cycling matters


The VV View: Snakes and Ladders

Snakes and LaddersSnakes and Ladders; let’s be positive and start with the guys on the way up; 17 year-old Englishman Thomas Pidcock for instance, who won the European Junior Cyclo-Cross Championship in France recently.

He’s now one of the favourites for the Worlds in Luxembourg come late January; he was fifth in the Worlds last year and is a year wiser and stronger.

Roger Hammond was our last Junior World Champion in Leeds in 1992 and before that lanky Stuart Marshall won a mud bath Junior Worlds in 1986.

We've never won an amateur, U23 or Elite medal at the ‘cross Worlds, perhaps in a year or two, Thomas could be the boy...

And Italy’s Jakub Mareczko (Wilier) has been winning again, two stages in the Tour of Taihu Lake to go with stage wins in San Luis, Langkawi, Coppi-Bartali, Qinghai and more importantly, Turkey, where he won two. We'd expected a good first Giro from him – but it wasn't to be.

Next year he’ll be a year wiser and all those wins will have done his morale no harm – look out for him.

And on our own doorstep, Mark Stewart joins Belgo-Irish team, AN Post, with Sean Kelly as their figurehead the team gets to ride just about anything they fancy – UCI rules permitting – and Mark will be that which a young pro needs more than a lucrative contract – a great race programme.

We wish him well.

Snakes and LaddersBut if there are ladders then there are snakes, too.

It’s over Matt Goss; he won a World Team Pursuit Title, Grand Tour Stages, a Worlds Elite Road race Silver, Plouay and – The Primavera.

That last result means he’s a Legend.

But these last three years have been fallow for the likeable fast man – some say there was; ‘too much, too young and too much of the high life in Monaco.’

Whatever the reason, it’s sad to see a young man with so much talent never reach his full potential.

And Ryder Hesjedal has; ‘chucked the proverbial bag over it’ too – maybe ‘one season too many ?’ but we don’t think Trek was the right destination for him.

We’ll miss those mad breakaways, sir.

And now for two men riding big slippery snakes - sliding all the way down.

Moreno Argentin was one of the finest one day riders of his 80’s generation, the Worlds, two Italian titles, four Liege-Bastogne-Liege, two Fleche Wallone, Flanders, Lombardy and 13 Giro stages.

Dapper, compact, stylish and very hard to beat in a sprint where the road was rising.

He’s just been sentenced to a year’s Italian porridge (or is it polenta ?) for his part in a property fraud.

Very sad; even though he was a Gee-Whizz Ballan man, one of the first team to adopt the ‘benefits’ conferred by EPO.

I remember when Aitor Gonzalez won the 2002 Vuelta, he destroyed race leader Roberto Heras in the final time test to win the GC by 2:14 from Little Roberto.

Aitor was arrested recently for being involved in the robbery of a mobile phone shop – an Operation Puerto suspect he’s never adapted to ‘civilian life’ this being his fourth brush with the law in recent years.

It’s easy to gloat about misfortunes like those of Argentin and Gonzalez – ‘they had it coming.’

But where did the two young lads who pinned their first race numbers on and won their first junior race full of pride disappear to ?

Those last two were a bittie hard on the soul, I agree.

Snakes and LaddersLet’s go "heartwarming"...

The British Cycling emailed newsletter should do the trick – membership up, sportivs galore, the Worlds coming to Yorkshire, Revolutions ...

What’s that?

Shane v. Jess, the re-match; TUE’s; resignations, Tramadol – none of that in the BC email - slip on those rose tinted shades and BELIEVE, dude.

And to keep the ‘feel good factor’ dialled up, we have Jason and Laura’s joint autobiography – or is it ‘biographies ?’ to look forward to.

I hear Vik has pre-ordered one on Amazon already.

There was an interview with Jason in ‘Cyclist’ magazine but what I couldn't understand was why the journo didn’t ask Jason about those long stretches where he hibernates and is practically invisible.

Sorry! I forgot, Laura told us, didn’t she? ‘All that counts is the Olympics.’

Owain Doull gets interviewed in the same mag and is grateful to Wiggo for talking him into refraining from turning pro with Europcar so he could ride Rio and join Sky.

"I could be flogging myself at the Tour du Poitou-Charentes instead of winning an Olympic medal in Rio."

Or be a year further into a pro career with a team where if you show talent they’ll do everything they can for you and it’s not ‘all about Christopher ...

And as someone pointed out the other day, there are so many GB cycling gold medallists about now they just won’t get the personal sponsorship opportunities a Boardman or a Hoy will get.

But we wish the man well and will be happy to eat our words if he gets freedom and isn’t just chewed up and spat out by the Sky bailing machine.

Snakes and LaddersOur final name to conjure with is David Millar, I’ve had a wee bit more time on my hands the last few days and read his second book; ‘The Racer’ which I enjoyed albeit I couldn’t read any of the reproductions of the postcards he sent home from races to his ladies.

It’s truthful and open with good insights into how tough and ruthless professional bike racing is.

Jonathan Vaughters hasn’t spoken one word to his erstwhile ‘team co-founder,’ Millar since the Scotsman’s non-selection for the 2014 Tour de France.

Whilst David can be one of those ‘art school boys’ that The Undertones took offence over in ‘My Perfect Cousin’ I simply can’t jump on the Millar Hate Train.

The man served his time, took the pain, came back, was always civil to me and at his best in a chrono was a beautiful rider to behold.

He’s won stages in and had the jersey in every Grand Tour, been a Worlds TT medallist, a Commonwealth Games champion and won De Panne – which means he’s no cissy.

I know he wears a spivvy hat sometimes, has his own clothing range (also including soon, a custom Brompton) and cuts about in a Maserati – he probably has a man bag too.

But that’s ‘art school boys’ for you.

What I don’t get is what the Haters think he was supposed to do after his suspension?

Commit Suicide, become a hermit, join a monastery - move to Kelty ?

Personally I have little quibble with the Scarponi/Valverde method where they said little, did the time, came back, continue to say little and get on with racing.

But if you’re an ‘art school boy’ there has to be angst, hand wringing, catharsis – to paraphrase another song; ‘just the way it is.’

Have a look at the man battling with Cancellara in the Melbourne Worlds TT or riding for Cav in the Copenhagen Road Worlds then tell me wasn’t pure class.

And remember that as Millar himself once told me; ‘all the very best guys are a little bit “out there.”

Snakes and Ladders

David Millar racing for Scotland in the 2014 Commonwealth Games. Photo©Martin Williamson

And in closing; ‘welcome home Vik’ we’ve missed you, compadre...



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