Gilbert gets the Classics ball of wonder rolling, the Lance & Ricco Comedy Show cranks on, and The Hour & the Death of Romance

This article originally appeared in The Roar.



Philippe Gilbert got the ball rolling by saying on Thursday that he’s targeting Milan–San Remo, getting us on an early start for the annual Spring Classics Obsessional.

It happens every year. Faced with an interminably dull few months from the end of the racing season until the the Spring Classics (sorry Tour Down Under, people outside Australia generally aren’t all that fussed about it), it doesn’t take too long before we all start looking ahead (I started last April) to the greatest races on Earth.

And they are, aren’t they? Milan-San Remo, Flanders, Paris-Roubaix, Omloop-de-loop, such beautiful names, such beautiful roads, all one-dayers, races for hardnuts, warriors, the monsters of the sport.

Like Andy Schleck.

The Classics are racing at its most pure, its least diluted, its rawest. It’s a race from point A to point B. You don’t get a rest day. Have it.

That they aren’t there all year long is a good thing, somehow, but I do feel like a smack junkie doing cold turkey from the end of April to March every year (sorry Lombardia but you just don’t get me that excited, not like the ‘Biggies’).

i couldn't resist...
i couldn’t resist…

Anyway, Gilbert won’t win Milan-San Remo. Yes, he’s finished third (2008 and 2011) but he won’t get the gap he needs to win solo and he won’t win a sprint against anyone else who might be there.

Peter Sagan for me. It will be his year for really cracking home that immense talent of his. All hail the Year of the Pete.

On to Riccardo Ricco and Lance Armstrong.

Apparently you can’t keep a good man down. Or a bad one.

Ricco and Lance both of course went down in a blaze of their own making, one received a lifetime ban, the other 12 years, and yet both keep popping up again and again in the cycling media.

Ricco recently went to Lausanne to visit the UCI-funded Cycling Independent Reform Commission to ‘chat’ for seven hours, in the hope of getting his ban reduced.

“I paid my own way to go there,” he told CyclingNews.

Blimey, he must have been very serious about it all then. My Italian source did confirm however that his mum made him some sandwiches for the journey though, so thankfully he didn’t have to pay for his own lunch too.

Phew. I was about to suggest we have a whip-round.

Anyway, Ricco says he was led to believe he would get a 50 per cent reduction in his ban if he named names, he says he did but still got no reduction.

Half off? Is it Chrimbo already? Wait until the sales are on, Ricco! Everyone knows that’s when the bargains are to be had.

“The whole thing was a joke,” he bleated, and everyone resisted saying ‘No sh#t, Sherlock’ in reply. “It seems the rules are applied and interpreted depending on who you are.” Which is funny, cos that’s how he approached the rules when he decided to get on the juice.

To be fair though, finally, there is some sense from Ricco, in that he is right that it is a case of one rule for some (i.e. the nasty dopers), another for the ‘nice’ dopers.

We are wrong to take a stand on the personality traits of certain riders and consider them ‘worse’ than others. Ricco should have been handed a lifetime ban. George Hincapie more than just six months, and he should have been made to repay a lot of cash. Alexander Vinokourov should not be in management. We could go on.

And on.

And on.

And, ok you get the drift.

Then Lance, another thinking man’s Ricco, turned around last week and said, “The sport is so weak. Just fundamentally weak. From the unity standpoint. From a rider’s standpoint. The teams. They have no authority. No power.

“So when you have a shit show like we’ve seen with me, someone from the outside can just step in, go back 12 years in time, and royally screw a sport and a new generation that deserves none of this. Cycling and its hypocrisy is off the charts.”

At which point the needle on the hypocrisy chart went round so fast that it blew up.

The same new generation that keeps spewing out positives weekly? The same new generation that won’t stand up to be counted in the face of these positives and a weak leadership?

And are the teams really so weak? Or do they in fact control pro cycling? Astana seems to have been playing the game by its own rules and are still in. Bjarne Riis, Oleg Tinkov and the old Saxobank, same deal. Katusha too.

More claptrap from the sport’s ‘new protector’ (the same one who will not disclose the inner workings of his relationship with Thom Wiesel and Jim Ochovitz).

Armstrong never attempted the world hour record, and thank Eddy he didn’t or he might have managed 62 kilometres in his EPO heyday.

It’s great to see it back in mode, to see the big guys having a crack at it – and indeed the not-so-big guys. But then I got thinking and I realised that it is in fact little more than a gimmick.

Only the cynical would say that it’s yet another UCI money spinner.

Anyway, it’s basically a UCI money spinner.

The bare bones are that since the UCI unified the record and brought the bike rules in line with regulations for current track pursuit bikes, they’ve simply remodeled the mess it already was, a record that will keep on being broken by every successive generation by ever greater degrees. Essentially, riders who aren’t as good as those before them will get the record, for a week, a month, maybe half a year, until another comes and breaks theirs.I

If we really want to see The Hour back where it deserves to be then let’s get them on the old bikes.

I know! In this day and age? When we can sell a load of carbon stuff that’s all shiny and new and makes the rider actually faster than he really is (in relative terms – against Merckx and on a steel bike)?

Yes. Let’s be crazy. Yes, we have advances in track surfaces, and yes in training too, and yes the dope has got way better, and of course the world doesn’t stand still. But there surely yet is a place for a bit of romance in this world ain’t there?

Ain’t there?


Author: Lee Rodgers

Cycling coach, race organiser, former professional cyclist and the original CrankPunk.

6 thoughts

  1. Agreed CP.. those couple of weeks with the Ronde, Roubaix and the smaller stuff like E3; love it..
    Will be interesting to see how Sagz goes in the one day races this year, I suspect he won’t win as much as Oleg predicted yesterday but a year without a breakthrough monument victory won’t be seen as a return on investment.
    For me the season starts properly with Het Nieuswblad and KBK on the same weekend in Feb, races that demand to be run in terrible conditions. Not much fun for the riders but great for those of us watching in front of the fire with a beer.

  2. I am glad someone agrees with me about the using the old bikes for the hour. Going to the old bikes was the best move the UCI ever made… and then that idiot Cookson screwed it up.

      1. I have often opined in other forums that one day they might invent a bike that would allow to better Merckx for an hour… but it would mean nothing. And if the UCI wants to allow tt bikes then why not a HPV with fairings? Anyway… Merry Christmas!

  3. I think changing the Hour Record rules was a good move. Merckx did not do the record on the same bike as Coppi, so why should modern riders have to use an outdated piece of equipment? Sure, its a cash grab but at least the UCI are doing something to promote development unlike their archaic 6.8kg rule. Yes, every successive generation will bet the record due to better equipment but that happens in every sport like track and swimming.

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