‘Sean Yates’ fate shows Team Sky will show no mercy in doping cull!’
So blared the headline in the Telegraph newspaper back in October 2012 atop an article by Brendan Gallagher in which the writer lauded Sky’s zero tolerance policy with regards to doping past and present by any of its staff. He wrote:
‘Brailsford’s zero tolerance approach has been derided as naive by some, and unrealistic by others, who argue that drug use has been so widespread in the sport that if only the ‘clean’ people remain, there would be hardly anyone left. But the departure of Yates in particular will resonate around the sport, and Sky can claim to be delivering on their vow to build a scandal-free team.’
‘“We’ve made clear our commitment to being a clean team and have always been open about the steps we’re taking,” he said last week.
‘”Sky started as a clean team and we will continue to be a clean team. It is the guiding principle to what we do. A British winner of the Tour de France is worthless unless he is a clean rider. People must continue to be able to believe in us.”’
He then presented a 45 minute powerpoint to the assembled journos on how Sky planned to utilise The Power of the Unicorn in its search for yet another marginal gain, but by the time he revealed the animal, which hitherto had been hidden beneath a papier mache rendering of Shane Sutton, the LSD that the scribes had knocked back after lunch was kicking in that hard that no one was quite sure if they’d actually seen a proper unicorn or if it was in fact just a pony with a traffic cone attached to its forehead with masking tape.
CyclingSnooze had only dropped a half though and was um, like, uh, pretty sure that the ‘unicorn’ was indeed a pony, and even had a grainy cell phone image that might have proved it and did consider doing an expose on the incident, but later it was vetoed as someone in the marketing department pointed out that the pony might in the future want to advertise on the site.
I might be digressing here but I can’t tell as the pharmaceuticals are kicking in.
Anyway, Sky are full of crap. Can I put it more simply than that? No.
First it was guys like Yates walking when asked to sign an anti-doping statement, Barry and the Tramadol stuff, then Geert Leinders, the former Rabo doc who was recently banned for life for possession, trafficking and administering banned substances including the blood-booster erythropoietin, testosterone, insulin, DHEA and corticosteroids; with administering blood transfusions, and with covering up anti-doping violations.
Ticking all the boxes there Geert, you’re thorough, if nothing else. Well, that and a stain on your profession.
Then you had Tiernan-Locke and his drinking habit that pushed up his haematocrit level enough to get him kicked off the team – good thing he and Contador never went out for a meal together eh?
‘Waddya fancy Alberto?’
‘Ah… steak and a few pints, Lockey?’
And now this palava with Servais Knaven.
What has amazed me about this stuff coming out is that just two days ago in The Guardian by Sean Ingle, Brailsofrd was being praised for his cunning and cleverness in looking into developing technology in pursuit of, you guessed it, those marginal gains.
The article, fawning and not mentioning a word about Sky’s willingness to associate itself with riders and staff that at best can be said to raise suspicions, finishes with this:
‘As always, Team Sky are determined to be at the forefront of it all.’
Sycophantic claptrap if you ask me (the timing of which might make some suspicious folk wonder if Sky knew the DailyMail article was coming out soon, balancing a negative article with a positive one). Perhaps journalists like Ingle writing this stuff and instead ask the man why his zero-tolerance policy is seen as a sham. Ask him if he understands why Sky’s failure on its promise has led even more fans to lose what little faith they had in the sport. Ask him, too, why they are continuing to stand by Knaven, who, The Daily Mail today is claiming was a doper, despite his repeated insistence that he never took banned drugs.
This is from the article:
- An expert toxicologist who tested Knaven’s blood, taken when TVM abandoned the 1998 Tour following a police raid that July, testified he had taken EPO
- Cortisone, a banned endurance steroid hormone that riders are not allowed to take without special permission, was found in his urine
- A drug called Naftidrofuryl, which widens the blood vessels and is most typically used in the treatment of arterial disease, was also in his urine, as was a trace of the anti-inflammatory drug propyphenazone
- Sachets of a drug called Persantin was found in Knaven’s room. Also known as dipyridamole, it is a blood thinner designed to prevent clots. There is seemingly no sporting reason for taking it but it could be used as a ‘counterbalance’ for users of EPO, which can dangerously thicken the blood
- Knaven said: ‘With regard to use of Persantin and Naftidrofuryl, neither of them were illegal or on the list of banned substances. I used them on very rare occasions to get rid of cramps during long stage races.’
- Statements given to police by Knaven in December 1998, of which the MoS has full transcripts, show that he did not contest the findings of tests on his urine, blood and hair. He said there could be an alternative explanation to the EPO finding other than doping; he had no idea what some of the other drugs were or how they got into his system; admitted taking Persantin, for ‘heavy legs’; and concluded by saying Mikhailov was a good doctor and that he, Knaven, took whatever the doctor told him; the medical evidence was disputed in court.
“It is important to remember that no charges were ever brought against Servais. This goes back over 15 years and has been looked at several times during that period,” reads a Sky statement on the matter.
If you think about Sly’s initial zero-tolerance policy from when the team began, it was something to be praised. Many wondered how they could do it with the sport so full of juicers, but they pinned their colors to the mast and for that, they deserved credit. Many scoffed and they have been proven right but Sky did not need to do it. It might have been part-marketing ploy and part genuine, at the time, it’s hard to say completely.
However, it has been a disaster so far, no doubt about that. It is these blatant failures to fulfill that promise and their inability or unwillingness to look to former riders and doctors who were considered clean rather than these who were not that marks Brailsford as a hypocrite on this issue.
What is telling about the state of cycling in a wider sense is that neither the UCI nor any other team either praised Sky when they made their initial zero-tolerance statement not said ‘hey we’ll do that too’, and dare we wonder why?
Because you’d be very hard-pressed to find a DS in the sport now who did not dope when he was a rider, and also because the UCI has at least one doper on its payroll itself (more on that later). Braislford’s decision to go with (should I say try to) zero tolerance was in effect a policy that, if adopted by the UCI itself, would have seen a mass exit of coaches and directeur sportifs leave the sport overnight.
In a sport in which you have a man busted for amphetamine use (Roger Legeay) heading the Movement for a Credible Cycling, another busted for EPO (David Millar) being an athlete representative for WADA, and all those cronies managing teams when they’re not purring over their bank accounts and the plaudits of fools, well, what do you expect?
And still through all this the cycling media will report on this as ‘news’, delivered to the hungry with absolutely zero subjective commentary – if they report on it at all. Why? Because opinions don’t pay the rent, nor do they buy advertising space, not in the bike world.
Right. I’m off to find me a unicorn.
the recent all-holds barred, every-punch-pulled interview by Daniel Benson of CyclingSnooze is about as wet as a kiss from your Grandma… who’s lost her dentures.
when did it happen that journalists got told – and complied – to leave their opinions (or personalities even) at the door? is it just me or does this read like JTL wrote the questions?
and the ‘The Court of Public Opinion‘ and ‘Head Held High’ captions under the images. every so slightly hamfisted there, lads.
click on image for link
“Being cynical is the only thing that is still fun about cycling,” wrote Willard Ford, and I love that line so much that I might put it on a t-shirt. But here’s an interesting thought – which came first, the doping, or the cynicism?
There are several different kinds of cycling fan, of course, but for the sake of argumentative journalism, please allow me to generalize. We’ll say there are three broad types.
Type One never believed a word of it from the get-go and knew these guys were popping something akin to rocket juice straight into their butt cheeks from the early 90s. Hardcore riders and/or racers themselves, they knew that what they were seeing was not physiologically possible. They understood the history of the sport and knew that from way back in the late 1800s all the way up to Mr. Merckx himself and beyond, cyclists had been cheating.
Why did they cheat? Because they were human, plain and simple.
They spent years in the shadows, these Type Ones, whispering under their breath and looking over their shoulder lest they accidentally let it slip that they believed that 99% of the peloton was more chemically enhanced than Timothy Leary on a three day bender.
Few spoke out because if they did they would be vilified, labeled as envious and bitter. Some were writers and broadcasters but they still kept schtum, lest they find themselves out of work. They were, however, vindicated in the end, even if it never made anyone really feel too good.
Type Two believed in The Lie for a long time then realized, finally (despite Festina, Puerto, the Italian with the big ears and all the rumors about needles, vials and exercise bikes being brought into Grand Tour hotel rooms to help riders keep their blood thin at night), that yes, their heroes doped. For this, we can thank Lance Armstrong.
It took the fall of the good ol’ boy from Texas to finally convince Type Two that even English speakers dope too. Heaven forbid. So, David Millar was not an isolated case. Turns out, in fact, that it had been these American guys that were at the head of the most sophisticated doping fraud in the history of the sport.
Was nothing sacred? Could we please just go back to blaming the Spanish and the Italians? Wouldn’t that be easier for everyone?
Then we have Type Three. Denied sufficient oxygen at birth, Type Three sees nothing wrong in doping and wishes everyone would just shut up and allow the dopers to get on with it. Who cares? Type Three certainly doesn’t. Happily unburdened by the weight of intellect they will tell you that they just don’t give a ****, which, as we all know, is one hell of a powerful argument.
Personally, I’m either an optimistic cynicist or a cynical optimist, so in my case I’d say I was definitely ready for the dawn of the EPO era, because I was already pissed off. When a bunch of Dutch kids died in the early 90s because they didn’t know how to use blood thinning agents to counteract the thickening of the blood that EPO causes, I got pissed off even more.
Later when these man-hulks were racing up mountains so fast that even the Colombians were shocked, I delved even further into my natural store of cynicism. It was a match made in heaven, professional cycling and me, because I have always loved having something to complain about. And here it was. A beautiful thing being destroyed by chancers and pimps, enablers and drug addicts. The cheats rose to the top and the good guys got zilch. Less than zilch, in fact, because they even got a kick in the teeth as they were being thrown out.
All of which brings me to Jonathan Tiernan-Locke.
When he rocked up in 2012 and started winning stuff and putting riders who had for a long time, on paper at least, been better than him to shame I thought ‘hmmmm’. You probably thought that too. My Gran even put a bet on him eventually getting busted, he looked that dodgy.
‘Give him the benefit of the doubt,’ some said.
‘Hey, innocent til proven guilty!’ clamoured others.
Why? Because so often when a rider has come along and shown form that he had never previously exhibited they don’t later on get busted for doping, or ‘admit’ it when the gun’s to their head? Like, Bjarne Riis. Or Levi Leipheimer. Or David Millar?
I wished JTL was clean. I am that stupid that I wanted to believe it. I wanted to believe because I love those stories, I’m sure many of us do, of the underdog who rises to the challenge, who comes to the stadium to watch then gets asked to play and hits the skin off the ball to bring home the win.
I wanted to believe because I’m human. But something said ‘hmmm’ in my head because I had reached the point where I just could not take it anymore. The data shows that a vast majority of cyclists throughout history have doped. Recent years show that for every step forward we take 5 back. It all shows, indeed, that if you think anyone is really, really clean, then you’re conning yourself.
This doesn’t mean no one is clean. It just means that you really, seriously should not believe any of them.
Yes, a brilliantly ridiculous conclusion, but you go check the numbers. Let’s hear your summation.
JTL’s rather Boonesque excuse for his results was that he had necked 17 pints just before the test, but that he couldn’t be bothered to challenge the results cos he has no cash and he figured he’d been stitched up enough.
You know what that ’17 pints’ excuse really is? It’s like when you’ve done something really quite wrong at work or at a party or indeed anywhere where there are people you have to face later, and you’re not brave enough to admit the truth. So you spin a yarn that is outlandish and frankly pathetic, but because everyone is nice they go along with it. For those who weren’t there at the time of the misdeed or who aren’t so close, your little lie does just enough to sow a miniscule grain of doubt in the mind.
‘Oh of course he did it,’ they think… ‘But he did say that he…’
And that is what JTL’s excuse essentially is. He will go back to his pals and his family and they’ll be able to pretend to believe that he is innocent. The veneer will survive, just. It’s the coward’s way out though, make no mistake, but, amazingly, it works.
A study in the USA found that sports fans prefer their idols to lie about doping, despite the evidence of a positive test. Denying works. Your ratings might take a dent but hey, he said the reason was this, or she said that. Admit it though, and your popularity will really fall.
So yes, people would rather be lied to than hear the truth, in a great many circumstances.
For me though? Sheesh, gimme a break, the kid is as guilty as OJ. But then, he did have 17 pints.
Come on cynicism, don’t desert me now…
this article originally appeared on The Roar
Many would have never heard of a TUE until last week, other than the one that brings you closer to FRI, but in the past seven days or so ‘Therapeutic Use Exemption’ has entered the lexicon of cycling fans the world over.
Reaction to the news that Sky applied for and received an exemption for glucorticosteroids on Chris Froome’s behalf just before the Tour du Romandie back in late April has been mixed on cycling websites and forums.
this article originally appeared on The Roar
Bradly Wiggins is “arrogant,” conceals himself in a “gruff geezer cloak,” and so dominated the atmosphere around the 2012 Team Sky Tour de France squad that the others on the team had to “ride around his moods like he was a traffic island.”
These are the words of Christopher Froome, written in his new autobiography, The Climb, which is currently being serialized in the British newspaper The Times.
In the book, Froome goes on to explain that he was not invited to the ‘Yellow Ball’ that Wiggins threw later in the year to celebrate his victory, nor was he given his share of the bonus that is traditionally dished out to the riders on the winner’s team.
Wiggins strives to give off the impression that he hasn’t got much time for what other people think, but in this case he’d best be bothered, as Froome is Sky’s main man for the 2014 Tour de France and will start the race as the favorite. Froome has a great chance to defend his 2013 title and if he is not pivotal in helping to choose the team to support his attempt it would come as a great surprise.
There was a sense in 2013 that Dave Brailsford, Sky’s man behind the controls, owed Froome for his riding for Wiggins in 2012. Froome, for his part, entered that race, which eventually saw Wiggins emerge as the first ever English winner, fully expecting to be able to go for the Yellow Jersey himself, if the opportunity arose.
In 2011 it was touch and go as to whether Froome would stay with Sky, but contractual talks with Brailsford left Froome certain that he would be an equal to Wiggins in the 2012 race.
In the end however, Froome came to realize that he was always set to be Wiggins’ super-domestique in that edition, and felt that Brailsford had not been fully forthcoming with the plans he had seemingly already formulated.
“Dave’s approach was rather like a character in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass,” Froome says. “When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean – ‘neither more nor less’. My understanding was that I would go to the Tour as a protected rider but the details were never teased out. Dave’s words would mean just what he chose them to mean.
“I realised, at last, that everything had been geared towards this,” he writes. “It was never going to be any different. The story was completed long before we got to France. Bradley wins. The book is written. The documentary is made. The promise is fulfilled. We had just been acting it out.”
Cue 2013 and Wiggins is having a stinker but Froome is replicating his teammate’s previous season to a large extent, winning a series of important stage races through the year and stamping his credentials as Sky’s leader long before the Tour. The potential fireworks that might have come from a Wiggo/Froome battle royale at the Tour never come close to being realized. In the end, Froome dominates the Tour and wins at a canter.
Fast forward to 2014 and Wiggo seems to be back at somewhere near his best after a win at the Tour of California. Realising a desire still existed to partake in another Tour de France, Wiggins started to make conciliatory noises in the direction of his team and Froome, saying he was ready to doff his chapeau and tow the party line.
“I’d love to be back at the Tour de France. That’s the long-term goal – to be part of that successful team,” he said back in April.
“I missed it last year and had to watch it on the TV. When you see it from the outside then you see just how great the Tour de France is. Obviously there’s a huge opportunity with it starting in the UK this year. Coming back as a former winner and it being there is fantastic.”
In March Wiggo gave an interview to The Independent in which he stated his ntention, if he were to be included in the Tour team, to support Froome.
“There were a couple of times last year when Chris was really isolated and I want to be in a position that I can be there when that happens,” he said.
Taking these words at face value one could argue that Wiggins has had a change in attitude and is now willing to defer to Froome, who has proven to be superior in consistency as well as longevity in the past two years.
However, Wiggins’ appeals to Brailsford and Froome – which is exactly what his words in the press amount to – appear rather hollow and desperate to most observers. Froome’s comments in his autobiography are his own personal opinion of course but they echo what many cycling fans have been saying on club runs and on cycling forums for some time.
The timing of the release of Froome’s book couldn’t come at a worse nor a more embarrassing time for Wiggins, sitting as he is on the bench hoping to be picked for the Tour roster.
Brailsford may have felt like he owed Froome the team leadership in 2013 but he is a man with little time for sentiment, and this time around he knows that he has a rider capable of bringing Sky their third Tour win in three years, something that would be a remarkable achievement by any standard.
He also knows that Froome needs to be protected from friction, and that he has men like Richie Porte to support him. Also, if and when the big men step up and Froome does become isolated, the Kenyan-born Briton has already shown he can handle himself perfectly well alone.
The truth is that Wiggins has an ego the size of a jumbo jet, but one made out of egg shells. He is a winner, yes, and a fine bike rider, but he is also tetchy, rude, petulant and divisive when he wants to be.
Of the day in the Alps in 2012 when he rode away from Wiggins, Froome writes that he could not understand the furore his actions created. As far as he was concerned, he was defending the Yellow for Sky, meaning that whether it was to ultimately rest on his or Wiggin’s shoulders, the important thing was just to win it.
“Brad was folding physically and mentally, and quicker than I had thought possible,” he writes. “I got the feeling that he would literally just get off his bike were I to carry on pushing. What was a simple and perfect plan to me seemed to translate for Brad into a public humiliation.”
And there you have it. Wiggins is just not a team player. He was not in the Sky recce team that went to ride the Yorkshire stages recently, not the one that went to scout out the cobbles.
If Wiggins is not invited to ride on the Sky team for 2014, he really only has himself to blame.
What is it about Team Sky that rankles so? Why do the come across as mirthless, joyless automatons? Can it be because they actually are? Or is there more to it than that?
Unlike football teams, cycling teams generally lack a definable character and so generally it’s hard to truly love or dislike a team. With that in mind, Sky have really outdone themselves to draw such opprobrium from cycling fans.
by Kate Smart
Team kits, men’s cycling fashions, call it what you will, but the time has come to give the new 2014 kits of the pro teams, the Smart treatment.
I love a bit of retro and red goes faster
The 2014 Lotto-Belisol kit is Retro-licious. I love it. Looking at the promo photos for the kit, it’s almost like being a kid again.
My only criticism would be the colour as I have a personal preference for a more fire engine red.
Team Katusha has always been the red for me, although this year, they seem to have toned it down a little. Don’t they know, ‘red goes faster?’
Diamonds are a girl’s best friend
I love diamonds. Of course I do, I’m a woman.
And there is no better diamond pattern on a cycling kit, than Garmin Sharp. The American team are taking the notion, ‘cycling is the new golf’, seriously with the golf style diamond lines, too.
The blue is also darling. It’s more nuanced than a pastel or a sky blue, but not too deep to be dark and depressing. This is surely going to be the easiest kit to accessorise with.
Astana’s use of a richer blue also deserves a special mention.
Their pale, pastel blue of previous years has had a refreshing facelift although it does border slightly onto Avatar alien blue and let’s be honest, that’s three hours of our lives we’ll never get back.
Speaking of blue, FDJ are on to a winner!
Black is the new black
Omega-Pharma Quickstep has increased their percentage of black with this year’s kit.
A team representative has described the kit as ‘elegant and stylish at the same time’.
Melbourne is a city where there is only one occasion when a woman does not wear black and it is her wedding day. Wedding guests are also permitted a rare foray into colour.
In fact the city’s motto is, ‘got any blacker’, so clearly I am an expert, by birth on if a black outfit is elegant and stylish.
OPQS can be thankful that I completely concur with their statement.
The OPQS 2014 kit is cycling’s equivalent of the LBD (little black dress).
I’m absolutely loving it.
Sky has decided to continue on with, well practically the same black on black, with one exception.
Keeping this in mind, there are some rules to wearing black and the first of these is to steer clear of the sheer, everything including my nipples are on show.
I’m not sure what’s more offensive, the barely there time trail kit or the porn star pose of Chris Froome modeling the offensive kit.
Avert your eyes, the pain is too great.
I firmly believe that we should all cover up, at all times.
I know so many of you will be reading this, thinking, ‘oh, she’s so lucky, she lives in Australia where it’s always hot and the hot Hugh Jackman type men get around with their shirts off, all of the time, and blah, blah, blah.’
Let me dispel a few of these myths.
- It’s freezing in Melbourne right now. Seriously, winter was warming than this.
- There is only one Hugh Jackman and most Aussie women desperately want more Australian men to put some Goddam clothes on.
Sky’s time trial kit borders on obscene and here’s hoping common sense and decency will prevail.
Either that or a nasty case of gravel rash from a half decent fall will convince the Sky powers that be to get their riders to cover up.
Once again, BMC are doing black with red well.
I’m a lifelong supporter of the Essendon Football Club (AFL) and hence am unable to say anything other than black and red make a wonderful colour combination.
Navy blue is so stately
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, I do like the deep blue of Movistar and I’m pleased there has been little change to this handsome and manly kit, with the fun fluoro green M.
Adding to my approval of the use of this stately deep blue is Australia’s Orica GreenEdge.
These are two riding kits you could go to the polo in. They say mature, worldly and upper class.
It works because they’re French
I have a little confession.
I have always liked the AG2R kit.
I like it because the teal offsets the brown perfectly and with the inclusion of brown shoulders to match the brown shorts, the look has been perfected.
Quoted on the velonews website, AG2R La Mondiale general manager Vincent Lavenu said, “I think this is both an aesthetic and technical success” and I think he’s right.
It stands to reason that the Frenchies would concern themselves with ensuring aesthetics are combined with technical consideration.
Kermit does a wheelie
Well, I’m sure Sagan will do at least one wheelie this year and possibly a chicken dance and I’m quite sure he will keep his hands to himself as he cycles through the pro-tour in his richer green Cannondale kit.
I like this green and I bet Belkin wishes they had of got in there first. I can’t help but think Belkin arrived too late at the clothing suppliers and had to settle for second best green.
Their kit really does lack imagination.2014 should be another exciting year on the road for the pro-tour riders.
It’s also turned out to be an exciting year for stylish cycling kits.
Kate Smart is a Melbourne based freelance writer. She writes mainly on cycling, although tennis and Australian Rules Football (AFL) are her other topics of interest. She has a strong anti-doping stance and is most interested in the institutional cultures that encourage and foster such transgressions. After a lifetime on the sidelines, she discovered the joys of getting off the couch and getting involved. She’s completed a couple of half marathons, very slowly, and rides her bike in the same manner. You can find her on twitter
by Dr. Conor McGrane
Brian Cookson seems to have delivered on his election promise to set up an independent commission to investigate the UCI’s actions during the doping crisis which included the Armstrong era. In Dick Marty, Peter Nicholson and Ulrich Haas he has appointed a heavy weight group of politicians, sports lawyers and even war crime investigators.
Interestingly the UCI is fully funding this commission, one of the reasons I believe the one proposed by Pat McQuaid fell was that he wanted WADA to part fund it.
There doesn’t seem to be any guarantee of amnesties or reduced bans for those who co-operate and I suspect we all have mixed feeling on this.
Over all though it looks a strong group with a wide ranging remit and a large amount of independence. They aim to report within a year and we should all look forward to this although I suspect many involved with the sport will do so with trepidation.
In parallel to this, other processes are ongoing.
The MPCC (of whom I am very proud Cycling Ireland was the first national federation to join) continues to examine the practices of medics involved in the sport. Not only do they look at WADA restricted drugs but they also look at the workings of other drugs. Recently they asked member doctors to stop prescribing the painkiller tramadol in competition. This is something that Sky’s doctor has said they used to do but have now stopped in competition and indeed was something I personally prescribed but have now stopped as well.
The honestly of Sky’s doctor on this issue was something I found refreshingly open and honest and something to be applauded.
It also opens Pandora’s Box on other drugs permitted under WADA but about which there are concerns.
Cortisone in its many forms remains a useful drug in treating inflammatory conditions but is also a drug which can be abused.
There is also a drug used to treat high blood pressure called telmisartan which has reputed fat burning properties. I have heard anecdotal evidence it is being used in pro cycling (and presumably other sports). It should have no place other than in treatment of high blood pressure and again is something which needs monitoring.
I suppose my point is again that outside of banned drugs there is a large grey area where drugs which have a useful role in treating illness are being used in healthy athletes with the aim of improving performance.
The fight against doping is not just about avoiding banned drugs but also about avoiding inappropriate and indeed unethical use of others.
If we want fair and open sport then we need doctors who are bound by ethics somewhat above and beyond that of simply avoiding the use of banned medications.
We have a long way to go but with the UCI making moves in the right direction, organisations like the MPCC bringing issues like the above out into the open and doctors in teams starting to speak out openly and honestly, I see genuine hope that we are starting to change the culture of pro cycling.
There is however no room at all for complacency…
by Kate Smart
It’s that time of year when we reflect on the year that was.
So, in no particular order, and, at times, with tongue firmly planted in cheek, here’s my two cents worth of the moments in the 2013 cycling season that I enjoyed the most.
Cyclists with magnificent hair
As I’m talking about my highs for the year, no pun intended, Marcel Kittel and his magnificent quiff takes first prize.
Dear reader, I must confess to being an absolute sucker for a quiff and Mr Kittel has provided one of the best I’ve drooled over in a mighty long time.
In fact, I’m almost tempted to change my position on bike helmets. Surely, it must be some kind of travesty to hide a mane that superb under such a bulky and unflattering piece of kit.
Let that beautifully sculpted hair run free, I say.
In all seriousness, though, Kittel had a successful 2013, capped off with four stage wins in the Tour de France and ending Mark Cavendish’s grip on the final sprint along the Champs Elysée.
I do look forward seeing more of the German sprinter in 2014.
This year’s Giro was one of the best three week races I’ve stayed up very late for.
At times, I thought I’d wondered into The Lord of Rings, as Gandalf bravely attempted to take the fellowship over Caradhras, with Saruman sending a violent and punishing snowstorm crashing down them to stop them.
But alas, it was not a movie. The snow was all very real and the action was fascinating.
Vincenzo Nibali won his first Giro and he did it with style. The Italian showed us how you can lead a three week race, for almost three weeks, and not bore us to death.
Were you watching Team Sky?
Spring didn’t get the memo
This year’s spring classics never eventuated, instead we were treated to what I call the ‘prolonged winter classics’ and what a chocolate coated treat it was.
First mention, here, goes to Milan-San Remo.It was bloody cold and in this instance, I’m sure you’ll agree that pictures speak louder than words.
If a Norwegian is feeling the cold, what hope is there for anyone else? Thor Hushovd.
The team bus had better have good heating. Left to right: Robbie Hunter, David Millar, Fabian Wegman.
Why I love Spartacus
He may not have finished on the top step at Milan San Remo, but the big Swiss, Fabian Cancellara out foxed and out rode Peter Sagan, attacking for the final time on the Paterberg Hill and winning his second Tour of Flanders. It was fitting for the Easter Sunday Easter Egg race, I mean bike race to be won by the Swiss maestro.
Then came Paris-Roubaix.
We may once again have been robbed of a Cancellara v Boonen showdown, but we were not robbed of an exciting race.
Spartacus took this as an opportunity to give young Belgium, Sep Vanmarcke of (what is now Team Belkin) a lesson in how to play cat and mouse and come out the victor in the Roubaix velodrome.
I suspect, that even the most ardent road cycling fan, for just a second, discovered a new love for the tricks of track cycling.
Surely everybody enjoyed watching the young Columbian attack and attack again during the Tour de France.
He didn’t win on Mont Ventoux, and it wasn’t through lack of trying either, but he wasn’t put off from trying again and again to win a mountain stage. He then went on to give a mountain stage victory another crack on Alpe d’Huez, although it wasn’t until stage 20, that he finally took a stage victory.
Quintana finished the TdF 2nd overall as well winning the white and polka-dot jerseys.
I just want to put this little munchkin-like South American on my mantle piece.
Quintana has put the goat into mountain goat and I can’t wait to watch him climb next year.
Yes, yes, I’m a biased Australian and I’m gloating over our Ashes victory and now you’re all subjected to my patriotism.
Cadel Evans has once again proved his detractors wrong.
The gutsy Australian rode a fantastic Giro to claim a place on the podium. Evans is the first Australian to podium on all three Grand Tours and just when everyone is sticking the knives in, writing him off, out he comes and shows his tenacity on a little roll around Italy.
There are some who just can’t help themselves, though and insist on taking continued pot shots at Cuddles.
You know how it goes, “Oh, he only did so well because they had to reroute some of the stages”.
Or how about, “Yeah, but one more day and he would have been off the podium”.
Seriously, the last time I watched the Giro, and yes it is rather late at night for me here in the Southern Hemisphere, but I’m pretty sure all of the riders ride the same days in the same conditions.
Orica GreenEdge at the Tour de France
Ok, jokes about the bus stuck under the gantry aside, finally, the stage victory we Aussies had been sitting up all night for arrived.
Admittedly, I think many of us were hoping for a Gossy victory after coming so tantalizing close last year, but we were undoubtedly super excited for our first World Tour team, claiming their first TdF stage victory.
Simon Gerrans surprised everyone, including Peter Sagan, when he rolled across the line first on stage 3. The two riders were separated by what my mother would describe as ‘a bee’s dick’.
The team then won stage 4 by what was a similarly narrow margin, over OPQS.
What a wonderful tour for the Aussie team and with a couple of days in yellow to boot, we were all gloriously delirious with TdF love.
I have left my favourite rider and favourite Australian til last.
7 Grand Tours in a row is an awesome feat.
Winning his first stage in a Grand Tour at this year’s Giro in the pouring rain was priceless and well worth sitting up to the wee hours of the morning.
The man is also a twitter champ. His posts are hilarious, especially his posts chronicling Lotto training camps. Take a look if you haven’t already done so.
He’s also named his whippet, Lotto, which I think is fantastic. I love dogs and I desperately want a puppy, a term I attribute to all canines and seeing Lotto curled up on his owner’s lap, just makes want a dog more.
And as with Crankpooch, I am, in my spare time, plotting an abduction of Lotto.
These are some of my top moments from 2013. There were a few others that didn’t quite make the cut and I’m sure your list may be a little less Aussie centred, but I hope you enjoyed it anyway.
For those of you reading this who celebrate Christmas, I hope you have a very merry and safe one.
For those of you who don’t, you’re super lucky as I suspect you won’t be on the verge of a diabetic coma in the coming days…
“What sport in the world demands the same focus and attention to all details, all the time, that the Tour de France does of its potential winners?
A Grand Prix? Nope, that’s over in two to three hours or so. A 15-round boxing match? Again, too short.
The closest I can imagine is a non-stop individual sea voyage lasting a similar time, but even then there are periods of monotony there, of peaceful seas and relaxation.
No, nothing on the planet compares with the Grand Tours and in particular the Tour de France in terms of the focus and concentration required – no traditional sporting event in any case.
These men are tough physically, but it all stems from the core of their being, from an inner steel that the normal man in the street will never comprehend.
Like Scott and Amundsen crossing frozen wastes, Cook setting off into uncharted waters and Hilary and Norgay Tenzing reaching the summit of Everest, these riders are driven by something else, something almost other.
It all makes no sense when considered rationally, and yet it all makes such absolute, perfect and beautiful sense in so many other ways.”
I take a look at the physical and mental strain of the Greatest Race on Earth here on The Roar.