The Wednesday Comment


Cadel Evans is not an easy rider to love, but the way he attacked to win the world title on Sunday was not just exciting and admirable, it was one of the best-timed and most perfectly-executed moves of the entire season.

If Evans has been criticised for his unwillingness or inability to attack in the mountains it is because he does not cut the figure of the instantly-appealing rider with panache to spare.

He has a tendency to follow wheels, mark his rivals and ride defensively. On the occasions he has attacked, his moves have been obvious and short-lived almost to the point of ridicule.

But you had to feel sympathy during the Tour de France this year when he tried to get in an early break on one of the mountain stages only to be moaned at by his fellow escapees for spoiling their chances.

Another way to look at Evans would be to admire the fact that he does what he can, when he can, and squeezes every last drop of potential out of his ability. That would be admirable if it were not for a series of bizarre outbursts and prickly responses that do little to make him endearing.

After a poor Tour de France, the Australian punctured at the worst possible time during the Vuelta a Espana, which cost him the chance to challenge for overall victory.

It was as if everything in Evans’s career had been building up to that moment in Mendrisio. All the near-misses and all the bad luck combined to produce that moment of inspiration where Evans laid everything on the line with one attack that would land him his day of glory, or at the very least one of glorious failure.

However, it was a shame Evans chose to duck an important question. When asked after Sunday’s race whether it was a victory for clean cycling, he said: “It’s not my responsibility to answer that.” On the contrary. Part of the responsibility of being world champion should be precisely that, to strike a blow for clean sport.

At long last there will be the same number of events for men and women in the velodrome at the Olympics.

In Beijing the men had seven events to contest, the women just three. At London 2012 there will be five competitions each, but at a cost.

Four years ago the men’s kilometre and the women’s 500-metre time trials were removed from the Olympic track programme by the UCI to make way for BMX.

Now there is the possibility the individual pursuit races will go. It’s like track and field losing the 100m, followed by the 800m.

The loss of two clear, engaging competitions in successive Games is lamentable.

Losing the Madison was inevitable, partly because there is no women’s equivalent and partly because it is not an easy one for the television audience to follow. Getting rid of the points races is a shame too, but the number of medals available and the number of competitor places allocated to track cycling are fixed, so something had to give.

If the proposals are ratified, the 2012 programme will feature the team pursuit, sprint, Keirin, team sprint and omnium for both men and women. The absence of the individual pursuit means there will be no individual endurance event at all on the Olympic schedule, and denies the viewing public what was shaping up to be a fascinating battle for gold between Bradley Wiggins, America’s Taylor Phinney and possibly the Aussie Jack Bobridge.

How many track riders out there dream of winning the Olympic omnium title? How many people will be engaged by a competition held over five days which awards a gold medal for consistency rather than brilliance? How many can name the five disciplines that make up the event? (I’ll tell you at the end).

The UCI will argue that the omnium allows the individual pursuit and points race to at least have a presence at the Games, even if they are not stand-alone events.

The decathlon and heptathlon work for track and field because they test a range of very different skills (sprinting, middle-distance running, jumping and throwing) and produce a genuinely world-class all-rounder. But this Jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none event surely has no place on the velodrome.

The proposed changes will favour the host nation, though. Victoria Pendleton will have a chance to equal Sir Chris Hoy’s triple gold medal haul, with the addition of the team sprint and Keirin for women. And Great Britain will be favourites for the women’s team pursuit too.

Meanwhile, the UCI’s annual brewery tour ended in confusion when president Pat McQuaid ordered lemonades all round.

By the way, the omnium features an indvidual pursuit, a flying 200-metre time trial, a points race, a scratch race and a kilometre time trial (500m for women).

If the strong rumours of a mountain time trial on the Col du Tourmalet, and a vicious stage from Luchon to the Col d’Aubisque, prove to be true, the 2010 Tour de France will be tailor-made for Alberto Contador.

The only snag for Contador is that he is currently stuck in an Astana team that is sinking with him on board. He needs to wriggle free before the whole ship goes down. Most of the riders have gone, the management have left, it’s even likely the team’s vehicles, technically owned by Johan Bruyneel’s company, will be resprayed in Team The Shack colours before the year is out.

There can be no doubt there will be a satisfactory resolution. Contador will get out of his Astana contract somehow. Whether he goes to Garmin, Quick Step, Caisse d’Epargne or somewhere else remains to be seen.

The pro team picture is like a sliding puzzle, waiting for a solution to be found.

Garmin are very interested in Contador, not least because it would give them a great chance to beat Lance Armstrong and Team The Shack. If there is a team time trial at the Tour, Contador could do worse than join Garmin. However, Garmin would not let Bradley Wiggins out of the final year of his contract unless they were able to get the Spaniard first, even though they’d need the compensation which would come (indirectly) from Team Sky to pay for him.

If that chain of events were to happen, you’d have to wonder who’d have the best deal. All would become clear on October 14, when the Tour de France route is unveiled in Paris. If the Pyrenees return with bite, the odds will swing even more firmly in Contador’s favour.

As our sister magazine Cycle Sport commented recently: “Cancellara is going to win all the time trials, Cavendish the sprints, and Contador the Tour de France. See you in 2014.”

Although it is at the discretion of the national federations, it is customary to allow the logos of a rider’s trade team to appear on the national kit at the World Championships.

In Mendrisio last week, Great Britain’s jerseys and shorts displayed just two sponsors logos – that of British Cycling’s sponsors Sky and Halfords. There were no Garmin, Barloworld, Cervélo or Katusha logos to be seen.

It will be interesting to see if foreign federations allow Sky’s logo on Edvald Boasson Hagen, Simon Gerrans and co’s jerseys next year.

Which professional team’s riders have been on their best behaviour for the past couple of months because they’ve been threatened with a trip to the Tour of Burkina Faso at the end of October if they step out of line?

It strikes me as odd that when we, as cyclists, take exception to moronic, ill-informed anti-cyclist rants, too many people resort to nasty personal jibes instead of seeking to keep the moral high ground.

Since telly chef James Martin’s ill-advised, ill-thought-out comments about cyclists there have been more newspaper columns and this week a rant on an Australian news review show.

It’s easy to have a go at cyclists. All you have to do is have a go at us for jumping red lights, or riding on the pavement, wiggling our Lycra-clad arses in the air or clacking around in cafes in our silly shoes. There, job done.

And yes, there is something deeply objectionable about someone suggesting they’d like to open a car door into the path of a cyclist.

But we’re in danger of losing the plot if we think that every comment like that is actually encouraging people to do just that. That’s only one step away from thinking that people will act differently ‘Because The Telly Told Them To’.

Some people don’t like cyclists. But every time we react with this staged, exaggerated outrage, likening drivers who dislike cyclists to the Nazis, or responding by calling people fat and/or ugly we do ourselves a disservice and make it even less likely that those who dislikes our presence on the road will see our point of view.

It’s just a thought, but education rather than confrontation is surely a better way to go when it comes to improving our conditions on the road.