Italy’s great cycling stage-race is well under way. Where have you been? Well, if you want to be a flag-draped rose-nosed idiot-patriot, like me,* during the running of this year’s Giro d’Italia, allez-ing Wiggo and his confrères, drunkenly singing barmy-vindaloo-army songs at your television (or minute-by-minute commentary), who exactly should you be cheering? That I will tell you.
<Shuffles through printouts like truffle pig> Hmm. It turns out there are only six British riders, and of course a British team in Sky Procycling. You know these guys, and if you don’t (1) for shame; and (2) me too! So here’s a little recap on the who and how many palmares they are draped in like little caesars on push bikes.
- Bradley Wiggins of Sky Procycling. Yawn. We all know this 33-year-old superb (Belgian-born) Briton. He won the Tour of France last year, and didn’t he win the entire Olympics as well? That he did. As I type he is sitting 6th in the GC of the Giro. Moving swiftly on.
- Mark Cavendish of Omega Pharma-Quick Step. Yeah yeah, the Manx Merckx. Cav hasn’t had quite the recent glory of Wig, but the 27-year-old’s achievements are impressive. No one has won as many mass-start stages in the history of the Tour de France. He won the Milan–San Remo in 2009. And in 2010 he took the green jersey (points classification) in the other of the three Grand Tours (along with the Giro and the TdF), the Vuelta a España – a feat he repeated at the Tour de France in 2011. Having won the Tour of Qatar earlier in the year, he barnstormed the first race in the current Giro, winning it, but has been flagging since [doubtless this will be incorrect at the point I hit UPLOAD … aarrgh he just won stage 6, blogfail]. He’ll be looking to prove his place as his sprint-specialising team’s number one. Andiamo Cavo!
- Alex Dowsett of Movistar Team. Like Cav, Dowsett has recently defected from Sky to be a bigger fish in a … differently shaped? … pond. The 24-year-old haemophiliac is currently the British time-trial champion (and has been for two years). He missed the classics last year with a spifflicated elbow, but is now back and burning serious rubber. Like Cav he’s had one good run so far in the Giro, the stage 2 team time trial, when, with still-high-flying team-mates Benat Intxuasti and Giovanni Visconti, Movistar rolled in 9 seconds behind stage winners Sky. His role is more as a team player for Movistar, and is not in contention for honours.
- Adam Blythe of BMC Racing. At 23 years old, Blythe is looking to really move beyond promising youngster, and seems to be managing it. In 2010 he won the 2.1 event (i.e. the equivalent in UCI’s ranking as the Tour of Britain) the Circuit Franco-Belge, and was fourth this year in the Tour of Qatar (which Cav won). So far in the Giro, he’s had the one great race, coming 7th in stage 1, the one Cav won. Significantly he beat BMC’s big gun Cadel Evans. Now however he is near the very back of the pack, almost 50 minutes behind off leader Luca Paolini. Presumably because his role is, like Dowsett, as a domestique for his team. But what do I know.
- Steve Cummings of BMC Racing. Team-mates with Blythe and the mighty Cadel Evans, Cummings is an older hand at 33 years old. Like Dowsett he is reappearing in 2013 after much skeletal mangling: his pelvis and wrist from the Tours of the Algarve and the Basque Country respectively. He has come 2nd in the Tour of Britain twice (2008 and 2011) and his greatest achievements are probably his tricolor of non-road race medals: the bronze in the individual pursuit at the 2006 Commonwealth Games, the gold in the team pursuit at the same games, and the silver at the 2004 Olympics for team pursuit. Again, he’s at the rear of the field and presumably working as a slipstream-sweeper for Evans.
- David Millar of Garmin Sharp. The even older hand at 36 years old, Millar has done it all, been banned for it, and come back again. He’s the only British rider to have worn the leader jersey in all three Grand Tours, including of course the fabled pink number of the Giro. He is the most interesting of the six as evidenced by his (non-Bloomsbury!) autobiography Racing through the Dark, and by the fact I missed him out on the first version of this blog (pointed out on the Guardian minute-by-minute commentary to my colossal shame). Millar also broke a bone last year (collarbone) and is also currently malingering at the very back end of the GC.
Interestingly there is (and perhaps can be?) only one Brit in the Sky team, namely Wiggins. And in fact if you really want to be a daft patriot, there are few very fine Johnny Foreigners in the Sky team you can squeak under your nationalistic-fervour blanket. The two I would suggest you jump toot sweet on the bandwagon of are the Colombians: Sergio Henao (age 25) and Rigoberto Urán (26). After stage 5, Urán was sitting in 2nd place and Henao in 8th. They are both hot dogs on the climbs and the mountains await us in today’s stage 7.
The Colombian equivalent of vindaloo? The ajiaco. Thank you Siri.
*I am, like Wiggo, a plastic Briton, and will take my jingoism from country to country as I please, just you try and stop me.
Hot off the press: Tour de France 100: A Photographic History of Cycling’s Most Iconic Race publishes … today
All I can say is this is one sexy book! I could go on about the superb imagery, exquisite photography, and insightful commentary from sports journalist Richard Moore, but the book speaks for itself.
If you’d like a quick peruse of the inside of this gorgeous book, just click here.
I was 11 years old when I first started supporting Manchester United; an arbitrary decision to annoy my Liverpool-supporting older brother, but also linked to the football sticker swapping craze which had spread through the school playground. It was the peer-pressure of youth, centred around the Merlin’s Official Premier League 94 football collection, which led me to give my allegiance to the Red Devils. While most girls’ pin-ups were Take That and East 17, mine were to be Ryan Giggs, Eric Cantona and Andrei Kanchelskis, followed later by Beckham, Scholes, Nicky Butt and the Neville brothers … and many more besides. Heroes in my eyes.
But where would the club be with out the the gaffer, the manager, the boss? Throughout my years as a Manchester United supporter, though players have come and gone, there has always been the constant of Sir Alex Ferguson. Indeed, anyone in their early thirties and younger will never have known any different, but with Sir Alex’s retirement announced this morning after 26 years in charge, a new era is nevertheless dawning. But who will take over? A daunting challenge for even the most experienced.
In our new book, Standing on the Shoulders of Giants (publishing next month) – a history of Manchester United from its origins as Newton Heath in 1878 to the present day – the author Søren Frank dedicates the last chapter to Alex Ferguson and the legacy he has created, but also discusses the possible replacements for the (un)enviable position as manager of one of the world’s greatest football clubs.
So who will fill Sir Alex’s shoes? For a quick insight, click on the cover for a sneak preview of some of the top candidates…
Triumph and tragedy? Surely I’m not prophesising the results of the Giro d’Italia already? Nah, if I was, I wouldn’t be so worried about my Fantasy Cycling team*.
As much as I’d love to tell the future and know if Wiggo will beat Nabali to win the pink jersey or whether the Manx Missile, Mark Cavendish, will come home in the red, I think I’m just going to have to sit back and watch the drama unravel on TV like the rest of you other cyclist enthusiasts.
However, I just thought I’d give you tifosi out there the heads-up about the smashing new edition of Maglia Rosa, by Herbie Sykes and published in partnership with Rouleur. A stunning photographic book offering a definitive history of the Italy’s Grand Tour, it takes you all the way from its beginnings in 1909 right up to the present day. And if you fancy checking out some of the gorgeous images, just click on the cover below…
Bloomsbury are proud to announce that we have three books on the shortlist for the British Sport Book Awards. The three books to be shortlisted are:
Best Illustrated Book
Coppi by Herbie Sykes
Best New Writer
Sit Down and Cheer by Martin Kelner
Best Cricket Book
We’ll Get ’Em in Sequins by Max Davidson
The winner for each category will be announced on Tuesday 21st May 2013 – fingers crossed!
Guest writer Rob Lee marvels at the endurance challenge Clive Forth set himself in order to write The Great British Mountain Bike Trail Guide. Clive had to hurl his big-tread wheels up and down the single track and forest roads of the 50 best trail centres that Britain and Ireland had to offer. To make it fun, he gave himself a month to complete the lot.
When Clive told me that he was going to ride 50 trails on one big road trip I was instantly jealous. It had all the right ingredients in all the right quantities for a wild, enjoyable, yet massively challenging adventure. It was also the perfect culmination of everything that we’d worked on together, that he’d worked on with others, and many of the things that Clive himself had achieved and developed to that date.
Just being able to complete this many trails in so few days was going to require mental strength, a degree of endurance and a dose of fortitude. In this, the challenge reflected the many accomplished rides that Clive has supported in the endurance arena of mountain biking. He knows the pains of endurance all too well, both in life and sport, as witness and participant. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen him put a rider back on their bike – after issuing what came to be known on our team as the ‘dad chat’ – and sending them out to deliver the goods on a long ride or endurance race. Having worked an endurance race pit on so many occasions there can’t be many people who have provided as much support, both physical and psychological, to victorious solo racers as Clive has.
So a test of endurance for sure, but with a true devotee of the mountain bike at the helm this challenge was never going to be as simple as endurance. Endurance racing and riding is straightforward: ride smooth, stay safe, don’t go too fast too soon, don’t do anything outrageous and just keep going. If this was solely an endurance challenge then the name of the game would be simple. Any endurance athlete designing and riding this challenge would go the same way: long trails, medium-to-high technical difficulty, play it safe, ride conservatively. Looking at the list of trails, the endurance mountain biking rule book has been thrown out the window, or perhaps Clive was just too busy riding to read it? Jump parks and downhill tracks thrown into the mix? I know what you’re thinking, or at least you are if you’ve never been riding with our man. He doesn’t do conservative riding, and while this is an endurance challenge, the likelihood that he’d have kept his tyres planted firmly on terra firma were about a million to one.
So now we have skill and without a doubt a massive element of speed. We are looking at an endurance challenge with lots of mini attacking moves, rapid accelerations, big air-time and tough technical trail sections. The number of riders capable of pulling such a thing off just went down about 80%. The element of danger involved in riding fast, taking air and increasing the technicality of the trails to be ridden, while tired, is something no one who has ever ridden a big endurance event would question. It’s simply not done because the risk of bringing the whole endeavor to a screaming halt in a split second is a serious possibility. But that’s something you only think about on the level of endurance racer, and Clive has skills that most of us can only ever dream of. His eye at speed is exceptional and I’ve marvelled many a time at his ability to take everything in his stride whatever the terrain.
I look at the adventures I’ve been on and the journeys I’ve taken by bike and I start to realise that the main ingredients missing from most of them were the element of speed, and the element of fun that travelling much faster off-road can deliver. But this challenge didn’t suffer from that loss and likely, if anything, increased in enjoyment due to their addition. Of course there was an element of rest, while getting from one trail to the next by car or van, that pure endurance doesn’t have, but this in itself I suspect only enriched the experience. Something everyone dreams of, the classic road trip, is suddenly added to a mix so exciting you can feel the adrenalin course through your veins at the very prospect. And with that road trip, and the need for images to accomplish the telling of this story, came the final magic touch that enhances anything we do: companionship for the adventure.
Such a cocktail that many, myself included, have commented that they wish it had been themselves and not Clive that had been on this adventure. But that in itself holds the truth: it could be you, or I, if we just take the inspiration laid out in The Great British Mountain Bike Trail Guide and plan for something fun and outrageous. The pace of life can be fast, it passes by in a flash, but putting the time aside to take on a creative challenge is as good a way as any to create memories you’ll never forget. Clive did, and I think he’d be the first to say: you can too. Read and enjoy, this story can only lead to inspiration and adventure.
Rob Lee is an endurance cycling champion and founder of Seven Deadly Spins.
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In light of the controversy surrounding the Manchester United v Real Madrid match last night and the sending off of Nani by referee Cuneyt Cakir, we asked Keith Hackett, author of You are the Ref: a Guide to Good Refereeing for his reaction. It makes fascinating reading, and raises a number of points not currently being discussed in the media.
‘There are clearly two standards of Law interpretation operating between English officials and the rest of Europe. In European games there is a lower tolerance level for the ‘raised boot’ challenge which will be punished with either a yellow card (Reckless) or red card if the Referee deems it to be serious foul play. English teams therefore have to adapt to these differences in law interpretation.
If the challenge in the game last night was met with a swift yellow card no one would have complained. The referee however decided to give himself a lot of thinking time and may have consulted with his colleagues to receive their view before surprising the majority of spectators by issuing a red card. Our coaching of Referees at the top level is to advise that we do not want any surprises of this type, and UEFA continue to hold regular training camps for Referees. Through the use of video clips we aim to get uniformity of decision making involving all Referees.
However, the question I pose is what homework did the clubs do on the Referee? If they had done their research then they would have understood the high probability of a red card from this referee in particular. He demonstrates great courage on the BIG decisions – that is why he is rated highly amongst his peers.
You are the Ref: A Guide to Good Refereeing covers in detail the law on foul challenges. Managers. Coaches Referees and Spectators should purchase a copy!’
Keith Hackett is a former international referee and now General Manager of the Professional Game Match Officials Ltd (PGMOL) - the referee’s governing body and, is the Referee Ambassador for the FA, Premier League and UEFA.
Paul Trevillion, renowned artist and illustrator provides the stunning images.