Andy Schleck Down, Bradley Wiggins Up

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Andy Schleck is out of the 2012 Tour de France. The news first appeared this morning in the Luxembourg media with RTL. A press conference this afternoon confirmed this, he is has a fractured pelvis.

By contrast Bradley Wiggins has moved into the position of Tour de France race favourite, confident both in his abilities but also with a string of wins to his name this year too. The contrast couldn’t be bigger.

It all looks like a nightmare for Andy Schleck but instead of a sleepless night this lasting months. He started the year unsure of how the team would function but soon it was his performance that came under question after a series of abandons during the early season races, notably Paris-Nice and the Volta Catalunya. Then in “his” Liège-Bastogne-Liège where he could only finish 50th. Then an absence of 40 days until the Dauphiné. All of this wasn’t the end of the world, after all he was tied for racing days with Cadel Evans. And despite a ban, Alberto Contador took five days of racing in Argentina and is likely to have a busy late season.

Back to Andy Schleck and he crashed in the time trial stage of the Dauphiné, a day when high winds took several riders out of the race. But Schleck carried on with the hope of a test on the main mountain stage. He coped fine on Stage 5 and the Grand Colombier. On the morning of Stage 6 he told French TV he was suffering but that he could pedal, saying he was hoping to do something later on the Col de Joux Plane. But he never made it. Dropped at first, he regained contact with the bunch but soon quit the race, his injuries were too much.

Schleck's eyes water as the doctor points out where the fracture is

Now he’s out until August with a fractured sacrum. Riders have raced with fractured bones whilst others have been stopped, a “fracture” of any bone can mean so many different things, from the smallest and shortest of hairline cracks all the way to a bone broken in two pieces. As the medic explains in the picture above, the holes in the sacrum are for the nerve canals and the fracture runs between two of these.

Spanish revenge?
The Vuelta a Espana awaits. It’s becoming a revenge race for riders to recover from mistakes and misfortune. Last year saw Bradley Wiggins back after his collarbone, this year will see Alberto Contador back after a ban. We’ll have to wait and see what Andy Schleck does but it seems very logical, as long as he can work out remaining issues over the management of his team.

Risk and return
Cycling is a high risk sport. You can go a season without injury but probably not a career. As such the idea of basing your whole season around the Tour de France is a high risk strategy because a crash can happen at any time. Even a cold can sap a rider’s energy. In terms of the number of races this year we are well past halfway and Andy Schleck has nothing to show.

Wiggins Maillot Jaune

It’s here Bradley Wiggins enters the piece. He can point to Paris-Nice, the Tour de Romandie and the Dauphiné as big wins taken this year. This seems a preferable strategy, targeting races all whilst building to the Tour de France. Note the plural, races as opposed to a single race. Better still for him, he has just ridden the races, he won them. Of course this is not new, Cadel Evans for example has used a similar method in the last two seasons.

The Wiggins defence
Some are surprised at Wiggins’s performances and in his latest piece for Sky Sports, Scottish journalist Richard Moore tells how Team Sky have even visited the offices of the Tour de France to make a presentation explaining how and why Wiggins and Team Sky are riding clean. This is an astounding act, for years “I’ve never tested positive” was the strapline but now we have a team travelling to Paris to reassure a race organiser.

I count myself as those who are surprised by change from a track and prologue specialist into a stage race rider but as Moore says (and I tweeted last week) Wiggins has been around for a long time.

What about the Tour?
He would always have struggled to win the race outright this year but that doesn’t mean he would not have featured. One of the few riders to have challenged Alberto Contador and Cadel Evans in recent years, his absence means he won’t be there to destabilise Wiggins and Team Sky in the high mountains. The Tour will be poorer for it.

Summary
Sport brings us these highs and lows, indeed this is part of the drama of every season. But with four riders mentioned above we see four different fortunes.

  • Andy Schleck has suffered from bad luck but there have been some things that could be avoided or at least managed better and if there’s a chance to stop the negative press, it’ll come in the Vuelta.
  • Cadel Evans sits midway, he won the Critérium International in March, he tried to race but a virus stopped his plans in the Tour de Romandie and he’s been playing catch-up ever since. As the defending Tour de France champion he gets attention but there doesn’t seem to be much pressure on him right now.
  • Alberto Contador has been banned but the publicity relating to this doesn’t seem to have harmed him, largely because the actual ban appeared after years of wrangling that calmed the headlines. His only worries this year must be financial, losing income and having to pay the lawyers for his excessive defence.
  • Bradley Wiggins is the fourth rider…. but the first name being cited for the upcoming Tour de France. Only with him there’s no talk of luck, good or bad.

 

Rocket June 13, 2012 at 4:14 pm

What fine logic: “It’s here Bradley Wiggins enters the piece. He can point to Paris-Nice, the Tour de Romandie and the Dauphiné as big wins taken this year. This seems a preferable strategy, targeting races all whilst building to the Tour de France.”

I believe Andy Schleck’s last three tour results are second, first, and second. Wiggin’s best showing is a fourth place finish? I’ll take Schleck’s training methods and results.

The Inner Ring June 13, 2012 at 4:32 pm

Yes, Andy Schleck has a very good record. My point was more about the risks of focussing on the one race all year because if something goes wrong you haven’t got any results or points to fall back on.

Adam June 13, 2012 at 7:46 pm

INRG, I think that the risk is different for riders of different abilities. I remember reading an interview with Jens Voigt years ago where he said the reason he targeted the Criterium International was to have it as insurance in his pocket for the rest of the year before contract negotiations. He targeted bigger races, but this allowed him some breathing room.
There’s a handful of riders who don’t need insurance (though it would help with the critics) Schleck and Contador could both not win all year and sign large deals. Boonen is the Classics equivilant, and I reckon that if Gilbert didn’t have a 3 year deal with BMC, he could still command a big deal for 2013.
Focusing only on the Tour and then falling short for some riders may not help in the self-esteem department, but it doens’t hurt them financially.

Bundle June 13, 2012 at 4:41 pm

Because you judge only by Tour de France results… :) I prefer to look at the whole calendar.

Ablindeye June 13, 2012 at 6:18 pm

The Tour is of course paramount but many fans don’t judge all things by results solely in July. Just look at Gilbert last year – an incredible year, head and shoulders above everyone yet arguably his most disappointing month was July where, given many favourable stage finishes, he took just the first stage of the Tour (I know a TdF stage win is nothing to be sniffed at especially the first that comes with all the jersey’s but you get my point!).

Andy focusing almost exclusively on one race is undeniably high risk due to the number of factors out of a rider’s control. Moreover cycling fans lose out in not being able to watch one of the most talented riders of his generation ride at a competitive level outside of 3 weeks and a day a year. I hope this will prompt a re-think from him though I fear this hope may be in vain.

As for the Tour it will be poorer without Andy’s attacks in the high mountains, hopefully we can look forward to a fascinating battle at the Vuelta (of all places!) as some compensation.

ave June 13, 2012 at 4:21 pm

Well, Rocket, that’s second, second and second on the road. (Yeah, I know.)
And if Wiggins wins this year (without disqualifying the winner on the road), tell me which is the better method? :)

Sinai June 13, 2012 at 4:36 pm

It’s not fair to fault Schleck for finishing second and the road two years ago. Contador’s bio passport was very much abnormal (compared with his past measurements) which indicates that he was probably doping. Perhaps the result on the road would have been different had Contadar’s bio passport been normal (and maybe his punishment for what is an insignificant amount of Clenbetrol would have been less harsh). Anyways Schleck deserves the benefit of the doubt for that one.

ave June 13, 2012 at 4:58 pm

Sinai,
If you mean this list:
http://www.cyclingnews.com/news/ucis-suspicious-list-leaked-from-2010-tour-de-france
Then Schleck has 3 points and Contador 5, yes, that’s more.
But look at the list again the very very clean Wiggins also has 5 points.

All this bio passport is not proof for anything in my eyes, it’s not yet exact science, it’s in the making.

Paul I. June 13, 2012 at 6:01 pm

That list is not actual bio passport data, and is pretty much meaningless.

The Inner Ring June 13, 2012 at 6:04 pm

The full list is here:
http://inrng.com/2011/05/lequipe-publishes-uci-suspicion-index/

But it is an index for the UCI to allow for further targeting. It’s not a guilt list. As we’ve seen the most sophisticated dopers find ways to ensure their numbers don’t attract attention. It was called the “suspicion index” but “investigation index” would be a better label.

David June 13, 2012 at 10:02 pm

The list wasn’t just based on dodgy blood values, but also on other factors like leaps in performance. So, for example, a couple of younger riders were high on list. That may not have been because of anything dodgy, but just because of performances. The same could be argued for Wiggins that year. The previous year he seemingly came from nowhere to place 4th in the Tour. As a result his index value will have probably been increased to reflect that.

Rocket June 13, 2012 at 5:04 pm

Sorry, but I cannot buy your argument. Contador doped and was caught. Really no different than Floyd Landis. Andy Schleck is the rightful winner of the 2010 tour.

If Wiggins wins this year (and he might well) he would have a first and a fourth as his best finishes. Andy Schleck would have a first and two seconds. Again Schleck would have a better record. Finally would you de-value a Wiggins victory this year because both Contador and Schleck will be missing from the race? I wouldn’t, you can only beat who lines up at the starting line.

ave June 13, 2012 at 5:15 pm

Maybe Contador doped, but he was not caught doping!

Paul I. June 13, 2012 at 6:00 pm

And he was not convicted of doping. He was convicted of the presence of minute traces of a banned substance that happens to have zero tolerance.

Rocket June 13, 2012 at 6:54 pm

The presence of banned substances… isn’t that the definition of doping?
Don’t get me wrong, I think Contador is the best rider in the world, but looking at all the evidence it seems clear he was likely not legal (substance or other) during the 2010 tour.

Jeff June 13, 2012 at 4:39 pm

It’s intresting that Sky felt the need to denie any drug use before any positive test results. Who didn’t watch Wiggins preformance in the Dauphine TT and wonder what drug he was using? Is it realistic to think that Wiggins could draw back 90 seconds on Cadel Evans and beat the world TT champ by 30 seconds without some kind of chemical enhancement?

Is Wiggins/Sky using drugs? Obviously, I don’t know. I hope not. But with the past history of cycling, when one sees such a dominant preformance against some of the top athletes in the sport, the question will get asked. It makes you wonder why teams are having trouble finding sponsors?

The Inner Ring June 13, 2012 at 4:45 pm

Sponsors aren’t scanning for every possible clue about doping. A marketing executive will consider proposals and cycling pays a price for its legacy of repetitive doping scandals in the past. Even if every single rider was clean many sponsors wouldn’t know, they’re still five years behind.

Anonymous June 13, 2012 at 4:54 pm

Pat McQuaid: “In the big mountain stages, you never see the (team) leader surrounded by three or four domestiques. He usually finishes the climb on his own. That wasn’t the case during the big period of EPO,”

KOM Points over HC Col de Joux Plane in the Dauphine:

3 Richie Porte (Aus) Sky Procycling 16
4 Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky Procycling 14
5 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky Procycling 12
6 Michael Rogers (Aus) Sky Procycling 10

Sam June 13, 2012 at 9:43 pm

I like to prefer Jonathon Vaughters tweet:
https://twitter.com/Vaughters/status/211897942062284801

ave June 14, 2012 at 2:02 am

That’s a good one.
But I’m not sure on who is who. ;)

Noah, age 9 June 13, 2012 at 5:51 pm

remember Jeff, Wiggo is a time trial specialist, and Tony Martin had a collision with a car, and the output of that was a broken shoulder and jaw.

http://www.cqranking.com/men/asp/gen/rider_palm.asp?riderid=990&year=0&all=0&current=0

Big Mikey June 13, 2012 at 6:03 pm

And the fact that BW put 90 seconds into Cadel Evans?

JayCee June 13, 2012 at 9:06 pm

He was in better shape than Cadel Evans and could hurt himself more on the day?

Jeez, you guys act like cyclists are some kind of mechanical device with a binary output.

Noah, age 9 June 13, 2012 at 10:38 pm

Cadel did not have a great time trial results, did he?
Plus he could have had a bad day, though just a possibility.

NickV June 14, 2012 at 1:55 am

Last year’s Dauphine TT – Martin won, Wiggo 0.11, Evans 1.20.
This year’s Dauphine TT – Wiggo won, Martin 0.34, Evans 1.43.

I look at that and say Cadel’s in the same place he was last year (good news for his TdF prep.) Martin had a slightly worse day (unsuprising coming back from his accident) and Wiggo had a good day, but far from exponentioally better than you might expect from a TT specialist.
What’s the big deal and why is he suddenly a doper?

Martin W June 14, 2012 at 1:09 am

“Is it realistic to think that Wiggins could draw back 90 seconds on Cadel Evans and beat the world TT champ by 30 seconds without some kind of chemical enhancement?”

This sort of argument from personal incredulity is a pretty weak and underhand one – it lets you sling mud while claiming clean hands by claiming you’re “just raising the question”. (By the way, the answer is “yes”, for all sorts of reasons I doubt you’re actually interested in. For example, do you know who came second in that world TT championships and hasn’t recently been hit by a car?)

“But with the past history of cycling, when one sees such a dominant preformance against some of the top athletes in the sport, the question will get asked. It makes you wonder why teams are having trouble finding sponsors?”

Right. Wiggins should have backed off a bit in case he jeopardised future team sponsorship deals by doing slightly better than you expected him to.

The Inner Ring June 14, 2012 at 8:36 am

What if Martin won the TT world champ with “some kind of chemical enhancement” and Evans did the same in his past time trials too? To be clear I am not alleging anything, just making the point of the logic in the argument, it rests on the assumption that the latter two are clean and Wiggins has changed. My point here is that if you want to make some accusations you end up making assumptions first and it gets very tricky.

As a rule for everyone in the comments here please try not to point fingers unless you have real evidence or some strong logic to the argument.

Patrick June 14, 2012 at 9:57 am

Cadel dropped a bottle early on in the TT at the Dauphine, so that would have definitely been a factor in his performance. Maybe I’ve been reading too much Malcolm Gladwell recently, but I’m seeing too much ‘thin-slicing’ here, good performance = doping. It’s just not that simple.

Bundle June 13, 2012 at 4:40 pm

“Basing your whole season around the Tour de France is a high risk strategy”. Sure. You have to win when you can, not only because you might crash or be ill the next day, but because all victories are important. Let’s hope the guy learns the lesson.
Anyway, it’s good news for his rivals, but bad news for the race and us spectators. I wonder who on earth is going to attack uphill. (Serious attacking, I mean). We’re going to have fun downhill, but that will be all, I guess. The rest will be down to the last TT, where 3-week endurance will be tested.

The Inner Ring June 13, 2012 at 4:46 pm

There’s Gesink but as I said above, Andy Schleck was one of the best going uphill, capable of big accelerations.

Rider Council June 13, 2012 at 4:44 pm

Ekimov was around for a long time……lots of riders were around for a long time with very impressive results from the beginning. He may or may not be whatever but looking at things this way says nothing of the truth, whatever it may be.

OxChris June 13, 2012 at 4:52 pm

I’m no particular fan of Andy’s but I feel very sorry for him today. I was quite looking forward to him desperately trying to gain time in the mountains, it would have livened up the race no end. Are there now any serious contenders for the tour podium that are primarily climbers? I’m at a bit of a loss.

I think it was a good move by Sky to go to the ASO with Wiggins’s blood values etc. This being the sport it is, obviously the question of doping is going to be raised. It’s just my opinion but I think Wiggins is clean, not because I’m blindly patriotic or a sky fan boy, but mostly because of the enormous respect I have for Jonathan Vaughters. Of course I could be wrong but that’s just my opinion. I think Sky should go one better on what they’ve already done and release his blood values etc publicly so the bloodhounds at cycling news’s the clinic forum and the baying twitterati can satisfy themselves and stop clogging up my twitter timeline with innuendo.

The Tashkent Error June 13, 2012 at 4:56 pm

Sky? Jonathan Vaughters? Does not compute. Do you mean Dave Brailsford?

OxChris June 13, 2012 at 4:59 pm

No I meant Jonathan Vaughters. Remember that Wiggins was on Garmin the year of his tour breakthrough. Also JV has been saying some interesting thing on twitter about Wiggins physiology etc.

The Tashkent Error June 13, 2012 at 5:12 pm

Ok, makes sense now. Thanks for the further explanation.

OxChris June 13, 2012 at 5:14 pm

Yeah probably should have explained that a bit better!

Anonymous June 13, 2012 at 6:19 pm

I think Sky is finally getting Wiggind.

Vera June 13, 2012 at 6:20 pm

Sorry, I meant Wiggins.

Q June 13, 2012 at 6:53 pm

I agree. It’s starting to look like the thing Jonathan Vaughters brings to the sport is the ability to spot talent in riders like Wiggins and Hesjedal, even if he doesn’t have the budget to keep all of them. If JV sees potential in a rider like Thomas Dekker, for example, to race clean and be successful, I’m inclined to believe him.

I just wish Wiggins’ and some of his friends in the Sky program would stop the smugness about how clean they are (and how clean the British national team would have been before CAS made them give David Millar a chance). They need to recognize that their ability to succeed as an apparently clean program owes a lot to a change in culture in the sport brought about in part by the Garmin program and riders like Millar who have been willing to speak out about their own past mistakes and try to change the sport.

Dave E June 13, 2012 at 5:04 pm

Lets see if Wiggins can defend the gains he earns in the time trial over 21 days in the same manner that he can do in 7/10 days.
That said this has to be the most likely course for him to win.

Patrick June 14, 2012 at 9:59 am

Good point, I think the second TT is key to Wiggins success at the tour, in 2009 and at last years Vuelta he actually underperformed in the long time-trial.

Thienthai S June 13, 2012 at 5:52 pm

You can’t really compare Andy and Wiggins results. By nature Andy would find it hard to win stages race with more than 2 timetrials (prolouge/ TTT/ ITT). For all we know Andy is a pure climber in every sense of the word, he doesn’t have strong TT ability nor the power to match the likes of Wiggins and Evans. (His caring-only-one-race a year attitude and the mess RSNT is in don’t help, either).

I am sure Andy can win more if he tries harder, there are plenty races to snatch stage wins but the point is he rarely does, which is annoying. With this kind of attitude I don’t know if he can really win TDF. It’s kinda lackluster despite his repeated podium positions.

tom from raleigh June 13, 2012 at 6:15 pm

This is too bad for Andy and Radio Shack. The poor guy must really be down today. Perhaps Frank can make a solid showing and/or maybe this means Chris Horner fills Andy’s spot. Horner can be an exciting climber, but he’s not as much of a climbing threat as Andy, though he can TT better than Andy.

The Schlecks have come across as petulant kids this season. I hope they can find a management structure that can help them find their potential. By the way, if I were already being slagged by fans for a lack of maturity, you can be damn sure that I wouldn’t use my Dad to announce my withdrawls from the TdF, nor would I have my Mom quoted in the press release. Let the team, a lawyer, a publicist, anyone – just not my parents.

http://www.cycling.tv/ViewArticle.dbml?DB_OEM_ID=20300&ATCLID=205438446&utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

One final comment, with injuries to top TdF contendors the last few years the likes Cadel, Wiggins, & Schleck, the achievements of Indurain and Armstrong are even more impressive. I believe both were fueled by EPO, etc. that being said, these guy consistently kept off the deck and out of trouble. Maybe it’s got to do with the rise of twitchier carbon wheels and such – I don’t know. Just wanted to raise the point in light of this news.

Adam June 13, 2012 at 7:09 pm

Tom, can you point me towards any evidence from a major race that Horner is a better time trialist than Schleck? Last I check Horner lost minutes over 18 miles. Do you just say these things because of your conviction that the Schlecks are petulant?
Lance managed to stay off the deck right up until the day that he didn’t and it was basically the obituary to his last tour attempt.

Ken June 13, 2012 at 6:17 pm

I wonder if Frank Schleck will lead his TDF team now, out of his little brother’s shadow. He’s not exactly chopped liver.

Vera June 13, 2012 at 6:21 pm

I would like to see Horner back in TdF consideration, but I’m guessing that ship has sailed.

cd June 13, 2012 at 7:10 pm

Yeah he handled his omission well – burn all the bridges and whine. Unlikely he now gets a call up to replace Schleck.

Simma June 13, 2012 at 7:01 pm

perfect opportunity for fuglsang to take a big leap in the respect markings, because i don’t think frank has it in him to win, he’s mostly about andy (unfortunately i fear jakob will be put to work again), but jakob has been stuck as their domestique and been improving steadily since 2009, he was 11th in last years vuelta after riding the tour aswell…

i find him similar to richie porte, could be the main man for gc in a lesser team…

cd June 13, 2012 at 7:09 pm

Why are we forgetting that Froome may be the better rider. Beat BW in the Vuelta TT last year. Plus the pace on the Dauphine climbs could have not been that hard if Rogers stayed with the group. I think everyone is getting a little too excited about Wiggo right now. Remember Mayo.

@sciencetwitt June 13, 2012 at 7:27 pm

I am not surprised at Wiggins having the power to win the races he has won. I come from a background in lightweight rowing in which getting as much power from limited muscle mass in a sport which relies on absolute power over watts/kg is paramount. There are limits but the amount of power one can generate and still be very skinny is impressive. Some people simply cannot loose the weight. If there are doubts it could be along the lines of his weight loss and keeping it off. He has had the engine all along and there is enough evidence for that. Endurance is the easiest thing to obtain but watts are tough to come by. A fast middle distance runner can be a good marathon runner if you can’t run the marathon fast you aren’t going to run those middle distances fast. Simplistic. Guys like evens and wiggins highlight what can be done with sports science and attention to detail. A guy like schleck would probably benefit from being on Sky rather than following the advice of his father. Then again wouldn’t we all.

Interested June 13, 2012 at 7:35 pm

RSNT is in utter disarray. Johan may be a master tactician and strategist but it appears RSNT is not working as a cohesive unit and that problem starts with management – as with any business. Andy and Frank have seemed less than enthused all year, lacking hunger and fight. The Horner debacle – and it is just that is also a sign that things are not working. Both sides have made comments in the press but its a situation of his word, his word and the truth. I cannot believe Horner would decline to race Suisse knowing full well that doing so would terminate any chance to race the Tour…that seems to be poor communication out of RSNT management to not bluntly tell him that rather than another dust up and soap opera play out in the media. However, Johan had send a message to his team that racing and being part of the team is important and Tour slots are not gifted.

But does Andy’s absence now allow Horner to be added to TdF short/long list as another capable climber to help Frank in the mountains?

Marty J June 13, 2012 at 9:03 pm

Agree that the Horner situation is a fiasco – consistent with the entire season and management tactics of RSNT. Disagree that his inclusion would be a gift – not after his second at Tirreno and epic attack on the Baldy stage in CA. I expect that Horner’s problems have more to do with not being around and getting the support of his teammates – see Kloeden’s tweets.

Interested June 13, 2012 at 9:09 pm

Agreed, but then Horner should’ve raced Suisse if that is how the proposition was presented to him. But he feigned surprise at not being included, yet he isn’t racing Suisse and that was a major criteria. That is just the contrary view point. Horner should’ve been included in the long list – it wasn’t a final selection. By doing so it appears Bruyneel was sending a message, wrong or right it was that. But you summed it perfectly. Fiasco.

Interested June 13, 2012 at 9:11 pm

And Kloeden and Horner have no love lost after Pais Vasco last year, alledgedly. But I’ll say this, Kloeden isn’t getting any younger either so he better put up come the Grand Boucle or 86 his tweets on the subject.

Tom June 14, 2012 at 8:20 pm

I wonder if it’s got to do with Horner not being in Europe. Perhaps he’s not working to become a true member of the merged team. NBC Versus showed Twitter comments from Kloeden and from some guy name “Jens”. It didn’t appear to be Jens Voight’s twitter account that I’ve read before.

Vitus June 17, 2012 at 12:46 am

No, that was my tweet, retweeted by Klöden, only Phil Liggett made this thing up on NBC, not checking fact that Voigt has a very different twitter account and that the forename Jens is common here in Germany. And I never thought that someone could mix this up, since I never pretented to be that Jens from RSNT. That was weird.

David June 13, 2012 at 10:18 pm

The impression I get is that Sky is an extremely professional outfit. They’ve had their Tour mountain guys training in Tenerife, presumably practicing exactly what they did on the Joux Plane. Having said that, I’ve not seen any comments from people saying the pace was that intense, just comments from people like Nibali saying their legs were bad that day.

If there were any doubts within the team about Wiggins, why would Sky bother going to the ASO to present what is presumably sensitive information (especially if it included training data on power outputs and things like that)?

Personally I would like to think that Sky have just started to demonstrate the benefits of true dedication along with a highly sophisticated training regime. I think the recent article I read mentioned that Wiggins has only seen his family for 5 weeks in 2012 because of his training. In the same way there was a very interesting article recently on cyclingnews about the detail Liquigas are going into regarding nutrition. Conversely a lot of what I’ve read about training at some other teams seems light years behind.

You might say I have rose tinted glasses, but at the moment I truly believe that a decent proportion of cyclists are now racing clean, and not just domestiques. The current style of riding on mountains definitely seems to point to that fact. We have a lot of top guys who have never been linked in any way to doping, which is refreshing. Last year we had a Tour winner that we could believe in and the same this year with the Giro.

Noah, age 9 June 13, 2012 at 10:56 pm

+100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000

Cevenol June 14, 2012 at 12:20 am

But then there was Cobo…and katusha..

Patrick June 14, 2012 at 10:01 am

I must have missed the news story about Cobo and his positive test, handing Britain it’s first ever grand tour victory.

Mark June 14, 2012 at 1:54 am

Evans and Wiggins are the runaway favourites for the Tour but that last podium place (assuming those two both make it) is still wide open. I don’t think Gesink has got the attention he deserves, especially after winning ToC. He’s at 30/1 right now (I like the EW place bet at 1/4 odds), while Van Den Broeck has dropped to 20/1 with only modest showings. He’s got Mollema as a lieutenant, and his team seems firmly behind him and not other ambitions (although there has been criticism of his team as a whole babying him http://www.cyclingnews.com/news/boogerd-gesink-and-mollema-are-in-the-wrong-team).

RooBay June 14, 2012 at 7:03 am

I think that the evolution of the pro peloton over the past 20-25 years carries great cultural symbolism. It is no mistake that the English speaking teams and riders are rising to the top and dominating all aspects of the sport. This trajectory mirrors the fortunes and cultural attitudes of the New World vs. the Old World. Look at the make-up of the top teams: three are American, one is Australian and another is English (with a number of American, English and Canadian teams queuing-up in the lower tiers). Look at the bikes and other equipment being used: Cervelo, SRAM, Specialized, Cannondale, Trek, Felt, Bontrager, Hincape, Pearl Izumi, Giro, Nike, Bont, Ritchey, Zipp, FSA, etc. And then the riders. From the traditional cycling powerhouses we are now down to two serious Italian teams (Liquigas and Lampre – with rumours Liquigas is waiving the white flag), two Dutch teams (Vacansolei, Rabobank), 3 middling French teams (FDJ, Europcar, Cofidis), one Spanish team (Movistar) and two Belgian teams (Lotto and Quick Step).

This should not be interpreted as a triumphalist “X culture is better than Y culture” observation because it is not. It is my view that the English-speaking rise in cycling is because Americans, Australians, Canadians and (to a slightly lesser extent) the English come from fundamentally more progressive cultures that are not burdened by centuries of the unquestioned “this is how we do things mentality”. As much as I wish Murdoch had been true to his roots and put his money behind an Aussie team rather than an English one, I have to say that Sky going to meet the Tour organisers is yet a further example of how progressive and forward thinking that team is. They are clearly THE model team in so many respects. Brailsford epitomises the attitude of leaving no stone unturned to achieve a given result (Tour winner in 5 years) and is potentially one of the most progressive thinkers in the sport. This from a man with a very limited prior experience of European pro road cycling. What about Wiggins having a coach with a background in swimming – looks like a success already.

Contrast this with the French teams who are still doing things that were done back in the 50s “because if it was good enough for Anquetil it is good enough for you”. Wes Sulzberger talks about how FDJ have never used electrolyte products in their bottles because they have always used cordial (??!) and refuse to change. In his recent book, David Millar talks about banging his head against a wall while at Cofidis to get a decent set of TT bars for his MBK that he was happy with (can you imagine the Americans not giving their TT star all of the equipment he wanted to enable him to perform and win races for them? Answer: they don’t have to as their bikes are already streets ahead of the European brands, specifically built for each rider, endlessly tested and refined, etc).

Have you ever wondered why the coffee in France is so average given they share a border with Italy? You can get a better coffee in Melbourne than you can in France. On the flipside, why is the bread in France so consistently unbelievable, yet over the border in Italy it is much less so? For a non-European, these issues seem to me to be products of a mentality that doesn’t seek to improve things when it runs against the twin constraints of “culture” and tradition. The New World was founded on a need to improve and progress in order to survive, without the luxury of centuries of tradition and culture. From this you can chart the rise of the English-speakers in the pro peloton.

PS –There are obviously other factors such as population size, economics, etc that play a part but I think mentality is the key.

James June 14, 2012 at 10:13 am

I think there is something to this idea, but it does need a bit of qualification. I have seen things published in the last 2-3 years talking about French and other “Old World” teams modernizing with nutrition, power meters, training plans and all that sort of stuff. Millar talking about Cofidis is a bit out of date, though there may be some truth in it.

There is something to be said for new ways of thinking and its ability to create performance differences. But lets not overstate it. Sky was not exactly a resounding success in its first year or so and they have definitely changed their approach a bit to be less Tour-centric. They also have a very large budget and seem to just get the riders they want (not sure if buying out a rider and forcing a team to release him is really so “forward thinking”).

Also, any way you cut it, there are still more riders and more victories from people in the Old World. Where teams are based is not always a good indicator for these things.

Rooie June 14, 2012 at 10:46 am

@RooBay
“The New World was founded on a need to improve and progress in order to survive, without the luxury of centuries of tradition and culture. ”

What a nonsensical American arrogance. What you are witnessing is globalization. It has nothing to do with the difference between cultures. If you look at your argument, the same can be said of the NBA, the NHL and the MLB. In these very American sports we see a growing number of non-american players coming from Europe and Latin-America in the last fifteen years. Footbal (or soccer in the USA) is growing everywhere in the world, but no team of the New World has ever been able to reach the semi’s of the World Cup. Why is that?

Of course if you have a peloton of 18 teams and five teams have an anglo-saxon background, through numbers alone you win more races than before. That has nothing to do with the so called progressive nature of the New World. Its numbers, statistics, economics and money, it has nothing to do with progressivenes.

The Belgian and Dutch teams have been training on altitude for years now (and Tenerife is not as high as the Sierra Nevada), the New World did very poorly in the ToC and the best the Americans can come up with at the moment is Taylor Phinney (a raw talent with little results), Chris Horner (a 40-year old veteran with few wins this year) and TJ van Garderen (who was scouted and developed in Europe). The Australians are doing great. That has nothing to do with their progressive culture, but more with their Institute of Sports and the fact that track-racing is so important for them. Yes Evans is talented and won the Tour, but the number of Australians in the Peloton isn’t rising anymore and he did it with an Swiss team.

You’re mentioning the bike and equipments companies, but that argument is nonsens too. All those companies buy their bikes and equipements in Asia. They just have a bigger home market because of the MTB-bikes they can sell on those home markets (numbers and economics).

You think and believe mentality is the key. But all your arguments can be refuted.

RooBay June 14, 2012 at 12:32 pm

First it is worth pointing out that I am not American, I am Australian. I am however an admirer of many (but not all) things American.

I don’t know much about the NBA, NFL, etc but the difference there is that players from Europe and Latin America (and elsewhere) are stepping into an American structure, not the other way around. I would expect that American professional sporting franchises are among the most professional, advanced, progressive and scientific sporting organisations you can find, which is precisely my point. I can’t really speak for soccer/football but given it is the most popular sport in the world, is a truly global game and makes so much money it is not comparing apples with apples – cycling is very clearly on the second (third?) tier of world sports and ultimately confined (in terms of the top races, riders and teams) to being played out in Western Europe. This is why cultural differences such as the ones I have described can be more marked in our sport.

The argument about “if you have more numbers you win more races” ignores the fact that you need the numbers to be there in the first place. Take for example the fact that Australia topped the medal tally in the 2009 and 2010 World Road Championships. That is a massive result for Australia when you consider how small our population is, how far away from Europe we are and that cycling is still very much a fringe sport in our country. How did that happen? The AIS can only get you so far. Americans riders have also done phenomenally well in a relatively short period of time (even if you take away LeMond and Armstrong). The British and Sky – yes they had a rough first year and a big budget but they came from nowhere in terms of the coaches and management knowing much about European road racing.

Not sure where you are seeing a decline in English-speaking talent coming through – Orica Green Edge has a bucket load of young talent (Bobridge, Meier, Howard and Durbrige for starters), Tee Jay VG, Phinney, Tim Roe and Adam Blythe over at BMC, Ben Swift and Geraint Thomas at Sky, Jonathan Tiernan Locke (Endura), Talansky at Garmin, Andy Fenn at Quick Step, etc, etc.

As for American bikes and equipment, where it is manufactured is largely irrelevant – the point is where the technology is from, who has designed it and where is the innovation happening. I think you’ll find it is with the Americans.

Regarding mentality, you only have to read interviews with riders who have moved from Euro teams to US/Australian/English teams and hear them speak about the differences. You hear it over and over (including from Europeans who join those teams). A classic example of the Euro mindset was the story LeMond tells about how Guimard wouldn’t let him eat ice cream after his meal saying it was too fatty and at the other end of the table you had Hinault eating a plate of cheese after every meal. From all reports, that type of lunacy continues.

This reply isn’t intended to be rude or argumentative but I think there are some points that you have raised that are wide of the mark.

Contraire June 14, 2012 at 7:20 pm

BMC is a Swiss SPONSOR. It is a US registered team.

hoh June 19, 2012 at 9:15 pm

Excuse me, I think Brazil counts as new world doesn’t it? And we are talking about football/soccer.

Zac June 14, 2012 at 11:54 pm

With Andy Schleck out, we can only hope that Frank Schleck, Sammy Sanchez, Vincenzo Nibali, and maybe Jakob Fuglsang are in very good condition because otherwise this will be an extremely boring race. If these men are in good shape then they know they will have to take time in the mountains and will attack any chance they get. If they aren’t in good shape, then Wiggins will just sit on wheels as he always does and Cadel will try to only make a few attacks to drop Wiggins in the mountains. Hopefully, Levi is in good shape too because he does have the courage to make an attack in the mountains. Either way its the Tour so I’ll watch but I have a feeling this is going to be a very very very boring Tour this year. Lets all hope Andy is in good form for the Vuelta so he and Contador can have another classic battle like in the 2010 Tour!

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