It’s a while since we had a decent VeloVeritas rant and the year end is always a good time to take stock, and to lament the sad case of Gabriel Evans.

John Pierce is one of the world’s premier cycling photographers; and to boot, he’s a nice guy – not like some ‘ace’ photogs we could mention.

It’s a Different Age

Often when we meet John it’s at the top of some mountain somewhere but most recently it was at the London ‘Five plus One’ and after the race he was kind enough to send us a whole set of lovely images of Six Day men from years gone by right up to the present.

It’s hard to compare across eras, especially now when the top roadmen get paid huge salaries and don’t need the appearance fees from the Sixes.

Wiggins was knocking back criterium rides at €20,000 a pop appearance money after his Tour win which says much about the earning potential of the stars in this era.

Gabriel Evans
World Road Champions Gerrie Knetteman and Jan Raas in Skol Six action in 1979. Photo©John Pierce / PhotoSport International UK USA Asia

But what strikes you when you look at John’s images of men like Gerben Karstens, the late Leo Duyndam and Danny Clark is just how ‘flat’ the Six Days are in now terms of personalities.

No one is full of nonsense or gets up to sing with the band anymore.

And on the road it’s the same, Viktor (our cycling sage and mentor) has all but lost interest in World Tour racing and as Claudio Chiappucci said:

“All pros nowadays are like machines. Everything is about paperwork and numbers. Sagan, Contador, and Valverde are the only ones who aren’t like that. They’re cut from the same cloth.

“If you want to get across to people what’s great about this sport, you have to have riders who are prepared to do something different to the others – someone who doesn’t just follow wheels.

“In contrast to my era, things have changed a lot; now the races are much more tactical.”

What’s to be done to rectify things in a world of radios, Garmins, watts and skeletal cyclists?

Don’t ask me but let’s all be thankful for Peter Sagan.

John Pierce
Peter Sagan’s colourful character brings interest to the sport. Photo©Reuters

Sports Science

And on the subject of watts – the unit used to measure power and named after Scotland’s own James Watt – I have to confess that I’m no sports scientist so when the Media was full of Chris Froome’s data recently I turned to someone who knows what he’s on about but doesn’t speak in jargon.

I rang ex-Cervélo professional, Dan Fleeman of Dig Deep Coaching who understands these things and can always be relied upon to give no nonsense answers.

The bottom line is that you can wheel out all the figures you want from lab tests BUT they’re pretty much irrelevant because what counts is; how much of that power can you still produce come the third week of a Grand Tour?

A rider like Froome patently doesn’t have a big ‘drop off’ but the likes of Porte does.

Tom Simpson could win Paris-Nice but not The Tour.

And there’s also the fact that a rider like Cavendish produces dud numbers on a test rig but can win 26 Tour stages.

John Pierce
Chris Froome has tried to address some people’s concerns about his performances by publishing parts of his data. Photo©AAP

“The Comic”

Still, in a world of numbers it keeps a lot of folk happy, especially Cycling Weekly readers who are all sports science experts and never seem to tire of reading reports about frames which all come from the same couple of factories in China and Taiwan.

The pictures get bigger, so too does the sportive content whilst the journalism gets more lightweight and frothy by the week.

Why do I still buy it?

Good question – but after 44 years it’s a hard habit to break.

This week’s edition in a feature on Flying Scot frames tells us that Vic Polanski “dominated the Highland Games grass-track championships during the 60s, 70s and 80’s…

That’s at odds with the way I remember it – a certain John Hardie from Dunshalt won 65 titles between 1976 and 1992 and in 1982 won all eight titles on offer from 800 to 8,000 metres.

I think that I’d have a wee check on the record books before I said anyone ‘dominated’ anything.

John Pierce
Cycling Weekly is tailored to today’s cycling enthusiast.

We Need Disc Brakes

And of course ‘The Comic‘ keeps us right up to date on the latest ‘must have’ – disc brakes; for MTB’s and cyclo-cross, yes the benefits are clear.

But for the road?

It’s easy enough to lock wheels up with traditional rim brakes so I can’t comprehend why we need even more stopping power?

And it’s going to be one nightmare for race service albeit we believe that a standard rotor size has been agreed?

If ever there was an instance of commercial rather than practical interests driving the market then the disc brakes issue is it.

John Pierce
It’s been suggested that the removal of the weight limit together with the introduction of disc brakes could see more bike changes, particularly in the high mountain stages.

Le Tour Trophy is in Chris’ Bag Already

And whilst on the subject of things negative we don’t often hope to see Eddy Merckx with egg on his chin but we do when he tells us that Chris Froome is going to go on to more Tour wins because there’s no one to challenge him.

We believe that Quintana will win in 2016; the little Colombian’s manager, the super-shrewd Eusebio Unzue held his boy back in the 2015 Tour making sure that the podium was safe before ‘giving him his head’ on L’Alpe d’Huez.

Much as we respect Christopher, we think that it’ll be Movistar’s Tour.

John Pierce
We reckon Nairo Quintana has next year”s Tour is his sights. Photo©Gian Mattia D’Alberto

Armstrong Still Being Discussed

I’ve been reading a lot about The Tour recently having consumed ‘Cycle of Lies’ by Juliet Macur and most of ‘The Program’ (aka ‘Seven Deadly Sins’) by David Walsh.

I thought I’d heard and read enough about the ‘Lance thing’ but ‘morbid curiosity’ is a powerful thing…

Most of us knew that Lance was hard at it, maybe not from the first Tour win – we were all so in awe of his coming back from the dead to win the biggest race on earth – but as the years rolled by and the anecdotal evidence piled up it was apparent that ‘things weren’t right.’

The day it really clicked with me was when his team had collapsed on him the day before the rest day and then the day after it they rode tempo on the front for the whole stage – like ‘clockwork soldiers.’

It was obvious they’d had a ‘full service’ on the rest day.

John Pierce
Frankie Andreu pulls at the front of the year 2000 Tour peloton at Briançon. Photo©Reuters

But Armstrong took on and won in the courts against the Sunday Times and Bob Hammam’s SCA company – who indemnified his Tour win bonuses – so it was never going to easy bringing him down.

I can remember sitting with friends in a restaurant in London and them all telling me how marvelous he was and me explaining about the dung hill of evidence was building up – but no one wanted to hear that stuff…

I thought he was out of it clean after his seventh win and retirement; but he couldn’t stay away – ‘Enter Floyd Landis’ and the rest is history.

And before we wish you ‘all the best’ for the Festive Season and 2016 and thank you for reading, let’s close on ‘kitting.’

John Pierce
Floyd Landis, his Tour win and removal, then subsequent whistleblowing are a large part of cycling’s dark history. Photo©Beth Schneider

Sad Amateurs

If you charge up to win Le Tour and the millions of Euros which cascade in thereafter, well, it’s not right but you can understand why people are tempted to do it.

But to win the CTT Junior ‘10’ Championship and the vets road race?

And there was us thinking it’s just ‘dirty East Europeans’ and ‘crazy Yanks’ who are on the ‘hot sauce.’

John Pierce
Gabriel Evans on his way to a fraudulent 10 Mile Time Trial National Title. Photo©Andy Jones

Thank you for reading our articles, interviews and race reports over the year, we appreciate your support and feedback very much.

We hope you had a good Christmas and wish that your 2016 is all you want it to be.