Archive for April, 2012

Quotes on Cyclingnews

April 5, 2012

Some of you may have seen some quotes from me on cyclingnews. While Daniel Benson is a fine gentleman and the words are accurate, I think nonetheless that a bit of my intended nuance was missing. So a few points:

It looks a bit like I stepped on a soap box to make a declaration. In reality, I was at the start of the Scheldeprijs, ran into Daniel whom I hadn’t seen in a long time, he asked me “What do you think of Ashenden leaving” and I gave him my thoughts. I wasn’t “lamenting” too much, it was pretty low key.

I’m fine with a setting like that, but one disadvantage is that you’re not forumulating carefully, and I often find that my mind makes two steps while I only say one, and thus these things can look a bit incoherent. This works both ways, as Daniel also thinks faster than he talks. So now in the article it seems as if I bring up the 2 years without biological passport cases, but that was really his argument. I think it’s an accurate statement (although I haven’t counted exactly), but it wasn’t something I had in my mind at that time.

  1. So my basic premise was this: When you start a huge project like the biological passport, it is impossible to get it completely perfect at once. This is nothing special about the biological passport, this goes for any project with slightly more complexity than tying shoelaces.
  2. So you need to improve it over time. From my own experience, you learn more from people who criticize you than those who praise you, so it’s best to take criticism as feedback than to get defensive. At the same time, I also understand that if you’re inside a project, people running the project would appreciate if you give your criticism but do it internally, not in the media. So there is a balance to strike there between venting your criticism to improve the project and giving a realistic view to the outside world.
  3. As a result, when the most vocal critic leaves a project, that is not good news.
  4. I don’t think we need to dwell on the gaps in testing too much. They’re not as big as some of us thought, bigger than others care to admit. They are certainly way ahead of others sport with maybe one or two exceptions.

My final point in the interview is probably the most important one; this is not about the UCI. When you think about cleaning up the sport, you would hope that federations, races and teams are all on the same side. Maybe they disagree on how to exactly do it, but you would hope they would all agree with the principle, right? So if everybody agrees with the principle of cleaning up the sport, but don’t agree on how to do it exactly, what would you get? Discussion.

And instead we have a deafening silence. Why aren’t teams speaking up about what they want in the anti-doping fight? They pay the most for the biological passport, and the program doesn’t seem to catch too many people anymore. So I would expect teams to say one of two things. Either they say “we’ve done it, we’ve solved the problem, we spent a ton of money on it and we’re proud of the result” or they say “hang on, we’re paying all this money but not catching the cheats”. Instead they say nothing, giving the impression they don’t have a vested interest in the success of the program. Or that they define success differently.

7 thoughts on Flanders

April 2, 2012

After the first edition of the “new and improved” Tour of Flanders, what is the verdict. Seven thoughts dominate for me:

  1. I’m not against experiments, and I commend the organizers for having the balls to try something new
  2. Yesterday, I never had the feeling I was watching the Tour of Flanders. It could have been any race, and at the end of it I didn’t feel that “wow, Boonen has just won the Tour of Flanders!” My feelings were more similar to a week ago, as if he’d won Gent-Wevelgem or the E3 Prijs.
  3. You’d think that by doing the Paterberg and Oude Kwaremont three times, they become more important. But they weren’t. In the old version, it’s where the race started. There was always enormous participation about who is in front, how the road surface will be, etc. Now they had a trial run where it was still too early to do anything, and then a second and third run where you thought “hey, I’ve seen this before”.
  4. I felt real phantom pain for the Muur with about 40k to go. Of course the Muur was always much later in the race than that, but that’s where the anticipation would normally start. And I think people underestimate how much the Bosberg added to the original course, it’s not as steep and better paved than most of the others, but anybody who has ridden it knows it’s a terrible climb that late in the race. It often provided that wonderful tension of “can they still bridge up” and that was missing in this new format. Yesterday it was “out of sight, out of mind and out of the results list”.
  5. If you’re going to climb the Paterberg and the Oude Kwaremont three times each, wouldn’t it make sense to put 20 fixed cameras on those climbs and the 500m after so we can really see close-up what is happening? As it stood, the coverage was mediocre.
  6. Would it be possible to find a more depressing finishing straight? Seeing them ride that last kilometer there was only one positive thought popping into my head: “Thank goodness I don’t live there”. The old finishing straight wasn’t exactly in the most pitoresque spot in Flanders either, but this was rubbish.
  7. What was wrong with the original course again? If it was only about the money for the finishing town, that would be sad. If it was about creating a better venue for the VIPs, I’d think they’d rather see a good race once than a mediocre one thrice. The old course was pretty darn perfect, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that yesterday wasn’t as good.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments below and subscribe to the blog for future posts.

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