September 28, 2011
(via Chris’ Custom Commuter)

(via Chris’ Custom Commuter)

September 28, 2011
velocast cc - Comment - Richmond Is Another Blaze McQuaid Should Have Controlled

From now on I’ll be posting at the new website, Velocast.cc. However, I’ll make sure that posts written there are also sent here.

Postscript: What happened to Tumblr’s ability to automatically create posts from an RSS feed? Grrrrr

September 16, 2011
Muur The One That I Want

The organisers of the 2012 Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders) have announced the route for next year’s course. The talking point is that it will not contain the Muur van Geraardsbergen climb as the race has been designed to give a new finish, in Oudenaarde instead of Meerbeke, where it has ended since 1973.

So in the absense of both the Muur and the Bosberg, the route takes in the Oude Kwaremont and the Paterberg three times on a final circuit.

Director of the Centrum Ronde van Vlaanderen in Oudenaarde, Rik Vanwalleghem, told Het Nieuwsblad,

"With Oudenaarde as a finish, the route of the Ronde van Vlaanderen will be completely different in the finale," 

Well, that’s certainly true.

'Mixing Things Up A Bit' fever seems to be spreading around the race directors fraternaity like a venerial disease at a North London Comprehensive school. Tour De France director, Christian Prudhomme, has been spicing up his 3-week grand tour in the past few years, but it is generally accepted that the Grand Boucle has been all the better for it.

Others haven’t been looked on quite as kindly. Take, for instance, Angelo Zomegnan who was removed recently from his role as Giro d’Italia director after seven years in charge. It was he who had toughened the route up, year on year, until finally, this year, the teams and managers said ‘enough is enough’ when faced with the decsent of the Crostis. Following a major row, the stage was removed from the Giro route the night before it was due to take place.

So what to make of the decision to omit the Muur and the Bosberg from the 2012 Ronde van Vlaanderen?

I can’t help but liken this to attending a gig by that band you really like and them not playing that really great song that was at number 1 for 18 weeks and that was the only reason you got into them in the first place!

Or perhaps you’ll find it more apposite of me to suggest it’s like being the cycling off-spring of a Herr and Frøken Rasmussen and actually showing up for a whereabouts test.

Or, or, or, yes, I’ve got it; Like the Tour of Flanders without the bloody Muur van Geraardsbergen and the Bosberg!

As Inrng pointed out in his piece:

Repeating the same climb again and again is something you see in the Amstel and that’s because the Dutch don’t have too many climbs so they need to reuse them. Doing this in Flanders somehow reduces the romance of the race.

So while there is nothing inherintly wrong about changing the route of a race, there are some aspects of races that shouldn’t be tampered with. Grand Tours are able to dabble in course experiments because the nature of the race allows it. Sometimes the organisers get it right. Other times they get it spectacularly wrong.

However, one day classics, like the Tour of Flanders, should be left alone and their landmarks celebrated for what they are: icons of the sport.

I come back to what I’ve said in this column before. Without the fans, the sponsors don’t sponsor, the riders don’t ride and there would be no races to tamper with. So where was the voice of the fans in this decision?

September 8, 2011
McQuaid Bullies His Way To Beijing

In my post yesterday I wrote the following:

Rumour has it that the UCI threatened to pull the ProTour licenses of every team that did not go to Beijing and that sponsors were even contacted to get their teams to comply.

Shane Stokes from Velonation.com also wrote about this rumour in his original report that race radios were coming back for 2012 and that the teams would cancel their threatened boycott and attend the inaugural Tour Of Beijing.

I can now confirm that this rumour is true.

The UCI individually and directly contacted the marketing personnel of key sponsors of cycling teams. This was also done in isolation so as each individual sponsor would not know that others had also been contacted. The UCI wanted to tell them that if their team didn’t race in Beijing, their license would be removed and that they should also consider removing the team management who were making such unreasonable threats to the Tour Of Beijing.

Further to this, the UCI claimed that pulling out of the Beijing Tour would result in direct involvement from the Chinese government who would hurt the sponsor’s business interest in China itself.

The understandable reaction from those individuals contacted was to panic and urge the teams to comply with the request by the UCI to call off the boycott.

Frankly, this is unacceptable behaviour in any sphere of life. On Pat McQuaid’s watch, and to facilitate a race which he has a direct financial interest in, the UCI is now resorting to threats, bullying and coercion. These kind of tactics should be below any organisation, least of all a governing body whose only interests should be of a sporting nature.

The actions of the UCI are nothing short of appalling. There is no other word for it but thuggery and, like doping, it should have no place in cycling. Heads must roll.

September 7, 2011
Race Radios Leave Egg On Vaughters Poker Face

The AIGCP and the UCI have reached an agreement over radios and Beijing. But who got the better deal?

It is said that the British have a reputation for not being able to haggle. There is, apparently, something deep within the psyche of those peoples which makes it nigh on impossible to enter into negotiations which could see them get a better deal on the things they want. Paying for goods or services almost becomes an apology. “Are you really sure that you don’t want me to give you any more money for this item? I don’t mind, old chap. Really, I don’t.”.

The inhabitants of other countries, we are told, tend to fare better with the business of bartering. Americans, it is said, being especially good at it. For in the land of the free commerce is an inalienable right and it is understood from the moment that the curtain goes up in the theatre of transaction, all the players know that it is every man for his or herself.

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September 5, 2011
L’Equipe Is Dead Wrong About Leopard Trek

The French newspaper believes that Leopard-Trek is to come to an end this season. Now why on earth would they think that?

The rumour mill has been in full-force recently, industriously producing speculation and conjecture over the possibility of a merger between Team Radioshack and Leopard Trek. At first most people treated this with incredulity and disbelief and more than a few resorted to Sean Connery impressions, crying; “Shum mishtake, shurely!”.  But despite denial after denial this is a canard that simply refuses to die. 

This morning, following a night’s speculation on Twitter, L’Equipe published an article stating “Leopard, c’est fini”, and that 11 riders currently under contract will have to look elsewhere for 2012.

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August 26, 2011
Biological Passport: The UCI’s PR Stunt

When the UCI released its press release as a response to Gerard Vroomen’s Biological Passport blog post, I couldn’t help but feel that there were a few questions that remained unanswered.

Vroomen said that he had not heard of any riders being tested from the end of the 2010 Tour De France until April 2011.  He also suggested that this may have been because of legal fees incurred when riders, such as Franco Pellizotti, have gone to court to prove their innocence.

In the press release the UCI said that 1074 tests were conducted from 1st of July 2010 (excluding urine tests and Tour De France 2010) and 1577 completed to the period to the 30th April 2011.  It also refuted the aforementioned claims that the funds used for fighting legal cases.

So, that’s fine then.  Isn’t it?

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August 25, 2011
Where Is Roman Kireyev?

Yesterday the official Astana team website announced the retirement of 24 year old Roman Kireyev.  According to the website, the Kazakh rider told the Astana team management of his decision on Friday, August 19th (remember that date.  It’s important, Conspiracy Ed) and is the result of a back injury picked up last year.  The site also claimed that this decision came as no surprise to them as Kireyev had informed Astana sports directors some months ago.

It certainly surprised most of us.

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August 23, 2011
Pinotti To Receive His Irish Tour Money

On the 18th of August  Cyclingnews.com published an interview with soon to be ex-HTC rider Marco Pinotti in which the Italian discussed his plans for the 2012 season and a possible move to BMC.

At the end of this article was a section on Pinotti’s links with the now defunct Tour Of Ireland which Marco had won outright in 2008 and placed fifth in its final ‘09 edition.  Pinotti announced via Twitter that he had not received prize money from this race.

 “It wasn’t a pleasing situation for anybody, for us riders or for the Tour of Ireland, but the economic situation didn’t help.

“I received a personal message from Rushton after I wrote about it on Twitter. He said that there had been financial problems, but that he would do everything he could to pay the prizes, even if he had to do it personally.

“I replied saying that I understood the situation. My tweet was simply to find out if anybody had received prize money, I didn’t want to blame Rushton.”

The Tour Of Ireland was organised by Alan Rushton, who is now part of the management committee organising the Tour Of Beijing, and Darach McQuaid who is currently involved in organising the Richmond, Virginia bid to host the 2015 World Championships.  Darach McQuaid is also the brother of UCI President, Pat McQuaid.

As the Cycling News article pointed out:

According to UCI rules, race organisers must deposit the prize money with their national federation at least 30 days before the event, and that money is then distributed to riders within 90 days of the end of the race.

Having contacted Cycling Ireland about this interview I was told that, as far as they were concerned, Marco Pinotti had been paid directly by the race organisers and had assurances from Rushton some months ago that this had been done.

Given that I had brought the apparent lack of payment to their attention last Friday, Cycling Ireland contacted Alan Rushton yet again and further assurances have come from him that plans are in place for a settlement to Marco Pinotti in the next few weeks.

Cycling Ireland also said that they did not seek any advance on the prize money as it was to be paid directly by the organisers.  The UCI Road Races Organiser’s Guide states:

Payment can be replaced by a guarantee delivered to the National Federation. In this case, the prizes are paid directly to the riders by the organiser within 90 days. If this does not happen, the National Federation calls in the bank guarantee.

Given how easy it seems to be to circumvent this rule (by assuring the national federation that prizes have been paid when in fact they haven’t), you do have to question its validity.

It shouldn’t take a rider to sent a Twitter message, or be interviewed by a cycling website or indeed for a blogger such as myself to ask questions of a national federation for a rider to receive the prize money owed to him.  

We all appreciate the difficulty that the Tour Of Ireland found itself in 2009 and lamented its demise.  However, rules are supposedly in place to stop this kind of thing happening.  It would interesting to hear from Alan Rushton and Darach McQuaid, as organisers of the Tour Of Ireland, as to why it did.

August 21, 2011
Sky Make The Case For The Radio Ban

The earliest mention I can find of radio communication in cycle racing is Paul Köchli, the Directeur Sportif of the La Vie Claire team, being offered a prototype system in 1985.  The Swiss, nicknamed the Professor due to the meticulous coaching course that he ran, declined the offer and dismissed the emergent technology out of hand.

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