-the UCI will stop treating women as unequal to men in the track events. The men race the 1km time trial, the women 500m. The men do a 4000m pursuit, the women do 3000m pursuit. The men's Olympic sprint is 3 riders and 3 laps. The Women's Olympic Sprint is 2 riders and 2 laps. In Track and Field, the women run the same distance as men all the way up to the 26-mile marathon. The UCI should realize that these unequal distance are silly and make the sport of cycling look backwards.
-pass the law that Idaho has that allows cyclists to treat stop signs as yield signs and stop lights as stop signs. It makes a lot of sense.
-have the airlines charge equitable oversize baggage fees for bicycles. Skis and golf clubs fly for free, why should cyclists pay extra?
-have Campy, SRAM and Shimano come up with a standard cog size and cog spacing so all shift levers and cog sets are compatible and hence, interchangeable.
-have the mountain bike world design the one true rear suspension. OK, I am being a bit cynical, but it seems like mountain bike manufacturers seem to be coming up with new rear suspension designs each year just to sell bikes.
-have Comcast, which now owns both Versus and NBC Universal Sports, come to an agreement with DirecTV (and Dish Network when their contract expires) to keep the only two networks showing significant bike racing coverage on all three major cable/satellite companies.
-somebody invent a chain lube that lubricates, but doesn't leave a greasy residue on the chain. White Lightening is about as good as it gets in the clean category, but it isn't a great lubricant. We put a man on the moon (or in a Hollywood sound stage for you skeptics). Somebody should be able to invent a clean chain lubricant.
With all the drama surrounding Lance Armstrong's comeback and his chances for another Tour win, lost a bit in the hysteria is the fact that his Team Astana might not be at the Tour. I want to say up front that I want them at the Tour because they are one heck of a good team witness their win of the team prize at the recent Giro d'Italia. But, just this past week, Team Astana boss Johan Bruyneel indicated that the sponsors have still not paid up all the money owed to the riders and the team as of June 1.
You might be thinking that it is less than a month before the Tour and that Lance, Johan or some additional sponsor could step in to make good on the money owed, but you have to remember that the governing body of the sport, the UCI, is the one who makes the decision to suspend a team for financial non-payment. The UCI usually does this to protect the riders. If a team is not paying its riders then the UCI has the power to suspend the team until all salaries are paid up-to-date.
So, while Johan and Lance are doing everything they can to keep the team afloat through the Tour, the UCI may step in and spoil the party. The UCI could suspend the team or it could revoke the team's Pro Tour license if no long-term solution is possible. If the team is suspended then Lance, Alberto, Levi, Chris, etc, will be sitting on the sidelines watching the Tour. If the UCI revokes Team Astana's Pro Tour license, then the team is basically disbanded.
If the team disbands, that means that all the riders' contracts are null and void which free the racers to seek employment with other teams. Rumours abounded at the Giro about the teams who were talking to Alberto Contador if the Astana did disband. Also a hot topic in Italy was the very real possibility that Johan Bruyneel would get Astana's Pro Tour license and he and Lance will have their own top-tier pro team in the very near future.
Personally, I don't think the UCI will revoke Astana's Pro Tour license or suspend the team. Johan Bruyneel is clearly frustrated at the Astana sponsors inability to satisfy their financial commitment, but I think everything will probably hang together long enough to get the team through the Tour. But, it is clear that the money is slow in coming and the UCI might just step in to set an example. Team Astana should have been at last year's Tour. Hopefully their exclusion won't happen again.
The World Track Championships just finished up in Manchester, England and the host country totally dominated the meeting with ten gold medals. After getting robbed of a stage win in the Amgen Tour of California it was great to see Mark Cavendish (and his partner Bradley Wiggins) on the top spot of the podium in the Madison event. Even America hauled in a bit of hardware with Jennie Reed winning a thoroughly exciting Kierin final and Sarah Hammer taking silver in the women's pursuit. Teenage phenom Taylor Phinney set a world record in the 3000m pursuit, he has an outside chance to medal at the upcoming Beijing(hack, hack) Olympics.
But, that's not the subject of my blog. It seems like the UCI just can't do anything right these days and it also includes picking the events for the Women on the track. The men ride a 1 kilometer time trial which takes the best about a minute for the 0.62 of a mile distance. The UCI, for some reason unknown to just about everyone, have the women ride a 500 meter time trial. Does the UCI think that women can't ride 1 kilometer? If so, then why do they have a 3000m pursuit for the women. To make matters even worse, the men ride a 4000m pursuit. In Anglo-speak that's 2.5 miles. Does the UCI think that women can't ride 2.5 miles on a bike? Why then do they have a Women's Scratch Race that is 10 kilometers (6 miles) long?
But, the biggest joke is the team sprint an event where, in the men's division, three riders compete. This first rider leads the first lap then drops out. The second rider completes the second lap on the front then drops out leaving the third rider to ride the final lap. The whole event takes about 50 seconds total for the three laps. Someone please tell me why the women do the same event but with only two riders? Is there some genetic difference that keeps women from competing for 15-20 seconds more by doing a third lap with a third rider?
In track and field(that's 'Athletics' for those of you from Europe) then men and women run the exact same distances as the men from the 100 meter sprint to the 42km (26.2 mile) marathon. If women can run for over two hours, why can't they race for 15-20 seconds more on the track in a bicycle race? It boggles the mind. Personally, I think the women bike racers should petition the UCI for equality. If they want to be respected and get the same honor and glory, they should be riding the same distances. I just can't wait to see what the UCI screws up next.
The feud between the UCI and ASO is reaching a critical level putting the racers and teams in a Catch-22 situation. If the teams do not participate in this weekend's ASO event, Paris-Nice, they feel they are risking not getting invited to the Tour de France. However, if they do participate, the UCI is threatening heavy fines, six months suspension from any UCI-sanctioned event and exclusion from competing at the upcoming Olympics. I would hate to be a rider or team boss right now. This is definitely a no-win situation.
As I have said in previous blogs, I think the UCI are the bad guys here. Frankly, I haven't seen them do anything but give lip service over the past few years. One thing that is clear to me. The UCI is more concerned about self-preservation than it is about promoting cycling. Let's look at their track record.
After the debacle at last year's Tour de France the UCI vowed to step up the fight against doping by conducting 500 out-of-competition tests. They only conducted twenty(20) out-of-competition tests making it pretty evident to me that they are not that concerned about fighting doping in the sport. When Operacion Puerto first came out in 2006, the UCI had the opportunity to nip the scandal in the bud by providing DNA samples of all riders to the Spanish prosecutors. The UCI chose not to cooperate and Operacion Puerto has hung over the sport like a black cloud ever since. Thanks.
The UCI has warned the teams and riders that if they ride Paris-Nice and under the sanction of the French Cycling Federation that their rights as riders will be severely limited and they could be tossed out of a race at anytime for suspected bad behavior. I find this argument from the UCI very ironic. The UCI has had a history of disregarding riders rights some notable examples are releasing a number of doping positives, including Floyd Landis, to the public before due process had been carried out.
As far as tossing riders from races, the UCI stripped Danilo DiLuca of his 2007 Pro Tour points which cost him the overall Pro Tour title because of a sanction for a situation that occurred in 2004. How is it fair to strip somebody of a title they are winning in 2007 for something which happened in 2004? Also, the UCI sat idly by and let the race organizers of the Amgen Tour of California prohibit three riders from Rock Racing from starting based on supposed open doping investigations for which we have seen no documentation to support. How is that fair?
So, basically, I don't have much faith in the UCI to do anything right. That doesn't mean that ASO is a knight in shining armor, but compared to the track record laid down by the UCI, I will take ASO over the UCI any day. Clearly, the UCI has lost the plot and they don't seem to be close to finding it anytime soon. The result of all of this posturing is that professional cycling, which is teetering on the brink after all the recent doping scandals is on even more unstable footing. The UCI needs to go back to promoting the sport and stop trying to fatten their wallets.
ps - now for some good news. I had a great ride in the hills above Silicon Valley today. Just a jersey and shorts and I was going fast enough up the climbs to actually feel some wind on my face. Being sick sucks and being really sick really sucks!
Mergers seem to be all the rage in corporate America. Sometimes it's a good thing, sometimes not. In case you missed it, one of the most interesting mergers in the sports world is the recently announced union between the Indy Racing League(IRL) and Champ Car. Hey, that's open wheel car racing for those of you who aren't concerned about anything with more than two wheels.
It's been twelve years since Tony George took his Indy 500 and his ego and started the Indy Racing League. We already had a successful open wheel series, Champ Car, with all the top drivers including the Unsers, Andrettis and Rahals. But, Tony George wanted a bigger slice of the pie and since he owned the rights to the most popular open wheel race on the planet, the Indy 500 (sorry Monaco GP), he figured he had the juice to make it happen.
Of course, what did happen was that everybody lost. Champ Car has become a non-factor and the Indy Racing League turned into the 'oval racing league'. If Danica Patrick hadn't arrived a couple of years ago, the IRL would have put everyone to sleep and would have all but disappeared as well. Hopefully, the merger will take US open wheel racing off life support and we won't have resort to watching the good ol' boys swapping paint every weekend from some town where everybody knows the words to "When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again."
What does this have to do with cycling? Well, our good friends at the UCI and their nemesis ASO are at it again. Maybe it is just a huge case of Euro-cabin fever, but just like same time last year, these two organizations are sparring over control of European professional bike racing. ASO owns the Tour de France, Paris-Nice, Paris-Roubaix, Liege-Bastogne-Liege and just about every other big race on the pro calendar. The UCI owns, well, uh, um, only the the World Championships and since they moved those from August to October nobody seems to care all that much.
So, what's at stake? It's all about the Benjamins. ASO, with it's rich TV contracts has them. The UCI, which can't seem to market the World Championships to save their life, doesn't have many Benjamin's at all. Let's forget all the polemics(that's a big word meaning politics), it really is about the green. ASO has it and the UCI wants it.
How is this similar to the IRL/Champ Car merger? I side with ASO on this one, but still I hope that both sides can work something out before the situation becomes critical and the teams and riders have to decide between the two. I suffered for 12 years while open wheel racing in the US became about as exciting as watching paint dry. If that happens to pro cycling, I may actually have to stop watching TV and go out and ride my bike.
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