the big picture

michael blann

the landmarks of some of the world's great cycle races are marvellous to behold. the majority feature in the grand tours, though who can forget the arenberg forest in paris-roubaix, the koppenberg, the kapelmuur, the latter two consisting of difficult, yet relatively short cobbled climbs. the cobbled road through the arenberg forest is possibly one of the few icons from the sport that is pan flat. cyclocross too has its favoured parcours, but there's little to distinguish them when the banners, the boards and the frites and mayo have gone.

photographer, balint hamvas, for several years, published a cyclocross annual depicting virtually every major event from across each winter season, and featuring many of the greats from the sport. latterly, prior to ending the series, he would include images of the race sites after the cyclocross scenery had been removed. rarely was there anything to see but a large expanse of grass, often bereft of the muddy ruts that had created a superb cyclocross race. to be perfectly honest, the majority were quite bland; not even the sort of landscape that would be snapped by even the most intrepid of tourists to the area (unless cast as fervent cyclocross fans).

michael blann

the same criticism (if viewed as such) cannot be levelled at the pyrenees, the alps, the dolomites, the mountains of switzerland and the appenines. those provide a stately backdrop to many international and local road races, every bit as dramatic when the fans have gone home, leaving only the writing chalked or painted on the road to indicate what had been. many of those mountain roads are eagerly ascended by the great unwashed, innocently comparing times with their professional heroes, only to be found seriously wanting.

snapshots of such trips or even witness to the racing mentioned above fill several corners of the internet, but i think we all know that possessing even the latest smartphone does not a photographer make, no matter what your friends and family might say. to consistently and skillfully encapsulate that for which many search, often takes the learned nous of the professional, armed with the lenses and cameras that can capture the important moments in a grand tour, or simply a landscape image with the required depth to incur a sharp intake of breath when first or repeatedly viewed. mr hamvas possesses such a skill, as does michael blann, author/photographer of mountains - epic cycling climbs, previously reviewed in these very pixels.

michael blann

balint hamvas ended his series of cyclocross annuals at arguably the right time. apart from the changing of the guard, to an extent, there is little to differentiate between one season and the next when seen as a series of still life images. essentially, in cyclocross events, the backgrounds feature predominantly willy naessens trackside banners and an enthusiastic audience rattling cowbells while wearing big bobble hats. the mountain stages of the tour or the giro provide fabulous backdrops to each year's events, reputedly the reason so many tune into the all-day coverage provided on eurosport or itv4; the race may be of little interest, but it's the scenery that provides the draw. and that attraction extends to the realm of stills photography, such as that practised by michael blann.

mr blann, however, has not exactly sat on his laurels following the publication of his inestimable book. in a recent blog, mr blann wrote, "I decided to make the journey to the French Alps to capture some mountains I had previously photographed and explore some new climbs." you need only take a cursory look at the images accompanying that blog (link below) to realise that mr blann has photographic skills that would still be missing in action should any of us have even acquired the very latest iphone 15 pro. michael blann suffice it to say that, dramatic as many of these images are, they are but a shadow of the impressiveness bestowed by owning a large format print. or, should you be of a generous nature, perhaps purchase of one to send as a christmas present to the cyclist(s) in your life.

if you're finding it a tad difficult to settle on the ideal gift, michael blann may just have solved your problem. and there's no shame in buying one for yourself while you're there.

michael blann

all images © michael blann

monday 20 november 2023

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did somebody say, just eat?

we have recently discussed the subject of nutritional science, perhaps not in a scientific manner, but certainly in terms of the improvements made to the digestibility of carbo gels, bars and drinks that allow the modern-day professional and demanding amateur the opportunity to consume more than has previously been advisable. the result, as we have all witnessed, has been an increase in the number of deeds of derring-do and an apparent increase in the velocity at which those deeds are carried out.

i should point out, however, that the bicycle manufacturers would also like to have their say, if only to justify the costs of hiring (or building) a wind-tunnel for sufficient time to hone the tube profiles of what we have come to refer to as aero bikes. the current word on the parcours is that the latter has all but squeezed out the last drop of wind-cheating that it's possible to squeeze; the final bastion of the aerodynamic equation remains probably the first: the rider. in other words, bicycles are very unlikely to become any faster in their current form.

for no matter how slippery those carbon shapes become, there's no denying that there's a big lump of human sitting astride the double-diamond frame, with powerfully-muscled legs thrashing incessantly and muddying those beautiful stream of air that the bicycle had hoped to avoid. i can but assume that's why the majority of pro riders keep their knees close to the top tube at the top of every pedal stroke, in possibly a vain attempt to minimise the effects of that thrashing. and every time one of the premier cycling apparel maestros creates a skinsuit fabric that floats through the air with the greatest of ease, the blazers in aigle see fit to ban it from use.

it's not hard to see, in a logical fashion, that if all the top teams have access to the same technology and science that momentum will be conserved, albeit at a higher speed. if all riders are aboard bicycles with effectively the same drag coefficient, wearing apparel that circumvents the inherent drag factor, all the time fuelled by the cutting edge of nutritional science, from a theoretical viewpoint at least, nothing has changed except the speed at which this is all achieved. i'm assuming that someone in authority, and other than yours truly, has come to a similar conclusion.

but where once technological advancements were regarded as a means to an end, there's surely now an argument for considering them to be an end, in and of themselves? which raises the next question, 'where do we go from here?'

dominos pizza bike

though brought to market for entirely different purposes, it's just possible that the arrival of a domino's pizza delivery e-bike might provide the very answer to that question. if you're willing to accept that the recruitment by the majority of teams of a team chef, commanded to provide the best of nutritional food for the riders at breakfast or post-race dinner, has made a tangible difference, then here might be the ultimate solution.

i have made no secret of the fact that my saturday rides are punctuated by a necessary stop at debbie's for a double-egg roll and a soya latte. inevitably, islay's social life tends to prolong that particular pit-stop, frequently with chitter-chatter, but occasionally with some sort of conversational learning opportunity. however, there is no denying that either of the above will eat into the time originally set aside for cycling, possibly even of an intrepid nature. in my own case, how much more efficient would it be, were i to have the opportunity to dine al fresco, in the saddle, with that double-egg roll being delivered on the road, hot and ready to eat?

we've all witnessed the neutral service motorbikes handing out bidons of water to thirsty riders as they ascend yet another despicable gradient in the almost unbearable heat of an italian, french or spanish summer. but if it's possible to deliver cold water, then it's now every bit as pragmatic to deliver hot food. and in the light of the uci's desire to reduce professional cycling's carbon footprint, doing so from an electric bicycle is surely providing a win-win situation? it will now be possible to not only provide a chef cooked breakfast and dinner, but lunch too.

while the domino's pizza delivery bike in its present state is unlikely to cut the mustard, so to speak, a few hours in a wind-tunnel ought to sort that out, and it shouldn't be too hard to convert them to disc-brakes as opposed to the curiously fitted rim brakes seen below. nor, i believe, would it be too hard to persuade the eu directorate to comply with north america's nutritional claims that pizza is actually one of your five-a-day.

dominos pizza bike

images: dominos pizza. thanks once again to richard peploe for the inspiration.

sunday 19 november 2023

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easy peasy, lemon squeezy

rival disc caliper

not that one wishes to brag, but i own two cyclocross bicycles, one of which has been resident with my son for the last few years, partly because he fancied riding it, and secondly, and more importantly, because i literally have nowhere to put it. the lime green ibis hakkalugi originates from the days when cyclocross had not yet turned to the dark-side and adopted disc brakes, as opposed to the cantilevers it had used satisfactorily and pragmatically for decades. one can only assume that the change was brought at the behest of the manufacturers, as i can see no other reason that would make any real sense.

the hakkalugi to which i refer features a set of carbon fsa cantilever brakes which served more than adequately as i recall, even when all but clogged with mud. however, i feel i ought best to qualify that latter statement by pointing out that i am entirely incapable of giving them (or the bike) the sort of concentrated hardship meted out by even a skilled amateur, never mind at the hands of a professional rider. nonetheless, it is probably the lightest bicycle that i own, and despite its now archaic double-chainset and braking system, there's no denying the smile it could bring to the face of anyone who rode it.

however, like it or lump it, my principal cyclocross bicycle is a bright red and lime green specialized crux, one step lower than the elite model, since i figured i would find it hard to live up to the expectations conferred by a bicycle with that suffix. i have not, so far, regretted that decision. the specialized, however, was born after the transition to disc brakes and single chanrings, festooned as it is, with a sram rival groupset featuring the hydraulic calipers that accompany such componentry. i will cheerfully confess that the disc brakes work particularly well, probably more so than the cantilevers, but at someone else's behest rather than mine.

the additional weight conferred by disc brakes is really of no nevermind to a rank amateur such as myself, but i do find myself grimacing when the rotors and pads squeal loudly in the wet, no matter how well-adjusted. however, when you consider that the professionals' machines squeal every bit as loudly during the heat of battle, fettled as they are by skilled mechanics, i can but deduce that such sonority is part and parcel of the paradigm, one which reminds of my mother's perennial comment: pride bears no pain. and this in spite of the knowledge that the professionals were not the originators of such pride, and that they, in effect, ride whatever they are required to ride.

i would be fibbing if i inferred that i am completely au fait with the hydraulic meme. i understand how such a system works, but i have not the faintest notion how to maintain it, or fix it, should it all go awry. no doubt the latter state of ignorance will have to be faced at some time in the future, but for now i have confined myself to the relatively simple act of replacing the disc pads, a requirement that ought to be every bit as simple as changing the brake shoes on those fsa cantilevers, but sadly, rarely is.

as those of you who have succumbed to the disc-era, willingly or otherwise, will be well aware, as the pads wear, the pistons gradually emerge from their little housings. when replacing worn pads, it is necessary to persuade them to return to their respective abodes; but pushing in one piston only results the the other emerging even further from home. what is required is some form of wedge that will push both simultaneously. i own a tool from park tool that promises to carry out just such a necessary task, but more often than not, those pistons seem not to be aware of that which is expected of them, resulting either in being unable to slot the rotor between the new pads, or if so, discover that the wheel is jammed tight.

i have, on two separate occasions, found it necessary to exclude a small drip of hydraulic fluid in order to have the pistons free up enough space for a (relatively) freely rotating disc rotor. i'm sure someone somewhere will now advise that i couldn't have made a worse mistake, but i've ridden for several years since without adverse or life-threatening effect. so boo-yah.

one week past, as i set out on my merry saturday way, applying the brakes to pull over for a passing vehicle, the metal spring clip that tenuously holds both pads together, ejected itself unexpectedly from the rear caliper. i'm unsure of the true purpose of said spring clip, other than as an aid to fitting or removing the pads; it doesn't seem strong enough to force the pistons to return inside the caliper, and my decision to continue with the rest of my 65km ride, bereft of said clip, resulted in no untoward results.

however, in case that was simply dumb luck, i ordered a replacement set of pads, for a lot less money than was once the case. i fitted those yesterday afternoon, prepared for a lengthy battle with the rotor, pads and restraint of bad language in my back garden. having removed the retaining bolt, i inserted the park tool wedge to force the pistons into their pots before removing the worn pads and popping the new pair into place, then replacing the retaining bolt and security clip. you can but imagine my gleeful surprise on re-fitting the wheel, to discover that the wheel spun freely and there was no binding when applying the brake lever.

don't you just love it when a plan comes together?

saturday 18 november 2023

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where's eddy?

molteni jersey

in 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972 and 1974, eddy merckx won the tour de france, a fact probably known by the majority of the cognoscenti. those with wider-ranging knowledge may also be aware that the inimitable mr merckx also took five victories in the giro d'italia (1968, 1970, 1972, 1973 and 1974). keen observers will note that three of those italian victories coincided with yellow jerseys, and if we expand our horizons a smidgeon we learn that the belgian also took victory in spain in 1973.

of course, this being eddy, there's more. he also won the green jersey in le tour in '69, '71 and '72, three years in which he wore the yellow jersey at race end. as if that were insufficient, '69 and '70 also presented the polka dot jersey and in every year when he won the event overall, he also acquired the now defunct, combination classification and the combativity award in '69, '70, '74 and '75. these are all statistics that are easy enough to learn, but seemingly, nowadays, all but impossible to replicate. should mark cavendish win even a single stage in the 2024 tour de france, he will exceed the 34 stage wins he currently shares with 'the cannibal'. but even he'd agree that thereby the comparison ends.

it is undeniable that cycle sport in the late 1960s and early to mid-seventies is a far cry from that experienced today, meaning, in essence, that the likelihood of another era comparable to eddy's years in the saddle, is well nigh impossible. many commenters have eagerly pointed out that all 34 of cavendish's stage wins have been from sprint wins; not in a series of eternities would the manxman find himself wearing red polka dots, or yellow at the end of those three weeks in july.

reasons for eddy's motivation to accomplish such a winning streak have long been the subject of conversation; was he simply too good, or was the competition simply not good enough?

to place all this in some sort of perspective, as robert millar (himself a wearer of the red polka dots) once mentioned, "never forget, it's all entertainment", the very reason behind the considerable level of live cycle racing broadcast internationally these days. and that incudes the spring classics and a fulsome season of cyclocross, both classes of racing that were once considered to be solely the preserve of those who have memorised velominati's rules of cycling.

to descend into percussive terminology for a moment, drummer bill bruford has said that the best lesson he learned from former king crimson percussionist, jamie muir, was that he existed to serve the music and not the other way round. thus, if we accept cycling to be as much a part of the entertainment industry as is music, theoretically, today's riders exist to serve the sport, and by implication, those of us who watch it. of course, serving is a rather subjective term, and it's obviously open to debate as to whether some riders are more intent on serving themselves than the audience? or by serving themselves, are they simply raising our expectations? it does seem somewhat unequivocal to consider that eddy won five tours and five giros just to keep us all entertained; maybe so, maybe not.

last year's cyclocross season, spread across the various trophy series, was undoubtedly enlivened to a compulsive degree by the inclusion of messrs. pidcock, van der poel and van aert. eurosport's cyclocross commentator mentioned on more than one occasion that we, as an audience, were privileged to be alive to witness that particular level of racing. following the rapture of both tv and live audiences, adulation that cannot have escaped the attention of the above three protagonists, many of us eagerly looked forward to more of the same this year. wout and tom, however, would appear not to have experienced any meaningful conversations with jamie muir.

of course, it's easy to snipe from the sidelines, comparing today's modus operandi with that of what many regard as the greatest cyclist of all time. i refer to the current programme suggested by van aert, that he participate in a mere five cyclocross events over a condensed december 'season'. van der poel, on the other hand, has identified thirteen races en-route to the worlds in tabor, come february. van aert has remained tight-lipped over his participation in the latter event. so far, pidcock has said nowt.

van aert's minimisation of the sport from which he arose to his current adulatory status is, according to reports, simply collateral damage incurred by his concentration on both the spring classics and a first tilt at the giro d'italia. that said, the belgian is likely also to comprise a part of jumbo visma's 2024 tour de france team, so there's no doubting that he has a hard half year ahead of him. nor is he the sort of chap who would enter elite level cyclocross simply to make up the numbers and use it as low-level training for the above specified road events.

it's very easy for yours truly and others to make bald statements such as "well, if eddy could manage it...", at which point i should remind myself that i've already mentioned that road-racing in 2023 is substantially different from that taking place in the 60s and 70s. but i do believe we're allowed to ask whether entertainment values have been eroded as a result? and also to ask whether the modern-era heroes actually regard what they do for a living as entertainment? or has the latter been subsumed by athletic endeavour financed by the commercial aspirations of businesses less than intrinsically entrenched in the velocipedinal ideal?

or is it simply entertainment of a different hue?

friday 17 november 2023

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landscape artists

global cycling network

way back when, as a subscriber to sky tv's satellite service, we had a less than decorus box sat 'neath the telly box, connected to the satellite dish affixed to the outside wall. the choice to opt for satellite tv as opposed to persisting with terrestrial broadcasts was effectively forced upon us by the siting of the croft. it sits in what might be readily termed a dip in the firmament, while the tv mast, though less than one kilometre distant, sits upon high. to put it bluntly, tv reception was diabolical. the subsequent move to digital tv did not remedy that situation.

one of the unrecognised benefits of paying rupert murdoch a seemingly never ending series of increased monthly payments, was access to eurosport, probably the first broadcaster to relay live pictures of the tour de france, commentated upon by the inimitable, david duffield. though eurosport nowadays positions itself as the home of cycling, those early years, before the advent of british eurosport, were frequently the scene of over-runs, meaning coverage either commenced later than advertised, or not at all.

ultimately, mr murdoch lost out after sky customer service advised of a two-month wait to have the dish re-aligned following it having shifted in 160kph winds. eventually, mrs washingmachinepost purchased a freesat box and harmony was almost restored to our flat screen television. i say 'almost', because freesat, despite claiming once to be in negotiations, does not offer eurosport as one of its many channels. thus, in order to watch the european sports channel's ever-increasing tableau of cycle racing, i subscribed to their online content, offering not only live racing, but the ability to watch 'on demand' if i'd been out cycling at the time.

i cannot deny that i have taken to watching david and ned's coverage of le tour on itv4, but more because i've found the timing to be more suitable. however, if ever i thought my monthly payment to eurosport remained largely unfulfilled, cyclocross coverage last christmas proved otherwise, a major selling point that they have so far managed to reprise during the current cyclocross season. and then there's the spring classics. would that such benefits remained a lesson in simplicity.

almost vindicating my recent article about who owns what and why, life became a smidgeon more complex in 2020, when the onscreen eurosport logo was joined by that of gcn - global cycling network, which also offered its own, standalone app to seemingly provide the same cycling coverage as available on eurosport, something on which i commented, on the basis that i didn't quite comprehend at the time (nor in the present, come to that). but as usual, situations like this are remarkably similar to those nested russian dolls.

warner brothers combined with the discovery channel owns eurosport and also a sizeable share (purchased in 2017) in the bath-based playsports, which in turn owned bt sports and gcn. with the oft-vaunted economic downturn reputedly to blame, discovery has opted to sell its share in playsports, meaning it no longer has the abiity to support the gcn apps that provided the online broadcasts, and yesterday announced that gcn+ and the gcn app will close down as of 19 december 2023, inviting subscribers to subscribe to the eurosport or discovery+ apps as an alternative. with the sale of playsports, gcn no longer has access to the infrastructure that supported their live broadcasts.

gcn's principal presenters, dan lloyd and simon richardson posted a video on the gcn website to inform of the news and claimed that all the web and youtube content would continue, though other reports have cited that gcn founder, simon wear either intends to buy playsports himself, or sell out to the highest bidder, which may, or may not signal trouble ahead for the whole gcn empire. (just as well jeremy powers has a daytime gig with whoop)

warner brothers discovery cited a change in the streaming media landscape as the reason for what has been termed a consolidation, but a consolidation that appears only to affect online cycling coverage (playsports also own gcn spain, france, italia, japan and channels covering mountain biking and triathlon). for those of us with eurosport app subscriptions, the only differences are likely to be the disappearance of one screen corner logo, and possiby orla's legs during le grande boucle. like i said, things were arguably better when left to our own devices.

where's cycling tv when you need it?

thursday 16 november 2023

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the elephant in the room

ardbeg rollercoaster

we are, according to many social commentators, still entrenched in a cost-of-living-crisis, where hard choices are having to be met with (and i apologise for bringing it up so early in the season) christmas on the horizon. it's the time of year to which many bricks and mortar retailers look forward to repeatedly emptying their cash registers and re-stocking the shelves on a daily basis. disappointingly, the business pages of the broadsheets contend that many will enter the new year with disappointment across their faces and bank balances, with strong hints of a recession hanging about in the wings.

ever since the covid pandemic, the so-called high street stores have suffered many slings and arrows of discontent, fervently hoping that the next arrow will be of a more optimistic disposition. with luck, that arrow will be one of many heading in their direction this christmas season, including the local bike shops which are every bit as eager for either your business, or that of your friends and family. but quite how that pans out might not be as straightforward as we all might hope.

i spent an hour or so yesterday creating a christmas advert for one of the island's more prominent and expensive hotels. not renowned for their user-friendly prices, our faces blanched at the thought of afternoon tea for £35 (£50 if you'd enjoy a glass of prosecco with those fancy cakes). to put islay life in perspective, one of the local restaurants which also offers afternoon tea, charges a far more amenable £15. that said, £105 and £85 respectively for london's ritz and savoy hotel afternoon teas, perhaps place islay's luxury hotel in some sort of national perspective.

and prices might be the horror that awaits those with the intention of doing the decent thing and buying something velocipedinal for the cyclist(s) in their lives. those of you just starting out on the bicycle trail (metaphorically, not literally) may be in the best overall position, since it's quite likely that you have yet to encounter the endless expense incurred by a life of pedalling. for you, a logo'd neck-warmer or reputedly waterproof gloves would surely be most welcome; it's unlikely that the bicycle you own has worn-out any intrinsic components, so accessorising is likely to be first and foremost. the big problem is for the coterie of individuals surrounding the utterly obsessed.

not for you a wout van aert scarf at the reduced price of £9.32; the hard won street cred of the cognoscent would hardly stoop to such levels, unless said scarf happened to be wrapped around a jumbo visma replica cervelo. granted, a pair of jumbo visma cycling gloves at almost £25, might fit the bill, but who, other than the mighty dave-t, wears short finger gloves in mid-winter? you see, items such as water bottles, bottle cages and seat packs are the sort of things we all have in abundance, and a couple of spare inner-tubes is the cycling equivalent of receiving two pairs of socks from your granny. perhaps a retro jersey from prendas would be ideal, but as a naturally picky bunch, there's the perennial problem of deciding which jersey.

after all, opening a £94.99 ti raleigh long-sleeve on christmas morning is going to look a tad incongruous aboard a pinarello dogma. always assuming your other half bought you a pinarello dogma in the first place.

as yazz once sang on top of the pops, 'the only way is up', probably meaning cycle-kit from rapha, endura, assos, castelli et al; not entirely unwelcome, but often hideously expensive if you have more than one relative for which to buy. and if lord voldemort was right, and it really is all about the bike, we're probably looking at tyres (which can often be more expensive than automobile tyres), wheels, handlebars, saddles or perhaps a carbon upgrade to that alloy seatpost. we are, in effect, hoist by our own pètard, already in possession of several bicycles, many of which are outfitted with as near to state-of-the-art componentry for which we've been able to conceal the invoices.

however, perhaps it's time to feel grateful for having had the good sense to grow up (who am i kidding?) as cycling obsessives. lotus may have introduced 136 ludicrously impractical carbon e-bikes at a cost of £20,000 each. but spare a thought for whisky aficionados at christmas, following ardbeg distillery's release of two bottles of cask strength single malt contained within an impressive wooden cabinet (the word box seems sadly inadequate). even santa would probably baulk at shelling out £85,000 for the latest ardbeg rollercoaster releases (a limited edition of 143 sets), however impressive they might look on the mantlepiece.

ardbeg rollercoaster

wednesday 15 november 2023

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missing in action

willie naessens hoarding

i am a follower of neither football (soccer) nor motor racing, but i am keenly aware of their competitive structure which tends to guarantee that, barring unforeseen circumstances, the combatants will be the same throught a season, with none of which i know, taking a breather, or a long-lie on a sunday morning. throughout the leagues in both scottish and english football, and, as far as i'm aware, every league throughout the world, every team has to play every scheduled game across the annual battlefield. the same, i believe, is the case for formula one.

there can, of course, be substitutions, even in motor-racing, where an ill or injured driver's seat in the cockpit can be filled by the team's test driver, or a guest for one event. similarly, in soccer, there's no guarantee that the personnel in last week's winning team, will be the same as those playing this week. it is a requirement extended to world tour cycle racing, where the team manager along with his directeurs sportifs, chooses the best team composition from the available riders. last year's tour de france team will likely be different from that riding in 2024.

to the best of my knowledge, all world tour teams are required to participate in every world tour event, bringing a depth of meaning to the season long team championship. the fly-in-the-ointment is almost always the annual world championship road race, where it's up to each country to choose their national teams, yet riders can opt not to be selected if they so wish. the usual excuse runs along the lines of 'the course doesn't suit me'. that may well be true, but i'm sure the majority of us would wish to see the best in the world race against each other? to leave things as they are, means that the crowned world champion may not truly be the best in the world due to the absence of those who may arguably be better.

and it seems now that the sport's governing body may be taking issue with those elite cyclocross riders who pick and choose which races they wish to enter, particularly if those they choose not to ride happen to form part of the season long world cup series overseen by the uci. a notable absentee from sunday's event at dendermonde, was new belgian wunderkind, thibau nys. though nys fared poorly in saturday's super prestige event in niel, as far as i know, his absence was not due to illness or injury. in fact, in saturday's race, world cup leader, lars van der haar, stopped to put right a dislocated shoulder, before completing the race. and he was on the start line once again on sunday.

last year's cross season was lit up by the participation of mathieu van der poel, wout van aert and tom pidcock, but it appears that, for the latter two at least, 'cross has lost its lustre slightly. while mvdp intends to begin a thirteen event burst, culminating in a defence of his world title in february, van aert has signalled tht he intends only to compete in five events, only one of which is a world cup race, a stance with which the uci are somewhat dismayed. pidcock has yet to announce any 'cross programme this year, though it is expected he'll ride at some point.

uci president, david lappartient has hinted that riders who leave world cup races out of their programme, could be banned from future races in the series, including the world championship race in tabor. he insisted that the world cup was not a competition where riders could choose which races they want to enter. reports indicate that the sanctions as mentioned above might well apply to van aert, though his final schedule has still to be confirmed by jumbo visma.

this all makes sense if you happen to be a fan of a particular rider. one can only imagine the sense of disarray felt by supporters of thibau nys on sunday. and i can't be the only one concerned about the feelings of iserbyt, vantourenhout, van der haar, et al during last year's season; after having battled competitively amongst themselves since the beginning the season's trophy series, they were usually to be seen fighting for third place when the so-called 'three kings of cross' descended to gather up the spoils.

it is surely iniquitous that word champion, mathieu van der poel, has yet to give the rainbow jersey an outing this season; it rather undermines the point of entering the world championship race if he's not going to honour the prestige conferred by winning. mind you, matters would be even worse if van aert had proved victorious.

is there not an unwritten rule that suggests they 'honour the jersey'?

tuesday 14 november 2023

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