The Roar
The Roar

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The beauty of the Classics, the hypocrisy of dopers, and the futility of The Hour

Expert
18th December, 2014
13

Philippe Gilbert got the ball rolling by saying on Thursday that he’s targeting Milan–San Remo, getting us on an early start for the annual Spring Classics Obsessional.

It happens every year. Faced with an interminably dull few months from the end of the racing season until the the Spring Classics (sorry Tour Down Under, people outside Australia generally aren’t all that fussed about it), it doesn’t take too long before we all start looking ahead (I started last April) to the greatest races on Earth.

And they are, aren’t they? Milan-San Remo, Flanders, Paris-Roubaix, Omloop-de-loop, oh, such beautiful names, such beautiful roads, all one dayers, races for hardnuts, warriors, the monsters of the sport.

Like Andy Schleck.

The Classics are racing at its most pure, its least diluted, its rawest. It’s a race from point A to point B. Have it.

That they aren’t there all year long is a good thing, somehow, but I do feel like a smack junkie from the end of April to March every year (sorry Lombardia but you just don’t get me that excited, not like the ‘Biggies’).

Anyway, Gilbert won’t win Milan-San Remo. Yes, he’s finished third (2008 and 2011) but he won’t get the gap he needs to win solo and he won’t win a sprint against anyone else who might be there.

Peter Sagan for me. It will be his year for really cracking home that immense talent of his. All hail the Year of the Pete.

On to Riccardo Ricco and Lance Armstrong.

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Apparently you can’t keep a good man down. Or a bad one.

Ricco and Lance both of course went down in a blaze of their own making, one received a lifetime ban, the other 12 years, and yet both keep popping up again and again in the cycling media.

Ricco recently went to Lausanne to speak to the UCI-funded Cycling Independent Reform Commission to ‘chat’ for seven hours, in the hope of getting his ban reduced.

“I paid my own way to go there,” he told CyclingNews.

Blimey, he must have been very serious about it all then. A source said his mum made him some sandwiches for the journey though, so he didn’t have to pay for his own lunch too.

Phew. I was about to suggest we have a whip-round.

Anyway, Ricco says he was led to believe he would get a 50 per cent reduction in his ban if he named names, he says he did but still got no reduction.

Half off? Is it Chrimbo already? Wait until the sales are on, Ricco! Everyone knows that’s when the bargains are to be had.

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“The whole thing was a joke,” he bleated. “It seems the rules are applied and interpreted depending on who you are.”

Now there, finally, is some sense from Ricco. One rule for some (i.e. the nasty dopers), another for the ‘nice’ dopers. Tell me it’s not true, please. Because you can’t.

We are wrong to take a stand on the personality traits of certain riders and consider them ‘worse’ than others. Ricco should have been handed a lifetime ban. George Hincapie more than just six months, and he should have been made to repay a lot of cash. Alexander Vinokourov should not be in management. We could go on.

And on.

And on.

And, ok you get the drift.

Then Lance, the thinking man’s Ricco, turns around last week and said, “The sport is so weak. Just fundamentally weak. From the unity standpoint. From a rider’s standpoint. The teams. They have no authority. No power.

“So when you have a shit show like we’ve seen with me, someone from the outside can just step in, go back 12 years in time, and royally screw a sport and a new generation that deserves none of this. Cycling and its hypocrisy is off the charts.”

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At which point the needle on the hypocrisy chart went round so fast that it blew up.

The same new generation that keeps spewing out positives weekly? The same new generation that won’t stand up to be counted in the face of these positives and a weak leadership?

And are the teams really so weak? Or do they in fact control pro cycling? Astana seems to have been playing the game by its own rules and are still in. Bjarne Riis, Oleg Tinkov and the old Saxobank, same deal. Katusha too.

More claptrap from the sport’s ‘new protector’ (the same one who will not disclose the inner workings of his relationship with Thom Wiesel and Jim Ochovitz), Mr Lance ‘I Never Won a Tour’ Armstrong.

Armstrong never attempted the world hour record, and thank Eddy he didn’t or he might have managed 62 kilometres in his EPO heyday.

It’s great to see it back in mode, to see the big guys having a crack at it – and indeed the not-so-big guys. But then I got thinking and I realised that it is in fact little more than a gimmick.

Only the cynical would say that it’s yet another cynical UCI money spinner.

Anyway, it’s basically a UCI money spinner.

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The bare bones of the facts are that since the UCI unified the record and brought the bike rules in line with regulations for current track pursuit bikes, it’s a record that will keep on being broken by every successive generation by ever greater degrees.

Eddie Merckx was in all likelihood the most powerful rider ever to attempt The Hour and if we really want to see The Hour back where it deserves to be then let’s get them on the old bikes.

I know! In this day and age? When we can sell a load of carbon stuff that’s all shiny and new and makes the rider actually faster than he really is (in relative terms – against Merckx and on a steel bike)?

Yes. Let’s be crazy. Yes, we have advances in track surfaces, and yes in training too, and yes the dope has got way better, and of course the world doesn’t stand still. But there surely yet is a place for a bit of romance in this world ain’t there?

Ain’t there?

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