You have to be in the right frame of mind to rant – unless you’re a Master, like Vik – VeloVeritas’s cycling sage and soothsayer, Vik can waken up ranting and probably rants in his sleep.

I can’t do it to order – but the stars have aligned this morning and there’s a lot to get off my chest…


Richard Virenque Road Book
Alan Hewitt.

Big Aldo’s Local

The day after Alan Hewitt’s funeral I found myself back in Glasgow, in my usual fashion I’d left renewing my passport until the eleventh hour and had to pay through the nose for the ‘same day’ service at the Passport Office.

The last time I did that I had the vital document in my hand within minutes; not this time – at 11:00 am I was told to; ‘come back at 4:00pm.’

There are worse places to be for an afternoon than the ‘Dear Green Place’ that is Glasgow and the Transit was pointed in the direction of the Byers Road.

I had been told that Coopers Bar on the Great Western Road was Alan’s ‘local’ so I parked up and popped in.

I’d never been in Coopers before – it’s a nice old space, big, high ceilinged, lots of mahogany, a proper bar.

I had a Guinness and thought of Alan, it wasn’t hard imagining him holding court in this temple to friendship and ‘craic’ – I’m glad I made the effort.

The day before, at the crematorium I was struck by the distances people had travelled to be there – and none more so than Jorg Malcherek of Continental Tyres who came all the way from Germany to pay his respects.


Richard Virenque Road Book
Richard Virenque, officially endorsed in the Tour de France Road Book.

ASO’s Double Standards

In Germany the rise of riders like Kittel, Degenkolb and Martin means that the TV networks are finally coming back round to screening cycling after the Ulrich/Zabel scandals.

And on that thorny issue – the ‘D’ word – yet again I find myself confused by what I read.

Apparently Bernard Hinault shouldn’t be ‘dissing’ Lance about doping because the Lance case was just the tip of the iceberg and, ‘everyone was at it so it’s wrong to single out the Texan.’

I don’t remember too many folks adopting that attitude back when the ball finally burst for Lance – and what else do they expect the Breton Star to say?

He works for ASO and therefore has to watch his P’s and Q’s – he’s not about to say; ‘poor old Lance.’

However, when there are no adverts featuring Tricky Dicky Virenque in the Tour Road Book and Laurent Jalabert’s face doesn’t stare out at me from the flanks of his people carrier in the press centre car park then maybe I’ll start to believe that ASO really ‘walk the walk’ as well as ‘talking the talk.’


Marco Pantani.
Marco Pantani.

Let Marco Rest in Peace

And on the subject of ‘fallen idols’ I can scarcely believe the campaign by Mercatone Uno to award the 1999 Giro posthumously to Marco Pantani.

Apparently, Ivan Gotti who ran out winner that year has no objections – an honourable man.

I wonder if Ivan’s mum and dad are cool with it too?

After all it was they who carried Ivan’s kit round Italy in the family camper van.

Pantani didn’t finish the race and the last time I checked the rule book that’s one of the basics – you must complete the whole parcours.

Stop it, please, let him lay in peace, celebrate his victories if you must and the man he used to be; not the poor soul who died in a cheap hotel room in Rimini.


Richard Virenque Road Book
Mario Cipollini.

The Lion King says it as he sees it

Meanwhile, Cipo takes a ‘D’ word kicking from CyclingNews for his alleged misdemeanors but given the new, ‘Lance Formula’ surely we should leave him be given, ‘they were all at it,’

And you have to hand it to Mario, he does say what others think but don’t dare articulate;

“Contador and Schleck congratulating each other by giving each other a little tap on the top of the Tourmalet. You’d think they were a pair of gays.

“When you used to look at Hinault, you saw a good-looking bloke. Indurain, f##k, he was handsome. Strong men.

“Merckx, bloody hell, he was like an actor.

“Now, look at Schleck, look at Contador. They’re extraordinary athletes, but come on. They’re small, skinny, light, like a pair of show ponies.”

We never said a word…


Richard Virenque Road Book
Vino and his Astana outfits are under the spotlight.

Astana’s [in]Famous Five

And of course, we must mention Astana.

There’s one part of my brain says; ‘surely they wouldn’t be daft enough; it’s a National Team and there’s so much at stake?’

Maybe they’ve just been desperately unlucky? – but that old riff comes to mind; ‘ain’t no smoke without fire.’

Vik reckons; ‘they’ll get the licence, they won’t want to lose all those Kazakh petro-Euros.

But remember that the UCI binned Katusha two years ago with the Russian team having to go to appeal with CAS to get their licence.

At the time, as well as very difficult to comprehend financial ‘irregularities’ the UCI cited:

  • Several incidences of doping in the team (two in 2009, one in 2011, one in 2012).
  • Hiring seven riders with known doping convictions from the past.
  • The presence of staff involved in doping in the past, notably Erik Zabel and Dr Andrei Mikhailov.
  • 12 whereabouts mistakes since 2009.

So it’s by no means certain the Astana will be World Tour in 2015 – we’ll know on December 12th.


Richard Virenque Road Book
Chris Froome has ‘decided’ to ride the Tour.

The Tour is the Tour

Next up, Froomey; it’s inevitable that we’ll be subject to endless articles about what he will/won’t ride – website or magazine, you need those word counts.

But let’s think about this is for a minute; Sir David says to young James Murdoch; ‘Old Froome Beast doesn’t fancy the Tour, Boss, he’s going to do the Giro instead…

James replies; ‘aye, fine’ or ‘that’ll be right, Dave!

I think we can all guess which one it would be; like or not the Tour is still the biggest bike race there is and the Giro isn’t, period.

But at least Froomey is on his bike; it seems like every day I see another Taylor Phinney interview on the web or in the magazines.

He’s big, strong, articulate and looks good on a bike but hasn’t actually raced since his horrible crash in May – but other cyclists are available, guys…


Richard Virenque Road Book
Jens Voigt setting a new Hour mark.

“Breaking” the Hour Record

Talking of ‘looking good in the magazines,’ Brian Cookson’s face just keeps popping up; it must be all that, ‘hard work’ he did on the Hour Record.

“OK boys, we’ll make it that they have to beat Sosenka’s distance, shouldn’t be too hard, loads of guys will go for it – and he was a nasty East Euro doper, we need his name off the books.

What’s that?

Rominger did 55 K on a farm gate?

Yeah, but his front wheel was too wee – next business!”

And what of Brian’s determination to get a minimum wage for ladies teams?

“The women who have been involved in the Women’s Road Commission have told me that the result of that would not be 500 women suddenly being paid the minimum wage; they’ve told me that actually most of the teams that currently present themselves as professional teams would fold or re-register as amateur teams, so they wouldn’t end up paying those women anything at all anyway.”

Never!

We’d never have figured that one out for ourselves if you hadn’t told us, Brian.


Richard Virenque Road Book
Didi Senft, aka. the roadside Devil.

The De’il Retires

And on the subject of madness, old Didi has gone.

I know he was a balm and a pain but there’s a bit of me feels sorry for him, the original; ‘crazy’ reduced to being ‘common or garden’.

It’s a merciless sport, even for those who stand beside the road.

And as they say in show biz; ‘leave them laughing…


Italo Zilioli
Italo Zilioli.

How kermis riders warm up

Vik gifted me a book t’other day, ‘In My Time’ by ex-pro Mick Coward.

Coward was a road and ‘cross pro in the 60’s and 70’s riding for the likes of Ken Ryall and Chris Barber but was also a frame and wheel builder of some repute; Sean Yates rode his creations to the British 25 mile title.

Old Mick likes a rant and in the book he deals with all manner of things in his distinctive (all over the place) style.

But as Vik says, there are a few gems in there which make his obsessive descriptions of rides through obscure English lanes, reconstructing motorbike engines and the canine psychology worth the slog.

Mick has just ‘chucked’ a race in Belgium on a horrible day of wet and cold and is in the broom wagon with two Belgians and tall, slim, classy Italian Italo Zilioli.

Zilioli wasn’t a mega star but he was a quality guy having won Giro stages and finished on the GC podium in the race.

The two Belgians are freezing and trying to get warm.

One needs a pee and goes to relieve himself out of the back door of the van which serves as the broom wagon.

His compatriot says to him; ‘why not pee on my feet to warm them up?

His countryman duly obliges, meanwhile Zilioli frantically tries to get the van driver to stop and let him escape from the craziness.

Who says it’s not the best sport in the world?