Posts Tagged ‘World Championships’

Three Spanish cyclists and the mystery of the third person

January 20, 2014

Three cyclists, three quotes, one common factor.

Here is the final line of a news report on last year’s world championships in Florence:

“Clearly this is Purito’s destiny […] To lose the Giro by a whisker, then the Vuelta and now the Worlds.”

This is from the pages of Procycling magazine in 2012:

“Carlos Sastre was there for him; and when he had someone who could make his dreams come true, Carlos Sastre was in the second line.”

And this is how one rider assessed his previous season last week:

“I was often in the top five in races that mattered but that’s not good enough for Alberto Contador.”

In all three cases, the quote comes from the rider himself. Joaquim Rodriguez, Sastre and Contador are all talking about themselves in the third person.

I’m reliably informed by two people who, unlike me, can actually speak Spanish that this isn’t a quirk of the language: referring to yourself in the third person is unusual and just as likely to make you look pompous among Spaniards as it is among English-speakers. So I wonder if this is self-aggrandisement as a form of defence, because in all three cases the riders are trying to come to terms with a significant disappointment: Purito narrowly losing the world champs, Sastre constantly being Bjarne Riis’s second choice, and Contador winning only one race in 2013.

Cycling is a cruel sport with many big egos. Which makes it a bit of a mystery why we don’t see riders of all nationalities talking like this when the chips are down.

Advertisements

The tifosi at the World Championships

October 4, 2013

toscana 2013 finishing gate at road race

Me and Jen are in the seating area by the finish of the World Championship road race, surrounded by hundreds of bellowing Italians. It’s the final lap of the 16.6km circuit, and they are chanting one name: “VIN-CEN-ZO! VIN-CEN-ZO!” Determined Nibali, with the hopes of the host nation resting upon him, has refused to allow Joaquim Rodriguez to escape on the descent of the Fiesole. Earlier, there were long, deep groans followed by much emphatic gesturing towards the video screens when the Giro d’Italia champion slipped on the tarmac, as if the rain’s treachery had caused a deep, personal offence to each and every one of the tifosi here in Florence. “If Nibali wins,” Jen says, stifling a laugh at the very un-British outpouring of emotion, “we’re going to have to run for cover.” I get the feeling we may have to do the same even if he doesn’t…

Such passion is a contrast to four days earlier when polite applause greeted the competitors as they turned into the corner of the time trial circuit that took them north away from the bank of the Arno. Marco Pinotti got a big cheer, as did podium boys Cancellara, Wiggins and Martin, but that was about it. A bewildered Japanese lady got Jen to explain to her how a time trial works after enquiring in broken English if the event was “a European match”; a British woman who had probably wandered down the road from the Uffizi asked two men if they could move out of the way so she could take a picture (the tabards should have been a giveaway: they were press photographers, dear). It’s fair to say these were not big cycling fans.

But seated here at the incongruously named Nelson Mandela forum, it’s clear we are among those who know their Fabians from their Nairos. When Mark Cavendish slows down at the 150m sign moments before becoming one of the 146 riders to abandon, the Italian crowd instantly give the former world champ a rapturous round of applause; some even stand up for him. (A side note on Cav: I would love to know what an annoyed-looking Geraint Thomas said to the Manxman around half an hour into the race as Great Britain needlessly wasted their energy leading the peloton on the 100km-run to the finishing circuit.) One fan who gets to his feet is a testy blond fella in the front row who is not at all pleased that some of those in the crowd from the seats behind him are now politely jostling for space by the barrier. At one point he has a loud argument with one of the attendants. I’d like to tell him he should cool it: he’s in the one sheltered area of the circuit, unlike the poor wet sods on the other side of the road who have to endure diluvial conditions for hours. But I don’t speak Italian, and he’s got a Vinokourov-like pugnacity about him, so I don’t.

The haves and the have-nots: we have a roof, these poor drenched souls do not.

The haves and the have-nots: we have a roof, these poor drenched souls do not.

Each time the race rushes towards us, I experience a measure of what it must have been like when the first cinema audiences saw the Lumiere brothers’ locomotive seemingly burst out of the screen. One second they are televisual images, the next they are right in front of us, like Morten Harket stepping out of his rectangular, one-dimensional prison into the real world. By the time poor Purito becomes flesh and blood for the last time, it’s clear he is about to lose. The Italians yell and cheer, but they’ve stopped banging on the barriers. There’s a sullen silence moments after Rui Costa raises his arms in victory and then everyone begins to shuffle off, except for the Italian Vinokourov. He’s staring into the distance, making a quintessentially Italian hand gesture: thumb, index finger and middle finger pinched together, tapping the side of his head. The azzuri: what were they thinking? Minutes later, as Jen and I trudge with the crowd under the finishing gate, I want to know what the tifosi are thinking too.

The bicycles of Florence

October 2, 2013

I’ll be writing something soon about what we got up to during the World Championships. In the meantime, here’s a quick post about a few of the bicycles me and Jen saw in the shops and restaurants of Florence.

Lots of businesses put on special bike-themed displays.

shop window in florence with bike

My favourite was in Obika, which is apparently a “mozzarella bar” (not sure how that works – “A pint of cheese, please barman!”) nestled amid a number of upmarket shops on the Via dé Tornabuoni. Rather than put bikes behind glass, they stuck their vintage machines in the courtyard which serves as the main dining area.

obika florence bianchi

obika florence bartali bicycle

It was a bit weird going in there, gawping at their Bianchi and Bartali bicycles and leaving without actually ordering anything. My nerves got to me, which is why one of the pictures came out a bit blurry.

obika florence l'eroica

I’m sorry, reader. I’m so, so sorry.

If the bikes in Obika represented one identifiable aspect of Italy – the love and respect of tradition – then the machine in the window of the Salvatore Ferragamo outlet represented the country’s opposite trait: the unashamed pride in showing off. Behold, reader, a gold bicycle in all its glory…

salvatore ferragamo gold bike

Jen wasn’t impressed. That’s her on the left, looking bored. Each to their own.

I’ve written something for the latest issue of Cycling Weekly

September 26, 2013

I wasn’t going to do any blogposts this week as me and Jen are in Florence for the World Championships. So this is just a quick note to say that my review of the Challenge Vercors is in the current edition of Cycling Weekly. I haven’t seen it yet, but apparently it’s in the sportive round-up and it looks something like this…

cycling weekly challenge vercors review

It’s got snow, a gorge and I dun rote it. What else could you possibly ask for? Buy your copy today! (Or tomorrow if you’re busy.)

It will cost you €100 to stand on one of the best spots of the World Championships’ course

September 4, 2013

Jen and I have been planning our trip to the World Championships, which takes place at the end of the month. We figured it would probably be a right old hassle to get from our hotel in Florence to the Fiesole, the longest of two climbs on the closing circuit, so we decided to fork out €100 each for seats by the finish line. And I’m pleased that we did, because we’re going to be in row ‘A’! Woo-hoo! That’ll be a prime perving spot for Jen, especially if David Millar turns up.

As far as I know, getting into the grandstand at the finish of the Worlds usually involves opening your wallet – there was certainly a charge last year in Valkenburg, and I’m pretty sure that was also the case when Cipollini triumphed at Zolder in 2002, although I was on a press trip that year so I was too busy scoffing vol-au-vents in the VIP area to investigate. What has surprised me this time ’round is that the Italians are also charging €100 to watch the race on the Via Salviati, the finishing circuit’s short, punchy climb… and you don’t even get to park your bum on a plastic seat.

So, basically, that’s €100 to experience what most of us expect to do for free: stand by the side of a public road and watch a bike race. That sounds a bit rubbish, doesn’t it?

To be fair, the climb is only 600m long and it appears to be quite narrow, judging by footage three enthusiastic Americans have made of the circuit…

uci worlds circuit 2013 via salviati

…so ticketing is probably an effective way of limiting access to what appears to be a restricted space. And the price gives you three days’ access, which covers the men’s, women’s and juniors’ road races.

But even so, it’s £84. Access to Box Hill, the centrepiece of the 2012 Olympic road race, only cost 15 quid. Why so blimmin’ high, UCI?

The DYNAMITE! Five: The week in cycling, remixed. Issue #17

September 16, 2011

5 DOWN Kara Kum
It’s been seven days of utter confusion in our famous soundproof bunker. On Friday we thought Rapha had launched a range of jerseys designed to be worn in an insalubrious area of south-east London, until we opened their email and realised it wasn’t that sort of “New Cross Collection”. Then, on Tuesday night, Guy Pearson ended a day at his intriguing new bike boutique in East Sheen by asking “who has the longest regular vomited”, and it took us a few minutes to work out his phone had autocorrected “commute”. So, naturally, when we stumbled across a mention of a bike called Kara Kum on page 195 of the latest Cycling Plus, we thought that too was a typo. But no: Dawes really did christen a bicycle – a women’s-specific bicycle – with a name that sounds like it belongs to a porn star. Which could explain why you don’t see that many women riding them.

4 DOWN Dating
Speaking of rude matters, a matchmaking website called freedating.co.uk has interviewed 10,000 of its members and concluded that cyclists of both genders are less likely than average to get up to a bit of how’s-yer-father on a first date. Reporting on the survey in road.cc on Tuesday, Simon MacMichael mused: “Perhaps the finding reflects the typical cyclist’s behaviour when it comes to buying a new bike, which after all is a relationship that all of us hope will last a long time when contemplating it, and not to be entered lightly.” And you can see where Si is coming from: it may well be the case that fellas are looking for smooth, assured handling, while ladies perhaps want a model that’s stiff yet compliant. But knowing cyclists the way The DYNAMITE! Files does, it’s more probable that competitive cyclepeople equate dating with training, enduring many long, gruelling sessions before the “big event”. Which ends, of course, with bitter disappointment and self-loathing, no matter how vigorous the final spurt.

3 UP The Italian national team’s speed suit
Cycling is all about cultivating an air of mystery; the less you know about a rider, a team or a DT Swiss anodised nipple, the more you want to know. So well done to Cycling Weekly for running a blurry photo of the Castelli San Remo aero skin suit which the Italian team will be wearing at the World Championships in Copenhagen. We should all fool ourselves into believing that the hi-tech outfit is so fast you can barely see it – for the day when a more detailed photograph emerges showing how the design allows you to easily answer a call of nature will be the moment that the spell is broken.

2 UP Green
As a predominantly text-based outlet, this blog cannot claim to know much about colour or design, but we are nevertheless concerned by road.cc’s report that the hue du jour for bikes next year will be green. It’s such a conspicuous colour that having lots of green bikes cluttering up the visual landscape will surely be the equivalent of PUTTING EVERYTHING IN CAPITAL LETTERS. WHAT A – sorry, didn’t realise the caps lock was still on – what a pain.

1 UP Hurricane Katia
Sombre faces at the Tour of Britain on Monday as the 130km stage from Kendal to Blackpool was cancelled to avoid Hurricane Katia transforming the peloton into a human version of a record-breaking domino-toppling display. “In my 30 years of organising cycling events,” said downbeat race director Mick Bennett, “I have never once had to cancel a stage before it even started, so this is not a decision that has been taken lightly.” All of which makes it sound like this wasn’t a great day for the ToB. But it so was! Because the United Kingdom has finally stepped out of the shadows of road racing’s European heartland. Forget the snow-smothered Gavia and the mud-covered cobbles up the Kopp – our proud sceptred isle can now boast that it has hosted a stage so bloody dangerous nobody was actually allowed to race. And our country achieved this milestone by utilising a mainstay of British life: godawful weather. So thank you, Katia – you may from the west coast of Africa, but you will always be British to us.