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|REVOLUTION: THE FUTURE FOR SIX-DAYS?|
There is some consternation among followers of Six Day racing that the sport is on the verge of a decline, with the German events in particular suffering the knock-on effect of successive doping scandals on the road.
Meanwhile, here in Britain, track racing is booming. The recent World Cup was a sell-out and the Revolution series continues to go from strength to strength, with Saturday?s meeting at Manchester Velodrome also sold out.
The Revolution series started in 2003 and this weekend?s event is the 21st. Four are held each winter and the format has managed to distill all that?s best about track racing into one evening.
Revolution has combined events for endurance riders and sprinters with a series of races for young riders, the DHL Future Stars events, so the evening?s racing is a cross between a World Cup meeting and a Six-Day.
There aren?t the long, often confusing Madison races, or ?chases? as they are known on the Six-Day circuit. Instead there is a packed programme of crowd-pleasing events to fill the evening from beginning to end.
The organisers of Revolution always manage to attract some big names. This time it is Bradley McGee?s farewell race and he?ll be there with Stuart O?Grady and David Millar.
And that, it seems, could be the future of exhibition-style track racing.
The first Revolution of this season a sell-out well in advance and there are only standing tickets available for the second event on December 6. Demand for tickets has grown to the point where you could imagine a two-day Revolution held either on Friday and Saturday nights or on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon.
And with velodromes being built in London and Glasgow for the 2012 Olympics and 2014 Commonwealth Games, there?s the possibility of taking it across the country with a series of events. Riders could then be brought over to compete in two cities during the same weekend. The possibilities are endless, after all Revolution has already branched out to Australia.
So perhaps this is the future of track racing. Tony Doyle is very keen to set up a Six-Day event in London using a temporary track but strict adherence to the old style format may not be such a great idea.
While Ghent maintains its unique atmosphere, other Six-Days are struggling so perhaps something can be learned from Revolution.
Of course one of the appeals of the Six-Day is that two-man teams compete against each other in a range of events, so how?s this for an idea ? endurance riders, sprinters and young riders are put into teams and score points towards an overall team classification? That way the event maintains interest over several nights or even several events.
It is great to see people on the Cycling Weekly forum already setting their goals for 2009.
I?ve got one or two things in mind (the Tour of Wessex is one) so I have started to firm up my winter schedule of training.
My colleague Ed suggested I join the traditional early-January outing to the south coast and back, a 106-mile ride called the Coastal Clog. And I?ve also been persuaded to enter the Hell of the Ashdown on February 1.
So, as Ed joked last week, the first two months of 2009 will look like this:
January 4 ? Coastal Clog
January 5-31 ? ill
February 1 ? Hell of the Ashdown
February 2-28 ? ill
|MECHANICAL INEPTITUDE IS INCURABLE|
One of my biggest regrets is that as the years go on, I get no better at bike mechanics.
I am ham-fisted beyond belief and can make a mess of even the simplest of jobs.
Changing an inner tube by the roadside I can just about cope with, although I begin to tremor if I have an audience watching every fumbling move. Beyond that I am struggling.
Last week I replaced the brake blocks on my winter bike and what should have been a 15-minute job took ages and resulted in my getting red-faced and flustered and angry and sweary.
There were tools everywhere, washers and Allen keys spread across the dining room floor and a concerned call of ?Are you okay in there?? from the other room.
Eventually I managed to get the blocks aligned correctly and set the calipers so they did not rub on the rim. For me, that is a great success.
But when I was finished I did not feel satisfied, rather I had a sense of dread when I noticed the cable to the rear derailleur needs replacing too.
I am not sure what I can do to improve. I have tried reading the magazine articles ? you know, the ones with pictures showing step-by-step how to complete a particular task.
But I find that these bear about as much relation to my attempt at the given task as those pictures in golf magazines showing you how to develop the perfect swing.
I have stood and watched the best mechanics in the world as they tinker with the professionals’ bikes at the big races. At Manchester the other weekend I watched in awe as British Cycling’s Ernie Feargrieve and his team swapped rear wheels and tighten bolts with an effortless ease. The way these guys work over the machines is incredible and the consequences of cocking it up unimaginable. Their movements are swift and decisive, where mine are grappling and clumsy.
Sadly I have not managed to learn much by osmosis. I know I could save myself a fortune by not having to bother the local bike shop on such a regular basis. Short of a hand transplant I am not sure what I can do now.
|THANKS FOR THE CLARIFICATION, LANCE|
So Lance Armstrong didn?t chase down Filippo Simeoni after all.
Well, that?s revisionism for you.
The 18th stage of the 2004 Tour de France from Annemasse to Lons-le-Saunier should have been relatively stress-free for the yellow jersey. The Alps were over and the final time trial was the following day. Armstrong enjoyed a four-minute lead over Ivan Basso and five over T-Mobile?s Andreas Klöden.
But 32 kilometres into the stage, Filippo Simeoni, an Italian riding for Domina Vacanze, attacked.
According to Armstrong?s recent declarations he didn?t chase Simeoni down, he simply stayed on his wheel and was surprised to look round and find that the rest of the peloton had not followed. They then bridged a two minute gap up to the leaders, by accident, like. Apparently it was a great for Lance because it meant that T-Mobile were put on the back foot.
For 13 kilometres Simeoni rode hard to get across to the leading six, while Armstrong sat on his wheel. The leaders were stunned to see that the yellow jersey had joined them and knew their move would not work with him there.
Armstrong said he would not drop back unless Simeoni did too so, reluctantly, the Italian sat up and the pair waited for the peloton. Simeoni says he was abused, sworn at and even spat at when he got back to the bunch.
As Armstrong said in the aftermath of the incident: ?A guy like Simeoni, all he wants to do is destroy cycling.?
What is perhaps forgotten is that two days later on the run to the Champs-Elysees, Simeoni disrupted Armstrong?s traditional victory parade, by attacking from the gun and forcing the entire US Postal team to chase.
Ninety or so kilometres later Simeoni attacked repeatedly, four times, and each time it was a US Postal-led chase to bring him back.
Simeoni and Armstrong had history.
Simeoni is no saint. He took EPO given to him by Dr Michele Ferrari, who had also coached Armstrong. Simeoni testified against Ferrari in a court case in 2002. Armstrong called Simeoni a liar. Simeoni sued Armstrong for defamation. The issue was eventually dropped in 2006, but the feud remains.
The rumour is that Simeoni, now 37 and the current Italian champion, will find his Flaminia team is denied a place in the Giro d?Italia because Armstrong wants to ride.
And so those two days in July 2004 have become relevant again.
Armstrong?s insistence that he did not chase Simeoni is now an issue of semantics. The only reason Armstrong didn?t chase Simeoni down on stage 18 was because he didn?t allow him a metre of headway in the first place.
Two days later his team chased Simeoni repeatedly, proving that if you disagree with Armstrong, you feel the consequences.
I am no supporter of Simeoni?s decision to take EPO, but I am even less of a fan of Armstrong?s attempt to put a different spin on things.
Just admit it, Lance, you and your team chased down Simeoni because he testified against your coach.
|NO EXCUSE FOR A SOFT PENALTY|
Emanuele Sella was handed an extremely lenient one-year ban by the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) after co-operating with the investigation.
The CSF Navigare rider, who used the blood-boosting drug CERA in order to turn the Giro d?Italia on its head on successive days in the mountains. Had he not lost 18 minutes after a crash on stage 11, he?d have been a very difficult customer to deal with and could have been in the running for the pink jersey.
As it was, he won a clutch of stages and the king of the mountains title. He could barely hold himself back.
I am afraid to say, I was extremely sceptical about Sella at the time, as I wrote in the Tuesday Comment on May 27.
The arguments about who can take the credit for catching Sella are irrelevant, as far as I am concerned. All that matters is that he was caught.
And now he should be subject to at least a two-year ban. As it stands, he will be eligible to return next summer. Whether he co-operated is not the issue. A one-year ban for such blatant cheating is unacceptable and the UCI should take the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport and get the ban extended to two years.
|WHY IT HAS TO BE HOY|
Anyone who read the sports section of The Observer on Sunday will have seen the double-page article on the BBC?s Sports Personality of the Year competition.
And under the headline Battle of the Sexes two of its writers champion the case of double Olympic gold medal-winner Rebecca Adlington and motor racing driver Lewis Hamilton.
This only strengthens the case for cycling fans uniting behind one candidate ? and in our opinion that candidate has to be Chris Hoy.
With Hamilton and Adlington the bookmakers? favourites, the concern is the cycling vote is going to be split among a number of candidates.
A few weeks ago Cycling Weekly urged cycling fans to vote for Hoy, and persuade a couple of friends to do the same, since when we have come in for a bit of criticism.
Some don?t like being told which way to vote, which is fair enough. Others made the ludicrous claim that we?re being sexist. And we?ve even had the odd email along the lines of: ?Now you?ve told me to vote for Chris Hoy I?m going to vote for Nicole Cooke instead.? Which seems to miss the point somewhat.
Anyway, we are not being biased or sexist or anything else, we would simply like to see a cyclist win the award for the first time since 1965, and it seems very clear that the only one who has a real chance is Chris Hoy.
At the moment, the frontrunners according to the bookmaker Blue Square, are Hamilton at 4/9, Adlington at 11/4 and Hoy, third favourite, at 7/1. Of the other cyclists in with a shout of being nominated, Wiggins, Pendleton and Cooke are all 100/1 and Cavendish is 200/1.
Even Hoy thinks Hamilton is going to pip him.
So, if a cyclist is going to win, it seems it has to be Hoy. That?s not being sexist, or anti-Welsh or dictatorial, it is simply being realistic.
Personally, I find it very hard to split Hoy, Cooke and Cavendish when it comes to deciding whose achievement has been most impressive. But when it comes to the Sports Personality of the Year on December 14, I?ll be voting for Chris Hoy.
|NO DOPES IN FOOTBALL|
Nice to see the glorious sport of football is finally taking its anti-doping responsibilities seriously.
A registered testing pool of 30 ? yes, 30! ? Premier League players will be required to provide details of their location for one hour of every day.
That?s an average of 1.5 players per Premier League club. And they can expect to be tested out-of-competition up to five ? yes five! ? times a year.
Well, that?s certainly ruling with an iron fist.
The most predictable thing about the announcement by UK Sport and the Football Association, was that Gordon Taylor, chief executive of the PFA, the players? union, would object.
According to Taylor this is an intolerable invasion of privacy to visit a player?s home, but he is missing the point that a player could nominate time that he is at the club?s training ground, or his local gym, or any other location that does not mean testers turn up at his ?Tudorbethan? mansion, if he wishes.
Taylor also says that football?s record with drugs is extremely good and that there has been ?a virtual absence of any performance-enhancing drugs over decades?.
That would be a laudable claim, if only there had been a rigorous body of testing over those decades.
Before footballers start bleating about how unreasonable it is to have to account for where they will be for one hour of the day, perhaps they should spare a thought for the vast majority of the people who turn up to pay a fortune to watch them in action. Most of them have to account for their whereabouts for at least eight hours of their day ? it?s called work.
Anyway, if Britain?s Olympians can make themselves available for an hour a day to comply with the WADA code, then it?s time that the footballers did too.
Because football?s usual response of ?move along now, nothing to see here? is simply not good enough in this case.
|HOW PR WORKS|
Alberto Contador visited the Trek factory this week and a few journalists and photographers were only too happy to pop along to cover this ?story?.
While there Contador obliged by smiling and pointing at the products, sorry, bikes, as the photographers snapped away.
Woodward and Bernstein must be quaking in their boots.
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