Friday, 30 September 2011

The Manx Missile – New World Champion

It was brilliant to see Mark Canvendish, ‘The Manx Missile’, take out the world championships road race gold medal last Sunday. I have to admit – I am a big fan. I love the way he goes about his cycling. He wears his heart on his sleeve, is a straight talker and never forgets the people who have helped to get him where he is. He has gone through a transformation in recent years, turning himself from a yappy kid to one of the most respected riders in the PRO ranks. He has learnt that sprinters don’t win races without help, and he’s learnt when to be arrogant, and more importantly, when to be humble. And it’s this humble, gifted racer, who speaks with passion that we all like so much.

Cavendish started out his cycling life on the bmx and then moved to mountain biking at 12. Inspired by David Millar, he started winning races and took steps to become a professional cyclist. He began life as a professional on the track, winning gold at the 2005 world championships in the Madison. In 2006 he began his road cycling career, and quickly started earning his reputation as the fastest sprinter in the world. To date, he has won 20 stages at the Tour de France and in the 2011 edition, took home the coveted green jersey which had eluded him in previous years.

As far as the World Championships decider played out, it was a fast and furious race. At 260 km’s, it was a long course and the field went out hard in the beginning, averaging 50km/h for the first hour of racing. Many break aways were reigned in and despite many of the predictions by cycling commentators, it came down to a bunch sprint that initially looked to be controlled by an Aussie train. The push by Cav at the end was not as explosive as normal, but steady. He pushed to the front, as fast as a missile, and made it over the line first, despite a massive effort by Matty Goss, who came VERY close to coming over the top of Cav at the end. I was a happy man – two of my favourite riders placed 1 and 2.

I respect the way Cav races, it takes a lot to come through at the end smash the opposition. Trust me I know, it’s guys like him who beat me in the weekend road races. You can be as strong as you want for 50 or 100 or 200 km’s, but if you don’t have the legs at the end then forget about it. He also brings a flair to the UCI Pro Tour that could be compared to the Armstrong effect. Like Lance, Cav can talk – and it’s stuff you actually want to hear, not the typical dross that AFL or NRL players dish out. And… he has a sensational girlfriend, Page 3 girl, Peta Todd. Nice one Cav!

Monday, 26 September 2011

Perth's city trails

I was in Perth all of last week for business and, as any bike nerd does when away from home, I took great interest in the visible bike culture I could see on Perth's streets and parks. Perth lends itself well to excellent cycling infrastructure - a cashed up city council with mining tax revenue to burn, a relatively flat metropolitan area, a plethora of parks, and well planned inner city streets that are being re-developed to accommodate cyclists.

From what I could tell as I roamed the city, cycling is very popular and the trails are well used. The key (I think) to Perth's cycling infrastructure in the beautiful Swan river, which lends it's banks to a brilliant trail all the way from the city to Fremantle. I didn't get to ride it but hope to some day. For the roadies craving hills there's the climb from the city to Kings Park and I'm told there are some decent climbs not too far out of the city.

Perhaps Perth's biggest cycling advantage is its favourable weather - when I was there it was 27 degrees and blue skies... but alas, I'm now back in Melbourne and I must now jump on the bike and ride home from work, and as a welcome home it looks like it's just about to start raining! Ahhh, Melbourne gotta love it!

Perth from King's Park

Heading into the city

Approaching the bell tower at Barrack st Jetty

Bike trail along the Mitchell Freeway

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Vuelta Wrap

I know I'm a bit late to do a Vueta wrap, but I've gotta write something. It's one of the biggest cycling races in the world... one of the 'Big Three'. But to be honest with you, even if I wanted to do a complete wrap of Spain's premier road stage race - the Vuelta a Espana, I couldn't.

The truth is that it passed me by completely. And it seems I'm not the only one. Everyone I have spoken to, friends and colleagues alike, have said the same thing. They just weren't interested. And many of my most frequented cycling websites have reported the same thing.

It's not like I didn't care at all, I still had to see who picked up the stage wins and I was keen to see if Bradley Wiggins could come back from a smashed collar bone in the Tour de France and take the win, but as for staying up late and watching the SBS coverage - forget it. Thing is... I don't know why.

Did we all have hangovers from one of most engaging TDF's in recent years? Did the lack of the big names have some impact? I mean, who the hell is Cobo anyway? Did the timing of USA Pro Cycling Challenge distract us? Or was it the course? Were the stages uninventive and boring? I know a few people have suggested that the lack of a decisive penultimate stage killed the excitement. And maybe, for us Aussies, it was the late start time of the coverage (11:30pm). That's way past my bedttime on a school night!

Whatever the reason, our lack of interest is a problem for Unipublic, the organising body. At a boom time for international cycling, there shouldn't be such a widespread lack of interest in one of our sports biggest races. The need to make adjustments and tweaks to ensure we are glued to our TV sets. If they cant attract the big names because they are all spent after the TDF - then delay the race a few weeks and offer more incentives for riders and teams. No one want to see the downfall of one of the pillars of cycling.

Anyhow - congratulations to Cobo. If we didn't know who he was before - we certainly do now. And we will all stand up and take notice of him from now on I'm sure! And, like me, he rides a Fuji!