like 'very annoying where's the baseball bat'. Remove those that are now disgraced from the list and you have a very, very different set of podiums, let alone stage winners.
Now this obviously makes me and I'd guess the average fan at the roadside angry, so what the hell does it do to the guys in the peloton? I am amazed that there hasn't been a in peloton fight yet. What I do know from reading various blogs, interviews etc after this years Le Tour is that is a lot of anger and it's starting to come out, Interviews with Robbie Hunter, Geraint Thomas and Jerome Pineau's blog leave you in no uncertain terms that there is a lot of ill feeling, not just to dopers, but to the 'old ways' of doing things.

So is the sport any cleaner now than in 1999? Well, yes I think it is. Tests are more advanced and far more comprehensive, riders are speaking out against dopers, sponsors have pulled out citing failed drug tests as their reason, fans are openly abusing riders that fail tests and cheering those that take a stand against drugs. So are we there yet? No far from it, but we have come a long way.
IMHO the UCI need to push for longer bans and a comprehensive testing and education programme to be introduced by all national federations (with removal from the worlds as the non compliance option).
A long way then? Yes, but we are so far ahead of the other sports in this area that we can at least feel some satisfaction there.
By the way, Filippo Simeoni's win in the 08 Italian championship is a win that we should all celebrate. At 37 he came back from ridicule to be a national hero, a ride that shows two things, one that determination and good training will pay off and secondly.... well, secondly, maybe things are getting cleaner.

On the racing front it's all happening in Spain isn't it, er... is it? Once again the Tour de Spain fails to rouse any excitement, other than climbing 20%/25% climbs in a bid to attract a TV audience. For God sake move it back to the start of the season, it at least had a value there and riders and fans weren't knackered by a long season.
I would be hoping by now to offer a detailed blow by blow account of the racing, but within minutes of switching on I've fallen asleep. Nope, move it back and leave the end of the season to the short week long stage races and Autumn classics.
Speaking of week long races the Tour de Britain is due to be 9 days long in 09. It was a good race this year and the general feeling from the riders was positive. Hopefully next year we'll have closed road finish circuits for the fans enjoyment and the riders safety. A few extra fully closed miles couldn't go amiss either. Still the relationship the organisers are building with host towns is very strong, hence the return of City Centre racing in 09 and with any luck as the years progress the race will move towards more closed road.

Cav has pulled out of the Worlds road, can't blame him can you, though doubtless there will be posters on the cycling weekly forum who do, the poor lad is totally knackered, 17 wins and racing since Feb (well he was riding World cups and six's over the winter, so it's a bit longer than he claims if you ask me). If anyone deserves a few beers and a bit of a lie in it's the Canonball. Take it easy Cav and see you at the Revolutions.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Happy birthday.

Yesterday was the birthday of Alexander Vinokourov, I celebrated by dressing in black and taking a load of drugs, I'm sure the great man would approve.
It's a shame the rumors of Vinos comeback proved to be exaggerated, still, there's time yet. LA was out for 3 years and Mr Landis has had his feet up for a couple (apart from the bits where he was in court throwing the toys out of the pram).

So the GB (over 23) squad has been announced. It's a shame Rob Hayles didn't make the cut, with the only home based rider being Russell Downing, who lets face it has had a great season, several wins out in Europe, plus a stage and 2nd on GC in Ireland. It's a shame that Rob didn't get the chance to ride as many events as there is no doubt that he'd have pushed Russ close for the 'home' place, indeed it's a shame that most of the home based riders don't race in Europe more. Of the rest of the squad, there's not much to argue with, it pretty much picks itself. (well I think it does, so there...)

Meanwhile over in Germany - broadcaster ARD goes, yuck, at the mention of an LA return....
"For us Armstrong is part of history; we don't want to see that [era] again."
"The future belongs to the young riders," "It certainly doesn't lie in the return of the Armstrong generation, which we hoped to move on from.""The return of Armstrong is obviously not a credible action in the struggle for a future without doping,"
What ever are they driving at.....

Untraining - how to achieve that valley performance.

Riders spend vast amounts of time, money and effort getting into peak condition. Miles are ridden, coaches hired, diets strictly adhered to and power output measured and dissected. Now all this is well and good whilst you are still racing, but what happens as old Father time starts gaining on you in the team pursuit of life and you need to slow down, take it easy and slowly move to a state where you just ride occasionally for fitness?

Now there's all sorts of advice aimed at reaching park performance, but precocious little aimed at reaching, what I refer to as Valley performance. That is until now.

Although still in the early stages of development Valley performance is aimed at slowly accustoming the rider to a more sedentary life style and yet still managing to be at the peak for what ever form of idleness they have planned. Lets put it another way, you were the fastest Kilo rider on the block, but now time marches on you want to train less but still need the feeling of working to a schedule, of running your now sedentary life to a fully coached plan. Now you want to be the best cake eater on the block, the fastest biscuit eater, or the ex-rider that can consume the most chocolate.
Well the good news is that the top sports scientists and coaches, here at 'Sometimes I'll go training' have been developing such a programme for many years.
We have been testing this programme on many (once) 'top athletes' and quite a few (never were anywhere near being a) 'top athletes' and our initial findings indicate that the programme will be a success.
So as a way of wetting your appetite I'll leave it at that and go and read some of our 'top' research papers (or the back of beer mats, as we prefer to call them) with a view to delivering a full untraining valley schedule soon.

OK here it is in full.
The Valley programme, untraining for professionals.
This is a simple six week programme aimed at delivering the elite athlete to a state of idleness.
Prior to commencement we request that all athletes stop competition four weeks prior to beginning the untraining programme.
In this example we will take a thirty five year old ex international rider who currently holds an elite license.
All food and drink listed should be added to your daily consumption unless other wise stated.

Week one:
Saturday: 25 mile ride at 40% of maximum power. After ride refuel with 4 chocolate biscuits, 3 cups of tea or coffee and 1 bag of crisps (ready salted)
Sunday: Stay in bed until 11am. Then 20 mile ride at 40% of maximum power. After ride refuel with 6 chocolate biscuits, 3 cups of team or coffee, 1 doughnut (jam not cream)
Monday: Recovery day, eat 3 bags of crisps.
Tuesday: 20 mile ride at 35%. During ride stop after 10 miles at local cafe. Consume beans on toast and 1 bacon sandwich. After ride 4 chocolate biscuits and 3 tea or coffee.
Wednesday: 20 mile ride at 35%. After ride 6 chocolate biscuits. Lay in bed for at least 4 hours before getting up for evenings activities.
Thursday: 20 mile ride at 30%. After consume as for Wednesday.
Friday: Rest / recovery day – don't get out of bed

Week Two
Saturday: 20 mile ride at 25%. Stop after 5, 10 and 15 miles and consume 1 doughnut (jam not cream). After ride 4 chocolate biscuits and 3 tea or coffee
Sunday: As above, but 6 biscuits instead of 4.
Monday: Rest / recovery day, eat 3 bags of crisps
Tuesday: 20 mile ride at 20% of maximum power. Stop after 10 miles for 1 bacon sandwich, 1 pork pie and 2 cups of tea or coffee. After ride 6 chocolate biscuits and 2 tea or coffee.
Wednesday: 15 mile ride at 20%. Stop after 10 miles for 1 bacon sandwich (no pork pie this time) 2 cups of tea or coffee. After ride, 8 chocolate biscuits.
Thursday: 15 miles. Stop after 5 and 10 miles and eat a bacon sandwich at each point. After ride 8 chocolate biscuits 2 tea / coffee and 1 bag of crisps
Friday: Rest / recovery day – don't get out of bed

Week Three – From now on replace water / energy drink in your bottle with Coke, Sunny Delight, Dream Topping
Saturday: 15 mile ride at 15%. Stop after 5 and 10 miles, eat 1 pork pie at each stop. After ride 10 chocolate biscuits 3 tea / coffee, 1 Mars bar 8 jaffa cakes
Sunday: 15 miles at 15%. Stop after 5 and 10 miles, eat 1 pork pie and 1 Mars bar at each stop. After ride 10 chocolate biscuits 3 tea / coffee, 1 Mars bar 10 jaffa cakes
Monday: Rest / recovery day, eat 3 bags of crisps, 1 Mars bar and 12 jaffa cakes
Tuesday: 15 miles at 15%. Stop after 5 and 10 miles, eat 1 pork pie and 2 Mars bars at each stop. After ride 15 chocolate biscuits 3 tea / coffee, 1 Mars bar 15 jaffa cakes
Wednesday: 10 mile ride at 15%. Stop after 5 miles and eat 1 pork pie, 1 bacon sandwich, 1 Mars bar 20 jaffa cakes and 1 chocolate biscuit.
Thursday: 10 miles at 10% of (once) maximum power. Stop after 5 miles eat 3 bacon sandwiches, 2 Mars bars, 20 jaffa cakes and 1 custard cream.
Friday: Rest / recovery day – don't get out of bed. Order and eat 1 takeaway pizza and a packet of jaffa cakes.

Week Four
Saturday: Rest day. Eat 25 chocolate biscuits, 17 custard creams, 1 bacon sandwich, 1 pork pie and drink 5 tea / coffee / hot chocolate
Sunday: 10 miles at 10%. Stop after 5 miles eat 3 packets of jaffa cakes and 1 custard cream
Monday: Rest / recovery day, eat 4 bags of crisps, 3 Mars bars and 27 jaffa cakes
Tuesday: 10 miles at 10% Stop after 5 miles, 2 pork pies, 2 bacon sandwiches, 1 packet jaffa cakes, 1 packet chocolate biscuits, 1 custard cream.
Wednesday: 5 miles at 10% (of what you once called your maximum power output) After ride 2 pork pies, 2 bacon sandwiches, 1 packet jaffa cakes, 1 custard cream
Thursday: 5 miles at 10% after ride repeat above but add 1 jam sandwich (strawberry)
Friday: Rest / Recovery day- eat 2 tubs of hagen dass double chocolate ice cream and 1 custard cream

Week Five
Saturday:Rest / Recovery day. Ice cream as above, plus 2 pork pies, 2 bacon sandwiches, 2 packets of jaffa cakes, 1 packet chocolate biscuits and 1 custard cream
Sunday: Rest / Recovery day. Ice cream as above, plus3 pork pies,3 bacon sandwiches, 2 packets of jaffa cakes, 2 packet chocolate biscuits and 1 custard cream.
Monday: 5 miles at 5%. stop after each mile and eat 1 packet of jaffa cakes. After ride 1 tub ice cream, 2 pork pies, 2 bacon sandwiches and 1 custard cream
Tuesday: 5 miles at 5%. stop after each mile and eat 1 packet of jaffa cakes. After ride 1 tub ice cream, 3 pork pies, 3 bacon sandwiches, 1 packet chocolate biscuits and 1 custard cream
Wednesday: 5 miles at 5%. stop after each mile and eat 2 packets of jaffa cakes. After ride 2 tubs ice cream, 3 pork pies, 3 bacon sandwiches, 2 packet chocolate biscuits and 1
Thursday: Rest day, stay in bed and order 3 deep pan pizzas, 3 tubs ice cream and 1 custard cream
Friday: As above, but get up to have a shower as you're now getting a bit smelly. Don't forget the custard cream

Week Six
Saturday: 5 miles at 5%. Stop after each mile and eat 1 tub ice cream, 1 packet jaffa cakes, 1 bacon sandwich, 1 pork pie. After ride eat 1 custard cream.
Sunday: Rest day. Eat 3 tubs ice cream, 4 pork pies, 4 bacon sandwiches, 5 packets jaffa cakes 5 packets chocolate biscuits and 1 custard cream.
Monday: Go and look at your bike, Eat 4 tubs ice cream, 6 pork pies, 6 bacon sandwiches, 10 packets jaffa cakes 10 packets chocolate biscuits and 1 custard cream.
Tuesday: Remember you have a bike. Eat 6 tubs ice cream, 10 pork pies, 10 bacon sandwiches, 10 packets jaffa cakes 10 packets chocolate biscuits and 1 custard cream.
Wednesday: What's a bike? Eat as above, don't forge the custard cream.
Thursday: What's a thing with 2 wheels? Eat 10 tubs ice cream,20 pork pies, 20 bacon sandwiches, 20 packets jaffa cakes 30 packets chocolate biscuits and 1 custard cream.
Friday: Eat 100 custard creams.

You are now completely untrained and have reach valley performance – enjoy.

Credit Crunch explained

As a coach I get asked all sorts of questions. When should I attack in the race, which wheels should I buy, which is the best energy gel and most recently how did the credit crunch come about.
So for those of you that are a little lost by the advent of the crunchers this is how it all started.

Basically big banks sold mortgages to people who could never pay them back, as is shown by this transcript from a interview between Big Big Bank and Billy Bob and Cleatus.

Big Big Bank: Hey guys, would you like to own your own home?
Billy Bob: Duuuuh, yesss, I live in a chicken shack.
Big Big Bank: No problem, we can lend you $200,000 to buy that chicken shack.
Billy Bob: Duuuuh OK.
Big Big Bank: But in order to protect ourselves we have to know that you can pay it back, what do you do for a living?
Billy Bob: Duuuuh, I make jewellery out of cigarette buts.
Big Big Bank: Great, just sign here and the money's all yours.
Billy Bob: Duuuuuh, What's sign here mean?
Big Big Bank: Oh, in that case just put an X here.
Billy Bob: Duuuuh, What's an X here?
Big Big Bank: Er, Can you dribble on this sheet of paper?
Billy Bob: Duuuuuh.
Big Big Bank: Thank you. Now you sir?
Cleatus: Duuuuh.
Big Big Bank: Hold your horses there boy, no dribbling yet.
Cleatus: Duuuuh.
Big Big Bank: So Cletus, what do you do for a living?
Cleatus: Duuuuh, I work for my invisible friend, he tells me to put dirt in my ear.
Big Big Bank: Great, here's $200,000.

That's pretty much it. City boys, who are pretty much at the same evolutionary point as Billy Bob and Cleatus played a game of my Bank is bigger than your Bank and now some other City boys have lost their jobs, which wouldn't be too bad, but apparently as a result we're all buggered. There is a moral for the future here, if you own a Big Big Bank don't employ people who dribble for a living.

Talking of dribbling for a living Mr Landis is all geared up for a return to racing next year. It seems that the route for the majority of Unrepentant ex dopers is either Portugal or minor US teams.
I am a firm believer in bans of at least five years, which in many cases will effectively end a career, but not just career ending bans, I favour contracts stipulating the repayment of all monies earned and won whilst in the current team. Banning riders from using certain specified doctors and coaches, the UCI insisting on a policy of anti doping awareness to be carried out by all National Federations (which the UCI will pay for) with failure to comply resulting in a ban from all Rainbow Jersey awarding events, a percentage of all sponsor revenue going to a dope detection programme and the total removal of racing licenses from any teams that did what Rock Racing did at California this year.
Coupled with this I would launch a PR offensive asking why other sports don't have similar measures in place?
Now of course I don't run world cycling and I suspect that if I was offered Uncle Pats job I'd start at 9am and by 10am I would be ordering ambulances to take the first batch of victims away, so maybe I shouldn't have it after all.

Having said all this about life bans etc., I full accept that there are mistakes and errors, we are after all on a planet that is run by humans and not Rabbits. So in order to get round the possibility of errors of samples being messed with I introduce a get out clause, this would take the form of letting riders off Scott free if they can come up with a suitably ridiculous explanation for their failed test. 'They were for my dog', just doesn't wash nowadays and as for 'it's the whiskey I had last night', for God sake, just how barking do you think we are? No, the rider concerned will be allowed off with a warning if he or she can go one better than the Tyler Hamilton I am my unborn twin argument. Love or loath the man, you have to admit that he's got a sense of humour.

Monday, 15 September 2008

What's going on in Spain?

I have no idea, Contador is in the lead, but to be honest I've been paying to more attention Paris-Bruxelles.
You see Paris-Bruxelles is the race, that, for me marks the start of the racing season, almost over are theses events when you need a triple chain set and panniers, due to long climbs and weeks in the saddle, from now on it's real racing, one day classics, track and cross all the way through until May, when we can go on our summer holidays and spend a few weeks riding round France and Italy in the sunshine.

And in the real world Swifty is about to sign for Katyusha, that is once Dave Brailsford has had a look at the contract. Not that unusual, BC tends to cast an eye over all the contracts of it's academy riders and a few of the others as well. The riders in the academy are also taught how to negotiate a contract and when they 'move on up' so to speak, they have the option of negotiating their own, most of them don't and chose to get BC involved. I'm guessing this allows for clauses about riding for the national team for worlds and Olympics' etc to be inserted. How many other national federations do that? I'll tell you - 0 that's how many. Can you imagine an Italian or French team allowing a rider to miss most of the season to prepare for the Olympics? no neither can I, over in (mainland) Europe the teams hold sway and the sponsor trumps all, so even if you're a hot favorite for an Olympic event the chances are your preparation will be compromised, oh and guess what? it was.
Yet another reason for the Nat Pro set up, so many good things to look forward to.

Talking of sponsors, I like to support them where I can, I mean they support our sport out of the goodness of their hearts don't they? Ha, ha, ha. In all seriousness when I'm out and about my business (normally standing at the side of the road shouting at cyclists) I tend to spot anything with the slightest connection to cycling and as a result am often on the lookout for the products of our more obscure sponsors. Thus I am often disappointed in our local supermarket when I am unable to find the Milram, I've never seen any Milram, have you?

City centre racing is back - YYYYEEEESSSSSS

Hot latest news from planet Lance on the comeback trail, is that he'll be racing all over the world to get his message across. A noble intent and one I'm sure will be successful, but what does this say about the speculated ride for Astana? I'm sure they don't intend riding in every corner of the globe. So will there be a new team? Well if there is that's bye, bye to a ride in Le Tour and I suspect many of the other major races that would be seen as preparation for it.
It will be interesting to see how this develops over the next few months. What ever LA has already succeed in his profile raising campaign......
If I was advising him I'd say ride some 6 days and a couple of cross events, that's what you need for the profile.

But on the real racing front Le tour de Britain is over. With a packed house in Liverpool there was no real change on the GC other than Steve Cummings gaining a second and Ian Stannard jumping up as place or two. Still from a Brit perspective Cummings and Stannard in second and third and Fleeman in 7th is a great showing and the quality riding by Team GB (that's the British National Team, if you're a cycling weekly poster) leaves a feeling that whilst the home side didn't walk away with much in the shape of wins it was none the less a great tour for them.
In fact both Fleeman and Cummings seemed to be upset that the course wasn't harder.

It's worth saying that there had been question raised on the men's Olympic road squad and hopefully this race answered some of them. Cav aside Cummings has been Britain's most successful rider this year, a couple of wins, a high place on a tough Giro stage (4th) plus places in many other events, Swifty and Bellis have records that speak for themselves and I can't believe that there would be any sensible disagreement with the 'getting them ready for 2012' argument, throw into the equation plenty of good results in Italy, ToB KoM and 3rd in the Worlds U23 and the case is in my opinion made.

We will now have the questions over the Worlds selection, how many is it? Six riders plus a U23 squad, Plus the Women's race.
Well the U23 pre selection list is incredibly strong, with a podium a real possibility.
In the women's race Nicole has to start as favorite, Olympic champion and winner of the recent Ardeche, where there was also a great performance by Emma Pooley.
So that leaves the mens event (that's men over 23 obviously, not casting anything on Swifty and the boys). Whilst I don't think we'll see the podium we have the riders to be in at the final selection, hopeful they'll get picked.

And so to the headline act. City center cycling is set to return. The ToB announced that in 09 there will be 10 City center races from the end of May to end of June. Tuesdays and Thursdays are the dates for your diary.
This is perhaps the best news of the week. CC racing was the mainstay of the British pro scene in the 80's and it's TV coverage spawned a number of teams. Hopefully with the offer of 10 hours extra racing on TV we will see new sponsors into the sport, and hopeful this will help Dave Brailsford in his quest for Nat Pro.
But it is just great news, it draws the crowds in and from a getting kids into the sport point of view it builds on the Olympics and ToB success. I'm sure BC will be getting their Go-Ride coaches working over time and unlike the 80's we are now (as clubs and coaches) in a position to numbers on the ground at the start of events and to promote the sport. The only question in my mind is they'll be a lot of late nights driving all over the country, ah well, it's all in the name of cycling so it's not a problem.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Cavendish not on podium shocker.....

It's never a sure thing is it? So for all those that are now sleeping in tents after putting their houses on Cav's 3rd stage win in Missouri, I am truly sorry. But lets face it, if you're gonna be beaten, being beaten by someone called Boy will at least put a smile on your face.

For a 3rd win you had to be over in the UK for Le tour de Britain, where the continually impressive Edvald Boasson Hagen notched up win number three for Columbia. Cast your mind back to the start of the season (well January) and there were predictions that they'd never win anything, 'Riders too young' , 'not enough experience' and now, more wins than any other team on the circuit, more future stars than anyone else, the future really is blue.

Whilst ITV 4's coverage limps along, Hugh is finally warming to the task, poor fella must have been knackered all the works he's been getting this year, he even managed to pass a comment about Steve Cummings getting an early night in preparation for the days attack, an oblique reference to other riders who were apparently up well past their bed time maybe?

It's Sunday morning and I have yet to notice a Lance to return update story on the news services, perhaps the lines are down? This will, in case you're concerned, be the major topic of cycling related news in the non-cycling media until next July and you can bet that the editors of the monthly cycling mags are 'licking their lips' (Copyright Hugh Porter) at the prospect of more Lance filled pages, although if you are a regular reader of ProCycling or Cycle Sport you'd hard pressed to know that he in fact retired three years ago, as barely a month seems to go by without one article of another heading down Texas way for a while.
Meanwhile, in the sticks (or Spain), Contador takes the lead and looks favorite to go all the way to the finish in yellow. So that'll be two grand tours this year to go with the 07 Le Tour, I bet he can't wait to play second fiddle come July 09. I'd love to see the wording of his contract or be a fly on the wall at his next meeting with Bruyneel.

It is Bruyneel of course who this year made a major contribution to the world of cycling literature, with the publication of 'We might as well win'.
It is perhaps a major point in the history of cycling related publishing as I don't recall having ever read a cycling related book that is so bad.
I mean, good lick to Johan, his book has been written with the aim of reaching a specific market. But what is that market? Well if you have ever ridden a bike, know how many wheels one has or have heard of any cyclist other than Lance Armstrong you are going to be over qualified for this little number.
The book starts from the premise that you know nothing of cycling, which is useful, because when yo have finished the book, you'll know noting about cycling. So good luck to Johan, I hope he sells many millions of copies and that this publication success convinces him that he never need write another book again.
Meanwhile I would urge the publishers to place a warning on the front, something about 'stating the bleeding obvious' would be useful.

Friday, 12 September 2008

It's a wide open road.

Procycling had, this month, an Olympic special, but what was unusual about this Olympic special was that it covered the track as well as the road (Still no mention of BMX or MTB, perhaps they're not pros then?)
But in reading the interviews with Wiggo, Cavo, Vickyo, Sir Chriso, Jamieo Staffo and Darren Kenny what comes across is their love of the sport and their desire to see the sport grow. An interesting comparison can be made to any of the paupers in the top football division, where an interview will be more celeb lifestyle, my latest car blah, blah than anything else, still when you're only training for a couple of hours a day I guess there's little else to do other than fill your overburdened life with fantasy and fairy tale.

Whilst I'm on the subject of other sports, which apparently do exist (shock, smile, wink) I must pass comment on tennis. Well to be more accurate pass comment on the LTA, who shovel in more than 60 million of the British pounds into their bank account on an annual basis, mainly on the back of the Wimbledon thingy. Now Jamie Murray is indeed a fine player, but from what I can gather was trained by his mum and then sent overseas to a tennis school, so maybe he's not a product of the 'system'. Anyway there was a TV 'bit' on those who have helped him to a position of success, coach, trainer, fitness coach, dietitian, etc etc. Queue a bloke from the LTA saying 'this is something we can learn from..... This follows on from an interview I saw over Wimbledon fortnight where one of the Brit players says her game has improved a lot since she got a dietitian involved and started eating correctly. (that's eating the right food, not correctly as in I'm now putting the food in my mouth instead of in my ear). Now she was supported by the LTA, who it seems hadn't offered any advice on this.....
Now I'm sorry, but this is quite beyond belief. As a coach and rider it seems self evident that, fitness, nutrition etc etc are prerequisites for a successful athlete, whatever the sport. How in the name of all that is nameable, can an LTA rep effectively say 'Oh fitness and diet, hummm, perhaps we should look at those'. I don't recall the LTA being one of the Nat Associations that visited Manchester to see how the Britain's most successful sporting body does it's business...

On the back of LA's out of retirement business, it seems that ex riders are now queuing up to put down the pension book and take up the power meter again.
Best of all is Mr Landis. That's Mr Landis, as in 'Oh I had a whiskey last night, and it made me ride like superman'. He too will be back, oh joy of joy, hopefully all this action will spur returns from Vinko and the Chicken and then my life would be complete, it really would. I mean I don't know if there is enough hatred left in my body to handle any more unrepentant dopers in the peloton. Hopefully they will all join up at rock racing.
I saw the Hamilton twins interviewed on Tour de Britain (top coverage via ITV 4, sorry coverage by ITV 4) and he said that Michael Balls view is are you allowed to ride? If so, it's OK to ride and I must assume sign for the team that has no spare bikes. Well that shows the Rock Racing attitude to the sport if you ask me, publicity as a core value, sorry only value, and love, understanding of the sport not on the scale, Oh how different from the home lives of our own dear Kings and Queens.

The mighty Cav to remain at Columbia, is the non shock headline of the week. Did you really think his Royal Cavness would be going anywhere else. He has an absolutely amazing team around him, they deliver him to the line and it's podium time. I loved the interview when he said he's not chasing the Euro, just victories - Cav top man. I don't think there was ever going to be a Cav in the first incarnation of Nat Pro, there just wouldn't be the train for him. But maybe a few years down the line? Who knows?

Talking of signings the new Cervelo squad is starting to look good, certainly from a British perspective. Dan's Lloyd and Freeman move over from the Kelly gang, Hammond is in and the rumor is that Ben Swift has signed. Add in Sastra, Haussler and Thor and there's the core of a good team, rumors abound as to who else they will sign, but I doubt if the one about them riding Colnago will come to pass.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Eddy Merckx - the comeback

Hot on the announcement that LA is making a comeback, King Eddy has announced that he is in training with the aim of winning Paris-Roubaix in 2009.

I truly have no opinion about this, the whole thing leaves me cold, I don't care one way or the other, I mean good luck to Lance I hope he enjoys the ride, but if we're talking about real drama.....

Le tour de Britain - oh yes, that's where it's at. Yet another full on Blood 'n' Guts stage, big break consisting of a string of really good TTers looked like it would go all the way, even bigger chase by Agritubel, yellow punctures (that's gets a flat if you're from Missouri) break gets caught, Dan Lloyd goes for it, almost crashes and a loan leader is piped on the line by a Cav less Columbia in the shape of the outstanding Edval Boasson Hagen.
Steve Cummings into second, Stannard 4th, Freeman 5th, Dan Martin in 8th and Swifty in Poker Dots - could be a blinder for the home side.
It is really shaping up to be a great race, Anthony Mccrossen seems to have lost his first day nerves and is really warming to the task.
ITV4 still need an extra motorbike or two, but none the less it's a great race and for me the only down side is that I won't be at the Liverpool finish. It's the closest to me, but a long standing family thing means I won't be there. Which is a shame as the kids I coach will be competing in some Go-Ride fun and games before the main show rolls into town. When I say family thing, I mean a family event that will even stop me going training on the morning..... strewth.

AAAARRRRGGGG, how stupid am I, I've just realised why all the Rock Racing 'bad' boys are in the UK (that's bad boys as in unrepentant dopers not cyclists who think they're naughty) Cos if they were to try and get a ride in Missouri they would probably get banned and have to go through the whole riding in front of the race performance that they did in California with all the attendant abuse and embarrassment that that would bring. I'll be a bit quicker on the uptake next time, although I don't see this theory anywhere else, it kind of makes sense to me.

New bikes please.

Now that was a great days racing. Peloton ripped apart three Brits and Dan Martin all finishing in the top group, a lone winner, bloody awful weather, brilliant.

But even I have to feel sorry for the Tyler Hamilton twins, the poor fellas came off and due the Rock Racing team car not carrying any spare bikes had to borrow one from neutral service and then one from team GB. What is the point of having a team car that doesn't carry spare bikes? Surely that's the primary function of a team car? Organisation? nah, lets just get a flashy looking car and forget the bikes.

Still once again a day animated by the Brits, Cummings and Freeman looked strong and when they were joined by three more riders continued to set the pace. Again Ian Stannard was impressive, working hard and getting dropped on the biggest climb of the day, where he fought back and rejoined the group, a very impressive ride. Stannard still only in his first season as a pro is winning plaudits in Belgium for his performances in the classics, finishing P-r and Flanders in your first season and finishing them well bodes well for the future. Cav is being spoken of as a classics winner, but I also think that Ian Stannard will win one day.

ITV 4 have finally cottoned onto the idea that intermediate sprints and KoM's are worth watching, but they need a 2nd or even 3rd bike, it's OK to stay with the leaders, but it would be nice to see a chase getting underway and jumping across. But I shouldn't quibble, in Anthony Mccrossan they have the best race caller there is, I know he's probably working on a tape for ITV4, but his and indeed Martins work for CTV is of the highest order, show them an obscure Belgian pro and they'll know who it is, now this is either very, very impressive or slightly worrying, depending of course on your viewpoint. Me? I'd say impressive.

Across Le pond, Cav is still winning in Missouri, win 16 for the season and whilst he's on the podium a quick look at Le tour de Missouri will reveal, via the cycling glossary on the web site, that saddle is the bike seat and that puncture is a flat tyre.

Whilst we're there, good ol' Lance is making a comeback, I truly have no idea what to make of that, I really don't. I was actually more intrigued by Dave Millars comment 'He could do a lot of good for us'
So which races will he ride? Well looks like Le Tour is flagged up, and he knows how to prepare for that one and there have been older riders finishing on the podium in the past. Firmin Lambot is the oldest winner at 36, but of course you wouldn't put anything past Lance would you. Team wise it will be interesting, will he go to Astana? Or start a new team? It's a bit late for the latter, all the contracts for 09 will have been signed, so that leaves joining an existing squad. Lance will doubtlessly bring his own sponsors on board, so extra finance shouldn't be a problem, the question will be how will this be interpreted by the riders already in the team? Signing a contract saying you're team leader for Le Tour only to be told two months later that you're riding for Lance might be a bit of a blow to the ego and as we all know there are one or two of them about.
Maybe he'll join Rock Racing? He'll have to bring his own bike rack though.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Tour de Britain, Tour de Missouri

At the Tour de Britain I managed to catch up with Garmin DS Matt White for a top quality interview

STIGT: Matt. Many thanks for your time.

Matt: For sure

STIGT: Garmin has riders capable of not just stage victories, but of the over all as well

Matt: For sure

STIGT: Will you be concentrating on one or the other or just seeing how the race unfolds?

Matt: For sure

STIGT: Er, It's been said that with only six rides per team everyone has to be super vigilant or else the winning break could be up the road.

Matt: For sure

STIGT: So have you got a race plan or are you just going to play it day by day and see how the race develops?

Matt: For sure

STIGT: Er, you haven't answered my question

Matt: For sure

STIGT: In fact all you've said is for sure

Matt: For sure

STIGT: OK I'll try something different.

Matt: For sure

STIGT: Will Dave Millar be allowed to finish the race early, so he can go back to your house and have sex with your wife?

Matt: For sure

Dave Millar: For Sure.

Having been thrown off the bus, I then went looking for another victim, Alessandro Petacchi

STIGT: Alessandro, how do you feel after winning the stage

Alessandro: I is verrry happppyy

STIGT: You timed your sprint very well, were you confident before the race started?

Alessandro: I is verrry happppyy

STIGT: Your team mate Di Luca attacked early, was this to gain time or to force the other sprinter teams to chase?

Alessandro: I is verrry happppyy

STIGT: You haven't raced for four months, how difficult did you find today?

Alessandro: I is verrry happppyy

STIGT: What are your aims for the rest of the Dave Millar went round to your house to have sex with your wife whilst you're racing?

Alessandro: I is verrry happppyy

Dave Millar: I is very happy.

Meanwhile the racing had started, but over on ITV 4 you'd never know it, we saw the riders in the nuturalised zone and then if was off to Bletchley park, because it was only 7 miles away, er.. OK.
Now as far as I know (or AFAIK as we say in modern) the only vague connection to cycling is you can drive down Alan Turing way on the way to Manchester Velodrome, which I think is a bit too tenuous even for ITV 4. So why? Do they cut away from a football match to show you the delights of an couple of old building 7 miles from the ground? Oh, they do, I'll shut up then.

Top ride by Stannard, he's had a great season, rode all the classics and rode them well, great to see him off the front, just a shame he was alone, a couple more riders and maybe he could have stayed away, although the final climb slaughtered him, he was the rider of the day in my book.

Cav's at it again, winning that is, no problems in a chaotic one in the Tour de Missouri, despite a long and hard season he's still unbeatabley fast, so for all those that said why is he riding in the US here's the answer, winning in your sponsors back yard. Hopefully the road closures in the US were of a higher quality than over in Britain, where at some points it looked like the race was going through a Go-Ride snake.

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Once a crit always a crit

And so, stage one of Le Tour de Britain. How was it for you? From the comfort of my front room it was, well er... a crit. Now we all know that crits can be very exciting, full of attacking riding, intermediate sprints, desperate breaks doomed to fail and desperate breaks doomed to success. So dispite all of this ITV 4 managed to make the whole procedure deathly dull, did you see any intermediate sprints? any KoM points being fought over? Did you see any breaks being caught or the effort to being them back? er, neither did I. There must have been at least an attempt at the three KoM sprints cos House won the jersey for the men in black (that's the men in black as opposed to the men in black), but you'd never have known from watching the thing on TV. I just hope this isn't a foretaste of the next week.
On the bright side no mentions that the stage winner had just come back from a drugs ban, we'll have to wait until the papers tomorrow for that I expect.
But hey, why watch the bike race when you can watch some fans being interviewed, the poor guys had the microphone stuck under their noses just as the race was coming through and you could tell they were all thinking 'piss off the race is about to arrive'

Lets hope for better coverage tomorrow eh?

A great result for the Brits Rob Hayles in 2nd, Russ Downing in 4th and Roger Hammond in 6th, infact even better when you count Maggs in 3rd.
Did my eyes decieve me? I thought the Hamilton twins had won the US pro champs, and therefor had to wear the US national chcmps jersey, I thought that was a UCI rule (not that UCI rules ever impnged into the lives of cyclings favourite twins), so what do they seem to be wearing? yep a Union flag monstrosity, with a different sponsor to the rest of the squad, who all seem to have had a little help from Harrods (happy memories eh?)

Meanwhile, back in Bejing it's Gold, Gold, Gold as GB cyclists continue to rack up the shiney stuff - brilliant performances, two world records - more to come as well.

I keep hearing cycling is now everones favourite sport, oh God, now after years of neglect and poor media coverage we now have to put up with every politician in the country jumping on the bandwagon. Sir Chris seemed a tad unhappy about this, as did Brad Wiggo when he spoke to the 2012 party goers. But they are both right, 'we' have been doing this for years and no one was interested, suddenly..... Would there be calls for Scotland to have a separate O's team in Sir Chris had been injured (God forbid) the week before the O's and not won his 3 Golds? Are thses calls and statements made with any idea as to what goes on to deliver a successful cycling team in peak condition at the height of their form to a series of races? Of course not, there's a band waggon out there so lets all jump on and ride it until the next big thing comes along.

On the plus side of all these flowers being thrown before us as we ride the roads of the UK, we had some new kids turn up at coaching on Saturday, they'd seen cycling on the box and wanted to have a go, so we had 'em doing the rounds of Go-Ride activities and they seemed to enjoy it and only one crash, but luckily no blood. Hopefully they'll stick with it.

Friday, 5 September 2008

Forward, into the past.

I bought cycling weekly this week, a reasonably rare occurrence, I'd initially bought it cos there was some top advice on TTing positions but in the end read the interviews with Wiggo, Hoyo and Roswello first and then the history of BC (well the good bit, after the blood letting, or perhaps the success after the good bit, if you think the blood letting was a good thing).
And then, oh, OK I bought it cos there was a picture of Rock Racing in it. Weeeee, I'm on the CW web site and there's a big ol' article saying that whilst Rock don't exactly smell of poo, some of their riders do and they shouldn't ride on our fragrant British roads. Then there's an 'interview' in which Hugh Roberts (he organises the a long scenic drive round the motorways and service stations of the UK, which to alleviate the boredom he then intersperses it with a little light bike racing) in which he basically says Yes we invited Rock Racing, and we cant stop anyone riding it and no one else is interested. Well we'll see.
But irrespective of whether or not anyone is interested they can, as the promoter, say who gets a ride and who doesn't, look at how many races have excluded teams for races this year. So whilst major events like Le Tour and Le California take a stand by not inviting teams that have had riders who smell of poo, the ToB is somehow above this?
You know the funny thing is that in a way I kind of like RR for sticking two fingers up to the world in general (or in this case three fingers) it's just that these particular fingers small a bit pooey. I just hope they don't get shoved up Mr Roberts nose.

As a historical document, CW this week has a lot going for it, the BC history reminds us that when Peter Keen drew up the plan and said we (that British Cycling) were aiming to be worlds no 1 cycling nation and we were going to do that by way of building on the track he was almost drowned out by a torrent of abuse from the length and breadth of the country. It's a shame those names aren't logged for posterity, oh how we could laugh.

There was almost unconfined joy in the sometimes house the other day when the publication known as Cycle Sport hit the door mat, promising the Olympics, but not just ordinary Olympics oh no, this was an Olympic special. Brilliant eh, a great fortnights bike racing was about to be covered in detail, er except it wasn't.
What we got was a very good article on the mens RR and some nice pictures and a mention that some ladies rode very well. No track? No MTB? No BMX? obviously these aren't sports or they don't involve bikes. Now I can accept that there is a 'sister' magazine (is there a father magazine though?) that covers MTB, but surely if you trumpet an Olympic Special and then miss 80% of the events you must have a reason, maybe a re-title is called for, perhaps Cycle (Road Racing) sport?
I wait to see what the old Pro will have in store next week.

The one good thing that comes out of the ToB though is that (to me) it signifies the start of the racing season. For me the season starts with the Autumn classics, picks up with the 6 days, the worlds cups and is in full bore with the cyclo cross races before finally finishing off with the spring classics. All thses tourist events over the months of May - August, huuugghh, all sensible people should be on holday then.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Whats in a name?

Cycling is indeed like no other sport, what sets is apart from others isn't that we ride bikes whilst others kick a coke can round a muddy field, or that we wear Lycra whilst others are attired in XXXXL shirts with the words 'Champion darts' on the back. No what sets us apart is the use of nicknames.

Other sports have nicknames, but lets face it does calling your mate, Giggsy, or Beckhamey actually strike fear into your opponents? Of course it doesn't.
But call yourself the Bulldog of Flanders, or the Lion of Flanders or any other fierce animal from Flanders and you're half way to a victory. Add the words Eagle, or Condor or Falcon to your name and you can bet that when the road starts to climb yous will be the wheel everyone wants to sit on. In cycling we long ago realised that psychology plays a major role in sport and anything you can do to give you a psychological edge is worth it, even if it involves abandoning the name your parents gave you and adopting a slightly bizarre animal related one.

Like most things though it's often a fine line between striking fear and getting your opponents pissing themselves laughing. Sean Yates was called the animal and in Sean's case that conjured images of aggression, there have been plenty of other riders who if given that nickname would get you thinking of kittens and rabbits.
I used to race with a guy who's nickname was 'the seagull', not because he could soar majestically above the roads we toiled on, but because when ever an attack went up the road, or indeed when ever the road went up the road, he'd flap around in the bunch waiting to crap on you.

But are we running out of decent nicknames? As a sport we've come a long way from 'the chimney sweep' to the cobra. Although Ricco would be better off stuck up a chimney in my opinion. And now we're in the 21st century will we have to think up a whole new raft of names for great riders.
Animal related ones we're very much last century, lets dig out some that are more appropriate for the new millennium. How about the credit cruncher from Cann? Or the recycler from Ronse? Errrr... on second thoughts, where's the zoo.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

The full Lance.

When you're out on your bike, riding through the highways and byways of where ever it is you ride, do you greet other cyclist with a cheery wave of the hand, a happy smile and a shout of 'Good day to you fellow bicyclist, may your day be free of punctures'? I do.

Well, OK, I may not use those exact words, but a quick raise of the hand and a shout of 'alright' as I hammer off in an attempt at training sort of way.
But what sort of response do I get? Why do some cyclists acknowledge you, some ignore you and some look positively fearful of anyone else on a bike?
There seems, to some extent, to be an age / club thing going on here. Older riders will inevitably say hi, as will riders in a club group. Now that seems to be cos back in the day when cyclists ruled the roads (as we will again) the club ride was the backbone of our sport and a a very social backbone at that, thus you were always riding past other clubs and in a spirit of good companionship you'd acknowledge each other, so riders who have experience of riding in club rides will to a larger extent still be living the spirit.
Nowadays though those new to cycling often find themselves on their own, they haven't joined a club, as some clubs can be intimidating to the outsider, and so haven't had the joyful experience of riding with others. Very often these are riders who exhibit what I'll call 'The Full Lance', inspired by the exploits of Mr Armstrong they have donned the full US Postal / Disco kit, jumped on a team replica Trek and ridden off, mind full of daring do and winning Le Tour. They are displaying a British reticence perhaps, maybe they feel a little intimidated by acknowledging a rider from a sponsored club, maybe they feel superior - Lance was my hero and he's clearly not yours cos you're not dressed the same as he did. Or maybe they don't actually enjoy riding a bike and just do it for some reason best left in the dark recesses of their soul. Whatever there seems to some extent that the jersey is an important factor here.
Mostly I ride in the jersey of what a few years ago would have been called my first claim club, but is now just called my club, this is sponsored (as indeed is the jersey of my second claim club), but on the rare occasions that I run out of clean kit I ride in a plain jersey and just shout out the name of our sponsors as I ride along. On those occasions I get more of an acknowledgment from the Lancers I see.

But me I'll talk to anybody, so on the occasions I ride up alongside a Lancer and start a conversation they always seem happish to talk. But whatever, a few months ago I stopped at some lights next to a guy on an old tourer, seemingly held together by gaffa tape, as was the bike. This fella had an old 1980's Bell helmet on his head, and taped to the helmet was half a front light, it was one of the old one's your LBS used to sell in the 80's, a big square thing, with a giant lamp on the front. But in his case there was only the front half, the back was completely missing and open to the elements. I commented on this saying the back half of your light isn't there, at which point he looked at me as if I was an idiot and said 'Well that's because it's not dark, so I don't need it on do I?' Well told me, I just rode off shouting the name of our sponsors at some shoppers.

It's almost as if I care.

Ohhh, many millions for a footballer. Nothing new in that or indeed in the flood of pundits saying that the English league is 'the most exciting in the world' as a result of this. Now this of course relies on the equation of lots of money = excitement. And it's an equation that has to be true cos there are loads of pundits on the TV telling me it is.

So that's £30 odd million for a footballer, or more than British Cycling (BC) got for the last 4 years. Perhaps I'm just a little odd, perhaps it's just me, but I have another equation in this the more money there is splashing about in football the less I'm excited by it, my current level of excitement is zero, my current level of care less is couldn't and my current turn over factor is 'Oh great Antiques Road show is on'.

And talking of Antiques and stuff that should be put out to grass brings me inevitably to the UCI.

It was only a few days ago that Uncle Pat was on out TV screens saying that all this nonsense between the UCI and ASO / everyone else on the planet would be over 'in a couple of weeks'. Now I like Uncle Pat, he was a good rider, a great race organiser and clearly loves the sport, however I bet he was back in Ireland, sipping on a Guinness and organising the local chippers. As poisoned challises go the head of the UCI is really up there isn't it.

This jovial reconciliation, is however a long way from the 'I'm going to come round your house and piss all over your carpet, oh and if you ride Paris – Nice I'll make sure your cat goes missing' That we had earlier in the year. So what has brought all this about? Perhaps someone has got the main protagonists together in a room and slapped them all about the head repeatedly until they all saw sense. (This would have taken a long time, which probably explains why Uncle Pat and ASO have been quiet for the last two months). Or perhaps they all continue to disagree and having scrapped the Pro-Tour (YYYEEESSS) and replaced it with the world tour (?) they're just getting their breath back and will be at it like knives in the new year.

I don't quiet get the World Tour, isn't just the same as the ProTour, but with the acknowledgement that the race organisers can pick who rides in their races? I could of course look on the internet and find something long and dull detailing all the details that haven't as yet been decided or made public and that no one has signed up to, but lets face it, if stuffs going to be made up I might as well go straight to it and save the research time.

I do think that one of the main reasons the WT has been announced is that it allows the UCI to drop the tours of Russia, China, Iceland, Greenland and Sheppy, without too much loss of face. Although how you can lose face when you haven't got a face to start with is a bit beyond me. In a way I was kind of hoping some or all of those races would go ahead and get sanctioned by the UCI. My thinking was that it would cause all the ProTour teams to drive round to UCI towers and burn the place down, shame really.

So then, the poisoned chalice or the job that Hein Verbruggen left behind. Why, in Gods name would anyone want it? It's not so much the job, as the fact that the man who had it before and it could be argued, did more to bugger up our sport than anyone outside the bloke that invented EPO, has not 'left the building' but is sitting next door as the VP of the UCI.

Whatever Uncle Pat does, short of totally eradicating drug abuse, will always be overshadowed by the crap that his predecessor left smouldering on the desk.

I will save all my deep and disturbed ranting over Verbruggen for another day (well, many another days in fact), but just remember this, when the sport was facing it's biggest ever crisis, the 1998 Festina affair, Hein went on holiday, he didn't want anything to do with the riders, the teams, the sponsors or the sport, he packed his bags and went off leaving the circus to fend for it's self. At a time when strong and decisive leadership was called for he was sitting in the sun sipping on a stiff one. Yet he is, ten years on and having introduced the ProTour, still drawing a salary and filling a UCI wast paper bin with post-it notes and discarded paper clips. Now that's excitement for you.

Monday, 1 September 2008

Oh joy the Tour of Britain is here

Sometimes you mishear what's said to you, Your mind is on something else and you don't just get the wrong end of the stick, you get the wrong end of the tree. Today someone said something about 'buying ethically' I thought they'd said buying mythically and had visions of going into the local supermarket and asking for a Dragon stake and half a kilo of Griffin burgers.

Sometimes you misread something, you glance at a few lines and read something else, may be you see something you don't want to be true and you change it in you mind to lovely wholesome good news.

Sometimes no matter how much you want something to read differently it stubbornly remains the same, no matter how many times you read it.

I keep reading that Rock racing are going to ride the Tour of Britain, I keep reading that LPR (or team LPR as we now know them) are bringing Di Luca over, I keep wishing I've got some weird form of word blindness that prevents me seeing things the way they are, but alas, it's not to be.

I can only assume that when the sponsors of the sport asked the organisers of the ToB to go and get some teams signed up, 'Go and get some teams that represent the noble values of our sport, pick some squads with great ex champions, champions the kids can look up to' The organisers misheard and thought the instruction was 'Go and get a couple of squads with unrepentant ex dopers in 'em' 'Best if you can get some comedy figures as well, we all like a laugh.'

And so we have Rock Racing and LPR lining up in London, imagine the joy the average Grub Street Sports editor will have if one of the Tyler Hamilton twins wins a stage, if Di Luca makes a successful break and gets the yellow jersey. Imagine the successful PR resulting from Cav's unstoppable Tour de France and the Olympic successes getting oh so slightly tainted as they have to dig out two yellow jerseys for the Hamilton boys if he comes home ahead of the field.

Is there really such a shortage of teams willing to ride the ToB that we are reduced to Rock Racing and LPR? Now I've got nothing against Rock and LPR, I mean good luck to them if they want to sign up unrepentant ex dopers, I have no say in their recruitment policies and if their team management think the publicity from having ex dopers riding for them out weighs any negative feed back that's all fine and dandy with me. My gripe is with the organisers of the ToB, have they somehow missed the general mood that is sweeping the sport? Has the wind of change that is a blowing through the sport not reached the dank recesses of their offices? (Well OK they might well have very nice offices, and I do apologise to their interior designers if they have). Why pick teams with ex dopers in them when there are plenty of others who I'm sure would welcome a ride?

Ah, I hear you ask (and yes I am bugging your house / office / park bench) what of the so called Mr David Millar? Well Millar did indeed stray from the path of righteousness, but and it is indeed a BIG but, he had the thingamajigs to hold his hand up, take his ban and come back on the light side (as opposed to the dark side, you see I'm making a differentiation between good and bad here, not commenting on toast). The Hamilton boys on the other hand continue to point the finger at each other and until one of them actually confesses they remain a comedy act above and beyond VDBs dog.

Last year the fans at Le Tour booed the Chicken whilst resplendent in yellow and escorted by a Mexican band he climbed the mountains of the Alps, this year they booed the Vulture or the griffin or what ever his name is as he stepped out of the team caravan to have his collar felt.

Wonder if there will be similar performances on the roads of the UK this year?

I often muse about Mr Mark Cav, the Manx Missile, the Cannonball, he is indeed a great, great rider and as Yoda would say 'Do no wrong, can he', He must have been gutted and double gutted at missing out at the O's, but he came back in Ireland picking up three straight wins and is now of to the land of his sponsor to rack up a few more, brilliant stuff. (Although there is a bizarre thread on the Cycling weekly web site that slags him off for not trying to win the Tour of Lombardy ! - It's this sort of bollocks that gets me even more pissed off than the imitate arrival of the Hamilton twins). Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, the Great Cav. The great Cav and his accent, listen to an interview conducted in Europe (that's mainland Europe) and he sounds generally North Western, with a bit of Scouse thrown in, but the closer he get to home the more full on Scouser he becomes and by the time he gets to Ireland it's all curly perm and calm down calm down – brilliant stuff. Should you ever be in need of a subject for a Phd you could do a lot worse than a study of the ever changing accents of British cyclists as they ply their trade across the fair continent of Europe.