Category: Commentary

VeloNews Show: Five big stories to follow in 2019

This video includes footage and images from Getty Images/Velo Collection, YouTube/Tour de France, YouTube/UCI.

The new season of cycling is dawning, and there are plenty of intriguing storylines to follow as 2019 gets underway.

How will Peter Sagan fare at Liège? Can Quick-Step repeat its spring successes of 2019? Should Chris Froome lead Team Sky at the Tour, or is Geraint Thomas the top dog? How will Wout van Aert and Mathieu van der Poel fare in the classics?

… And above all, what will happen with Team Sky as its sponsor will leave after 2019?

All those questions and more answered this week.

Read the full article at VeloNews Show: Five big stories to follow in 2019 on VeloNews.com.

Roundtable: Five up-and-coming riders to watch in 2019


Every season, lesser-known riders win significant races. These youngsters might not always be in the headlines, but we are watching them, and sometimes, if you look closely, you can see promising glimpses of cycling’s future superstars. As we looked ahead to 2019, we pored over results to find our favorite up-and-coming riders. Whether they are sprinters, climbers, or all-rounders, these five cyclists show promise to step up to another level of performance and results.

Katie Hall (Boels-Dolmans)

Katie Hall
Katie Hall of UHC attacked to win stage 1 of the 2018 Tour of the Gila. Photo: Casey B. Gibson | www.cbgphoto.com

Fred Dreier, @freddreier: Perhaps it’s unfair to choose someone with a WorldTour stage race victory as a potential “breakout” rider, but I’m choosing Katie Hall anyway.

After dominating the North American scene for the past two seasons Hall is making the jump to the European peloton with the top team in the women’s WorldTour, Boels-Dolmans. Hall is already one of the world’s best on long, grueling climbs. Yet we’ve never seen her race against the WorldTour’s best climbers at the Giro Rosa because her former team, UnitedHealthCare, rarely (if ever) received an invite. If Hall can drop North America’s best on the Mogollon and Oak Glen, how will she fare against the world’s best on the Gavia Pass? I’m eager to find out.

I think that Hall will be an asset to Boels’s stage racing squad this year to assist Anna van der Breggen, and I hope she’s given an opportunity to attack on the big climbs for her own glory.

Pascal Ackermann (Bora-Hansgrohe)

Pascal Ackermann
Ackermann rounded out his 2018 season with a stage win at Tour of Guangxi in China. Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images

Spencer Powlison, @spino_powerlegs: Bora-Hansgrohe’s stable of sprinters is pretty crowded, but Pascal Ackermann found opportunities to shine in 2018, and more victories are on the horizon. As a 24-year-old, he won stages in four week-long WorldTour races: Tour de Romandie, Critérium du Dauphiné, Tour of Poland, and Tour of Guangxi. He also proved himself in the classics, finishing second to Fabio Jakobsen (more on him later) at the sprinter-friendly Scheldeprijs one-day race.

As I hinted at, Ackermann often plays third-fiddle on Bora, behind Peter Sagan and Sam Bennett. However, in 2019, he is expected to get a chance to race the Giro d’Italia as the team’s sprinter. It will be his first grand tour and a fine opportunity to earn a maiden stage win. Plus, as he already proved at Scheldeprijs, opportunities will arise for the German national champion to sprint for classics glory, especially if Sagan opts for a lighter race schedule (and he might, given his plans to race Liège-Bastogne-Liège). At the very least, expect Ackermann to notch a few more one-week stage wins throughout 2019.

Enric Mas (Deceuninck-Quick-Step)

Enric Mas
Enric Mas solidified his place as a grand tour contender with his stage win at Coll de la Gallina that catapulted him into second overall in the standings at the 2018 Vuelta. Photo: Jim Fryer / BrakeThrough Media | brakethroughmedia.com

Andrew Hood, @EuroHoody: Who is poised to stand out this year from the Spanish peloton? Enric Mas. The 24-year-old from Deceuninck-Quick-Step already had a breakout season in 2018, finishing second overall at the Vuelta a España and notching the first two pro wins of his promising career (a stage at the Vuelta and the Tour of the Basque Country). This year he’s poised for even better results, with a Tour de France debut on his 2019 calendar.

What qualities does Mas harbor that even Alberto Contador calls him his rightful heir? Consistency, grit, natural ability, and ambition. Those characteristics are what’s needed to excel in grand tours, and everyone close to Mas says he has that and then some. His gritty stage win at Collada de la Gallina in the Vuelta gave everyone a glimpse into Mas’s true potential. This season will be all about confirmation. A solid Tour debut will set him up nicely as Spain’s next big GC contender. That’s just what every bike fan south of Pyrénées is clamoring for.

Fabio Jakobsen (Deceuninck-Quick-Step)

Fabio Jakobsen
Fabio Jakobsen won a rainy sprint at Scheldeprijs. Photo: Tim De Waele/Getty Images

Chris Case, @chrisjustincase: The most successful neo-pro of 2018, Fabio Jakobsen (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) gathered seven wins last year, including three in WorldTour races. None was bigger than his stunning victory at Scheldeprijs in atrocious weather and against far more experienced opponents. He also took sprint victories at the Tour des Fjords and Binck Bank Tour. Jakobsen finished his season with a flurry, taking two stage victories and the points classification at the final WorldTour stop at the Tour of Guangxi.

The 22-year-old rider hails from the Zeeland province in the Netherlands and was named after Fabio Casartelli by his cycling-mad parents. Jakobsen joined Quick-Step after riding for the SEG Racing Academy for three years. “When [team boss] Patrick Lefevere makes you an offer, then it’s like ‘The Godfather:’ It’s an offer you can’t refuse,” he said back then.

Built for sprinting and the one-day races, Jakobsen sees Dylan Groenewegen as his role model. Like his countryman did the past two years, Jakobsen’s ambition is to win a stage of the Tour de France. Before that, however, look for him to score more wins and surprise the veterans in his beloved spring classics.

Sam Oomen (Sunweb)

Sam Oomen
Sam Oomen drove the pace for Tom Dumoulin on the final climb at the Giro d’Italia in stage 20. Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images

Dane Cash, @danecash: As a promising up-and-comer who signed with WorldTour squad Sunweb at a young age, Sam Oomen has had the weight of expectation on him for years. That didn’t stop him from riding to a Giro d’Italia top-10 last spring even as a domestique for team leader and Dutch compatriot Tom Dumoulin.

Oomen is an all-rounder with real potential as a stage racing star. He is not quite as far along at age 23 as, say, Miguel Ángel López was, but Sunweb has a strong track record of development. The team has been patient with bringing Oomen along so far. That could prove helpful in the long run. His contract runs through 2020, which should take some pressure off as well.

What’s more, Oomen has Dumoulin to learn from, and it’s hard to imagine a better situation for a young Dutch rider to find himself in than that. Oomen should get more opportunities to shine in 2019.

Read the full article at Roundtable: Five up-and-coming riders to watch in 2019 on VeloNews.com.

Roundtable: Five storylines to watch in 2019


A new season brings new narratives to follow. There are teams heading into 2019 with reshuffled rosters, managers hunting for sponsors, and stars set for intra-squad leadership showdowns.

As the racing develops throughout the racing calendar, so too will the storylines behind the scenes. Here are five of those storylines that we expect to spice up the 2019 road season.

Sky’s uncertain future

Team Sky
There is only one year left of Sky kits in the pro peloton. Photo: ©Tim De Waele | Getty Images

Andrew Hood, @EuroHoody: Of all the off-the-race intrigue and plotlines for 2019 — and there’s always plenty — the uncertain future of Team Sky will top the list. Since its inception in 2010, the British outfit has pushed the sport to new limits and created a firestorm of controversy at every pedal turn. With its WorldTour-leading budget (estimated at north of $40 million annually), Brailsford’s boys from Manchester have dominated the Tour de France, winning six of the past seven yellow jerseys with three different riders, an achievement unheralded in cycling history.

And pfffft! — just like that — all that could end. Sky’s corporate backers surprised the peloton last month when it confirmed the money pipes are running dry at the end of 2019. So let’s rev up that speculation machine: will Brailsford save the team? Will the riders hang around? Will the Tour’s most dominant team end with a whimper or a bang? Who will scoop up the likes of Chris Froome or Egan Bernal if the team folds?

As one sport director said, Sky’s possible demise is a journalist’s dream. While the possibility does generate endless story angles, there are other things we’d like to be writing about, like bike racing, perhaps?

Look at the bright side; at least we won’t be talking about Salbutamol ad nauseum.

Van der Poel vs. Van Aert

Van der Poel
Van der Poel and Van Aert (L-R). Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

Spencer Powlison, @spino_powerlegs: Ever since Tom Boonen and Fabian Cancellara called it quits, I’ve thought that the spring classics lacked a really thrilling storyline. Sure, Peter Sagan entertains me to no end, and Philippe Gilbert amazed us as the ageless wonder, but come on … Niki Terpstra? Greg Van Avermaet? Matthew Hayman? Meh.

Enter two young stars whose trajectories have been on a collision course for years (in fact, they’ve literally collided in ‘cross races a few times). Wout van Aert and Mathieu van der Poel are the two rising cobblestone crushers that our sport needs. They already have a history of rivalry — van der Poel seems impeccable throughout the ‘cross season and then van Aert conquers him at worlds. Plus they have both proven up to the task in major road races. Van Aert was third at Strade Bianche and ninth at the Belgian Super Bowl that is Tour of Flanders. Van der Poel is reigning Dutch national road race champion.

We got a tantalizing preview of their road rivalry at European road race championships last year when they both made the podium (van der Poel second, van Aert third) behind Matteo Trentin. I hope for more of this in 2019. Van Aert should get some chances in the spring classics, and his Jumbo-Visma WorldTour team can back him up too. Van der Poel might be a little more under the radar with Pro Continental team Corendon-Circus. Wouldn’t they make an excellent combination in a late breakaway over the Paterberg?

Froome vs. Thomas

Geraint Thomas
Geraint Thomas (L) and Chris Froome (R) coexisted peacefully at the 2018 Tour. What happens if Froome has a shot at a fifth yellow jersey in 2019? Photo: Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Dane Cash, @danecash: Sky has been a well-oiled grand tour machine for years, but the emergence of Geraint Thomas at last year’s Tour de France brings with it the potential for some serious intra-team intrigue. He and Chris Froome have both decided to target the 2019 Tour. Now what?

Thomas said and did all the right things in 2018, publicly supporting Froome as team leader in the Tour basically right up until the final podium. But Thomas is the defending champ now — it’s hard to imagine him being quite as deferential with a yellow jersey on his palmares. Froome, meanwhile, will be fresh for this year’s Tour, unlike last year, where he rode into France on the heels of a Giro d’Italia win. He won’t have the satisfaction of a pink jersey to fall back on, so don’t expect him to hand the reins over to Thomas quietly.

The potential for a leadership controversy in July will spice up the entire first half of the season. The one-week stage races in the first few months of 2019 will be all the more interesting with the last two Tour winners looking to prove themselves worthy to be Sky’s top dog at the main event this summer.

Can Quick-Step replicate 2018 — with a trimmed-down roster?

Quick-Step
Quick-Step won plenty of medals in 2018, but many top riders have since left the team. Photo: Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

Chris Case, @chrisjustincase: Across the breadth of 2018, Quick-Step Floors found every which way to win races, with both its stars and lesser-known riders. The squad’s democratic approach resulted in a prolific tally of wins: 73 total professional wins, to be exact, with 38 of them at WorldTour races.

It was one of the most complete displays of team success in recent memory. And it raises the question: Does the team now called Deceunink-Quick-Step stand any chance of repeating such success in 2019?

Fernando Gaviria, Niki Terpstra, Maximilian Schachmann, and Laurens De Plus all left the squad at year’s end. On paper, that amounts to about a dozen wins. In reality, it’s not such a simple math equation. Wins come from talent, yes, but also from teamwork and confidence. There isn’t a more confident squad than the group known as “The Wolfpack.”

In many ways, there’s the potential for several riders to have even better years than last season, particularly given that newfound poise. Take Julian Alaphilippe for instance. He finally cracked the code to beat Alejandro Valverde at Flèche Wallonne. Perhaps that leads to a flurry of Ardennes victories. Likewise, Bob Jungels took a first monument victory. They say the first is always the hardest; now maybe the floodgates open for this uber-talented 26-year-old.

The list goes on. Plus, there’s the new face, Remco Evenepoel. Ready for this? The 18-year-old won the world junior time trial championship by over a minute and soloed away from his rivals with 20 kilometers remaining for the road world title two days later.

The bottom line: The name may have changed, but the Wolfpack could still prove to be cycling’s apex predators.

Sagan’s Liège attempt

Peter Sagan
We all know Sagan wants a third monument to add to his collection. Perhaps it will be Milano-Sanremo, or will it be something more unexpected? Photo: ©Tim De Waele | Getty Images

Fred Dreier, @freddreier: This story didn’t get enough hype when it broke last year: Peter Sagan could make his first ever start at Liège-Bastogne-Liège this year. This news revives the much-hyped “Is Sagan cycling’s most versatile rider?” debate that we loved to argue over after he won the 2015 Amgen Tour of California. Since then Sagan has blossomed into a three-time world champion, this generation’s best cobblestone crusher, and the Tour de France’s most versatile sprinter.

Most of his biggest wins have come on hilly or flat terrain. But still, the debate over Sagan’s skills in climbing races like Liege is a compelling one to have in 2019. Sagan was painfully close to winning last year’s Amstel Gold Race, which has a similar amount of climbing to La Doyenne. And Liège-Bastogne-Liège has abandoned its finish in Ans, instead moving the finish back to Liège. Details of the final few kilometers have yet to be released, but it’s likely to have a flat run-in to the finish. Could Sagan survive La Redoute, the Cote de la Roche-aux-Faucons, and the other brutal climbs? If so, it would be his third Monument victory, leaving the extremely winnable Milano-Sanremo and the Tour of Lombardy left on his list.

Read the full article at Roundtable: Five storylines to watch in 2019 on VeloNews.com.

Roundtable: Five riders who need to win big in 2019


It is the new year, and with the Santos Tour Down Under right around the corner, the pro road season is nearly upon us. It is an exciting time for fans and riders alike, but it is also a time of increased pressure for top riders who are hungry for big victories. While Geraint Thomas and Alejandro Valverde celebrated huge successes in 2018, plenty of other up-and-comers and big stars stumbled. For some pros, 2019 will be a make-or-break year.

Here are five riders who need to win big this season.

Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo)

Richie Porte
Richie Porte has won plenty of yellow jerseys … except they have been in one-week races like Tour de Suisse. Can he step it up in 2019? Photo: ©Tim De Waele | Getty Images

Spencer Powlison, @spino_powerlegs: My new year’s resolution is to stop bagging on Richie Porte … But Richie needs to hold up his end of the bargain too. It feels like we have hyped up the Tasmanian for ages. He was fifth at the 2016 Tour and even back in 2010 he went top-10 a the Giro d’Italia. His wins have been tantalizing — Paris-Nice in 2015 and 2013, Tour de Romandie in 2017, and Tour de Suisse last year. But the time for one-week stage race wins has passed. At the very least, Porte needs to get on a grand tour podium in 2019.

First of all, he is 33 years old, so the window of opportunity is closing as he passes his physiological peak. Second, he is in his first year with Trek-Segafredo, a team that has been hungry for a true GC star since Alberto Contador retired at the end of 2017 (apologies to Bauke Mollema). Porte has already committed to race the Tour de France this year, and while I like that he is swinging for the fences, perhaps his best chance would actually be to carry that Tour form into the Vuelta for a run at the red jersey. If he can’t pull it off at either of those races, well, I’ll have plenty of takes on the VeloNews podcast, resolutions be damned.

Marcel Kittel (Katusha-Alpecin)

Marcel Kittel
Marcel Kittel won scads of Tour stages in 2017. 2018? Not so much. Photo: Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

Dane Cash, @danecash: 2018 did not go according to plan for Marcel Kittel. He came into his debut season with Katusha-Alpecin on the heels of a strong year — he won an impressive five Tour de France stages in 2017 — but Kittel did not manage a single stage victory at the Tour last summer. He didn’t have much success elsewhere on the calendar either. A pair of Tirreno-Adriatico stages were his only pro wins all season.

Kittel did not shy away from acknowledging the disappointment, but he could not put his finger on what was behind his down year. Medical tests did not point to any specific ailment. Whatever was holding him back, Kittel will hope to put it behind him, and quickly, this season. He will turn 31 in May, and young sprinting rivals Fernando Gaviria (Quick-Step Floors) and Dylan Groenewegen (Jumbo-Visma) are getting better every year.

Fortunately for Kittel, he has some experience when it comes to bouncing back from an off year. He was the fastest sprinter on the planet in 2014, but struggled with illness in 2015 and did not even race a grand tour. He returned to winning ways the following season. That should give him reason to be optimistic that he can bounce back once again here in 2019.

Fabio Aru (UAE Team Emirates)

Was Fabio Aru’s Vuelta a España victory a fluke? He has yet to deliver since he defeated Tom Dumoulin in 2015. Photo: ©Mark Van Hecke | Getty Images

Chris Case, @chrisjustincase: There was a finite time — to be more specific, in 2015, during both the Giro d’Italia (where he was second) and the Vuelta a España (which he won) — when Fabio Aru was headed straight to the top of the Italian grand tour throne, dislodging Vincenzo Nibali from his perch. The Sardinian’s fight and grit were clear; big results seemed inevitable.

Then the staircase to that high perch crumbled. Aru has never really been the same rider since. Sure, he’s had his moments — a fifth place at the 2017 Tour de France among them — but he’s steadily dropped down every list of contenders preceding every subsequent grand tour. Now, when prognosticators put together their who-to-watch lists, he’s nearly an afterthought.

Over three years on since his sole grand tour triumph, Aru needs to have a big result in 2019. There were indications that dietary issues were holding him back last year. With those resolved, and a lighter schedule in the early season, Aru hopes to return to his former self. He has yet to confirm which grand tour(s) he will ride this year, but it appears increasingly likely that he will return to the Giro despite the presence of three individual time trials — he’s even stated that the Tour de France route fits him better. But his participation in the Tour is much less certain, especially given the presence of Dan Martin and new arrival Fernando Gaviria.

Perhaps what Aru needs more than a return to grand tour glory is simply to regain some confidence. If I was his team manager, I’d have him commit to putting in solid performances at a few early-season second-tier stage races: Algarve and Catalunya. Then, hit the Giro with the fire and determination that he once plastered all over his face.

Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data)

Mark Cavendish
Mark Cavendish’s quest to equal Eddy Merckx’s stage-win record in the Tour de France hit a stumbling block in 2018. Photo: ©Chris Graythen | Getty Images

Andrew Hood, @eurohoody: It’s not that Mark Cavendish needs a good season; he deserves one. The Manxman has had a rough ride since coming within a whisker of winning a second world title in Doha in 2016. Injuries, crashes, and illnesses have derailed the most lethal sprinting threat of his generation. One win in 2017 and one win in 2018. That’s not single digits — that’s one digit, as in one win per season for the past two years, hardly what everyone expects from the most prolific sprinter since Mario Cipollini ruled the straightaways.

At 33, Cavendish is bound to return to the fray in 2019, a contract year for him. People have written Cavendish off before, but it won’t be any easier getting closer to Eddy Merckx’s record of 34 stage wins with the rise of more youthful legs in Fernando Gaviria and Dylan Groenewegen. It’s now or never for Cavendish in 2019.

Nairo Quintana (Movistar)

Nairo Quintana
Can Nairo Quintana return to his winning ways in a grand tour. Photo: ©Tim De Waele | Getty Images

Fred Dreier, @freddreier: Poor Nairo Quintana. No other grand tour star needs a big win in 2019 quite like Quintana. Since 2013, Quintana’s name has been included on the shortest lists of cycling’s top grand tour riders, and this past season, it really felt like Quintana’s place on these lists was simply out of courtesy. Tenth at the Tour. Eighth at the Vuelta. Those results are simply not good enough for a man who was, half a decade ago now, slated to be Chris Froome’s top rival. These days Quintana is in trouble of slipping down to a (gasp) second-tier grand tour contender, far behind the Yates brothers, Tom Dumoulin, and Geraint Thomas (he’s nowhere near Froome). What went wrong?

Quintana has a suitable excuse for not winning a grand tour in 2017; his team’s disastrous decision to have him race the Giro/Tour double was simply too hard. But what’s to blame for last year’s shortcoming? Movistar’s now ridiculous three-headed monster (Quintana, Valverde, Landa) strategy can’t take all the blame for Quintana’s bad legs. Quintana should forego the Tour and instead focus on the Giro and a head-to-head battle with Colombia’s new star, Egan Bernal. Nothing would pad Quintana’s confidence quite like beating the new kid.

Read the full article at Roundtable: Five riders who need to win big in 2019 on VeloNews.com.

Our favorite rides of 2018


Every year, we are fortunate to travel to far-flung locations to ride our bikes on gorgeous roads and trails. So we thought we’d share the joy of our favorite rides with you our readers as the year comes to a close. What was your favorite ride in 2018? Let us know on Twitter or in the Facebook comments.

Dan Cavallari, tech editor: Passo di Gavia

Gavia
Nothing but open road ahead on the Gavia. Photo: Sterling Lorence

“I’m the luckiest boy in the world.”
— My Brain

“Quit it, jerk!”
— My Body

2018 was not a great year for my body. A back injury kept me off the bike for long stretches, so fitness mostly stayed at arm’s length. It was a perfect time to tackle one of Italy’s most difficult climbs … said no one.

Approximately 19 kilometers from Ponte di Legno — at an average grade of 8 percent, with not-insignificant stretches reaching 16 percent — sits the legendary Passo di Gavia. There is no pause in the suffering along the way. You have plenty of time to stare it in the face. The scenery on every side of you does much to distract you from it, but I had an extra suffer companion: a bulging disc in my spine.

Despite that unwelcome guest, that day on the Gavia gave me my finest day of riding all year. It hurt — in both the good way and bad — but it was impossible not to get caught up chasing the ghosts of the 1988 Giro d’Italia, the incredible Dolomiti on every side of me, the hairpin turns and the attempts to bridge the gap between me and the rider ahead. (I never did manage it, but it kept my pedals turning.) While my body and brain duked it out, my soul floated high over Italy. I’m a lucky boy indeed.

Fred Dreier, editor in chief: Haute Route Rockies, stage 6

On top of Loveland Pass, in the middle of Haute Route Rockies, stage 6. Photo: Fred Dreier | VeloNews.com

I wanted to step off of my bicycle about a dozen times during my Best Ride of 2018. And finally, with about 30 miles to go, I climbed off, sat down in the shade, and stared off into space for about half an hour while I chowed down three bags of Doritos.

My ride was stage 6 of the Haute Route Rockies event which started and finished in the ski town Breckenridge. The ride took us over Swan Mountain, Loveland Pass, Guanella Pass, Kenosha Pass, and finally Hoosier Pass back to Breckenridge. The ride’s stats were not particularly eye-popping: 115 miles, 12,000 feet of total climbing, three mountain passes above 11,000 feet above sea level. But there were three key ingredients that made it an especially painful day for yours truly.

First: The Haute Route is a competitive event comprised of timed segments. People race and go hard. My appetite for racing far exceeded the actual power in my legs on this day. I spent the first two mountain passes chasing after stronger, fitter riders, and totally wiped myself out. Full disclosure: I was actually sandbagging this race. I had completed just two previous stages, while everyone else had five stages in their legs. Still, when I realized I had emptied my tank too early, my bike computer only read 50 miles completed. I still had 65 miles to go.

Second: Stage 6 sent us on a loop that I had always wanted to complete but never actually did due to excessive car traffic on U.S. Highway 85 between Grant and Fairplay, Colorado. Haute Route’s rolling enclosure kept the cars away — a huge bonus. Still, I learned an important lesson why people don’t normally ride on this stretch of road. It is swept by insanely powerful crosswinds. As hard as I tried to tuck myself into the peloton of strong riders, I was eventually caught by the wind and shot out the back. I spent the next two hours pedaling into a gusting headwind with only my bad thoughts for company.

Third: After stopping in Fairplay to eat Doritos, I had to get back on my bike. That was extremely hard.

Still, I would recommend this route to anyone who enjoys grinding climbs, amazing views, and pain. And with every day that passes, my ride becomes more of an epic adventure and less of a painful slog. Breckenridge-Breckenridge was a brute.

Felix Magowan, chairman: Touring Italy’s Langhe wine region

In June, thanks to Tourissimo Travel and a well-equipped Bianchi loaner we took a short — but delicious — loop through four or five of the most famous wine towns in the Langhe wine region, just outside Turin, Italy. The ride was perfectly hilly (I never used my lowest gear!), the weather gorgeous, the stops for coffee and selfies frequent, the company of ex-pros and folks on electric bikes all got along, and the picturesque Piedmont hill-top wine towns almost too precious to be believed. But the best part of the ride — and why it was my most memorable ride of 2018 — was that we finished our jaunt with a sumptuous, multi-course lunch at Agricola Gian Piero Marrone, a top Barolo wine producer, who didn’t seem bothered at all that we were in still in our bike kits.

Spencer Powlison, news director: Leadville Trail 100 MTB

At the very top of the Leadville Trail 100 race — it’s all downhill from here. Photo: Spencer Powlison | VeloNews.com

Usually, when I plan for a bike race, I attend to all of the details necessary to ride as fast as possible. This trait is baked into my personality, and I’ve been tying or pinning on numbers since I was 12 years old. Let’s just say I’m very type-A. Leadville Trail 100 was going to be the opposite of all of that. Why? Because I was taking on the 100-mile race the day after completing the six-day Breck Epic stage race (also a contender for my best ride of 2018).

So instead of chasing the fastest possible finish time, I came up with a fun concept that would deemphasize the “racing” but still be a stout challenged. I wheeled my treasured 1983 Specialized Stumpjumper out of the garage and tuned it up to ride Leadville. Along the way, I experienced the heart and soul of Leadville — riders who were excited to take on a massive challenge and striving to simply finish one of the biggest rides of their lives. I had to stop and adjust my threaded headset about three times. At one point it was so bumpy that I momentarily went cross-eyed. And toward the end, I lost a bottle, ran out of water, and in a moment of desperation, scavenged a bottle off the trail and drank whatever was left in it.

I finished. I had fun. I got a belt buckle (not the big one). But most importantly, I recalibrated my assumptions about what it means to “race.” Check out my full post-race recap and video >>

Chris Case, managing director: Yolomites 5000

Lost somewhere in the Dolomites, midway through a day of 5,000 meters of climbing. Photo: Chris Case | VeloNews.com

If you haven’t heard of #YOLOmites5000, you’re not alone. That’s because the lightly organized adventure ride in the heart of the Dolomites is not widely promoted, not for the faint of heart, and far away from the U.S. It’s also ludicrous, ridiculous, and hard AF.

Problem is, it also has to be one of the greatest bike rides on earth. Don’t believe me? I’ll share the list of ingredients: 1.) The majestic, ridiculously picturesque Dolomites surround you all day long; 2.) Semi-secret roads are laced together (by a local madman named Igor Tavella, #igorisinsane) to take you through, over, around, and into the most majestic valleys, villages, and vistas, all choreographed to the rising and setting sun. The beauty can’t be overstated. (See cycling photographer Jered Gruber’s Instagram account for examples); 3.) The mention of both the rising and setting sun hints at how long the day is — since we’re describing the most memorable day of riding, let’s make sure it’s a full day of riding. As the name implies, that’s 5,000 meters of climbing over 80 miles — a solid 12-hour jaunt; 4.) Finally, there’s the absurdity: This ride is best suited for those who love a challenge, can laugh when the route heads into a bog, won’t be too perturbed by the 30 percent gradients, and can suffer without ever thinking twice about forging ahead.

I could continue to describe the beauty — it’s otherworldly. I could reiterate the absurdity — Igor takes you right to the very edge. But all you really need to do is check out these photos and this profile and prepare to be in awe.

Read the full article at Our favorite rides of 2018 on VeloNews.com.

CX nationals roundtable: Should USAC save the course for pros?


U.S. cyclocross national championships wrapped up Sunday in Louisville, Kentucky with a muddy, slippery final day. Katie Compton dominated the women’s elite race, while Stephen Hyde won his third consecutive elite men’s title after a back-and-forth battle with his Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com teammate Curtis White.

There were crashes. There were victory salutes. There was even some post-race hand-wringing about the course. Let’s roundtable!

Sunday’s elite races were all about the mud. Pick another condition (dry, snow, etc.) and discuss how the races play out differently.

Chris Case @chrisjustincase You wouldn’t want to bet against Compton in the conditions there were, given she’s probably raced in such nasty mud 50 times. Her rivals? They probably collectively can’t say that. I’d say similar things if it had been snowy. Compton just knows how to handle a bike went conditions are horrid. And her pit crew is equally experienced. But had things been dry or tacky, my money would have shifted slightly, to a smaller rider who can climb. There was quite a bit of elevation change in Joe Creason Park, and there would have been very little running on a dry or tacky track. Then again, you wouldn’t really want to bet against Compton in those conditions either. That’s why she has 15 in a row.

Spencer Powlison @spino_powerlegs: Compton has such a wealth of experience racing mud in Europe that few other riders stood a chance. If you put this field on a fast, grippy course that put a premium on punchy accelerations and top-end speed, I think you’d see a tactical group race into the final few laps and then a flurry of attacks from riders like Ellen Noble and Kaitie Keough. I think the mud also opened the door for Sunny Gilbert to run into second place — she clearly had an advantage over Noble in that respect.

Fred Dreier @freddreier: I still think the winners are the same if things are dry and fast, as Compton and Hyde were on great days. In the women’s race, however, I think it would have come down to a tactical cat-and-mouse game between Compton and Ellen Noble, who had a really fast and impressive start. My gut says Compton still uses her experience to drop Noble at the end of the race. In the men’s race, I think Gage Hecht is able to power up to Curtis White and Stephen Hyde, and the two Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com teammates spend a few laps attacking Hecht to try and get away. Does Hyde still take it? I think so.

Ellen Noble had a bike length or more over the rest of the field when the elite women hit the dirt for the first time. Photo: @PinnedGrit/Wil Matthews

After the track was churned into mud there were calls to either move the elite races up in the week, or to arrange a parallel course to avoid the age groupers damaging the track. Thoughts?

Chris: Having spoken to Keegan Schelling, the technical director and course designer, I know the decision to reroute portions of the course were about making the course more rideable, to create more competition. Even with the changes, there was a tremendous amount of running, and several other places where it wasn’t as clear-cut which was faster, riding or running. It definitely made the racers think, make good decisions, keep focused, and it was wicked hard.

Spencer: If we are worried that American ‘cross riders won’t be prepared to ride ultra-muddy, technical European races, then we should be glad that the amateur riders ripped it up to really challenge the elite fields. And anyway, cyclocross nationals are pretty expensive to begin with — add this additional organizational work to USA Cycling’s plate and entry fees are bound to go even higher.

Fred: As a spectator, I loved watching the riders toil and crash into the mud. That said, I sympathize with those racers who were looking for a tactical and athletic event, and not a death slog. Bumping the elites up to midweek will kill the livestream numbers, which is bad for sponsorship. It’s asking a lot of a promoter to create a parallel track for a race of this size. Is it worth asking for? Perhaps it’s something to consider for future venues.

Course conditions were pure mud, following three days of rain. Photo: @PinnedGrit/Wil Matthews

Compton dominated, Hyde battled. What were the keys to Hyde’s win?

Chris:  It may have looked like Hyde was sitting on behind his teammate, but he admitted after the race that he was essentially in time trial mode the entire day. He went as hard as he could without blowing up. He knew it was going to be a long day. And it would come down to minimizing mistakes. Make ‘em, move on. That was the mantra.

Spencer: Hyde did a better job of conserving his efforts for the final two laps, and a lot of that came down to riding smooth and avoiding mistakes. Curtis White had to burn matches to chase back to Hyde after his early crash and other bobbles. He might have been stronger on Sunday but he sure wasn’t as smooth as his teammate.

Fred: It sure seemed like Hyde saved his powder until that penultimate lap, and made his move after White had been putting in some major efforts for several laps. On this course, the name of the game was simply limiting one’s mistakes, since the mud meant that everyone was slipping and bobbling. Hyde simply made fewer mistakes over those last two laps.

Stephen Hyde
Stephen Hyde used his superior handling skills to win on a heavy, muddy course in Louisville. Photo: @pinnedgrit/Wil Matthews

Who had the best victory celebration this weekend, and why?

Chris:  Hyde and White embraced after the race. And it continues on after the podium ceremony. Then again back in the team compound and inside the bus. The affection and spirit of competition were genuine. Those guys ripped, and fully appreciated the great battle and display they showcased.

Spencer: It was pure class to see Hyde and White hug it out after the finish of a muddy, exciting battle to win the title.

Fred: We should all strive to be like Ivan Gallego, winner of the junior men’s 15-16 race. The finish. The crash. The salute. It’s pure joy.

Read the full article at CX nationals roundtable: Should USAC save the course for pros? on VeloNews.com.

The Outer Line: WADA, and the future of anti-doping


Editor’s Note: The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is currently facing a crisis in terms of its future direction and role in international sports. Driven by the impacts of the recent Russian doping scandal, the organization is being forced to reevaluate its leadership, and its role and future direction. Below, anti-doping experts Drs. Paul Dimeo and April Henning review the current situation, and suggest some possible future ideas and directions for the organization.

For the first time in its nearly 20 years of existence, WADA is facing tough questions over competence, purpose, and politics — questions that threaten its very future and the landscape of drug control in sport as a whole. This pressure is coming from all sides, starting with allegations of bullying from Beckie Scott, the chair of the organization’s Athletes Committee. This was quickly followed by claims from American Ed Moses that he had been told to “shut up” by WADA officials. (Scott and Moses have long been figureheads for WADA’s “clean sport” campaign.) An emergency meeting of athletes was held at the White House, supported by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA).

At the heart of much of the recent dissent has been anger around the reinstatement of Russia following the massive state-sponsored doping programs prior to the 2018 Olympics. Leaders from National Anti-Doping Organizations (NADOs), including American Travis Tygart and Australian David Sharpe, have been publicly critical of that decision. WADA’s president, Craig Reedie, has defended his organization, but his announcement that he will not stand for re-election next year has prompted speculation about a leadership struggle, largely sparked by the Russia crisis. One potential candidate, Linda Helleland, now a vice-president, has been openly critical of the Russia decision. With WADA at this type of major crossroads, what might the future look like for anti-doping?

There are no easy answers for anti-doping. WADA is a small organization that relies on funding from the International Olympic Committee, and upon various NADO organizations and a network of accredited labs to do a trustworthy job of testing and educating athletes. The Russia scandal has shown how that system can be corrupted. It also shows how tricky the politics can be when there are so many competing perspectives, vested interests, and political actors involved.

Beyond these headline stories lie three other thorny and thus far unresolved problems. First, and at the fundamental level, it is becoming increasingly clear that laboratory testing simply hasn’t proved to be an effective means to prevent doping; it is expensive, inconsistent, and those with sufficient support from doctors and laboratories can beat the system. It is also unevenly implemented: In some countries and sports there is hardly any regular testing in place. A second problem is the stripping away of athletes’ rights through involuntary consent and their access to a normal legal defense process. Many clean athletes are regularly tested and have to endure the embarrassment of urinating in front of a stranger, and the privacy-eroding whereabouts monitoring system. Under the current system, the athletes are generally treated with suspicion rather than as key contributors and stakeholders in the sport. Lastly, very little can be done to address the problem of under-monitored and often unregulated drug supply routes, meaning that athletes can easily access PEDs with — or without — proper medical support.

Many hope that solutions to these challenges could begin to happen with a change in leadership. However, in reality, any new president will face tough choices if WADA is really going to radically improve the nature and impact of the organization’s policies. So what might be next?

Short-term prospects

The political negotiations around WADA’s leadership will expose many of the internal divisions and the sleepy bureaucracy of its current governance structure. At the same time, there is an ongoing stakeholder consultation process for the 2021 version of the World Anti-Doping Code. Over the course of the next 12 months, lobbying and continued mobilization of athlete unions will lead to stronger representation for athletes’ rights, and quite possibly towards a collective bargaining situation. However, athlete unionization remains weak in some sports and stronger in others. For example, the World Players Association is becoming a powerful umbrella body for professional team sports, while other niche sports like cycling continue to suffer from very weak or non-existent athlete associations.

This process begs the question of what the athletes actually want. Right now, it’s easy to organize interests around the Russia context — a convenient bogeyman, a folk devil around which to focus moral outrage. One would expect that this would tend to lead to additional anti-doping controls. However, some research and policy advisors have been suggesting athletes may actually need protection from the excesses of anti-doping. It is much less clear how athletes would respond to more liberal suggestions such as reducing the size and extent of WADA’s Prohibited List of compounds, allowing athletes specific times during which they can’t be tested, or giving them privacy when providing the urine sample. The push for clean sport demands more surveillance, but at the same time, increasing calls for athletes’ rights logically implies less surveillance. A similar problem exists for the legal process. Do we maintain strict liability for positive doping tests even though there are so many inadvertent cases? (Or, as the recent Cardoso case in cycling suggests, cases where an athlete lacks the funds to mount a proper defense?) The next round of debates will show whether the anti-Russia calls for clean sport will empower athletes in ways that promote a more conservative or a more liberal agenda.

Medium-term prospects

If WADA’s current power base is seriously challenged, the anti-doping machinery could be at least partially deregulated. Sporting organizations at the National Governing Body (NGB) level may therefore need to take more responsibility. This could be constructive if it leads to tailored forms of education, testing that focuses on the specific risks for each sport (or events), and sanctions that are appropriate to the effect of the substance and the lifecycle of the athlete’s career. However, it could be destructive if sports leaders start behaving in ways that seek to avoid scandals rather than catching the cheats — something which various NADOs have been accused of in the past. It could also represent a negative trend if the individual NADOs were to set overly punitive standards, or if different NGBs head in radically different directions.

More pragmatically, many national organizations simply do not have the financial or human resource capacities to undertake more anti-doping work. Without the oversight or direction of a centralized body, this shift could have the opposite effect — weakening the system and exposing athletes to new doping cultures, rather than extinguishing those behaviors — as unscrupulous athletes, coaches and doctors sought to exploit any cracks in the system.

One solution could be to separate some of the functions that comprise anti-doping. There could still be an international coordinating agency that sets broad policy and expectations, organizes testing, and acts as a watchdog to ensure that sports organizations implement anti-doping consistently. Each sport could then seat an anti-doping committee to look after the education of its own athletes, ensure doctors and coaches undertake ethics training, and negotiate sport-specific prohibited lists.

More progressively, the sport-specific bodies could offer support to athletes who are sanctioned — so that they could deal with their circumstances or substance misuse problems — and perhaps return to the sport one day without a stigma hanging over them. In an ideal world, each sport could be responsible for raising funds to finance their anti-doping efforts through a tax on profit-making clubs and events, with commercially successful sports acting cooperatively to subsidize smaller, less popular sports. Sponsors and media organizations could also be compelled to donate to anti-doping for each of the sports with whom they are financially involved.

Long-term prospects

But perhaps the longer-term and more sustainable solutions lie in rethinking the vision for clean sport to focus primarily on what is most important — athletes’ health and their long-term well-being — in a way that is truly achievable, rather than idealistic and utopian.

A first step forward could be to reorganize the list of banned substances and methods. At present, any substance or method can be banned if it meets two out of three criteria: potentially enhances performance, potentially poses a risk to health, or “contradicts the spirit of sport.” A more equitable foundation can be built if substances or methods can only be banned if they are both performance-enhancing and unhealthy. For example, if an athlete finds a way to build muscle or lose weight that is not unhealthy, then perhaps that should be accepted. If an athlete takes a drug that may be unhealthy but does not impact sports performance (including various medicines or recreational substances), that is their own private business and not relevant to anti-doping.

A second step could be to focus testing only on time periods just before or relevant to competition (or with the occasional random test to deter rampant abuse). These tests would not focus on analysis geared to identifying specific substances or enhancement methods but instead would be geared to improving athletes’ health. A similar approach was used in cycling before a reliable test for EPO was developed; cyclists with a hematocrit level of 50 percent or above had to miss the race and could only return once their blood levels were acceptable. If such a model was rolled out to other sports, and a wider set of health parameters measured, it would allow athletes to use certain drugs and methods that are currently banned, but perhaps only in moderate ways that would not impact negatively on their health. For some drugs with threshold levels that are widely used for doping, such as EPO, this process already occurs but on a clandestine basis.

These two steps would need to be supported by a more substantial education system. Again, in an ideal world, the athletes from a young age could be taught about healthy nutrition and the pharmacology of legal supplements and other substances to enhance performance. They could be advised on how to protect their own health in order to make good decisions. The current prohibition model undermines self-determination and leaves athletes exposed to peer pressure or unethical expectations from their coaches. The bottom line here is that empowering athletes is not a risk; it is an opportunity.

There would be many benefits for athletes of a new and more health-focused system: much less surveillance and scrutiny; lower chances of accidental use of a banned substance; and support and advice if found over the health limits — rather than simple punishment leading to stigma, loss of earnings and isolation. It might also allow leading sports organizations to better engage athletes, ask for their input in decisions, and treat them like adults who can make their own choices. Finally, this type of system would be fairer and more transparent: all competitive athletes could be located and tested when they arrive for a competition, and it would be relatively easy to focus on the podium places.

WADA is at a turning point. The next few months will be a challenging time for those leading the charge in anti-doping policies and practices. It will also be an opportunity for governing bodies, athletes, and fans to consider the alternatives, no matter how unorthodox these may seem on the surface. Doping and anti-doping are not black and white concepts that can or should always be rigidly defined. Out of the crucible of the current crisis will hopefully emerge innovation and a renewed sense of purpose that embraces the athletes’ opinions and offers a platform for them to be more involved in the outcome. After all, it is their careers and health that are on the line.

Read the full article at The Outer Line: WADA, and the future of anti-doping on VeloNews.com.

Commentary: It is time to stand up for the TT


You have to feel for Tom Dumoulin. Just when he had emerged as one of cycling’s top grand tour talents, race organizers have found a new passion: killing time trials.

The way I see it, it’s time someone stood up for the TT.

It’s been a rough few weeks for the time trial specialists. At the Tour de France route announcement, we learned that the upcoming Tour will feature one measly individual time trial at just 27 kilometers. (Yes, I’m ignoring team time trials, which punish smaller teams without rewarding individual merit. Does anyone actually like them?) The Giro d’Italia has been hailed as the grand tour for TT specialists in 2019, which is funny — a total of 58.5 kilometers of time trialing on tap next year is still quite a low number.

The trend has crossed the Atlantic too: Strong time trialists could always count on the Amgen Tour of California to give them a great opportunity to contend for a GC victory, but they may have to look elsewhere next year. For the first time, the Tour of California will not feature a time trial in 2019.

What gives?

Tejay van Garderen summed it up nicely in a recent interview with VeloNews, putting the trend in the context of other sports throwing balance out the window.

“People want to see big explosions on climbs. They don’t want to see a defensive-style race,” he said. “You see that in the NFL right now, protecting the quarterbacks, or in the NBA, where defense is almost illegal.”

It’s a fitting analogy. While I’m all for innovation geared toward upping the excitement, killing the time trial is not the way to do it.

The rationale behind the trend is understandable. The way some see it, Sky makes grand tours boring by relying on the TT to snag a big lead before sucking the life out of the mountain stages with controlled riding.

While it’s true that Sky has played this strategy to perfection in the last few Tours, it doesn’t have to be that way. TTs can be exactly the thing to spice up a race. You just need the right collection of all-rounders who can take advantage of the aero bars.

For one thing, a race with a healthy dose of time trial mileage has a much longer list of possible contenders than a climb-fest with one mountain stage after another. A race without time trials is bound to go to the best climber that manages to stay upright through three weeks. That doesn’t sound like a very suspenseful race, especially when Chris Froome often fits that bill anyway.

With Dumoulin in his prime, Richie Porte still sharp, an ascendant Primoz Roglic, and Rohan Dennis dipping a toe in the grand tour waters, now is actually the time to be embracing the TT.

More importantly, time trials have the potential to force attacks. Want to inspire Romain Bardet, Nairo Quintana, and Mikel Landa to go all-in with a desperate long-range move in week two of the Tour? Tell them they’ll be facing Froome or Geraint Thomas in a flat 50-kilometer TT in week three. Attack now, or risk feeling like Laurent Fignon on the Champs-Élysées in 1989.

Denis Menchov
Denis Menchov famously crashed in the Giro’s final-stage time trial in 2009. Photo: Tim De Waele | Getty Images

The list of stage races spiced up by time trials extends well beyond that greatest Tour ever at the end of the ’80s. Carlos Sastre blazed off the front of the pack in the Alpe d’Huez stage of the 2008 Tour knowing that rivals like Cadel Evans would punch right back in the final TT. Sastre’s solo raid up the iconic climb put him into the race lead, and he held on to seal the deal.

A hefty deficit to Tom Dumoulin in the TT forced Fabio Aru to put the hammer down in the final week of the 2015 Vuelta a España; Dumoulin eventually cracked, with Aru sealing his win in a thrilling final mountain stage.

Last year’s Tour of California was another fine example, with Egan Bernal soaring to the race lead on Gibraltar Road only to see van Garderen strike back in the TT. That compelled Bernal to dig deep again en route to South Lake Tahoe, where he took back the jersey for good.

Even when the TT guys win, the racing is usually the better for it. There’s Denis Menchov sliding across the cobbles trying to defend his Giro d’Italia lead in 2009. Not that I endorse crashing, but it sure added tension. There’s Joaquim Rodríguez digging deep in the final week of the 2012 Giro hoping to fend off Ryder Hesjedal (sorry Joaquim!). There are Quintana and Vincenzo Nibali throwing haymakers in the Dolomites with the threat of Dumoulin’s TT strength providing a spark in the 2017 Giro.

I’m not here to argue that an individual time trial is more fun to watch than a battle on Alpe d’Huez. The mountaintop finish remains the most exciting battleground a grand tour can offer. But a battle on Alpe d’Huez gets a heck of a lot more interesting when the climbers must attack, or face certain defeat. Even Froome might find himself in that position if the Tour handed Tom Dumoulin the gift of a big, flat TT one of these days.

The occasional climber-friendly stage race is fine. It keeps things interesting and spreads the love around to an even wider variety of riders. One Tour of California without a time trial won’t kill anyone. Committing to the trend across all the races we love, however, is a whole different ballgame. Time trials give us more storylines to follow, more suspense across the whole race, and that’s the sort of thing fans love.

Here’s hoping the route designers the world over can see the light sometime soon, while the pro peloton has so many promising grand tour hopefuls with talent against the clock. Our friends Tom and Primoz, and maybe even Richie and Rohan, are just waiting for their moment to give us the grand tour excitement we’ve all been hoping for.

Read the full article at Commentary: It is time to stand up for the TT on VeloNews.com.

Commentary: Remembering Paul Sherwen


Paul Sherwen, who died in his sleep Sunday at the age of 62 at his home in Uganda, had a long career as a television commentator — 33 years with Phil Liggett as the Tour de France voices for Channel 4 in England and NBC in the United States.

Before that he was one of the first Englishmen in what became known as the Foreign Legion in European cycling, breaking in as an amateur in 1977 with the vaunted ACBB team in France and joining the professional ranks a year later with Fiat.

Although he was a domestique, not a team leader, he was strong enough to finish 11th in the 1980 Milano-Sanremo and 15th in the 1984 Paris-Roubaix. In 1986, at the start of his Channel 4 microphone duties, he also won the British National Circuit Race championship and, the next year, the British National Road Race championship.

In all, he rode the Tour de France seven times, most memorably in 1985. That year, on stage 11 in the Alps, the 29-year-old Sherwen wrote his name into the Tour’s list of legends.

“It was a normal day,” he said afterward, “for everyone but me.”

Sherwen was alongside his La Redoute teammate Jerome Simon when another rider bumped Simon, who began to wobble. “I grabbed Jerome by the jersey and tried to hold him on,” Sherwen remembered. “In trying to help him, we touched wheels and I fell on the side of the road atop a crash barrier.” That was after one kilometer of the 204-kilometer stage.

“I was quite stunned and in a lot of pain. I landed on my head as well as my back, but it was the back that hurt.” By the time Sherwen was rolling again, the pack was nearly 15 minutes ahead except for two teammates, Alain Bondue and Regis Simon, Jerome’s brother, who shepherded Sherwen slowly.

“After 30 kilometers, I told them to leave me,” Sherwen said. “I had so much pain in my back I had trouble following them and I thought there was no reason they should stay and throw away their race on an invalid. I told them to leave me, but they wouldn’t go, so I had to tell them two or three times.”

After 80 kilometers, Bondue and Simon obeyed. “We decided we had to respect the man. We went off thinking that was the end of him,” one of them said. Sherwen was alone.

“A lot of times I felt like getting off but I kept thinking it was probably my last Tour de France and that was no way to end it. ‘Carry on, carry on,’ I kept saying to myself. “What a futile effort’ I kept thinking, but what I was saying was ‘Carry on.’”

He finished the stage 63 minutes behind the winner and half an hour behind Simon, the next-to-last rider.

By the rules, Sherwen should have been put out of the Tour. “There are four reasons to avoid eliminating a rider,” he explained. “The general speed of the stage, the point where the accident occurred, the effort the rider made to finish and the amount of traffic blocking the road. They cited all four reasons to put me back in the race.

“But first I went straight to hospital for X-rays. They showed extremely large bruisings of the head and shoulders. I was back in the race by the next morning’s start but I had a pretty rough two or three days afterward. And I finished, didn’t I?”

Sherwen made it to Paris, 141st of 144 riders.

“People say it was a fantastic feat,” he said of his long solitary ride, “but for me, it was nothing except exceptional. I think it was part of what the Tour de France is all about.”

Read the full article at Commentary: Remembering Paul Sherwen on VeloNews.com.

Commentary: Wiggins, Thomas take separate paths through mainstream spotlight


How often do Tour de France winners join A-list celebrities on talk show sofas? During his heyday, Lance Armstrong was a regular of course, relaxed and assured in his preferred dark jacket and powder blue shirt combo, before that talk show of talk shows, when he sat down and had a long chat with Oprah.

In Britain meanwhile, it feels like there’s been a revolving door of Tour winners on TV. From Bradley Wiggins to Geraint Thomas — whose appearance was just last week — both have sat on the Graham Norton show’s prestigious prime-time sofa, on which everyone from Tom Cruise to Jennifer Lawrence, Mark Wahlberg, Meryl Streep, and Hugh Jackman have appeared.

Oddly though, Chris Froome has never enjoyed such a high profile, despite his six grand tour wins, which probably tells you everything you need to know about the coolness of Froome’s relationship with the ‘old country.’

Both Wiggins and Thomas have books out at the moment: the 2012 Tour winner’s coffee table book “Icons” and Thomas’s glory, glory tome, “The Tour According To G: My Journey to the Yellow Jersey.”

Both have been treading the boards on promotional tours. Talk to those on the road with the Welshman and the feedback is all about his easy, self-deprecating charm, good manners and willingness to please his fans.

Over on Wiggins’s “Icons” tour, for a book which includes that now infamous lauding of Lance, the vibe was a little bit different. The Independent newspaper described spending an evening with Wiggins as “emotional and funny” but also betraying “a deep dislike for everyone and everything.”

Other reviews for the Wiggins show were also, as they say, mixed. There was supposedly a lot of listening to Wiggins moan and moan — and moan again — about how terrible life has been for him, and how a succession of “arsewipes,” as he called them, had plagued his progress.

You might have thought that, with all those Olympic and world medals, the Tour de France title, the stage race wins and the hour record, the home in Mallorca, those fabulous suits, the books and clothing lines, all achieved before the age of 40, that Wiggins might be finally, realizing what a gilded career he’d had.

But no. Maybe they should have called the “Evening With Bradley Wiggins” tour something like “Settling Scores,” given how many grudges he seems to bear. Is there anyone he likes, respects, grudgingly admires even? Ah yes: Lance.

Wiggins seemed to have had plenty to unload every night during the shows. There were “chuck all the medals in the bin, they’re all worthless” moments, the lambasting of former associates, the inevitable, Trump-like gripes about the media and moments of “screw the world” boozing.

Wiggins took aim at everyone from Dave Brailsford, who might, given his part in his career, feel a little aggrieved, to the much-reviled tabloid, the Daily Mail, which led the way on the Jiffy bag investigation.

Brailsford and Wiggins were once very close. It’s worth remembering that Wiggins wasn’t slagging off Brailsford when he won Paris-Nice, the Tour of Romandie, the Dauphiné and the Tour de France in 2012. In fact, after Wiggins won the Tour of Romandie, by hanging on to his race lead in the time trial to Crans Montana, he and Brailsford fell to the tarmac and hugged like father and son.

Nor was Wiggins angry in the summer of 2012 when the Mail’s sports pages suggested that, “Wiggins is the greatest sportsman this country has produced …” and labeled him “Britain’s greatest Olympian.”

“The greatest?” the Mail said of Wiggins’s astonishing 2012 season. “Increasingly, the tag is irresistible.”

But then that was all before the Fancy Bears targeted Wiggins’s questionable use of TUEs — and make no mistake, as members of the British parliament’s DCMS select committee knew — the Russian hackers did target Wiggins, in a concerted effort to discredit him.

Even so, the depth of Wiggins’s bitterness has surprised even those who knew he’d been left scarred by the infamous Jiffygate affair, and there’s no doubt that while the star of 2012 retains a “warts and all” popularity among hardcore bike geeks, his profile has fallen among general sports fans.

In the industry, Wiggins’s standing is also precarious. It’s an open secret that he can be “difficult,” and that he has long benefited from a “Brad’s just being Brad” pass, which lasted as long as the talent was big enough to obscure the tantrums.

Brailsford and the Daily Mail now join a long list of former associates — journalists, teammates, collaborators, and confidantes — that have all been treated like unwanted Christmas presents.

Thomas, by contrast, is enjoying a golden period. Leadership anxieties at Team Sky will be eased by his popularity at home and by his status as clear favorite for the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year title, which is decided by a public vote in mid-December. Success would also intensify pressure for him to assume Team Sky leadership next July.

Wiggins meanwhile will watch from a distance. Having been once ensconced inside the tent — he even sat on a throne after winning the 2012 time trial gold medal in Hampton Court Palace — it seems he is now outside, pissing in.

Jeremy Whittle is the author of “Bad Blood: the secret life of the Tour de France,” and “Ventoux: Sacrifice and suffering on the Giant of Provence.” He covers the Tour de France for The Guardian.

Read the full article at Commentary: Wiggins, Thomas take separate paths through mainstream spotlight on VeloNews.com.