Thursday, June 5, 2008

Back in the saddle

After 7 days of enforced rest, it was good to get out on the road this morning. The first thing I noticed was that temperatures have plummeted in the last week. OK, so we live in Durban, and don't experience real winter, but 15 deg C this morning was a shock to the system.

Our Fearless Leader reportedly had a sore throat, and so joined Club Duvet this morning. That left the rest of us to our own devices, and the planned team Time Trial practice was incorporated into Circuits rather than the planned route. That was OK by me - I planned to stay on the Circuit anyway, as I was going to try and keep my heart rate below 75% of max.

The Circuit we, and most cyclists in Durban, use, is a 5km flat route around Durban Country Club golf course. We share the road with other road users, although there is a bicycle lane marking (the only one in Durban), so it is usually quite safe. The east side of the route follows the beachfro
nt road (Broken Bottle Boulevard) and can be quite scenic, if you're still around at sunrise.

It was only a lap and a half before I realised my heart rate had hit 87%, and so I dropped off the bunch and circulated on my own. Usually I don't mind riding on my own (I get to do it quite a lot), but on a Thursday on the Circuit, a lot of people overtake you if your speed is below about 30km/h. As I was only averaging about 26, I got a lot of questioning looks. OK, so I was a big fat mobile chicane, and there were lots of guys practicing their TTT skills. I only wish I had had a big sign saying "Recovering from Flu, Pass Right".

Tour de France News

The big news this week is that the ASO (who own the TdF) have combined with the FFC (French Cycling Federation) to hold the Tour de France outside the control of the world governing body, the UCI. The dispute between the ASO and the UCI has been raging for some time now, and is mainly due to the UCI trying to enforce their ProTour regulations on the ASO controlled races. Under the ProTour regulations, the UCI get to decide which teams will be invited (the 18 registered ProTour teams + 4 Wild Cards); the ASO want to have total control. The same thing happened at Paris-Nice earlier this year, and the UCI made big threats against the riders who took part in this unsanctioned race. The threats have come to nothing, and the UCI is losing credibility as the governing body.

What the ASO fails to understand, or just doesn't care about, is that the 18 ProTour teams used their participation in all the major races (especially the TdF) as a lour for sponsors. If the ASO now starts including and excluding teams at will, then those same teams will face a tough time when it comes to negotiating new sponsorship agreements.

From my point of view, the UCI are in the right, but the ASO have the power. The sport of cycling needs a governing body, and all races should be held under their control. However, the race does belong to the ASO, and they also own many of the most important races in Europe (several are part of the ProTour calendar). Therefore, when the ProTour was evolving, the UCI should have involved the ASO, so an agreement could have been reached before the rules were announced. As it's not possible to go back and re-do, I think both parties need to have an urgent discussion to try and resolve their differences. Lock them in a room, and don't let them out until they reach agreement.

One thing that is not clear to me is whether Astana are included in the 18 teams the UCI want invited, or not. They should be; they are part of the ProTour. And the ASO have said they have been excluded for 2008, because the name has bad links to last year's doping problems. Well, if the UCI support Astana being in the race, then I support the UCI. To leave 2/3 of last year's podium out is a travesty!

Thanks for reading.