NOW WITH ADDED KNOWLEDGE SECTION!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Cipollini Does It Again.

It's  great to get out for some sneaky bike practice before work. I love turning up at the bureau knowing that I have already done something for myself before I got there. I look around the office at my non cycling co-workers all bleary eyed, still waking up and sometimes still eating breakfast. At times I pity them because they will never know the simple joy you and I experience when we ride our bikes. I’m sure it’s a feeling many cyclists share with me. Of course the flip side to all these endorphins and positive energy is that I fall in a heap soon after lunch and have to drag myself like a stubborn mule through the remainder of the day.

If you have been reading my blog you will know that I am a huge fan of seeing celebrity cyclists in the media for reasons other than racing results. I thought I would share something which arrived in my inbox today just as I was reaching my post lunch slump.

Many of you would know that former professional cyclist, master of style and lovable rogue Mario Cipollini has entered the world of bicycle manufacturing.


With the Italian ISD professional team already using his bikes Cipollini has now released a short promotional film in an effort to boost sales of his bikes and related paraphernalia. Of course we all know and admire Cipo for his reputation as a gadabout town and for his general skylarking behaviour. In this film we get to see Mario's serious side as he promotes his various products by basically riding around looking fabulously fit and meticulously groomed as always.

In the opening scene we find Mario comfortably relaxing on the terrace of his Tuscan villa and catching up on the sports news of the day while wearing a three piece suit. Everything seems in its place until the countryside beckons like the mythological sirens of old and Mario is lured away from his sophisticated domesticity and into his Lycra. A situation I'm sure we can all relate to.

See how he pensively surveys the Tuscan landscape before he embarks for his ride, much like an artiste may look upon an unfinished painting. I wonder what artistry he’s going to unleash on the windswept and emotively filmed countryside.



After changing into his cycle ware we join Mario as he embarks on a journey filmed to show off the qualities of his product. After some fast cornering and promenading (not to be confused with pomade, of which there seems to be lashings of) he then arrives in a delightful piazza for some more contemplative gazing.


You may notice that the camera angle being used seems to have us viewing our hero from below thus giving the illusion of  him towering above us with all his might and glory, I wish my rides were as cinematic as Mario's.

Of course the bikes are made in Italy and to prove it in this scene we see an Italian looking and fashionably unkempt tech specialists pondering a newly minted frame.


Surprisingly Cipollini's Italian made bicycle seems to be equipped with components of non Italian origin, which I always thought was frowned upon by the Euro style establishment, evidently Mario can do as he pleases as he set many of the standards held so dearly by the aspiring Euro pro wannabees (I'm counting myself as part of that group) and so therefore has the right to trifle with the very tenets of tolerable bicycle related conduct… Even riding topless.


Somehow the lovable rogue gets away with it all and I find myself wanting to own one of these machines, maybe he will send one over for me to review. If you would like to view the film for yourself you can find it here.

To many people Cipollini is the epitome of manliness on two wheels, our sport needs men like him to help affirm its image as a tough masculine sport worthy of interest. For those of you not convinced of this I would like you to compare this picture of Mario in his square jawed, race winning prime.
To this photo of current Italian road champion and rather effeminate looking Giovanni Visconti who seems to be up to date with the latest depilatory techniques.

 Who do you think would capture more public attention? The charming cad or saucy knave?


Monday, August 9, 2010

Fast Times, New Roads

Modern life can get pretty hectic. As a youngster I listened with fascination as I was told that the advances in computer technology would give me innumerable hours of free time “when I grew up”. Sadly the promised life of leisure I was led to believe in never came to fruition and instead life just seemed to get busier and more complicated as I got older. Technology allows us to be instantly connected to whoever we choose in many more ways than we could once imagine. Does anybody remember what life was like without a mobile phone? All this connectivity can be useful but it has led to a need for instant gratification which can be a little annoying if you are the one being pursued. Recently my carefully crafted, quiet anonymity was foiled as I had been caught in technologies sticky web and was forced into attending some work related demands, when I happened upon this chap.



I snapped this photo over a week ago and it has been playing on my mind ever since. This guy is so connected and demanded upon that he has seen fit to drop his bike between parked cars and squat awkwardly in the filthy city gutter as he bows to another of life’s demands. What is he doing? Could he be running a quick colour coordination diagnostic on his computer to make sure his white deep V’s are still an acceptable match with his black frame? Could he be bidding for a frame in an online auction for his next build so we all get to see another piece of junk road frame turned into a fixie? Or perhaps buying some colourful tyres online? Maybe he's reading my blog! Any other suggestions readers? Whatever it may be I’m sure glad that my life isn’t as demanding as his.

Everybody just seems to fit more into life these days with "growth" and "increased productivity" being the buzzwords of our time. Well how much can we grow before we split our metaphoric pants? How much productivity can be squeezed out of a human being before they become an empty husk? Sometimes it feels like wherever I look somebody is demanding my attention, it may be work related or even social, quite often it’s “some company” vying for a slice of my interest trying to push their product in front of me. Stop reading right now and look around you. How much branding and advertising can you see? I’m tipping that unless you live in a cave then the answer is plenty.  Most of the time this sort of thing just washes over me, I treat it like current affairs programs on any commercial TV network and I pay no attention to it but every now and then it has the power to drag me down slightly. I know, I'm part of it, I advertise on my blog. When this happens there is only one thing to do. Put on my team kit covered with sponsors logos and go for a ride. I suppose this makes me part of the problem (again) but I console myself with the knowledge that I seriously doubt if any of my clubs sponsors have seen a return on their investment.


Knowledge

One of the nicest things about cycling is discovering new roads to train on. Sometimes this can really give your motivation a boost when the same old training routes are getting a little tiresome. Its great linking up a few newly discovered roads into a loop and showing a few select friends your secret ride. I normally begin with the words “I’m going to show you a loop that’s gonna blow your mind”. Just be sure they can keep it to themselves or you will end up seeing energy gel sachets strewn all over your previously undiscovered ride, as has happened to me recently.

Stop being too precious about your bike and start enjoying it more. Don’t be afraid of venturing down dirt roads, some of my favourite rides include some sections of dirt. Just make sure you bring enough spares (I carry 2 tubes and a patch kit) and I would also advise you bring some extra food just in case you get lost.  Recently I decided to venture down a dirt road which I had not ridden for at least five years, when I got there I discovered that joy of joys it had recently been sealed. I was so excited I took some pictures to share with you.


This recent discovery now provides me with another loop within a loop to keep me eager and my training partners mesmerized. Part of the reason I find exploring new roads so refreshing is because it takes me back to one of the reasons I started riding in the first place, adventure. Sometimes its good to forget about training for competition or bragging rights or personal fitness and get back to just enjoying the pleasure of riding.


The road in these pictures looks like it could be in the middle of nowhere when in fact its only in the outer suburbs of Melbourne.  Stop venturing down that same “road” every weekend (Melbourne cyclists will know which “road” I’m alluding too). I challenge you to open a map, do some research and put together a new training ride before this weekend.

You might see me out there.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Quiet Roads & Chemical Cocktails

Quiet country roads are everybody’s favourite place to train, if you are like me and live in the centre of a large city then you savour every moment you can spend some time on one. I’m sure many of you would remember a time when the only clue to alert you that another cyclist had been out training on your favourite back road would be a discarded banana peel by the roadside. How times have changed.



These days I’m alarmed at the amount of discarded energy gel sachets I keep seeing when out training. Since when did going for a ride require such technologically advanced nutrition? Those little foil packets seem to be everywhere these days, I have even seen them strewn about my local suburban cycle path. It makes me feel a little bit like this..



You may be interested to know that the crying native American in the commercial was actor Espera Oscar de Corti, who was in fact not a native American at all but the son of Sicilian immigrants, he was however known for his portrayals of native Americans in Hollywood films. His native Italian ancestry was not made public until the end of his life. Damn, TV lied to us again!

As cyclists we need to be extra careful to tread lightly wherever we go. Why?.. Because basically everybody pretty much hates us. I don't want to lapse into stating the obvious (its so boring) but littering really doesn’t do us any favours as a group, think of it as another excuse for “motorists” to bleat about how irresponsible cyclists are. Of course we all know that the amount of littering done by cyclists is insignificant when compared to the amount of drink cans, fast food wrappers and cigarette butts tossed away by everyone else. Oh and that lone shoe you keep seeing by the roadside? Its mine, I’ve been looking all over for it. If you have any sense of responsibility towards your fellow cyclists put that little packet back in your pocket and dispose of it thoughtfully.

“Motorists”, I love that term. It sounds so quaint, whenever I hear it I imagine one of those vintage cars being driven by a gentleman wearing an overcoat and airmen’s goggles. Or perhaps a villainous scoundrel and his henchman as can be seen in the rendering below.


I might also add that we need to be extra careful with our litter when racing, all it takes is an angry resident to complain about our roadside refuse and before you know it another permit for a racing circuit is revoked by the officialdom. Just like dangerous riding on the road or running red lights its always just a few bad eggs misbehaving. Of course the problem is we all get tarred with the same brush, so lets start helping ourselves by trying to do the right thing. End of tiresome rant.

Knowledge

Energy gels are great because they allow you to get a quick hit of fuel in a few seconds instead of fumbling around with wrappers and choking on inhaled pieces of food as you struggle with the speed of the peloton, I know, I've been there too. For this reason I totally recommend energy gels for racing, but for training? They are convenient yes but personally I think its overkill to use them while training when you are probably better off just eating real food.

In our modern world we are exposed to all sorts of nasties on a daily basis whether they are in the air we breathe, the water we drink or even what we wear or put on our skin. I don’t want to sound alarmist but chemicals are everywhere and we should be trying to minimise our exposure to them when we can. What does all of this have to do with energy gels? It’s all in the ingredients…

I have done some basic research into some of the ingredients listed on the back of a popular energy gel I just happened to have at home. Chemical cocktail anyone?

Potassium Chloride (KCI): Found naturally in the human body and vital for functions including the beating of your heart, used in food processing as an alternative to salt. Too much of the stuff can cause side effects such as irregular heartbeat, stomach pain and my favorite, weak or heavy legs (just what every cyclist wants). Of course its only used in small quantities in your energy gel but how much are you getting from other sources? You may also be interested to know that it is also used as fertiliser and is the same deadly substance used to administer lethal injection. Fun! Don’t be too afraid, almost any substance can be lethal in a high enough dose.

Potassium Sorbate (202): Commonly used in food processing to curb the production of yeasts and mould in cheese, yogurt, dried meats and sometimes wine. Not really considered to be too much of a problem unless you have an allergic reaction but in large quantities can cause nausea, diarrhoea and in an ironic twist, nutrient loss in food (just what every cyclist wants).

Sodium Benzoate (211): Naturally occurring in some fruits but chemically manufactured for use in food processing, used as an ingredient in many foods and soft drinks because it works very well at killing bacteria, yeast and fungi. Recent scientific research has shown that this stuff can actually damage DNA which may lead to neuro-degenerative diseases. I suppose its logical that if it can destroy yeast cells then in can at least damage human cells. Boffins have also discovered that the chemical reaction between sodium benzoate and ascorbic acid (300), also known as vitamin C, creates benzene which happens to be a known carcinogen. Nice! Some energy gels combine the two but you should also consider if you are taking vitamins as well as consuming sodium benzoate from other sources. Recently banned in the UK.

I never really looked at the ingredients of the food I consume too closely as I assumed that I have always eaten pretty well and avoided processed foods where I could,  but after having just a little look into the potential problems with food additives I will definitely be switching the brand of my energy gel and pay more attention to the labels of the food and drink I consume.

Oh and don't get me started on the phthalates which might be leaching out of your bidon as you have been reading this. As if going for a ride wasn't already dangerous enough.


Stay healthy everyone.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Cycling and TV...a winning combination

Well that's it. It's all over. No I'm not referring to popular Australian "reality TV" (is that an oxymoron?) show "Master Chef" which concluded over the weekend. For the blissfully unaware this is the program which was considered so important by its network and fans that the nationally televised federal election debate was postponed so as not to interfere with its time slot. Okay so I don't like it, so just don't watch it right? Wrong! What offends me the most is that this programs marketing campaign has reached saturation point with its logo found on every second item on supermarket shelves, from fresh produce to dry goods, you cant even walk down the street without seeing a billboard or poster promoting it and forget about opening a news paper. Enough is enough, the more I see it the more determined I become to not support it in any way. If you are from my part of the world then you know what I'm talking about and if you don't know then just consider yourselves lucky.

Of course the other must see television event which concluded over the weekend was the Tour de France. No real surprises with the end result although Schleck losing the race by the same amount of time he lost to Contador in the "chaingate" incident has me wishing both riders finished the three week tour on the same time, it certainly would have caused a stir.

With the tour over many of us in non cycling crazy countries will be lamenting the absence of daily race coverage and articles in the mainstream print media, yes its back to the good old Internet for your secret fix (don't you feel dirty?) of the sport which to most people only exists in the month of July. All the bike shops are now busily taking down the signage advertising their Tour de France sales, as if they were Christmas decorations in February. At least my sleep patterns can return to normal again.

All this talk about reality TV and cycling has me thinking about the time I spent in countries where cycling is a major sport and not looked upon as some sort of novelty news item, with your average person on the street in those countries having a pretty good knowledge of who is who and which race they won. In fact the racers are so popular that they are household names and sometimes end up on TV programmes themselves. I would like to share with you some examples of the quality programing featuring cyclists which can be found on TV in Europe.

Lets start in Italy where you may have seen Claudio Chiappucci on a programme called "L'Isola dei Famosi", which is like an Italian crossover of "Survivor" and the enthralling "I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here". Il Diabolo really nailed the physical challenges but sadly couldn't take out the competition of Italian C and D grade celebrities and finished a respectable 3rd.

Here he is drinking from a coconut .
Here he strains to hold up a what looks like a Gilligan's Island style barbell.














Most of you would probably know about Mario Cippolini's appearance on "Balando Con Le Stelle" or "Dancing With The Stars" a few years ago.




If you missed it go here to see a clip of Mario learning to dance. A dance aficionado and cycling friend of mine who saw the show told me that Mario didn't really display the same supplesse on the dance floor as he did on his bike.

1996 was a great year for Italian cheese and I'm not talking about grana padano. Marco Pantani thrilled us with his racing exploits throughout the 90’s but injury had him sidelined during 1996 and prevented him from competing in that years edition of the Giro d’ Italia, a Giro that was arguably designed for Marco to win. Now back in those days a Giro without Pantani was like a caprese salad without basil but the tifosi wouldnt need to go without because in that year that the late Marco Pantani sang the theme song which preceded the daily coverage of  Giro d Italia. Watch the clip below to see part of the legacy this great champion left behind, it will only make you miss him even more.




As far as cycling mad countries go you really cant go past the Belgians for taking the interest they have in their riders that little bit too far. So far in fact that a few of them actually have their own television shows.

After his retirement from a long and illustrious career in cycling Eddy Planckaert couldn’t stay out of the public eye and allowed a TV crew to document the daily life of his large and somewhat eccentric family (he had fallen on lean times and needed the money). The show ran for an incredible 12 years and was only recently shelved.










If cyclocross is more your thing then you might like to watch another Belgian hit TV series "Wellens en Wee". The program is basically a documentary which revolves around cross star Bart Wellens, his family and team. Go along for the ride and see for yourself what happens during the cross season in Belgium. You can see some of the funnier moments, team roughhousing and practical jokes here, just follow the prompt to the VT4 website where you can watch full episodes (if your Flemish is up to it). The program is a pretty good insight as to how popular the sport of cyclocross really is in Belgium with plenty of drunken fans partying in the mud as they watch the racing and some occasional goofing around from Bart and his team mates to lighten the mood.

Still on the cyclocross theme and once again in Belgium “Mr Paris Roubaix” Roger De Vlaeminck also entered the world of reality TV with his program “Allez Allez Zimbabwe”. The basic premise is that the “Gypsy” turns talent scout and coach for young Zimbabwean cyclists and brings them to Belgium for some hard Flemish lessons in suffering to help prepare them for the world championships, and suffer they do. After all their hard as nails coach used to train up to 400km in one day leading up to Paris Roubaix, an event he won an unequalled four times..
Unfortunately for Roger his young charges seem more interested in the local nightlife and chasing girls instead of training. Never the less the young Africans were very popular with the fans and the program was a hit. See how they perform here.

One of the cultural nuances of Belgium is that even though its a small country you can go for a 20 minute drive and end up in a region or city that speaks a different dialect or indeed a different language. If you watch any of the linked film clips above you may be interested to see that even though everyone is speaking Flemish the programs are still subtitled in you guessed it, Flemish.


Knowledge

Today I want mention a subject most cyclists don't want to hear about. Getting hit by a car, the mere mention of it puts my stomach in a knot but unfortunately its something some of us will have to deal with at some point. I'm not going to go on and on about riding safely and your rights on the road. I'm just going to give you one piece of advice. If you get hit and you go down, even if you're okay, stay down. Don't get up, as soon as you do anybody who saw it will assume you are okay and drive on. When that car fails to give way or turns in front of you it helps to have witnesses to back you up . In my experience people generally wont stop unless they have seen something pretty serious. So stay down for a while, get some names and don't give the driver at fault any chance of getting away with it.

I don't really want to end this post on such a serious subject so here's a mildly amusing Belgian TV ad featuring Roger De Vlaeminck, Eddy Planckaert and Freddy Maertens hamming it up for some advertising dollars.





Ride sensibly everyone.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Getting The Most Out Of Stage 17 & Your Shorts

Excited by the prospect of spectacular racing I managed to stay awake for last nights Tour De France coverage which featured the long awaited stage 17 finish atop the Col Du Tourmalet. I was amazed by the tenacity of Andy Schleck as he applied the pressure on the final climb which unhinged everyone but Contador. The savage accelerations I was hoping to see didn’t really eventuate, until Contador made his one and only attempt at breaking Schleck which only caused Schleck ride across and then stare down Contador as he drew level with him.


My heart was in my mouth as I expected one of the many lunatic spectators to cause a crash and ruin the stage at any moment, thankfully this didn’t happen and both riders made it to the finish with Contador not contesting the sprint to the line. I was a little disappointed as what I was hoping was going to be a lesson in vicious brutality turned out to be more like this. The only real slap dancing came after the finish when Contador got all touchy feely with Schlecks face.


If you missed the action or you want to relive the tension you can see highlights by heading over to the sponsored link to the right. For me the ride of the day was by Carlos Sastre who in an all out, last ditch bid for a podium finish in Paris tried to ride across to the breakaway, which eventually extended its lead to an eight minute gap. It was a planned move as Sastre’s team mate Konovalovas was already waiting off the front of the peloton to help him. In some kind of strange irony after the controversy of “chaingate” Contador himself tried to stop Sastre from going on the attack because the current holder of third place overall Samuel Sánchez had fallen and was being paced back to the peloton. Here’s part of what Sastre had to say about it post stage;

“I’ve fallen in this Tour, I fell in the Italian Giro d’Italia, I’ve had technical problems and no-one ever waited for me.”
“I think we’re turning cycling into a sport for spoilt brats and that is what happens in these kinds of circumstances.”

All I can say is thank you Carlos for a brave effort which animated the stage and had me shouting at the TV while urging you on instead of falling asleep like I normally would, I even spilled some beer.

Of course if it was the Giro then there would have been another three mountain stages with a mountain time trial thrown in for good measure for us to enjoy. I can’t help having the feeling that this Tour de France is now over and I may as well stop watching.


Knowledge
I’m constantly surprised at people’s lack of hygiene when it comes to their cycling kit. Having filthy kit is not befitting of a gentleman racer and in the case of your shorts can lead to more serious problems than people on your bunch ride talking about how much you stink. It’s true, I’ve heard them.

Let’s start with your salt encrusted helmet. Wash those crusty straps with some shampoo while you are in the shower, do the same to the inside of the helmet and if you want to give it the deluxe wash then remove the inner pads and run them through your washing machine. Say no to a reeking helmet!

Onto clothing now, for pity’s sake don’t try and get more than one wear out of your clothing, once you take it off it goes in the wash. That goes for your gloves too! If you want your cycling gear to last longer then don’t leave it in a sweaty pile for days and days before you wash it, the salt in your sweat will deteriorate the fabric especially your shorts. If you want your shorts to last for years then you can hand wash them, if that sounds like too much trouble then do what I do and put them in a mesh bra bag before they go in the wash, this prevents them coming into contact with zips, buttons or any other abrasive items/surfaces inside your washing machine. Now that your gear is nice and clean you need to dry it, once again if you want it to last then don’t put it in the clothes dryer and avoid hanging it in the sun when possible. I know it might sound pedantic but all these things really make a difference to the life of your clothing.

One more note on worn out clothing. Please don’t be one of those people I see riding around with the seat worn out of their shorts exposing their rear ends for all to see, where I’m from we call them porno shorts. Throw the bloody things away!

Ride safe and have a great weekend.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Gifts & Bonus Knowledge!

Everybody loves presents and I’m no exception, so last night when I arrived home after a tough day at the coal face and my sweetheart told me she had a gift for me I was thrilled. At first I thought it might be that Lancia Fulvia 1.6 HF I have been asking for (what better way to turn up to a race) but when she handed me a heavy square object wrapped in brown paper I knew it wasn’t one of those. My first guess was that it was an industrial sized block of Belgian chocolate, which would have pleased me greatly, but it was better than that, it was this…


I spent half the night poring over its pages with child like wonderment before eventually retiring to bed much later than I normally would.

Usually I need to go through a complex routine which eventually gets me out of bed and on the road but this morning, thanks to the thoughtful and inspiring gift I received the night before I awoke feeling somewhat motivated to go for a ride and leaped out of bed and into my matching kit, which I had laid out the night before to spare my beloved any shambolic rummaging around in the dark wee hours.

I’m pleased to report that the missing cyclists I have mentioned in previous posts have miraculously re appeared. With yesterdays rest day in the Tour de France I suppose these people managed a full nights sleep and were keen to ride again. It was nice to get a friendly good morning from another happy person getting their morning fix of “cyclocise”. It’s only a matter of time before somebody uses that word to market a spinning class or similar activity. Remember you saw it here first.



In any case it was good to see people were properly attired for the cold and slightly damp conditions, under dressing is a pet hate of mine.
I then came across a scene that no matter how many times I see it never fails to amaze me. I try and pick out a beautiful moment every day and today I thought this was mine.


It makes me happy every time I see this scene and it’s not because of schadenfreude. It just reminds me how lucky I am to have an alternative to sitting in that queue of traffic every working day. The thing that has me vexed is that many of these people who are sitting passively in their cars stuck in the unavoidable peak hour traffic may be the same people who throw things at, yell abuse at or threaten with violence you or I while we ride our bikes every day. What causes a person to be driven to abusive behaviour because a cyclist held them up for 10 seconds and yet the same person sits submissively in traffic for considerably longer without as much as a word? Shouldn’t this photo be full of hostile people leaping out of their cars and accosting the others around them? I just have to console myself with the fact that most people are pretty considerate and that’s something we should all acknowledge with a friendly wave when we see it, whether we are on our bikes or in our cars. I couldn’t dwell on the subject for too long because as I was about to continue on my way I was distracted by this.



New Knowledge Section!

One of the daunting things about cycling is that there is just so much to learn. Sometimes the most obvious things can make a world of difference to your pleasure, fitness and or comfort. You may have been riding for 30 years but I’ll wager you will still be learning. So from now on whenever I post I will be including a little piece of the knowledge I picked up along the way. Some of it you will already know but bare in mind that there are people out there who are just starting cycling and need some guidance. I don’t pretend to be an expert but I have been riding for a long time and like I said, you never stop learning.

You may have noticed that it doesn’t need to be raining to end up with wet feet, all you need is a wet road. Wearing socks over your shoes can help but there is nothing worse than that moment when the cold water finally seeps through your shoes and hits you toes, to avoid this the best thing to do is to get yourself some decent shoe covers, prices vary and generally as with most things you get what you pay for. Don’t be afraid to buy the expensive ones you wont believe how you went without them once you try them and a good pair will give you years of service. Of course they will only keep the pouring rain out for so long and eventually the water will seep through but at least shoe covers or booties as some people call them will delay this from happening. The added bonus to wearing shoe covers is that your shoes will also stay clean. People have been known to put plastic bags inside their shoes in an attempt to keep their feet dry, I wouldn’t recommend it, your feet end up soaked in sweat and eventually the water will seep in at your ankles anyway. Of course regardless of how prepared you are every now and then you will end up getting home with wet shoes, if you want them to dry before the next mornings ride pull out the inner soles and stuff your shoes with news paper this will soak up the moisture. Change the paper a few times over the evening (4 or 5 times) and hey presto, wearable shoes in the morning.

I’m off to buy some beer and snacks now for tonight’s Tourmalet stage of the Tour de France. I'm really looking forward to some good honest smackfest racing from the favourites as they try and break each other.

Here’s hoping its entertaining.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Magic Of Television & We Have A Villain

As is traditional for me I once again fell asleep during last nights coverage (Australian time) of the TDF. I know you are probably thinking its acceptable to fall asleep at midnight after a long day which began with an early morning ride followed by a full days work but there is more to it. My cycling induced narcolepsy goes much deeper, I even fall asleep in the middle of the day when watching recorded races. Its the same every time, with about 50km left to go I doze off only to wake up after the race has been won and the winner is standing on the podium. Sound familiar? I put it down to the background noise of the helicopter. That gentle droll must be at just the right pitch to induce a relaxing sleep.

Why would they need a microphone in the helicopter anyway? It's distance from whatever is happening on the road and the noise of the engine surely negates any reason for a microphone being there. Does it somehow add to our viewing pleasure? Are we to imagine ourselves as VIP's watching the drama of the race unfolding from high above, while we swill local wines and discuss the regional cheese? Brace yourselves people because I'm about to blow this deception wide open.... Its a sound effect, the coverage is full of them.

When the coverage crosses to the action on the road, if you listen very carefully to the sound of the motor bike you will notice somebody cheering in the background, the same cheering is repeated around every five seconds even when there are no roadside spectators... That's right, somewhere in a little booth there is a guy at a sound effects panel doing his best to make us feel like we are rolling along with the bunch or in the break. I wish I hadn't noticed it but I did and I cant un-notice it now. The breathtaking pictures we receive are more than enough to satisfy me, must they sully them with indigestible garnish? Why does our wonderful sport have to be ruined by lies?

Of course the issue Du Jour everyone seems to have their chamois in a knot over was the conduct of that yellow jersey thieving Spaniard. Predictably I was sound asleep as the drama unfolded and had to watch the highlights when I arose from my helicopter sound effect induced slumber, and what great highlights they were. I could see the larcenous intent in Contador’s eyes as he and that devious Kazakh sped away while poor Andy took what seemed like forever to get his chain back on and get moving again.

Of course unlike pretty much every other sport on the planet, in cycling if you’re a favourite in a race and the leader of that race (your opponent) has an inopportune mishap, you are expected to be chivalrous and dally unhurriedly, pending your foes rejoining the mêlée. Can you imagine this happening in Formula One or Pigeon Racing? Of course not. But in cycling as well as Omerta, there is also an unwritten rule that you wait for the yellow jersey in the event of a mishap. Here’s what poor Andy had to say about it.



Incidentally If you love controversy you should read about what happened to Nicholas Roche on stage 15.

I do feel for poor Andy, Contador fans are  saying Andy didn’t exactly wait for Berto during the cobbled high jinx of stage three did he? In fact he and his shifty Swiss team-mate put as much time as they could into their rivals, remember? That shady Australian was there too.

Are we all missing something? Obviously there must be a point in a grand tour after which etiquette dictates that you must wait for an incapacitated rival. We must be close to that cusp as opinion seems to be divided over Contador’s controversial manoeuvre. Evidently stage three was nowhere near that point because when Andy didn’t wait for Berto nobody mentioned any unwritten rules, but then again Berto wasn't wearing yellow at the time. These things really should be workshopped before the race just so everyone is on the same page, it would save so much endless cycling chat room banter.

Sometimes the viewing public needs a villain to generate a little more interest in the sport. In wrestling jargon the villain is known as the "heel". I'm not saying that the race organisers manufactured the the whole sordid affair to generate more interest but....

I’m not going to give you my opinion on the matter, the media is full of dedicated pundits offering their specialist analysis on the occurrence and I’m certainly no expert (you should have waited Berto). I only really watch the TDF to see the low budget television commercials for local bike shops anyway.
For entertainments sake, let your legs do the talking Andy and bring on the Tourmalet.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Micro Dose Post

As the title suggests just a shortish post from me today. Welcome back from a weekend of high investment, low return Tour de France viewing. I know, I’m being harsh but the smackfest slap dance  I predicted between Schleck and Contadorrrr (you have to roll the R) didn’t really eventuate, with the Spaniard opting to just test the water and see how the Luxembourgian would cope. Well it seems he coped just fine and surprisingly the two then decided to get all retrograde while marking each other in a “I don’t care who wins this race as long as its not you” type scenario, I was half expecting those two to stop for ice cream while the other contenders pushed on which allowed Sanchez and Menchov to steal back a little time. We may have to wait until the stage 17 finish atop the Col du Tourmalet before we see Contadorrr digging really deep in a final attempt to break Schleck or Schleck doing the same in attempt to increase his lead before the final time trial (I wish it was a Cyclo Cross stage).

The most exiting aspect of the weekend for me was that one reader (I think there are about five of you) alerted me to the Ned Flanders flag footage from way back on stage three. My advice is get it while its hot because Tour organisers ASO (Amaury Sport Organisation) seem to be forcing youtube to pull the snippets of TDF coverage fans have been posting. It’s always surprising how various cycling related organisations seem to do their best to stop their events becoming more popular by stopping fans from doing something that can only promote the event to a wider audience. I’m reminded of a local incident where a rider experienced the long arm of pointless bureaucracy, he was pulled from an event being held at a motor racing venue when one of the officialdom noticed that said rider was using a small helmet mounted camera. When the rider questioned the ruling the genius who pulled him from the race quoted some vague reference to a “non endorsed technical aid!” Of course the rider was left with no option but to say. “Huh? How is a camera helping me?” The officialdom then changed their tune and decided that it hazily related to issues involving liability insurance. Clearly we are living in Bizarro World because you would think that the race organisers, sponsors and governing body would be happy with a little incidental coverage to a couple of hundred local people who wanted to see themselves or their friends/family racing bikes on their computer screens. Pointless bureaucracy, it will be the end of us all. In any case thanks for making the life of people trying to enjoy and promote your event that little bit harder ASO.




Perhaps ASO borrowed Armstrong's web scouring team of legal eagles for the job. Fellow blogger Joe Papp has certainly experienced the all seeing eye of Lance. After posting some facts and opinion on the subject of doping Joe had the feeling he was being watched

Now you can call me paranoid if you like but since posting a remark about LA’s disgraceful choice in racing socks, I have been noticing a black helicopter which seems to be following me around when I’m training. There was also an ice cream truck with a suspicious looking satellite dish parked across from my home last night, when I went to investigate more closely it then sped off down the street. I think they're onto me, I may have to lay low until the heat blows over.

Friday, July 16, 2010

TDF Update & Mafia Run, Death Race

Well it looks like the Tour de France has come down to a two horse race and while fans of Cadel Evans lament his fall from the leader board due to injury, fans of smackfest racing are going to revel in the frenzy of attacks from Schleck and Contador as they try and break each other to pieces. Personally I’m giddy with excitement as I think about what Alberto Contador will have to do in the Pyrenees if he is to gain some time on Schleck and win the TDF. Hopefully they can both stay on their bikes until then so we can enjoy the inevitable hit out. Its going to be like two German slap dancers smacking themselves silly for our entertainment and when it comes to slap dancing cyclists there’s only one guy I think of.
We also saw the dramatic and controversial ejection of Australian Mark Renshaw after his tussle with Kiwi hard man Julian Dean (the toughest Julian I know of). Now the question on everybody’s lips is can Cavandish win stages without his lead out man. Only time will tell.



I think perhaps the officialdom reacted a little too strongly to the whole event, if you want to see how its done in the animal kingdom go here (safe for work).

Now back to more local issues. This morning I pulled on my tallest, whitest, well branded over socks and spent a little more time than usual adjusting my matching kit before I hit the road. Why? I hear you ask. I wanted to look suitably resplendent in case I may have bumped into Bennati, Visconti, Paolini and Pippo Pozzato who were enjoying Melbourne/Geelong and the surrounds while they reconnoitred the 2010 world championship circuit.

Sadly I didn’t bump into them and so I cant pass on the grooming tips I was hoping to learn from some of the most preened riders in the pro peloton, apparently Visconti failed to bring all of his matching kit as he thought he wouldn't need any legwarmers with Australia's warm climate. Naturally if I had bumped into them I would have berated him loudly in Italian for not showing the attention to detail befitting of an Italian champion, whilst gesticulating wildly with my hands. Frankly I'm surprised the others allowed him to ride with them. In my search for them I did however spot this salon which may be able to help with yours and my styling needs.
                                          No he wasn't there either.
I then ended up somewhere other than Beach Road, where I engaged in more of the character building efforts I mentioned a few posts ago. I was pleased to find that my hard work seems to be paying off as I was a little stronger/fitter this morning. I know this not because I use expensive electronic gadgetry but because I tasted less bile than I did during my last session.

The curious phenomenon I noticed last time I rode this once popular training and commuting route was again evident. Where are all the cyclists? Previously I put it down to everyone having a late night watching the Tour but with no Australians or Lance in contention for the overall I really did expect to see a few more people out enjoying the mild morning air. Something is up, I’m getting suspicious. Is the same thing happening everywhere? Is anyone else out there having the same experience? I kept thinking of what Tyler Hamilton said about the cycling mafia.
“I’m still scarred. I’m not the same person I was before, that’s for sure. It’s kind of sad to say it, but after everything I’ve been through, I don’t think I can be the same person. A lot of things happened to me that people don’t know about, and until I write a book someday, won’t know about. There are a lot of bad people out there who have done some bad things to me. Cycling … I think it’s everywhere, but there is a mafia in cycling. That’s pretty much all I’ll say about it, I’ll probably get banned from a race if I say any more, but there is a mafia out there.”

I’m getting serious visions of “Triplets of Bellville” (a must see movie for any cycling fan). Could truth be stranger than fiction? Could there actually be a mafia run gambling ring where punters bet on a race to the death style competition supplied with kidnapped cyclists? I was thinking about the possibility of it all being true while riding down that quiet lonely road when I Inadvertently stumbled upon some sort of balloon bunch ride.
Maybe this is what everybody is doing? Could cycling's popularity as "the new golf" be over? Could hot air ballooning be taking over as the next new craze? I can just imagine those fixed gear ruffians cobbling together balloons with their mothers old curtains, a washing basket and an old BBQ.

Ride safe and have a great weekend.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Giro vs Tour of California, Your Questions Answered.

A while back I made an offhand statement pertaining to the fact that in my opinion the Giro has always been a much better race than its bigger Gallic cousin the Tour de France. My observation whet the interest of at least one reader who alerted me to a comment made by Lance Armstrong during the Tour of California. The anonymous reader asks, “what are your thoughts on what Lance Armstrong said recently claiming the Giro is becoming insignificant compared to the rise of the Tour of California?”

Thanks for your comment/question anonymous. Let me begin by saying that to me the Tour de France is the busty blonde bimbo with plenty of "upgrades" who your male friends lust after, while the Giro d' Italia is the natural brunette beauty with plenty of substance who you want marry and spend the rest of your days with. I think that makes the Tour of California the incredibly drunk forty something I saw on her hands and knees, missing one shoe, wearing a cheap taffeta dress, with a friend holding her hair back as she vomited in the gutter after the Melbourne cup last year. Now I don't even want to think about what that makes my local club criterium!

What may have motivated LA to make such a seemingly absurd remark? Of course the simple answer is that for good reason professional sportspeople are always doing their best to keep fans and sponsors happy. But here at Cyclingmuse we like to dig deeper…

Let’s look at the fans first. I’m no expert but I would say that Lances fan base is definitely much stronger in his home country than elsewhere in the world and I would also say that his most fervent fans are most certainly American. What better way to curry favour from the fans than to make them feel special and include them in the thrilling world of professional cycling, how sophisticated and “European” they must have felt after hearing that the Giro is becoming insignificant compared to their home race. Of course now that they have been validated by the person they look up to all those fans will now feel even better about buying Lances books, giving money to his charity, maybe voting for him when he moves into politics and becomes the megalomaniac ruler of us all (just kidding Lance). While we are on the subject of fans I would like to know what it is about spectating at a sporting event that turns some people into complete imbeciles?



Sorry about the picture quality but due to my laziness its the only footage I could find.

Fans aside a rider and team has a responsibility to their sponsor. Lances team has an American sponsor so it would make sense for the team to race wherever the sponsor will have the most exposure to its potential customers, in this case at home in the USA. Pretty simple, in fact Johan Bruyneel (the team manager) said exactly this when asked why the team was racing in California and not in the Giro. Now it seems that Lance and Johan have conflicting ideas because in addition to this Bruyneel also had this to say. "Many people wonder if the Amgen Tour of California can be – in the future – a competitor for the Giro d'Italia. Personally I don't think so. California currently has only eight 'big' teams. The rest of the field is completed with domestic or regional teams. Many riders prefer to stay in Europe as opposed to travel to the US in May and get accustomed to the 9 hour time difference.” Sorry about that California.

Of course we can dig even deeper than this when we mull over the fact that the TOC title sponsor Amgen happens to be the company manufacturing the EPO which if you believe crackpot conspiracy theorists is the very drug used by many professional cyclists. It strikes me as rather sardonic that the company selling the performance enhancing drug responsible for more doping scandals than you can poke a stick at actually sponsors a bike race. Who are they advertising to?

Now I'm not going to jump on the bandwagon and accuse Lance of any doping practices, for starters his hematocrit is nowhere near the magic 50% mark and secondly he scares me a little, I can just imagine that he has a team of lawyers wearing grey suits scouring the Internet for defamatory remarks aimed in his direction. I CANT STAND THOSE AWFUL SOCKS YOU WEAR LANCE! Oops was that defamatory? I think there's somebody at the door.

We all employ such subterfuge in our lives from time to time. Take me for example, I spent some time living in Belgium, times were tough for me and so hungry and thirsty as I was I employed a particular ruse which would garner me with free beer. You see Belgians have a bit of an inferiority complex due to being surrounded by bigger more impressive neighbors who tend to look down their noses at poor little Belgium. Due to this Belgians are extremely patriotic and keen to show off whatever it is that they feel they do better than their snooty neighbours. All I had to do is walk into a bar and say “wow I had no idea Belgian beer was so good!” At this any local within earshot would take me under their wing and insist I try all their favorites. I of course was happy to oblige thereby receiving the nourishment I needed with the locals taking delivery of the validation they crave so much from foreigners. We all walked away merrily inebriated and comfortable with our symbiotic relationship just like Lance and his fans.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Search for Form, the Need for Speed and Economic Rationalisation Part 2

I arose early this morning to continue my complex and frustrating voyage along the comeback trail (I went for a ride). In a bid to accelerate the return of some sort of fitness I have decided its time to start doing some specific efforts. Now I’m not going to bore you with the details as I’m sure nobody would be interested in what I do to keep fit. In any case what works for me may not work for you and if you are after training advice you really shouldn’t be looking to me for help.

My ride took me along a popular training and commuting route for many Melbourne cyclists, and no it wasn’t Beach Road. As I rode along cross eyed, wanting to throw up and with the taste of blood in my mouth between efforts, I began to notice how few cyclists were out this morning, the usual small bunches of threes or fours were notably absent and apart from the commuters on hybrids and MTB’s, the only cyclist I saw out training (I know he was training because he didn’t have a backpack) was the guy in full HTC Columbia regalia riding without legwarmers. Obviously he must be one of those people who don’t feel the cold, in contrast to me, fully rugged up complete with booties, thick gloves, jacket and head band. I think it must have been around six degrees and I may have over done it slightly but I would much rather be hot and sweaty than cold and shivering. I’m guessing the absent cyclists were due to everyone staying up late to watch the coverage of that big bicycle rally in France.

Cyclingmuse in depth TDF analysis: Apparently some guy from Australia is leading and this American who won it like fifteen times crashed when he rolled his front tyre and lost over ten minutes. I wouldn’t want to be the mechanic responsible for that, but the real action everyone is talking about was the fight between Carlos Barredo and Rui Costa at the end of stage six.


Now back to my self indulgent musings. As you may already know I am currently exploring the possibility of acquiring new wheels and since returning from a short vacation I have now resumed my search for some race winning "hoops". Of course I am hoping that riding new race wheels will improve my "lifestyle" in as much as it may elevate me from my mediocre, also ran lifestyle, to a well respected fast guy always in the winning move kind of lifestyle. Try as I might I cant seem to find any brand being marketed as a lifestyle wheel, in fact when I typed  "lifestyle wheel" into a popular search engine I found this:


From what I can gather you fill in the various sections in accordance to your level of satisfaction. From this you or your life coach can see where your lifestyle is out of kilter. You can then concentrate on realigning your inner balance, so if you are run of the mill in all areas but rate highly in the family department you can do something detrimental in that area like alienating one of your children to throw the wheel back into balance.
It's not surprising that bicycle manufacturers have not embraced the lifestyle marketing craze as most bicycle manufacturers, regardless of how innovative or cutting edge they may elude to be, never really push the boundaries too far and for good reason. Cyclists can be a very traditional bunch and will only accept innovation in "micro doses". You only have to look at how little the bicycle has changed over the past 100 years to see this.


Triathletes on the other hand seem to embrace as many innovative contraptions as they can fit on one bike.

Well the search for wheels is beginning to depress me, I keep seeing plenty of worthy products out there but none of them seem to fall into my price range. Put it down to me getting older and grumpier but these days I find it difficult to pay more for a product than I think it is worth. Cycling was once a blue collar sport and yes I suppose you can still get an affordable entry level race bike to start out on but the nice stuff sure is getting expensive these days. The manufacturers will justify the price because of the expensive/extensive research that goes into product development but when a bidon cage costs more than a night out for two at a respectable restaurant with a nightcap on the way home, or about 45 cups of coffee, you really have to question how much we should be paying for this stuff. Are you willing to forego all those coffees at your Sunday morning cafe stop just so you can show off your latest lashing of carbon fibre?


Money doesn't grow on trees but apparently bikes do. I don't think the one on the right is ripe yet.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Post Holiday Reconciliation

As mentioned in my previous post I have been away on a short country holiday. I hope you are imagining me away at some sort of 19th century health spa for the well-heeled, I always dreamed of being a man of means frivolously spending my aristocrat families fortune. Unfortunately it’s a dream I’m not sure I can realise.

One of the nice things about my time away was that I was far away from any news of the outside world.
I find it so invigorating to be away from the day to day twaddle that really only serves to complicate our lives. These days things seem to be presented to us with lashings of garnish to make them seem more significant than they really are. How many times have you seen a current affairs program presenting “a story which no parent can miss” or the endless communication I seem to get from my superannuation fund, updating me on how much of my hard earned has been lost due to the economic meltdown and why I should voluntarily contribute more of my dollars so that I may secure my future "lifestyle" (more likely secure some white collar criminals lifestyle as he luxuriates on his three tiered yacht at anchor off Positano).
Lifestyle... What do they mean by that? That word is bandied about like nobodies business these days, I assume its being used with positive connotations but isn't living the life of a derelict alcoholic still a "lifestyle"? A great piece of garnish I saw today was the "Lifestyle Apartment" for sale around the corner from my non lifestyle townhouse. What does it have that is so different to my humble abode. Will I be a happier consumer if I buy it? Any good chef will tell you that garnish should be edible and this linguistic decoration is becoming increasingly unpalatable to me. Maybe I'm just getting old and crotchety. Maybe I just need to go for a ride.

The positive side of coming back to civilization is that the Ronde van Frankrijk is well and truly underway and after missing the first few days I just had to stay up and watch the cobbled mayhem of stage three. Many pundits as well as competitors voiced concern over the inclusion of the pave in Le Grande Boucle citing safety concerns and fearing the damage it may cause to the fragile GC contenders.
I can see their point but don't necessarily agree. During the most televised and hotly followed race of the year its great to show those once a year cycling fans a little taste of what they have been missing during those other races Lance didn't compete in and therefore they never knew existed. This surely must be the tour organisers rationale because rumour has it that next year the traditional final time trial is to be replaced with a cyclocross stage to help generate interest in road racings country cousin. Now that is really going to shake up the GC in the final few days. Cyclocross is the steeplechase of bicycle racing and personally I'm really looking forward to its inclusion into next years tour.


 
Its the little things that make cycling so enjoyable for me and by far the highlight of stage three was the Ned Flanders flag I spotted being waved along with all the Vlaamse Leeuw (Flemish Lion) flags on the final section of kasseien (Flemish for cobbles). I will endeavour to hunt down the appropriate footage for your amusement.
Incidentally the symbol of the black lion on the yellow background  has been the emblem of the counts of Flanders since the Crusades and became the symbol of Flemish emancipation after achieving independence from those warmongering Dutch to their north. More recently the lion was appropriated by Belgian right wing political party Vlaamse Belang (formerly Vlaamse Blok) much to the chagrin of moderate but patriotic Belgians. The red rooster flag (not to be confused with the popular Australian fast food outlet) was borrowed from France as the cultural symbol of the Walloon region. The two regions are culturally very different and have never really been able live comfortably together as part of the same country as can be seen in the reenactment below.


Those madcap Belgians. When will they ever get it together?

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Search for Form, the Need for Speed and Economic Rationalisation

As I mentioned in an earlier post I am currently in the beginnings of a come back. When I will finally be back I cannot say, one thing is for sure though, it’s a long road.

Fitness is a strange concept which must be considered relative to the person striving for it. What I consider fitness may be very different to somebody who earns a living through cycling. Even the most mediocre professional cyclist is certainly going to be a lot fitter than most of us can hope to be but by the same token your average couch potato living a sedentary lifestyle would probably think that I was quite the athlete.

As I type this the rain is steadily beating down outside my window and the weather has turned decidedly Arctic (by Melbourne standards), there was once a time when I was so motivated I would have gone out in the rain and not even thought about it. Well over the years after a few too many wet, miserable training rides I started staying indoors when I could see that precipitation was imminent, as the old saying goes “rain drops, bike stops”. Somehow I don’t think Eddy Merckx ever heard of this saying. Sorry Eddy but it’s the rollers for me today.






We all find motivation in different ways, one thing that certainly enthuses me is new gear. Unfortunately I’m not well connected enough to have people throwing swag at me (unlike some other bloggers) so with this in mind I have embarked on a quest to purchase some new race wheels. I’m not going to mention any brand names but my current race wheels (a popular French mark) are over five years old and even though there is nothing wrong with them consumer culture dictates that I must upgrade to the latest greatest product. Don’t you just love being referred to as a consumer in the media? We’re not even people or citizens anymore, just consumers. I think it was Eddy Merckx who said “ride up grades don’t buy upgrades”, with that attitude its no wonder he sold his bicycle business. Apologies again Eddy.

Of course like most people in the market for bike related items my first point of call was the internet and I did what I normally do when shopping for anything. I went straight to the top of the range. All of my equipment is pretty high standard so I’m not going to ruin the aesthetic of my beautiful Italian made machine with cheap Chinese carbon am I?
As I perused the pages of an English online bicycle retailer I came across a German brand used by many top professionals, I was astonished to find that a pair of their top of the range wheels was going to cost me a whopping $6265.00 (Australian). I don’t doubt the quality of their product but does the extra speed they give me really justify their cost? Would they really be an investment in my cycling future? I doubt it. Anyway for that sort of money I could get myself to Belgium and race for about six weeks.

Next I visited my local bike shop which is something of a weekly habit for me. The social atmosphere and relaxed attitudes of the proprietors keeps me coming back, they always seem to have a funny story to tell and the service is also better than any website too. When I got there the owner was helping out a fixed gear ruffian who was looking for some deep section track wheels for the early 80’s department store ten speed he was converting (apparently he was going to grind off the pannier mounts and cable guides). He walked away satisfied with his purchase and I’m sure the finished build is going to look great in whichever pastel colour he was going to paint it. I then learned that the retail price on a very nice pair of Italian race wheels was around the $5000.00 mark, cheaper for me because I’m such a great guy. I must say I am quite taken by these race wheels. I call them race wheels but I continually see people out “training” with them on a popular beach front road frequented by local cyclists. My guess is they do it for the show off factor or a keeping up with the Joneses type scenario. Whatever makes you happy I suppose but in my opinion such nice wheels should be kept somewhere safe and only see the light of day when you intend pinning a number on your back.

In any case I still can’t afford the price so it looks like I will be sticking with my old wheels for a while longer. More research is in order but as I will be going away on a short country holiday this week (not a secret training camp) the research will have to wait till I get back.

I’ll keep you posted.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Scuttlebutt

Greetings cycling fans, with another blockbuster Giro behind us (one day everyone will wake up to the fact that it has always been more exciting than its bigger Gallic cousin) and as the days get shorter and colder (in my part of the world at least), it only serves to remind me that the Tour de France is just around the corner.

Not to long ago this was a time of joyful expectation, waiting for the evening highlights of a race which was the only cycling event which existed according to mainstream media. Alas things have changed since then and the sport is easily accessible to anyone who might be curious. Well it’s still a time of expectation for me but for different reasons. You see over the years as interest in the sport has slowly increased I have noticed a pattern. I’m waiting, waiting for the next doping scandal to break.

Of course we have already had Floyd Landis finally coming clean (after years of denial) about his doping experiences and consequently slinging mud in every direction to see where it might stick. When the story came out during the Tour of California I started to think why didn’t he wait till before the TDF? Of course soon after the Landis mud slinging Lance Armstrong had a nasty fall and had to abandon the race. According to some conspiracy theorists this was a clever ploy to avoid the media and there was even the suggestion of fake blood capsules being used by LA to feign the bloody facial injuries he received as a result of the crash! Well done to Floyd for finally coming clean, it would have taken a whole lot of guts. I just wish he had have done that from the start, he may have still had a career as a top cyclist if he did.

Soon after this came the Fabian Cancellara moto doping story.

                                            

Of course Fabian has now set the record straight and told us that the only engine he uses is inside him. Which I’m sure will only fuel even more bionic themed conspiracy theories.

The most recent (and my favourite) moto doping scandal is of course the Tom Boonen rodent assisted race wheel, which left one cycling pundit asking “Is the hamster doped?”


It seems that every year just before the TDF begins with all of us looking forward to the spectacle of the race somebody comes out with another doping scandal. I was musing over the issue the other day (that’s what I do) while out training (I call it training but really I was just out wasting time on my bike) and I think I have it worked out.
In my part of the world if you rely on mainstream media outlets for coverage of cycling you could be excused for thinking that the sport doesn’t exist outside the month of July. I’m sure cycling isn’t alone in this aspect, many fans of other world class sports must be going through the same conundrum as I am. Of course I can’t tell you which sports these people are fans of because I rely on mainstream media for my sports coverage so they may as well not exist too.

After not reporting on a sport for most of the year all of a sudden the TDF looms large on the horizon and some of our friends in the media realise they had better start showing an interest. Of course a good old scandal can sell plenty of newspapers so why not jump on the first negative story that comes along to feed the once a year interest most people show towards cycling and whip up a few sales.

In my corner of the world many people follow a certain local code of football. Now I’m not really a fan of this code of football, in fact I’m not really much of a sports fan at all apart from cycling. Just because I’m not a fan it doesn’t mean that I have anything against the sport or its fans, people can enjoy playing or viewing any sport they like.
However I do find part of this football codes anti doping policy very hard to swallow. I was astonished to find out that under the league's three strikes drugs policy a player who tests positive remains anonymous unless he returns three positive tests in a four-year period! At first I thought it was a joke but I did some digging and apparently it’s true. I singled out my local code of football because thanks to the amount of media coverage it gets it’s almost impossible to avoid it. When quizzed on the leagues testing regime one player mused… "I got tested a heap … I reckon in the last year-and-a-half I was playing I would have been tested over a dozen times".

How can one sport be so lackluster in its attitude to anti doping while another sport like cycling can stop somebody from competing for failing to notify the anti doping establishment of their whereabouts? Remember when Michael Rasmussen was ejected from the TDF? He failed to report his whereabouts  and was unavailable for testing in the lead up to the 2007 TDF which led to him receiving a recorded warning from the UCI. The Danish cycling union then decided to ban Rasmussen in lieu of missed drug tests during this period. Rasmussen said: "I do admit that I've committed an administrative error. I was informed of this at the Danish championship two and a half weeks ago, so it's no news... It might be a surprise that it comes out right now.” Rasmussen copped a two year ban and never even tested positive. Some might think that it may have been to harsh a penalty but I think you will all agree that it does a lot more for the anti doping cause than a three strikes policy.

I know that you might be thinking that I am all for the cycling “omerta” which is far from the case. Doping is a subject that needs to be discussed, athletes need to be encouraged to come clean to help the effort to clean up the sport. Anti doping authorities can learn much from those who have been cheating and getting away with it. Like it or not doping is a part of all professional sports. I am all for a cleaner sport and improved testing. I also think that doping cases need to be reported as they arise, fairly, and not selectively as seems to be happening. Sensationalism in the media has the power to hurt the sport we love and I don’t think any of us want to see that.
All sports need to work together to have a common standard towards doping. The problem is with plenty of corporate dollars being thrown at professional sports the sponsors want to see a return on their investment. To give them that return the sport needs to attract more fans for the sponsors to advertise to. Sponsors do not want to see a drug scandal. I suspect that some sports minimal efforts towards doping control help minimise the bad press they receive when another role model athlete goes positive. Why would parents want there child involved in a sport if that sports athletes are going positive every other week? What do they say to little Jonny when the supposedly clean living, healthy role model on their kids bedroom wall gets banned for taking veterinary products?

I think cycling is suffering because of its strong stance on doping. Im sure you have all experienced those moments when a non cycling fan hears you talking about a race and says “cycling, all those guys in the tour take drugs don’t they?” Sometimes it feels like ours is the only sport in the world with a doping problem (a reported one anyway). If only all the professional sporting associations could get together and decide on a level of control which they all adhere to. Of course there is next to no chance of this ever happening.

Incidentally you may be curious to know that there is a common factor in the Cancellara moto doping and the Rasmussen story. Retired Italian professional cyclist Davide Cassani.



Cassani works as a cycling commentator on Italian TV these days, that’s him presenting the moto doping story and telling us that he could win a stage of the Giro at 50 years of age if he had a such bike. Incidentally Cassani won 2 Giro di Italia stages of his own in 1991 and 1992. It was also Cassani who reported that he had seen Rasmussen training in Italy in June 2007 unfortunately for Rasmussen the schedule he submitted to the UCI had him in Mexico at that time.


Oh well I might just go back to waiting for the next scandal.





Followers