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Psycle Sluts

August 1, 2012

Cycling has always been a reasonably multinational sport, even if largely confined to the first world. Professional teams mix nationalities and there are major races in all the big European countries. This year has seen the emergence of Team Sky. Or more accurately has seen the coalescing of a nucleus of British riders in Team Sky, that has led to the triumph of Bradley Wiggins in the Tour De France.

Most years you could blink and miss the news coverage of the Tour. Not this year. This year a Brit won so the Tour De France became a big event. Wiggins won the race and the two time trials, Mark Cavendish weighed in with a couple of stage wins and his fourth win on the Champs Elysees in four years. David Millar doesn’t ride for Sky but he’s a Brit and won a stage. The Brits had it all sewn up. All that was left was for them to turn up at the Olympics and lead Cav up to the Mall where he would blow away the opposition and claim gold.

The BBC had the man for the job. Hugh Porter, by far the most hapless, clueless commentator on the BBC’s books. He consistently misidentifies riders, calls tactics wrong and shows an all round level of incompetence. Admittedly he wasn’t helped by the shambolic organisation of information for the race but there wasn’t a fact he couldn’t mangle. It was possible to sense Chris Boardman’s embarrassment alongside him and Boardman’s the weakest of the ITV4 team that cover the Tour. The scene was set, there would be a couple of breakaways by attention seeking foreigners before they were reeled in by the all conquering Brits and the Manx Missile was launched.

Even as it became clear that the script was not being followed, Hugh doggedly stuck to the pre-determined narrative that had Team Sky (as he amusingly identified them more than once) always on the brink of catching the breakaway. Even when Chris Froome sat up and stopped trying a long way out, even when Wiggins decided to save himself for the time trial, Hugh was desperately looking for ways that Cavendish could win. Even he had to give up when Alexandre Vinokourov and Rigoberto Uran Uran gave the breakaway the slip and had the first two places sewn up.

Grudgingly the BBC began to concentrate on the sprint, which Vinokourov predictably won with ease. Hugh then came into his own. As the breakaway arrived he couldn’t be arsed figuring out who had come third, musing aloud ‘was it a Spanish rider, or a Dutch rider maybe’. It turned out to be a Norwegian rider, Alexander Kristoff. Hugh then got all excited by what he described as ‘the sprint for fourth place’ won by Andre Greipel. This turned out to be the sprint for the coveted 24th place. Exhausted by his mental exertions, Hugh handed back to the studio. Here, the fun really began. A lanky streak of piss whose name, in the style of Hugh Porter, I can’t be arsed finding out declared ‘that was not the result the British public wanted’.

I beg to differ. Tanni Grey Thompson (that well-known cyclist – Ed) was then brought on to explain how Cav’s shock defeat was down to the other countries inexplicably failing to help him win. I’ve no doubt Tanni is a fine athlete but she doesn’t appear to understand team sport. The other cyclists are not supposed to help Britain win. That’s why they are in other teams. It’s what sport is about. An odd woman called Jill then managed to get an interview with the winning rider Vinokourov, ignoring the fact he’d just ridden a hundred and fifty miles to claim Olympic gold to ask why was ‘everyone riding against Cavendish today’? Because it was a fucking race.

Streak of piss was then joined by Sue Barker in an effort to restore a modicum of professionalism. The mask slipped when we were able to hear voices from off-screen, presumably the producers, displaying their impressive knowledge of the sport. ‘Gold to Kazakhstan, silver to C O L, what’s C O L?’ Fucking Colombia. where did you think, Colchester? ‘Where’s Sagan, he’s supposed to be famous, wasn’t he meant to be one of the main ones.’ Yes, but so was Cavendish.

As for Cavendish. Well in previous years he had impressed me, always sharing the credit with his team at HTC, comfortable with the European cosmopolitan aspects of his life. Then he joined Sky. Under the influence of the uber-nationalist Dave Brailsford, he has become a Little Englander bore. Brailsford’s lauding of Team Sky’s win in the Tour spoke only of British success, a smack in the face to the likes of the Australian Richie Porte and the Austrian Bernie Eisel who did phenomenal amounts of work to get Wiggins on the podium.

All year Cavendish spoke of limiting his own ambitions for stage wins to ensure Wiggins achieved a ‘British’ victory. The pay off was that Cavendish would follow up his world championship win with an Olympic medal. Oops. Cavendish’s post-race interview was a shocker. Full on toddler tantrum. It was everyone else’s fault, the other teams were against the British. Erm yes, that’s how sport works. In particular he blamed the Australians for not helping him. It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that either this is because they are English-speaking white fellers or because he is that used to having Australian lackeys at Sky that he’s having trouble adjusting. Australia had Stuart O’Grady in the breakaway, an elementary precaution that any team with nous would take. Spain managed to have three riders in the breakaway.

There was no need for the Australian team to work to bring back the breakaway, O’Grady was their best hope for a medal in the circumstances. (He eventually finished 6th.) But Cavendish knows this, he knows it far better than I do. This was imperialist whining at its most blatant. Didn’t these foreigners understand that the finest team of British road racers ever assembled were entitled to a gold medal in London? They didn’t have to win, they just had to turn up. The result meant cycling won, maybe the Brits just needed to try harder and be more tactically astute.

Oh, and of course the churlish news announcers were quick to point out that Vinokourov was a drugs cheat. An epithet not used to describe British team captain, David Millar – banned for the same amount of time for the same offence as Vinokourov – and never, ever used to describe Linford Christie. And of course it doesn’t really explain away the other 27 riders who finished in front of the ‘unbeatable’ Cavendish.

Peter Naylor

Ed’s note : of course all this could change by this afternoon (1st August) as ‘Wiggo’ carries ‘the hope of a nation’ for that elusive gold. Watch out people, the BBC are about to explode!! Pity we had to watch the Tour on ITV fucking 4!

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  1. That ‘odd woman called Jill’ is Jill Douglas who sometimes fills in for Ned Boulting on ITV’s cycling coverage, when Ned gets dragged away to cover the football. I once had the pleasure of crossing swords with her outside the Sky Team bus in Rotterdam during the prologue in the 2010 Tour De France. She tried to barge past me for an Interview with Wiggo and stood on my Birkenstock clad foot, which produced a scream then a grimace off me, followed up with a few expletives. She quickly retreated, with Matt Rendel closely following behind with a camera on his shoulder. Brad was due to emerge from the bus to do a warm up on the rollers before his prologue. He wasn’t giving no interviews that day, he went straight into his air-conned truck to belt a few km’s out on the turbo listening to the Kinks through a humungus pair of those ridiculous Dre Beats headphones. I really expected something from the Cockney Wigan Warrior that year but no, his 4th place the year before looked a fluke as he dropped off the wheels in the mountains and couldn’t keep the same pace as all the other GC contenders.

    Last year in the Tour I was hoping for a top four finish and I think he was very capable of it until that unfortunate crash which seen him retire with a broken collar bone. His form in the Vuelta after coming back from the injury, proves that he would have done well in the Tour if it wasn’t for the mishap. He knows his weakness is in the mountains when the real mountain goats like Contador put in that quick burst of speed on a steep gradient and gain a gap. His big gangly TT frame isn’t suited to the mountains and he cant keep up so he had to adapt. He spent months of hard graft in Tenerife, going up and down a volcano, which give him the ammunition to over come all his rivals in all the big stage races this year. He won the Paris-Nice race and become the first British rider to win the race since Tom Simpson in 1967. He followed that win with another one in the Tour De Romandie, then the Critérium du Dauphiné and finally The Tour. That is some palmares for just one year and yesterday he put the cherry on the cake with an Olympic Gold in the TT. Without a doubt the best ever British cyclist. Chapeau Brad.

    It’s amazing how far cycling has come in such a short space of time. A British winner of the Tour has put cycling well and truly on the map. Last year my friends would make snide comments and sneer when I told them I was going away for a few days to Belgium to watch some of the Spring Classics. And noway would they sit through a 4 hour Harman/Kelly Eurosport marathon of a gruelling Pyrenees mountain stage round at my house. This year was different though, I had friends inquiring about coming to watch the start of the Tour with me in Belgium and my house for some of the strenuous mountain stages was full to the brim with inquisitive males asking me all sorts of questions.”How do they go the toilet?”, “Why is Cav dropping back to collect bottles?” and “Look at that saddle, it’d be like sitting on a razor blade”. Mates who would laugh at me dressed head to foot in full HTC Highroad gear before departing for my Sunday ride can now be seen themselves with lycra clinging around there balls, getting all sweaty on two wheels.

    A good percentage of the cycling press laughed at Dave Brailsford when he boldly told them he would have a British winner of the Tour within 5 years. Well he’s proved them all wrong and stuck two fingers up to them all. Now I’m a big Cavendish fan, the only thing I’m not to happy about is the sponsor of his team. I’m not a big fan of Murdoch and I would favour the team more if they were sponsored by some boring laminate floor company or a liquified gas product like some of their European counterparts. You cannot deny that the money Sky has pumped into the sports has made a big difference. Sky with its clean ethos and big wages has taken the peloton and given it a dam good shake up with its marginal gains strategy. Their hightec bus is like something off star wars, they have a top chef who follows them everywhere and prepares top notch healthy nutritious food for the riders and Brailsford has amassed some of the worlds top riders. The super domestiques Brad had working for him this year would walk into any other team and be a team leader for sure, but they were happy to sacrifice their own ambitions in exchange for a big pay cheque.

    I agree with the article writer about the uber-nationalist Dave Brailsford, its only what you would expect from someone in his position but I don’t agree about Cav’s recent patriotism. Yes he’s rode for a few continental teams and enjoyed a European lifestyle down in Italy but if you look back on old interviews with him, he has always taken pride in his country and its not just forced now that he’s with Sky. I felt sorry for him after the Olympic road race and I think the spanner in the works for the GB team was the exclusion of race radio’s. With out the men in their ear working out the sums to see how much effort was needed to bridge gaps to escaped riders, it all fell apart after the last climb. Up until then it was looking good as the GB team controlled the race and seemed to have the break down to a doable gap. Then in the next 20 km the race fell apart as one by one the Sky riders were dropping off the pace after putting in 200 odd km’s of effort.

    I could feel Cav’s frustration in the interview after the race. Why didn’t the Germans help out? I could understand the Aussies not helping because they had a man in the break but why not the Germans. I think Cav’s strategy was too use the German train in the last 10 km or so once the race got back together because he knew his own team would be unable to provide a train for him due to the amount of effort put in earlier in the race. He used that tactic a few times in the Tour when free styling without his usual Sky coverage and it had worked a treat. Thats the beauty of bike racing I suppose, sometimes the Davids (Vino) beat the Goliath’s (Team Sky).

    I can see Cav moving to another team next season as I don’t think he’ll be happy playing second fiddle to a GC rider in next years Tour. I expect him to sign with a team who will whole heartily put all their eggs in one basket with him and make sure he wins as many stages as possible. If he does move teams I will change allegiances to that team and Sky & Murdoch can kiss my saddle sore ass.

    • thanks for that analysis Jimbo – mr naylor who write the pieve had to fill me in on the complexities of the tour last year as like many people, i just thought one fellar rode dead fast and won it which is true I suppose but didn’t understand the team element or the time trials/points system used – i’ll pass your response to him as you obviously know your stuff and glad the piece stirred you to write back in such detail – i suppose all the old skool cycling mob are now readying themselves for all manner of whoppers clogging up the A56 in their lycra suits as cycling becomes the new badminton.

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