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TIME FOR A REALITY SHOW

So, Sir Alan Sugar is a roadie. The BBC?s documentary The Real Sir Alan, broadcast on Sunday, showed him indulging his new passion.

Apparently cycling has taken over from flying his own plane as multi-millionaire businessman?s favoured hobby.

Eagle-eyed viewers will have noticed he was riding a Pinarello bike and was wearing Specialized shoes as he was filmed riding near his Spanish holiday home.

Cycling has long been popular with the youthful but silver-haired CEO?s of top companies on the east and west coast of America. Now it is revealed that Sir Alan of The Apprentice swaps the boardroom for the bike in his spare time.

Wouldn?t it be great if Sir Alan?s interest inspired the BBC to produce a cycling-related reality TV show.

I?ve long argued that cycling would be perfect for that kind of format and that the possibilities are endless. One idea for the TV execs to mull over would be to launch a nationwide hunt for the next cycling superstars with an X-Factor style show.

Or perhaps cycling could be the vehicle for a show promoting lifestyle changes as Britain battles the obesity epidemic.

I expect celebrities will get there first, though. Last year television presenter Adrian Chiles and former footballer Alan Shearer rode from Newcastle to London via West Bromwich in two days for Comic Relief.

Instead of locking a load of B-listers in a house in Elstree or making them eat bugs in the desert, why don?t the geniuses that run British telly get them to do something really worthwhile ? like ride the route of the Tour de France for charity. Overweight celebrities riding the Tour de France? Now that, I?d watch.

ARISE, SIR CHRIS

It was great to see Britain?s Olympic cyclists recognised in the New Year?s Honours list.

Bradley Wiggins was already an OBE and Chris Hoy was already an MBE. Now they are Bradley Wiggins CBE and Sir Chris.

When Hoy became the first British athlete in a century to win three gold medals at a single Olympic Games, a knighthood was inevitable.

But I was surprised that the powers that be decided to honour him while he is still an active athlete. And while all the other gold medal winners deserve recognition, there is something a little surreal about athletes in their early 20s, with almost their entire careers ahead of them, being honoured.

ARMSTRONG?S START MONEY

If the Australian press is to be believed, Lance Armstrong?s fee for riding the Tour Down Under is in the region of two million Australian dollars (approximately £922,000).

The South Australian Government says it is not stumping up the cash, but it seems the race organisers are paying his team a start fee. No details have been confirmed but if it is true, then the Astana squad is presumably being paid a lot more than the other teams for their attendance.

A spokesman for the South Australian Government said that all money paid to Armstrong would go to charity.

Ordinarily, the matter of a team or rider?s start money would be between them and the race organisers.

But in Armstrong?s case shouldn?t he be forthcoming with the details? When he announced his comeback he said he would not be taking a salary from Astana and that his objective was simply to raise awareness for his cancer charity.

In the interests of transparency, shouldn?t Armstrong declare how much he?s being paid for each event and tell the world what will happen to every cent? After all, it would only take a couple of minutes for him to update his Twitter feed with the details.

HOW TO CREATE A SOAP OPERA

Lance Armstrong?s arrival in Australia has created a predictable hullabaloo.

Details of his exact arrival were supposed to be kept secret to ensure maximum excitement and exposure for the South Australia region.

But the officials in Adelaide, and the tourist board in particular, were reportedly not too happy when it was leaked that Armstrong actually arrived in Sydney.

Working out when Armstrong was likely to touch down wasn?t all that difficult for Australian journalists. All they had to do was work out when his Twitter feed fell silent.

FIRST CENTURY DONE

One of my goals for 2009 is to do at least one 100-mile ride during each calendar month.

So, on Sunday, January 4, I got up early and drove to Sutton to meet a bunch of hardy souls, or perhaps that should be fools, for the Coastal Clog.

This is an annual 106-mile ride from Sutton in Surrey to the south coast at Shoreham and back organised by my former colleague Richard Hallett.

It was a bitterly cold day, with the temperature failing to get above zero all day. Within an hour of starting, my bidons had frozen solid, although that did mean I got to enjoy a citrus-flavoured SIS Slush Puppie when it began to thaw during our lunch stop.

I will draw a discreet veil over the fact that Richard got dropped before lunch, although one acquaintance did tell me after hearing the news “I’d have paid to see that.”

Part of the reason for Richard’s discomfort was the fact he’d chosen to wear just three-quarter-length tights and socks over his shoes instead of neoprene overshoes in the icy conditions. Added to that the eagerness of Nick Bourne, organiser of the Tour of Wessex, and the elite rider Dave Clarke to press on at every opportunity. This was despite the fact that Dave was riding a bike that looked like it had put together to achieve the greatest possible weight. Apparently he’d done seven-and-a-half hours the previous day and explained that his super-heavy winter bike ensured he got a decent work-out on the club run.

I suggested it might be best to let Richard get back on and recover a little before lifting the pace, only to be told by Ed: “It’s what he’d do.” That much was true, so we pressed on.

Anyway, through the fatigue I could sense a flicker of satisfaction at completing the ride in reasonable shape and managing to drive home without nodding off. And at least I knew February’s century ride cannot be anything like as cold, can it?

SNOW JOKE

Talking of icy conditions, I admire the bravery of those who decided to race at Hillingdon on Saturday, and freely admit I was not prepared to take the risk.

Take a look at the pictures and judge for yourself, but to me it was clearly a day to turn the car around and head home.

Arriving at the circuit 90 minutes or so before the scheduled start time there was a light dusting of snow on the circuit. Doug Collins, who organises the Imperial Winter League at the west London circuit, said that the races had only suffered three cancellations in 11 years.

And with almost a 100 riders turning up keen to race, I can understand why it went ahead, but a look through the pictures shows the riders keeping their distance from one another in case anyone skidded in the snow.

IT?LL ALWAYS BE HET VOLK

It will take a long time to get used to calling the opening race of the Belgian Classic season Het Nieuwsblad.

To me it will always be Het Volk.

The event was founded by the Het Volk newspaper in 1945 as a response to the hugely popular Tour of Flanders, which was run by the rival publication Het Nieuwsblad.

Het Volk means The People. Sean Kelly always called the race Ghent-Ghent because that?s where it started and finished.

In the 1990s the publishing group which owned Het Nieuwsblad bought Het Volk and over the years the two papers merged. By 2007 Het Volk was merely a Ghent edition of Het Nieuwsblad, with a changed front page the only difference between the titles. Last spring Het Volk was published as a separate title for the final time.

So it made sense to Corelio, the newspaper group which owns Het Nieuwsblad and the race organisation, to rebrand Het Volk.

But after 63 years as Het Volk, it is going to feel very alien calling the race Het Nieuwsblad. Perhaps Kelly had the right idea and we should just call it Ghent-Ghent.

CALENDAR CONFUSION

The World Calendar was unveiled last week and the UCI should be commended for finding a compromise which has enabled the bickering between the world governing body and the organisers of the grand tours to ease a little.

I don?t really understand the obsession with having a season-long points competition that includes races as diverse as the Tour de France and Paris-Roubaix.

The old UCI world rankings were perfectly adequate, as was the World Cup, which was a competition comprising ten of the best one-day races.

As a sporting competition, the ProTour was flawed from the start because the allocation of points could never hope to accurately reflect the true picture.

The same is true now, with overall victory in the Tour Down Under, which is no more than an early season training race, earning the same number of points as a fifth-place finish in the Tour de France.

It?s barmy and all that will happen is that the winner of the World Calendar will simply be the most consistent rider of the year.

However, when launching the World Calendar, which includes the ProTour races and the races organised by French company ASO and Italian counterparts RCS, the UCI?s Alain Rumpf bemoaned the lack of German events.

With the demise of the Tour of Germany, the single-day Vattenfalls Cyclassics, which is a dreadfully underwhelming event, is the only top flight race in Germany.

And as Rumpf says, Germany is a hugely important market for cycling, with potentially huge television and sponsorship revenue to be reaped.

But it doesn?t take a moment to reflect on the reasons for falling television audiences and the withdrawal of sponsors. Doping.

Had the UCI got on top of the doping problem earlier and more effectively perhaps the German patience would not have worn thin. Instead the sport has no credibility in the country and is openly mocked in their newspapers.

So while the UCI chases other lucrative markets in Russia and the Far East, they have let one slip through their hands.

RELATED LINKS

The Wednesday Comment Review of 2008 part one

The Wednesday Comment Review of 2008 part two