Cycling UK » procycling Cycling info - advice and tips Tue, 17 Dec 2013 18:15:08 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Doping and Suspicious Performances Mon, 08 Jul 2013 12:33:06 +0000 Fairly early in the USADA report into US Postal, they made the point that according to WADA rules, performance alone is never sufficient to launch an anti doping investigation.

In other words, ‘eyebrow raising performances’ are not sufficient for an anti-doping unit to begin an investigation of an athlete. There needs to be other evidence. This evidence does not necessarily have to be failed drug tests, it could be testimonies, interviews e.t.c.


In 1999, US postal and Lance Armstrong dominated throughout the tour and in particular on the first mountain stage, with many in the press room raising eyebrows at the unbelievable performance of Armstrong – only a short time after his recovery from cancer. 13 years later, and many who watch the sport of pro-cycling are (due to repeated doping scandals) much more suspicious / cynical about any dominating performance. The problem is that suspicion is becoming a deeply embedded part of the sport.

When Team Sky dominated the first Pyrenean stage (Froome, Porte and Kennaugh), it seemed impossible for anyone to report the stage without making the comparison with US Postal of 1999 and referring to it as an ‘eyebrow’ raising performance.

But, I see a whole world of difference between the 1999 US Postal experience and the era of 2013.

After Lance Armstrong’s eyebrow raising performances, it seemed that anecdotal evidence of his doping kept falling from the sky.

  • The non-existence of EPO tests at the time.
    His failed test of Cortiscone
    Armstrong’s bullying of anti-doping rider Christophe Bassons
    The later testimonies of masseurs, riders on the team.
    The lying about use of actovigen e.t.c.
    The persistent use and payment to notorious doping doctor Michael Ferrari

I could go on, but no-one really wants to drag up the whole Armstrong case file. The point is that to the ‘suspicious performances’ evidence kept coming to support suspicions over performance. The case against Armstrong was not based on the evidence that he was 4 minutes better than everyone else. It was based on the fact that even his teammates were saying he doped.

If we look at Team Sky, the only major blot on the copybook is the temporary hiring of Doctor Leinders in 2011 and 2012, who has increasingly being implicated in blood doping at Rabobank. But, Leinders was only at Sky a relatively short time.

If you believe and value in the truth, you develop an intuition for when people are clearly lying or not. Modern day riders may come across as overly defensive, but it must be irritating for any athlete who rides clean only for Tom, Dick and Harry who spend most of their time on internet chat forums to assume they know everything. Off guard, dopers often gave clues away in interviews. Do you take drugs – “I have never failed a dope test”


The problem with basing doping suspicion on performance, is that anyone who does well in the Tour de France, will be labelled suspicion. And this will change from day to day. If you are suitably cynical, the only people not to be suspicious about are those who fail to make the cut off time. One day, Team Sky have 3 riders doing well, the next day Sky fall off the mountain, and we see the bizarre site of six Movistar riders surrounding the last Sky man standing Froome.

It is unfortunate, that relatively bad performance these days are seen by some as a good thing. The fact that Sky riders aren’t super-human and ride with robotic strength every day, is seen to be a good thing. Apart from Froome, Peter Kennaugh, (and Porte in one stage), Sky must be a bit disappointed with some of their domestiques; they probably had a stronger team in the Giro.

In the current climate, it is unbelievable how US postal got away with so much. Can you imagine Froome bullying an anti-doping rider? Can you imagine Froome getting a back dated certificate for a failed dope test? Can you imagine TV crews finding bags of actovigen in Sky hotels?


It is good to have reservations and ask intelligent questions. But, there is a danger of overdoing the cynicism and coming to false conclusions on the basis of good performances.

Do I trust cyclists who paid a lot of money to go and see Dr Fuentes? no. I don’t. But, I’m going to enjoy the Tour for what it is. I believe there are many riders who are now riding clean, but ironically face much greater inquisition than the doped generation ever did. To ride the tour clean, despite having to deal with the extra suspicion is a great achievement, and I value their efforts.

Maybe in five years time, we will again be disappointed as doping use is proved. If it is, so be it. I won’t have lost anything. But, I’ll wait for that evidence to be proved before I become the cynical cycling watcher. The Tour after all is a chance to admire the efforts and courage of the riders. And what will happen in the next few weeks? Who knows, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we see Froome neatly packaged in a few Spanish sandwiches. Just remember talent and performance is not proof of doping. Sit back and enjoy the race.


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Rob Hayles – Easy Rider – book review Fri, 05 Jul 2013 13:12:54 +0000 I received a copy of Easy Rider: My Life on a bike by Rob Hayles, and enjoyed reading it.


It’s the story of a laid back character, who rose from riding the track in Portsmouth to finally coming double world champion in 2005. It’s a reminder that the world of cycling is incredibly competitive, and during a long career, Rob Hayles experienced every emotion from the pain of near misses, the tragi-comic farce of riding at Cofidis to the heights of winning the Madison World title with Mark Cavendish in 2005. If you think the world of a professional cyclist is glamorous, this is quite a revealing insight into the highs and lows of a successful cyclist like Rob Hayles.

By strange co-incidence, our paths crossed at Rob Hayles’ final race – the 2011 national hill climb championship.  Throughout the book, Rob Hayles, humorously mentions how he teases the great Sir Chris Hoy about the time he beat Chris Hoy in the Kierin (though Hoy plays along by managing to forget about this race). So, in a similar vein, I could boast – did I tell you the time I beat a double world champion right on his own doorstep? (Let’s not mention the 18kg difference in weight between us.)

Despite Rob’s impressive achievements, he remains fairly modest. Though the book is still an opportunity to get things off his chest – like the disappointments of certain selections, the difficulties of Cofidis, the grumpier side of Bradley Wiggins, the trauma of once having a heamocrit test of over 50% (test has now been scrapped because of it’s unreliability) Perhaps writing the book for Rob was like a tough winter training ride.  Hard work when undergoing the ride. But, worth it when you finish.


rob hayles

Rob Hayles in final race

Some things I particularly liked:

  • Because I’ve read David Millar’s autobiography – it was interesting to read the story from Hayle’s perspective.
  • Reading about the Cofidis years and realising the life of a pro cyclist is far from glamorous.
  • I liked the insight into the attitude of Mark Cavendish – expecting to be world champion at his first attempt, aged just 19.
  • The experience of Hayles’ first pro race on the continent. Riding right at the back of the bunch desperately trying to hang on, and being unable to believe how hard the racing was.
  • The fact his career was a mixture of just missing out, and just making it. Not every cyclist is an Eddy Merckx winning everything they enter.
  • An insight into the evolution of British cycling from the days of sharing a skinsuit with a dried out 10 year old leather chamois, to the marginal gains of the Brailsford era.


I would recommend. It’s a good read. It’s not quite the mental rollercoaster of an Obree or David Millar. It’s not the slick success of a Froome or Wiggins. It’s about a hard working cyclist, who despite being a world champion – you can still quite easily relate to.

And did I tell you about the time I beat a double world champion on his home turf? :)


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Tour De France Questions Thu, 27 Jun 2013 15:36:11 +0000 tourdefrance

The tour is one of the biggest sporting spectacles in the world. No matter how many scandals and tearful confessions on Oprah , we can’t resist the allure of watching the Tour. The tour has everything, beautiful scenery, drama, excitement, raw passion and the opportunity for endless hours of Sean Kelly say ‘erm, well, I don’t think so.’ Summer wouldn’t be the same without getting a birds eye view of France’s finest Chateauxs.

The British knowledge of the Tour de France has vastly increased in recent years. (I no longer get asked why don’t I do it. (it’s not quite the LOndon Marathon where you can turn up in a diver’s suit and raise a bit of cash for charity)

But, if you’ve ever wondered at the range of seemingly strange tour vocab, hopefully, this will explain the mysteries of echelons, bidons and the white jersey with red polka dots.

Note to mother and anyone flatmate. You don’t ask any questions after the 1km banner.

How Long is the Tour?

Modern versions are roughly about 3,600 kilometres (2,200 mi) spread out over three weeks. Early Tours were longer. In 1926, riders had to cover 5,745 km over 17 stages.

How Fast do the Riders Go?

In 1926, the tour winner averaged 24Kmph over the whole 5,745Km. By comparison in 2010, the average speed was just under 40Kmph for the 3,642Km

What Does the  Yellow Jersey Mean?

The yellow jersey is worn by rider at the top of the overall classification. (the quickest time over combined stages so far).

The yellow jersey was introduced in 1919 several years after the Tour started. It was chosen it was felt the yellow jersey would help identify the  leader to spectators on the road. Yellow was chosen because the newspaper L’Equipe which sponsored the Tour was printed on yellow paper. The first yellow jersey wearer was Eugène Christophe in 1919. (see: birth of yellow jersey) Some riders said they were offered a yellow jersey in previous years but they didn’t want to wear it.

What is the King of the Mountains Competition?

A separate competition within the Tour. Riders are given points for being the highest placed rider over the summit of mountains. The best climber was first recognised in 1933, and the distinctive white and red polka jot jersey was introduced in 1975 to show person with most points in the King of the Mountains.

For example, on the most difficult climb (hors category) e.g. Alpe d’Huez a rider is given 20 points for being 1st and 16 points for being second. For smaller and easier climbs less points are available.

What is the Green Jersey for?

Another points competition. Points are awarded for placings in stages. e.g. in a flat stage finish 1st place gets 45 points, second place gets 35. You can also pick up points during intermediary sprints during a stage. The green jersey ignores overall time and just the number of points you pick up at end of stages.

What is the White Jersey for?

For the young rider (under 26) who has the highest placing on overall classification. Winners of the white jersey who went onto win overall include:

  • Laurent Fignon 1983 (FRA) (also won Overall that year)
  • Greg LeMond 1983 (USA)
  • Marco Pantani 1994, 1995 (ITA)
  • Jan Ullrich 1996 (GER)
  • Alberto Contador 2007 (ESP) (also won Overall that year)
Why do the riders spend most of the time in the Peleton (big bunch?)

Riding behind another rider saves unto 25-30% of your energy. In some cases, right in the middle, it is estimated you can save upto 50%. If you ride ahead of bunch you will need much more energy. Therefore it is very difficult to ride off on your own away from the bunch. However, some riders will try to win the stage and get into a break ‘a group of a few riders’ trying to get to finish before peleton.

What is the Autobus?

Riders have to finish within a certain time frame, otherwise they get eliminated. This is calculated by a % slower than winners time (e.g. 40 minutes on big mountain stage). On tough mountainous stages, riders may join together to try and make sure they are not eliminated. The autobus is usually the last big group on the road. Also by being in a big autobus, riders hope that on really hard stages, even if they finish outside the time limit the Tour organisers won’t dare eliminate half the field. In exceptional circumstance the organisers can increase time limit to make sure they don’t eliminate the whole autobus.

Why don’t they do every Stage as a Time Trial?

A time trial or contre-la-montre, (“against the clock”, or literally against the watch) means riders rely solely on their own efforts. There is no chance of race tactics or hiding in bunch. Arguably, this is truer sporting test as the strongest rider wins. However, it is not the most spectator friendly event. The race tactics and speed of bunch sprint is much more exciting than repeated time trials. Therefore, they are usually limited to one or two.

What is a Domestique?

Most riders in the tour have no chance or expectations of winning. Therefore they act as ‘servants’ or ‘support riders’ for their team leader. They will drop back to pick up water bottles ‘bidons’ from their team car and then bring them back to their leader. If a break needs chasing down, ‘domestiques’ will work on the front enabling the team leader to save his energy for later. In some circumstances they will be expected to give up their wheel or even their bike to save their leader time. It is hard to win the Tour without a very committed team of domestiques willing to sacrifice themselves for their team leader. It is said Lance Armstrong’s dominance was built around a team with unflinching loyalty (though that loyalty didn’t extend to belated doping allegations).

Also, there are domestiques and there are super-domestiques. It sometimes happens that the domestique turns out to be stronger than the team leader (Hinault and LeMond in 1985). Froome v Wiggins 2012. This can be embarassing all round. The moment of greatest interest in the 2012 tour was when the loyal Froome – dog wanted to let go of his leash and started ‘attacking’ Wiggins. Wiggins was said to be in near tears at the end. Though in the time trials, Wiggins was able to dish out his power and show Froome who was the boss.


What is an Echelon?

Usually, you want to ride behind another rider to save energy. However, in a very strong side wind you want to ride by their side. Therefore in a strong side wind, everyone tries to ride to the side of another, leading to these diagonal looking ‘echelons’. This can be dangerous for leading contenders because the peleton is split up into different groups and they can drift away from main pack.

What is the Lantern Rouge?

The last rider overall on general classification. For a time the lantern rouge would carry a little red light under their saddle. It became paradoxically a cool thing to be. Lantern Rouge’s would gain more fame than person second to last. For a few years in the 1940s,  organisers experimented with sending the last rider (lantern rouge) home to try and discourage this unofficial competition to be the lantern rouge.

Even now some riders really don’t mind being lantern rouge as they are domestiques and it means at least they are still in the race. There can even be a little light competition to get lantern rouge.

Kenny Van Hummel gained fame after being lantern rouge by a huge margin during 1999 tour (cycling news)

As David Duffield once said:

De las Cuevas is so far down on GC you could time him in with a calendar!

Why is Mark Cavendish not in the lead despite winning so many stages?

The overall leader of the Tour is based on time. In many stages that Mark Cavendish wins, he gets the same time as all the other riders. He is just the fastest sprinter. However, in mountain stages, he may finish 30 minutes behind the leader of the tour because although good at sprinting he doesn’t have a good build for climbing. The winner of the tour will have to be good at time trials and climbing.

Why does Mark Cavendish not Get the Green Jersey despite winning the most stages.

In 2009, Mark Cavendish won 6 stages but still didn’t win Green jersey. This is because the Green jersey competition rewards most consistent finisher. You can win Green jersey just by finishing high up in stages and sprinting for intermediate stages. He would probably have won green jersey if he hadn’t been disqualified during one sprint, which saw him relegated to back of bunch

Can you Win the Tour De France Without Winning A Stage?

Yes, this has happened 6 times, including Alberto Contador in 2010. The overall is just fastest time.

Who Was the Greatest Tour de France rider of all time?

Cue endless debate on cycling forums. You can really take your pick from any of the riders who won more than five times

  • Jacques Anquetil in 1957, 1961, 1962, 1963 and 1964;
  • Eddy Merckx in 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972 and 1974;
  • Bernard Hinault in 1978, 1979, 1981, 1982 and 1985;
  • Miguel Indurain in 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994 and 1995 (the first to do so in five consecutive years).

In terms of number of victories Lance Armstrong (7) stands out 1999-2006. Though Lance also has the record for the most number of Tour de France victories stripped away from him. It leaves his official career palmeres with as little as Fleche Wallone (1995) and San Sebastian.

Lance Armstrong’s 7 consecutive victories stand out as most impressive, though recent ongoing drug allegations have tarnished his reputation somewhat.

How many winner in the past 20 years can you believe won the tour ridding clean?

Of winners in the past generation, David Walsh said he only had faith in Bradley Wiggins, Cadel Evans, and Greg LeMond. I would agree with that. Perhaps also Carlos Sastre, I don’t know.

Who Was Least Well Known Rider to Win the Tour?

In modern times Óscar Pereiro was undoubtedly a surprise in 2006. He befitted from Flloyd Landis’ disqualification. His only other major win was a stage in the Tour of Switzerland, and 10th overall in the Tour de France in 2005 and 2004.

Who was the Greatest Tour de France rider never to win?

Perhaps an easier one to answer. Most people would give Raymond Poulidor or ‘Pou Pou’. His nickname was also the ‘eternal second’ Despite an 18 year old career which involved winning 189 races he could never win the Tour. He finished second or third a combination of eight times. Perhaps he just had the bad luck to be riding in same generation as Jacques Anquetil and Eddy Merckx. To make it even better he was an attacking rider, good in the mountains. In many ways we prefer a plucker loser to a ‘boring’ winner. ‘Pou Pou’ probably gained greater love than Jacques Anquetil or Miguel Indurain who ground out wins by dominating in time trials.

The closest Tour de France?

Everyone remembers the 1989 Tour. The American Greg Le Mond v the bespectacled Frenchmen, Laurent Fignon. On the last stage, a Time Trial on the Champs Elysees, Greg Le Mond managed to overturn a 50 second deficit and wins overall by a mere 8 seconds. Greg Le Mond made use of new technology – triathlon style time trial bars, leavin Laurent Fignon distraught at the side of the road.

Most Popular Towns for Stages?
  • Paris – 135 (most recent finish: 2010) (has finished on Champs Elysees on every year since 1975
  • Bordeaux 80 (most recent: 2010)
  • Pau 62 (most recent: 2010)
The Most Scandalous Tour de France?

It would be a mistake to think that scandal and drug taking are a modern phenomenon of the Tour. On the early tours, riders were specifically told they had to bring their own stimulants. Early tours were full of intrigue like riders being disqualified for taking the train or riders facing roads full of tacks to give their rivals an advantage.

It was only in the 1960s when drug testing came in, and even then it was sporadic and by all accounts quite easy to dodge.

However, for the sheer scale of scandal and upheaval it’s hard to forget the Festina Scandal of 1998.

During the tour, Willy Voet  a soigneur for the French team Festina, was found with a car full of doping products. The Festina team were sent home, and amidst drug raids by the authorities on other teams, the riders began to protest on mass. Only half the field finally made it to Paris, where Marco Pantani’s win was overshadowed by the massive drug controversy. (Pantani himself was later to tragically die young from drug related problems)

The biggest scandal was the downfall of Armstrong

Don’t they all just Dope – How Can anyone ride the tour without?

I would say emphatically that you can ride and people do ride the tour without taking any illegal stimulants. Yes, the tour is difficult but it is feasible for professional athletes. Doping products just enable you to ride it at a faster average speed.

Is the Tour Cleaner than Before?

Perhaps subjective, but I would say it is cleaner and there is less doping. In the 1990s and 2000s, by all accounts doping was  rife.  However, regular doping tests and biological passports have made it more difficult to take drugs. I feel more teams are now sincere when they say they want to ride clean.

Who has died whilst riding the Tour de France?
  • Adolphe Heliére, France. Drowned while swimming during a rest day of the 1910 Tour de France.
  • Francisco Cepeda, Spain, Tour de France, 1935. Died after crashing on the descent of the Galibier
  • Tom Simpson, July 13, 1967 (combination of heat exhaustion, overuse of stimulants) amphetamines found in his back pocket)
  • Fabio Casartelli,  Italy, Tour de France, July 19, 1995. Casartelli was the reigning Olympic Champion at the time of his crash and subsequent death
Most Bizarre Regulations in the Tour?

In 1925 Herni Desgrange’s planned that riders should all eat exactly the same amount of food each day. Riders striked in protest and it was later dropped.

In early editions of the tour, riders had to do their own mechanical repairs. In 1913, Eugène Christophe was on course to win when his fork broke on a mountain descent. He went to local forge and tried to repair his fork himself. As well as losing time, he was also fined 3 minutes, because a 7 year old boy helped push the bellows.

What happens when a rider wants to answer a call of nature during a long six hour stage?

Sometimes riders stop at the side of the road and many others will join them. There is an unofficial rule not to attack when riders are answering call of nature. Sometimes when racing is hoting up, riders will not stop but urinate on the move. A task not too easy. They are not allowed to do it in built up areas and preferably not when cameras are on.

How Much Do they Eat during a stage?

A Tour de France rider may consume something in the region of 6,000-8,000 calories (daily recommended is 2,000). If you think it’s difficult to consume 8,000 calories try doing it on a vegan diet like D.Zabirskie (Independent)

When Are you Going To Ride the Tour de France?

Tell a non-cyclist I’ve won a local club time trial against a collection of other amateurs, and the next question is often – so when are you going to ride the Tour de France? I guess it’s not quite like the London marathon where you can turn up with good intentions and promise to raise some money for charity. Only the  top 20 pro teams will get invited to the Tour, and they will pick their best 9 riders. This means the field is limited to about 180 riders (which still many consider too many). But, there are huge commercial benefits to being in the tour, so there is always the pressure to allow some teams (mainly French) a wildcard position.

What’s the Most Bizarre TV Commentary you heard whilst listening to the Tour de France?

Let’s be honest, the tour is mostly dull, only watching the breakaway time come slowly down. Fortunately, we have commentators like David Duffield who can manage to get excited by the most trivial of incidents.

“I am sitting here with my chin on the counter, my mouth open like a great big whale scooping up plankton. I am gobsmacked!”

“This is like Wimbledon., Ascot and Silverstone all wrapped in together and plonked in the middle of Paris: amazing!

But, to be fair, it’s a hard job commentating on cycling.
Stephen Roche: What are they doing there, Dave? – David Duffield: They’re riding their bicycles! (more quotes)
Why is there always a devil raising a trident by side of road?

I’ve really have no-idea. You could always ask the devil himself but he seems to enjoy himself.


The Devil at the Tour de France – from Loving Photography

Famous Quotes from the Tour de France

“You’re assassins! All of you!”

- Octave Lapize to Tour officials whilst half way up the Col d’Aubisque in the 1910 tour. In the days before tarmac roads, gears and heavy steel bikes.

Tour Glossary

  • Bidon – bottle
  • Combativité – Most aggressive rider, person who goes out on long breakaways
  • Drafting – riding behind another rider to save aero drag
  • Flamme rouge – Red kit showing 1Km to go
  • Grand Départ – First Stage
  • le parcours – route, course
  • le peloton – The big bunch of riders on the tour
  • l’équipe – team
  • le coureur- rider
  • le sprinteur – sprinter
  • le grimpeur – climber
  • la tête de course – race or course leader
  • les domestiques – ‘servants’, riders who protect their leader
  • l’étape – stage
  • l’étape de plaine – flat stage
  • l’étape de montagne – mountain, climbing stage
  • l’étape contre la montre – Time Trial
  • les classements – standings, rider positions after each stage
  • le maillot jaune – yellow jersey – for the leader
  • le maillot vert – green jersey – for the best sprinter
  • le maillot à pois – polka-dot jersey – for the best climber
  • le maillot blanc – white jersey – best young rider
  • Musette – bag of food
  • Prologue – First time trial stage


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Va Va Froome – book review Tue, 25 Jun 2013 09:04:19 +0000 It’s the week before the Tour de France and we have a whole week with no cycling on tele, just hours of speculation about the riders, the course and different possible outcomes. It’s that time of the year when journalists are desperately looking out for some tibit or quote to fill the press pages.


Chris Froome says ‘he’s feeling good’ and 100 journalists worry this might be the most boring tour since, er. last year.  Contador mentions he’s checking out the local steakhouses, and hopes of an epic encounter on the top of Alpe d’Huez suddenly rise.

On the positive side, at least we are spared the whole Team Sky leadership soap opera saga. Thankfully, that has been put to bed.

Even if Wiggins had not won the Tour de France, he would still have been one of Britain’s most successful cyclists ever. But he did win, plus an iconic Olympic gold to boot. 2012 was all about Bradley Wiggins. But, in sport there is no room for sentiment. This year Wiggins,  will be probably watching from a pub in Wigan or training for the Tour of Poland. The man of the moment is unquestionably Chris Froome. The Spider himself, the Kenyan born Brit with tremendous climbing talent. ‘Froome dog’ the loyal lieutenant (well mostly loyal apart from the odd glimpse of showing off in mountains)

But, who is Chris Froome? Where did he come from? and what kind of person is he?

Va Va Froome by  David Sharp review

This books tells Froome’s development as a rider from the dusty mountain roads of Kenya to the top of the European pro scene.

Froome’s background is quite interesting. His earliest cycling days were with a group of poor native Kenyans who were oblivious of European road racing, but just enjoying the chance to actually ride a bike. From these lonely Kenyan beginnings, Froome moved to the opposite extreme – the privilege of South Africa’s top boarding school – giving Froome a strange mix of backgrounds from knowledge of the poverty of the Masai Mara to an accent of privilege. Unsurprisingly, cycling was not seen as a proper sport at Froome’s South African school, though some reminisce of seeing Froome put in 3 hours on an indoor turbo trainer. Froome’s dedication was evident from the early days.

From these beginnings we see a potted history of an aspiring neo pro. It was no meteoric rise, but his talent for long climbs was soon apparent. It may be hard to imagine, when Froome is sitting in a well oiled Team Sky winning-cycling machine, but his early years as a pro were fraught with self-imposed disasters.

Like one of his first U-23 world time trial championships where he just rode into a marshal by mistake. It may be funny now, but the marshal had quite a few bruises at the time. Then there was the time when he was on the verge of his first pro win. In the last km he thought he had a three minute gap, 200 metres from the line, he sits up, does up his zip all ready to show his sponsor in full colours. But, as Froome is grinding to a slow victory march, the bunch come flying past – nearly crashing in to the relatively stationary Froome. For a pro cyclist, there are few things more embarrassing than the victory celebration that proves to be premature.

The book starts with recapturing the ‘battle’ between Froome and Wiggins in the 2012 tour. The chapter is told well, but it also highlights a weakness of the book – this 2012 chapter will soon feel of much less importance after the 2013 tour. Froome is a man on the mission, and this book only tells the first half of the story. It’s like writing a book about man visiting the moon, but the book stops just as you get to the launch pad.

However, I’m sure future editions will be updated for 2013 tour and beyond. The important thing is that this book gives a good and detailed account of the less widely known aspects of the Froome story. If Froome wins in 2013, you won’t need a specialist book to find out about it. But, I learnt a lot about the nature of Froome’s character and was fascinated to see how a cyclist can make his way through the pro-ranks.

Another aspect of the book is that it relies on testimonies of people who knew Froome and quotes from Froome in the cycling press. There appears to have been little direct access. Froome is a guarded treasure now. But, that isn’t a bar to telling a detailed story.

For those who think Froome comes across as a little bland and robotic, you will enjoy reading about his rather unconventional introduction to pro-cycling. His initial dodgy descending skills, his preference to go it alone and do 6 or 7 hour training rides.

A short note on doping. This book is not a doping investigation. It merely presents a fair overview of Froome’s life and career so far. On a personal note, I feel Froome is an athlete you can believe in. From what he says and what he has done, I will assume he is a clean athlete. People can come to their own conclusions. But, this does appear to be a different era to  L.A. and Tyler Hamilton e.t.c.


I was really glad to get the book, and read it quite quickly. It fills in many gaps about the early career of Froome. It will appear more to a fan keen on pro-racing. There is a lot of details about races – who won, how Froome did. If you’re looking for an in depth psychological analysis backed up by an in depth interview, you will be disappointed. But, I liked the book, just because I was interested to know a bit more about Froome’s training, what makes him tick. It’s also quite inspiring to see how he was moulded from two unlikely sources – the wilderness of the Masai Mara, and the privilege of a South African boarding school which turned its nose up at cycling.

as they say in ‘va va Froome dog!’ now you just have to go and win the tour!

photo: M.Cound



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Alex Dowsett and racing in the rain Sat, 11 May 2013 19:57:53 +0000 Just a few quick thoughts on the Giro d’Italia and racing in the rain. On Friday I saw Bradley Wiggins struggling on the descents. After crashing on a slippery descent, he took it gingerly down the remainder of the last climb losing over a minute to the leading contenders. As the cliche goes, it’s all still all to play for, but that minute will be tough to peg back in the mountains.


If I wasn’t a cyclist, I may have been shouting at the TV ‘Come on Bradley get a move on, why don’t you go a bit quicker’ But, after coming off the bike in the rain, the last thing you want to do is to get back on start racing down the same hills. I really emphasised with that awful feeling of cold, wet, pain, and lost confidence.

The time trial was another matter all together. After more bad luck in getting a puncture, Wiggins was back on form and powered away over the second half of the course.

Despite a puncture (and if you’ve ever had a puncture in a race, you know it costs you much more than 20 seconds.), Wiggins finished a creditable 2nd. Still on top of his form, but simultaneously dissappointed not to take more time out of his rivals. If Wiggins has been having a tough week, another British rider must be on top of the moon. For Alex Dowsett to win his first stage in a grand tour, must be very satisfying, especially because the course was really tough – far removed from a more typical British time trial up a dual carriageway, which he has been brought up on.

It was only two years ago, that I posted about Alex Dowsett. We both did the H25/8 Bentley course on the A31. He did 46.58. I was more than 5 minutes behind. (I Blogged about it here. Alex Dowsett 46.58) Two years on, Alex Dowsett is on the podium of the Giro d’Italia, and I was riding the West London Cycling Association on the A40 (H181/10)

Alex Dowsett

I was chuffed for Alex, and it is very nice to be able to say you’ve ridden against the fastest man in a Giro stage.

Back to riding in the rain. A big difference between amateurs and pros is that when it rains, the pro has to keep going – even if it is six hours of up and down Italian roads, seemingly sprayed with GT-80. But, an Amateur only has to look at a dodgy weather forecast and delay his ride until more suitable time.

Despite, the threat of rain, I still went out to Madley Primary school, the HQ for the WLCA 10 mile TT. Unfortunately, the race got cancelled because of rain and the spray. It was a tough call for the organiser. I definitely sympathise with his dilemma, especially because I’m organising a race on the same course next week. It’s not wimping out, but an awareness of the dangers we face racing on dual carriageways with diminished visibility.

So that’s another difference between amateurs and pros. The world is close, yet so far. I don’t think the people of David Cameron’s constituency would take too kindly to closing the A40 for a few hours so 30 cyclists can go up and down the Witney bypass in safety. Maybe in Italy, but not England.

So It was no cycling and back to watch the Giro on Eurosport.

GB one and two! I’m so proud Britain are good at time trials! Maybe next year we should some Italians over to race up and down the A31.

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List of Tour de France Winners 1903 – 2012 Tue, 07 May 2013 21:08:43 +0000

Despite breaks for the two world wars the Tour de France has been held every year since 1903. It is not the oldest cycling race. But, it is the oldest and most prestigious stage race. All the great names of professional cycling can be found in the list of Tour de France winners. 4 cyclists have won race 5 times

  • Jaques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx, Bernaud Hinault, Miguel Indurain.
  • 1903 Maurice Garin (France)
  • 1904 Henri Cornet (France)
  • 1905 Louis Trousselier (France)
  • 1906 Rene Pottier (France)
  • 1907 Lucien Petit-Breton (France)
  • 1908 Petit-Breton
  • 1909 Francois Faber (Luxembourg)
  • 1910 Octave Lapize (France)
  • 1911 Gustave Garrigou (France)
  • 1912 Odile Defraye (Belgium)
  • 1913 Philippe Thys (Belgium)
  • 1914 Philippe Thys
  • 1919 Firmin Lambot (Belgium)
  • 1920 Philippe Thys
  • 1921 Leon Scieur (Belgium)
  • 1922 Firmin Lambot
  • 1923 Henri Pelissier (France)
  • 1924 Ottavio Bottecchia (Italy)
  • 1925 Ottavio Bottecchia
  • 1926 Lucien Buysse (Belgium)
  • 1927 Nicolas Frantz (Luxembourg)
  • 1928 Nicolas Frantz
  • 1929 Maurice De Waele (Belgium)
  • 1930 Andre Leducq (France)
  • 1931 Antonin Magne (France)
  • 1932 Andre Leducq
  • 1933 Georges Speicher (France)
  • 1934 Antonin Magne
  • 1935 Romain Maes (Belgium)
  • 1936 Sylvere Maes (Belgium)
  • 1937 Roger Lapebie (France)
  • 1938 Gino Bartali (Italy)
  • 1939 Sylvere Maes (Belgium)
  • 1947 Jean Robic (France)
  • 1948 Gino Bartali
  • 1949 Fausto Coppi (Italy)
  • 1950 Ferdi Kubler (Switzerland)
  • 1951 Hugo Koblet (Switzerland)
  • 1952 Fausto Coppi
  • 1953 Louison Bobet (France)
  • 1954 Louison Bobet
  • 1955 Louison Bobet
  • 1956 Roger Walkowiak (France)
  • 1957 Jacques Anquetil (France)
  • 1958 Charly Gaul (Luxembourg)
  • 1959 Federico Bahamontes (Spain)
  • 1960 Gastone Nencini (Italy)
  • 1961 Jaques Anquetil
  • 1962 Jaques Anquetil
  • 1963 Jaques Anquetil
  • 1964 Jaques Anquetil
  • 1965 Felice Gimondi (Italy)
  • 1966 Lucien Aimar (France)
  • 1967 Roger Pingeon (France)
  • 1968 Jan Janssen (Netherlands)
  • 1969 Eddy Merckx (Belgium)
  • 1970 Eddy Merckx
  • 1971 Eddy Merckx
  • 1972 Eddy Merckx
  • 1973 Luis Ocana (Spain)
  • 1974 Eddy Merckx
  • 1975 Bernard Thevenet (France)
  • 1976 Lucien Van Impe (Belgium)
  • 1977 Bernard Thevenet
  • 1978 Bernard Hinault (France)
  • 1979 Bernard Hinault
  • 1980 Joop Zoetemelk (Netherlands)
  • 1981 Bernard Hinault
  • 1982 Bernard Hinault
  • 1983 Laurent Fignon (France)
  • 1984 Laurent Fignon
  • 1985 Bernard Hinault
  • 1986 Greg LeMond (U.S.)
  • 1987 Stephen Roche (Ireland)
  • 1988 Pedro Delgado (Spain)
  • 1989 Greg LeMond
  • 1990 Greg LeMond
  • 1991 Miguel Indurain (Spain)
  • 1992 Miguel Indurain
  • 1993 Miguel Indurain
  • 1994 Miguel Indurain
  • 1995 Miguel Indurain
  • 1996 Bjarne Riis [1] (Denmark)
  • 1997 Jan Ullrich (Germany)
  • 1998 Marco Pantani (Italy)
  • 1999 *
  • 2000 *
  • 2001 *
  • 2002 *
  • 2003 *
  • 2004 *
  • 2005 *
  • 2006 Oscar Periero Spain
  • 2007 Alberto Contador Spain
  • 2008 Carlos Sastre – Spain
  • 2009 Alberto Contador – Spain
  • 2010 Andy Schleck (Lux) – Alberto Contandor dsq for failed dope test.
  • 2011 Cadel Evans – Aus
  • 2012 Bradley Wiggins – GB

* Lance Armstrong stripped of titles due to drug use.

Related Posts

[1] Bjanne Riis had admitted to using EPO. The Tour de France organisers no longer consider him a winner, although the UCI have not changed the result.

[2] In 2006 Floyd Landis was the winner but later stripped of his title after failing a drugs test.

Winning margins

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Watching the Classics on Eurosport Tue, 23 Apr 2013 09:41:21 +0000 As a Yorkshireman, I have an inbuilt resistance to paying an extra £7 a month, just to get one paltry tv channel. For years I’ve resisted on principle. But, this year, I finally spent £7 a month to upgrade my BT package to include Eurosport. Actually, I didn’t just get Eurosport, but about 30 other useless channels so If I  ever have to spend a month off the bike, I can at least spend 24 hours a day watching documentaries about ancient Egypt, Atlantis, and an exotic mix of shopping channels.


My main motivation for buying Eurosport was to watch professional cycling. I’ve never watched the classic season before, and so far I’ve really enjoyed watching the big classics.

Paris Roubaix

Paris Roubaix Jack 999

Firstly, I really love the names of the great classics. Liege-Bastogne-Liege, Paris-Roubaix, Milan-San Remo. They are wonderfully evocative and capture the imagination of every bike enthusiast. When I ride over a cobbled road, like a mantra ‘Paris-Roubaix’ often comes into my mind. Liege-Bastogne-Liege could sound like a subplot from a Second World War movie. It’s that part of the world which has endlessly been fought over, now this area is fought over by 220 lycra clad cyclists barging their way up the Redoute, Mur de Huy, Oude Kwaremont, and the Paterberg.

tour of flanders

Tour of Flanders Photo Brendan 2010

There is a real class about the names of the race, steeped in history.

- Liege Bastogne Liege or the F.A. Cup brought to you by Budweiser – which sounds the better name for a classic sporting event?  The only exception to this rule, is the E3 Harelbeke in Belgium. How can the land of Eddy Merckx make such a schoolboy error as to name a classic cycle race after a motorway? Even if the E3 was 200 years old, and won by every great cycle rider, it wouldn’t be on the same pedestal as Milan San Remo because how can you get excited about a motorway? If you really have to name a race after a motorway, they might, at least, have copied the Cycling Time Trials and given it a proper course code like the E3/175b – now that would have been really cool.


tour-flanders photo Brendan

Britain is often accused of being an insular country, nothing gets Mr White Van Driver’s back up more than EU directives about British sausages and bendy bananas. But, when it comes to cycling, European is unashamedly cool. If we can slip French cycling terms into our conversation, it is on a par, to turning up to a ride with shaved legs and a new Cervelo P3. Europe is cool, but especially, Flanders, Italy, the Ardennes, Holland and France. True, Britain is catching up in procycling, but the Leeds classic, the Milk Race, the Surrey Classic, will never have the ring or history of the Ronde van Vlaanderen. At best we can hope to join the European club.

Anyway, the name alone doesn’t make a sporting occasion. What about the racing? Firstly, the racing is much more exciting and interesting than a stage in the Tour de France. If you’ve only ever watched the Tour de France, you might think cycling is dominated by a strong team of nine, pulling at the front to set up a sprinter or put their team leader in yellow. Rarely do the best cyclists in the Tour actually show themselves at the front. The beauty of the classics is that, although team tactics play a huge role, at the end of the day, if you want to win you have to get over the finish line first. You have to have tactical nous and strength over the whole 270km. You can win the Tour without winning a stage. In the classics, defensive tactics aren’t enough.

The agony of the classics, Bosan Hagen dropped by the leaders. Classics are so tough, riders finish in small groups, no bunch sprint like in the Tour.

The agony of the classics, Bosan Hagen dropped by the leaders. Classics are so tough, riders finish in small groups, no bunch sprint like in the Tour. Photo Brendan

Classics are much tougher than a stage. It is rarely dominated by one team (at least so long as Gewiss isn’t being prepared by Michele Ferrari) The nature of the race means it’s often hard for the favourite to win. The winner could come from many different sources. Though if you have an engine like Cancellara, it does put you in a good position. But, even his win in Paris-Roubaix was pretty exciting. And if two fellow escapees hadn’t been knocked off by spectators, he may well not have won.

That’s one thing about the classics – there is great unpredictability. Can you imagine Manchester United on course to win the Premier League only to fall in the last game of the season, because Wayne Rooney gets knocked over by a spectator wandering onto the pitch. (and to think Premier league managers get annoyed for implementation of offside rules) Classics must be really tough for the riders, a mistime puncture or crash and it’s all over.

In particular, I keep a look out for Sky riders. I really enjoyed seeing Ian Stannard attack in Milan San Remo, he ended up finishing 6th, but it seemed a very honourable 6th place. In sport, they often say it’s first or nothing, but in the classics I’m sure it’s not like that. Even just finishing must be a great achievement. Sky are very professional team, but have struggled in the classics. Even a great stage racer can’t necessarily win the classics.

Cancellara Tour of Flanders

Cancellara in Tour of Flanders. 

Photo Brendan

I caught the Tour of Flanders at the best moment. Cancellara attacked, only Sagan could respond. Then, Cancellara attacked again, and Sagan couldn’t quite match the pace. The action may all happen towards the end, but it’s gripping stuff. All or nothing.

My biggest disappointment of the classic season was recording Liege Bastogne Liege on Sunday when I was out racing. I watched 2.5 hours from km 100 to 3km to go. A break of 5-6 riders was flying up the cote du Saint-Nicolas, then the recording stopped 5 mins before the finish! The race had gone over time, and I missed the last 3km. So much for paying £7 a month to Eurosport!


The Five ‘monuments’ – biggest classics.

  1. Milan – San Remo (Italy) – the first true Classic of the year, its Italian name is La Primavera (the spring), this race is held in late March. First run in 1907.
  2. Tour of Flanders (Belgium) – also known as the Tour of Flanders, the first of the ‘Spring Classics’, is raced in early April. First held in 1913.
  3. Paris–Roubaix (France) – the “Queen of the Classics” or l’Enfer du Nord (“Hell of the North”) is traditionally one week after the Tour of Flanders, and was first raced in 1896.
  4. Liège–Bastogne–Liège (Belgium) – late April. La Doyenne, the oldest Classic, was first held in 1892 as an amateur event; a professional edition following in 1894.
  5. Giro di Lombardia (Italy) – also known as the “Race of the Falling Leaves”, was held in October. Initially called the Milano–Milano in 1905, it became the Giro di Lombardia in 1907 and Il Lombardia in 2012 along with a new, earlier date at the end of September.
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Old cycling books and unintended comedy Tue, 12 Mar 2013 14:52:01 +0000 Recently I was looking through my bookcase, looking for books to give away to charity shops. I have a Zen like attitude to personal stuff. I get great joy from giving things away creating empty space.  I often have to later go back and buy what I’ve just thrown out, but that’s another story. The only exception to my Zen approach to stuff comes with my cycling workspace. Somehow, it’s much harder to throw things away related to cycling. There’s always that nagging feeling that you might need that random size of bolt or you really might some day need those holey aerosocks or swan off handlebars. As a consequence I’ve accumulated an assortment of unknown cycling parts which I hang onto – rather than trying to work out what there actual purpose is -something that has been lost in the mists of time. Amongst all that, I must have about 5 speedometers (none of which are 100% working)


workspace looking suspiciously tidy. But, I have a whole shed and conservatory of random parts

Anyway, back to my bookcase and here I’m pretty strict in only keeping certain books. Right at the back I recently found  ‘The Official Tour de France guide‘ to celebrate their 101 years 1903-2004.

It’s a bit of shock to read the book – so much of it has a vague feeling of meaninglessness to it now. It’s hard to look at the top 20 results without spending most of your time just picking out the names later implicated in doping scandals. (usually you can get to about 80-90% quite quick)

  • David Moncoutie finished 13th in 2002, only 21 minutes back. Chapeau!

The best bit was from the introduction written by the then six times champion.

“And finally, I live for this race. I love it. I want to win in more ways than most will ever know. I cherish so much my days in yellow that it keeps me busy almost 365 days a year. To lose a Tour and have to face my team, who have worked so hard, would be heart wrenching. I don’t want to see that day and I’ll do whatever I can to prevent it…

Long live the Tour!”

It’s sad that the potentially wonderfully epic sport of procycling has become somewhat synonymous with a rather bad detective story and a pale imitation of a Jeremy Kyle confession special.


At the end of the day, whatever happens, the sport will bounce back. I don’t think any scandal will derail the sport. But, I would love to see the day when it’s a race full of gentlemen battling out on the dusty slopes of Alpe d’Huez with the only eyebrows raised at the magnificence of the scenery and the heroic efforts of the plucky sportsman on their humble machines. Life is simple really.

More than anything there is a sense of jadedness. After last year, I still have an unquenchable interest in cycling, but now it’s just kept at a certain distance.

Speculations from the forumites and the twitterati just leave me cold. The problem is now everyone wants to be next David Walsh. I used to read but allowing comments on articles has made the whole thing a bit tiresome. I’m sure if a Sky rider won the Tour of Poland in 2018, there will still be commentators ready to point out that Dr Leinders once worked for 80 days at Sky.

I passionately want a clean sport  without a clean sport, to me there’s no point to it all. My support for riders is all based on their attitude to doping. But, no matter how many times the sport has dissappointed in the past, I don’t want to create a suspicious mentality. There’s still a lot to be said for assuming the best, until evidence points the other way. I don’t build up anyone to be superheroes, but nor will I follow the sport only to see how much indignation I can build up.

I like procycling, but, I like the sport I do even more. You can’t beat actually cycling yourself – much better than spending all day speculating on people you don’t really know.

Tip for a nice version of cycling news – just the reports, no comments! -hat tip to things wot i have done – some nice cold looking photos there!


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David Walsh on Lance Armstrong Life ban Fri, 24 Aug 2012 19:58:11 +0000

I’m on holiday, so I don’t want to write an article, but David Walsh said pretty much everything I wanted to say:

“I’m pleased that it’s come to this and that he’s accepted the charges against him. I’m disappointed that it didn’t go to arbitration because that would have given us the details as to why this process was so necessary,” Walsh told Cyclingnews.

“For me it’s a good day in at least that some guy who has been incredibly cynical has his just desserts. But the investigation should really be much deeper than Lance Armstrong. Who are the people who protected him? Are they still in cycling, are they still controlling cycling? Even the most neutral observer would say that cycling has been incredibly badly served by its leadership.”

David Walsh on Armstrong USADA’s charges.


Their USADA made their statement on Armstrong.

In addition to the lifetime ban, Armstrong will be disqualified from any and all competitive results obtained on and subsequent to August 1, 1998, including forfeiture of any medals, titles, winnings, finishes, points and prizes. This sees him lose his seven Tour de France titles and a number of other high profile victories.

“Nobody wins when an athlete decides to cheat with dangerous performance enhancing drugs, but clean athletes at every level expect those of us here on their behalf, to pursue the truth to ensure the win-at-all-cost culture does not permanently overtake fair, honest competition” said USADA CEO, Travis T. Tygart.

“Any time we have overwhelming proof of doping, our mandate is to initiate the case through the process and see it to conclusion as was done in this case.”

“As is every athlete’s right, if Mr. Armstrong would have contested the USADA charges, all of the evidence would have been presented in an open legal proceeding for him to challenge.  He chose not to do this knowing these sanctions would immediately be put into place,”

“The evidence against Lance Armstrong arose from disclosures made to USADA by more than a dozen witnesses who agreed to testify and provide evidence about their first-hand experience and/or knowledge of the doping activity of those involved in the USPS Conspiracy as well as analytical data. As part of the investigation Mr. Armstrong was invited to meet with USADA and be truthful about his time on the USPS team but he refused.”


A very partial listing of doping cases

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4th Place and an Olympic Medal Wed, 08 Aug 2012 08:50:25 +0000 Sport can be a tough world. Imagine working for 12 years at a job, 12 hours a day, 7 days a week – sacrificing diet, and all the usual conveniences of life. But after those 12 years of work, the end result is only a perceived failure with no pension or pay off. A sense of not just failing, but letting down those who have supported you – and a few clever people saying why didn’t you do better into the bargain.


At the 2012 London Olympics, there are 10,000+ athletes and 302 gold medal disciplines available. (though for team sports more athletes will be awarded a gold medal.) But, that’s still a pretty low ratio of gold medallists.

For these 10,000 athletes who made the Olympics, there are another 100,000+ who would have been close to qualifying for the Olympics. And potentially millions who would have had some kind of aspiration to compete at the Olympics, but couldn’t make it.

The odds of Olympic gold are minuscule. The odds of any kind of Olympic medal are only slightly less limited.

The immortal creed of the Olympics is that

“The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.”

Yet, the great paradox of the Olympics is that winning does count, it does matter. It is the focus of the fours years of dedication and commitment.


When Iceland got silver in the handball in 2008, the Iceland’s president called their semi-final win over Spain:

“the biggest moment in Icelandic sports history”. (BBC)

If you get a silver medal for Great Britain in this 2012 Olympics, you could find yourself squeezed into page 4 of the Olympic supplement – behind even more illustrious gold medal winners.

If it is not expected, winning bronze can be perceived as a tremendous achievement. Sometimes, if you’re expected to win, winning bronze medal is seen as something of a failure.

Expectation changes everything.

But, what of those who finish 4th?

Taylor Phinney sacrificed his 2012 road season to focus on the Olympics, he finished 4th in the Olympic road race only to finish 4th in the Olympic time trial a few days later. Is he happy to do so well? – knowing that he is still young in cycling terms (22) and that at the next Olympics he can do even better. Or does he feel frustrated at just missing out? – 4th the supposed worse place to finish. Perhaps he feels a bit of both.

4th man in the Team

Perhaps more difficult than finishing 4th place, is being 4th man (reserve) in a team discipline and missing out on gold medal only because you weren’t picked.

The reserves in the British team pursuit (Wendy Houvenghal and Andy Tennant) had to watch as their team-mates rode to world record breaking Olympic gold. But, for a different team selection they knew they would have been there with pretty much the same result.

To be part of an Olympic gold medal team should be a pinnacle of your sporting achievement. Do you feel oneness with the team and feel part of the success, or is it the loneliest place? Can you feel part of the success? or is it an opportunity denied?

Jimmy Greaves (who was England’s best striker, but not picked for the 1966 world cups due to injury) admitted he felt a huge range of conflicting emotions as his substitute Sir Geoff Hurst hit a hat rick to help England win the World Cup. The whole nation celebrated, but he was sat on the sidelines – not part of the winning team. It can be a lonely place sport.

It is a real challenge to feel a complete identity with the winning team members. But, what of the support staff, the coaches, the mechanics and support crew. There is no medal for them, but they often seem to get as much joy as the athletes themselves.

It maybe very hard to be reserve, but there is still the experience of being a key member of the team who trained and pushed the other riders. To be a reserve still gives the opportunity to be an Olympian and key team member that others may have loved the chance.

Difficult to Win

It can be even difficult to win. If you win too much or by too far, eyebrows are raised. (What shape are your wheels?) If you frequently win, winning can become an expectation. If you slip into second, you failed. If you win – just expectation fulfilled.

But, you never have to take the cynics approach, you don’t have to listen to bored teenagers writing on twitter-net . Whatever people say, you can celebrate your achievement however you want.

4th Placed is Good.

Amidst all the Olympic glory, I identify more with 4th placed riders than the gold medallists. In national championships my best placings are:
4th (2005 national 100 mile TT)
4th (2010 national hill climb)
5th (2011 national hill climb.)

I know what it feels like to finish 4th, I don’t know what it feels like to win a medal. I don’t know why people say 4th is the worse place to finish. To me 4th is better than 5th or 6th.

It is quite easy to talk of detachment and memorise the immortal words of the Olympic motto. It’s more difficult to live it.

Winning matters, and it doesn’t matter. That’s the beauty of sport.

There isn’t just the physical sporting challenge, but also the attitude to winning and losing which is often just as difficult. But, those who can accept defeat graciously are real heroes.

“The high spirit of sportsmanship and generosity manifested throughout speaks volumes for the character of the officers of the present day. There was not a single incident of a protest or any unsportsmanlike quibbling or fighting for points which I may say, marred some of the other civilian competitions at the Olympic Games. Each man did his best and took what fortune sent them like a true soldier, and at the end we all felt more like good friends and comrades than rivals in a severe competition, yet this spirit of friendship in no manner detracted from the zeal with which all strove for success.”

General Patton (1912 after competing in modern pentathlon) then reserved for army officers.

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