Having covered some of the highlights of 2011, a quick look at the other moments from the year where there was less pleasure or enjoyment.
The most sorry moment was obviously the loss of Wouter Weylandt during the Giro d’Italia. Any words about tragedy and loss just aren’t enough, there is little I can add. Except to say that the sport needs to look into safety and death in competition. Without wishing to be polemic, perhaps every death is rare and the circumstances individual but perhaps this should require a formal investigation. Certainly the UCI, Italian cycling and race organiser RCS have looked into Weylandt’s death but as far as I know there has been no formal investigation. In the same year Xavier Tondo passed away in an accident at home, Carla Swart too and many other cyclists were lost. RIP.
Other low points of the season don’t compare but here are a five more:
- Vanishing sponsors: seeing the Highroad team fold after HTC left was a blow for the sport as a whole because this was a well-run team with prolific success. If they couldn’t get a sponsor, who could? Sadly several other sponsors are leaving the sport.
- The Contador saga: this has dragged on and on. Everyone body wants due process but each party involved has played for time.
- Leopard-Trek was a big flop or perhaps a big flip flop given the way it went from being launched in front of royalty to a rescue merger, all in the space of months. Few riders lost their jobs but other staff have and it is the contrast with the big budget talk and the demise months later than is worrying.
- Race radio bickering: the spring classics were great but the rumbling arguments over the use of race radios ironically showed the breakdown in communication between the teams, riders and UCI. Whilst some team owners pushed the UCI, some riders were upset about safety and the whole subject became toxic.
- Tour of Beijing: yes to new races and taking the sport to new audiences. But the way the UCI took sides is setting the sport up for trouble, the governing body should govern instead of promote races. Otherwise it will soon find race promoters want to start governing the sport.
Finally a positive note. It’s been a vintage year for racing with many exciting races. Sometimes races aren’t great to watch, sometimes the sport can throw up plenty of bad news. But 2011 has been a grand vintage and a year to remember and celebrate for many good reasons. We’ve not had a major doping scandal this year either.