Wednesday 30 December 2009

2009 Review of the Cycling Year

Another year, indeed another decade, has almost passed and it's time for the first, maybe annual (if I remember), definitely not at all prestigious, Muse-ette Awards

(Disclaimer: no actual awards will be presented ... it's just me thinking out loud).

In my opinion 2009 has been a good year for the bike world. It's been a year that has seen triumph and tragedy, high profile comebacks and (hopefully) good riddances, spectacular TV viewing, great racing, farcical administrative decisions and lot's of talking points.  What more could you want?

So here, in no particular order, are the 2009 Muse-ette Awards:

Best Stage Race: Le Tour. Thrills, spills, politics, bitching and, for a change, no early morning arrests.

Best One Day Race: Paris-Roubaix. OK, I've always loved Roubaix but this years was particularly good. Who wouldn't have been rooting for "Charlie" Boonen to do over Pozzatto after his tactics in Flanders the previous week.

Best Performance: Cadel Evans at the Worlds. He kept his head down all day, looked like he'd missed the boat, and then defied every one of his critics by launching a devastating attack at the foot of the final climb to win almost within sight of his European home. That it came off the back of a disastrous Tour was even more impressive. Not sure about his move to BMC though! Honourable Mention: Alberto Contador for winning the Tour so emphatically despite the sore losers in his own team and Andy Schleck for his win at Liege-Bastogne-Liege.

Best Irish Rider: Philip Deignan bags us a Grand Tour stage again at long last and what a fabulous place to do it. Honourable Mention: Nicolas Roche for being in every (it seemed) break in the Tour, made even better by his being in the Irish Champions jersey.

Best Young Rider: Sam Bennett. What a Rás! Honourable Mention: Edvald Boassen Hagen and Jacob Fuglsang

Best Celebration: Fabian Cancellara. Who else could afford to take time to celebrate winning the Worlds TT as if he was away in a road race? 

Most Embarrassing Result of the Year: Valverde wins the Vuelta. How can he be winning a Grand Tour in one country when he's banned in another? Farcical.

The Bertie Ahern Play the Man not the Ball Award (coupled with the Anglo Irish Bank Self Interest over Ethics Award): Lance Armstrong, for trying to bully Contador out of a Tour title when his legs couldn't do it for him, and for never once taking a position against doping.

The Shackleton Award for Defying the Odds Through Epic Hardness: Joe Barr for not just completing, but winning, the Race Around Ireland with a broken foot. Have you seen the state he was in on that BBC documentary?

The Thierry Henry Cheat of the Year Award: Danilo Di Luca for making us want to believe his Giro exploits were real even though we should have known better. (Dis)Honourable Mention: Rebellin,  Hamilton, Astarloza, Colom, Jimenez Sanchez, Bosisio, Nozal, Guerra, Ribeiro, Dekker, Biondo, Landaluze, Serrano, Astarloa, Cauchiolli, etc, etc

The Woodward and Bernstein Award for Asking Awkward Questions: Paul Kimmage for that press conference at the Tour of California.

The "As Welcome as a F**t in a Spacesuit" Award: Jointly to Vino, Basso, Ricco and Rasmussen. Need I say more. Although it was nice to see Basso reduced to attention seeking breaks at the Giro now that he's not got the pharma-boost of old to rely on.

The Martin Cullen E-Voting Machines Award for Stupid Decisions: UCI and IOC for dropping the individual pursuit from the Olympics in favour of the Omnium. Who could argue with swapping the spectacle of the worlds best endurance track athletes (Phinney, Thomas, Wiggins, Romero, etc) fighting it out, head to head, over 4 minutes or so for an event no-one knows anything about and which is won over six days without  necessarily winning any of the races?

Finally, 2009 has also been a year when the cycling community sadly lost some of it's finest members including:

Paul Healion, 31, Irish Criterium Champion tragically killed in a car crash just days before the Tour of Ireland.
Frank Vandenbroucke, 34, a sad end to a sad life blighted by drugs and depression.
Johnny Helms, 85, Cycling Weekly cartoonist for over 63 years drew his final Dog Chases Bike scene.
Mark Bell, 48, British RR Champion in the 80's also sadly succumbs to depression.
Frederiek Nolf, 21, promising young Belgian rider died in his sleep during the Tour of Qatar.
Dimitri DeFauw, 28, sadly committed suicide three years after he was involved in a freak accident which took the life of Spanish World Champion Isaac Galvez during the Ghent Six.

May they all rest in peace.

Finally it's only left for me to thank you for visiting my blog and wish you all a very Happy New Year and many enjoyable miles in 2010.

Sunday 20 December 2009

Love for the Doper

Love for the Doper (

I came across this posting via the Bike Pure website. It's an interesting take on the doping issue although it's not one I'm feeling very comfortable about.

The essence of his argument is that doping in sport is addictive, progressing from amateur dabbling to professional dependence. The thesis is that dopers can't help themselves and therefore should be pitied.

I realise the author, as an alcoholic is, thankfully, better qualified than me to speak about addiction but, as a cycling fan, here are 5 reasons why this makes me uncomfortable, in no particular order:

1) Dopers are not victims! It's undoubtedly true that there has long been an organised system within cycling, leading, or driving, impressionable young riders down a road they may not have traveled unaided. However, it's rare that one of these young "victims", or even supposedly clean riders, elects to come clean once they reach the peaks where that pressure wouldn't be present. Senior riders over the years, some undoubtedly brought up on doping, have been the driving force behind the Omerta, not it's victims. Think Lance and Simeoni!

2) Giving the doper the addict tag implies that they are on an involuntary downward slide. It creates the impression that the doper is spiraling to an inevitable ruin. However, doping is a voluntary activity. Further the intention, and until recently likely outcome, is quite the opposite. Doping is designed to raise the rider upwards to a career steeped in riches and glory.

3) An alcoholic or drug addict may or may not be aware of, or accepting of, their addiction. In contrast the doper is fully aware of what they are doing. Its a deliberate act designed to enrich the doper. Furthermore the history of doping is one of conscious, deliberate striving for that more effective, less detectable drug.

4) An alcoholic or drug addict undoubtedly leaves a trail of hurt among those close to them as they indulge their habit. In contrast a doper brings glory and riches to their immediate circle, with the hurt only coming if and when they are caught, ironically at the point the doping probably stops. Funny enough I can't recall any of those sharing in the glory and riches blowing the whistle either!

5) It's common to hear of a drug addict resorting to stealing from an innocent party to raise the cash to feed their addiction. The doper steals results, money and fame from their opponents as a direct, intended consequence of their doping, not as a by product. And not many of them (even David Millar) feel the need to give back their winnings/bonuses/salaries even with the UCI contract.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not a "hang-em-all" reactionary and I do feel compassion towards someone who has the prospect of fame and fortune dangled in front of them if only they'll just bend over and take the jab. But  when you read Bernard Kohl's latest revelations it's hard to buy the victim line.

Tuesday 1 December 2009

Sometimes it's just better on your own

It's been a while!

With it being the off season there's not much news and with the weather so bad there've been very few miles done. All in all that doesn't leave much to write about.

Thankfully this weekend the gales did die down and the rain stopped for a bit. Long enough to get a spin in anyway.  

Suitably wrapped up, complete with new overshoes and thermal gloves, I headed for north County Dublin on Saturday morning, intending to do a 35/40 miles. Enough to stretch the legs and still get home for the ballet run in the afternoon. My daughters the dancer by the way, not me :)   There was the prospect of an Ireland-South Africa rugby game involved too.

Anyway, heading around the Malahide estuary I caught up with two guys heading my direction. I got chatting and decided they were going pretty much my way so thought I'd tag along. Now I should point out that I had an ulterior motive. I've been back riding almost a year now. Apart from one or two exceptions I've been sticking pretty much by myself. That's been partly due to time constraints but partly down to confidence.  I know the level most groups are at and I've not felt that I've been at that level just yet.

Lately I've been tossing that one over and have been on the verge of calling a relative who said I can tag along with his Saturday morning chain gang. But each week I've chickened out. It's not the miles that I'm nervous about, it's the climbs. I'm still carrying a lot more weight than I should be and I feel like I'm climbing like a stone. I don't want to be the one letting the wheel go on the first ramp of the first climb of the day.

So when these two guys were heading my way I thought this'd be a good chance to test my legs. That was my mistake! Now, non-cyclists might not get the rest of this but anyone who's been out for a steady winter spin will understand.

The two guys turned out not to be cyclists as such. They were relatively inexperienced tri-athletes. And it showed!

I tagged on the back as we hit a major roundabout, and then some lights, so the three of us were all over the road at that stage. But after a half mile or so we hit the lanes and the chance to get a steady rhythm going. Out of courtesy I went straight to the front on the right (no wheel sucking from me!). One guy was on the left, the other behind. We pedalled along like that and after about five minutes I started to think I was already feeling the pace. I was a bit gutted but upped the revs and tried to keep talking as if it was all fine! It was only then I realised this guy was half wheeling me. OK, I thought, go with it as we'll be rotating soon and he'll drop back behind. So I waited for him to indicate he was dropping back. And I waited. And I waited.

Next thing, matey boy behind goes shooting past and takes up the lead by himself moving right across to the left hand side! What should I do now? Catch him up and take up on HIS right or let the other fella go up to him? Thankfully a junction saved me having to make that call. We turned right and got back in to formation with me and attacking boy on the front. The road started to rise a bit but I was feeling comfortable at the steady pace we were doing. Until the other guy decides to "attack". Off the front with him, up the rise opening a ten yard gap.

So it flattens out again and we form up yet again. At this point I'm starting to think about how I can take a turn off and leave them to it. But I stuck it out. After another couple of miles we get to the Nags Head and I'm hoping they'll keep it steady, so I might have a chance of getting at least some of the way up on the wheel. As we approached I felt the pace was picking up. My breathing was starting to labour now and the legs were starting to hurt already. Then I noticed why. Head number one had decided to go onto the big ring!

Good luck, I thought. I let the wheel go and watched as the by now thick fog swallowed them up on their race to the top.  By the time I was halfway up they were long gone.

I carried on alone and had a grand, if very cold, spin after that. Another 40 miles notched up.

But where does that leave me confidence wise? I can do the distance no bother. I could even match the pace on the flat without too much trouble. But I had no legs for the climb. Then again he was on the big ring. So does that cancel it out?

I'm going to have to bite the bullet soon. It's the best time of the year to tag along, while everyones taking it a bit easier.

Maybe just one more on my own first.....