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IT’S BEEN A CRAZY OFF-SEASON
Team Sky is set to reveal the identity of the final riders who will make up the 2010 roster by the end of the week.
By then we should know for sure whether Bradley Wiggins is to remain at Garmin-Slipstream, or switch to Team Sky. Or we won’t. Because until we see Wiggins in his 2010 Garmin jersey, there will still be rumours. And even if he rides in Argyll next season, the rumours will start again about him joining Team Sky for the 2011 season.
So we’d better brace ourselves for another nine months of the same story.
It really has been the most incredible saga of non-stories, fuelled partly by the belief of many that all Team Sky had to do was flash the cash and they’d get their man. Jonathan Vaughters has repeatedly told reporters from this parish that Wiggins is going nowhere, that he’s not for sale, that he has had no approach from Team Sky or the rider himself requesting he be released from the final year of his contract. We shall see later this week whether that is the case.
Along the way, we’ve heard some great rumours, one of which found its way onto an Australian newspaper’s website. They said they had a very good source and that Team Sky’s principal Dave Brailsford was due to fly to New York on Sunday to secure the release of Wiggins from his Garmin contract, with Cadel Evans joining Garmin from Silence-Lotto.
Except Brailsford was in the track centre at Manchester all day on Sunday, and Evans had already signed for BMC Racing, so that scuppered that one.
All the speculation intensified after Wiggins finished fourth in the Tour de France because it is Brailsford’s stated aim is to win the Tour de France with a British rider. It’s no secret Team Sky want him and Wiggins did nothing to play down the rumours that he wanted to go when he compared Sky to Manchester United and Garmin to Wigan Athletic. Everyone assumed that Mark Cavendish and Ben Swift would be joining Sky in time for 2010. It’s is very likely they will in the future, but for now they are contracted to Columbia and Katusha.
There’s no doubt that British Cycling played a huge role in Wiggins’s progress this year, making a move to Team Sky all the more logical. Vaughters has not sought to take the credit, as it would have been tempting to do. Instead he allowed Wiggins the freedom to work with British Cycling coaches Shane Sutton and Matt Parker, and the nutritionist Nigel Mitchell and the rewards were handsome. In one sense it makes the question of whether he rides for Garmin or Sky less relevant. Wiggins will have the same back-up whichever jersey he’s in, and there’s no reason to think he can’t achieve fine results in either team.
But Wiggins signed a two-year contract with Garmin at the end of 2008, and Garmin are entitled to expect him to honour it, unless it is made financially worth their while to let him go.
As the 2010 Tour de France route was revealed, it’s fair to say Wiggins’s market value tumbled with each Pyrenean climb Monsieur Prudhomme revealed. The 29-year-old is still relatively inexperienced as a grand tour contender and finishing on the podium at next year’s Tour will be a very different proposition to finishing fourth in this year’s.
Only when Team Sky’s roster is completed and confirmed will it be fair to assess the quality of their recruitment process. The question is whether fans will gauge the team a success with Wiggins and a failure without him. And Wiggins’s fans will support him and enjoy his results regardless of who he rides for.
BETTER THAN THE OMNIUM?
It’s been a struggle finding anyone who is in favour of the proposal to ditch the individual pursuit from the Olympic Games programme in London.
The UCI won’t confirm the proposals on the table, so there is still chance the pursuit will get a reprieve when the decision is made in December, although no one seems particularly hopeful.
Changes are necessary because of the long overdue need to ensure there are the same number of medals on offer to the women as the men. However, restrictions on athlete and event numbers mean it is not as simple as adding the women’s Keirin and team pursuit and leaving the men’s programme as it is. Something has to change.
The proposal is to cut the individual pursuit and points race for men and women, as well as the men’s Madison. In their place will come the omnium for men and women, if the proposal is ratified. The omnium features five events – a pursuit, a points race, a scratch race, a flying 200m sprint and a kilometre time trial.
The Olympic Games is supposed to be about finding the best of the best. The omnium will not feature the best pursuiter, or the best kilo rider or the best points race rider. It will be won by the most consistent, or the least inconsistent. Plainly that does not fit the Olympic ideal.
At the Manchester World Cup last weekend, I got talking to one of the BBC’s producers who suggested that if the UCI wanted to be truly innovative, it could introduce a mixed Madison.
Well, it’s certainly a better idea than including the omnium. After all, has the rest of the world got a duo better than Geraint Thomas and Lizzie Armitstead?
There’ll be a detailed look at the proposal to ditch the individual pursuit and introduce the omnium in next week’s Cycling Weekly.
While we’re talking about the need for gender equality on the track, perhaps someone should have a word with whoever chose the music at the Track World Cup in Manchester at the weekend.
As the World Cup has grown and evolved, the UCI has made some crucial concessions to entertainment. The programme has been tweaked to ensure there’s less down time between races and they have allowed music to be played while the races are on. It all helps to enhance the spectacle.
However, it felt incredibly clichéd to hear the song ‘Here Come The Girls’ (originally sung by Ernie K Doe, although I think they used the Sugababes version) every time the women competitors took to the track.
To balance things out, perhaps they should have used Sabrina’s 1980s ‘classic’ Boys (look it up on Spotify) to herald each men’s event. Would they have dreamed of doing that? No, of course not. Surely it’s time for every aspect of women’s sport to be treated the same as the men.
GHENT-WEVELGEM BECOMES A TRUE CLASSIC AGAIN
Great to see that the proposal made in this column a few weeks ago to extend Ghent-Wevelgem to 250 kilometres now it’s been moved to a Sunday date has been taken up by the organisers.
Traditionally the race has been held on the Wednesday between the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix. Next season, it will kick off the cobbled Classic season, on Sunday, March 28.
It should allow the race to be restored to full Classic status. And because it’s not sandwiched between the two giants, there is scope to extend the distance.
Now all we need is for the organisers to realise what a great idea it would be to send the race over the Kemmelberg climb three times instead of two.
THE THIRD WAY
A couple of weeks ago I got to ride a bike equipped with SRAM components for the first time.
It was a slightly disorientating experience for someone who finds its unsettling enough switching from Campagnolo to Shimano systems.
I am not an early adopter when it comes to technology or new innovations. I let others wade in and identify the problems first.
So I know SRAM has been around ages, and although it worked nicely enough and I’d just about got the hang of it by the end of a one-hour ride, I couldn’t help thinking they’d invented a system of gear shifting that didn’t need to be invented.
We all know how the Shimano and Campagnolo systems work and there is logic to them.
SRAM’s brake levers are fixed (like Campag’s) and the gear lever has what they call a ‘double click’ system. Push firmly to change down (or is it up), and press quickly to change the other way. Or something. Anyway, it would be better to call it a ‘push-a-lot-or-push-a-little’ system.
There’s no real criticism of how it works, and it’s certainly excellent value for money, but my question is whether we need a third way of changing gear? It felt to me like a newcomer to the tinned soup market realising that Heinz and Baxters (apologies to other soup manufacturers) had hoovered up all the popular flavours, leaving the new kids on the block to convince the public of a need for Autumn Anchovy and Chocolate.
WOULD THESE BIKE MOVIES BE BOX OFFICE?
A great waste of an afternoon was had browsing through the movie titles given a bike-related twist on Twitter under the hashtag #bikemovies.
There were some creative brains at work – as well as some absolute shockers – but my favourites were: SRAMbo, Shimano de Bergerac, The Big Zabriskie and Dumoulin Rouge.