KNEE JERK REACTION? WIGGINS OUT OF TOUR
What a shame to learn last week that Sir Bradley of Wiggins wouldn’t be defending his Tour de France title this summer with news that he has withdrawn from the race before it has even begun. The reason is a dodgy knee, though some suggest that following the Giro he learned he would have to go downhill again and voluntarily took himself out of the race. If you go with the official word from Sky, he’s injured and despite reports that he’s been training for four hours a day, unable to start.
Conspiracy theorists are out in force suggesting this is an easy out for Sky to avoid the potential headache of a Wiggins v Chris Froome head-to-head that would only have added entertainment value to the race. It suits Sky more this way, but watching these two going at one another would have brought back memories of LeMond v Hinault for those old enough to remember the mid-80’s (not me!).
With the loose end / loose cannon, that is / could be, Wiggins now tied up Sky can assume robotic focus on the Tour as they like to do. Marginal gains, matching the power of their rivals, and grinding their way to a victory. Chris Froome is the man now and the big question aside from what the real reason behind Wiggins’s sudden withdrawal, is whether Wiggins will now move on to a new team? You’d have to think so.
2013 has been a disaster for him. From the Giro to this, but you cannot feel too sorry given the year he had in 2012 winning the Tour and the Olympic title on home soil as well as a host of other pre-Tour races. You take the rough with the smooth and all he can do is focus on a strong end of season — Vuelta anyone? — and take that into 2014.
Still the Tour would have been better with him there as it’s always better with as many star riders as possible. Froome will miss Wiggins’s presence in the team-time-trial but that’s about it. For the rest it’s a blow. Sure they’re glad to see one more potential challenger fail to take the start, but the likes of Alberto Contador must surely have been hoping for Sky to get mixed up in fighting one another that they forgot to consider him as he scampered off into the distance.
COOKSON TO CHALLENGE THE DEMOCTATIC PAT MCQUAID FOR UCI PRESIDENCY
Brian Cookson, the president of British Cycling, has stepped forward, removed his top-hat and tossed it into a ring containing Pat McQuaid in a bid to out-duel the current head of the UCI for his job.
Cookson who once — not so long ago — backed McQuaid has since seen the light and decided that cycling could do much better and that he’s the man to “restore cycling’s credibility”. Cookson who has been head of British cycling since 1996 felt he had little choice but to turn his back on McQuaid following the breakdown of the independent commission and a lack of support from WADA.
“For far too many people our sport is associated with doping, with decisions that are made behind closed doors and with ceaseless conflicts,” said the man of the hour.
Of course, McQuaid couldn’t take this lying down and responded with a letter to the various presidents of national associations questioning Cookson’s character despite claiming in the same letter that he “would welcome any candidate to stand” against him. “The UCI will always be a democracy while I am in office” said the same Pat McQuaid who scampered off to Switzerland to get his nomination for the presidency when his own federations member clubs democratically attempted to shut him out.
That’s what we’re dealing with here.
I don’t know a ton about Cookson to be fair and like any good political figure he talks a good game, but let’s face it, can he be a lot worse? I’ve no doubt McQuaid has done some good for the sport on some level or another, but where it truly matters, where the face of the sport is visible in front of the world — the professional side of things, he has been found wanting. On top of abolishing the independent commission he has refused to implement a truth and reconciliation body, he has admitted that the federation took donations from Lance Armstrong during his all too sketchy career, and he called the likes of Floyd Landis and Tyler Hamilton “scumbags”, not for what they did as cyclists, but for coming clean and telling the truth on drug use while defending Armstrong to the hilt.
A fresh face is badly needed … Cookson might well be it. Right now it’s a case of better the devil you don’t know.
SANTAMBROGIO THE LATEST DOPE
A quick word on Mauro Santambrogio who became the second rider from the Giro, and the second rider from the Vini Fantini team, to fail a doping test. Santambrogio failed a test for EPO from stage one which has left many wondering if he was a targeted man given that stage one was a sprint stage and that he’s a climber. He did win on stage 14 ahead of Vincenzo Nibali (can we retrospectively award the stage to Nibali for what would be his third stage win of the Giro he won?) and finished ninth overall.
I didn’t want to give this subject more than the paragraph it barely deserves but I did want to note that it’s good to see the process is working. That’s two positive tests for two riders quite well known in that one — Danilo Di Luca — is a former cheat and the other a man who contended for the GC. There was no hiding and no getting away from it. Cycling can be proud that it tests as much as it does and that it’s weeding out the cheats. More than ever before you’re likely to get caught if you decide to gamble of enhancing your performance through questionable means and that’s huge for the sport. It’s also nice to see Santambrogio’s fellow professional’s openly criticising him, a stance we’ve rarely seen in the past and one we need to see more of in the future.
CONTADOR LOOKS MORE LIKE THE TYPICAL SPANISH CLIMBER SUDDENLY
That is, one who can’t time-trial. I seen the results of today’s 32.5 km time-trial in the Critérium du Dauphiné — the race formally known as the Dauphiné Libéré — and was surprised to see how normal Alberto Contador suddenly looked. He finished a staggering 3 minutes, 37 seconds behind the mighty time-trial specialist (and winner of the 2007 Ras, I might add!), Tony Martin who himself covered the course at an average —average — speed of over 52 kilometres per hour.
Is this a good thing to see Contador look so human compared to the days when he would win time-trials as well as punish his rivals on the climbs? Does this hint at a more normal, and dare I say, cleaner Alberto? It’s hard not to jump to such a conclusion.
Contador’s biggest rival for the Tour, Chris Froome showed that British climbers don’t have the same trouble with time-trials and finished third, 52 seconds behind Martin who beat Australian Rohan Dennis into second at 47 seconds. Sky had four men in the top ten (Edvald Boasson Hagen (6th), Richie Porte (7th), and Geraint Thomas (10th) to go with Froome), a real show of strength ahead of the Tour.
Contador was quick to excuse the result as being the result of allergies: “There were some difficult moments for me, because of the allergies. Finishing so far behind? It’s not very important, of course if I finish in front of him (Froome), it’s better, but I know that the Dauphiné is the Dauphiné and the Tour is the Tour. These allergies should have finished by then.
Good enough excuse in place should he suddenly surge in performance between now and the Tour then? Many will think so, but let’s wait and see. Right now I think it’s welcoming to see a more fallible Contador even if he could yet prove to be the best come July.