Happy New Year, it’s nearly 2019 – how did that happen?

It seems just like last week were sitting in the Vivaldi bar in Gent having watched Dane Michael Valgreen win Het Nieuwsblad – or Gent-Gent as us auld yins would have it – but another year has indeed almost gone.

Happy New Year
Astana form at the front, Het Nieuwsblad 2018. Photo©Ed Hood

Let’s get the sadness over early; we lost top Six Day men Dieter Kemper and super-cool Andreas Kappes; pursuit and coaching legend Norman Sheil; eccentric, colourful Armand de las Cuevas, ‘voice of cycling’ Paul Sherwen and much closer to home, Ivor Reid and Lewis Oliphant left us before their time.

Rest in peace, gentlemen.

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It’s been a while since I mentioned the legend that is Vik – if you’re a regular then you’ll know he’s my mentor and well in to the top 10 of the world’s grumpiest men.

As you can imagine he fairly revelled in a family Xmas with the grandchildren…

But as usual, among the gloom and doom there are some serious points.

Happy New Year
Greg LeMond chats to Urs Zimmermann in the 1986 Tour.

He happened to see some soccer on the tele and was shocked to hear that the players on the bench – never mind the pitch – were worth over £100,000,000.

He pointed out to me that back in the 80’s Greg Lemond landed the first $1,000,000 contract in cycling – that was thirty years ago.

How many riders in 2018 are on seven figures?

Froome, Thomas, Sagan, Nibali, Valverde, Bouhani and perhaps GVA? 

Meanwhile, Raheem Sterling is reputed to be on £300 K per WEEK at Manchester United – as Vik says, “our sport sells itself short.

The answer? On a post card please…

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Vik’s other rant – and I’m 100% behind him on this one – a Zwift British Champion?

You even get that beautiful white jersey with the red and blue hoops – but can wear only it in the hoose in front of your computer monitor.

I actually thought it was April 1st when I read about it.

Happy New Year
Steve Cummings was introduced to Zwift by Edvald Boasson Hagen. Photo©Zwift

I accept that I raced back when dinosaurs roamed the earth – but even back then there were ‘turbo kings’ who’s domain was the garage.

Me?

I just loved getting out on the bike into the countryside and the sweet Fife air, not sitting in a van or an office – no speed traps or ringing phones.

But the sport has moved on into the cyber age – I guess that’s why there are so few road races in Scotland and the UK these days.

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Enough moaning; let’s talk about the Commonwealth Games, as we wrote at the time;

This year the jackpot was well and truly hit with gold for the inimitable Katie in the pursuit and for Mark Stewart in the points race.

Silver medals went to Katie’s brother, John in the individual pursuit, Jack Carlin in the sprint, Katie in the women’s points race and Neah Evans in the women’s scratch.

And there were two bronze medals, one for Neah in the women’s points and one for Callum Skinner in the kilometre.

Eight medals – a wonderful performance from all concerned.’ 

And the Worlds saw the Scots continue to bring home the bacon; Katie, Mark and Jack all stood on the podium.

The great rides on the indoor tracks by Scots have continued into the UCI 2018/19 World Cup season, not least from Mark Stewart and that man John Archibald.

Happy New Year
John Archibald screams to the RTTC 10 Champs. Photo©Martin Williamson

British Points Race Champion, silver in The Commonwealth Games pursuit, a 48 minute ’25’ in Scotland, handing out a rare beating to ‘chronoman’ par excellence Marcin Bialoblocki in the CTT ‘10’ Championship, terrific rides with those HUUB boys in the recent World Cup team pursuits and then that 4:10 in Grenchen – all stunning results from the man who’s surely no longer just, ‘Katie’s brother.’

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And what can we say about Ms. Archibald that’s not been said already?

She’s been Scottish, British, European, World and Olympic Champion – and the disciplines don’t seem to matter – bunched, pursuit, omnium, Madison, team pursuit…

Small wonder she’s Cycling Weekly’s ‘Woman of the Year.’

Happy New Year
Katie Archibald – World Champion! Photo©BritishCycling

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And whilst on the subject of ‘rider of the year’ we’d have to share our male winner between ‘Katie’s Brother’ (sorry) and Dundee’s finest, Mark Stewart.

But an honourable mention has to go to Kyle Gordon as 25, 50 and 100 mile champion – breaking a Graeme Obree record in the ‘50’ and savaging the ‘100’ standard by some 10 minute – with a 48 minute ‘25’ to his name he also ran away with the BAR.

Happy New Year
Kyle Gordon. Photo©Phil Walter/Getty Images

And not just a ‘tester’ – winning the scratch race at the recent UCI meet in Grenchen ahead of very handy riders like Polish former World Scratch Race Champion, Adrian Teklenski and rapid Swiss Six Day man Tristan Marguet who was on his home track.

There’s little doubt that Scotland is punching above it’s weight on the boards with riders like John, Katie, Neah Evans, Mark, Jack, Callum and Kyle.

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But on the tarmac…

Stuart Balfour’s great win in Plouay apart we can’t think of much to enthuse about when it comes to road racing – perhaps if we had Scotland teams competing in the Premier Calendars down south and some of the less savage stage races across the Channel?

Happy New Year
Stuart Balfour on top of the Plouay podium. Photo©Freddy Guerin

If you were at the European Road Race Championships in Glasgow you would have observed what massed start racing at the highest level is all about.

If you’re not getting regular exposure to road competition at a higher level than you find on the Scottish domestic scene, you’ll never make it.

Full stop.

We can only praise the Dave Rayner Fund for offering support and encouragement to young men like aforementioned Monsieur Balfour who take the leap to places where bike racing truly matters.

North West France, Flanders, Tuscany – and don’t leave it too late, the good Lord grants you but one youth. 

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I’ve ranted enough.

VeloVeritas thanks you for reading this year, hopes you had a great Xmas and that your 2019 is all you wish it to be.