Ed’s Rant: We are in that limbo between Giro d’Italia and Tour de France and Ed Hood has itchy fingers to get a few things off his chest – Rant Time! There are no boundaries for our resident ‘Grumpy Old Man’ as he looks at the good and bad of cycling past and future… Take it away Scrooge.
Scottish TT Champ – Kyle Gordon
I was reporting on the Scottish 25 mile time trial championship recently, won in fine style by Highlander, Kyle Gordon (RT23) with a 48 minute ride and with all three medallists dipping inside the once mythical 50 minute – 30 miles per hour – barrier. It got me thinking about things I’ve seen in our sport but never imagined that I would. When I started getting into the sport in early 1970’s, the Scottish 25 mile record was a 55 minute ride by John McMillan; last year that rapid young man John Archibald recorded a 47 minute ride – hard for me to take in.
King Wiggo the 1st
Then there’s the Tour de France, never did I think I would see a British winner. But in 2012, Martin Williamson and I were there on the Place de la Concord when “Wiggo” swept in, victorious.
I’ve seen another five Brit winners since; albeit it’s hard to pin Chris Froome’s nationality down, Wiggo was born in Belgium and Thomas is Welsh. And last year it was scarcely believable with British riders winning all three Grand Tours, courtesy Messrs. Froome, Thomas and Yates.
Froome, Thomas and Yates – 2018 was some year!
Barry Hoban’s eight Tour stage wins were hugely impressive to the young me – but Cav has now won four times as many. But I’ve also witnessed the winners of eight editions of the world’s most prestigious race being declassed. . .
British champion Mark Cavendish winning 2013 Tour stage 13
Turning to the track; a Scottish guy breaking the World Hour Record? On a bike he built himself? No! ‘Yes,’ thanks to the man who has made an art form of ‘thinking outside the box,’ Graeme Obree.
Graeme Obree on ‘Old Faithful’
In 1972 the British cycling team came home from the Munich Olympics with a bronze medal in the team pursuit – we were all knocked out by that. In Beijing in 2008 the GB cycling team came away with eight gold medals, four silvers and two bronze. It was hard to take in. The times on the track now are also hard for me to absorb. When I first got into cycling it was the time of the world championships in Leicester in 1970 with Niels Fredborg of Denmark winning the kilometre time trial in 1:08:82.
Patrick Sercu – Impressive
And I well remember being hugely impressed when the late, great Patrick Sercu cracked the one minute barrier for the flying kilometre in Mexico in the early 70’s. At the track Worlds in Apeldoorn in 2018 all three medallists were sub 60 seconds from standing starts with Dutchman Jeffrey Hoogland quickest in 59.517 – remarkable.
Record breaking Australian team pursuit – Worlds’19
Similarly, the team pursuit was won in Leicester 1970 with a 4:35:75 ride by West Germany; this year on the Pruszkow velodrome in Poland, Australia rode to a stunning 3:48:012 in the final against GB. Bigger gears, indoor tracks, a much better understanding of aerodynamics, a more scientific approach to training and perhaps most importantly, more Government/sponsor money for national squads have all contributed to these stellar improvements.
Patrick Sercu with roadman Gregor Braun
The one big disappointment for me over the years on the track has been the decline of six day racing. Sercu, Clark, Pijnen, Fritz, Bugdahl, Altig and the big road stars including Merckx and Moser rode the six days – the big chases were savage. The racing now is but a shadow of what it was back then but bigger money for the road stars, so no need to ride the winter boards, and a World where people have access to so much more in the way of entertainment and demand instant gratification have all contributed to the decline of this once so colourful and exciting aspect of our sport.
Ed yearning for the bright lights of the ‘6 Day’
However, you can now become a national champion whilst sitting in your living room looking at a screen, thanks to Zwift. . .
Zwift – The future?
But there are still things I’d like to see but haven’t:
Whilst GB has in recent years dominated the Grand Tours, the northern one day classics and Monuments have eluded them; yes, Ian Stannard has twice won Het Nieuwsblad – but that’s a semi-classic, 200 kilometres. Adam Yates won San Sebastian in 2015; but success in the Monuments has evaded British riders. Mark Cavendish’s win in The Primavera in 2009 is the only major classic won by a GB rider since Barry Hoban’s magnificent win in Gent-Wevelgem in 1974. It would be nice to have a British Classics rider to enthuse about.
Barry Hoban winning 1974 Gent-Wevelegem – Beating Eddy Merckx
Dutchman Mathieu Van Der Poel gives me hope though, a colourful, gifted versatile rider who does exactly what he wants, including turning his back on the road for the summer while he rides mountain bike races. I’m looking forward to seeing him in action in 2020; we need him now that Tom Boonen has retired and that eccentric and talented man, Peter Sagan seems to have lost his hunger.
Has Sagan lost his sparkle?
Charisma, it’s hard to define but you know when it’s lacking. We could do with an injection of it on the British time trial scene; back in the 70’s there was colourful short distance ‘King,’ Alf Engers; Raleigh pro turned virtually unbeatable time trial star Dave Lloyd; controversial and outspoken roadman/time tester, Phil Griffiths then the remarkable Ian Cammish, on a different level to everyone else in 100 mile races.
Dave Lloyd – Versatile
Let’s go back to the Grand Tours; what about one a ‘rouleur’ can win? A Sagan or a GVA or a Mathieu Van Der Poel and which doesn’t include ever more outlandish hills? Perhaps it’s escaped the organisers attention that three of the world’s greatest and most popular races, Milan-Sanremo, the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix don’t have any mountains.
Nothing to climb here
We’ll give them Liège-Bastogne-Liège and Tour of Lombardy because they sure aren’t flat. And a French Tour de France winner would be the best thing that could happen to the race and to our sport, alas I don’t think it’s going to be Monsieur Bardet, not while Messrs. Froome and Thomas are around. Alaphilippe?
Alaphilippe – The man of the future
On the track it would be nice to see ‘The Bigs’ ride the six days but I fear that’s wishful thinking. And it would be good to see an indoor velodrome in Scotland’s capital city of Edinburgh. And whilst we’re talking ‘track’ – how about grass track?
Scottish grass track just isn’t the same
‘When I were a lad’ the grass track racing at the Scottish Highland Games was packed with characters; Jock Ward, the coal miner/ice cream vendor/grass track king; Big Tam Grehin who’s day job was farming; the Duff dynasty, father and three sons who all rode the grass tracks and my amigo John Hardie, winner of 60-odd Scottish grass track titles. Let’s hope we see colourful men like them again on the grass some time soon.
The time for talking was over a while ago
It would be good to see an end to cycling politics, ‘a little less conversation and a little more action.’ – but that’s wishful thinking, again. And kitting up? It would be marvellous to see an end to it – but that’s REALLY wishful thinking.
It was November 2005 when Ed Hood first penned a piece for PEZ, on US legend Mike Neel. Since then he’s covered all of the Grand Tours and Monuments for PEZ and has an article count in excess of 1,700 in the archive. He was a Scottish champion cyclist himself – many years and kilograms ago – and still owns a Klein Attitude, Dura Ace carbon Giant and a Fixie. He and fellow Scot and PEZ contributor Martin Williamson run the Scottish site www.veloveritas.co.uk where more of his musings on our sport can be found.
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