ONCE bitten, twice shy

July 1, 2013

Another week, another ex-cyclist bites the dust. This time it’s Laurent Jalabert, with evidence mounting he used EPO during his career. While most would file this under A for “Absolutely the least shocking news of the year”, it’s getting quite a bit of attention for two reasons:

  • Oddly, JaJa doesn’t really deny there was EPO in his body, but rather that he knew about it. “I trusted my doctors” and never asked questions, never looked at the bottle, I simple wasn’t interested in what kind of stuff was injected into my body. Didn’t care, never curious.
  • JaJa is a cycling pundit for French TV and this fuss around his person is unwelcome. In an attempt to avoid the limelight and pretty much disappear from sight, he has now (temporarily) stepped down from that position, either voluntarily or after mild suggestions.

First off, it’s entirely logical he can’t be a pundit right now. With his explanation of unknowingly doping, he has lost a lot of credibility. And a pundit without credibility is, frankly, useless.

Of course, that’s not the reason he stepped down. He stepped down because having to answer questions about his past as a cyclist is uncomfortable. And as we have seen time and again, not answering them or answering them with bullshit only makes it worse. Apparently JaJa missed that part of the memo.

Predictably, JaJa’s conundrum set in motion the truth & reconciliation script. It goes for example like this:

  • Somebody will tweet, facebook or – in extreme cases – “say” that JaJa should be stripped of his results, fired from his current cycling-related job, etc.
  • Somebody else will respond that “other riders” will think twice about coming forward if this is how we treat them, and that the only solution is truth & reconciliation.

For some reason, these two camps remain diametrically opposed. But isn’t it simply the case that both are true?

  • It is appalling to think that some people cheated their way to fame and riches and that once they are caught, they get to keep all their ill-gotten gains? We don’t like it with bankers or scam artists, why would we like it any more with cyclists?
  • At the same time, most people in the “strip them bare” group will also concede that the problem was so endemic that punishing the few unlucky guys who got caught won’t restore justice in any meaningful way.

This is it, life is imperfect and so is cycling. We can choose option A, we can choose option B, either way it will feel insufficient and unfair.

“It’s much better now”

June 27, 2013

In all the commentary about doping in cycling, this may be the oddest bit. Whether it’s one of the rare occasions a rider talks about it, or a mainstream newspaper article, or a cycling insider giving his opinion, time and again we read that the current generation is much different from the previous one and that cycling is much cleaner now than it was.

The only problem is, there is close to zero proof to support that statement. That’s not to say it isn’t true, but it is un-checkable. And unfortunately for those who desperately want the world to believe it, it’s the same message that was peddled after Festina, after Puerto and after the Tour de Cera of 2008.

This makes it quite incredible for the media to make such statements. You would think they would have learned by now. Unless they come up with a way to prove it, or at least make it plausible, presenting the idea of cycling being cleaner now as a fact is poor journalism.

It’s quite a different story for the riders making such statements. While they may also lack hard evidence, it’s quite possible they have a good sense that things are improving. The problem for them is how to get that across.

I feel for the riders, you can see the frustration in their statements trying to prove the unprovable. Take Chris Froome recently in the Daily Mail:

“The sport is in probably the best place it’s been in the last 20, 30 years in that respect. Moving on from the revelations we had from Lance last year, it’s given us the chance to show people cycling has changed. I know how I work for the results I get and I know my results aren’t going to be stripped in five, six, seven years’ time.”

How does moving on from the Lance revelations prove anything? Dopers and clean riders both moved on from that, haven’t they? And of course Froome knows how he achieved his results, but the general public doesn’t. It doesn’t follow Froome 24/7 the way Froome follows Froome 24/7. So whether rider A, B, C or D wins, it doesn’t really prove anything to the general public. Unless  D stands for Di Luca of course.

Dan Martin encountered a similar problem after he won Liège-Bastogne-Liège. As he told cyclingnews.com:

“A lot of people can see that we’ve got an incredibly strong anti-doping policy and to be able to win this is just amazing. It’s like David [Millar’s] win in the Tour last year or Ryder’s win in the Giro, it’s helped me to know it’s possible to win clean. And this is a sign of how things are changing for the better.”

First off, most people can’t see any anti-doping policy. How do you “see” that as an outsider? People may have perceptions about one team or another, but what are the concrete actions or statements that an outsider can see to know, not perceive, that a team has a strong anti-doping ethic? In fact, since Dan Martin speaks of a policy, that sounds like something you could write down and publish. But as far as I know, it isn’t – by any team – including his own (in fact I can’t even find an “about us” page that explains the general philosophy of most teams).

The second point he makes – while very relatable – is even more troubling for the sport. He basically says that he only started to believe it’s possible to win cleanly after he and his teammates started winning. Does that mean he doesn’t trust the other teams (and so, why should we)? Also, if the only way even an insider trusts this sport is by winning a big race, then he can’t expect any outsider to ever trust this sport. If every fan has to win a classic for him/herself to believe in this sport again, it’s going to take a while.

Please understand, I am not knocking these riders or their teams; in fact I commend them for at least speaking out when most don’t. But you can almost see why their fellow riders simply dodge the subject, since you can’t win. At least, you can’t win the clean cycling argument by winning, or by stating that your win proves anything to outsiders. It proves something to you alone.

But for the rest of us, it almost works the other way – winning fuels our doping suspicions rather than decreasing them. And so Froome can expect more and more critical questions as he tries to win his first Tour. Time will tell if he has a winning answer.

Ditch the national endorsements

June 24, 2013

Sure, it’s been interesting watching Pat McQuaid get roundly rejected by the Irish grassroots members, and the courtroom drama out of Switzerland will be riveting too (well, maybe not). And certainly, McQuaid doesn’t have the right to complain about “small groups of people” hijacking the process when he has never before expressed a concern about that process or done anything in his long, long tenure at the UCI to change it.

But aside from the current soap opera, can we not agree that these national endorsements are rubbish? Somebody running for the UCI presidency doesn’t represent his country, at least he/she shouldn’t. In fact, I would prefer a president whose home country is lukewarm about him/her.

The president should further the interests of the sport worldwide, not the interests of their home country  (or country of residence). The obligation to seek such an endorsement creates the risk that the candidate is beholden to a certain country. In fact, this is what happened with McQuaid’s initial endorsements by Cycling Ireland. They agreed to endorse him, but not after extracting promises from McQuaid about initiating certain changes to the way the UCI is run. We may have found those demands appealing, but one country should not have a bigger hold over a future president than another.

In a similar vein, I don’t think that one country should be able to prevent a candidate from running for president as it could potentially prevent a candidate who does not “sufficiently” favor the home country. In this sense, the board of Cycling Ireland had a point when it said the whole cycling community should decide on McQuaid’s record, not the CI board. However, they ruined it precisely by demanding concessions (the most galling of which was a change of the UCI constitution to limit the UCI presidency to two terms, starting AFTER McQuaid would serve his third).

Furthermore, in the CURRENT structure, the endorsement exists expressly to have the national federation judge the candidate and ensure that no unfit candidates turn up. Whether they liked it or not, the rules required them to judge McQuaid and when the members felt that judgment was incorrect, it was right to protest.

Therefore I appreciate what the Irish EGM has done. Agree or disagree with their decision, there is no denying they voted for the right reasons – whether or not McQuaid was fit for the job. They didn’t vote on whether he would be sufficiently pro-Ireland or anything else unrelated.

As such, the EGM used a flawed part of the rules to make the right judgment. I just hope that in the future, the endorsement of a candidate for the UCI presidency will better reflect the global nature of the job. Instead of requiring the endorsement of one country, let them obtain endorsements from 10,000 national federation members in no fewer than 50 countries. That way the candidate will need to engage with  grassroots members instead of just holding secretive private meetings with national federation board members.

Pat for candidate!

June 20, 2013

The news of the Irish Cycling Federation EGM rejecting the endorsement of Pat McQuaid’s candidacy for a third term as UCI president was amazing. Whatever you may think of the issue, the fact that a grassroots action was able to grow strong enough to overturn a decision made by the board is astounding. Especially since  they were under no obligation to call an EGM It’s proof positive that the powerless in fact do have power.

So now Pat’s ability to run for president lies in the hands of a few Swiss judges. Is he allowed to ask for a Swiss endorsement because he lives there, or is “international endorsement shopping” not allowed?

I’m torn on this issue. Although I usually try to be fair, I cannot ignore the fact that I think Pat McQuaid has been disastrous to the sport of cycling. So of course, I don’t want him to be the next president. I don’t know Cookson, and I don’t like the concept of “anybody but …”, but in this case I can’t help but feeling that way.

That said, I would like him to run for president again. Although I would love the Swiss judges to slap him on the wrist and explain that this cheap shopping around for an endorsement is not cricket, and although I would love to see the arrogance that oozes from it to be punished, I also would love to see an actual race for the presidency.

Ideally, an election race is a chance to exchange ideas. At the very least, it’s a time where the candidates will have to answer the tough questions from their constituents. Due to the way the UCI election is held, there are a few too many steps between the cyclist  and/or fan at the base and the race for the top, but it’s better than nothing. If nothing else, the candidates will have to unfold their plans and can be held to account when executing those plans or failing to. Without a race, the UCI will basically get a president who is free to do as he pleases. Cookson may do a very good job of it, but what’s the actual job he’s planning to do?

Therefore I say: “Pat for candidate”. Hopefully followed by a crushing defeat.

How to win the UCI presidential elections

June 13, 2013

Recently, the most telling statements from McQuaid may not be about his opponent Cookson (I’m surprised Pat hasn’t made a freudian “Crookson” slip of the tongue yet). It may be about himself. Every chance he gets, he states some version of (this one from his “secret” letter to the national federations):

“Judging from the many letters I have received urging me to stand, it is clear I have an enormous amount of support from the great majority of national federations and cycling officials all around the world to continue the work I am doing.”

Now, I don’t pretend to have any idea what really goes on inside McQuaid’s brain, but who would constantly hammer about all the support he is receiving unless he is actually receiving very little? To me, this looks more like a president in trouble than one certain of victory.

But first, let’s take a step back. Running for UCI president is a tough project. The voters are all over the world, a lot of them in countries far and away with hardly any cycling activity. In order to win, you need to secure votes from those countries, you can’t rely on the countries where cycling actually matters.

Note that it is not exactly one country one vote, it is more complicated than that but the fact remains you need to be able to get support from all over to attract the votes from a region. As Article 36 of the UCI Constitution states:

1. Members shall exercise their voting rights through the agency of voting delegates appointed among each continental confederation. Each delegate must be a member of a federation of the continental confederation concerned.
2. The total number of voting delegates shall be 42 distributed among continental confederations as follows:
Africa: 7 delegates
America: 9 delegates
Asia: 9 delegates
Europe: 14 delegates
Oceania: 3 delegates
3. Each voting delegate shall have one vote.

This system overwhelmingly favors the incumbent, or in case the incumbent steps down (or sorta, kinda steps down but keeps pulling the strings), it favors the successor from the incumbent’s camp. The incumbent knows the delegates of all the federations, meets with them regularly and gets to wine and dine them at Olympic Games and World Championships on the UCI’s dime.

For this reason, a candidacy from somebody like Greg LeMond as was floated at the beginning of the year is a non-starter. It has nothing to do with whether or not he is capable of running the UCI, the fact is he would not be capable of winning any election. He wouldn’t know 95% of the delegates. Even somebody quite involved in cycling wouldn’t know most of them – he or she might know the delegates of the federations representing 90% of the world’s cyclists, but that wouldn’t make much of a dent in the above-listed voters.

As such, McQuaid has very little to fear and a “revolution” is simply not in the cards for the UCI. Note that this is not specific to the UCI, you see the same in other federations (and hence why a guy like Blatter is still president of FIFA despite stacking scandal upon scandal). In effect, FIFA is just like the UCI, except they have money, success and the ability to hide their doping problem.

That is, unless a challenger comes from within the ranks. A fellow UCI board member would also have had access to the various delegates for years. Maybe they wouldn’t have been able to wine and dine them to the same extent, nor would they be seen as the “host” of such large events, but having any form of personal relationship is a start on which to build a platform.

Is it enough for Cookson? Against him speak the facts that the incumbent has the natural edge. But he wouldn’t jump in if he didn’t think he had a good chance. Additionally, he is working with Vero as his strategists, and they’re not in the habit of losing. Finally, as we saw at the top of this article, McQuaid’s comments seem to indicate he’s panicking a bit. So this contest may be a lot  closer  than  initially thought.

Becca is Back (unfortunately)

June 12, 2013

A revealing interview with Flavio Becca – Radioshack-Leopard-Trek team owner on cyclingnews today. Riders and staff haven’t received their wages for May yet, although he claims they have been paid now. Time will tell. As is to be expected from the McQuaid of team owners, his comments confuse more than they clarify. For example, he says:

“I prefer that I don’t have the money and that people are paid, that’s really important for me to say.”

Actually, he just did the opposite, at the end of May he didn’t pay the people. I can sympathise with a team owner who doesn’t have the money, but is that what he is saying? That he’s gone from uber-rich business owner to not having one month of salaries to his name anymore? It’s possible, after all he’s in the real-estate business and that’s not exactly a booming trade, but it would be an extreme reversal of fortune.

But the statement that really got me was the following:

When asked if Frank could even ride for the team this year, Becca said, “It’s too early to clarify that position. It’s too early.”

Frank Schleck is on month 11 of a 12 month ban, and it’s still too early for the team owner to clarify his position? I’m no fan of going soft on dopers, but it’s also not fair to leave people hanging. If you don’t want him anymore, for sure you could’ve told him by now. The reason Becca hasn’t made up his mind yet is that it depends on whether Trek takes over his team. Trek may not want Frank, and therefore it may want Becca to fire him and use the doping positive as an excuse.

I would think the lawyers will have a field day if Becca decides to terminate Frank Schleck’s contract. Never mind trying to establish that Becca fired him for the wrong reason (Trek instead of the doping infraction), the time delay will likely also present a major hurdle to Becca. Generally in labor arrangements you are required to take immediate action when a violation becomes apparent. Waiting 11 months won’t qualify as such. Now, I’m no lawyer nor do I play one on TV, but this appears to be pretty standard stuff.

In short, the turmoil at Leopard is not over yet. Good news for IAM, which undoubtedly is still trying to secure Fabian Cancellara’s services. He seems inclined to stay with Leopard if Trek takes over, but if it takes too long, he will opt for the certainty of an IAM (or BMC) contract. Cancellara has never really demonstrated nerves of steel off the bike.

See there the irony of the situation. Trek wants Leopard with Cancellara and without Frank Schleck, but insisting on Frank being fired may cause them to lose Cancellara. In which case Trek won’t buy the team, Becca will have a team without Frank Schleck and Cancellara, and the team sinks deeper and deeper into irrelevance.


Note: Frank may not be an employee but a contractor, but I doubt that will make much difference in this case.

McQuaid raises questions that should be asked… to him

June 11, 2013

In his leaked secret letter to federation presidents, McQuaid wrote the following story:

  • Challenger Brian Cookson recently visited Igor Makarov, Russian UCI board member (and therefore colleague of Cookson) and Katusha team owner.
  • Makarov is close friends with Mr. Walkiewicz, who was also at the meeting (as it turns out, he was not).
  • In 2006, the UCI Ethics Commission (yes, it exists) found Mr Walkiewicz guilty of breaching the UCI Code of Ethics (apparently, this never happened either, who knows). Note that Mr. alkiewicz is still the honorary president of the European cycling union, the UEC, so in effect “the Verbruggen of the UEC”.
  • Makarov’s company Itera donated  1 million to the UEC “within weeks after the election” which McQuaid tries to make sinister. It may be, I don’t know, but it’s hard to see how making a donation AFTER the election has any effect. To me it would be logical that you donate money to a cause after you know who is running it. If the new president is not to your liking, why give him a million to play with? But I digress.

Based on this, McQuaid thought it appropriate to ask the following questions:

  1. Does he condone Mr Walkiewicz’ s activities?
  2. What was the nature of his visit and discussions with Mr Makarov in Moscow?
  3. Did he establish the facts concerning the €1m donation by Mr Makarov’s company Itera to UEC and does he continue to have concerns on this issue?
  4. Does he share Mr Makarov’s anger over the decision of the UCI Licence Committee to refuse his Katusha team a World Tour Licence?
  5. What assurances can he provide that the independence and impartiality of the UCI Licence Commission will not be compromised by the interests of the Katusha and Team Sky World Tour teams, with whom he and Mr Makarov have conflicting interests, were he to become UCI President.
  6. What assurances has he given Mr Walkiewicz and Mr Makarov in respect of the Presidency he will deliver.

Each and every one of McQuaid’s questions provokes a comment or counter-question. So in the same order as the above:

  1. Does McQuaid condone Mr Verbruggen’s activities?
  2. What was the nature of McQuaid’s discussions with each and every member of the Cycling Ireland board? And with each and every national federation president he has visited or who have visited him in recent months “while he was not at all campaigning” because he was “too busy running the UCI”?
  3. Was Cookson appointed by anybody to investigate such a donation? Or does McQuaid expect anybody visiting anybody to investigate any random allegation? If so, did McQuaid investigate the allegation that Nike paid Verbruggen half a million to hide Lance Armstrong’s “positive” tests?
  4. Given that the CAS overturned the UCI License Commission decision and sided with Makarov, I would hope that Cookson and everybody else would share Makarov’s anger over the now-disgraced decision from the License Commission.
  5. Given that both the Russian and the British federation supported McQuaid in the previous two elections, what reassurances can McQuaid give us that such support hasn’t affected his decisions in the past eight years? As I have always said, there are two types of pro teams – those run (indirectly) by federations who vote for the UCI president and those run by private parties who don’t – how is that a level playing field?
  6. Is this even a sentence? If he means whether Cookson made any promises about what he would do if elected president, it would be good if both candidates would reveal  their secret promises. Not just the promises to the national federations for the actual presidential election (Walkiewicz has already hinted at McQuaid offering Makarov a position within the UCI), but also to Cycling Ireland, Swiss Cycling and British Cycling in order to secure their endorsement for their candidacy.

McQuaid on the attack

June 6, 2013

Election season has started but McQuaid remains the same; he may very well be the only person who sees absolutely nothing wrong with saying one thing one day and the absolute opposite the next. In fact, he regularly does it within the same letter or conversation.

It is the perfect debating tactic. His opponents are so bewildered and confused by the conflicting statements that they eventually give up. Compare this to any regular politician. Sure, they lie and twist as well, but they always try to justify it in some way. Circumstances have changed here, I was misunderstood there, that depends on what the definition of the word “is” is. They feel they still need to be believable, so they attempt to thread all their statements together into a plausible story.

McQuaid is long past that stage, he has no intention to justify his contradictions. He’ll say he cherishes the democratic process and welcomes anybody to run against him, until somebody does. Then he switches to secret letters to the national federations slamming his opponent. Other gems from the last week:

McQuaid wants Cookson to explain why he visited Makarov in Moscow. Since they are both on the UCI board, shouldn’t they regularly meet? Maybe McQuaid should also try to meet with his board members every once in a while. If Cookson reveals details about his meeting with Makarov, will McQuaid reveal details about each of the extensive one-on-one meetings he had with Cycling Ireland board members prior to their decision to support his nomination?

McQuaid is worried that Cookson (and indirectly Makarov) would have a conflict of interest if Cookson were to become UCI president. Because both men are also involved in pro teams (Sky and Katusha respectively), they feel those teams may be at an advantage in the license process once Cookson becomes president. Of course, McQuaid will also tell you that as a president, he had absolutely no involvement in the license process, that it was run entirely by the completely independent license committee. So how could a new president influence it? And if such influence is possible, then surely it is already a potential conflict of interest that Cookson and Makarov are UCI board members? Yet the UCI president never spoke out about his board members.

Strange we never hear McQuaid talk about the conflict of interest between the UCI and its race organizing company Global Cycling Promotion. In a small sport like cycling, conflicts of interest may not always be avoidable. The key is that people know when to recuse themselves from the decision-making process. Whether Cookson will be better at it than McQuaid is simply unknown (although with Cookson I am pretty sure he at least knows the word).

Speaking of conflict of interest, McQuaid has been using the UCI press department to send out news about his candidacy. Enough said.

While McQuaid as the new protector of democracy,  transparency and the avoidance of conflicts of interest is laughable without any further explanation, one little encore that reveals all his self-proclaimed strengths to be weaknesses. You may remember that a few years ago, after side-stepping the issue for many years, the UCI was forced to admit they had received money from Lance Armstrong.

  1. How come McQuaid – now an expert on conflict of interest – didn’t see taking money from an athlete they were supposed to monitor as such back then?
  2. How come McQuaid didn’t see it as an even bigger conflict given that recently, he had to admit that Armstrong’s 2001 Tour de Suisse test results were highly suspicious (remember he was forced to defend himself against the allegation Armstrong tested positive at this race, so he claimed the results were not positive but highly suspicious – annoying but nothing they could do about it). Clearly the avoidance of conflicts of interest are not his cup of tea.
  3. He then claimed the money from Armstrong was used for a test machine. To prove it, he would show the receipts to the media. for several years (and several trips by journalists to Aigle) after that promise, no such receipt was shown to the media. So much for transparency.

SeaOtter 2013

April 23, 2013

After last year’s launch of OPEN at SeaOtter, this year’s event was quite different. While last year, media attention was very high to check out the new kids on the block, this year media attention was matched by  consumer interest.

The expo at SeaOtter is never crazy-busy, at least not what you would think when you hear that 60,000 show up during the four days. Whenever and wherever you look in the expo space, there is good traffic but nobody will mistake it for a Japanese commuter train. To me it seems that many people just come to race and then immediately pack up and go home.

That said, this actually serves a tiny company like OPEN just fine, as we have no way to talk to 60,000 people anyway. And I found that the people who do walk the expo are fantastic, very interested and very knowledgeable. These were my take-away notes from four days of SeaOtter:

  • I was amazed at how many people had heard of OPEN already, which obviously was quite exciting for me.
  • The people who stopped by the booth really knew a lot about us already, and the AXX1 & The Electric One were both very well-received.
  • The number of industry big-wigs was very high. This has become a networking event for many. While I abhor networking, I did have several very fruitful meetings, and you will hopefully see the results of this in the future.
  • Props to SeaOtter for making the event so family-friendly. The number of kids on bikes was truly astounding, and the 3-year olds with full-on helmets bigger than the rest of their bodies are hilarious to watch (in fact it’s even funnier when they try to be “cool” by hanging the helmet on their handlebar, as the weight is so enormous they cannot possibly steer their bike straight.
  • The number of 10-year olds with bikes that must have cost at least 50 years of allowance was also amazing.
  • But most of all, it was great to see how much fun these kids were having, both in the cycling events and the other expo entertainment.
  • Lots of new product introductions, lots of 650b stuff, and just like before most industry people have no idea where this trend is going. It’s amazing how virtually everybody introduces 650b products just because others are and because they don’t want to miss the boat, and how few manufacturers actually know why. There are some who do, don’t get me wrong, and even I believe in it for certain specific cases (basically when bigger wheels won’t fit due to frame size, suspension travel or frame configuration), but they are few and far apart. You can also see it in the justifications brands use for their 650b product – it rarely makes sense.
  • That said, I think 650b is here to stay. Together with the 29er it will be the standard going forward, and the 26″ wheel is truly history. Will OPEN ever make a 650b frame? If there is a good reason to do so, definitely. If not, then not. So far we don’t have a frame design coming up that requires 650b wheels, although one design comes pretty close. So who knows, it’s still so early that design changes could push it over the edge, it’s hard to say. But definitely nothing coming soon, we have no desire to simply join the stampede.
  • Despite all the mountain bike introductions, I think the biggest news was on the road: the introduction of SRAM’s new groups with 22 speeds (11-sp cassettes) and hydraulic brakes. Their hydraulic rim brakes are gorgeous, and seem to work very well. The disk brake versions will be interesting to follow, especially to see what the UCI decides to do. The levers have received mixed reviews, the taller dimension makes them less elegant than the old designs. But you have to put the hydraulic cylinder somewhere, and the taller hoods actually give you a great grip and some room to move your hands around. Great for long rides and also great for more security in tricky situations (think cyclocross).
  • I come out of SeaOtter with a lot of drive to push forward on our new designs. The meetings I had were just what the doctor ordered to make good headway, and I think we’re on the right track to bring out  some really nice things. Nothing in the near future, this is all still pretty far away, but I’m excited about it.
At SeaOtter from left to right: Andy, myself, Jason and Mark (both from our Newport Beach retailer Pro Bike Supply).

At SeaOtter from left to right: Andy, myself, Jason and Mark (both from our Newport Beach retailer Pro Bike Supply).

Kiss-of-death Milan-San Remo predictions

March 17, 2013

It’s that time of year again, the kiss-of-death predictions.

Of course the top favorite is Sagan, but me mentioning him here pretty much ruins his chances, as history has shown. So it should be a very open race!

Of course, if you exclude Sagan, it becomes almost impossible to predict the winner. Some mention Hushovd because of the predicted foul weather, but very long races aren’t always his strength and coming back from a year of inactivity, 300k looks even longer.

I really like Cancellara, and he can climb the Poggio better than most and descend it better than anybody, but will it be enough to shake off all the riders who can expertly sit on his wheel and outsprint him?

Gilbert with or without cortisones? Or Rodriguez, who can attack the Poggio in similar fashion? But what to do on the other end? Nibali, another one who can really fly up the Poggio (and also down it, although I don’t rate him as that good a descender since he regularly seems to kiss the pavement). Regardless, the only rider Nibali could outsprint would be Andy Schleck, and I’m not sure he’s spotted in any Milan hotel lately.

This shouldn’t be the race for Cavendish anymore, the way the last three climbs are ridden nowadays. But I actually think he has been targeting this race, and that we’ll see a better climbing Cav than ever. Enough to stay connected to the front? Possibly, though maybe not in this weather. He will be a very interesting guy to watch though, and there is no doubt he has his team’s support.

His old team may have a real ace in its hand. Boasson Hagen can climb much better than you would think (remember the Tour) and on a good day, he can outsprint anybody (remember his field sprint wins?) And when the weather turns bad, Boasson Hagen’s legs seem to turn well.

Greenedge has two irons in the fire with Gerrans and Goss, and if both make it over the Poggio (which they have numerous times), their combo may be a credible threat to Sagan. Even if Sagan has support from Moser, it may spell trouble for Sagan as he may have to control the race after a Moser + ?? attack rather than win himself.

Not mentioned as often but somebody who is ready for his biggest win so far is Degenkolb. He rides for a team I really like, and they deserve the boost. Plus Degenkolb’s performances last year in San Remo and Worlds show this type of course – and the race distance – suit him well. And Last year’s Vuelta showed his speed and nose for the victory is now at full strength.

So here we go, the kiss-of-death Milan-San Remo predictions:

Boasson Hagen

And my sentimental favorite? Haussler of course.



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