Monday, August 10, 2015

All that's to love about bike racing!!

In the past 24 hrs I've witnessed some of the most enjoyable cycling watching on the television ever. It began last night at dinner at LA cycling institution pedalers fork in calabasas with my great mate robbie whom also owns "the fork". On the tv was coverage of the days world cup downhill racing from windem in new York. I've got hooked on the downhill this year and know all the main dudes and love listening to dave warner go ballistic on the mic genuinely appreciating an awesome run by any rider, you really makes you feel each and every bump. Also having done some more mtb this year and even a little DH, not at the craziness of the pros let me stress!! But I've got a whole new appreciation for what incredible bike riders these guys are. Absolutely full gas from go to woh on the edge of catastrophe each and every section of the track, it's simply insane. You never know who's going to win, sure there are the big guns but until they cross the line anything can happen which adds the suspense and excitement for dave warner behind the mic and all the viewer. Yesterday's round was no exception and to see the local her Aaron Gwinn get up for the win and although he beat the aussie's in the process was a fitting way to end another action packed round.

Fast forward to this morning to this morning and on my way home from the gym I called into pedalers again for a quick coffee. At the bar of course I find my pal robbie and local legend Mikey G sitting at the bar watching the cross country world cup race live on tele again from New York. I was planning on a quick pit stop so grapped my coffee, I'm off alchol at the moment, and plonked myself down at the bar to drink it with the boys. Sure enoung the excellent coverage on redbull tv along with the world class gladiators of the sport sucked me in and I wasn't leaving till long after my coffee was finished and the race had been run and won. Again it was enthralling, a three way battle between the biggest guns of XC in Nino, Absolon, and cannondale's very own german maniac Manny fumic!! Left a clear pair of heals to the rest of the field and played out an epic battle for the top step of the podium. XC I've learnt is an extremely demanding event where the tactics seem simple, go as hard as you can for as long as you can and try and do that for longer than any of your rivals can and you should win! The coverage was so good today you could see exactly that, even on the most techniqual downhill rocky sections the boys were racing like moto go dudes seeing who could stay off the breaks longest and take the riskiest line in search of the day victory. In the end Manny lost out due to his courage and dumped it after a daring downhill overtaking manouver and would leave it to Nino and absalon to fight it out for the win. With Manny distanced Nino and absalon went Mano o Mano until one couldn't take another blow and in the end Nino would take the win thanks to showing he perhaps had the biggest set of swingers in the race and taking a dangerous all or nothing line in the rock steep downhill rock garden to distance absalon once and for all. Nino took and incredibly impressive victory, made even more so by the fact he had a flat tyre earlier in the race and had to chase back to the front, all just added to the drama of a sick event. Perhaps the coolest part of it all was the admiration and appreciation the top 3 guys had for each other knowing they had thrown everthing they had including the kitchen sink at each other and the best man had won. It was a great sign of sportsmanship amount the top guns of the sport embracing each other accross the line, each from different teams, each with different sponsors and obligations, but each genuinely appreciative of what they had put into the race. An hour longer than my planned 5minute coffee stop I finally left pedalers for the sofa and TV intime to watch the final stage of the tour of UTAH. 

When I flicked on the tele the boys were lining up for the final climb. The boys in green argyle ‎were lined up on the front protecting Joe dombro and he's race lead. Was great to see the cannondale guys up where they belong at the front of the bunch after what's been a tuff season for the team. As expected however once they hit gardsmans pass the field completely detonated with a little help from lachie morton and his jelly belly boys! Have to admit was awesome to see lach giving it a nudge, he made it brutal from the start and while it ultimately lead to him blowing his noodle halfway up the climb, like the true warrior he is he was back at the front of the field once they crested the top of the climb. It's been awesome watching the emergence of micheal woods, I'm not surprised in his rise up the ranks this year, it's commonly known how strong your legs become from running and he certainly has an x factor that's going to bring him a huge amount of success in years to come. To ride a bike fast is impressive of course but to be one of the fastest runners in the world at any point is absolutely huge!! Pretty much everybody on the plannet knows how to run and to reach the top 50 in the world shows you have some serious athleticism under the hood so was awesome to see michael showing that off in utah this week and today on gardsmans. Joe looked like yellow belongs on his shoulders and seemed as cool as cucumber all day. It won't be the last time he leads a major tour or wins one for that matter, it's uncountable that he's certainly a genuine future Grand Tour GC candidate in years to come, very exciting that he's on a cannondale!! Even isolated on the climb he showed maturity well beyond his young years and was clearly the strongest and worthy winner of this year's race. If the confirmed startlist for the vuelta wasn't enough for you then it's certainly worth turning on the tele to see what Joe can do when the race head skywards during the lap around Spain beginning in a couple of weeks. 

Finally and for me the greatest part about today's final stage in Utah was Lachlan Norriss's nail biting victory. How awesome was that, it was absolute suspense right up until his bike throwing lunge for the win to take the win. Was I surprised he won? No, not at all intact I expected it when I saw he was still in the group at the top for a few reasons. Firstly lachie had been in park city training for the passed couple of weeks so obviously knew the climb. Secondly lachie was a world class mountain biker before he focused on the road a few years ago so has skills most roadies can only dream off. Thirdly and finally he's won the coveted tour of tasmania in the passed and if there's one thing that charactorises the winners of that brutal event is you've got to be extremely skillfull and resilient as everything and everything will come your way in that event, never ever give up no matter what, and as a consequence a seriously hard ass dude!! Lachie is all those things. So once he was on the decent to me it was all over. I expected him to drop them all there and then but that's where his class really showed. He was gapped of briefly by bookwalker and it seemed the American was home and hosed! Yeah right!! The American tv cameras wanted that but sure enough lachie dug into his bag of talent and skills and super duper tucked at over 100kmph to get back on terms. Still the advantage was with Brent as he's the more credentialed sprinter but this was lachie norris and his finest hour, I know one way or another he'd find a way to finish it off. Sure enough as he rounded the final bend a few lengths of brents wheel it looked like he was beaten. No no no, this was where his class truly showed as he dug even deeper into his bag of tricks, calmly got back on the wheel of Brent for fleeting second restbite before unleashing a perfectly timed kick for the line that had been ingrained in his DNA thanks to the 100's of bonus seconds he's chased over the year in australia's domestic NRC racing series. Was so so awesome to see and while he won in the complete opposite way I expected him to I never ever doubed him and am extremely pleased for he and the Aussie drapac team, be exciting to see what lachie can do in colorado next week. 

So why am I writing about haw awesome the past 24hrs of cycling TV has been? Well because to me it highlights just how awesome all things bikes has become. I was so incredibly disgusted by the treatment chris froome received from the press and public ‎en route to his 2nd Le Tour title, was absolutely rediculous. Chris simply by showed what an unparalleled amount of dedication can achieve, and in return people slung mud at him from every quarter. The worst was the comments of the former stars of the sport whom actually were in embroiled in genuine doping pasts whom seem to be nothing short of bitter and twisted at the thought that hard work can actually win the world's greatest bike race. The behavior of some media outlets whom decided to report the comments of these trolls only added fuel to the fire which meant it filtered into the general public whom sadly chose to believe the rubbish that was being reported. While chris copped the brunt of it, his team mates were also victims of the nothing short of barbaric behavior of the public roadside which again leaves those media outlets with a lot to answer for. Why on earth allow the opinions of people whom should be forgotten about, whom have tarnished the sport for decades to have a public voice at all?? How on earth can our wonderfull sport move on if select groups seem so adament in constantly dragging up the mud. The worst part is these comments are saved for the weeks of the le tour when the whole world is watching so the issue is amplified. Shouldn't we be using le tour when billions of people are watching to admire our beautiful sport and highlight just how incredible it is? Wouldn't that be best for everyone as at the end of the day it's an industry isn't it that's always struggling to survive. Surely by having a sport free of flawless pie in the sky scandles, pardon the pun, that were slung froome dogs way at le tour, would only mean the world could marvel and appreciate what an incredible athlete and story chris really is. A guy whom no doubt is inspiring millions of youngsters from around the world to come from the tuffest of upbringings and rise to the pinaccle of world sport. I don't know about you but that's one of the most inspiring and intriguing stories currently in the world of sport. 

It seems everyone is an expert when it comes to questing the validity of an athletes performance these days, particularly in cycling. Well he's a few little things that never seem to be considered when these outrageous accusations are thrown around about our top cyclists and there's predicted VAM's, Vo2, wattage and any other myraid of made up flawless comparisons to the past. How about taking a look at technology since the 90's and early 2000's. If bikes simply don't move a huge amount more effiecently for given level of output and inturn much faster, then every engineer in the industry should be fired because what have they been doing for the past 20years? Technology in wheels, frames, tyres, clothing, chains, drive trains, brakes, you name it, each and everything on the rider and there bike these days is as it should be, decades ahead in technology compared to the proven doping infested Era of the sport where all these comparisons so conveniently seem to be drawn from. Through into that food, diets, training techniques and recovery methods and you've got an entirely different landscape of a sport to that that brought the sport to its knees in the past. 

Now at the cutting edge of all these modern marvels is team sky whom ironically froome dog races for. They even went as far as to bring a former australian national team rowing and swimming coach onboard to manage there high performance programs to distance themselves from the shady past of training and preparation in the sport. All off a sudden Kerro's methods are being mimicked by every single team in the peleton as squads scramble to keep up. Others have now started to show signs of innovation in these areas aswell with BMC, Katusha, quickstep, Astana, Saxo Bank, Greenedge and Movistar all taking an abvious large interest and making massive investments into innovation in the form of technology and preparation of the athletes. Other Anglo based team in Garmin and Trek have also shown signs of revolution over the past few years however don't have the same level of dominance as the big 8. I'm not suggesting other teams are not also on the same path but the budgets of these teams particularly are the biggest in the peleton ‎so logically they have the resources to invest more heavily in these areas as all this costs money. And guess what?? These teams are the ones at the top of the sport at the moment! Yeah they have the best riders which in part is due to the fact they are the best athletes to start with but also because there training and preparation is at the absolute cutting edge of what the human body can put itself through. Then ontop of that they get on equipment that there expert staff have prepared to a point that cannot roll any faster, it's absolutely the fasted pedal powered machine they can possibly put under there star riders. Amazingly, like when 1+1 = 2, when you put the best prepared athletes on the best bikes you get the best riders and the ones that win the races. It's pretty simple really.

Doping is NOT apart of the search for optimal performance within cycling teams. For whatever reason, and really it doesn't matter what the reason is, the sport has finally cleaned up its act. In my opinion there's a lot of reasons this has finally occurred over the past 5 or 6 years. I believe it's down to the fact that the top riders in the sport simply won't tollorate the results being effected by doping. Firstly athletes are far better educated these days and know full well that doping is not only cheating but can also be very dangerous for your body. Oh and of course everybody knows it's simply the wrong thing to and ontop of that, everybody is all to aware a scandle of the biggest stars would be catastrophic. It's great that the current crop of top stars have taken it upon themselves to set the right example to the rest of the sport. If it's suspected that a big star is doing the wrong thing then it's quickly identified by the bunch and those individuals are dealt with and are not welcome at the top end of the sport.  The antidoping agencies play a massive part aswell and while in the past have admitted they are often one step behind the cheats, in recent years they have shown signs of turning the tables with new testing methods to catch the few current offenders. The reality is, like it or loath it, the authorities needed the cooperation of the top riders in the sport to ensure its an even playing field & the biggest races are played out on an even playing field. Teams know that scandles can close the doors and that means jobs are lost and a larger scale controversy can be even more devastating for the sport. At the end of the day it's an industry like any other and nobody in it wants to loose there job. The world in itself is built on survival and the survival of cycling is reliant wholly and solely upon sponsorship. Continue to tarnish it with sceptasism and synasysim and you'll quickly drive away all these backers and guess what, we will manage to destroy our sport. Enough is enough!! How bout this for an idea all those people searching for evidence of doping, how bout you spend the same amount of energy finding evidence that riders aren't cheating!! That would actually help the sport!!‎ 

I can't speak on behalf of others riders and why they feel the sports clean but here is my opinion. In the past few years from time to time I've been strong enough to be at the head of some of the biggest races. When I was at my best I knew the numbers that were possible and could basically stare at my srm knowing how long riders could sustain such an effort. Almost to the seconds I'd witness workers drop off or attacks fizzle out, it was hugely motivating to know that with the talent, ability and hard work you could achieve something in this sport and that view hasn't changed. I speak with the guys and know there numbers and they are world's away from the hypothetical predictions of these expert trolls in search of attention. It's a view that hasn't changed in my eyes and it's a great realistic example to me that there ain't anything synester going on. If your good enough and strong enough and work hard enough you can succeed, but you've still actually got to be good enough that's why there only room for a select few at the top, because they are simply better.

The saddest part for me with regard to the ongoing scrutiny of today's stars in the sport is how do they prove they are clean? All they can do is tell the truth and repeat time and time again I'm playing by the rules. Unfortunately  for decades that's been the response of the biggest champions so sadly nobody wants to believe them. "Sure that's what they always say" sadly the actions of those in the past whom have all turned around later and said "yes I lied, I really did cheat" has taken the simplest form of explanation away from the current generation leading the sport. Froome has been asked to release his data, what on earth will that prove? That's he's the strongest guy in the world on a bike and probably trains harder than anybody else is prepared to train? He's proved that to us all over the past few years winning in the most transparent way he can. Why is it only him being asked to release such data? What about everybody else racing at the top level, there not suspicious because they are not as dominant as chris? How rediculous. No the only way for froome or any of the current big champions to prove they are clean is by doing exactly what they have been doing. They can oly continue to adhere to, and compete within the rules that govern the sport as they can't do anything else. If the authorities want to change the rules then change the rules, don't just carry on about what riders should be doing to prove there innocence. The authorities need to stand behind the riders and say our riders are doing all that's asked of them so please let them race and let us scrutinize the athletes and determine if anybody does the wrong thing. There have been calls for a union and while I hadn't really read much into the whole movement and idea but after spending the afternoon writing this blog I can see why a union would be extremely beneficial for the riders and the sport in general. This type of treatment of individual riders simply wouldn't happen within an NFL model or from what I've witnessed in my millions of hours watching ESPN in any other professional sport for that matter. With a union, instead of the poor select few whom get all the mud slung at them and have to defend themselves with there own singular voice, they would be protected and supported by a united voice of ‎the union and it's members. Looking at it now that sounds like a great idea and something I'd love to be apart off, it certainly appears a big part of the sport going forward.

So please, enough is enough. Can we stop reflecting on what's happened in the past and allow the current crop of cyclists to play out the next chapter detached from those that brought the sport into disrepute decades ago. By not letting go we are not allowing the sport to go forward. Let's herald the brilliance of our riders when they succeed and search for great stories behind that success, that's actually interesting and what people love hearing about. Why waste energy constantly dragging up old crap or reporting heavily on the isolated incidents that occur currently. If a rider tests positive just release the name on the national federation website and ban them like so many other olympic sports. If people want to know who got popped then they can look it up, we don't need to waste headlines on our media streams dwelling on these cases. Let the guys ride and do what there doing, show the world how fast the human body can go naturely on a push bike. It's one of the most common activities on the planet, almost everybody can ride a bike. Let people appreciate it for the beauty that it is across all platforms as in the long run that's what will allow the sport to grow and sustain it for century's to come. I've taken this year away from professional cycling and it's been great for a wide range of reasons. I've had the chance to ride all of my bikes even more often riding my TT, Road, and mountain bikes all on the same day. It's given me a massive appreciation for the career I've been fortunate enough to have and just what a bicycle has given me the opportunity to do. When you step away from something you get the opportunity to look at it all subjectively and see everything in different light and in my case much more clearly. I really felt for chris and the guys at le tour and the way they were being treated and found myself in numerous arguments over the 3 weeks when those around me chimed in on the gossip and rubbish that was being spoken about. Funny that in the year that it doesn't even effect me one bit I was most offended by these comments and that's why I wanted to write this peace. Draw a line, write about what's happening and not what happened, stand behind the stars and allow the whole sport to charge ahead in a way we all want it to. If we give the gloomy past a voice it will continue to speak, let's move and sit back and simply enjoy the ride.

CJW