Thursday, 30 October 2008

I can't believe it's not EPO. (A message from our sponsor.)

Alejandro Valverde proudly displays his new growth!

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Is Lance the new Dr Who?

Is Dick Pound considering a comeback?

In a 'shock' announcement today (That's shock as in we all new it was going to happen, just that no one dare say it) 'TVs' David Tennant has announced that he will be leaving the DR Who role at the end of 09.
Immediately there was a flurry of activity as the bookies started taking bets on who would take over. I of course have my own views on this news.

I think it's no coincidence that the post of Dr Who becomes available at a time when the 'comeback' season will be drawing to an end.
The Dr is, after all, one of the great survivors and has made at least 10 comebacks in his life. Surely Lance won't want to endure another season playing water carrier to AC (that's Alberto Contador and not AC from operation Puerto). So the position must appeal to him, OK so the Tardis is hardly up there with the latest Trek in terms of performance, but there's nothing a little tweaking in the wind tunnel can't fix. Also the chance to repeatedly save the world from alien invasion on a weekly basis is surely the next logical step in Lances career.

So who would be the Dr's assistant? Well Johan Bruyneel is hardly going to win any awards for glamor (unless he awards them himself) but when it comes to screaming and running away I think he has all the skills needed, after all spending time with Vino, the king of screaming and running away, must have had some effect.

So we have a man to save the world and a slightly dim witted assistant, but who would be the evil villains bent on planetary destruction? Oh so many to chose from, but if we're casting Lance as the Dr than his nemesis or rather his Davros has got to be Dick Pound. It's a match made in heaven. Dick Pound doesn't just come with a comic name (always good for a villain) but he was very good at scaring people to death, look at the effect he had on the average Tour de France peloton if he turned up unannounced, lot's of running to the toilet and looking for pet dogs. Now I'm no conspiracy theorist, but again our Dick, finds himself at a bit of a lose end as well, coincidence?

Famous BBC comics in prank phone call shocker.

It has been revealed today that two of the BBC's most respected broadcasters have been indulging in a little late night phone prankary.

It has been revealed that top BBC comedy duo Hugh Porter and Gary Sutton have been caught on tape making prank phone calls to respected veteran broadcaster Paul Sherwen.

Porter and Sutton, famed throughout the broadcasting world for their madcap comedy approach to bicycle racing have allegedly made a series of 'rude' and 'insulting' calls to TV veteran Paul Sherwen.

Porter and Sutton, who's catch phrases include, 'What's going on?', 'Who's that on the bike' and the hilarious 'Nurse, it's time for my nap', allegedly made the series of calls late one night during their their midnight show 'Hand slinging for beginners'.
During the calls they suggested that Shrewen had 'never won a rainbow jersey' , 'spends too much time down that bloody mine' and 'looks slightly confused when ever he's on camera' .

Much respected veteran Sherwen is said to he been hurt and insulted by the actions of the mad cap comedy duo;
'I'm hurt and insulted by the actions of the mad cap comedy duo' said Sherwen today.

The BBC has been snowed under with a total of 1 complaint (a Mrs Sherwen from Cheshire) and as a result have taken both Porter and Sutton off the air. Their late night slot will be filled by the up and comming young gun David Duffield who will present a show called 'Nuclear and quantum physics and theire applications in tyre inflation'

When asked to comment the Primeminister Mr Gordon Brown said 'helllllpppppp'.

Monday, 27 October 2008

That Tour de France presentation zzzzzzzzzzzzzz

The crowd at yet another riveting Tour presentation.

There was a time when the Tour de France presentation consisted of a few town names scribbled on a back of a cigarette packet and handed out to riders at the start of the first stage.

Oh how times have changed. Nowadays a crowd that wouldn't shame a bunch of has been stadium rockers sits in rapture as that nice Mr Prudhomme explains in detail the twists, turns, highs and lows of the route and the reasons for their inclusion.

Now in the past I've read the news reports and looked at the pictures of the great, the good and the scum of world cycling sitting agog as the route is presented to them.
Wow I've thought, this looks fun, I'll have to watch it live. And, so this year, thanks to the living miracle that is Cycling.TV (motto: 3 years in beta) I set aside time in my diary and sat back for what promised to be a once in a lifetime experience.

Now there are many reasons pro cyclists take dope, these include, they are cheating scum, they are bastards and they are piss taking twats who deserve a good kicking. But now I have seem a Le Tour presentation I can add another reason to the list, Being out of your tree is a good way to get through that crap and not let it affect you. Boring? Boring? God, it was like nothing I'd ever seen on earth. I've seen some dire presentations in my time, but little to rival the mind numbing cobblers that is a Le Tour presentation.
Of course this could have been partly due to the quality of the CTV feed, which was junk, but even with a full HD, super surround sound extravaganza I think it still would have been like replacing your saddle with a cheese grater and going on a 200k training ride.

The whole thing could have been neatly summed up and all over inside 10 minutes, but hey, if you have assembled the worlds media, most of the world's potential tour riders and a few of their dogs (say hi Molly.) You have to justify your existence don't you.

Next year they should go back to the cigarette packet routine, it's got to be the way forward in the anti doping fight.

Pinky and Perky assess that Tour route in Full.

So, to put a little more flesh on the bare bones, so to say. Here are the details of the 09 Tour de France in full.

Total length: 3,450 kilometers

Time trialling: 55 kilometers individual, 38 team time trialling

Mountain top finishes: three

Days of mountain climbing: eight - three in the Pyrenees, three in the Alps, one in the Jura, one up the Mont Ventoux

Number of rest days: two

Number of stages won by riders who subsequently fail dope tests: 5

Number of jerseys won by riders who subsequently fail dope tests 1

Number of riders having inappropriate relationships with their dogs: 1

Number of riders blaming dogs/whiskey/grandmothers/aliens for failed tests: 3

Number of times Cadel Evans threatens a journalist: 27

Number of times a French rider will launch a suicide break: 237

Number of French suicide breaks that will succeed: 2

Number of Lance Armstrongs riding: 0

Number of times Pinky and Perkey (Phil and Paul), will claim they 'have never seen anything like that before': 17

Number of giant cocks painted on the route: 4 (down from a 2006 high of 54).

Sunday, 26 October 2008

I wanna ride the 2012 Olympics Dad.

The true spirit of the Olympics.

It's the reception area of the Manchester Velodrome, it's late afternoon and a father and his 14 year old son walk in. Along with the reception team and the duty manger there are a couple of coaches hanging around.
'Who do I speak to about my son?' ask the obviously proud father.
'Er, what do you want?'
'I think he could be good for the 2012 Olympics' says a beaming dad.
'Right, does he do any bike racing?'
'Oh no, he just rides a mountain bike socially every now and then, but I think he's going to be really good.'

I think he was pointed in the direction of one of the junior clubs that operate out of 'Gold medal City'. But I believe the call to tell Brad Wiggins to forget the trip down to London was put on hold.

Meanwhile there was a guy who told us all how fit he was from running and how he wanted to get into bike racing. But as winter was approaching there's nothing but cross and track. The track didn't appeal to him and he liked the idea of running through mud.
So a few lessons on doing a running dismount / mount, a borrowed set of wheels and he lined up at his first race, having taken time to tell us that he 'could do something here'
He rolls in 29th out of 30 and whilst I personally I would consider this a great triumph, he seemed very unhappy and looked slightly gray.
'It was too hard' was his response to the 'how was it? question. Good, he was obviously in the right race then.

The track, actually harder than it looks, apparently.

And just last week I was running a training session at Manchester Velodrome and had a couple of guys along who'd never ridden the track before. Both loved it and wanted to come back for more, but they confessed to finding it 'a lot harder than it looks on TV.' Er......

All of these are, I guess, examples of the Olympic spirit (a type of liquor brewed in Greece) slopping over the edge of the glass and trickling down to the lives of ordinary people, just like what the IOC claim it will do. Whatever you may think about these or similar events, it's great to be involved in a sport that people want to take part in. Indeed, a sport that people are clamoring to take part in. Oh happy days. Stuff like this puts a smile on my face, it really does.

Friday, 24 October 2008

Oh yes he is, oh no he isn't, oh yes he is, oh no he isn't

The pantomime season is upon us.

As the winter approaches theaters across the UK are gearing up for the pantomime season. Suddenly seats that have remained empty due to an excess of Shakespeare and an over reliance on local amateur dramatics will have backsides on them as Aladdin, Cinderella and their chums run through their paces. Men will dress up as fat women, women will dress up as young boys and the audience will will scream with delight and shout out 'behind you'. (similar shouts could be heard at the Saunier Duval team bus during July).

In cycling we like to keep up with the times and so we have our own pantomimes. There are the annual favorites; stories of family feuds between Uncle Pat and the ASO, sagas of riders running away from dope testers at Le Tour and the annual comedy of German cyclists getting busted. But this year we have a new pantomime that is sure to get the kids flocking to the cheap seats. This year instead of Puss in Boots (I don't suggestyou use that as a Google search term) We have Lance at le Tour.

Lance at le Tour started a couple of months ago with a slightly odd announcement that Lance was to make a return to the sport and ride Le Tour, this shortly turned into a return to cycling and riding le Tour to win. Not a bad start, but then as the weeks progressed it went from riding le Tour to win to, riding the whole season with le Tour as the highlight. Then it became riding the whole season over 5 continents and riding the Giro as well as le Tour. This became riding the whole season aiming to win the Giro and maybe riding le Tour to help another rider, which of course became riding the Giro to win as team leader and supporting the leader at le Tour.
This then turned into riding the Giro to win and maybe not le Tour, which of course became; riding the Giro to win and only 50/50 for le Tour. - Phew....
And we still have 6 months to go. Over the coming weeks we can expect the 50/50 for le Tour to become 100% not riding, but Lance will be there every day to offer support to AC (that's Alberto Contador and not AC from operation Puerto). This will change into 100% not riding, but Lance will be there on the key stages, which will by June be; 'Tour de what? Never heard of it.'

Hung, Drawn and Quartered.
In a move as unexpected as Uncle Pat winning Ireland's got talent, the Italian rider's association, the AACPI has called for dopers to be kicked out the sport for life.

Their letter to Uncle Pat is here: Letter to the UCI (from Velonews).

There's not much to say about that is there? I could be churlish and say 'about time' or 'it's a bit late' or 'as if it will have any effect', but I won't. Instead I'll welcome it, yes there will still be Italian riders that dope, just as aliens number 1 and 2 continued to do when the Gerolsteiner team had a strong anti doping line. But open anti doping statements, longer bans and the like will have an effect on some riders. I'm not naive enough to believe such words on their own will win the 'war' but they will go some way to altering the prevailing mind set and as such are to be welcomed.
Others, I'm sure, will pick over the statement word by word, compare it's fine words against the actions of certain members of the AACPI and so on, but I'm happy it's been said and I'll leave it at that. This pantomime will continue, no doubt, but maybe we could start to believe in angels again one day.

UCI and ASO; that meeting in full.

Pat McQuaid of the UCI and Jean Etienne of ASO patch up their differences.

So the UCI and ASO have had a love in, nice.... (I'll apologise if you're reading this after you've just eaten and the vision of Uncle Pat getting down to do the dirty is upsetting you, but there you go).
They have both been busy issuing statement listing their various positions (!!!!!) and in case you missed them, or in ces you didn't understand them, I'll translate:

Things are excellent,There is a charm offensive on both sides
. Said Uncle Pat. What he means is:
I still hate the bastard. But at least I've stopped kicking his dog.

We are very happy and very content with the way we are communicating with them, and they likewise feel the same about the way they are communicating with us:
We are now in the same room, but we are still screaming insults at each other. We had a buffet and we finished up throwing cake at each other. Mum says I can have jelly for tea.

"We had a meeting in Paris on Monday. I met with Jean Etienne, the new president of ASO, and one of the directors of the EPA. We had a discussion about various elements such as next year's calendar and they also explained their objectives with the Tour presentation.
I passed that twat Etienne in the street, I kicked him and said their Tour presentation was crap.

The route is interesting.
Call that a race route? My 4 year old nephew could come up with a better race than that.

And so on...... the words piss up and brewery spring to mind.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

It's going backwards.

Tour de France to finish before it starts.

To much fanfare Le Tour is going backwards.

In a new and exciting innovation this year and in keeping with the backwards theme the winner will be announced at the end of June, a week before the race actually starts. In addition all the stage winners will be awarded their bouquets before the race turns a peddle in anger. Then as the race progress and the dope testers take their inevitable toll, names and numbers will be crossed off the list and we'll see who is left come Paris.

This new innovation brings a wholly new and profitable angle to ASO's finances. This year for the first time fans will be able to bet not on who wins what, but on who fails dope tests, when they fail them and when they make their tearful confession live on TV.
In addition the announcement of the finishing order before the race starts will enable journalists to take most of July off and just publish a final GC come October (much like they do now).

Uncle Pat, the UCI, the IOC and the WADA will start to argue about the results at the end of June, thus enabling all the dust to settle and everyone to kiss and make up come the finish in Paris.

THIS JUST IN: In a shock move and in line with the new backwards policy, German TV has announced that following the results of the 2010 Tour de France they will not be showing the event in 2009.

Other top backwards news.

Scott Sunderland has left the Cervelo test team before it's even been launched.
In keeping with this new spirit of doing everything backwards Scott Sunderland has parted company with the Cervelo team before the team has been launched. He has apparently cited personal differences with several riders, none of whom have signed for the team for 2009, but all of whom would be in the team in 2010 and 2011.

Have you seen this man? You might well have seen him tomorrow, if not previously!

Leonardo Piepoli has failed to turn up for the Italian Olympic Committee (Coni) doping hearing on Wednesday (today).

When questioned at his home by the police he gave the reason that he has already appeared at the CONI hearing, infact he was there last week and it's not his fault if they haven't yet adopted the new backwards calandar that is fast finding favour in the world of professional sport.

Tomorrow the French Anti-Doping Agency will announce that Piepoli has failed a test for OPE that he will take next month.

Blame the Italians

My first bike

People get into bike racing for a variety of reasons, in my case it's all the fault of the Italians.
As a kid I was vaguely aware that bikes existed, but due to the impoverished nature of my childhood I didn't get a bike until my teenage years. Now I didn't come from a family with a cycling history, in fact a lack of cash prevented anyone from having a bike.
Now I knew I wanted a bike, I'd asked for one for Christmas, but there was a general uncertainty about what they looked like. This coupled with the lack of money meant that on December 25th what I actually got was a cardboard box with the word BICYCLE written on the side. The bottom had been cut out and I would climb into it and hang it from my shoulders with string. I would then join my street mates, all with their cardboard box bikes, in running around pretending to be Maurice Garin and making bike noises. Initially this consisted of a lot of crunching sounds, until one kid turned up with a small cardboard box with oil written on the side, after that we were all as silent as the night.
Of course there was always that one family which had a bit more cash than the rest of us, their kids had a cardboard boxes with Colnago written on the side.

As I got older I left the world of cardboard bikes behind, they were never that good in the rain and moved onto other things.
Then in the early 80's I was on a motorbike (not made of cardboard you'll be pleased to learn) crossing the Alps into Italy and where the tree line met the July snow I passed a group of cyclists in matching club kit. I was struck by the image and it was a life changing moment, never before had I considered riding a bike seriously. But here with the breathtaking beauty of the Alps and at an altitude that I thought you'd need oxygen to get to there were cyclists. That you could ride a bike, look cool and have fun this high up in the worlds most beautiful scenery was a revelation. My fate was pretty much sealed after that, no more relaxing holidays in the sun no more surplus in the bank account, oh no, from now on holidays involved 'getting the miles in' and the bank manager wondered at my sanity as I'd spend weekend after weekend racing all over the British Isles or watching obscure races in Belgium, Holland , France or Italy. Now days I spend my weekends coaching and my evening's getting my head around power meters and VO2's. Life was much simplier when I had a cardboard box.

Cardboard has come a long way, I still prefer my original though.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

The winning lottery numbers are.......(ask Contador)

You too can state the blindingly obvious.

In a statement that would have impressed any fair ground palm reader AC (that's Alberto Contador and not AC from operation Puerto) has said that should Alexander Vinokourov return to Astana there could well be problems. Tune in tomorrow when he'll be giving you the lottery numbers and which shares are actually going to rise.

The other view of this resolves less around AC's (that's Alberto Contador and not AC from operation Puerto) ability to see the future and more to do with a slow news day, or indeed a slow news week. As the road season draws to a well over due close there is little to keep the assembled news hacks busy other than thoughts of their hols and a round of beers at the Amsterdam six.

It will be interesting to see if the prediction does however come true, thats the Vinokourov one not the lottery numbers. It's known that he's still training and we can only suspect that he's invested in a new all black wardrobe for the purpose. So will he ride next year? I seriously doubt it, if he does intend to he has to notify the UCI of his intended return 6 months in advance, he'll then need to give it a further 6 months whilst uncle Pat stops laughing, so it's gonna be end '09 at the earliest. At which point the UCI will realise that he was never given the two year ban he so richly deserved. No I don't think we'll see Vino back in the peloton for anyone other than Rock Racing, who of course won't be here to stay in 2010.

Take me to your leader (Part 2)

In a move as unsurprising as AC's (that's Alberto Contador and not AC from operation Puerto) ability to see the future, Alien number 2 has admitted that he acted alone in his use of CERA. His personal manager, his team manager and even his dog new nothing of it. I can not begin to describe how upset I was by this confession, I was seriously hoping for an excuse that defied all logic and involved pet hamsters, a mystery 2nd cousin living in China and a mysterious doctor by the name of Glockenspiel. I think the UCI should stick an extra 6 months on the ban as punishment for a lack of imagination (this to be added to a further 6 months for being an ugly son of a bitch).

It will be interesting to see what happens come the end of 2010, will alien number 2 be looking to a return to pro cycling? Well I suspect that he will, he's not got much else in the locker and unless he has a sex change operation and takes up pole dancing in Munich there doesn't' seem much alternative. So 2010, what will the peloton look like? Will Lance still be coming back? Will there be a harder line on doping? Well of the 2 I suspect the latter will be more likely. The crunch may be over (ask Contador on that) and sponsors will be embracing cycling as a healthy, green, pollution free form of transport that enhances their public image and market share. (See sometimes it sounds like I know what I'm talking about, ha). So will there be a place for weird looking ex-dopers with no imagination?

And the winning number is....

As I have not been consulting AC (that's Alberto Contador and not AC from operation Puerto) I didn't win the lottery. but none the less found myself looking at very (make that, very, very, very, very) expensive houses, that are way (make that, way, way, way, way) beyond my means. You know how this starts, you're looking to move and you suddenly say 'hay, what if I had an unlimited budget?' From then on in it's all down hill.
So what I did discover that with a starting budget of £5m I could get the following, house - 1 very big, acreage - at least 100, swimming pool - 1, tennis courts - 4 and stables - at least 2. Throw in a couple of normal size houses for servants etc and you get you're average Yorkshire country estate. What did strike me was this; people who seem to have unlimited cash don't seem to have stuff that would interest me. OK I could convert the stables into a gym, but there was no mention of a Cyclo Cross courses on the estate, no details of XC or downhill routes across the parkland and not a hint of a personal velodrome. I then took part in a discussion with my non cycling 'other half' about the pros and cons of building my own personal velodrome in the event of winning big at the weekend. Just think, we could have watched 'Britain's got talent'.

Reasons to be grateful for Stefan Schumacher, no honestly.

If you were heading to the Manchester round of the World Cup and feeling a little down in the mouth about not seen Brad Wiggins riding, Stefan Schumacher can put a smile on your face.
Brad was scheduled to ride the Munich six with Eric (I once saw the letters E,P and O written on a sheet of paper) Zabel . But since Schumachers fine performance in totally buggering up German cycling there has been a sponsors withdrawal and as a result some of the 'more expensive' riders are getting the week off. Result Brad is at a lose end and will be turning the legs over at Manchester. Weh hey, that must put an extra few quid on the value of my tickets, not that I intend to sell them...... (Email address at the bottom)

Friday, 17 October 2008

Tears for souvenirs.

Tears are not enough, tears are not enough.

Bernard Kohl is welcomed back to the peloton.

Well alien number 2 (Kohl) has admitted that he doped. Er, yep, we all kind of new that already. Anyway, just to show there's no hard feelings he has made a tearful confession and admitted that he 'succumbed to temptation'. So that's alright then is it?

Whilst we had tears, a good helping of excuses and a lot of feeling sorry for himself, what we didn't have were any apologies. Apologies to the riders who lives he's managed to damage. The track riders who have lost a 6-day race, the riders now unemployed since the pull out of sponsors, the riders and fans who have lost the Deutschland Tour. Oh no, it was all about how terrible alien number 2 felt and what terrible pressure he was under. Still he did say he wanted to clean the slate, so everything's OK.

So will increasing the ban for doping to four years and a raft of new tests, including the alleged one for autologous transfusions rid us of the plague? Obviously not, but any steps that make it harder to dope, any measures that increase the risk of dopers being caught and any increase in deterrents are to be welcomed.
You could introduce the death penalty for doping and there would still be idiots who would be willing to take the risk, in sport so as in life. There's little can do as fans, except abuse busted dopers from the roadside, an activity, which is great fun for all the family, next time you're at a race try it, it's a great way of letting off steam.

Have you spoken to Lance recently?

So the Tour de Britain route is announced for 09 and with it the news that they have invited Lance to ride. Good idea, I mean he's gonna be short on miles come September and I'm sure he'd love to risk life and limb riding round the UK's semi closed roads. My club is thinking of sending him a mail, we've got a time trial that could do with a shot of extra publicity and Lance must have a free Sunday in July now.

Still the ToB joins what must be a bulging in box over at Lance towers, surely there can't be a race in the world that hasn't invited Lance to ride. The only way he'll be able to fulfill all the requests is to indulge in a spot of cloning, currently not on the UCI list of banned activities, but soon to be added I suspect if Lance gets interested. Now I may well have misunderstood what was said, but aren't the Tyler Hamilton twins a product of a cloning experiment gone horribly wrong?

A match made in heaven.

I don't know, you wait all you life for a gold medal and then two come along at once. Nicole Cook has announced her new team for 2009, it was an announcement that took just about every cycling pundit in the business (all 2 of 'em) by surprise. There had been speculation about who she'd ride for following the withdrawal of Halfords from womens racing, which in it's self was a strange move you'd have thought. But I don't think anyone saw the link up with Swift racing. Talk about 'left field' (apologies to my US readers if I got the phrase wrong.).

Nicole's press release is here Vision 1 Racing
In it she talks about it being 'time to give something back to the sport' . Which must make Nicole the first person under the age of 30 to say they are giving something back, it's normally a euphemism for 'I'm too old to race, I'll promote an event and do some coaching' (well it is in my case :-) )

The right one.

It's a great, great move. One for which I can't quite find enough praise. One that when you look at it logically makes a lot of sense for everybody concerned.
First the link up with Swift: I mentioned last week that Swift were offering you the chance to help fund their team for 09 ( Own Our Team ), Swift are a great team and they are doing things the right way, they have a base in Belgium and live the whole season out there training hard and showing total commitment to bike racing, they deserve a lot of success.
Second for Nicole: In Swift / Vision 1 there's the perfect match up in terms of up and coming riders, a great ethos and a management structure that shares Nicole's aims and ambitions. There is no doubt that she will have excellent support in races, but equally there is no doubt that the set-up will prove poivitol in the development of British riders with a view to 2012 and beyond.
Financially it makes sense for everybody. For Swift it will help generate extra sponsors and for Nicole it will give her a stable base for the next four years. There's not a lot of money in womens bike racing, even with double gold as a calling card I doubt that Nicole would be commanding a salary much above that of the average team rider, so as money is not an issue there are other things that make a team the right one.

But it's the prospect of rider development that appeals to me. The girls that rode with Nicole in Halfords / GB colours this year undoubtedly benefited immensely and to be able to have a continuity over several years in that development will pay dividends for all concerned.

Finches, as an alternative to those long winter miles.

Excited by yesterdays finch related news? Want to get into singing finches? (It involves less training than bike racing, so could be appealing).
You need to go here. The home of finch related sporting equipment.

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Cycling - apparently not popular in Belgium.

Finches, just in case anyone asks

It's hard to know where to begin with cobbles, isn't it? Oh come on, would you know where to start? Right, so why should I?

Ask any racing cyclist where the heart of bike racing lives and they will reply “Belgium”, that is unless they reply, Italy or France, in which case you can ask for their second choice and keep going until they get to Belgium. At that point you can nod sagely and say “Well it's their national sport isn't it?”

Of course at this point you hope they don't know that much about Belgium, as, if they do, they might challenge you with the observation that yes, cycling may be popular, but does it really measure up to Vinkensport?

This is often a question I ask myself when I’m in Belgium. You see Vinkensport, or Finch Sport, is one of the world’s oldest sports, pre-dating competitive cycle racing by perhaps as much as four hundred years. Unlike cycling, there are no bikes, but then bike racing hasn't got finches, has it?

But you see Vinkensport is a lot like bike racing. In Vinkensport, male finches are made to sing and the one that sings the most in an hour is the winner. And in bike racing, there's Freddy Martens.

Freddy holds (along with other luminaries, or Eddy Merckx as he is known) the record for the highest number or stage wins in a Tour de France. That's eight over the course of a three week bike race, or if we apply the correct conversion rate of one stage victory equals one hundred songs, that gives Freddy and Eddy enough to win your average Vinkensport contest.

Up to their beaks in it.

Of course Vinkensport is also like cycling in so far as there have been doping incidents. The world record number for songs in Vinkensport is about 1200 (the exact number eludes me and life is too short to travel to Belgium and ask at the international school for Vinkensport in Ronse), but it turns out that, as so often with cycling, the winner in question was doped up to the beak.

Now, why should any of this be of interest to me? Well you see, if you ask someone who doesn't know anything about bike racing (or indeed someone who thinks France or Italy is the world centre for bike racing) for their opinion of Belgium, they will tell you that it's dull and boring. But how can this be? Any country in which people have spent nigh on 500 years sitting around waiting for a box of finches to sing clearly has something going for it.

Chocolate - really quite nice, if you've never tried it.

Another reason to love Belgium is, of course, its chocolate. Chocolate may not have been invented in Belgium, but the Belgians have seized upon it like something sweet and tasty and made it into an art form. Other reasons to love Belgium include the (now sadly closed) Museum of Underpants and, of course, beer. Apparently there are 900 breweries in Belgium (again life is too short.... blah, blah... Ronse) That works out, using the “Brewery to finch song and back to total population” conversion system, about one brewery to every 11,000 Belgians, or one per small town. No wonder they spend their days sitting around listening to birds sing.

Cobbles, cobbles and more cobbles.

So many reasons to love Belgium, but for me the biggest reason is cobbles. To me the heart beat of bike racing is Belgium and that heart sits on a road of cobbles. Whether or not that's actually true is a little open to question. Back in the mists of time, even before the time of Freddy and Eddy, most roads throughout Europe were clad in cobbles, but with the advancement of the smelly god that is tarmacadam, up came the cobbles and down went the tarmac. Fortunately for bike racers everywhere there was some resistance to this and nowhere was that resistance stronger than in Belgium. You see the average Belgian is blessed with a wonderful northern European sense of value. Not for them a Mediterranean acceptance that progress is inevitable, but it just won't be here until tomorrow. Oh no. The Belgians asked one simple question, “Do my cobbles still work?” The answer was of course, “Yes”, and so, with the exception of major roads, the cobbles were left to be. This had two benefits, which didn't reap an obvious reward until the 20th century: 1) the average tourist loves the look of your common or garden cobble and 2) if you're going to race a bike over a cobbled road, you need a combination of skills that by their mere possession make you a very good cyclist. These are immense strength, great bike control and a disregard for your own safety that borders on the insane. In fact, the crazier you are, the more success you will have; cue Freddy.

It is this combination of strength, skill and madness that has propelled Belgian cyclists to the forefront of world cycling. They have long punched above their weight and, occasionally, below the belt. Even now, when upstart nations such as America, Germany and even Britain have begun to win the occasional bike race, Belgium still holds its reputation as the heartland of hard cyclists who ride hard races on barking mad roads.

Mind the kids.

This reputation, then, is what's responsible for dragging cyclists from across the globe to race their bikes over cobbled roads, the like of which, if they encountered them at home, would result in a swift call of complaint to the local authority. And for those of us with slightly more of a grasp of reality, this reputation drags us to stand in muddy fields and watch bicycles being ridden very fast across the heads of small children.

“The heads of small children” is one of the colourful terms the locals use to describe their cobbles. Just as Eskimos are reputed to have over 50 words for snow and the British at least 42 words for rain, the Belgians have 61 words to describe their cobbles. I could list them all now, but let’s be honest here, they wouldn’t be much use to you and I suspect you'd think I had made most of them up, which, of course, I would have done, owing to the impoverished nature of my Flemish. Suffice to say then that there are 61. There were only 39 until Belgium joined the EEC, at which point they had to sign up to the Pan European treaty on the preservation and development of historic highways, subsection cobbles, subsection transport (as opposed to subsection transportation of jelly) and got lumbered with another 22. You think this is bad; you wait until you get to the subsection on rice pudding and blancmange. So blancmange apart, we find ourselves, drawn by a love of cycle racing, chocolate and singing finches, along with an appreciation of the obscure laws of Europe to a Belgian roadside. Enjoy.

(some of you may have seen this before......)

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

I could do that.

Michael Rasmussen steps up the training.

Someone recently accused me of thinking I could run world cycling. I took this, incorrectly it turns out, to be a compliment.
Whilst head of the UCI may well not quite be my dream job it would tide me over until the master of the universe position became vacant. (I know there's a connection, doesn't master of the universe report to the head of the UCI?)

Initially there would be a few changes which may take a little getting used to. For example along with life bans for doping there would be life bans for excessive winging and looking a bit odd (which would have eliminated Kohl and Schumacher before any of the current problems started).
Teams would be excluded from major events for riding ugly bikes and having a badly designed jersey. Ex-Dopers would be invited back, providing they raced in a clowns costume.
Look I know there are potential pitfalls here, but hey, I think I should be allowed a shot at it, lets face it the above plan is no worse than what currently takes place is it?

Unemployment figures set to ride from January 1st 2009.

Uncle Pat (the man who currently keeping the chair warm for me) has just announced that from Jan 1st 09, dopers will face a ban of up to 4 years. The reason for this and not his (and indeed most fans ) favored length of life is that the UCI have to remain with in WADA rules.
But that aside it is wonderful news, it will in effect finish the careers of anyone caught on the juice.
The four year ban is to be handed out for 'willful cheating'. This willful then is I suppose the opposite to cheating where by you accidentally pick up the syringe of EPO and accidentally stick the needle in your arm and accidentally inject yourself. Which guessing from what Kohl, Schumacher etc have been saying exactly what has been happening.

Meanwhile at the chicken farm....

Michael Rasmussen is set to challenge the CAS ruling that he is an ugly son of a bitch that deserves to be kicked from pillar to post by anyone who claps eyes on him. Not content with fleecing Rabobank for 700,000 Euros via a civil action, he now clearly want's to be back riding next season. Cant't wait. (OK I know Rabo weren't blameless here and should have done thing better, but, you know... it's the chicken for God sake)
Personally I hope he's successful, I also hope that the full realisation that having returned to the sport he is totally unemployable and that no one in the sport will touch the freak would be enough to send him into an abyss of madness from which he never recovers.

I have stated previously that I regard the 6-day season as the height of bike racing, so you can imagine my apoplexy with the news of the cancellation of the Stuttgart 6-day (or the Tour of Stuttgart as VeloNews called it) due to the escapades of Messers Kohl and Schumacher and the effect on sponsors and fans.
In my experience once a 6-day goes it almost never returns. Germany despite a number of 6-days does not have a flourishing track scene so this will help nail the lid shut in what little there is. Well done Guys, impressive performance.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Tell it to the dog on wheels. is still up and running if you want a laugh. Go on send him an email, you know you want to.

His management agency is (

As Gerolsteiner call an end to their sponsorship a few days early and those of us with an eye for a bargain attempt to secure any team related items still in their online store, there are people far more unhappy than you could ever imagine.

Over in the outback, in deepest Katherine an Aussie by the name of Cadel is looking decidedly p'd off. His main hope of decent support in le Tour de 2009 has gone and left him, oh dear, oh dear.
Looks like Cadel will have to rely on Molly to get him through those dark nights in July, when the world wants to touch his hound and hound him into touch.
Sill as a potential investment sticking the dog onto a bike could prove pretty useful. It would certainly generate a lot of publicity, it would be more reliable that Kohl and she would doubtlessly be continually at Cadels side.

Maybe it's the way to go. With Lance riding, or not, you know where all the publicity is going to go come July 09. If you want your team to make the front page you'll have to upstage the Texan and his trusty understudy AC (that's Alberto Contador and not AC from operation Puerto). About the only two ways to do this is have your entire team arrested for performing indecent acts on the podium or to employ animals to ride for your team. (Doping is just so old hat, so 2008). So it may just be a good thing that alien number two has been caught. Would Cadel have beaten AC (that's Alberto Contador and not AC from operation Puerto) in a straight fight with Kohl? Or would he stand more of a chance with a dog on wheels?

Having been selected to replace Kohl in the 09 Tour Molly gets the miles in.

Yep - the template has changed.

Just a quick line to say, as you've noticed, the look of the blog has changed. So if you were expecting to see the old green one I apologise for scaring you.
I think the new one's a little easier on the eye, although I know I do need to look at the layout a little closer.

I've stuck on a couple of extra bit's on the right, both fitness / health related. I though as this blog is supposed to be about cycling I should at least nod in the direction of fitness. (I'm not sure about those clocks though are you?)

So, enjoy, I'll be emptying my soul of cycling related issues later in the day, so stay tuned.

Monday, 13 October 2008

KoM (King of the morons)

Kohl and Schumacher consider their futures.

It came to pass that another of the Gerolsteiner riders was caught partaking of CERA. Bernard Kohl joins space alien Schumacher on, what we hope is, the road to oblivion.
Still one thing is for sure Bernard is keeping a fine tradition going. Just take a look back at the previous list of KoM winners, go back to the 80's and you have a who's who of doping. Lets take a look;
Kohl 2008,Rasmussen 05, 06, Virenque 04, 03, 99, 98,97, 96,95, 94, Botero 2000, Chiappucci 91, 92, Claveyrolat 90, Theunisse 98, Rooks 88.
They have all failed tests or admitted to doping after their retirement.

If I look at the book shelves, I see rows and rows of cycling related books. There are a lot of books on coaching, books on periodisation, weight training, diet, books on great races, autobiographies and biographies of stars and water carriers. But you know what? There's not a book on the history of doping. That would make an interesting read, who's taken what and when they took it. The protests against testing and the riders caught cheating. You could slot in a couple of comedy chapters covering the bizarre excuses offered and finish up with a look at the long term heath consequences, both physical and mental of doping. Surely there's one waiting to be written?
Provides a good evenings entertainment and plenty of opportunity to feel angry and pissed off. Whether or not there would be enough potential sales to encourage a publisher to put up the money is another question, but if you feel you have that great unwritten novel inside you..... feel free to make with the idea.

Don't book that Parisian hotel (yet)

Whooo, hold on there, enough with the on-line hotel booking and the suitcase packing. Lance may not be visiting France after all.
In an interview with Gazzetta dello Sport he admits he's riding the Giro to win, but goes on to say he might not ride in France.

'With the problems that I've got with the organisers, journalists and fans, I could get distracted from mission.'
He hopes a diplomatic solution can be found, but goes on to claim he's not had the OK from ASO. I bet you thought ASO had given the all clear? But just look past the September headlines and you see that they are pretty vague (how un French......ha, ha, ha). So as yet we don't know what the score is.

Lance says. "Is it possible they won't invite me? Everything is possible but I would find it incredible, a sort of own goal. I want to be in Paris but in a calm situation."
Er, yes it is quite possible he won't get asked, I don't find it incredible, come on Lance, you may well feel it's time to move on, but does everybody? An own goal, I doubt if ASO will see it like that, to be honest I doubt if they'd care how it was viewed outside Paris. Calm situation, yeah, like that's gonna happen.

If we assume that Astana have spent long enough on the naughty step for ASO to be satisfied. Then they must be in line for a ride. So if Astana are riding and Lance is a member of Astana and he's not currently under a ban, can ASO stop him?

What's I think is interesting, is that Lance not riding will generate as much publicity as Lance riding. I mean he won't be able to use the press conferences to get the cancer message across, but then is there any chance of that happening should he ride? I'd suspect the press events would follow their once traditional format, loads of questions about drugs, loads of bad blood (sorry feelings), photos of those asking awkward questions and a lot of shouting and waving of the arms. Things in Italy would I suspect be a little calmer. Maybe looking at all the potential grief will persuade him to just ride the Giro, or hey, Giro and Vuelta.
So we await the turn of events, it's all eyes to Paris, just don't let them stray towards those hotel rooms quite yet.

World Cup tickets for sale, only £500 for three days.

On a far more uplifting note (if you're a British track fan, as I am) the Sky sponsorship deal with British Cycling get's going at the first round of the world cup in Manchester in a few weeks time.
Victoria Pendleton, Ross Edgar, Jason Kenny and Jamie Staff are all to be found listed under the new Sky+HD trade team. +, is this the first time a + has appeared in a trade team name?

The world cup format of course allows trade teams in addition to national squads, so for a set-up like BC it's a great chance to give exposure and competition to even more riders.
Whilst Hoy and Wiggo aren't riding, it's pretty much the full Worlds and Olympic squads in action, so expect plenty of podiums from the home riders.

The world cup falls at a perfect time, a couple of weeks before the first of the Revolution track series and at a time when cycling is still riding high in the nations consciousness. Tickets can't be had for love nor money, although for five hundred quid I might be tempted.
A couple of years ago we sat in a half empty stadium and watched a round of the world cup, the UCI were none too impressed and said never again. However the success of the Revolution series (playing to full houses) and the World Championships caused a rethink, the result every ticket went with a couple of days of going on sale. So expect a great 3 days racing. I'll see you there.

One for the good guys.

Paris - Tours (at last a bike race takes place)

Good guys do win, that's the message from Paris-Tours. Gilbert's win is one not just for a good guy, but one for a good team. FDJ have long had a strong anti doping ethic and their team were roundly cheered at the 07 le Tour for their stand against doping and chickens.
But it wasn't just a good day for the guys at FDJ, Landbouwkrediet, Bouygues Telecom and Agritubel had riders making up the winning move. Proving that the 'smaller' teams can do the business just as well as the big boys and that if you try hard enough you effort will pay off. The four fought hard to stay away from the peloton and fully deserve their success.
For a small team like Landbouwkrediet it was a big day, 2nd for Jan Kuyckx in a major classic is a huge result for the Belgian squad and one they fully deserve. Landbouwkrediet have a good reputation in the UK due to their employment of Manning, Clancy and Stannard and many British fans will be pleased with their result.

Gilbert finally got a big one and hopefully this will give him the spur to go onto bigger things next season. He is one rider that has spoken out against doping and stated his determination to ride hard no matter what the odds, well yesterday the odds were in his favor as he found himself with three hardworking and fully committed riders all of whom had something to gain and all of who can feel more than happy with their days work. It was a well deserved victory and an undoubtedly bright spot in what has been a pretty dire week in the world of professional cycling.

Lance, he's a little ray of sunshine. (For a certain young Spaniard.)

Anything else happened,.... er, well..... oh yes...... the comeback, I almost forgot.
Lance will for the first time ride the Giro, which next year clocks up 100 years. In fact 'Everybody says that the Giro will be the kick-off to the Tour while I know I could come to Italy to be a winner and that the Giro will be my true three-week stage race of the year,'
says Lance. At thirty eight there can be no way he'd seriously go for both the Giro and le Tour, although you'd never quite rule that out, would you? So, you know what? That seems to have put something of a smile back on AC's (that's Alberto Contador and not AC from operation Puerto) face, the boy seems a lot happier now and I guess for Astana it's win, win, win all the way. Lance to go for the Giro, AC (that's Alberto Contador and not AC from operation Puerto) for le Tour and a straight two way fight between Levi and AC (that's Alberto Contador and not AC from operation Puerto) for the Vuelta.
Now with all this publicity the Astana brand, let alone the Livestrong brand will just get bigger and bigger. Just remind me, what's an Astana? It's a Kazakhstan cheese isn't it? Anyway, whether it's cheese or jam, I'll be first in the queue when they start selling it in the UK, maybe it's a brand of shirt or a carpet manufacturer, who knows.

That one announcement has brought a lot of jollity to AC (that's Alberto Contador and not AC from operation Puerto) and he seems to have changed his tune in double quick time and now appears surprised that there were teams interested in signing him, yeah, right.

The IOC - down the toilet with the dopers - it's official.

Are you afraid of needles? Don't worry the IOC is at hand. They don't like them either.

You'll recall that a few days ago a hither too unknown IOC official was calling for cycling to be expunged from the history book and all bicycles to be thrown in the crusher. So you can imagine my surprise (not) when it turns out that the glowing edifice that is the IOC isn't as luminescent as they would have us believe.

It seems that the IOC's claim to be at the forefront in the war against doping is about as believable as AC's (that's Alberto Contador and not AC from operation Puerto) one that he was surprised other teams wanted his signature.
It was revealed last night (to I suspect stifled laughs at UCI HQ) that the IOC concealed inadequacies, shortcomings and generally being crap in its anti-doping procedures during the Beijing Olympics. Of the 4770 tests carried out 300 still lack proper documentation and results, which just about makes them worthless in an anti doping fight. But it's not just the on the day testing procedures that have had problems, oh no. The Athletes Whereabouts documentation from almost half the national Olympic associations was junk. 102 out of 205 proved to have insufficient or no information relating to where their athletes were at certain times. This was despite the IOC requesting the information on multiple occasions. Can you imagine what would happen if cyclists were unable to provide information as to their whereabouts? The IOC, WADA, Uncle Tom Cobley and all would call into question our right to exist and yet almost 50% of the nations at the Olympics failed to do this and no one says a dickey bird.

But hey, don't worry, all of that has obviously not been commented on, because it pales into insignificance when you look at how many sports have signed up to the IOC's blood testing programme. Yes whilst cycling is pilloried the IOC have quietly forgotten to mention that of the 28 international summer sports federations only 4 ( yes that's 4 out of 28), namely cycling, athletics, rowing and modern pentathlon have agreed to subject it's athletes to screening to reduce the chances of any blood doping.
Perhaps, and here's a thought, the UCI should stand up and say they don't want to be part of the Olympics, an organisation that is clearly 'down the toilet', an organisation that is incapable of fighting the dopers, unable to conduct reliable tests and is reliant on poor practice and ineffective procedure.

The IOC anti doping committee meet to consider what to do next.

Sunday, 12 October 2008

On the road with farmer giles. (it's rhyming slang)

I'm trapped inside an invisible box!
Did you know that when Dave Brailsford was at college he was part of a theater group called 'The Brothers Coppi' who would reenact famous scenes from The Tour de France through the medium of mime.
This came to mind whilst reading an article on the great Maurizio Fondriest. Not only does Mauritzo produce a range of bikes, which I have to say are bloody gorgeous, he part sponsors a team and according to the article in question grows apples, not a couple of tress you understand, but a whole 'forest' of em, although the apples in question are golden delicious an apple which I have to say are neither delicious or golden. (Not being excessively patriotic here, but if you ask me you can't beat a good British apple).

Farmer giles, never popular with cyclists.

Still all of this proves, in a slightly vague way, that our hero's have lives before and after their cycling related activity. Although some have less of a non cycling life than others and some it appears have none at all. It's hard to imagine the mighty Sean Kelly doing anything other than riding his bike, having retired he still rides it seriously, he sponsors a team, one which he is quite happy to ride with and he commentates on Eurosport. Outside of that there are rumors of a farm, but where he gets time to drive the tractor is beyond me. Perhaps our Sean is a bit like the gentleman farmers of the 18th century, who would employ someone to do the farming, whilst they just cast an eye over the proceedings.

Bernard Hinalut still rides occasionally, although looking at his waist line he's not as regular as our Sean. But the badger keeps Le Tour company each year where he acts as a go-between twix stage winners and minor clebs at the end of the day. This however is just a small part of his le Tour related activities, his main job it would appear, is, as it was in his racing days, beating the living crap out of protesters. Now you tend to get a lot of those in France and credit to Bernard he shows no favoritism on this front, whether he agrees with their point or not he's always the first to wade in fists flying. You see in his retirement Bernard regards Le Tour as he did when he was winning it, it's his personal fiefdom, that he has no role, other than a purely symbolic one makes no difference to him, he's still more than willing to sort out any potential problem in the way he always has, long may he continue.

There was I, digging a hole.

Paul Sherwen hard at it in his gold mine.

So this inevitably brings us to Paul Sherwen. Our Paul seems to spend a lot of time commentating on just about every TV channel there is. Indeed one of the highlights of this years le Tour was Paul chatting away, whilst in the background you could hear Phil doing the same for another TV network, then in a piece of well timed timing, they would swap stations and pick up where the other left off! But as we all know he has a mine in Africa. Sometimes it's described as a plain old mine and sometimes as a gold mine. Whichever it is I suspect that there's not much digging going on as young Paul seems to spend pretty much the whole year from le Tour down under to the final classics yacking away on at lest four different TV stations. There is a rumor that one of the drivers behind 'the comeback' is that the investment Lance has made in Paul's mine hasn't paid off and as a result he's a few quid light in the pocket.

Stefan Schumachers brain.

Stefan Schumacher - 'It was aliens that made me do it'.

The lab that developed the test for CERA have defended their test, saying it's "is one hundred-percent sure," So why have they done this? Apparent because Mr Schumacher has called the test into question. The reason he's done this is obviously because he's innocent. I await Piepolis view on the issue, doubtlessly he's innocent as well.

The truly amazing thing about Schumacher is that despite numerous run in's with anti doping authorities both inside cycling and outside (the police) he still persists in some sort of wired fantasy world where he is the innocent party and the world is out out get him.
This calls to mind a remark made by (I think) Dave Brailsford of British Cycling, who basically said that in order to dope and not let it affect your mental health you need to be some sort pf psychopath. The argument being that the stress involved in obtaining dope, using it in the full knowledge that it is illegal, then entering into a raft of measures to conceal all of this will have a detrimental affect on your mental health. You want proof? I'd look no further than the excuses offered by convicted dopers, it was for my dog, my wife, sweets from my auntie, too much beer, too much whiskey, it was my twin brother etc etc. These denials / excuses, call them what you will, are not the work of minds that are in full working order. Still I await Schumachers next utterance with interest, he is following the usual pattern of caught dopers, step 1 - I am innocent, step 2 - the tests are at fault, step 3 (by now the stress has caused you mind to implode) invent an excuse or blame it on someone else. We have yet to have an excuse centering around space ships and aliens, but I suspect it's only a matter of time.

It's all gone quiet over there...(thank God)

The mist has blown in from the sea and my part of the world is quiet and still.
It's also gone all silent over at comeback towers, or Lance land as I call it. It's been a few days since there was any real news, the wires are silent and apart from a few rehashed stories about AC (that's Alberto Contador and not AC from operation Puerto) being unhappy with the return little seems to be taking place. Actually the guy I feel for in this is Levi, he must have been favorite to lead Astana in at least on of the grand tours, but now he's dropped a place in the pecking order and it will be team duties come the summer, I don't think Levi is ever a potential GT winner, but he is certainly good enough to make the podium and by rights deserves a team backing him whilst he goes for it. There has been loads of talk about poor AC (that's Alberto Contador and not AC from operation Puerto) but so far little hasbeen said about Levi, which kind of makes me admire the guy more, he's quietly getting on with the business of riding his bike and not shouting to the press about how p'd off he is.

Somewhere else that is still and silent is WADA, OK they still send out a torrent of press releases and news reports, as always, but since the departure Dick Pound there have been fewer direct attacks on cycling. What's he doing with his time now he's not slagging our sport off? I'm sure he's pounding away at something else. Is it me or did he just seem to have some sort of complex as far as cycling went? Still relations between WADA and the UCI seem a little calmer now he's gone and to be honest good riddance, he was someone who seemed to love the sound of his own voice and was always quite willing to shoot off his mouth without thinking through the consequences of what he said.
Another reason for the calmer relations between UCI and WADA is the departure of Verbruggen, no wonder things were strained when you got those two ego manics in the same room, it's a surprise the police were never called to break up a fight. I hope they are both happy in their retirement and I hope they stay a long, long way away from cycling.

Cycling TV - just say no.

Well I have finally reached the end of my tether, rather than go down the Schumacher route and let it get to me, I'm considering cancelling my subscriptions to Cycling . TV.
The reason? Er... it's unmitigated crap, that's the reason. Oh it's not the commentary, the Mccrossan brothers, Brian Smith partnership is the best there is, rather it's the God awful service that claims to be their web site.
Theses are my grips with it, Firstly the player it pops up in a separate window, why does it need to do that? I ban all pop ups and have to tweak the system to allow them. It also seems to prefer (insist?) on IE, I hate IE and use Firefox / Chrome.
Still once we've allowed pop ups and picked their preferred browser we're in. It's then the fun really begins, want to watch an old race? That would be nice wouldn't it, lets see how can we do that? I know there's a search tab, I'll use that, oh hang on I might like to watch one of the lesser races they cover, but I'm not sure what it's called, so I can't use that. Never mind I'll use the tab next to it, the 'on demand' tab, er except I won't on demand, this will only allow me to go back to the end of Le Tour and not before, so if I want to see a race prior to the last week in July I'd better know exactly what it's called or else I'm screwed.
But wait, there's help at hand, a site map is (well) hidden at the bottom of the page, maybe this will assist me? Well it displays a 2008 race calendar, but that's all it does, there are no links to take me to the video of said race, still a quick copy and paste and drop the race name into the search facility and off we go,sometimes.
My point is this, why so many hoops to jump through to get a list of previous events? Why is the old system of displaying all the races that have been covered in one easily accessible place no longer in use? I'll tell you, they have moved to a new interface (it's been in use all year and still has the word beta on it - that tells you a lot), nothing wrong with that. But it appears that it has been put together by a code monkey and then tested by another code monkey, neither of whom has any knowledge or interest in cycling and most certainly neither is a user of the interface. It would have been a simple and inexpensive task to actually properly test the new interface and get some usable functionality into it, but hey, why do that when it can look nice. The result is p'd off users, we want to stay because when we eventually find a race the commentary is excellent, the camera work is good and it's cheaper than Eurosport, ah well, rant over, I might just go and ride my bike.
And that's another thing, have you seen the state of my training bike? Don't I ever get to clean it?.........

Friday, 10 October 2008

The law of the playground.

Puking for Britain.

Over at the site of the new sponsor, Sky, there's a lot of cycling news, nothing you don't see elsewhere and no working RSS feed, but credit where etc etc. They do however pick 12 young athletes who they expect to blast for Gold in 2012 and would you believe it, there are three cyclists, Jason Kenny, Anna Blyth and Shanaze Reade. Has there ever been a list of future British hopefuls where cyclists have made up 25% of the total? No I don't recall it either. Still looks like they're going to push the profile and that is a big plus.
On of the odd things that I read a couple of weeks ago was a small article in (I think) the Independent on Sunday,where it was reported that the Sky deal was £47 million, surely a very bad typo? or does the Indy know something we don't?

So, anyway, there's a do for all the Sky big wigs up at the velodrome, the D is cordoned off and there are crisps, sandwiches and fizzy pop for all. Meanwhile a squad training session is taking place on the track. A certain young sprinter puts in a massive effort having not fully warmed up properly, leaves the track and promptly throws up in the nearest waste bin, providing the assembled Sky exec's with a spectacular view of exactly what their investment is bringing them (that's total commitment and all out effort, as opposed to that mornings breakfast).

I vant to drink your blood.....

Meanwhile back in the real world, there is soon to be a test for blood transfusions, so in maybe a few months we will get a whole new batch of tests from this years Le Tour and hopefully the Olympics (I assume the IOC will sign up and use the test), once again it will be all bets off for who won those Le Tour stages, you never know, by the time the 09 race starts we might just have a clear (cleaner?) picture of who won what in 08.
I said I assume the IOC will follow suite and I think they will, they wont really have an option will they? They will certainly lose all credibility if the samples that they plan to keep for 8 years don't get tested with every new test that comes out of the armory. How many rewrites of Olympic history will the new test bring?
Now what's the betting that there will be a fair few samples that will have become contaminated and won't be retested? I await the new set of results for CREA with interest.

Lemond has recently made the point that true testing needs to include VO2 Max and power output, both of which can be done now. This would enable the authorities to monitor progression and changes over a longer period and therefore gain a more accurate view of changes. So why isn't this being done? Well, er.... ask Uncle pat. Yes there would be a big, indeed very big, initial outlay, but the pay of would be a massive step in the fight against doping, more confidence for sponsors and fans that they are witnessing a true winner and perhaps best of all a stick to beat the IOC, WADA and other sports with.

Of course you would hear the old song about infringement of athletes rights, personal freedom etc etc. But you know what? How about the right's of fans who travel all over the world watching their sport? How about the sponsors and TV networks who what value for their investment? No I'm sorry, it was the athletes, in all sports, who indulged in a frenzy of doping, silence, cover up and bizarre excuses, as they say in the play ground 'you started it, I'll finish it'

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Getting down with the thieves of glory.

Good news Mrs Hamilton, it's twins.

In a somewhat less than shocking turn of events Schumachers Lawyer has expresses doubts about the testing procedures that caught his client.
Apparently Schuey is "totally destroyed and has withdrawn from everything", oh dear, how sad, my heart bleeds, it really does, Poor old Schumacher is upset that after taking a couple of doses CERA he has been found positive at a dope test, been sacked by his team and now has the German fuzz turning his place over and taking away 'items' for evidence.
My view is that the first rider to say 'it's a fair cop' on getting caught, should be allowed to get off scott free, not that it's ever likely to happen is it, denial and stupidity seem prerequisites for the average dope head and it is clear that Schumacher has theses in abundance.

Talking of abundance, the Tyler Hamilton twins have been speaking (in unison I must assume) to the fine VeloNews and amazingly confides in us that 'I’m still scarred. I’m not the same person I was before, that’s for sure'
Whooo, there, hold the front page, hang on I'll just pick myself up from the floor. I thought the Hamilton boys had returned to as cyclists, not stand up comedians. 'I'm not the same person I was before.' Well who the flipping heck are you then? I thought you were twins, I'm sure that was you brilliant defense, now if you're not the same person is that just one of you? both of you? or what? Are there now four of you, oh my God, this is getting to confusing.
Still another caught doper complains, I assume that 'I'm still scared' counts as a complaint, that they've had it tough, oh boo hoo, what a shame. It's the same old story that makes me sick, you take dope, you assume you have a right to take dope, you get caught, you're not happy with the fact that you get banned, you assume that you should get off free and be allowed to race again.
The reason I'm all for life bans has nothing to do with stamping out doping in the peloton, no it's all to do with shutting up ex dopers and stopping them bleating on and on about how tough things are. Giving you medals back Tyler? Thought not.

Me ol' bamboo, me ol' bamboo, you'd better never bother with me ol' bamboo.

British Cycling have always had an eye on the future. It was cutting edge technology and design that helped the Gold fest that was the Olympics and Worlds this year. But in a recent development BC have announced that they are looking not just towards 2012 but to 2052.
The assumption is that by 2052 the cost of certain materials currently used to build bikes will be prohibitively expensive and will therefor be banned by the UCI and IOC. With this in mind BC is looking to other materials, the assumption is that it will be compulsory to make bikes out of resources that are both renewable and biodegradable. And so the much heralded secret squirrel club is to be superseded by the newly named Pander club. This group of top research scientists and mechanics will be led once again by Chris Boardman. The reason for the name is that the new wonder material identified by BC as the key material in bike building for 2052 will be bamboo.

Bamboo init......

So whilst the above will not be the actual models that are raced on come 2052, they are the first steps along the way.

There is also talk of a skinsuit that recycles water. Apparently 'top boffins' are researching a suit that will convert sweat into drinkable water, that will be fed back to the rider via a small tube that is attached to the zip. This it is hoped will eliminate the need to have as many stops either to take on additional water bottles or to, how can we put this politely, ah yes, take a piss.

And the winner of Julys stage is.........

For God's sake man, just say no.

Spam, tis a wondrous thing, non? My spam filter has just picked up a mail offering 'Special treatment for your beloved.' Now stupid me, I thought this was going to be an offer of new bar tape for my Colnago, or even my track bike, but it turns out that they are offering little blue tablets to put more ding in your dong, so Dee Qin, unless you can offer something that's more relevant for the average cyclist I'm deleting your mail.

So the comeback starts in Le Tour de Downunder. The UCI have waived the 6 months notification rule, by 12 days, to allow Lancey boy to be on the start line. It's a great rule and makes a lot of sense, however the precedent was set with Chipo just rocking up at California with a bike and riding.
Still the UCI claim they contacted Lance twice, to tell him about the rule and didn't get a response, hummmh, looks like UCI is drilled into Lances spam filter along with all those mails offering performance enhancing drugs.

And the winner is.....

One of the million reasons I love cycling is that there's never an off season, if you like bike racing there's action all year round, road, cross, track, XC, downhill, BMX even TTing, but of late there is of course another exciting option to keep you entertained when there is no racing (or indeed when the Tour de Poland is on) and that's who'll be caught next. This is a really exciting new twist to our sport and only a recent addition to the calendar, but one that I'm sure will go from strength to strength in the coming years.
It's October now,three months since the Le Tour finished and the stage winners are still in doubt, how exciting is that? A stage race that goes on for three months! Well done the UCI , they really are making it a 12 months round sport.
Add to this the new sport of comeback racing and, you can have a really exciting twelve months without ever once seeing someone actually ride a bike, I know we want to attract new viewers to the sport, but shouldn't they be introduced to seeing people riding bikes first?

The chip circuit.

Meanwhile, the 6-day season gears up. I should state here that in my eyes the 6-day season is the supreme height of bike racing. And this season the cup will runneth over, Zable is to knock it on the head, and will be partnered by Brad Wiggo on his final rides. All of this has prompted Brad to do a bit of training. Undoubtedly Brad will be training out from the town where he lives, this just happens to be on my training route. Now Brad has fessed up spending a few months in his local there after Athens, but this isn't the problem we find when riding through it. Our misfortune is a newly opened chip shop and as we stagger through on our circuits we are assailed by the smell of freshly chipped chips. It's getting more common to see knackered cyclists drift in for a refueling stop of the fried potato nature. You see, 'tis a town of evil temptation for the cyclist.
Brad has admitted that his dalliance in the town caused him to have a crap season, pah, we're ahead of you there boy, we're crap before we get tempted.
On second thoughts, maybe Brad will be tempted by a chippy supper, frits, fries or chips, call em what you will, form one of the corners of the triangle that make a great 6-day race, the others are beer and bike racing, oh, hang on looks like Brad is in the perfect spot to cover all bases. Looks like he'll be having a good winter.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Good clean family entertainment.

Look kids, a bald twat, lets throw rocks at him in the hope that we might kill him.

Apparently one of the by-products of excessive testosterone abuse is hair loss. Surprising that there seem to be some prematurely bald cyclists about, still a coincidence I'm sure. I mean Schumacher, Alejandro Valverde and Leonardo Piepoli? I'm sure they just lost their hair through the use of the wrong shampoo.

It has been revealed by AFLD (the French anti doping agency) that Ricco managed to fail four tests in this years Le Tour, all of them for CERA - brilliant, way to go Ricco lad, why take one syringe into the shower when you can take four. Hats off to that man, looks like he out Virenqued, Richard Virenque an impressive performance. Schumacher only managed two positives, does that mean that he's a better cyclist or he can't afford as much smack as Ricco, perhaps he needs a better dealer.
Dealers, dealers? Has anyone actually grassed up their dealer? (I assume dope cheats have dealers) Wasn't the UCI offering reduced sentences for anyone fingering their dealer?, so to speak. By the looks of it no one has offered to point any fingers in any directions, still Ricco was apparently p'd off with his sentence, so was I, twat should have got life.

Good news on the way, to the effect that the IOC is to test for CERA on all the samples it took at the Olympics. Bring it on. Lets find out who else is going down the toilet with us, lets see how many sports the IOC want to eff off after this is done. And then lets move on.......

I say hasn't all gone quiet over at Astana, AC (that's Alberto Contador and not AC from operation Puerto) must be looking at his options, which seem fairly limited, despite saying last week that he has been in contact with several interested teams, there has been little action. The problem other teams would have is the same one AC (that's Alberto Contador and not AC from operation Puerto)has at Astana, parachute in a potential tour winner and the established hierarchy ion your team goes to pot, everyone gets pissed off and your star rider could walk out, sparking (I'd hope) a round of musical chairs. So will Johan chose Lance or AC (that's Alberto Contador and not AC from operation Puerto) to lead the squad in Le Tour? If he choses AC (that's Alberto Contador and not AC from operation Puerto) does anyone expect Lancey boy to play the role of domestique? Or could we have a rewind to the Hinault v Lemond race of 86? Might make the race slightly more interesting.
I'm still hopeing that AC (that's Alberto Contador and not AC from operation Puerto) takes Lance's advice and realises that it's 'time to move on'.