|TIME FOR THE PR BATTLE|
British Cycling should be applauded for continuing to press central Government to support road racing.
There has never been a better time to state the sport?s case and change a trend that has seen races go to the wall because of localised opposition from the police, the authorities, drivers, NIMBY types and other losers who can?t get to the garden centre on a Sunday morning because people are engaged in organised sport on ?their? roads.
After the World Track Championships, cycling is the toast of British sport. Performance director Dave Brailsford is on first-name terms with the Minister for Sport, Gerry Sutcliffe, and the mainstream media knows that when it comes to winning gold medals in Beijing the velodrome is the place to look.
But there is a major perception gap between all this great success on the track and the need for a thriving racing community on our roads. The great British public probably think Bradley Wiggins, Chris Hoy and co spend all their time pedaling round and round in the velodrome like Lycra-clad hamsters.
The fact that all our top cyclists have raced and trained on the open roads at some point is lost.
A squeeze is being put on the organisers of road races big and small throughout the country. The problem is, there is no rule book for everyone to consult. The legislation is outdated and can be interpreted in favour of those who want to stop an event.
But the wider issue is not just about reforming the law and making it easier for cycle races to take place on the open road. It?s about changing the way British people views cyclists.
The average motorist that comes across a bike race (or cyclo-sportive, club run or even commuting cyclist for that matter) sees them as an obstruction, something to get past as quickly as possible.
The problem is we have no great cycling culture in this country. And what we do have is dwindling. A generation of scaredy cat parents who think menace lurks in every shadow has kept many children off bikes. PlayStation and Wii has taken over. Children are getting fatter.
Contrast that with Belgium, for example, where cyclists in dedicated cycling lanes have right of way over all traffic. Cars have to stop on a roundabout for cyclists. Imagine the outcry if someone tried to change the law to give cyclists priority. The motoring lobby would melt down.
Belgian college students in major towns rely on the bicycle as their mode of transport. And if a middle-aged driver knows his or her 18-year-old son or daughter is riding around on a bike they are more likely to be considerate of other cyclists.
Here, we are a nuisance. We get in the way. We jump red lights. We shout and wave our arms when we get cut up.
Twenty six miles of London streets were closed down to runners for the marathon on Sunday and every six-hour jogger raising forty quid for blind animals was applauded for their effort.
Here you get a situation where two jumped up nerks in hobby bobby uniforms take it upon themselves to stop a bike race.
Put all those marathon runners on bikes and the perception would be very different. That?s the PR battle British Cycling has to win.
|TOUR OF THE YAWN?|
Did you notice who was ripping it up at the Tour of the Basque Country last week?
All the men you?d expect to challenge at the upcoming Ardennes Classics were in great form. Oh, and Astana?s Alberto Contador did alright too. He won the thing.
Despite a stellar cast list, with all the cobbly excitement going on in northern Europe, the Tour of the Basque Country gets overlooked.
Spanish stage racing leaves me cold. I can?t quite put my finger on the reason why, but it?s all so similar. Every race looks the same ? sort of brown ? the crowds are tiny and although there are plenty of top riders in action and the racing often exciting, there?s a nagging feeling that everyone?s waiting for something better to come along.
In a way, the Tour of the Basque Country embodies the failures of the ProTour. You can attract the best riders and they can race their hearts out but you can?t make people care about the outcome.
That said, it was a good indictor of who?s going well for the coming week?s Classics.
There is something that?s puzzling me, though. Contador?s Astana team has not been invited to ASO-owned races Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège but they are taking part at Sunday?s Amstel Gold Race.
With so little top-flight racing ahead of him, it?s a bit strange that Contador is not on Astana?s provisional list for the Dutch Classic. He?s roaring fit, so it seems like a bit of a wasted opportunity to me.
|CARBON AND COBBLES DON?T MIX|
by Ian Cleverly
Let’s get one thing straight. We at CW towers have the utmost respect for Magnus Backstedt. The big Swede is practically a Brit, he has won Paris Roubaix and he’s hard as nails. Broken bones are all in a day’s work for Maggie.
So whose idea was it to stick deep section carbon Zipps on his bike for the Hell of the North? The kind of wheels you or I would save for Sunday best – and a lovely summer’s day, to boot – somebody thought would be just fine being bounced up and down all day with a big bloke on board.
Sure enough, the Zipps cracked and it was race over for Maggie. What a waste.
Next time, get some sensible hoops. Lots of spokes and box-section rims. You know it makes sense.
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