this article originally appeared on The Roar
The English start to the 2014 Tour de France surpassed even the wildest dreams of the people of Yorkshire and London who made it happen, with the crowds by the roadside estimated at some 2.5 million per day.
Race Director Christian Prudhomme was fulsome in his praise of the start up in the north of the country.
“When you said you would deliver the grandest Grand Départ of the Tour it was the truth. You have raised the bar for all future hosts of the Tour de France,” said Prudhomme.
“I work for the Tour, but I also love the Tour, and I have seen that the people of Yorkshire love the Tour too. I can see the Tour in their hearts, and in their eyes. For that, I say thank you.
“Bernard Hinault said to me that it is the first time in 40 years on a bike that he has seen crowds like we saw this weekend.”
There was an estimated 60,000 people lining the climb of Holme Moss alone, an astonishing number to anyone who, like myself, has ridden up that lonely, bleak and windswept moor on their own. More astonishing still was the appearance put in by the sun. Perhaps he got a fee for turning up too.
It was all very English in an un-English sort of way, what with it being the Tour de France and all, and yet the English – or British, if you like – have had something of a stranglehold on the race in the past two years. With the current champion and the winner before him, as well as the greatest sprinter the Tour has ever seen all standing under the Union Jack, you’d think the Brits would be over the moon at the moment.
However, one of the three lions didn’t even get a place on the start line and another got himself so giddy at the thought of wearing Yellow on his native soil that he went and rode like a fool and crashed himself out of the whole thing.
That Wiggo isn’t racing has received enough attention, but it’s worth taking a moment to consider just how irresponsible and reckless was the ride Cavendish put in on Stage One.
There’s something to be said about being a great athlete and a man that commands respect, and there’s even more to say about a great athlete that’s rash and irresponsible.
Compare, if you will, Pele and Maradonna, or Ali and Tyson.
Maradonna was arguably the better footballer, but if you were to choose from the two a role model for youngsters it would be the Brazilian who would win out every time.
Tyson may have been the most ferocious and intimidating heavyweight of all time and was a brilliant technical boxer too, but Ali’s legend is built on far more than what he achieved in the ring. He is a great man. Tyson is a thug.
Cavendish is established and the greatest sprinter of all time. In his first season, 2007, he equaled Alessandro Petacchi’s record of 11 professional wins in a debut season.
In 2009 he became the first Briton since Tommy Simpson to win a Monument, Milan-San Remo. In 2010 he became the first Brit since Robert Millar to win a stage in every Grand Tour, and in 2011 became the first Briton since Simpson to win the World Championships.
In 2012 he became the first man to win on the Champs-Elysees four times in a row, and in the same year he became the most successful sprinter in Tour history with 23 stage wins, giving him more mass start wins than any other rider in the Tour de France, ever.
Some say he’s pretty good. I begrudgingly concur.
Cavendish’s record blows Kittel’s out of the water – it blows everybody’s palmares out of the water, in fact – but Kittel is coming along very nicely indeed. He won yesterday, has now won in every Grand Tour, and he has that air of invincibility about him that is reminiscent of another sprinter at times – namely, Cavendish.
But which would you rather have a beer with? One is affable, approachable and genuinely popular in the bunch, the other is none of those things. Whilst it is true that Cavendish’s nature is an essential component of his success it is also true that he has been openly disrespectful to other riders (ask Thor Hushovd about that), and that he causes crashes.
Never was this more true than on Stage One. Cavendish’s actions caused the crash, and though he apologised to Gerrans by telephone later, it’s an indication of how dangerous his sprinting was that the OGE team were angered that the UCI had declined to punish the Manx rider for reckless riding.
The reasons for Cavendish’s crash were twofold.
First off, he was desperate to win because he wanted Yellow on home soil. As a result he was eager as a lamb at its mother’s teet for the last 300 all day. Secondly, he does not respect his peers enough. Had it been Gerrans or another rider that had been forced to abandon the ride rather than the culprit himself, the organisers would have been justified in throwing him out of the Tour altogether.
Indeed, had that happened, the injured party might even consider whether he had a legal case against Cavendish.
Milan-San Remo winner Alexander Kristoff of Katusha even went so far as to compare Cavendish to Luis Suarez, the Uruguyan thrown out of the World Cup for biting an opponent.
“Suarez was banned for biting people in soccer and to me it looked like he crashed on purpose,” Kristoff said.
“At 60 kilometres an hour it’s really dangerous and you can injure people, so it’s not nice of him. In an uphill sprint you loose a bit of control sometimes. It’s not the first time he’s done this. I hope he calms down a little bit in the future. He’s a brilliant sprinter but it looks like he lost his head a little bit.”
Lost his head and lost his chance to prove that he still has the beating of an improved Kittel. Lost too even more respect from his peers, as well as wasted all the hard work his team would have put in in training to get ready for this race.
Kristoff will not be alone in his criticism of Cavendish and there won’t be much sympathy for him in the peloton either.
Finally, it wasn’t just himself he let down out there, not Simon Gerrans or anyone else behind him, but the British public who came out to cheer him on.
the results are coming thick and fast, especially from Taylor Price, who got a second last week in the Shanghai Skoda Series after forcing the 2 man break.
this Sunday just gone Taylor competed in the Shanghai Classics Race #2 which was an ITT and he smoked the 16.5km course to move up that last, that hardest step to be on top of the podium.
fantastically enough, none of the teams that participated in the TTT later on could beat Taylor’s time.
awesome stuff Mr. Price!
People get stuck. It happens to us all at some point. You get into something, work hard, see the improvements quickly, then suddenly you’ve reached the flatlands. No matter what you do you just don’t seem to be able to push through it.
As bike riders and athletes, we have learnt since we were kids that to get better you have to train more, train longer, train harder. Yet at a certain point in our development, when that approach is failing us, we have to look at the other aspect of our makeup that has a massive impact on us – our minds.
We tend to focus on the physical aspect and not in any particular sense on the mental side of things.
Truth is though, that this tough old bike game really is very mental – in every sense of the word.
As a cycling coach I find myself not only writing training programs for my clients but also advising them how to break through the various psychological barriers that are holding them back from realizing their full potential.
In essence, you can train ‘right’ all week long but if you’re just going through the motions you’ll never get back from the bike what you’re putting in.
And that’s where we encounter the ‘OK Plateau’.
I first encountered the term in a book by the writer Joshua Foer, entitled Moonwalking With Einstein (Penguin Books 2011). He wasn’t discussing cyclists but typists, yet what he has to say is perfectly applicable to sport.
In the 1960s, psychologists Paul Fitts and Michael Posner identified three stages that we go through when acquiring a new skillset.
First is the ‘cognitive phase’, when the individual intellectualizes the task at hand and quite quickly learn new ways to become proficient.
The second is the ‘associative phase’, when we can concentrate less and make less mistakes but are still learning, still adapting.
The third is where the plateau approaches, known as the ‘autonomous stage’. Here’s where things get easier to the point that the practitioner can now switch to autopilot and loses conscious control over what they are doing.
Think about when you first learnt to drive a car and how you now drive a car, if you have some years’ experience, and you’ll see what I am getting at.
Brain scans have shown that different parts of the brain light up when someone is learning a new skill, and then turn off after that skill has become more or less learnt. They are, in effect, no longer thinking about how to do it, they are just doing it.
Now, let’s consider all of this and cycling. The average club rider goes out riding with a certain degree of dedication and motivation week in and week out, but what, generally, are they doing? The same as many of my clients, before they come to work with me – they are merely riding, pottering about at a similar average speed each ride, hitting similar kilometers and certain levels of lactic acid build up.
Now, consider what the pros do. Like top level professional musicians or other artists, they practice the high-level stuff. They’re not playing Greensleeves all day, they’re working their way through Rachmaninoff and Charlie Parker, hitting the high notes over and over again, stressing their systems at particular moments and in particular ways, doing all the hard stuff, the truly demanding stuff, that marks them out as professionals.
And there’s the nub. When you want to get good at something, how you spend your time practicing is more important than the amount of time you spend.
An accompaniment to this, an absolutely essential one, is that you must be prepared to accept failure. In fact, to break past that OK Plateau, you must embrace failure, practically seeking it out in the pursuit of mastery.
This element – learning to love to fail – is the best way to get someone off the OK Plateau.
How does this work?
It is only through feedback, from your brain and body recognizing what went wrong and why, that you discover new ways to improve. It’s a truth that the guy who comes second learns more from the experience than the guy who comes first. In victory we bask in glory, but in defeat we analyse.
This is why I tell my clients that I want them to go for the mad long range attack from time to time. I want them to go up that killer hill in training at a rate they cannot possibly hold til the end, because I want them to learn, to adapt and thus, finally, to improve.
We all set ourselves limits and work our way towards them, but most people are too harsh on themselves – or too lenient, depending on your point of view. The limits they set are too low and thus they constantly underachieve. Most people have no real idea of what they are truly capable of because of this fear of failure that casts itself like a shadow over everything they do.
Low limits means less risk of failing, but they also mean low expectations.
You may fail 10 times but you’ll fail less each time. And, on the 11th, you just might nail it. Complacency for the cyclist marks the end of advancements in efficiency, power and speed. And, at worst, can bring an end to the rider’s interest in the sport.
Now, here’s something many people may not agree with, but I believe this sincerely: the most successful athletes of our day do not inherently possess that much more natural talent than others who participate in their sport.
In some rare cases yes, there are people like Jordan, Gretzky, Messi and Vos who are clearly from another planet, but in most cases the men and women who we watch on our screens have very human talents. However, what marks them out as successful professional athletes is that they have also learnt, through thousands of hours of practice, how to elevate themselves beyond each OK Plateau they encounter.
They have the hunger and they are willing to fail to improve.
Top level athletes get better with each generation at using the time they have to train, and at learning from failures, both their own and those of others.
The history of sporting achievement bears this out, too. In his book, Foer mentions the 4 minute mile.
For decades, until it was broken in 1954 by Roger Bannister, the 4 minute mile was deemed absolutely impossible.
Now however, the record is 3 minutes and 43.13 seconds. Yes, advances have been made in track and shoe technology but the real advancement has been in the way athletes train, not in what they run on.
The human who holds that record is also just that, human. There have, as far as I know, been no evolutionary advancements over the past 40 years that would mean a bettering of Bannister’s record by over 15 seconds was bound to happen.
Ultimately, if you want to improve and keep improving, a conscious decision has to be made.
The rider who wants to get off the OK Plateau has to decide to ride to fail and then to evaluate why he or she failed. To break through a plateau is immensely rewarding, and it is not too much of an exaggeration to say that surpassing pervious expectations as a result of thinking and riding in this way can have ramifications for just about everything you do in life.
Becoming good at something – in our case, riding a bike – can in itself bring rewards across the whole spectrum of your life, increasing your confidence and self-respect. It can even make you a nicer human being to be around. Exercise, as a result of the chemicals released in the body as a result, has been proven to blunt the brain’s response to both physical and emotional stress.
There’s no lose. It’s all win-win.
So, go get mental.
Get off auto-pilot, wake up, and go out there and fail, goddamit!
This article accompanies this one here on training plateaus that focuses on the physical aspects.
this article originally appeared on The Roar
Giant-Shimano’s Cheng Ji will become the first Chinese rider to participate in the Tour de France, a fantastic achievement for the 26-year-old who last year became the first Chinese national to ride in the Giro d’Italia.
Giant-Shimano’s team coach Rudi Kemna commented on Cheng Ji’s inclusion in the Tour squad and made the point that he has gained his slot through merit.
Kemna also acknowledged an eagerness to see what kind of effect this would have on the growth of cycling in Asia.
“When we started working with him as a young talented rider back in 2008, we made a long-term plan and this has seen him develop into the highest level of the sport and we see him now playing an important factor in the sprint formations,” Kemna said.
“Having Cheng in the team as the first Chinese rider ever to ride the Tour de France will be huge for him and his country and we look forward to seeing the impact this has on the globalisation of the sport.”
Kemna is not alone in this. The UCI, bicycle product brands, TV companies and the other top-level teams have been very keen to crack Asia and in particular China for some years, and remain so.
Cheng is not the first Asian rider to have participated in the Tour, but the fact that he is Chinese has many people involved in the administration and business side of the sport intrigued.
Four Japanese riders have started the Tour (though only two have finished, Yukiya Arashiro and Fumiyuki Beppu, both in 2009), but while the Japanese cycling scene and cycling market are better developed than in China, it is China, with its vast population and increasingly affluent middle and upper classes, that offers the greatest potential for the growth of the sport and, naturally, financial profit.
But while Giant-Shimano should be lauded for bringing in Cheng Ji and nurturing him to the point where he is getting ready to line up for the Tour, and for signing Malaysian rider Sea Koh Leong at the start of this year too, there remain several doubts about the way in which the UCI is going about implementing its plan for the growth of cycling in Asia.
One of the UCI’s flagship initiatives in Asia, designed to shock and awe a generally uninterested public in the wonders of modern cycling, was the Tour of Beijing.
The race is unique not just in that it is the only top-level bike race in China but also because of the way it is organised and promoted. The race is run by a company called Global Cycling Promotions, a company that was set up by the UCI itself.
There is here a very clear conflict of interests when a sport’s governing body is running an event with the aim of making a financial profit. Was this race set up to promote cycling in China and wider Asia? Or was it seen primarily as a money-making venture for the UCI?
With reports of almost non-existent fans and with those few spectators who did turn up being kept far from the action by police, as well as disgruntlement among the teams about the UCI’s insistence that they compete in a meaningless race, the latter question is a fair one.
Much of the UCI’s approach to Asia follows a ‘trickle-down’ mentality. Bring in big names in their shiny kits, throw financial incentives at local cycling federations and bring in local sponsors at top dollar, and eventually the grassroots will benefit and develop.
But this concept does not work. Nations such as Taiwan are a perfect example. The organisation that runs the UCI 2.1 Tour de Taiwan runs almost no other events for local cyclists and does very little to raise the cycling culture in the country. It also does not allow Taiwanese teams to stay in the official race hotels at the Tour de Taiwan and requires them to supply their own food throughout the event.
It is not just in Taiwan that we see national federations treating local riders so shabbily. I have personally witnessed local riders at several UCI tours in Indonesia and other parts of Asia being forced to sit outside, on the ground, at the official opening ceremony banquet.
Why this is neglect is happening is not known. Whether the UCI allocates money from its funds for each team for the duration of these events or whether it is the national federations that fund the hotel stays and the meals I do not know, but it might look to the casual observer that money is being siphoned off somewhere.
In many cases, cycling is seen as a money-making venture first, a sport or pastime second. We can hardly blame the Asian federations however when the world governing body has for so long done exactly the same.
Another issue that is very troubling on the Asian cycling scene is that of doping. The UCI sanctions some races here that have absolutely no doping controls whatsoever. Several riders and teams were dismayed at the 2013 Tour of Borneo when this was the case.
The Malaysian Cycling Federation have insisted that there will be controls from now on, but it’s preposterous this situation could be allowed. Tests though are said to cost between $US2000 and $3000, so perhaps yet again money is the driving concern.
Yet whether there are tests or not, many who are against doping see them as essentially useless as there is no blood testing here in Asia. With all tests being urine-based, the likelihood of catching out all but the most idiotic doper are very slim.
There are just the same temptations to dope in Asia as in any other part of the world. Prize money is often substantial and salaries for the top riders can far exceed what these guys could be making were they working a nine-to-five job.
As a rider on the UCI Asia Tour circuit for four years, I heard rumour after rumour about certain riders on certain teams, tales about guys disappearing for half a year and explanations as to why, and about national federations hush-hushing positive tests.
To think that of all the racers in Asia some would not be tempted to dope is ludicrous. And yet the level and manner of testing suggests that either the UCI and the national federations do in fact believe that, or that they are not fully committed to catching cheats because the exposure of an Asian circuit with riders juiced and winning regularly would be bad for business.
There is no doubt that cycling in Asia is going through a growth period, with more and more people taking up the sport and more bikes being sold, but whether that growth is being positively encouraged by the bureaucrats rather than exploited is another matter.
Brian Cookson, the president of the UCI, addressed the thorny issue of Global Cycling Promotions’ control of the Tour of Beijing and has said that the organisers cannot “parachute in with a European pro model” for a stage race in Asia and expect it to work.
Alan Rumpf, head of GCP, hosted Cookson when he went to visit the race last year.
“After two days, [Cookson] had a good understanding where we are and what we want to do,” Rumpf said last October. “He’s been positive. He said he wants to see the race continue.
“He says, and I agree, that this race has to benefit the whole of China. He wants to see more cooperation with the Chinese cycling association, more benefits for all levels of cycling. He’s right. We’ve tried to do it since we’ve been here. It takes time. I’m glad that he’s there. He’s pushing us.”
GCP’s contract to run the race expires this year, and whether that is renewed might tell us about the sincerity of the UCI in addressing the issue of the conflict of interests that lie at the heart of their approach to growing the sport in Asia.
The UCI should also have in place a committee that travels to its Asian races to determine whether those in charge at a regional level are indeed the right people to entrust with their Asia Tour. The issue of doping controls also must be taken far more seriously if they are to avoid the same mistakes and problems that were compounded for so long in Europe, the USA and other hotbeds of bike racing.
well maybe not quite ‘world’ domination, but we’re getting there.
Crank Punk Coaching Systems client Taylor Price, originally of the US but now living and working in China, forced a two man break at the recent round of the Shanghai Skoda Series, and though he almost broke his breakaway partner, a renowned sprinter, he eventually had to settle for a nonetheless very decent 2nd place.
Taylor had a bad start to the season with a prolonged illness and then last week only managed two hours riding on a week-long business trip to the US, so it was a great ride on Saturday to take second.
CPCS riders have now podiumed in the UK, Taiwan, China, Singapore, the Philippines, Thailand, Hong Kong, and we plan to expand to more countries very soon!
Here’s a photo of Taylor on the podium (right), great work amigo!
Since I started coaching, have to say I’ve been very lucky to be working with such a great bunch of athletes. It’s been a blast, seriously.
One guy who came to me with a list of weaknesses twice as long as his list of strengths was Rafael Leyson Amorganda from the Philippines. Within a few months though Rafael’s gone from mid-pack fodder to the top of the podium, winning both stages and the GC at the recent Tour of Subic, for his age group.
His testimonial was not in fact written by me but it is so glowing that I’m just gonna add the link here to it.
When Australia’s Tiffany Cromwell won the 2013 Omloop Het Nieuwsblad classic she had every right to be delighted – and one reason not to be. She’d just cemented her name on the European scene with what was arguably the biggest win to date in her career, trouncing Megan Gruanier of Rabobank in the sprint to seal a brilliant victory.
The win brought her the spotlight her talent deserved and gained her a reputation for being a no nonsense rider who could mix it with the best in the sport. Surely, a win like that will have brought in a nice little pot in prize money? Well, not quite.
oh my goodness. what a race.
and of course, the finest race analysis by your friendly neighborhood crankpunk.
read all about it right here, or click the image…
this week on PEZ, my musings on the Dauphine, Froome, Conty, mad sprinting and the chances of the Spaniard bringing a proper challenge to the Briton in July.
this article originally appeared on Pez Cycling News…
The 2014 edition of the world’s greatest stage race saw its Ferrari-red flame hosed down by an organisational cock-up of such epic proportions that the eventual winner, Nairo Quintana, would be as justified this morning at being just as royally pissed with it all as the man came 2nd, Rigoberto Uran.
Of all the other talking points of the race – of Fabio Aru’s wonderful ride, Pierre Roland’s return to form, Dan Martin’s inability to stay upright, Michael Rogers’ wins, Luke Mezgec’s capture of the Points Classification and Bardiani-CSF’s fine 2nd place in the team competition – nothing comes close to the wrecking ball that the commissaires brought to bear on the integrity of their stewardship (and indeed on the GC result) by their ‘mishandling’ of the decision to neutralize the Stelvio descent on Stage 16.
This is not to suggest that Quintana would not have won the Giro. His ride up the final mountain on the stage in question was one of the finest displays of climbing prowess that we’ve witnessed in many a year.
His dominance in the mountains was clear to see and yet we all know the difference that wearing the leader’s jersey can have on a rider. Who can say for sure that had Uran not lost that chunk of time on the downhill and had he started the climb alongside Quintana, that he would have lost the jersey outright that day?
Perhaps he’d have hung on for several more days. Perhaps Quintana would have taken the jersey but then have made a mistake under the stress of having Uran much closer than he was in regards to the time gap between the two.
Probably not. Yet, possibly so. We’ll never know, and that is the problem. Bike racing is hectic, dizzying and complicated enough without the people running the event itself throwing spanners in the works and leaving riders and fans alike unsure of exactly what is going on and indeed in exactly what has gone on.
Ryder Hesjedal laid the ultimate blame at Uran’s feet and I’m inclined to do the same, even though I still feel for the guy.
“If you’re serious about the race and especially if you’re in the pink jersey,” opined the Canadian, “you should have been at the head of affairs. End of story. Everyone rode down the descent and that was it.”
I’ve made this point before on social media but it is worth making again here: anyone that’s raced for more than a couple of years at just about any level should be experienced to know that it is always best to ignore anything you hear on the road, mid-race, until it is enforced by officials.
Our job is to get to that finish line as quickly as possible and that is paramount and you have to protect your position at all times and, indeed, at all costs (within the rules of course).
However, it should be noted that even Ryder’s tantamount criticism of Uran’s lack of vigilance was prefaced by a comment that illustrates just how ridiculous was the initial decision to neutralize the descent in the first place.
“Tell me what a neutralised descent is?” he asked. “Does everyone just stop?”
Whatever the ins and outs of the decision, whatever your or indeed my opinion on the result affect of the final outcome of the race – and it should be noted that Quintana put just about the same time into Uran in the final ITT – that fact that it will remain a topic of debate for just about, well, ever, means that this Giro is tainted.
Ufan took it like a man though, though whether it was as a man who accepted it fully or not, I’m still not certain as his reply to questions by journalists about the final result was a little less than effusive.
“Whoever was going to win was going to win with or without those climbs,” he said. “I thought it was going to end up the way it did. Nothing more to say.”
Slightly strange thing to say as the whole race was won in the hills, both on the way up and on the way down, and if it ended up how he thought it was going to then that doesn’t say much for his self-belief.
So, certainly not a vintage year and not just because of Stage 16. The tediously dull first week then morphed in an only slightly less dull second week, and by the time the race was moving into what should have been the fireworks phase it was more or less decided.
Marcel Kittel started things off with a bang at least but then he headed home ill, leaving the Points Classification to the unheralded Mezgec, who must be pinching himself this morning.
One has to wonder how many Grand Tours Quintana can go on to win now, though he might be a little startled by the sudden arrival of Fabio Aru, who in only his second year as a pro managed to get himself onto the podium in third place.
With his ascent up the ranks we have the prospect of seeing two great climbers in he and Quintana taking on Christopher Froome some time soon.
“A good result the Giro is hugely satisfying and proves that all the hard work paid off,” Aru said at the finish. “But for me, nothing will change because I’ll go to races with the same determination as before. I’ve got a lot of years ahead of me in my career and I’ve still got to prove myself.”
Many a decent rider gets a great result and lets it go to his head, which shows just what an incredible range of talents and sensibilities are required to become a rider that can sustain a record of success at this level. Aru might be one of those, time will tell but he looks to have some serious ability and a wise head to boot.
Great to see Pierre Roland coming back, and though he was slightly disappointed with 4th it was a welcome return from what had been quite a long trip to the wilderness for the Frenchman.
He‘s another of those riders of whom much was expected yet for whom consistency proved elusive.
So there we have it, another Giro done and dusted and here comes the chaos and madness of le Tour. The only inevitability in cycling is that the races keep on coming, year after year, in spite of whatever controversy they and their participants create.
Long may it be thus.