Road cycling round up
Women's cycling has continued to get the short stick. The Tour of Languedoc Roussillon in France was cancelled less than 24 hours before the start, and then reinstated, but too late for stage 1 to be contested. Currently the race is under way and will finish this Wednesday. Would a cancellation of a men's race been handled in such a poor manner?
The Amgen Tour of California concluded over the weekend and before the men hit the roads of San Jose for the time trial, an invited group of professional women cyclists competed on the same course. Unfortunately they had to share the road with amateur racers. But at least there was video coverage, no? Yes, the TourTracker did broadcast the ladies racing, but it stopped after only two racers had crossed the finish line and with no results. To add injury to insult, the producers didn't switch to the men's race - we had a dark screen.
In defense to the California organizers, the camera motos were pulled back from the ladies' race so they could cover the men's time trial. But is that really fair?
Women's racing is at a crux in the road. On one hand there seems to be more attention paid to women's racing. On the other it seems to be done with half the effort - case in point the already mentioned Tour of Languedoc Roussillon and the women's time trial at the Amgen Tour of California.
Women cyclists shouldn't be satisfied with these half-efforts to promote their sport. In fact this only shows people how women's cycling is an already marginalized sport and can be pushed to the side when it's not convenient.
Proponents of women's cycling ask why a women’s race can’t be run in conjunction with a men's race. Races such as the Redlands Classic and the Tour of the Gila in the U.S. manage to pull it off every year. Race organizers counter that argument with the tried and true answer that there isn't the sponsorship money needed to fund a women's race because any race, men’s or women’s, needs to make a profit.
The lack of major women's cycling races comes down to the lack of imagination, combined with the inability by marketing people to leverage women's cycling as a package with the men's race. Another factor is the UCI itself and its president Pat “Foot in mouth” McQuaid.
Mr. McQuaid infamously stated that women's cycling hasn't progressed to warrant more than a minimum salary. This is a slap in the face to women's cycling and shows how out of touch the Irishman is about the sport he governs.
Next year I challenge the Amgen Tour of California to organize a women's professional time trial that isn't an invite-only and isn’t run like a sideshow. The following years the organizers should invest money into a women's stage race that coincides with the men's. Let's not stop there. I also challenge the other big domestic stage races to organize a women's race. I know they can do it.
Watch video highlights from all stages of the 2013 Amgen Tour of California in our videos section (USA access only).
This goes to show you the unpredictability of bike racing. As I write this it's the second and final rest day of the Giro d'Italia 2013. My five-star favorite at the start was Sir Bradley Wiggins of Team Sky Pro Cycling. I also expected great things from defending Giro d’Italia champion Ryder Hesjedal of Garmin-Sharp. Instead both of these guys are gone, victims of illness. That's a shame as these two were set to battle it out in the final week with Cadel Evans (BMC Racing Team) and Vincenzo Nibali (Pro Team Astana).
Before the start I had also said Evans was riding the Giro d’Italia just to prepare for the Tour de France - finishing, maybe, in the top-ten.
Instead Nibali is leading the Giro and Evans is over a minute back, but in 2nd position. At this point the Giro is Nibali's to lose. He has shown his strength in the mountains and it will take a Britney Spears-type melt-down for him to give up the pink jersey.
Coming to Team Sky's rescue is Colombian Rigoberto Uran. He has yet again proven that climbing is in the Colombian DNA, when it comes to cyclists. A top-three in the Giro final overall is a strong possibility considering the final race against the clock is short and uphill.
Wiggins’ abandonment of the Giro d’Italia is also interesting in regards to how it might play out for the upcoming Tour de France. Team Sky's principal Dave Brailsford said the Giro d’Italia is Wiggins' and teammate Chris Froome gets the team's full support at the Tour de France. Of course that was before Wiggo dropped out. Not many people believed that Wiggins wouldn't try to take the yellow jersey at the Tour if given the opportunity. Will Wiggins' departure from the Giro change the dynamics within the team for July? Will Sir Wiggins convalesce and fight for the yellow jersey, or will he support Froome?
If Sky wants to be successful at the Tour they need to throw their support behind one rider. Two leaders is a house divided and as I wrote last week, that doesn't do anyone any good. Brailsford needs to sit down with Wiggins and tell him that his chance was the Giro and it's gone. He now needs to support Froome.
Froome on the other hand had better sleep with one eye open, regardless to what Wiggins and Brailsford might say to the press. Also, Froome might want to look into the possibility of transferring a new team for 2014. If Froome indeed wins the Tour, Wiggins is bound to want another crack at it as well. “Let the road decide who will be team leader” is a bad strategy. Call RadioShack and Astana if you want to double check. A team needs one leader and Sky has been blessed (or maybe cursed) with having too many strong riders on the roster. Let's not forget Uran too – he’ll need only a few more years of experience before he’ll be capable of leading a successful squad at a grand tour.
My words of wisdom to Brailsford are to back one rider in this year’s Tour de France and then let Froome out of his contract like he did Mark Cavendish. This concession will go a long ways in unifying Team Sky rather than forcing teammates into an energy consuming game of choosing sides, opting for Team Froome or Team Wiggins.
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