Thursday, 5 February 2009

Backing the right horse.

Hang on, hang on, the Tour de Qatar is turning out to be exciting. Has it always been like this? Perhaps I've just been a late riser and missed the previous action? So far this week we've seen a blasting Slipstream TTT, impressive without all of their big TTT guns, then a last ditch smash and grab from Rog Hammond, Boonan back to action, Cav puncturing, Cav winning, Cav doing that pointy salute and Cav loving his team. A race that I think of as being, start, side wind, echelon, head wind, echelon, peloton sprint turns out to be dead exciting, attacks, splits, aggression, blimey, you'd have thought someone would have been training.
But what really got me excited was the echelons on stage Hammond, truly a thing of beauty, a lesson in perfection to any aspiring racer and a good opportunity to play spot the new pro.

I can't get used to this, must be my age. Maybe I didn't warm up for the years spectating properly, maybe they've started too fast for me. Perhaps the winters 6 day and cross viewing has put me off the pace, races once a week, maybe I need a few day to get 'up to speed'.

Still I'm enjoying it now OK? :-)

Something else that I'm enjoying is the Tour de Langkawi, which this year see's a return to the gloriously daft Genting Highlands, a climb you wouldn't really want to think about riding, let alone race over. Langkawi has always appealed to me. Slightly exotic, full of crazy stages, cycling on a new frontier, whatever the reason it's been a favorite for years. It suited my slightly late rising and bleary eyed acceptance of a new road season. Guess now I'll have to set the alarm earlier.

Are you Chris Hoy?

It's good to see Boonan back to winning ways, his dalliance with the nose powder hopefully behind him. Now I'm no expert on Belgian law, but I suspect that Tom's celebrity status came into play a little here. Over in the land of the frit, Tom is not just back page news, he's on the front page, in the life style supplements, the cookery pages, the motoring pages and doubtlessly on occasion even in the cycling coverage. For those of us in the UK having a cyclist with this much media exposure is a concept I suspect we find both appealing and slightly frightening. Sir Chris is the closest we have to that, but thankfully Sir Chris hasn't yet made it to the latest copy of 'My celebrity Goldfish monthly'.

Armstrong aside, Sir Chris is the one cyclist most of the British public know. A few weeks ago I was on a BC coaching course in a local hotel and one of the staff asked me if Chris Hoy was in the meeting room with us. I doubted that we could have had anyone pass themselves off as Sir, so I answered in the negative and lost the possibility of an evenings free booze.

For those of us in the UK the last 12 months have been, well, if not unexpected then just a little surprising. There are some of us no doubt who are walking round thinking 'Told you so' or 'It won't last'. Of course, as the skeptic in me will say, 'only time will tell'. But if I look at this logically, this being the current position of cycling in the UK, things do indeed look bright. A profile of success that most other UK sports would cut of various body parts for, a youth development programme that should ensure more high quality athletes for years to come, media partners with money, a raised profile for the sport in general, more people on bikes, cycling being discussed in the back passages of power (Westminster). And most wondrous of all a national body (BC) that seems to be setting the national bench mark for sporting excellence. When your Performance Director becomes the 5th most powerful sports person in the country and other sports are beating a path to your door to discover 'the magic' you kind of get the feeling that we, as a sport, are well placed to take advantage of all the attention and all the cash. There you go, I always knew I'd backed the right horse.


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