Sunday, 24 May 2009

Other sports do exist, apparently.

Now I that know other sports exist, I have seen them with my own eyes. There have, if I'm honest even been occasions when I poked around the edges of some of them. But in the end it all comes back to cycling, you can after all do it sitting down.
My view of other sports is two fold, firstly that the vast majority of them could be improved by the inclusion of a bike and secondly that the facilities they use could be better used for bike racing.
So lets have a look at the options here.

Golf: What a load of cobblers golf is, what a waste of a great cyclo-cross or MTB circuit a golf course is. How daft do golfers look? (almost as daft as cyclists if you ask me).

Cricket: Ever ridden a grass track meet? No, well get yourself down to the local cricket club and get a bit of practice whilst they're not using their pitch. A cricket field is the perfect arena for grass track, just imagine Lords or the Oval full of spectators all there to see the local track league start. In fact imaging empty stands and only 20 spectators waiting for the start of a grass track meet and you'll get a bigger crown than the average test match.

Football: (or Socerey as some people know it), well that's already played on bikes and much better for it, it is. But what about the pitch, well make a great Go-Ride training ground in my opinion.

Motor Racing (F1): There are just hundreds of great circuits going to waste due to only being used for a few days a year by car drivers. Turn them over to cyclists I say. Having raced on the odd motor circuit I can report that they're great value, far more fun to ride than a 'City centre' crit, (sorry that should read 'Town outskirts' crit). I seem to recall racing at Brands Hatch for a season and I also seem to recall it being stopped due to the owners fear that cyclists might damage the circuit! And another thing, when all this petrol runs out what you gonna do? Ride a bike that's what! Get practising now!

Badminton: Now a badminton court is a pretty small thing, but you know what, it's still big enough for a competitive cycling event. First up we could have stunt events, you know all that jumping on and off logs on a bike that seems to have lost it's saddle. Then we could have competitive bike building, I mean why should the riders have all the fun, lets get the mechanics involved as well.

Darts: Darts? Darts? How good would playing darts on a bike be? Pretty bloody good if you ask me. Throwing darts whilst practising your track stand would be the way to go here.

So you see what ever the sport, there's room for cycling related involvement. Come on dust down that grass track bike and join me.


Saturday, 23 May 2009

Smoke signals, semaphore and twitter.

It's get your dictionary out time folks.

Cycling journalists are up in arms and refusing to cover the 'doings' of certain riders following a statement that they will only communicate via smoke signals or semaphore.
French journalists spokesman Pierre Throughthewindow said 'there is no way we are going to learn a new language, we are a modern profession and using semaphore is a step back to the last century'.

He went on to say: 'As journalists we like to minimise our contact with riders, sorry, I meant to say we like to maximise our contact with riders and waving flags about will take up valuable time that could be better spent filling our faces, sorry I meant to say filing our stories with our editors.'

Further details are available on twitter, apparently.


Friday, 22 May 2009

Valverde's on the Vinegar stroke

I hope you have a Vinegar soaked finale Mr Valverde.

But before we get to that lets talk Tour Series (or as it was once known City centre cycling) . Now I know that I'm cynical, but when Brian Smith did his 'to camera' piece at the start of the soraway ITV4 show and said it was a new concept tried for the first time ever and nobody knew what was going to happen I did for one fleeting second think 'you what Bri?'.
But you know what? On closer inspection I think the Tour Series might just be a stroke of genius. Oh sure racing round a town outskirts (I'm not sure the words city and centre will come into play at all venues) has been done before, in fact it was done in the 80's to great effect with Channel 4 (back in the days when Channel 4 had a commitment to sports coverage and not just to wasting my time).

So what is the genius I talk of, well quite simply this: MONEY! There you go, MONEY. Cycling likes nothing better than to sell it arse for a few Euros, but in times if Banker induced belt tightening there isn't much uptake for a Lycra clad arse, no matter how much you waggle it about.
But the Tour Series offers a slightly different take for sponsors. A take which hopefully will see them opening their piggy banks. You see the basis of the scoring for the series is team points and so all the scoreboards, all the commentary will mention team sponsors far more than they have ever done so in the past and this in my humble opinion is the Series Unique Selling Point. Sponsor a team and have chuckles in the commentary box mention your company far more than you'd ever get in a bog standard race. Forget the riders name, they are almost secondary to the plan, as with the ever cheapening F1 it's the team names that are important. In terms of on screen mentions the Series offers a sound investment for a sponsor.

Of course every (perceived) silver lining has it's cloud and in this case it is the very thing that sells it, namely TV. Firstly there needs to be an audience, punters bums on seats = viewing figures = advertising potential. So in order to attract the viewers there needs to be an exciting product, sadly (again IMHO) what was served up (TV wise) on Friday night was a bit lack luster. A one hour show with less than half of it actually showing bike racing is a bit lacking something if you ask me, oh sure Milton Keynes is as glamorous a 'city' as you are ever likely to see on the planet (isn't it?) so spending time seeing the sight(s) is time well spent (although perhaps key to the council signing up it must be said), but do we really need to keep talking to local 'celebs'? James Cracknell is a good guy, he's enthusiastic and knows a bit baout bike racing, but maybe he could be better employed giving us an overview of the course, talking to teams and riders, looking about bikes, etc etc. Anyway - a minor quibble.

My main problem with the coverage was the Mighty Hugh and the Mighty Mccrossan. Now don't get me wrong, they are both supream at their jobs, Mccrossan is just about my favourite commentator and Hugh has his moments of genius (unless he's commentating on the national madison champs (but that's a different matter)). The problem is that they are both Grande Tour contenders and just as you won't win a GT without a good team, each plays best when he has good backup. Mccrossan needs his sidekick Briad Smith and Sir Hugh needs, well, he needs who ever is he finds propping up the bar the night before an event, normally Gary Sutton, but hey, he's an old trouper and he'll work with anyone, he just needs a straight man (if you'll pardon the expression) oh and just as long as that straight man isn't Rebecca Romero.
They both need someone to put a tactical spin on the race, to spot the breaks and call them, to explain what's happening and why. I felt that too often there were break going off that didn't get commentated on. This could well be down to the way the show was cut, but I think it needs to be looked at if the excitement level is to be upped and the punter brought in. But hey, what do I know :-)

But lets just flip to the racing for a second. Top bloody notch, the new format certainly livened things up and as the series progresses teams will be adjusting their tactics to suit the first 3 across the line rule. It's gonna be interesting to see what develops, but I have to say from a racing perspective it was a damn sight more exciting than may a crit I've been to recently.
So next round, next week, looking forward to it.

Do you want chips with that?

Meanwhile in Catalunya, Valverde is still racing, currently he's in the lead. In second place is Dan Martin. (Did I ever tell you I once saw his Dad riding a unicycle at a Tour of Britain/Pru stage finish in London) . Anyway, Dan proudly wears the blue band of Bike Pure, Valverde on the other hand proclaims his innocence of doping. Well he proclaims his innocence about most things, the sinking of the Titanic, that astronaut who dropped a glove on a space walk. But It's doping that Valverde is loudest at proclaiming innocence. No of course in Italy they think differently, in Italy they have matched Valverdes blood with the Fuentes blood bag labelled Vlad the impaler. Now I know DNA isn't a 100% science, there's what? A 1 in 20 million chance of a duplication, so unless Fuentes had the biggest fucking fridge on the planet I'm with the Italians on this one.

Of course there has been bugger all action from the UCI. Uncle Pat is, as always waiting for someone else to make a decision. Lets be honest the next ban style action we see will be from ASO, hopefully a day or so between the Tour starts.

I wonder if Valverde is on the UCI's blood passport list? Still I guess we'll never know as it's never going to see the light of day is it?


Sunday, 17 May 2009

Petacchi borrows Cavs glasses to look for inhaler.

Time for a deep breath Mr Petacchi.

Ever ridden a Kermesse? I have, the odd one or two, in the UK they get re-branded as Crits, different name, same theory. Ride round a short tight circuit, sprint out of corners and ride on the rivet for an hour or so, hope no one lets a gap go and prey you all stay upright.

Now one of the first, one of the most basic requirement of racing round a tight city circuit is that it's kept free of cars. It's a pretty basic requirement really, tight closed roads, a fast bike race and parked cars do not really go well together do they?

So when one of the worlds biggest bike races holds a Kermesse you'd expect that the organisation would be capable of ensuring that there were no cars parked on the circuit.
Sadly it would appear that this was beyond the ken of the Giro organisers and as a result today's stage turned into a nice little recovery ride with a fast final few kilos, which as you'd expect was won by the mighty Cav.

So value for money?
Well it made piss poor TV, with the exception of the final couple of K's, in the end I did my own recovery ride, a couple of hours in the rain and high winds of a Yorkshire spring made up for a race spoilt by poor organisation.

So what happened to Cavs glasses in the sprint? I am led to believe that Petacchi borrowed them to help him look for his inhaler.


Bike Pure and I support Drug Free Sport

And so it cam to pass that the ordinary rider in the street got pissed of with doping scum and decided to take a stand.

And it came to pass that good journalists writing for a famous and possibly weekly cycling magazine decided to draw a line in the cobbles and say enough enough. So through the afore said and possibly weekly cycling magazine and it's related possibly monthly cycling publication the 'I support drug free sport' campaign was launched. It was a great step, they immediately signed up a host of cyclists and athletes from other sports all was right in the world, we had the bastards on the run, didn't we?

And then as they sing on the terraces 'it all went quiet over there', for several months I was trying to buy more wrist bands from the web site only to be told, not in stock, not in stock, not in stock. When they were eventually back, there seemed to be a loss of impetus in the good fight. Still that is totally understandable, the jurnos, whilst passionate about the cause have real jobs, and I doubt the publisher has the desire to fund a serious campaign.

Still, a campaign was out there, a flag was raised and the line had been drawn.

Then along come Bike Pure, so what's different, well the name is slightly more catchy and the wrist bands are a different colour, but is that is? Well maybe not, due to the slightly different way the campaigns have been launched / run the lads at bike pure seem to have more time to donate to their version of the fight, there is a web presence (actually a very nice web presence - should a well known weekly cycling mag ever want a new site......), there are soon to be jerseys (great design) and lots of regular news. ISDFS on the other hand remains a line on the shop page of a mag website - no presence, no promotion it is very sad if you ask me.

We need all the anti doping campaigns we can get, we need to press the message to the dope using scum that sit and hide in team buses at the start of races that we as fans do care about a clean sport.
I don't care who's campaign was here first, I don't care who has the best wrist band. What I do care about is cycling and I want a clean sport that I can believe in, I've spent too long cheering riders that have been tainted, I've spent too much money traveling the world watching races that have now got question marks hanging over their results. I want to make, admittedly, a small statement, I want to draw my line in the cobbles, I'd quite like a nice jersey to wear on the chain gang as well. I'll support any campaign that opposes doping and I want the world to do the same.

So imagine my raised eyebrows when I was informed that a certain 'possibly weekly cycling publication' had dropped an article on the Bike Pure campaign. Why was this? Was it because the runes had said no? Was it because all doping had been eradicated from the sport? No it seems that it was because the Bike Pure campaign conflicted with the ISDFS campaign! For God sake, both campaign oppose the same thing surely they both demand promotion and publicising to the max?
But to refuse to cover an anti doping campaign because 'We were here first' is a bit toys out of the pram Schumacher isn't it?

Ah well, good luck to both campaigns, both demand your support, I hope a certain 'possibly weekly cycling publication' covers the bike pure campaign, it will spread the word and the word is indeed good. I hope they both sign up more athletes and I pray we get a clean sport.


Saturday, 16 May 2009

Giro 2009, the good, the bad and the very, vety ugly.

I say old chap - is that scum on the horizon?

Grand Tours, seriously, what's the point? I mean it's summer, anyone in their right mind should be heading for the beach or at least sticking the panniers on and doing a spot of light touring. For me the season starts with the Autumn classics and crosses via the 6's and cross season to the spring classics, for me the season officially ends with L-B-L and the rest - training races.

In all seriousness though whilst I do like a GT, my psychotic enthusiasm has waned since Festina and it is only in recent years that it has started to grow again. I do feel that the GT's give all the filth that the sport can offer a chance to come out of the wood work, ex-dopers, current dopers, doping appoligists, those that claim doping is not aproblem, those that say they are innocent or that the good doctor had provided them with training plans and nothing else. Oh yes they'll all be there, shoulder to shoulder smiling at the cameras and whilst they grin we have to bear it.

Take a look at this years Giro, classic wins and glory for those with a strong anti doping ethos, i.e. Columbia and wins for those that have been tainted and for me will always smell of shit no matter how often they claim to shower in the light of innocence and purity. But that I guess is life, well at least life as far as Uncle Pat and his merry men will allow it be. There are plenty of riders turning a merry peddle that in my humble opinion, shouldn't be there, but hey ho, they are, so I'll not let then spoil my enjoyment of the race, I'll just shout bastard at the screen every now and then to make myself feel better (it doesn't, but hey, at least the neighbors think I'm crazy as a result)

Who's paying for Astana ?

Now pardon me, when Lancey boy joined the worlds most Kazak cycling team for free I thought nice move Lance. It now seems that as always Lance had done his homework and had realised that the team from the land of Borat were skint. So with faded jerseys they bravely carry on in the Giro.

Now we all know that what ever goes on in cycling the UCI will have a rule about it, well they may not have a rule that matches the circumstances exactly, but hey as they seem to make it up as they go along they will no doubt find a spare rule lying around, not doing anything and make it fit. So it was inevitable that the UCI should pull out the old favorite about teams not being allowed to ride green saddles on a Sunday and apply it to the Astana jerseys. Now as the colour hasn't changed they can continue to plug away for the rest of the race, it's only when they try to get a new sponsor that the UCI will dust down the rule book and seek to do their well practiced jobsworth routine.

So what do the UCI say? Well the UCI say that, and I quote "The UCI will not make any exceptions for Lance Armstrong or anybody else," - For Fuck Sake.
It would seem that the UCI understand the words 'not make an exception' in a different way to me then.
So, Lance not completed exactly 6 months of testing prior to a racing return like it says in the rules, never mind, make an exception, Vinokurov only banned for 1 year by his fed and the UCI don't bother to issue a 2 year ban like it says in the rules, never mind. Teams using aero TT bars that don't confirm to the rules for years, never mind, do nothing until a whole industry has grown up supplying them and then clamp down potentially putting business and jobs at risk, UCI publishing blood passport results like they promised - whoops, never mind.

So come July expect the Astana team to be called Livestrong and riding the tour in black and yellow. Now I don't have a problem with that, a team will keep going, the riders and staff will get paid, all is good. But for the UCI to find a high horse and get on it is about the highest form of bollocks you could ever wish to see.

Er,,,,, that's it for today.


Friday, 15 May 2009

Table for Mr Boonen, table for Mr Boonen.

You were young once, you were, come on, admit it. I've seen the photos you know. Out drinking that beer stuff, dancing on tables with ladies of the night (oh, sorry that was me, anyway.....) you've been pissed, you've been drunk, blotto, smashed, merry and tipsy and so have I, on occasion. But neither of us has somehow finished up sticking Columbia's biggest export up our nose. And yet Tommy boy seems to have a bit of a problem along those 'lines' . Go out for a few beers and finish up chopping the white stuff up on the pub table with a piece of floorboard (have to remember the sponsor at all times) and then forgetting about it.

Lives of the rich and famous eh? So different from the home life of our own dear Cav, Cav as we know still lives in a tent on the Isle of Mann and survives on a diet of berries picked from the local hedgerow. Tommy boy is a household name in God's own country (Belgium that is) as is Cav and yet whilst Tommy seems to embrace the bright lights and celebrity lifestyle our Cav seems to be making a concious effort to keep his feet on the ground. If you saw his BBC interview you'd have picked up on his obvious and concious desire to try and remain the same old Cav. Cav is interested in winning and just that, gossip columns are never gonna feature the wee fella, thank God.

Sorry I missed your birthday.

I've looked in my diary and I seem to have missed an important anniversary, yes yesterday it was 2 years since the UCI announced it was going to issue the blood passport results 'any day now'.
Back in January Postman Pat was promising all would be revealed in two weeks, then last month it was going to be May 9th and now it has, as they sing at the football, 'All gone quiet over there'

Quite when the witless fools that run our sport will actually unveil their great vision for the future is now uncertain, much like what purpose the UCI actually serve, answers on the proverbial postcard on that one please.

Still whilst the UCI have, no doubt gone a lovely all expense paid holiday to check out the velodromes and cyclocross courses in the Seychelles someone is at least getting on with the job of kicking asses. Thank God for CONI who have taken the long overdue step of banning Vlad the impaler from racing in Italy. Vlad is of course still protesting his innocence and will doubtlessly go to his grave doing so. But protest as he may he's not racing in italy, it will be interesting to see what happens in France come July.

Giro for God sake.

Meanwhile Kloden has been fingered in the German law and named as one of the blood dopers in the Freiburg University Clinic investigation. Astana are of course stnding by their man and demanding further proof, could be that they'll offer him as a rider come Tour time and ASO with throw a hissy fit and kick the whole lot of em out. Of course they won't actually be Astana then they'll be Velo Club de Lanceey boy or what ever. The silver lining in this dirty cloud is that as Kloden lives in Switzerland he could well face a prison term. The day a doper finally gets to 'do time' will be the day I break out the champagne.

Tomorrow I'll write about the Giro and all those clean riders that are doing so well, but first I need to check with my lawyer.