The Wednesday Comment

Follow us on Twitter

Great decision by the UCI and the race organisers to move Ghent-Wevelgem on the calendar next season.

Instead of taking place on the Wednesday between the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, the race will be held on Sunday, March 28, a week before the Ronde.

Hopefully this will allow the organisers to lengthen the race from its current 200 kilometres to at least 230 or 240. That way they could include three ascents of the legendary Kemmelberg climb, rather than two, and restore the race’s reputation as a truly classic Classic.

There is also the likelihood the field will be even stronger because fewer riders will be tempted to skip the race to be fresh for Paris-Roubaix. It also stretches the cobbled classic season to three weekends, which has to be a good thing.

BOOKMAKER COUNTS COST OF VALVERDE VICTORY, the bookmaker, reckons it has paid out almost €1m to gamblers in Spain who backed Alejandro Valverde to win the Vuelta a Espana.

Despite being the odds-on favourite, almost 90 per cent of the bets taken by the company in Spain were for Valverde.

Our sister magazine Cycle Sport spoke to this week and their spokesman was putting a brave face on the loss. As gaming regulations loosen in Europe, Williamhill is attempting to break into new markets and said its sponsorship of the Vuelta’s green jersey was a great success. They added that it doesn’t hurt to let the customers take some money first time out.

But would Williamhill’s attitude to paying out so much change if the Court of Arbitration for Sport upholds the Italian Olympic Committee’s decision to ban Valverde from racing in Italy for two years?

The UCI’s rules allow for the governing body to extend the ban worldwide, but the UCI has not done so because it is waiting for a decision from CAS. If CAS agrees CONI was within its rights to ban Valverde, the UCI is expected to extend the ban.

How would feel if Valverde’s suspension is upheld and extended, knowing it has paid out almost seven figures on a rider who probably shouldn’t even have been racing?

On the subject of Valverde, it is very interesting to note reports that his appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport is based on a challenge over whether CONI had the right to investigate and suspend him.

One suspects Valverde would be less keen to contest the actual content of CONI’s findings – that the blood seized in Operacion Puerto was his and that it contained EPO.

If CAS does decide that CONI had no right to attain and test the blood bags seized in Operacion Puerto, and therefore rules that the evidence is inadmissible, it won’t exonerate Valverde, it’ll merely exacerbate the farcical state of limbo the rider has been in since June 2006.

But then it would be no different to arguing that because CAS found in his favour in 2007, when the UCI tried to bar him from the World Championships in Stuttgart, he was innocent. In 2007, CAS ruled that the UCI could not suspend him on an ad-hoc basis. Valverde’s supporters seized on this and some presumed it meant he had not been a client of Dr Eufamiano Fuentes, had not stored his blood and had not taken EPO.

The wheels of justice spin very slowly in cycling, partly because there are too many organisations involved and their responsibilities are not clearly defined and because plenty of loopholes still exist to be exploited.

At the risk of sounding UCI-unfriendly, it would perhaps bring the point home to roost if Valverde won the rainbow jersey on the UCI’s home turf. If Valverde does win, I wonder if Pat McQuaid will want to be a part of the medal ceremony.

The Sky Ride in London was a tremendous success, with the organisers saying more than 60,000 people took part. Standing in The Mall at lunchtime, the cyclists just kept on coming as the bicycle took over the capital.

I took a taxi in London on Sunday and must admit to being surprised by the enlightened views of the driver. I’d expected all taxi drivers to view cyclists as nothing more than a nuisance but he said: “If cyclists and cabbies were the only things allowed on the roads in London it’d be a far better place.” The private car, he said, was the cause of most traffic-related issues.

However, as cycling’s profile rises an increase in the amount of anti-cycling sentiment being expressed is perhaps to be expected.

Telly chef James Martin cooked up a storm with a column in the Mail On Sunday that suggested the funniest thing about test-driving a super-quiet electric car was that he could sneak up on cyclists and shock them by beeping the horn. Hilarious.

Unsurprisingly, the column prompted a backlash from cyclists, but I can’t help feeling the most sensible response would have been to have kept the personal insults to a minimum and allowed Mr Martin to revel in his ignorance.

Last week, another Daily Mail columnist railed against cyclists for a range of offences. Some of the points made were fair enough. It’s impossible to justify cyclists weaving between pedestrians on the pavement, but the Mail seems to think that cyclists shouldn’t be on the road either.

As is the Mail‘s way, it tends to see everyone as ‘something’ – a motorist, a cyclist, a black person, a white person – rather than simply seeing ‘people’.

As cyclists, the last thing we need is to spark an us-against-them row with motorists in the media. Many cyclists drive, and many motorists cycle. The thing to remember is that there are idiots in cars, and idiots on bikes. Both cyclists and motorists should be aiming to educate the idiots, not demonise each other.

But likewise, as cyclists we need to understand that our actions may have unseen consequences. If you holler, red-faced and angry a stream of swearwords through the window of a driver you think has just cut you up, it’s worth considering how that will make the driver think and feel about the next cyclist he or she meets on the road. Will he be more or less likely to treat the rider with a bit of respect?

Yes, it’s frustrating to be lumped together as ‘Lycra louts’, yes it doesn’t help when a mediocre television personality decides it’d be funny to joke about sending riders tottering into the hedgerow.

But it’d be far better in the long run if we can maintain our place on the moral high ground.