So much road cycling news - so little time
The return of White?
It was interesting to read that Matt White, former Postal Service rider, is waiting by the phone for Orica GreenEdge cycling team to offer him his old job back. In case you’ve forgotten, White admitted to doping and was fired from his position as sports director on the Australian registered team.
White tells Cyclingnews that he thinks that it shouldn’t have been the Postal Service squad that needed investigation, but instead the entire era. But realistically how do you do that? The fact of the matter is that US Anti-Doping Agency went after the biggest fish there was – seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong. While numerous riders have come forward from other teams stating they have an organized team wide doping program in the 90s-early 2000s (I’m looking at you Rabobank. Rabobank’s now called Blanco), Armstrong and company were the ones winning one of the biggest sporting events in the world seven times in a row. The result is that Armstrong’s admission trickled down to the rest of the peloton as it became apparent that the open secret of doping within the peloton could no longer be contained. Too many people were speaking the truth. Those involved in widespread doping spoke out to get ahead of the story so they could shape their narrative rather than let the press do it. In some cases this is all it took to return to racing.
White has served his suspension and my thought is that he should be allowed back if there’s a job available for him. But why am I so harsh on Armstrong you may be asking yourself? Yes, I have made no secret that the disgraced rider should slink away and not involve himself with professional cycling again. My reason is that Armstrong was the kingpin of doping. He organized the doping, along with Johan Bruyneel, the transportation of it and the selling. By his own admission he was a bully. Those factors are where I draw the line. It’s one thing to use, get caught, and take your punishment. It’s another to be the top of the doping pyramid and intimidate people to be quiet through lawsuits.
Are you Team Wiggo or Team Froome?
Wisely Team Principal at Sky, David Brailsford, named Chris Froome as the solo leader going into this year’s Tour de France. Mr. Brailsford must have read up on the history of cycling and realized the “we’re going into this Tour, Giro, Vuelta with two leaders and let the road sort it out strategy” is never a good idea. Dave put on his big boy undies and made the right call – go with one leader.
The two leader plan divides and conquers a team. Sure it’s been successful: the LeMond and Hinault, as well as Armstrong and Contador internal team battles spring to mind. However, those are short term success and the blow back, post-grand tour, is a team divided. One of the two leaders leaves; a team’s potential strength is halved and management looks like they’re not capable of running anything more complicated than a neighborhood lemonade stand.
While Wiggins was battling it out in Italy, Froome is doing intervals up Mt. Ventoux. I wonder if he fully believes Brailford’s claim that House Sky is united? I tend to believe that while Brailsford has made mistakes in managing public relations with the media, he is managing his riders correctly. He must have had a conversation with Wiggins to set him straight. The Tour winner’s comments prior to the Giro stating his form would be good was the wrong message to send to the public and his teammates.
For the sake of the team Brailsford did the right thing – set the ground rules for the Tour. For media types like me, it’s one less drama we might have to write about. I can live with that.
Giro d’Italia goodness
Julien Prétot, AP reporter, posted on Twitter, “A defending champion who goes on the attack on stage 3 is pure class. Period.” Prétot is talking about the Giro d’Italia. What a show of panache by Garmin-Sharp’s Ryder Hesjedal! His numerous attacks made the last 30 minutes of racing exciting. I hope this is a sign of what’s to come in the remaining stages.
From a strategic point of view it was also smart to attack. Being out front on the risky descent was the safe move, plus it showed that Hesjedal is a true contender for the overall.
That said, Wiggins and Team Sky have a dangerous advantage over Hesjedal and other rivals such as BMC’s Cadel Evans. Garmin-Sharp’s Jonathan Vaughters posted on Twitter that he thought the team’s performance was good, not great. However, I think he might be a bit concerned by the time gap of 19 seconds that separates Hesjedal and Wiggins. It’s a small split, but it will be a challenge to take back any time from the well-oiled Sky squad and Wiggins. BMC ought to be a bit concerned too. Evans was second on stage 3, but he remains 25 seconds behind Wiggins after a poor team time trial performance.
Speaking of BMC, anyone seen Thor Hushovd lately? He had a respectable start to the season, but now he’s nowhere. I thought this might be his year of redemption, but I suspect unless he scores some prestigious victories (ie a stage at the Tour de France) he may be racing a BMC for the last time. Whereabouts, anyone?
Bad luck of the day award goes to Michele Scarponi. Scarponi is a contender in the “fight for pink”, but crashed in stage 3 with five kilometers to go and lost 44 seconds. Luckily no heavy damage - just road rash and a busted up bike.
The Lampre-Merida leader’s chances for the overall took a big hit so he might focus on stage wins and become the fly in the ointment for Sky. For example – Scarponi might be too far to be in the hunt for the overall, but no team can afford to let him go up the road and scratch back time. He’s far too dangerous to allow that.
With just a few Italian stages under our belt this Giro d’Italia is proving to be a good one. As always the Giro d’Italia news won’t end when the peloton rolls into Brescia. You can expect a constant dribbling of drama until the Tour de France and I hope I can expect you to check out the following: