If you’re not yet excited about the Tour of Flanders this Sunday, perhaps the video above will do the trick. It’s not new but it’s still worth watching once a year. If you need a prompt to remind you that De Ronde coming up soon, note the first campervans have been spotted parked on the course.
France and Italy both venerate their national tours but often as a social and cultural event, people cheer for the yellow jersey without knowing who is wearing it. No country in the world does cycling like Belgium and the Tour of Flanders is the Flemish equivalent of the Tour de France compressed into one day, even a few hours and all the more potent for it.
The forecast for Sunday’s Ronde finish in Oudenaarde says it will be cold with a breeze coming from the north-east or in cycling terms, legwarmer weather. It’s funny but I’ve never seen a cycling season where so many race photos show the riders dressed in winter gear with leg warmers and more.
It’s said that instead of wearing three-quarter length kneewarmers a coating of embrocation is a “Belgian kneewarmer” but actually the useful garment to keep the knees warm is probably Belgian in origin. We go back to 1991 when Belgian rider Edwig Van Hooydonck won the race for a second time and started a fashion.
Before it was either shorts or legwarmers with nothing in between but van Hooydonck set a trend with his new three-quarter length leggings… something that possibly went way beyond cycling.
If you have an iPad then note the Issu2 2 of 2r magazine is available to download so you can read, watch and swipe. I’ve got an article there that uses the F-word. No, not that word but Franchising and the second part look at how the UCI could improve the team licencing process to make it less risky for risk-averse corporate sponsors.
Yes it’s iPad-only for now… meaning I’ve had to borrow one to read it too. But it’s a good read and Issue 2 has plenty, including the weird and unique circus bike that Garmin-Sharp’s classics captain Andreas Klier learned to ride on… if he’s still got the skills from his youth then he could probably teach Peter Sagan a trick or too. You can get see some of the content from Issue 1 on Facebook.
News today that le rugby rhymes with dopage in France as the sport generates a higher proportion of positive tests than cycling. Only you can doctor numbers just like you can an athlete. Let’s tackle the numbers…
- In fact the number relates just to the tests done by the French agency the AFLD. This body doesn’t have the right to test cycling’s big races as these tests are run by the UCI so already the numbers are not covering the big races. For example the Tour de France, Paris-Nice, Dauphiné and Paris-Roubaix aren’t included
- Still that leaves plenty of tests in other races from pro to amateur. There were 1812 tests in cycling and 588 in rugby so cycling is tested more… but only in absolute terms, there’s nothing about the percentage of athletes or competitions tested
- Nor do we know what was tested for because cycling often sees blood tests when other sports do not. The rugby positives would be even higher if they ran more blood tests
- Finally as we all know tests often don’t catch the big cheats. These controls get likened to an IQ test or a roadside speed camera in that they tend to catch the ignorant. So the number of positive tests isn’t the most meaningful stat
So the takeaway is that these headline numbers are just that, suitable for a headline but we don’t get the full context.
Finally since this section is about shorts, note that world champion Philippe Gilbert is riding around in Assos shorts rather than team-issue Pearl Izumi kit. I’m fine with this, maybe his team gear was in the wash or they’ve had to change a logo. Who knows? Who cares?
Actually there seems to be an insatiable appetite for “pros using non-team issue kit” stories, the item on here after Milan-Sanremo about riders using Castelli’s Gabba jacket when they have different sponsors was a popular read and I get emails from fans asking “is Rider X using non-standard kit”. I admit at first the interest from fans sounds obsessive, after all does the choice of shoes worn by Chris Horner or Bradley Wiggins matter? But actually it’s fundamental to the economics of the sport for ever since the invention of cycle racing, the sport has been underpinned by the concept of manufacturers hiring riders to promote their goods. First to demonstrate the reliability but over time, perhaps first with the pneumatic tire, performance advantages and now today we have fashion too as riders pose in plastic sunglasses if the price is right. So when riders do wear non-standard kit it’s significant, not for their choice, No, rather they’re breaking the system.