“How flat is it?”. Or in other words, “will Cav win?”. The question on everyone’s lips. Some say it’s flat. Others say not so flat. David Millar reckons it ‘looks good for a sprint’ after riding the course. But most say it’s flattish, and not hilly, but definitely not flat-flat.
So will Cav win? Well, if it comes down to a bunch sprint then you wouldn’t bet against him. The gradients of the Copenhagen course may decide whether this will be Britain’s most successful Worlds ever.
The Rainbow Jersey flies past the fans on Whitehall in the final stage of 2011′s Tour of Britain
From my vantage point at the 200m to go point I only saw the blur of a NetApp rider fly past. It wasn’t until watching the highlights later that evening that I actually saw Cavendish’s incredible sprint. Gapped by as much as 20 metres at the final corner in slippery wet conditions, and separated from his lead out man Renshaw, a home win looked unlikely; but the burst of speed that took Cav past everyone and across the line first was phenomenal.
With just a week to go until the World’s in Copenhagen, if Cav gets to the finish with the leading bunch, it’s hard to see who could possibly stop him from taking the Rainbow jersey.
The riders took to the start line, the public came out to line the route, drivers found themselves caught in lines of traffic jams; after years of being encouraged to ‘Back the Bid’, Sunday’s London-Surrey Classic gave Londoners and its neighbours a first taste of what it might be like to play host to the Olympics next year.
As the enthusiastic bidding by the British public for bad seats at esoteric events had indicated, we have a massive appetite for large sporting events in this country – for many yesterday this would have been their first experience of watching a road race. Brought out by curiosity perhaps, interested to see what all the fuss was about. Or possibly eager to get the 2012 Olympics started early. The crowds came out to watch a handful of top pros contest a slightly unexciting race, on an unchallenging course over a shortened distance. But any shortcomings in the racing didn’t detract from the enthusiasm from those on the road side.
Despite some popular myths, the Channel 4 theme tune is not by Kraftwerk, but by Pete Shelley of The Buzzcocks.
With the first few notes of that synthesiser theme – it’s suddenly July twenty odd years ago. On a warm summers evening it’s dinner time so Dad has to set the VCR to record the half hour highlights show on Channel 4. Sometimes the timer cuts off the start, other more infuriating times it cuts off Gary Imlach’s closing round up of the day’s events and the preview of tomorrow’s. But as consolation we get to fast forward the ad breaks.
Vinokourov wins stage 3 of the recent Tour of Romandie, whilst Mikael Cherel protests that he was impeded during the sprint. Dirty Vino… Photography Graham Watson/Cycling Weekly
“Hey 24, if you switch on me again…”, he didn’t finish with the rest of the threat, but whatever. I needed to extricate myself from the slow moving bunch and latch onto the fast disappearing break that was about to crest the top of the hill. This was the defining moment of the race, and politeness and pleasantries were the first casualties. Part of me flinched at the wrongdoing – but only a little part. I accepted the role of villain, gambling that I would emerge heroic at the finish.
The line between hero and villain is lightly drawn, constantly shifting depending on our biased perspectives. Cycling is a sport with wide expanses of grey, and yet it is often painted in stark black and white. For some we forgive and forget, but not for others. The determination to succeed in some is seen as ruthless, in others it’s admired. Some are exulted for their achievements, for others they are grounds for suspicion. Some performances are regarded as unbelievable, and others deemed to be beyond belief. Why this need for heroes and villains? And who gets to decide which is which?
Many will be meeting new teammates for the first time, new kit, new bikes, new expectations. After months of social rides and training camps, it’s back to business. On Saturday Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, followed hot on its heels by Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne the following day.
Like the first day of school, nerves buzz around the peloton. Even the hardest of training rides is no comparison to what’s about to happen. Everyone waits for the start impatiently and expectantly. The first taste of burn in their legs and lungs, the surge of the peloton, the organised chaos, crashes and near-misses, the white intensity. This is it – the season starts here.
These previously unpublished photos by Camille McMillan capture the start of the 2009 season at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne…
Photographer Camille McMillan has contributed to publications such as Rouleur and collaborated with Team Sky pro Michael Barry on ‘Le Métier – the seasons of a professional cyclist’. A new updated second edition is now available.
Above & Top: A last minute piss, and some final words of advice. A bleak Belgian car park plays host to the team’s preparations – it’s many miles away from the sun and glitz of the summer grand tours.
Right: New season, familiar rituals. A CC Bourges rider gives a team mate a hand pinning on his numbers.
Trouble with a new gadget? Or maybe showing off his winter mileage stats? And does the plaster on his knee hide a nick from the first shave of the year?
Photograph of Emma Pooley winning La Fléche Wallonne in 2010 from Cycling News
The hot topic recently, lighting up blogs and fuelling the ping pong of Twitter debates, has been the inequalities endemic in cycling. The hand wringing, the scratching of heads, the unfathomable truths; how can it be that female riders are paid so little compared to men, why is women’s cycling practically ignored by the mainstream media? What can be done to correct these injustices? How do we move towards a fairer sporting world where everyone can live in harmony and draw a decent living wage from professionally pursuing their calling in the services of the great God of Sport?
No money, mo’ problems
Men’s professional cycling has been around for quite some time – the culture, folklore, infrastructure, fan base all well established. And yet it remains a minority sport in pretty much every country in the world except for maybe a couple of northern European exceptions. Only a handful of men, in an extraordinarily competitive and poorly rewarded profession, make a truly comfortable living, and even less end their career in the knowledge that their financial future is secure. Many teams – aside from the likes of Sky and Katusha – struggle for funding, many smaller races fight for their existence in the face of backers withdrawing funding.
And it is with this backdrop that we have calls for parity with men’s and women’s cycling – more money, more airtime, more column inches. It’s a noble aim, but with even the men’s sport poorly funded in all but the highest stratospheres, is it really feasible?