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Saturday, 11 February 2012

Boonen’s Arab spring
The Tour of Qatar finished yesterday with Tom Boonen taking his fourth overall win. As much as the race is about sprint finishes, Boonen looked far more complete and thanks to his team, always in the right place at the right time. It’s good for him but does this translate to results in the crucial spring classics? It depends how superstitious you are…

Amazingly Boonen has won over a third of stages of the Tour of Qatar since it began ten years ago but his form and fortune in the ensuing classics has varied. But note in the years when he has won the overall in Qatar he has gone on to win a big classic.

Démare’s démarrage
Name a French sprinter? There are not many. Romain Feillu is very good and came close to a stage win in the Tour de France last year, despite a knee injury. But there are not too many more at the top level. Samuel Dumoulin can win smaller races but he is more of a specialist for slightly uphill finishes and others can have their day, especially on the domestic calendar.

But Arnaud Démare is the best prospect. A 20 year-old neo pro in his first race, he won the final stage of the Tour of Qatar with a powerful finish. A crash behind him meant we didn’t get to see if Cavendish could catch him but the Frenchman certainly blasted away from the others with a big jump. Sprinters tend to need time before they can cope with the effort required after 200km so don’t expect too much, just follow the name. By the way, démarrage in French means to launch or accelerate. A fitting name.

Training on ice
Meanwhile Europe freezes. Early season races have been hit by icy weather. This happens, in years past riders have even gone on strike over the icy weather. But note many races are taking place a week earlier this year. The Olympics start at the end of July which shunts the start of the Tour de France to the end of June and so on. It’s not just about numb hands or bulky clothing, shortened stages and curtailed training means the weather could be slowing the training programmes of many riders.

Positive news
A week of doping news. We started with Alberto Contador and finished with Ullrich but during the week there was more, including Alexander Kolobnev at the CAS and even tales of Canadian amateurs testing positive. Funny how we never get coverage of Canada’s amateur racing scene until some idiot gets busted.

Yet if we think our sport can’t get away from the subject, doping is everywhere. Away from cycling I remember visiting an office to find someone snacking on an energy bar so he could “perform” at work but that’s nothing compared to the news from the Financial Times* on Friday that Wall Street traders are taking testosterone to combat long hours and become an “alpha male”.

* To read FT.com you must be registered… or simply right-click and copy the article’s URL and paste it into Google. Search. Then click on the result and you can read for free.

Danish paste-try
Thursday’s piece on the possible invalidity of the UCI’s new points punishment scheme for returning dopers was almost copied and pasted by Danish Sporten.dk on Friday. A quick exchange on Twitter and writer Morten Risager added a credit to this blog but to his credit, he went further and cited WADA rules and spoke to a Danish anti-doping expert. The main thing is whether this rule stands or if it gets challenged.

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{ 6 comments }

Bundle February 11, 2012 at 12:29 pm

Busy week indeed, and great job, Inrng.
1) I think Boonen will shine in the Northern classics.
2) http://www.nytimes.com/2004/10/17/arts/music/17tind.html?_r=1&pagewanted=2 . Interesting piuede on the use of (WADA-banned) beta-agonists among orchestra musicians.

Pirate Maboule February 11, 2012 at 3:52 pm

Hey Inrng,

Juste un petit commentaire technique: votre site web prend une éternité à se charger, contrairement à d’autres sites web. Et cela arrive de plus en plus fréquemment.
Je ne sais pas si les autres usagers ont le même problème…
Serait-ce le serveur qui héberge votre site?
(Je suis basé au Canada, si cette info peut vous être utile…Je n’y connais absolument rien en web).
Bonne journée!

The Inner Ring February 11, 2012 at 8:05 pm

Bundle: yes and students have been known to take drugs to keep them awake, obviously people take drugs to party harder and a few filmstars probably get “treatment” to help them get muscles worthy of an action hero.

Pirate Maboule: thanks, I’m looking into this. I’m sorry for everyone who experienced this but it’s intermittent and when I or you find a problem, my IT support people don’t. But I’m trying to get them to fix this.

If anyone has problems accessing the site, I’d always appreciate an email or tweet so I can try and fix it.

Larry T. February 11, 2012 at 10:26 pm

No problems from here in Sicily! Thanks again for the excellent journalism and the lively but civilized comments. This blog is miles above anything else out there that I’ve run across for both of those reasons. None of the other even come close.

Sidamo February 12, 2012 at 11:20 am

Re: Traders and Testosterone, there was a study done a while back in which testosterone levels strongly correlated with amount of profits made while trading, so it’s doping pure and simple.

Darren February 12, 2012 at 11:23 pm

Boonen has spoken recently about feeling better both mentally & physically than he has for a few yrs! I did think that his time had come and gone, but he might just prove me and many others wrong! Good for him if he does!
Went for 1st training ride in 3 weeks today! Was too cold before, so took bike to mech for annual tune-up (he did terrific job!), but after getting bike back this week was itching to push pedals! Went in zero degree temp, but dressed right so didnt feel it, until after 50km it started to snow! Decision time! Turn around and go home, or complete route! Decided to follow my gut and brave the snow! Glad I did, although couldnt get drink anymore…bidons were frozen solid! After 70km stopped at cafe for liquid! Coffee and cola! Some would say Im mad, but thought they will express wonder at riders of old for their gruelling efforts in shitty weather conditions! Not that I compare to them but it feels good to know that I did not give up! Dont know why pros have to have shortened stages/races in such weather though!

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