Monday, 22 August 2011

Thomas Voeckler vs a horse

Sport is entertaining. Athletes, like every other celebrity, need to exchange their cultural capital into social capital, that's how people remain in the public eye. This is also one of the reasons celebrities often hang out together. Anyway, I'll stop there, but you catch where I'm going. Athletes need to promote themselves, sponsors and the team as a part of their job. In the period after the tour, we see this clearly with the crits taking place all over Europe.

Here you'll find a video of the ever so popular French rider Thomas Voeckler trying to outsprint a horse a couple of days ago at an exhibition in Les Sables-d'Olonne, located in the Vendée area, close to where Voeckler resides. Who will get to the finish line first?


Thursday, 18 August 2011

Transfer season - not everybody continues as cyclists

From front of the peloton to the back - transfers just as important

Photo downloaded here.

It is transfer season indeed. Every single day we read about riders changing team, staying with present team or just rumours, more or less accurate depending on the source.  The newest “rumour” on the notebook is that of Tony Martin, going to Omega Pharma – Quickstep. Apparently, this is just a rumour, because others, like Daniel Benson of CN, say that Martin has yet to sign the contract. Confused yet?

Not all riders are going to continue on the bike. Some will not seek the roads again, having studied while riding or due other reasons. Some continue behind the wheel of a team car, taking up on the important role as DS or rider developer. Why is this worth mentioning, I hear you ask. Well, firstly it is a topic many have neglected so far, which in itself makes it interesting. Secondly, a move like this is crucial for the future of the sport, something that should interest all of us.

For the rider making that leap might find it difficult in the beginning. Some might find it hard not being in the spotlight themselves for a change, knowing that the world does not rotate around them anymore, some will experience a feeling of not knowing if he has what it takes. The team owner might fear the Peters Principle, since great palmares as a rider, not automatically guarantees any success as a DS.

If we look at cycling the recent years it has evolved and it has done so in many ways. Like @sofaboy wrote in his post recently, “it’s time to start believing again”. We can all irritate our heart out on behalf of some decisions made by the UCI and we can debate this over and over again – so we should. But in addition to this perspective, culture can arguably being built from the bottom and up. This means that we should follow closely what happens inside teams, not only who the riders are, but also who is doing what, who’s coming from where stating what earlier. We should demand some answers from teams who hire people with dodgy backgrounds. Yes, as Brailsford said earlier: “it is difficult to find skilled people nowadays who hasn’t got a past”. Well, that may be true some years ago, but I don’t believe it is wise to hide behind that conclusion any longer. There are many talented people out there with a burning desire to help riders and teams develop further. 

I want those riders who continue as DS, or in other positions in teams, to be the best. They must have integrity, respect in the peloton, they must have something to contribute in order to make a difference. It could be that my expectations are high, perhaps too high, and it may be that I will be disappointed. Still, this is my view and hope. Luckily, I can think of many riders who can fill such positions when the time is right. Arvesen at Team Sky, Pinotti at HTC to mention a few.

So let’s not forget that transfer season brings hope to the evolvement of cycling from inside teams’ staff too.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Hushovd's move to BMC - punishment in place?

Yesterday Team BMC and reigning World Champion Hushovd confirmed the rumours that have been debated in the cycling community - he leaves Garmin-Cervelo for BMC. Hushovd signed a three year deal and will be closely followed during training in Monaco, something he says was important to him. At the same time, this indicates that he wasn't given the same follow-up while in Garmin. Team BMC will have people supporting Hushovd at several key training periods in Monaco, with a designated team car pacing him in the hilly mountains surrounding Monaco.

Hushovd's arrival at Garmin was debated back in the day, and many questioned tha fact that there were too many leaders in competing positions, something that could ignite some confusion within the team. I wrote a post about this in April, you can read that here.

Solo wins from Hushovd - a sight we'll be familiar with?.

The Vuelta
Last year, Hushovd did what many sprinters do, used the Vuelta as spesific training towards the Worlds. We all know how that went. Hushovd's personal coach told me before the season that Hushovd and he had three peaks as target for the 2011 season: the first week of April (RVV & P-R), the Tour and the Worlds. The two of them have identified that the Vuelta is a key factor for building and peaking the race form for the Worlds. Earlier this week, Hushovd's personal coach, Atle Kvålsvoll, said to that he fears Hushovd will be punished for not continuing riding for Garmin. Kvålsvoll says that if Hushovd's not allowed to race the Vuelta, the US Pro Cycling Challenge is a possible alternative.

However, as of yet, nothing is decided. Jonathan Vaughters has not commented on the matter. The fact that Hushovd did a superb tdf and is the WC could mean that his position in the Vuelta is secure, but history says that riders who won't contribute next year isn't always getting their number one priorities. Vaughters has been clear that in Garmin-Cervelo, the word "team" is the most important one, not individuality. Will Vaughters prioritize to have sprinters leaving the Vuelta half-way, or focus on a possible top five GC? On the other hand, the organisers and team sponsors will probably want the reigning WC in the Vuelta for publicity.

I guess time will tell.

Photocredit: Sirotti, downloaded here.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Dopers redemption - what does it take?

It's August and silly season is "officially" all over us. Everybody knows the talking has taken place during the season and especially during the tour, nowadays it's all about the formalisation itself, aka the signature. Some riders have been assigned as stagiares and are new to the pro peloton, while others are not to be found in the pro ranks next season due to lack of performance, old age or other reasons. Among those who are returning to the pro or conti peloton are riders having spend a year or two outside for doping conviction. What to say about this? The ones who have failed to live up to the expectations of fans, teams and public, who fooled not only themselves but others who trusted them? What makes their return ok?

The idea of this post has been on my mind for a long time, or perhaps the right way of putting it is; many times have this subject crossed my mind. As you all know, doping has been a part of cycling as in every other professional endurance sport for many years. I have mixed feelings bringing it up too, sometimes I'm quite tired of hearing about it, feeling that too much emphasis is being put on those who cheats instead of those who don't. But, with this post I hope to learn more about why some rider are forgiven, while others not.

There are examples of riders who doped who are being welcomed back into the sport and now are ambassadors/spokesmen against dopers, David Millar is one. Why are some riders, convicted or currently under investigation, treated differently than others?
Contador's racing in the Giro and the Tour seemed to make more people forgive/forget the Damocles sword of doping hanging over his head.
How important is the scale of offence? If a rider's caught being 32, is it plausible to suspect him of doping his/her entire career? Are all dopers the same, if not, how do we measure that?

Everybody won't get a second chance
I read an article in where Thomas Dekker's return was covered. I found that very interesting and I got new earned respect for Vaughters, not that I didn't have it before, but the article made me think. Dekker's tests from 2007 was retested, proving postive for EPO, and the following years were hard on him. After many conversations and discussions with Vaughters, Dekker went through intensive testing prior to be selected to ride for Chipotle, Garmin's farmer team. Dekker had to prove for Vaughters that he was capable of being a rider on a certain level without doping and according to, Dekker had to cooperate with WADA. Dekker himself said he "feels a responsibility to inform young riders about the dangers of doping."

People deserve a second chance, right? Nobody's perfect and mistakes are being made by everyone. I know from earlier debates on twitter that some do not agree with me on this, but that is how I feel. I feel there is a huge difference between now and before. Ok, money's on the table and riders need a job, but times are changing. It is not the same like back in the 90's, even though judging by today's races and stages, it sometimes seems difficult to understand that. It is possible to get an exciting race climbing over only one HC mountain instead of riding over three HC in a stage.

I still get just as upset when a new positive test are being revealed. I find this whole debate difficult since feelings are involved too. As a result, a person's attitude or opinions towards a sport is not entirely rational, making argumentation often agitated.
I must say I don't view riders I've admired the same way after they have been caught, I think no one does. A large chunk of respect of that individual will always be gone, and I will always wonder if they still dope. Like it or not, that is my view.

Done their time
Some riders and fans say that since riders have done their time, it is ok to welcome them back, just as any other criminal are/should be in our society. But is it that simple?
I read on twitter today that what we as fans feel about riders prior to the offence is more important than people will admit. One matter many have mentioned is the doper's willingness to admit their sins in public. This will over time improve the rider's image. I guess it something about stepping up and take responsibility that makes us more able to forgive. Like in ethics and moral, honesty is important for how we judge people. The riders have people surrounding them, family and friends, having disappointed someone close to you, who trusted you, must be awful.

The super human performances is not as visible as before. I take this as a good sign. When somebody is performing well, I will from now on say that "well, someone has to be best". I choose to keep my faith, because there are some signs that we are witnessing an increasingly clearer peloton. I will put my scepticism and cynicism behind me, after all, with riders like Sagan, Kittel, Pinot, Degenkolb, EBH and G, the future has never looked so bright.

Friday, 5 August 2011

#FF on the blog for a change

As most of you already know, my last posts from the tour and up until now is found on, a new site dedicated to cycling. Humour and some good analysis/comments to be found there, from @UCI_Overlord to @sofaboy and @autofact.

I will try to post some of my post here as well, to have this site "up-to-speed" when I return full time to this blog.

I tend to give #FFs a bit random on twitter, a bit uncertain of every use of the microbloggingsphere I guess. Those of you who follow my tweets will probably know who I enjoy to interact with. However, there are others as well...

I love to discover new things and to learn, that also applies on twitter and in the cycling world in general. That's what I enjoy the most on twitter; to get inspired, educated, meaningful discussions (both to watch and be a part of), by people from all over the world. Stories, news, comments, analysis. 

How fantastic is that? Interact with people all over the globe in a blink of an eye.
Sometimes, twitter takes too much time. There are others around me who wants a part of me, and I have to choose my time spent on the internet in accordance with this. Get me right, it's not actually even a choice to make, as I have a clear understanding of what's important in life. This is just to inform you why I sometimes go underground.

This time I chose to do something new in terms of #FFs, posted here on the blog. Sorry for no hyperlinks, but that would ahve taken too much time. If you see someone you don't follow, search them up and add.

#FF news:

#FF people in no particular order:
@daveno7, @dimspace, @SSbike, @sitdowninfront, @cycletard, @flammecast, @sofaboy, @irishpeloton, @gekke82, @LeeBoyman, @FlashingPedals, @GiusiVirelli, @BikeTart, @podiuminsight, @Queenofthecols, @leguape, @euanlindsay, @Sprinting4signs, @jon_cannings, @_Gavia_, @_mattio, @gematkinson, @ShaunaSmash, @CleoPompom, @thomas_lequipe, @inrng, @micacquarone, @velocb @Cyclopathic, @jeremyrauch, @humphr, @jeffvolkmer @chestnut38, @festinagirl @MonaLS85, @pllb, @quinn_e, @arlo_m, @abandonedbike, @jennyvelo, @propulse, @jenscer, CycleGirl108, @peletonmagazine, @reitbakk.

#FF humour:

#FF photographers (they are incredible):

I am 100% percent sure I left someone who didn't deserve it out in the cold. So, for those of you who is not there - sorry! Fix that next time then.