Wednesday, 25 March 2009

They came, they saw, they rode around in circles

A Brit wins Milan - SanRemo, so lets see just what Europe's press might have made of the event.

'A new champion is born', 'Glorious Cavendish' , 'A king is born' trumpeted the broadsheets in Belgium and Holland.
In France Cav was front page news 'Cavendish stakes his place at the top table' and , 'Cavendish eats snails and frogs legs, but rides much faster than either of these creatures on his way to victory',
In Italy Cav filled the front page, the back page and just about every page in between, with headlines that could well have read 'Cavendish, embraces Cipollini as cycling embraces a new champion' and 'By jove old chap, hang onto your London taxi as British Cavendish does rather well, innit.'

Meanwhile the British sporting press managed to overlook this exciting event to lead with, 'Slug found in Wayne Rooney's mouth', 'Darts made me irresistible to house bricks, says fat man' and 'English cricketers manage to tie own shoe laces'.

Ah well, not that I really expected anything else. Still the track worlds are now on and having whetted our appetite with non-wall to wall cycling coverage of M-SR we can expect more of the same in the coming week.

And talking of wall to wall coverage, let's talk Lance and his little accident. So am I alone in thinking good news for Levi? He is going like the proverbial train right now and with his ol' mucker injured and AC 'supposedly' saving himself till July there's a golden opportunity for Levi to have a tilt at the Pink jersey. Now that's got to put a smile on his face, start of the year he's a step down the pecking order as Lancey boy arrives, next thing you know, hello team leadership. Good luck fella.

If it ain't 250m long it ain't worth a ****

Over in Poland there is talk of team GB's demise as a track power. Well there is on certain on-line sites, as some not very good journalists get their knickers in a twist. Meanwhile at the BBC there is gnashing of teeth as GB only take 2 silver and 2 bronze from the four events on the opening night.

Give me strength, really, give me effing strength. The GB track squad had made it perfectly clear that this years worlds was just a stepping stone on the road to 2012, a chance to try new combinations, allow younger riders to gain experience. In terms of funding there is nothing riding on the results here, but there is a lot riding on arriving at 2012 with riders who don't have the right experience and exposure to international competition.

Jo Roswell set a PB on the way to 4th in the IP, Queen Vic herself picked up a bronze in an event she did zero training for, beaten by a world record and the rider who previously held the world record, how many would like to fail like that.?
In the points, always a lottery, it could have gone to any of four or five riders and a bronze to Newton is no disgrace. In the end a wonderful ride by Cameron Meyer took the rainbows down to Oz, Meyer is just a class act, end of, aggressive, with a great eye for the right move and good timing, he deserved it and I hope he goes onto make a great career on the road.
So the team sprint then? Silver for GB, beaten as so often by the French at worlds level. Big issue? Er no, not from where I'm sitting, Jamie was a little sluggish out of the gate, but Kenny (no longer 'young Jason Kenny') was on the money and Matt Crampton set the fastest time for man 3 in the competition. Yes he was a little of the pace initially, but, as I said new combinations, new options.

Wendy Houvenaghel slowed up in the final and looked a little knackered into the 2nd K. But take nothing away from Alison Shanks who went even faster than in qualifying (mark of a good coach and good coach rider relationship if you ask me). Her ride was stunning, backing up with a faster time is just so impressive it deserves respect. Have the Kiwis unearther a successor to the wonderful Sarah Ulmer?

So, what does any of that prove? Nothing much, except those that expected the GB track squad to dominate for evermore clearly know nothing about cycling, track racing or team preperation. If it does prove anything it's that the next few years are going to be just great for track racing and that is good enough for me.


Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Lance is human shocker.

Ouch, and not the annoying team Ouch either. Lance fell of his bike and it got more column inches in the UK press than Cavendish winning Milan-Sanremo.

Sometimes shit happens and yesterday it happened to Lance. It's pretty much inevitable that as a bike rider you will at some point have a crash that's gonna take you out for a few weeks. Up until now Lancey boy managed to avoid hitting the turf and staying down. If he's hit, he's got back up, but yesterday he went down and stayed down. A collarbone takes four to six weeks to heal to a get on the bike and ride level, to heal fully it takes longer. So the years plans are reshaped and rescheduled in one fell swoop.

So has Lancey been luck until now? Did his luck finally run out? Well, er, no and no. I don't believe in luck. Laws of probability, attention to detail, concentration and effort all come into play when you talk crashes and when you talk punctures.
Lancey boy pays attention to detail, quality of bikes, condition of tyres, condition of equipment, road conditions. He concentrates on what goes on around him, who's there, how well they're riding, how good they look. Most of the time he's not knackered and mental freshness is key to avoiding trouble on the road. But you can still do all the right things and have a 'bad day' it's called probability.

Maybe he wasn't as fresh as he has been in years gone by, maybe a little older and reactions are a little slower or maybe eventually the seagull craps on your windscreen. So the way is now open for AC (that's Alberto Contador not AC from Operation Puerto) to stake his claim for another Pink jersey, or is it.

AC (that's Alberto Contador not AC from Operation Puerto) seemed to be leaving the Giro for Lancey boy and le Tour for himself, at least that was the plan, (Well AC's plan anyway, I suspect Lance had a slightly different one, eh?). So, no Giro for Lance, huuummmnn, looks like he'll have to set new goals for the season, I wonder if there are any races later in the year that he'll fancy riding to win?

You see Alberto, you shouldn't have pushed him off should you?


Sunday, 22 March 2009

Wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, and wow.

Sometimes, just sometimes, you can forget all the crap that surrounds our sport, you can forget doping, crap officials and over egged media hype. Sometimes something happens that makes you marvel at the pure wonder that can so often be bike racing.

Yesterday was just such a day. Milan - SanRemo came and has now not just passed, but passed into history as one of the greatest days of one of the greatest classics.
A sprint finish, that's all it was, a simple sprint finish, but what a sprint finish. A' sprint royal' as they say over there.

A peloton big enough to make it a real sprint finish arrived at SanRemo, Boonan, Gavazzi, Dean, Pozzato, Petacchi, Big Thor and Haussler can all shift a bit. But I guess on the day, non of then could shift like the mighty Cav. Cav had in his own words 'come to learn', he didn't talk up a victory, but he didn't deny it either, I don't think Cav would, sorry, could, ever do that.

The final K was hit at speed and with 500m Haussler shot of the front and opened up 50 meters. Cav a little boxed in and close to the barriers had to wait for a second or two before making his move, it was a little late, but when he made his move, it was a move of the Gods. Cav didn't so much light the afterburners as take them to one side and beat the living crap out of them. As Haussler got closer to the line he started to lose speed and as he hit 50m to go a look under his arm confirmed that it was nightmare time, the Manx missile was there and he was about to throw his bike for the final sprint.

It took several minutes for the jury to make it's mind up, the feed was indecisive and the commentators on Dutch, Belgian, French and Italian web feeds couldn't make their minds up, but soon enough the caption confirmed that Haussler had gone too early and that Cav was too fast.

Cav burst into tears and was hugged by none other then the man himself. Mario Cipollini looked almost as happy as Cav, but on a day like that who couldn't be happy, except may be Haussler and the man he was supposed to lead out, 3rd place 'Big Thor'.

The toughest race is the one for team leadership.

So, imagine for a minute that your name is AC (that's Alberto Contador not AC from Operation Puerto) and last year you were undisputed leader of your team, winning two GT's and being the worlds number one rider. Then along comes some old bloke and suddenly your world is turned upside down. Of course the fact that this old bloke happens to be called Lance is not something that's gonna make you too happy. Still, you're out to prove you're still number one in the team, and so at your first opportunity, Paris-Nice, you set out to prove your dominance. Sadly it all goes tits up, you forget to eat, you forget to attack, you forget to follow wheels, you forget to tell your team mates to ride for you. In essence you forget to lead the team.

Still never mind, you have a 2nd chance, Vuelta a Castilla y Leon is next on the cards. AC is going to ride, Levi is going to ride and the old bloke is going to ride. Oh dear, I think young AC is going to be a little upset come the end of the race. Lance seem to be enjoying himself and lets be honest, that's not a good sign for his opponents, but it's an even worse sign for his team mates.

It will be interesting to see how the race affects AC, he'll be under a lot of stress not just from other teams, but from his team mates. And race stress can make you forget to eat, forget to race, forget to attack. We'll see, it should be an interesting race. I can almost wait.


Saturday, 21 March 2009

Lance Armstrong eats jam!

We all know that Bradley Wiggins collects guitars. You'll have seen the pictures, lots and lots of guitars, black guitars, brown guitars. No ukuleles as yet and no sign of a stray banjo, but hey, it's early days.
But our Brad isn't the first rider to build an impressive collection of 'stuff'.

Cipollini was well known for his collection of old slappers and fast cars, but if you spend you days standing on podiums getting snogged, applauded and adored there's every chance you'll take the easy option and grab what ever is to hand. So than God for Big Mig.
Big Mig discovered winning bike races and world travel seemed to go hand in hand. As a seasoned traveler Big Mig wanted souvenirs of his adventures, oh sure, yellow and pink jerseys were all well and good, but somehow for a rider from humble origins these were too grand. Big Mig wanted to collect something more personal, something that kept him in touch with his roots, something that he felt the ordinary fan could relate to. So it was with this in mind that Big Mig started collecting miniature jam pots. They type of jam pots you get in hotels throughout Europe, the type of jam pots that reminded him of success and exciting foreign travel.
Throughout his professional career big Mig never raced much in Spain, something he was criticised for. But when you understand his fascination for jam pots, something that is quite understandable. You see, as a junior Mig raced all over his native country and as a result built up an impressive collection of local jam pots. So it was only natural that when he became a professional and started to race across the continent that he was as attracted as much by the scent of jam as by the scent of victory. By the time he was in his early 20's Mig had collected just about every jam pot available in Spain, but France was a whole new nation of jam to explore, the result? Come july Mig was to be found chasing round France filling his suitcase with selections of Apricot and Strawberry preserves.

And now the bit with Lance.

Of course we all have heroes, and Big Mig is the one guy Lancey looks up to. As a young rider it was Migs record in Le Tour that inspired Lancey. It was Mig's ability in the ITT that drove him forward, but in an effort to become more like his idol Lancey decided to adopt some of his habits. And so Lance developed an interest in jam, it's history, it's production process and it's place in a society.
In fact it's a little known fact that one of the main drivers behind 'the comeback' is that Bonne Maman have introduced a new range of fruit base breakfast spreads available only to the catering industry in Europe and especially in Italy.

More jam related news soon.


Monday, 16 March 2009

Daddy, why has that man got three legs?

He's back, well, not that he's ever been away, but anyway he's back.
You'll remember the Olympics? Back in the summer Big Dave Brailsford was forced to pay excess baggage as his riders shoveled medals into their kit bags like there was no tomorrow and everyone was happy. Well, not quite everyone, young Cav was a bit pissed off that his luggage weighed the same coming out as it did going in. So Cav went off and did what he does best. Oh sure there were 'interviews' and aticles saying 'never again', 'that's it with BC', of course as these articles appeard in print and on' le Web' we'll have no idea as to their authenticy, my guess is that it they went something like this:
'So, Mark, did you enjoy the Olympics?'
Result headlines reading 'Cav hates BC', 'Cav hates Wiggins', 'Cav to appear on Britain's got talent' etc, etc
So anyway, he back.

Hey Floyd, haven't seen you in a while, been on your holidays?

Someone else who's not making a come back is Floyd Landis. Haven't seen Floyd in the peloton for a while? Well don't worry, he's still been riding his bike, he's not done anything naughty or been banned or anything like that, well at least that's how he's spinning it. it. No mention of words like regret, sorry, error or mistake oh no. Floyd has taken the view that if he sticks his fingers in his ears and goes la, la, la for long enough the events of 2006 will just go away.

So, as he's never done anything wrong, it's good to see that Floyd has set his sights on a real comeback. Oh yes, you see Floyd is talking Tour, but not Cali, oh no, Floyd is talking Le Tour, the big one. You know, the one he may or may not have won at some time in the past, or maybe not, or maybe he did, la, la, la, la.

Floyd has seen his old team mate in action at California, he's had his old team mate stand between himself and the Hamilton Twins 'south of the border'. He's seen it up close and he want's some of 'that action'.
That Le organisers would allow someone who was kicked of the race whilst in yellow back to have another go is about as likely as finding a snowball in hell. That aside there would be the question of team's, I didn't exactly notice a long queue for his signature when he rolled back into the land of the living. LPR said 'non' and even, yes, even, Rock Racing avoided him, just how toxic is Floyd that a team that thrives on employing the unemployable turns him down.

But should he get a ride, then the 2010 Le Tour should be a cracker, with the emphasis on crack. Ricco has put July 2010 in his diary as well, it's a shame that neither Kohl or Schumacher will be eligible to ride. That would be one hell of a team eh?

Things I wish I'd known when I was younger. (with apologies to a certain reasonably well known publication, er, Practical Caravan, I think).

We asked a series of top cycling personalities what they wish they'd known when they were younger.

David Millar: 'Never keep used syringes on your book shelves'

Tyler Hamilton: 'Let people know about my twin sooner'

Pat McQuaid: 'Stay in Ireland and get a job at the local Post Office'

More fantasy at a later date.


Saturday, 14 March 2009

It was easy, it was cheap. Go and do it!!!!

AC (that's Alberto Contador not AC from Operation Puerto) is having an exciting time of it isn't he? I just wish he'd make up his bloody mind. One minute he's an Olympic pursuiter, the next he's a climber, where to next for God sake? Taking on Cav and Boonie in the sprints no doubt. But as it that wasn't bad enough AC (that's Alberto Contador not AC from Operation Puerto) is also up and down the GC like a whores draws. Off the front and into yellow, off the back and (almost) into the autobus. Stage 7 of Paris-Nice saw him rolling 2:53 behind the stage winner, Strewth, even behind Davey Millar. So on this form we should expect another winning ride tomorrow.

Shock moves in the war on doping:

In a shock announcement the UCI have revealed that some teams have signed up to the biological passport programme. Can you believe it? Of course there has yet to be any 'action' as a result, still, being the UCI there's been plenty of in-action.
Apparently the UCI are writing down the blood values of every rider that signed up on the back of a beer mats. One day, one day, all these beer mats will be spread out on a table and Uncle pat will underline some names in red and then select them by closing his eyes and sticking a pin into them.
Of course this won't be as random a process as it sounds, oh no, the UCI will have done their homework and will have selected only the riders who can't afford expensive lawyers of top draw legal advice.

Oh and that bloke Dr Death (er, you know him?, Ol' what's his name, Fuentes is it?), anyway he has just issued a statement which included the line: "My professional oath forbids me from revealing their names. There have been only selective leaks. I am indignant about that," . This utterance was as a result of Le Monde being fined 300,000 Euros as a result of printing something they shouldn't have printed.
Still good to hear that Dr Death is bound by his professional oath, of course breaking his oath wasn't something to worry about when he was storing riders blood in his fridge and dishing out the EPO like free sweets at a kids party. Good to see indignation as well. No doubt he'll share the indignation of cycling fans the world over, indignation that he contributed to the shafting of our sport by promoting the acceptance and use of performance enhancing drugs.
God if I ever thought that the whinging and denial of banned and ex-dopers was annoying I hadn't realised how pathetic the rantings of the doctors that supplied them would be.


Thursday, 12 March 2009

What are you watching today

I had an email yesterday from Cycling.TV. In it they informed me that they wouldn't be showing Tirreno-Adriatico, due to the fact that they wanted to concentrate on Paris-Nice because 'Our objective is to deliver the best experience possible for our customers around Paris-Nice.'
Now all well and good, except, of course there is one small problem, namely when I clicked on the Paris-Nice 'On-Air-Now' button I got the message 'Piss off, we're not showing this in you're country' or words to that effect. So I went searching for alternatives and luckily for me Steep Hill TV and Cyclingfans have a good section of options.
So why did CTV send me a mail that was pretty much going to take the piss for anyone who lived outside (I assume) the US. Who knows, I mean they know where I live, they regularly stand outside the house and point. Ah well, just an observation, that's all.

As a result of the CTV piss take I finished up with three P-N feeds and one T-A feed, sometimes I had French TV with French commentary, sometimes Italian TV with an Italian commentary and on several occasions French with Italian and Italian with French. Adverts and cyclist intertwined, shouts of excitement as AC (that's Alberto Contador not AC from Operation Puerto) attacked overlayed pictures of Fiats and women with vacuum cleaners, the conversation of families sitting down for dinner was drowned out by discussion as to whether or not Liquigas and Quick Step had left it too late to go to the front (they had). In the end I shared Christian Vande Velde's victory with a song about pasta. So all in all it was an employable and entertaining few hours. Well done Cycling.TV (no longer in Beta!)

More morons.

Until yesterday you might not have heard of Gianni Da Ros. That is unless you study the lists of neo-pros signing on at the start of each season (something I no longer do). But of course you'll know about him now. Gianni Da Ros was arrested as part of an Italian police crack down / investigation on drug trafficking in gyms.
As Da Ros is 22 he is clearly part of the new cleaner generation that we are told is on the way and will be the saviors of our sport. So that'll be the new cleaner generation that included Kohl and Ricco as well then?

The problem with labeling a whole 'generation' of riders as clean is exactly the same as labeling a whole 'generation' as doped-up cheats. That is that exception's always make the argument a little weaker. The good generation / bad generation argument is too easy, we want a redemption for the sport and it's more convenient to label past = bad, present = good, it gives us a future we can all sign up to after the grim events of the last decade.
Of course the bad past / bad older generation will always rest uneasy with the fans (it is after all a construct of the media and the sports governing body). By accepting it we have to admit that to some extent we were wrong, that to some extent we were duped or willing dupes as we watched and cheered a generation we have been told we must now discard.


Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Getting a good kicking.

A couple of days ago we all stood agog, as AC (that's Alberto Contador not AC from Operation Puerto) took the yellow jersey in Paris-Nice beating one of the worlds greatest ever pursuiters on a pan flat 9km course. Wow, we all thought, is there any stopping him? And of course we all thought no there isn't. So big rounds of applause to Rabbo and Quick Step who dished out what can only be described as 'a good kicking' to our boy AC (that's Alberto Contador not AC from Operation Puerto) on yesterdays stage 3.

Just as every thing was getting a little dull and doubtless as the sprinters were licking their lips, or what ever it is sprinters lick, the men on Orange, Blue and White decided they'd liven things up a little. The resulting carnage was a joy to behold. Quick Step, not wishing to be outdone, decided to join in, partly I suspect, on the grounds that they were putting Chavaenel in the picture for the overall and partly cos you should never miss an opportunity to give a climber a good kicking, especially on the flat when it's raining.

The resulting carnage highlighted two things, one - top team work, planning and great response to a race situation from Rabo and QS and two, Astana? What was all that about? You have a race leader who finds himself near the back of the race and when the inevitable hammer drops has no team to help him. Now swap AC (that's Alberto Contador not AC from Operation Puerto) for Lancey boy and can you imagine that happening? No, neither can I. If Lancey boy was in yellow there would only be one place for him, sitting with his team mates in the first half dozen riders, keeping a watchful eye on the action and responding as required. Tactically perfect, A+ text book stuff is what Lancey would give you, meanwhile AC (that's Alberto Contador not AC from Operation Puerto) give you the sort of work that would merit an E- and a detention. And as for his teammates? Had they all stopped for a piss? Had they all thought they were riding a two day race and failed to turn up? God alone knows, but one thing is for certain, that is there was a fair amount of pointing, shouting and crying at the Astana team hotel.


Who's a pretty boy then.

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Eat yourself fitter.

Keeping up reputations is difficult, no matter who you are, no matter what the reputation is you have to work long and hard to make sure your name doesn't get soiled and shoddy.

So congratulations to the UCI and Uncle Pat. The UCI's reputation for glacial like responses to any crisis in the sport has been upheld. Their snappy response to Stefan Schumacher's doping violation has taken, oh, lets see, July, August, September, October, November, December, january, February, and a couple of spare days.

Still, Stefan, has, as you'd expect, started frothing at the mouth to an even grater extent than he normally does. Here we go: " Without explaining the irregularities. Without a hearing. And without listening to me at all."
I say, old chap, hang on just a cotton picking minute there...
What irregularities? The one that found CERA in your blood? That was pretty irregular, although come to think of it maybe Stefan has a point. During the 2008 Tour de France finding CERA in riders blood wasn't that irregular was it? So maybe Stefan has a point. But come on, not listening to you? FFS, since July it's been almost impossible not to listen to you, the regular updates stuffed down our throats from 'team' Steffan have been of blizzard proportions. Whilst the threats of legal action and the claims of innocence have surpassed anything seen in the insane world of the doper.
No Stefan, we've all been listening and I'll tell you what, we're all fed up to the back teeth with whinging and complaining, we're sick of threats and denials.
You may want to appeal to CAS, but they're gonna be the only people you do appeal to.

IMHO, the only down side to the two year ban is that it will end one day and then we'll have another ex-doper in denial about his past. The only hope then is that the teams actually take some sort of ethical stance and refuse to sign ex-dopers. Er, OK, OK, I know........ never gonna happen is it? Or maybe .... just maybe......

That's it you're banned, it's just you're not banned yet.

And don't worry about the UCI getting up to speed just yet. The proposed 15 day ban for anyone with a hematocrit level above 50, now almost a year in the making, is still inching it's way towards realaisation.
Apparently the UCI are a bit short of manpower, well you know how it is, how can you be expected to investigate riders blood levels when there canapes to eat and hands to be shaken.
Uncle Pat has said that they are concentrating on finding 'positive' cases and need 'world-renowned experts in this field' to do it. Now I must have the wrong end of the stick, cos I thought the whole point of having the 50 % rule was that it was going to be easy(ish) to manage. Get the 'A' sample tested, it's above 50%, the rider then gets a 15 day chance to go shopping, get the 'B' sample tested, it's above 50% there is further investigation and the UCI take three years to make a decision, they then apply a retrospective ban and you can race next week, or something like that.

There have been whispers of riders getting stopped for having levels above 50% for months, there has been talk of a 'list' of riders with questionable blood values and the number of riders mentioned has varied between 'none' and 'some'. But as yet there has despite what seems to be a considerable investment in time and resource not much to show for it.

Meanwhile on the Roads of the UK.

We're running out of races, well I say we, if you're at the level of average, poor or crap as I am, then there are events a plenty. If however you want to race the premier calendar you'd better look sharp cos events are dropping like flies.
The problem is, from what I can see, two fold, one finance. It costs a hell of a lot to fund a premier calendar event and for a sponsor there's not much return, oh sure you'll get coverage in Cycling Weekly and it will be talked about on various forums, but that's about it. The second is the insane way bike racing is organised in the UK, I'm not talking about the way clubs, regions or the BC put on events I'm talking about the laws of the land. A race can cross several county lines and as it moves from one county to another so it moves from the whims of one police chief constable to another. Something that was OK five kilometers down the road is now a questionable activity and the local boys in blue have been instructed to pull the race over and warn the riders about, oh, I don't know, too much swearing in the peloton, or whatever. Down the road you didn't have to pay for a police escort, but now you do, and if the lead commissaire doesn't have enough lose change in the glove compartment the race will soon enough be heading back to the changing room.

So what is to be done Well BC are trying to chip away to 'the powers that be' to get some sort of national strategy. This has been going on for a while, the problem seems to be that, it's government and as such moves at a speed even Uncle Pat would describe as 'bloody slow' and that until recently BC didn't carry much weight in Westminster. Well,I don't know if they do now, but they have a higher profile due to their Olympic success and we all know how politicians like to rub up against people more successful and famous than they are. (they also like to rub up against other people as well, but that's a matter for the courts, if you ask me).
Funny isn't it, if 10 years ago BC said they were talking to politicians to develop a national 'racing on the highway' strategy, I'd have said 'bollocks, it'll never happen', but now I'm more likely to say 'oh, good luck to em, I think they might just get somewhere'. Maybe I'm becoming less cynical, God, that's a depressing thought.


Saturday, 7 March 2009

Coffee and cake anyone?

Here's my team, it has one rider!

I used to think running a professional team was hard work, signing sponsors, doing deals on bikes and equipment, hiring staff and even acquiring the odd rider.
Well congratulation to Nico Mattan, main man at Cinelli-Downunder. At his team presentation in Belgium a couple of days ago he had the grand total of one rider! No one else has been given a license yet, but why let reality stand in the way of giving free booze to journalists I say.

One of the riders without a licanse is of course Crazy Frank. Frankie it seems, well according to my poorly translated sources, is actually riding the bike, although whether this actually translates to winning, let alone finishing races is open to debate. (Don't forget my bet that he'll only finish 5 races this years before it all goes pear shaped again, looking good so far).

French training camp.

When I say Paris-Nice, what do you think of? The race to the Sun? Kelly's victories? The first rendezvous for the GT big hitters? Not me, the first thing I think of is the UCI and their now annual attempts to bugger up the race and derail everyone's preparations by issuing a series of proclamations designed to piss of teams, manager and riders, whilst simultaneously allowing the rest of us to shake our heads in disbelief.

Yes, yes, yes. Bio-passports are important and teams should be signed up to them and failure to do so should/must be punished. But (and of course this is just my view), shouldn't all this have been sorted months ago? Oh no stupid me, it's far more logical to leave the weight throwing until the eve of the race when riders are en-route, the fans campers are rolling and the press has started to pay attention.
Patrick Lefevere, a man to listen to if ever there was one said: 'I don't like this kind of blackmail from the UCI and Pat McQuaid. I don't accept blackmail from anyone, McQuaid, ASO, not even Osama bin Laden!'
Brilliant, linking the UCI and Osama bin Laden in one ssentence, first time I've seen that one, impressive!

Once again the voice of sanity belonged to Jonathan Vaughters, who as with the recent business over aero-bars and seat positions seems to be able to take a calm and logical view of the UCI generated mess. Vaughters position and statement was well placed, supporting the teams (he is AIGCP head) whilst not hammering the UCI. Thus he offered a calming influence and gave each side a chance to calm down and a little room to move.

Huuummm, Jonathan Vaughters would make a great boss for the UCI wouldn't he. He seems to posses the ability to talk rationally to all concerned, is a great planner and leader, is strongly anti-doping and can see things from the side of rides, teams and sponsors.
I mentioned the other day that I thought GB's Dave Brailsford would be another good candidate for the post, they have similar views and would seem that both are equally well equipped for the post. Which pretty much will ensure that neither would get the job.

Dopes in the house.

In a landmark and totally unprecedented act of sanity the UCI and AFLD have sat down togetther for coffee and cake.
The two bodies have decided that in future they will work together, starting at this year Paris-Nice and possibly even going on to Le Tour. Uncle Pat has promised to bring a nice chocolate cake along, whilst Pierre Bordry of the AFLD had said he'll pour the coffee.

Seriously (Er.....) though, FFS, FFS, FFS, FFS, why is it everything the bloody UCI do seems to be too late, the Bio-Passport muscle flexing should have been done and dusted months ago and shouldn't these two important bodies have sat down for coffee and cake 12 months ago, or at the very least last July?

As a fan I don't care who runs dope controls, as long as they are 100% secure, catch cheating scum and that all agencies concerned sign up to their support, validation and resultant findings.
But then I'm not a global cycling official am I?
So at P-N AFLD will do the tests and send the results to the UCI, who will, should any prove to be positive, no doubt dither for a few months allowing the local lawyers to get rich quick.

Schumacher eh?

Don't worry, I haven't forgotten about him (sadly).


Monday, 2 March 2009

Is that in your job description?

He's gonna give you a kicking!

John Fahey is taking a bit too far if you ask me, I think he's misread his job description. The new(ish) president of the WADA seems to think his job is stopping doping in sport, rather than the endless self promotion and self gratification that he predecessor was involved in. Where will it all end?

Hopefully one place it will end is in some sort of resolution in the Puerto business. Fahey has asked the Spanish courts to handover all documents they have relating to the whole of Operation Puerto. Now as cycling fans we have an interest in Puerto, partly cos there are 'bike riders' named in it, sorry, that should read 'cheating scum who ride bikes named in it' but also because there are athletes from other sports allegedly named in it. By having the details handed over to the WADA we can hope that the spotlight falls not just on cycling, but on any other sports implicated as well. I have a feeling that Fahey has not only read his job description, but is determined to make sure he carries out every duty therein, fingers crossed eh?

In other Puerto(ish) news Alejandro (I haven't got a dog) Valverdel who is in no way related to Ivan the Terrible (or indeed any other name that may have appeared in Fuentes fridge) has been asked to respond to CONI in relation to the sample of blood they 'borrowed' from his arm last July, when Le Tour took a detour into Italy.
God bless the Italians, they never do anything by half's do they? Why bother messing about taking blood from one or two riders when you can take blood from the whole peloton, just on the off chance don't you know.
Still Ivan, sorry Alejandro is denying all knowledge of, well all knowledge of just about anything really, from the meaning of life to his tragic hair loss via any requests from CONI. As he seems unlikely to cooperate with CONI the question remains will he ride in Italy this year? And if he does how long before the Italian law resplendent in long rubber gloves pays him a visit.

I Can fly, I can fly I tell you.

'I can fly, I can fly' shouts Stefan Schumacher as he continues to mount what must be the greatest defense against accusations of doping ever tried. Hamiltons 'I am my own dead twin' was good, Landis and his claim to like a little Whisky wasn't too shabby either and Vinokourovs claim that aliens had been drinking his blood was certainly impressive. But lets face it the old ones are the best one's and what older than the insanity defense. Tried with great effect throughout the history the criminal justice system, it is nearly always a winner. So hard to prove otherwise and surely this is what Schumacher must be leading up to, there can be no other explanation of his regular outbursts of reality denying confusion.

Can Cav come out to play?

It seems that young Cav is getting some stick for not throwing his hat in with Team Sky. My question is simple why? Come on, no one in their right mind or with any sort of a grip on reality can honestly expected Cav to jump into bed with Sky in 2010 can they? (Sorry Stefan, I didn't hear that) . Cav is more than happy where he is and it seems to be well documented that he signed on for a further tour of duty with the High Roaders for less than he was being offered to jump ship. It's one of the things I like about his Royal Cavness, that being he's pretty straight forward (as you'd expect from a sprinter). He want's to win, he knows team spirit contributes to a great lead out train, so why would be go elsewhere for more money? He knows he's gonna make more than enough to see him through the long dark winters of an Isle of Mann retirement. He's having fun, he's winning races and there's a whole lotta love going on, why change a winning formula?
As he said recently Sky is just another team, yes it's great for Brit racing, but at the end of the day..... He's dead right of course, Sky is just another team, teams come and teams go, what stays is your record of victories. Maybe he'll never ride for Sky, maybe he might transfer to Quick Step and have Boonie as a lead-out man? Who knows? To be honest, who cares? As long as he's crossing the line first all is good.


That's more like it daddy-o.

A fine weekends racing has taken place, Gent-Gent (or Onloop Volk,-Nieuwsblad to give it it's official title) turned out to be dead exciting, breaks, crashes and Thor taking the sprint. K-B-K was animated again by Cervelo and whilst Boonan sprinted to a clear-ish victory a more than solid performance from the men in black saw Jez Hunt taking third in a hard fought race. Both Hunt and 2nd place Eisel admitted to being happy with their performances and admitted there wasn't much they could do about Boonies sprint, well who can? Oh, hang on... think his name's Cav.

So a good season start for Cervelo, there seems to be a great team spirit and in that respect they seem to resemble Columbia. No one has owned up to 'loving this team' as yet, but give it time and a little more sun and I'm sure it will happen. Perhaps 'loving the team' is what goes on in those team buses before a race?

The Cervelo Testers smiles were in marked contrast to the down in the dumps, puppy run-over looks of the Lotto boys. Evidently taking their lead from the leader (who as far as we know hasn't had any puppy related misfortune recently) they started the weekend scowling and finished it hiding. Well I assume they finished, I think there are still some MIA. What happened? Where were you?

I distinctly had the feeling that Rabo and Quick Step were looking over their shoulders during the latter stages of both G-G and K-B-K and expecting a Lotto charge. It never meterialised and just begs the annual question about Lotto being a GT or a Classics squad. Yes, yes, I know last years Le Tour must have been counted as a success, but I can't help feeling that something in Lotto just isn't right. Every team has an ethos, be it Classics, Grande Tours, smaller stage races, semi-classics, crits, whatever. It's fine starting up a new team and aiming to hit several high points (Columbia, Cervelo, Garmin etc) but if you inherit a squad you inherit a mentality, a way of thinking and a way of racing, tinker with that any things start to drop off. (well that's my rather odd view anyway).
Not wishing to do them a disservice, but their GT targets look even harder to hit this year and what then? I'd love to see Cadel winning Le Tour and I've no doubt he'll prepare well for it, but come July, sadly, I can't see that happening. I became a bit of an Evans fan last year, he was by far the most interesting interviewee at le Tour and didn't give you any BS, what you saw was what you got, no media / PR spin bollocks, just honest answers to often stupid questions. (and I like dogs as well). And to be honest I thought he rode well, using his brain, which is something some of his detractors clearly didn't do when asking questions or offering opinion on how he rode, still they get paid for their view and I don't, so there you go.

Isn't it about time they (Lotto) gave up any pretense at being able to master both classics and GT's and just concentrated on one? Maybe time to drop a few classic non performers and hire some skinny madmen to help Cadel up in the mountains?

On tenterhooks !

We're looking at the chimney on the roof of the UCI HQ and waiting to see if the smoke is black or white. As yet, nothing, but don't worry, we have been promised an announcement soon.
The UCI have again been talking passports, no not the ones they use to freeload across the globe bringing their smiling beneficiation to the world of cycling, oh no. These passports are the long heralded 'Athlete' passports.
Uncle Pat has said that it's all going to 'kick off' in the coming days and weeks. But then knowing Uncle Pats previous problems with naming times and dates this could mean anytime between yesterday and the year 3001. Still, lets look on the positive side and hope for sooner rather than later.
What the UCI are definite about is that they will be naming names of riders suspected of wrong doing. Although to what extent wrong has been done is not specified, still one thing the UCI are sure about is that the number of riders being investigated is definitely between 'one and six'! Good, glad that's cleared up then.

I suspect the reason for the vagueness comes from a number of reasons, not least waiting to see which riders have expensive lawyers and which ones have selected a name at random from the yellow pages. None the less I'm all for naming names and with the re-re-re-opening of Puerto it promises to be an interesting few months in the 'war'.