Tuesday Shorts

Marcel Kittel won today’s stage of the Tour de Romandie, hanging on over the climbs when other sprinters were dropped. It puts him at the top of the individual rankings table with eight wins this year.

Lone Wolf?
Femke Van den Driessche gets a six year ban. But what of her entourage? Her ban for using a motor was backdated to October 2015 suggesting she confessed to using it before it was discovered at the World championships, or the UCI was confident it could prove she had been using a motor since then. This suggests the “my friend dropped the bike in the pits” was a load of bunkum – of course – but crucially means the motor wasn’t some fringe ruse but a regular component of Van den Driessche’s technical support. Seeing her punished but no word on her entourage is frustrating but if she’s opted to say nothing and nobody in her family, team or national squad is rushing to incriminate themselves then it’s only her who gets the ban and fine for now.

Talking of one person who’s gone when there could be a team behind the problem, British Cycling’s “Technical Director” Shane Sutton has resigned. He has long come across as a “character” and seemed an odd choice to replace Dave Brailsford, the drill sergeant taking over from the general if you like. In 24 hours Shane Sutton was suspended, British Cycling forced into launching an enquiry into discrimination and then launching a separate one too and then Shane Sutton quit. As much as Sutton is in the middle here it sounds like an institutional problem at British Cycling rather than one person going rogue. It took one interview by sprinter Jess Varnish to break the dam and a flood of interviews and statements followed. All timed with 100 days to the Rio Olympics too.

Off track
On the subject of Rio and track cycling, is the velodrome finished yet? Apparently not and if there’s time to finish fitting out the building one concern is that they’ve laid the wooden track already but not completed the rest of the building. This is problematic. Picky Olympic rules specify Siberian pine which is not suited to the hot and humid tropical climate of Rio. As such it needs to be preserved in optimal conditions with the right temperature and humidity control, something that’s not obvious in an unfinished building as builders come and go and something Brian Cookson is concerned about. It could mean kinks and bumps in the track. There are always “host not ready” stories before the games but this time things look more significant with the backdrop of a political crisis too.

Tour Route set
Hopefully France is ready for the Tour de France. It should be as work on the 2016 route is finished. The overall route was unveiled last October but never gets published in full until May. It’s because if the start and finish towns are known and the likely route in between is pencilled in, the exact route has to get approved down to last metre through France’s layer cake of government tiers. Mayors want the race to take a particular route through their town, some to alleviate congestion and others to show off the location’s charms. They don’t hold sway but can still influence the route and this process takes months with the route finally getting signed off in April.

Hinault statues
Another thing that’s been approved by French local government is the commission for a statue of Bernard Hinault which will be installed in Sallanches in the Alps and probably be unveiled by the man himself this summer when the Tour visits. He won the World Championships there in 1980. If it’s rare to have a statue for a living person then 1,000km away councillors in Brittany have ordered another statue of Hinault too. Several living cyclists have statues celebrating them, including the still-racing Samuel Sanchez, and I’d like to make a list or map of them so if you know of more and their location please leave a comment below. So far several names have been collected via Twitter like Marianne Vos, Freddy Maertens, Luis Herrera and more.

Vélobsédés podcast
Staying in France and having suggested Mitchell Docker’s podcast a while ago, a mention of the Vélobsédés podcast. It’s in French but sometimes people email to ask for foreign language podcasts, especially if they want to learn a language. Strictly speaking it’s not a podcast as there’s no feed but instead it’s weekly live discussion that’s recorded and soon after you can download it. The lively conversation and insight makes it worth the clicking to get. The hunt goes on for Italian, Dutch and German pro cycling podcasts.

Over to Spain now where they’ve banned disc brakes in amateur events. Or have they? It turns out they’ve always been banned so there’s no news here said the Spanish federation the other day. Only now the Catalan federation says discs are fine according to local newspaper El Periodico. Put aside the increasingly boring debate over discs and this is an amusing look at Spanish regional politics where a sizeable portion of the public in Catalunya wants to become independent.

A housekeeping note because the mere mention of disc brakes seems to set people off but if you want to rush to the comments section be warned they might be turned on and off. It’s not because someone’s posting nonsense… although that can happen too. Instead some bot in Russia is trying to post an inordinate amount of spam comments on here specifically on last week’s Disc Brake Fiasco piece. Even if software filters it out this still eats up precious bandwidth.

Finally if the spambot is trying to seed links to fake insurance websites but a regular source of spam comments that get zapped by the software are for “Oakley” sunglasses. Of course they’re trying to promiote hyperlinks to websites selling fake Oakleys, sometimes labelled “Foakleys”. There’s a good article on the fake industry by trade website bikebiz.com.

129 thoughts on “Tuesday Shorts”

  1. I haven’t yet read the Nicole Cooke article in the Guardian which should be a good source, however my instinct is that this is a case of a lone wolf in British Cycling. Sutton is “old school” and it wouldn’t surprise me to hear him tell a female cyclist “you’re not making the team, just go and have a baby then give it a try again next year”. Now is this an ill-advised quip or sexism? Brailsford doesn’t not come across as a sexist to me, and I imagine the culture has been built and fostered by him to some respects – anyway will be interesting to know the official conclusions and cycling is such a jewel in the olympic crown for GB now then this is rightly focused on.

    What we can say for certain is that this couldn’t be any worse in terms of timing. Track cycling in the UK is all about the 4 year cycle and all about olympic medals. It’d be disastrous for them if this derailed 4 years of work.

    • You should read Nicole Cooke’s article in the Guardian. She makes it sound pretty institutionalised (notwithstanding Sutton being old school).

      • Thanks! Indeed very worth reading.
        I only disagree with one thing she utters. According to my experiences it’s not true that this kind of “sexism” – is that the correct word? I would rather use discrimination but I’m not a native speaker – is only kept alive by the responsible, men, of course, in the organizations which run sports and their sponsors. It’s also alive and prospering within a lot of the public. I suppose that’s the reason why we are still facing it. If the majority of the public really cared about it it would be already a thing of the past. That’s sad but true. Which should not keep us from fighting against it though.

    • “Track cycling in the UK is all about the 4 year cycle and all about olympic medals. It’d be disastrous for them if this derailed 4 years of work.”

      This sequitur is non.

    • Cooke’s article is pretty special… No he said/she said nonsense, just a concise breakdown of why women’s cycling is second best by design and little is being done to change it.

    • As well as her article, it’s worth reading Nicole Cooke’s book, for her views on how deeply this runs within British Cycling, or indeed in cycling generally. To some degree it seems a by-product of Brailsford & Sutton running a very tight programme, where you agree with them completely or you’re completely shunned, but it’s probably not a coincidence that so many of the decision makers on the inside are men and so many of the critics are women.

      • The Cycling Podcast make the point that there are no (or maybe very few, I was still sleepy while listening) women on the track coaching staff, despite many of the most successful athletes being women. A reflection of society I suppose, but no reason not to question in every instance.

        • Let’s not forget the results that British women have delivered. They don’t divide Olympic medals/World championship results by gender, yet BC insists on spending much more on men.

          Sutton goes away and BC doesn’t have to address the institutional problems.

      • I suppose I will be accused of everything Brailsford and Sutton face, BUT here is my take.

        British Cycling, whatever the circumstances has been a production line for developing championship material. If riders, men, women and disabled don’t display medal winning potential, they are discarded. Hard but something everybody is made aware of when they are taken on – plenty of male riders have discovered this. Hard maybe, but the only way to operate on a budget which is solely dependent on outcome. Investment and rewards are for winning medals.

        Cooke, from her earliest days has always been outspoken in her views, and because of this has generally operated outside the BC remit. Pooley, who has now weighed in with complaints about sponsorship for herself and women’s cycling in general as being ‘sexist’, wants to blame Brailsford for this absence. Commercial sponsorship is expensive, difficult to secure and requires a return for the investment, unless you are simply an enthusiast. Brailsford may have excellent qualities, but conjuring up significant cash for a team is simply not that easy a thing to do. Why should Brailsford have the finger pointed at him, when securing sponsorship is the responsibility of many. I personally know someone who’s company became involved in sponsoring a women’s team, and very quickly realized that there was little or no return. The company exited after one year.

        Sutton in my view is a motivational, hard but fair task master. How else do you continue to produce champions. I await the outcome of the review with some interest.

        In the meantime British Cycling has lost a good man because of unfounded allegations being bandied around in the Tabloid Press.

        • Agree with much of this. It is hard enough getting a return on a men’s team but nigh-on impossible with a women’s team. Nice as it would have been to see a Sky women’s team, the bottom-line is that it wouldn’t have given a return to Sky for their investment. That’s not a BC problem, that’s a wider problem which doesn’t seem to be being addressed solidly.

          I have to say that I have only recently started watching women’s races and it is a solid product with some excellent racing. I don’t care that the peleton is smaller (and actually think it sometimes benefits from this), that is slightly slower and the distances shorter in the same way that I am as happy watching women’s tennis as men’s tennis with less speed and a max of three sets. So hopefully any drive to up it’s profile will concentrate on what it is, not what it isn’t.

          • Without a previous proper public-founded context, British cycling as a whole (male version included) would still be what it has been along various decades – that is less economically productive and way meaningless than general women’s cycling in the corresponding years.

          • Agreed with everything you say here OMG and I’m vehemently against the provision of free sponsorship money for no other reason than “I’m female”. Sponsorship is not a equal opportunity employer and nor should it be. Nor should it be an entitlement purely because you exist.


            Considering how little money Sky spends on it’s road team (in comparison to how much money it makes every year), fully funding a women’s team to the same dollar amount would be a drop in the ocean for them. I only know this to be true due to the informative piece that INRNG writes every year when Sky publishes it’s accounts!

        • Some good points, but I take issue with your view of Sutton. His bigoted comments are not ‘hard but fair’ and he doesn’t sound like a ‘good man’. The allegations are, as yet, unfounded – but to disbelieve them you have to believe that all of these people making these claims are lying and that Sutton resigned even though he knows they are lying. Seems unlikely.
          Also, I’d suggest that British Cycling would have backed him unless they knew the claims were true. And if they knew they were true, then BC is, at best, at fault for accepting this behaviour. At worst, Sutton is part of a larger cultural problem within BC.

          • I don’t often agree with you but here you are spot on. People defending Sutton on the basis of innocent until proven guilty are committing the same error of judgement on Varnish. If Sutton is innocent than logically Varnish is guilty of uttering lies and falsehoods. Doesn’t she deserve a fair hearing also?

        • I strongly disagree with your assessment of the Nicole Cooke, it’s precisely the culture at British Cycling that has now obliged Sutton to resign that was such a stumbling block to her career, imagine what more she could have achieved, if people had got over themselves and given her the proper support?

          • Tovarishch. One would hope that any investigation worthy of the name will concentrate on ALL the issues raised. I am NOT defending Sutton, only suggesting that people await the outcome of the enquiry before jumping to conclusions. It should be noted that Sutton himself has denied the allegations. Varnish has raised certain issues, and now has the opportunity to discuss and substantiate them at an official hearing. What could be fairer on all those involved ?

            I’ll get my hat.

        • Commercial sponsorship is expensive, difficult to secure.

          Women are a growing segment for the industry outside the UCI/BC and the federations are set in their sponsorship ways.

          The sport has so many integrity problems compounded by a lack of transparency and poor audience engagement. That is not the athlete’s fault.

          It’s the sport’s management that makes sponsorship very difficult.

      • +1 to Nick – even if I haven’t read Nicole’s book, she often looks like extremely perspicuous and clearheaded from what she says, despite the heavy emotional load her experience surely implied (and I’m using that “despite” thinking of what Woolf wrote in “A Room of One’s Own”).

        The tight programmes, the old school approach, the economic axioms or the focus on outcome are often cheap excuses under which discrimination is running wild.

        Cooke’s take makes some clear enough points which are pretty indisputable about this *specific* context (good ol’ *facts*), but, more generally speaking, we’ve now got several decades of in-depth research on the subject, be it through the lens of sociology, philosophy, history of literature and so on.
        There’s a broad scientific consensus about how the whole thing works, why is that so, and under what petty justifications it’s often disguised (yeah, many media will always tend to give room to the academic maverick spitting out nonsensical commonsense to reinforce *traditional views*, that is, ideological commitment to certain social distributions of power, but – feel assured – the scientific community in its huge majority nowadays shares a common view about the diagnosis, notwithstanding the strong differences when solutions are concerned).

        Oh yes, they’re loosing “a good man”. Why was he so good? Because he won medals? And what was the human price? What sort of huge scientist did the sport loose with Conconi? (I’m not implying that Sutton was related to doping: I’m just saying that results can come at different ethical prices, and that it’s not only about just staying within the broader or looser version of the rules, and perhaps some human factor you’re sacrificing in the process isn’t worth the medals, whoever pays that cost, man or woman – however, note that these *hard guys* find it a lot easier to be harder with women or other discriminated groups).
        The man is nearly sixty… hasn’t he been able to pass over some of his technical skills to some person who might be a little more fit to 21st century?
        If he hasn’t, perhaps he wasn’t that good after all. One-man shows run out of gas in a short time, whether you’re kicked out by your own inappropriateness or by history.
        In the sports (as well as in the arts or in philosophy) you’ve got *schools*, and that’s what really works in terms of outcome in the long run.
        The unique genius (who, anyway, tends to be a performer, not a “task master”… even if Ferrari wouldn’t agree with me) can offer his or her outstanding contribute if he or she leaves a legacy, be it an opus or a model practice: if his or her art vanishes once the person is *out*, the loss is really relative.
        Building up a *healthy structure* (where “healthy” includes “able to avoid abuse on its members” and “able to reproduce itself”) is paramount for middle-term success.

        • I expected many posters not to agree with either my point of view, nor show much support for British Cycling.

          In reply to Gabriele. The single set objective of the British Cycling programme is to win medals. Medals = Investment. The sport is after all, predicated on the basis that you complete at the highest level to win, otherwise what is the point. The philosophical argument is not really applicable in this instance, Sutton was simply the director of many other specialists who together have a shared knowledge base. If you want to complain, then maybe the complete institution requires attention, rather than simply one person. BUT, claims of ‘institutional’ whatever in other bodies in the UK have invariable reduced their overall effectiveness. No medals = No investment.

          My main point however remains. Sutton has been forced to leave his post because of as yet unfounded allegations from a small number of people. If posters want to make a judgement about the man and his methods based on Tabloid reports, without the benefit of the outcome of a promised inquiry, then fine. I simply feel that Sutton should be allowed to defend himself against his detractors in a fair and open manner.

          • When public money is thrown in, other values come into play.

            Or that’s how things *should* work, yes, whereas we all know about State doping and so on.
            Which doesn’t mean that such phenomena should be appreciated or accepted as “a natural law” (that’s how newspaper economists try to sell out their worst theories).

            If we accept that medals are the *only* or *main* priority, we’d better require strongly public money to go elsewhere.

            I understand your “main point”, i.e. the suggestion to wait for some further investigation, and I share it – to a certain point.
            J Evans made some interesting points somewhere here on the subject, that is, how plausible it is that nothing of this is true.
            Moreover, you should also note that most comments are about the general implications of the possibility of such a situation, not about the situation in itself.

          • Nicole Cooke’s article makes some very powerful points.
            One of them is that in 2012 Olympic Games road race Lizzie Armistead (who went on to win the Silver Medal) she was not provided with the same level of support as members of the men’s team. In fact the reserve men’s team were given more support than the women. This clearly shows that British Cycling was most definitely not pursuing a policy that was driven by the desire to win medals. Instead it was diverting resources to men’s events with little chance of a achieving medal at the expense of female athletes who most certainly did.
            Cooke provides the example of the lack of support she received compared to the cost of fielding a larger team for a men’s race, where again the men were much less likely to compete for a medal.
            These facts strongly suggest that BC does not place it’s priorities solely on medal winning performances. Other factors are evidently at play in BC decision making – and the women’s teams & events seem to come worse off in the allocation of resources.

        • Although I largely agree with what you’re saying, just on the “pass over some technical skills” I think the issue is that with the split of BC and Sky, then the up and coming coaches have gone to Sky. I suspect Rod Ellingworth would be head coach if not running BC now if he wasn’t with Sky for instance, so it’s difficult to say that skills have not been passed down – maybe they have but the coaches have moved on?

          • Mine was a general point, to show that if the accusations are well-founded (we’ve already got several elements to believe that they possibly are, even if we lack absolute certainty), the loss of a “good task master” should really be a secondary worry for an healthy institution, both for a question of priorities and because being a *good master* implies not being indispensable as soon as it is possible, that is, leaving a legacy that doesn’t depend on your physical person.
            The consequence is that all the complaints involving Suttons’s *quality* are or should be out of place, that’s all.
            That said, I find your observations very interesting to explain why things might have gone a certain way.

    • In cycling, of course, things are almost always blamed on ‘one bad apple’ – cheats always act alone, for instance.
      In this case, even if it is just Sutton – which I find unlikely – it still takes institutionalised chauvinism to accept this behaviour.

      • Just to counter a couple of things. From your post above “His bigoted comments are not ‘hard but fair’ and he doesn’t sound like a ‘good man’. The allegations are, as yet, unfounded”

        Perhaps we should be careful and not attribute bigoted comments to him if we are going to also say they are unfounded.

        Also on institutionalised, I like to think that it isn’t. One personal anecdote is that I’ve taken my daughter to the track in Newport a few times and the coaches there have been amazing, to her and all women in the mixed group, and clearly not showing any sexist traits.

        Clearly a completely different level to elite athletes, but nevertheless shows that sexism isn’t completely ingrained all through british cycling.

        • I must add that from the outside, too, BC has often looked like as *much* more inclusive and fair than most of its national counterparts in Europe.

          And we should also admit that it’s a certain degree of shared cultural fairness in a society which allows righteous claims to come out and receive publicity.

          As we often say about doping, you’ve got more scandals when you don’t tolerate a phenomenon (whatever the reasons).
          At the same time, just as when the – more or less supposed – doping fight by cycling is concerned, the fact of being “better” than the worst, or even better than the average, shouldn’t become an excuse for introducing self-indulgence.

          • I suspect it’s because we have little tradition of success on the road but instead have recently found it on the track which is (relatively) more equal.

    • I think cycling has an unique chance to move from a somewhat negative public position to a much more positive public position if they(we!) choose to encourage women’s cycling as a whole.
      Most peeps relation to cycling is the TDF and maybe the odd classic, and many for good reason associate cycling with a profound doping culture, which is a great shame for the many assumingly younger clean cyclist.
      I believe if the cycling community where to embrace women’s cycling we could put ourselves ahead of a lot of other sports in a very positive sense.
      I rarely watch female races, but when I do – they ride really aggressively and it can be very entertaining to watch, and mores than quiet a few of mens races.
      bueno – just my point of view

  2. I had noticed the comments on the Kwaremont beer review are closed too. I suddenly found that my local Jumbo supermarket had it on the shelves last weekend, so I bought a few just to try. I wanted to add my tasting notes to the INRNG review but I couldn’t. For the record: it was OK, but not special, a Belgian blond ale not very distinct from its peers.

  3. On the Van den Driessche case, there is a third possibility: early on, after the public announcement that the UCI had caught her, she stated that she wasn’t going to defend herself. One could certainly assume this was admission of guilt, it could just as easily be an indication of lack of funds for a legal defense in Aigle. Or both. Once the UCI heard this, they just piled on because they could. I mean, really, six years is ridiculously excessive, unprecedented and, presently, unjustified when there is no (at least not public) evidence that she ever even rode the bike in question. Especially when bio doping commands a lighter punishment even though there is the beginning evidence that bio doping is eventually life shortening.

    The story, and the “mechanical doping” issue, is so full of holes and almost devoid of legitimate evidence. Not that I’m saying it is, but one could make almost as strong a case that motors or magnets in the peloton is a myth.

    There is though a growing pattern of highly publicized cases, whether Van den Driessche or bottom rung, gang that couldn’t shoot straight doping convictions, that target competitors who were destined to failure anyway. Cyclists that you’ve never, and would never have, heard of. Combine this with a highly visible group of anonymous worker bees waving tablets around conspicuously looking for these (so far) elusive motors and interviews where mechanics admit that they’ve got a back log of motorized bikes to manufacture and deliver and it looks like we have new, VERY SCARY problems that the UCI is right on top of and, POOF! the old, Very Real problem, top tier biological doping, seems to have disappeared. All on its own. Even though it is as easy, if not easier, to dope now than it ever has been. Or, at least since the 70s.

    • Agreed. The Van Den Driessche technical cheating punishment does indeed seem harsh compared to numerous traditional doping judgements. It’s easy for the UCI to appear strong when the vistim/culprit has no team and finance to contest the judgement. The case is also likely to be isolated given the ease with which installed motors and power sources can be detected – though not by thermal imaging as suggested by the French television documentary (motors and power sources will only generate heat during the short power on phases) The reaction of professional cyclists who demand life bans while remaining silent on traditional doping also gives an insight into what is tolerated and not in the peloton.

    • “Even though it is as easy, if not easier, to dope now than it ever has been. Or, at least since the 70s.” Really? I’ve been following cycling since the early 90s and that seems counter to most people’s views. Not saying you’re wrong but what’s the evidence?

      • Just Google “how easy is it for an athlete to dope?”

        Then, “WADA whereabouts” and “One hour testing window”

        Set aside more than 15 minutes.

    • I’m quite happy with the duration of punishment (and have little doubt about her guilt).
      As for the wider picture, we have no idea how prevalent or not motors in bikes are.
      What we can see is that the UCI is not doing all it could do. What it is doing is being seen to be doing something and then being ‘tough’ on the culprit.
      And, once again, one is left wondering why it is the small fry who are caught (are no big riders taking drugs or using motors?) – and also why no-one else is even being investigated it seems.
      (And I agree listening to some pro’s talk about how terrible using a motor is – and it is – does make one think ‘What (previous?) behaviour of your own are you trying to make sound more palatable here?)
      I don’t think doping is easier than it was in, say, the 90s – as there was no EPO test, for example. But, again, we have no real idea of how big the problem is and no faith that the authorities are handling it competently.

      • As easy to dope as ever? It probably depends on the definition. It seems that more rigorous testing, including the biological passport, has eliminated “extreme” doping such at that seen in the past where those prepared to take the risks could be certain of beating – easily – those that were not. The passport has also redefined doping: certain parameters must remain with limits and be stable. Thus the extreme situation of the past is probably over while, as the CIRC report indicated, some modest performance enhancement within the tolerance may be widespread. Better but still some way to go?

        • And yet performance numbers (ascent times) are near or better than the good old days of LA and Pantani.

          The problem with doping, and testing, has always been that the dopers are ahead of the testers. Historically it takes a slip up or an idiot to raise an alarm and then a period of time for the tests to catch up.

          Several things have happened since the (don’t forget: Long, Drawn Out) LA debacle.
          1. Doping has become more secretive than ever. LA’s and Postal’s real undoing was the arrogance and the mistaken assumption that no one would ever talk.
          2. Doping is more lucrative than ever before as pro sports become a more valuable form of entertainment and gambling house resource. (If you were a brilliant biologist or physiologist, would you rather work for an upper middle class salary, or become a multi millionaire?)
          3. Top tier salaries are exponentially higher than ever. For 10% of his annual salary, Chris Froome could own a small team of biologists.
          4. Just as it has always been historically, what is the cutting edge of sports cheating is not even on your radar. There is a very real chance that some doping methods are not even illegal, because WADA has no knowledge of them.
          5. Most sporting organizations are more concerned with the success and popularity of their sport. The UCI, under the present administration, has just joined the crowd. (and doesn’t it feel better and cleaner? It’s not.)
          6. The Bio Passport has become a watered down, misused tool compared to what it was when McQuaid introduced it. Now, it’s just a set of not to exceed guidelines for the dopers.
          7. Testing is more expensive than ever. I think I’ve read that there are fewer tests being performed now.

        • It seems that more rigorous testing, including the biological passport,

          How do we know? We don’t. No one but the UCI knows and we know their record on doping. There is an annual report from WADA. But there is not enough data to know if doping frequency has changed.

  4. “to brake the dam” that should be _break_ the dam.

    The likes of Shan, King and Trott on the ladies’ side as well as Kennaugh and Thomas have spoken out in support of Sutton. Pendleton and Cook have previous in the moaning stakes, Varnish didn’t speak out until she got dropped due to not meeting clear performance objectives.

    How about everyone letting the investigation run its due course regarding alleged sexist and ableist comments and the context they were made in before anyone passes judgement.

    PS Suttoff was rather lame, a bit like a really bad tabloid headline. Sometimes you reach a bit too far with the innuendo and word play.

    • Geraint Thomas wrote re Sutton: “He has always wanted the best for British riders, and gone the extra mile for us. He’s done more than most for British Cycling. The inequity issues won’t finish with Shane’s resignation/investigation, there is a problem with inequality in cycling as a whole that needs to be addressed.”

      This is by no means a statement that there was no discrimination coming from Sutton.

    • I think you’re drinking the BC kool-aid a bit here, Varnish spoke out initially at the track worlds earlier this year, and as to not meeting ‘clear performance objectives’;

      “During the 2 year Olympic qualifying process, I gained more qualifying points than any other British female sprint rider. I was consistently performing in the top 5 in the World for Lap 1 times in the Team Sprint, and I have also qualified Olympic places in the individual Sprint and Keirin. Since 2012 I have won medals at the World & European Championships and Commonwealth Games”

      • but yet, you fail to mention (or Varnish, selectively omits) that of the 10 World Cup events, in which selection or qualifying higher, would have ensured they qualified for Rio 2016 ) JV rode in 7, and in those seven events, did not gain enough points to ensure qualification, for the team sprint.

  5. Statue for your list: Australian Cyclist Hubert Opperman has a statue in Rochester, the town of his birth, which is in the Australian state of Victoria. He won Paris-Brest-Paris in 1931, finished 12th in the 1928 TdF and also set some amazing distance records that stood for quite some time.


  6. Why are the rules so specific about the wood used for the Olympic tracks? Are some faster than others? Is it to keep the integrity of Olympic records?

    • I think its because the density of Siberian pine, is of a better quality suited to the tracks, for longevity and speed. Ron Webb (the Australian track builder) and the Schurmann brothers, have some good details on their websites, about the construction, etc.

  7. Can’t shake the “deja vu all over again” feeling about motorized bicycles. It all sounds so much like the UCI’s feckless early anti-doping efforts. We have the lone wolf theory with UCI seemingly uninterested in digging further once this little fish has been caught and punished combined with claims that their testing is effective with dismissal of easily available technology (heat gun) that would help catch the cheats. “Nothing to see here folks, it’s all cleaned up now!” is something we’ve heard time and time again.

    • Or… the testing they are doing is genuinely the best way to test and the press are trying to create a story which isn’t there. And easy to believe the unsubstantiated rumourmongering in light of cyclings history.

      If there are motors that can get past the electro magnetic testing then these reporters need to produce it and show it to the UCI.

      Time will tell what is actually happening but I think at the moment it is best to keep ones powder dry before going off half cocked and other metaphors also etc.

      • But the UCI could do very simple things: tagging bikes at the start and banning bike changes except via neutral service.
        Perhaps their technology is the best, but why are they not doing these simple things? That is the question to ask. Is it bureaucracy, incompetence, do they know that they always get the right bike, are they really trying to catch people at this? As ever, we’ve no idea.

          • Banning bike changes except via neutral service? Imagine that after an epic pile up like at last years tour? Nah, wouldn’t work. And saying they should only be changed when broken…. well unless you had a commissar there to grab the “faulty” bike the minute the riders bum left it then you’d never know for sure if a team mechanic made sure it was broken.

            Your suggestions are simply not practical at all, I have no problem with criticising the UCI, but at least think it through first.

          • I can see them complaining about the neutral service idea and it might be a problem with a mass crash (although a bike shouldn’t break when you crash – except in extreme circumstances – so the manufacturers would have to make stronger bikes; which benefits all).
            And you might be right about skulduggery by mechanics – although I’d imagine it would be hard to ‘break’ a bike and make it look ‘natural’ (I know nothing about bikes).
            So, here’s a simple idea: tag all bikes, so we know which bikes are used by which riders, etc. Then test all the bikes – the ones used before and after any changes.
            Also, riders to use a UCI powermeter, with all data going to the UCI. If the UCI has any suspicions, looking at the data would show up any anomalies. If all riders have to do it, it’s fair. And if they don’t like it; tough.

          • So this is what bike changes after a big pile up look like if you haven’t seen it https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7raIxrzodt4

            Who is paying for all these powermeters? Tagging all a teams bikes and making sure they are accounted for seems a good idea…. although just a easy to scan them at the start of the race than tag them? And the scanning doesn’t have to be every bike at every race, any team getting caught once will be over and done for, there is no coming back from it. So as long as it is clear that you will be caught eventually (which it is, unless the bike immune to scanning exists) then I don’t honestly think there is anything to whole motor doping thing.

          • Every rider has a power meter now anyway – so same people who pay for those ones.
            If riders change bikes, then you need to be able to scan every bike they use – not just the one they start or finish on. Tagging them would ensure you knew what was where and who was on it.
            I hope you’re right: as I say, I have no idea if this is an issue or not – I also have no faith in the authorities.

  8. Great statue of Reg Harris at the Manchester Velodrome.


  9. Re Cyclist statues: there is a statue of a rider named Enrico Totti, in Borghesi gardens in Rome. Fascinating story – not a “big star” but worth checking out.

    Discs ? Meh, I’m over it!

    Shane Sutton – I’m sure it’s a case of blunt comments, and emotional/hormonal women, not liking what they’ve heard (varnish) in terms of WC & qualifying failure.

    Lots of debate & opinions, in respect of others, whom are now voicing other criticisms (15 more minutes of fame) and jumping up & down crying “me too” when they should’ve voiced concerns at the time.

    Let an enquiry sort it out – whilst BC wonders, who’s going to fix the cycling team for Rio ….

        • Or it might be pure bulls***t people should feel ashamed to write in public. No, wait, it’s not “might” – it’s simply like that.

        • Horsesh*t. There is no possible way that you could know that the responses of these people was either emotional or hormonal (or are you doing bloodtests?).
          It’s just sexism. Nothing more.
          ‘Politically incorrect’ is a term the right-wing came up with to excuse bigotry.
          Good luck getting women to buy stuff in your ‘big bicycle shop’.

          • just because you don’t particularly like a comment, lets try and keep this polite.

            My observations on emotional outburst – refer specifically to seeing (within 10m of the interview) immediately after the World Championship event, where neither performed enough to gain the qualification.

            I watched the interview and it was very emotional (that, indeed was what I made the comment upon) because athletes are emotional, after winning or losing.

            The hormonal comment, I agree, is crass, and flippant. It was typed as nothing more. however, statistically, the odds on it being accurate are possibly not that removed – so whilst potentially accurate, you’re right, I couldn’t possibly know that.

            If, the “horseh#t” comment refers to the Varnish/Sutton/Dyer emotional conversation, well, I know the main people in the discussion, and they’ve all got tempers, and will fight fire with fire.

            As for the bike shop comment – I’ve worked in the bicycle trade for the last 40 years,
            and yes, I successfully sell to all genders, and I do support para-athletes in various sports of all sexes.

            So, whether you like comments or not, perhaps its better to engage rather than mouth off in an aggressive manner.
            It’s a fair comment to suggest, I am of the old school, and that my thoughts and opinions, are not so “PC” but I don’t pander to soft fluffy “lets cuddle a kitten, or go hug a tree” types.

            I say it as it is. As indeed, is you’re right. Even if you or I, are wrong.

          • Make bigoted outbursts, then claim others are being rude. Standard right-wing practice.
            I’m done with you. (And I am being polite here – this isn’t even close to what I’d really like to say.)

      • I sincerely hope that you’re sarcasm is justified, and that Kev’s comment is indeed very unpopular on this blog. That is proper old-school sexism that I personally find abhorrent. Which is a shame, because Kev’s 4th para is a more nuanced point which, though I don’t think I agree, would be worthy of discussion. However, for me, it is completely tainted by his previous remark.

        • ah well Elliot. We can’t all agree.
          I do genuinely think that “bumgate” (Jess Varnish) is a cyclist, whom didn’t like the reality of failure, and the subsequent result of not hitting the targets etc.

          as I understand that, the duo had 10 World Cup events to qualify higher, by performance, and Jess raced 7 of those, none of which delivered the required element.
          Then, London Worlds, and the public comments to the BBC about management failure and passing the buck, simply because they didn’t make the grade.
          I was there and it did come across as “dummy spitting” and hardly conducive to great relationship with BC coaching staff.

          So,”Bumgate” occurs, and whatever the conversations between BC/Varnish/Sutton/Dyer, I’m sure emotions were high and annoyed on both sides.

          So at that point, you’ve got two choices: learn to live with it or do something about it.

          I suspect, that the Daily Mail, was not the best option, if you’ve harboured thoughts on a cycling career and proving your ability, with results.

          Time will tell.

    • Sutton and “blunt” comments – and what about the alleged abuse of disabled athletes? Are they just “emotional” if they don’t like being called “gimps”?

    • As a matter of fact men – especially younger men – are more prone to act irrationally under the influence of emotions and hormones than are women. Read up on the science, or go check the prisons and mortuaries.

  10. From my understanding at the time of the Van den Driessche discovery the clearest consequence of the UCI 12.1.013 regulations showed that the team was incontrovertibly in the frame to take a hit. The rule talks of “the team and rider” – with the team coming first. Neither she nor her team has offered a defence, I think, and yet the result has been that she is banned and the team is not mentioned. Bloody strange system.

    As for Sutton: I think the Geraint Thomas quotes sound about right. Sutton strikes me as a fellow certainly committed to the British Cycling cause. But he also strikes one as very likely to have made the sort of comments attributed to him by complainants. The phrases just ring true somehow. I would have thought the team’s trick cyclist (Peters as was, Ruth Anderson as is) would be mindful of any systemic threats to the emotional health of any athlete, but Anderson was appointed by Sutton. From the outside it seems Sutton was never the right man to replace the much smoother, brighter Brailsford but, by the same token, Sutton is not crucial enough to have a major impact on BC preparations for Rio. Rather, as inrng points out, a delicate track exposed to the elements in a building site is just a real shambles.

  11. Not going to get into the discs discussion in detail, but I think there might be a link between the UCI’s speed in banning them, the harshness of Van Den Driesche’s penalty compared with first time dopers, the problems over the spec of the Rio track, the controversy we’ve had in the past over the appropriate bike for the hour record, and even the very fact that any mention of discs leads to an “increasingly boring debate” or the criticism of Froome’s riding position. The fact is that many cyclists and cycling fans are inordinately interested in the detail of the gear itself. Even our very own “spirit of M Desgrange”, Larry T, has strongly expressed views about the merits of a triple chainset.

    Perhaps the UCI are just like us? They too have strong views about what a bike should be and what the tech should be. So they impose detailed techy rules, because these points are really important to their core understanding of what cycling is. And they rush to judgement and harsh penalties when that core understanding is breached – by discs, motors or a rider staring at his stem with his elbows out!

  12. I can’t be bothered to comment on this PC bollocks. Get someone in who ticks all the “right” boxes just like the BBC does and then see the quality go to rat shit.

    • Uhmmm yeah, great example Anon, I just recall a fine story about a guy in BBC which happened to put to shame the institution (and the country) all over the world, when, after his death, it was discovered what he was allowed to do… oh, but, who cares, quality was so good then!

    • You could scarcely have picked a worse example to back up your argument.
      And it’s not about being ‘PC’: you criticise your rider’s fitness, you don’t make those kind of comments.
      Most of us will have had a job at some point – and we know we’d be fired for that sort of thing.

        • Nothing to do with delicate feelings, just that the BBC was a prime example of what happens when people with power are allowed to do whatever they want.
          And telling someone to go and have a baby is unprofessional and pathetically juvenile.

          • Which you happen to know is a fact, I assume you were there at the time! No, i thought not. You see, I am talking absolute rubbish on purpose, simply because trial by Internet forum is just as ludicrous as the rubbish I am coming out with. Evans and G you need to get out in the fresh air!

  13. J.Evans – if you accept that, the published criticism & complaints, levelled at Shane, and BC are credible, then you’d also have to consider, or acknowledge that, Shane’s statement and reason for resignation, are equally so?

    Resignation is not necessarily, an admission of guilt.

  14. Shane has resigned either because this whole affair is actually causing a damaging distraction to the squad atmosphere and he has decided to completely step away from it as time is of the essence, with less than 100 days to go to Rio. OR, he has been lying about what he has been alleged to have said to team members. A messy affair whatever the truth and today I see it has got even more messy with the pixie pointing her finger.

    • Ok, how come nobody has mentioned Sir David Brailsford? Until 2 years ago he was the one holding the leash on the pitbull. He had to know what was going on, why is he not held responsible for his nr 2’s behaviour at that time? Even if he wasn’t taking part he was complicit by allowing it to take place under his watch. His office was at the Manchester velodrome, he had to know.

      Much as the Sky fanboys aren’t going to like it, he was Sutton’s direct manager for a very long time, he needs to account for his inability to address the alleged bullying behaviour.

  15. on the subject of podcasts… anyone know how Mitch Docker is after his nasty Roubaix crash?

    (from a selfish standpoint I hope he’s okay as I was really enjoying them!)

  16. The Sutton saga comes as no surprise. Read Cooke & Pendleton’s books. They are critical of Sutton and, in Cooke’s case in particular, British Cycling’s lack of support for women’s cycling.

  17. The backlash from all this is not going to good in the short-term. Unless Team GB come back with an expected medal haul (they have no doubt estimated their chances in placing in each event – their future funding relies on it) then there will be severe fall-out which will impact the Team GB riders. It will probably hit the women’s team, but will knock on through to the paralympians, and men’s.

    People have played down the role of Sutton, and there maybe some riders who benefit from his absence, but structurally there will be a vacuum in one of the key positions leading up to Rio.

    Sutton will be sitting at home no doubt angry and pissed off at BC, Varnish and the press. Hopefully a little introspection may help him realise that he above all has put himself in this position (from his language to his premature-resignation).

    What Sutton has not got is fairness himself. The process for this should have been for a formal complaint to be made by Varnish and others and not had this raked through the press. Like any other employee he should be subject to a proper review of his conduct and then formally reprimanded. It would be for BC (subject to their own code of conduct) that any decision regarding a reprimand should be made (or summary dismissal). Many of the people here seem to condemn him on the basis of some quotes provided in an almost contextless fashion: what if Varnish had called him an ‘old bastard’, a ‘mysogenist wanker’ (because she was upset), and he responded with the equally heated terms? In the context of that conversation he would have given as good as he got – though one would argue that he should take the high ground given his position.

    The point is that people have rather looked at the image (gruff, no-nonsense Australian) and stereotyped him as the unreformed Australian without looking at the man behind that. I don’t think there is really any defending what he said about paralympians, I think it likely that his comments were nasty and hurtful, but that he should given a proper review.

    I think it is shameless that Pooley etc. Have chosen to jump on the bandwagon for feminism. He comments seem to take land grabbing to an entirely new level while not accepting responsibility for her own position. No one is stopping her or any other woman from going to sponsors to make a particular project happen. Only the sponsors choose not to. I think if I was Sky and I had a proposal which said here’s two projects we would like to make happen I would say, we are only going to support one at first and see how it goes, before making a commitment to two and see you fail at both. We would rather see you succeed at one – which one has the biggest benefit for us?

      • Welcome to the side of common sense, fairness and justice RQS. We have had our differences in the past, but I support almost every sentence of your post. You make the point extremely well that Sutton has not had a proper chance to respond to the wide variety of issues raised in the as yet unsubstantiated allegations, other than to say that they are untrue.

        There is more to be said, but that is probably best left until the inquiry has delivered its conclusions.

    • RQS – the problem with going through all the proper channels etc etc is that it seems likely that BC has institutionalized sexism, not just Sutton. It’s likely that athlete’s would feel that by going through an internal process they would just face a panel of middle-aged men, all ingrained into the system, and there to support the established (successful) system. Similarly the Mountain and BMX riders – get yourself known as a trouble maker and you can wave goodbye to any Olympic ambitions etc etc.
      Sometimes going public and using the media is the only way to bust through the closed circles of power.

      • The problem is that we don’t know if that’s the case. Looks like BC were undertaking a review and then Sutton resigned, all played out in public.

    • Do you really think that the kinds of comments Sutton is said to have made are ‘gruff, no-nonsense’?
      Do you think all the people who have made these claims against him are lying?
      Do you think if they were lying he would have resigned?
      Do you think sexism is acceptable?
      In your last paragraph you mention a ‘bandwagon for feminism’: what reason do you have for bringing feminism into this? Or, are you aware that feminism actually means equality (and not the connotations the right wing have tainted the term with) of the sexes? (That’s not to say I agree with Pooley – I think if women’s cycling wants to ‘improve’ itself it would be better off doing it separately from men’s cycling.)
      Is this: “what if Varnish had called him an ‘old bastard’, a ‘mysogenist wanker’ (because she was upset), and he responded with the equally heated terms?” based on anything more than your imagination?
      Why do you believe that it’s more acceptable to insult women than disabled people?
      In your opinion, how many medals compensate for women having to work in an abusive, intimidating atmosphere?

      • Actually, what I’m saying is none of us know the circumstances that lead to Sutton’s comments, and as I said he hardly took the high ground whatever, but my point is that most organisations have some sort of process which is ‘aimed’ at giving fairness to employees which should protect them from false allegations and give them both a chance to explain themselves, but also a chance to make changes.

        In my comment, I allude to the fact that a summary dismissal might be possible if he has brought the organisation into disrepute or guilty of gross negligence. It’s a formal procedure which protects employees from being sacked because someone ‘doesn’t like their face’.

        For the record the allegations about Sutton seem quite damning. My point about the comments he made about Varnish is that we have no idea of the context in which he made his comments, my point was that Varnish may have been as abusive, ageist and sexist as Sutton, and so he felt in the context of it that he felt it ‘reasonable’ to make his – which is not correct, but has some mitigation that things were said in the heat of the moment.

        I think it is possible that people have used events for their own agenda (Varnish, Pooley). If Varnish felt the way she did she should have made a formal complaint. If BC didn’t take her seriously and didn’t do anything she would have been well within her rights to go public, or pursue legal recourse, but she didn’t. She just went high impact, maximum damage and devil may care for the outcome.

        It sounds like Sutton was non-PC and tolerated in BC (and should have been reprimanded well before this). But Varnish’s comments sound like sour grapes because she didn’t make these comments before she kicked off the Olympic program.

        You appear to have not really read what I wrote so sorry if you think this is reiterating the above. To be fair to BC they seem to have taken appropriate steps as soon as Sutton’s behaviour was known, and so all the more a shame that Varnish did not take the proper lines of complaint.

          • I’m saying that unless you know a lot more than has been reported on these pages and elsewhere you and I know very little.

            His resignation could be about his guilt such behaviour or it could be at indignity of being tried in the press over allegations which he does not accept, and feeling shoddily treated. Again, we don’t know at this stage. I know which one I think it is, but I also think that Varnish should have gone through a formal process and not made this about her rejection from the set-up.

            I guess she got her Pyrrhic victory, don’t you think?

        • You say ‘It sounds like Sutton was non-PC and tolerated in BC (and should have been reprimanded well before this)’.
          Then, you say ‘To be fair to BC they seem to have taken appropriate steps as soon as Sutton’s behaviour was known’.
          Which was it?

          • It seems like riders tolerated what he said and made no fuss about it till now, and perhaps someone senior should have had a word if they were aware that he was using offensive language. The ‘should’ means that we don’t know how these scenes played out and if the right action was taken at the time (I.e. Someone makes a complaint) then they ‘should’ have reprimanded him then.

            Now senior management have received an official complaint they have taken steps to look into it. Why is that hard to understand?

            Do you think the way Varnish divulged all this in the media first was fair? Or right? Do you think that this has damaged BC? Clearly you seem to think that there is a sickness at the heart of BC and yet you don’t know the facts, and if you did, why did you keep quiet?

  18. J Evans. Come on old chap, this is all a bit strong and presumptive. Lets await the outcome of the independent inquiry before asking the questions that no one has answers too at present – unless they are on the inside.

    The only known facts as of today are that Pooley is backpedaling on her original comments, which were complaints about sponsorship from BC, or the lack thereof. Varnish and her father have gone awol. Cooke and her father were never a central part of the BC set up, and Sutton has received support from other ex and current members of the group.

    Who knows where the truth lies. The problem with all these claims is that the line is difficult to define and each individual will see things in a different light.

    Riders always have the option of making an official complaint if they feel they are working in an abusive, intimidating environment or they can simply walk away. To go to the Tabloid Press with allegations, after the event, in my view is not the correct or proper course of action to take. Varnish or her father should have raised this issue with BC in confidence rather than the press. Unless of course you really believe it is an Institutionalized problem, which appears at odds with the views of other female riders, who seem perfectly satisfied.

    • But if you have problems with your boss, the boss’s employers are more likely to side with the boss – and then your career prospects are harmed. So, you do nothing.
      If Sutton’s behaviour was known about (and could it not have been – he seems pretty vocal) and tolerated, then the problem is institution-wide. Thus, you’d be even less likely to complain.
      So maybe then you think the press is your only option. Would any action have been taken by BC had these complaints not been public?
      Have these people now ‘gone AWOL’ or are they just not adding anything?

  19. I am not in a position to know how British Cycling would have dealt with the matter internally if it had been raised. I do however believe that they are a thoroughly decent and professional organization, who would have taken the appropriate steps to investigate. It would have been very difficult for them to ignore an issue of this nature, even if they had so desired in the present climate. If they had failed to take the correct course of action, then, and only then would Varnish have been justified in pursuing the matter through the appropriate channels. I would have thought through the courts, not the Tabloid Press.

    Whatever, my position remains unchanged. I will await the outcome of the inquiry with interest.

  20. Very good comment from inrng on Femke vdd.
    It is frustrating to see how a 19 years old girl is taking all the punishment and shame on her while all the necessary organisative background is left alone. It is difficult for me to believe that she actually even conceived the idea on herself.

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