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Wednesday, 30 October 2013

PETER KENNAUGH & AN UNDERSTANDABLE FRUSTRATION



Peter Kennaugh's tweet on the injustices of how teams deal with dopers and clean riders, shows the type of frustration that permeates the world of cycling. He wrote:
@Peterkennaugh Seeldraeyers can't get a contract yet Astana more than happy to sign mpcc banned rider pellizotti

Pellizotti was suspended for two years on a doping charge. Teams adhering to the MPCC (Mouvement pour un cyclisme crédible) agree not to hire riders for a further 2 years after the suspension. Astana, a recent signatory to this Movement, have hired Pellizotti for the 2014 season but he won't race until May, when the two years after the suspension are up.
All this is within the MPCC rules, however he will be training with the team and with their kit, presumably he will be paid a salary as well.
And here comes the frustration. Many good riders, due to teams folding or rosters already fulfilled, have yet to find a contract for next season.
From the same team, Astana, an extremely good rider, Kevin Seeldraeyers, has come to the end of his contract and he's still looking for a job for 2014.
So, former doper in, clean rider out.
Kennaugh points him out, but the list is quite alarmingly big.
Now, when a horde of former dopers have a contract, feed their families, have a bright future ahead, while many clean riders have not, there lies a big moral dilemma: although rules are not broken, these guys (and I'm not particularly referring to Pellizotti, there are plenty of convicted dopers in the peloton) have a future in the sport built on their cheating; teams don't seem to see that and keep on hiring them. They get a second chance while clean riders don't even get one proper chance.

It's all good to have a group like the MPCC, but when the loopholes make a mockery of the clean riders, something needs to change.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

BOOKED! JOIN THE (FREE) BOOKCLUB

In the words of @kittyfondue, BOOKED! is a bookclub "for people who are passionately involved with books and are willing to talk about it."
The appeal of a bookclub is the challenge for people to read beyond their natural choices and discover new horizons and ideas while in this literary journey.

It's free, there are no commitments but discussion is encouraged. It is amongst friends so anything goes, no literary award will be given on the prose of the review!
One book per month.
Each member will have the chance to choose a book.
Starting on the 1st day of each month, the discussion will then be set up as a new book is decided. First book is "Instructions for a Heatwave" by Maggie O'Farrell.
If you are not able to finish a book, no problem, you can always skip the next.

The link to the club is:
https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/117123-booked

So join goodreads.com and once a member, join the club.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

ENGLAND & WALES PRISONS - MYTHS AND FACTS

Figures from the International Centre for Prison Studies show England & Wales have a combined prison population of 84,430 inmates. That is the highest in Europe, just beating Poland to the top post. When taken in consideration the rate per 100,000 citizens, England/Wales still have the highest figures in Western Europe, 148, only 4 countries from the East fare worse, Poland (217), Hungary (186), Romania (155), and Czech Republic (154).

UCI, SUBSTANTIAL CHANGES

According to cicloweb.it (http://goo.gl/dWE1Dx), the UCI has finally been at work to change the formats of rankings and various levels of professional cycling. The changes will be discussed next January 2014 so the new format should be in place for 2015 to 2020.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

ANTHILL WORLD

Scenario 1: The whole population of North, Central and South America moves to Asia.
Scenario 2: The whole of China moves to Africa
Scenario 3: The United States' population moves to Nigeria

These are the nightmare scenarios equivalent to what will happen to the World  if growing population trends continue at the current state.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

TELEGRAPH, BAD WRITING AND THE IGNORANCE AROUND CYCLING

When I read the Telegraph's article http://www.telegraph.co.uk/men/active/recreational-cycling/10323653/War-declared-on-the-Lycra-louts-on-wheels.html , I let it go. I simply regarded it as yet another example of pretentious journalism, with a cheap sensationalist headline.
But this morning something happened on my commute to work and I hold journalism like that responsible for it.

Friday, 20 September 2013

MEN'S CYCLING WORLD ROAD RACE PREDICTIONS

Soon it will be another round of World Championships racing. It's the most unpredictable race of the calendar. It comes at the end of a long season and unless a rider specifically targets it and prepares for it, no chance. Team work is only partially important, mainly for the first phase, after that, legs do the talking. Although, if the team is particularly strong, it can wreak havoc and be crucial in the result (see Italy's win in 2008 and to some extent GB's win in Copenhagen in 2011).

Monday, 27 May 2013

NIBALI'S KNOCK OUT GIRO

It was always going to be a fight between Nibali and Wiggins. It didn't happen. Others tried but were too late to do something about it (Uran Uran), too unwell (Hesjedal) or simply not strong enough (Evans).

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

MY FAVOURITE ONE-DAY RACES

Top of my list it has to be Strade Bianche. It has drama, early season unpredictability, a spectacular finish set in medieval town of Siena. Pave', dust, gravel, stinging little climbs followed by dangerous descents. The winner is usually the type of rider I admire the most: Gilbert, Cancellara, Moser.



Giro di Lombardia is another race I love watching. Its hilly course and stunning views contribute to the mystique of this end-of-season monument. The Ghisallo climb is iconic in this course often mired by foul weather which adds to the epic efforts of past winners.



Brabantse Pijl is the opener for the Ardenne Classics. I believe its course is actually better than Amstel or Liege, offering a bit of all types of terrain. Even in the wet it's an exciting race to watch. Winding, cobbles, sharp climbs.



Thursday, 18 April 2013

ITALIAN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS

This picture of Alfano (Pdl) and Bersani (PD) speaks volume.
Right and Left, hand in hand, sharing the spoils of a deal in the Presidential elections in Italy.
But whatever the outcome, the losers are PD (Democratic Party). They have demonstrated a lack of much sought-after transparency by keeping their candidate secret, they have been playing a game of musical chairs with Berlusconi's Pdl, Bersani has shown to be a very weak and ineffective leader and the party is split even before a government is formed.
By the way, that has been almost forgotten. No government as yet, not even remotely in the distance.
Grillo's M5S has shown at least a clarity of choice and will gather more votes in an early election.
Berlusconi has still managed to be in charge of ceremonies in the Italian Parliament.

More in-depth analysis here by +Cr Lloyd :
http://thesecondshot.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/italy-choses-president-today.html

Friday, 1 February 2013

LEONARDO'S GENIUS

Leonardo's paintings, frescos, architecture and even warfare inventions were all incredible feats of engineering, skill and flare. His meticulous observations and thirst for knowledge based on first hand study, allowed him to find techniques never seen before and hardly seen after.
Studying anatomy by dissecting corpses, he was able to translate his knowledge into his paintings and frescos, in the way limbs folded and muscles had to be shaded.
His studies in nature gave him inspirations for many inventions and architectural designs.
However, all the masterpieces of art and architecture and also all the inventions he put to practice are not for me what defined him as a genius. Outstanding and unique as all those things were, they were made and were delivered by an artist/architect/engineer of special talent. But because they were made they simply were beautiful, innovative yes, probably only possible by Leonardo alone.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

TEAMS REVIEW 2013 - MOVERS AND SHAKERS

 AG2R LA MONDIALE 
Last year's poor showing has called for some injection of talent in the shape of Apollonio, Betancur, Hutarovich and most of all Pozzovivo who will boost their chances at stage wins. Still lacking strength in the Classics department, they will certainly concentrate in performances at the Grand Tours. Belletti, Gadret, Mondory, Nocentini are confirmed. They lose Roche, Hinault and Casper (the latter has retired). Always present in the breaks but rarely on the podium, it's a team that makes you feel a change in tactics or coaching is needed.

 ASTANA PRO TEAM 
One of the most active teams in the riders' market, their strength and depth is impressive. The post-Vino era will hopefully shrug off the many suspicions about their ethics. New riders are former teammates Agnoli and Vanotti in support for new super-signing Nibali in the quest for Grand Tour glory, Fuglsang who was incredibly sidelined at Radioshack and has great potential of GC, sprinter Guardini who had a great season at FarneseVini. These riders will join an established roster: Brajkovic, Gasparotto, Gavazzi, Guarnieri, Iglinskiy, Kashechkin, Kessiakoff, Muravyev, Ponzi, Tiralongo...all capable to grab classics or stages. Kreuziger is revamping is career at SaxoTinkoff, while Kiserlovski at Radioshack.

Monday, 21 January 2013

ARMSTRONG: CONFESSION A LA CARTE

Since his first win of a Tour de France I had the suspicion that something was amiss. It seemed impossible at the time as we just had come through the Festina scandals and Pantani's downfall, surely nobody would be able to fool controls.
Then, like many, I read Armstrong's book It's not about the bike and the first bells started to ring. He was one of the first cancer patients to try EPO to recover from therapies. Cinically I thought that if he had tested first hand the benefits of this drug, it would only be logical to assume his climbing prowess came from further use of it. He hadn't simply improved his climbing, he was one of the best.
That's when I started to be suspicious.
His confession was therefore long overdue as far as I was concerned.
I was still surprised when it came though, I never thought he would ever admit to doping.
The first minute or so of Oprah's interview was all I needed. I simply wanted to hear him say Yes I doped. Everything else that followed was just mumbo jumbo of no relevance. A mixture of PR and legal censoring. He was clearly taking people for a ride when admitting to doping up until 2005 and no further, when clearly his biological passport is showing otherwise. This in turns implicates the UCI even further as cover-ups were needed to carry on racing.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

CADEL EVANS GOES MOURINHO

“Please don’t call me arrogant, but I’m European champion and I think I’m a special one.” (Jose Mourinho)
"There will be one leader, and that will be me because I have the experience and the results to back up that I can win the Tour." (Cadel Evans)


Cadel Evans' latest interview at BMC's presentation in Belgium was interesting mainly for two factors: his underlined cry for leadership at the Tour and the veiled accusation of wrongdoing by TeamSky, in particular Wiggins. 
The overall impression is that of a worried rider but one eager to show his best. 
Last year's lacklustre performance has been blamed on a virus contracted while visiting his adopted son in Ethiopia. His age also must be a worrying factor for him too as not many 36-year-olds have managed to win a Tour. 

Thursday, 10 January 2013

ITALY, THE UNFINISHED DEMOCRACY

When Italy was unified about 150 years ago, it was a political not a cultural decision. It's not just a division between North and South that conflicts with the identity of this country, it's a deeper division.
Deeply catholic, over the centuries, people identified themselves with those in the proximity of the local church, with the bell tower well in view as a reference point, like an umbrella lifted by a tourist guide to keep the flock united. Campanile is bell tower in Italian, campanilismo is therefore the term coined to describe the allegiances people have to their local areas.
Although religion has played a big part in shaping cultural identities, the main catalyst for these divisions is the territory. The geography of the land has shaped the Italian way of life more than any invading power, political and religious force. It's a divisive land. To go from the west coast near Rome to the east coast of the Abruzzi region you have to cross mountains; the same happens if you need to transfer goods from the port in Genoa to the factories in Milan. There are alpine communities as well as maritime cultures, fertile plains, cold areas, hot areas... each with their own identity.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

ECONOMY... A TAXING SUBJECT

In the last few years economy stories have moved from the financial pages in the middle of our newspaper to the front pages. We're constantly spoon-fed information we don't understand but pretend to. We are worried because the money we earn seems to devalue every week.
If we're struggling financially is because bad decisions (or no decisions) have been made for us. That's why we can blame the banks and governments (left and right) for mismanaging our resources. Financial crisis, it turns out, don't often happen for natural causes.