I hope you’re enjoying the track cycling at the Olympics. It’s proving to be a good contest but at the same time a strange one. For example the rule of one athlete per nation in a race means some of the best riders are left at home, indeed the field is of a lower quality compared to the World Championships. Although because only the best get selected by each nation of course we still get worthy winners. It’s just we’re denied the full show.
One of the joys of the Olympics is that minority sports get big TV airtime and world attention. People take notice of badminton, trampoline and other sports… including track cycling which almost never appears on TV. But the flipside of this is that these sports get a tiny window to show the world what they can do. It’s here that track cycling needs a fundamental review. It is an exciting, dynamic and high speed contest but excluding big names, seeing a farce where riders were celebrating their win only to be be denied and more means it’s probably useful to have fundamental review to make sure the sport looks as attractive as possible and that the speed on the velodrome isn’t diminished by rulings that even the TV crews find hard to communicate to a curious audience.
Olympic Halfway Point
We’re now halfway in the Olympic games and halfway in the Olympic cycling programme too. Nine medals have been awarded and Great Britain lead the cycling medals table by some margin with five gold medals. At this point in the games if British Cycling was a nation it would be eighth in the medal table across all sports.
Bryan Coquard to Europcar
The omnium is currently being led by Frenchman Bryan Coquard. He’s got some way to go before winning a medal but he’s already won a pro contract and will join Europcar for 2013.
Ag2r change tactics
Talking of French teams and recruitment, we got news in the week that Ag2r-La Mondiale have signed Colombian Carlos Betancur and Italian Davide Appollonio. It’s a change in plan for the French squad as they’ve actually recruited two proven winners rather than an invisible rider with a sackload of ranking points. Appollonio will be useful for a few wins in France with his sprint power but Bettancur is a very promising and aggressive rider who can win on a variety of courses.
McQuaid’s Public Confusion
It’s not just on the water where people row backwards, the UCI is now caught in a public spat with the US Anti-Doping Agency USADA.
If you wanted an image to sum pro cycling right now it would have come from last night’s medal ceremony in the London velodrome. Another gold medal for the British team sums up the home nation’s strength but it was also the moment where Canadian lawyer Dick Pound presented the medals alongside UCI President Pat McQuaid.
Pound is the former head of the World Anti-Doping Agency and an outspoken critic of the UCI, he once said the UCI was so blind to the problem of doping that “they should not be allowed outdoors without white canes and seeing-eye dogs“. Pound’s loud ways didn’t work, it just gave President McQuaid and Hein Verbruggen someone to brawl with in public. Now the UCI is being sucked into public spat with USADA over who has jurisdiction of the so-called “US Postal Conspiracy”. It looks appalling. First President McQuaid told the media:
“The position of the UCI is that we are not involved in this…it is a USADA investigation, they are doing all the process in the United States. It is nothing to do with the UCI and we will wait and see what the eventual outcome is.“
But only days later it turns out the UCI changed its mind and tried to get USADA to stop the investigation so that the UCI could take over matters. Shane Stokes at Velonation is all over the story if you want more.
Whether it likes it or not the UCI is now on the back foot and getting terrible publicity: at best because it can’t understand its own rules and at worst because it gives the impression that it is taking sides. A few people at the top are making the UCI look bad. Worse, the UCI doesn’t have an articulate and confident leader to control the story.
Vuelta a Burgos
The Spanish stage race is a good guide for the Vuelta a Espana. Last year Juan José Cobo won the big mountain stage, a big clue as to his form. Today’s mountain stage is the big test for many so be sure to scan the top-10.
For some reason stage races in classics country never seem to work, as if the landscapes that lend themselves to one day battles feel wrong for a stage race. The reverse can hold true too, for example the one day Classique des Alpes never took off as a climber’s one day competition.
Still this time the Eneco Tour starts tomorrow with an extra interest, namely Alberto Contador starts racing again. It’s hardly a race suited to him but he’ll welcome the chance to rub shoulders on rough roads, the kind of experience his training could not replicate and we can see how he performs in the time trials. Watch Taylor Phinney for the overall too, two fourth places in the Olympics mean he is in form and he took his first win as a pro in this race last year.