Saturday, 27 October 2012

Weekend Roundup: 2013 Tour Route Unveiled, Bobby's Sky Exit, Kittel Speaks Out, Domestic Doping?

With no racing to talk about the worlds cycling media has been focusing heavily on the Lance Armstrong affair and other related doping news. It's hard not to let the off-season combined with huge doping scandals turn fans off to the sport but there is some good coming of it with signs of a younger generation of rider speaking out against the old guard. The revealing of the Tour de France 2013 route this week was also a timely reminder that bicycle racing does still exist beyond doping...

2013 Tour de France Route
Yes the 2013 Tour de France route has finally been revealed in its entirety though I'm not going to be spending too much time on a detailed analysis just yet as other have kindly done this already! The Route will feature 6 mountain stages (with one including a double ascent of Alpe d'Huez), four summit finishes, one Team Time Trial and two Individual Time Trials with the rest being made up of flat sprinters stages and mid-mountain routes. The first three days will be set in stunning Corsican countryside before heading to mainland France. There's talk of reducing team size from 9 riders to 8 in a bid to make the race more competitive and help with safety though no official decision has been made yet. The full route can be found here and a good analysis can be found over at Inner Ring.

Bobby Julich First Sky Casualty
Sky Coach Bobby Julich has been forced to leave Team Sky as a result of the 'sign or leave' policy. Julich was a well liked man at Sky, a firm favourite with all of the team and a man with a true love of the sport of cycling - but Bobby did confess to using EPO between 1996 and 1998 (he finished third in the 'Festina' Tour de France which was a bit of a giveaway!) though his use ended there and he has been nothing but a model professional ever since. Sky have faced criticism from fans who have been angered as Julich has been a good egg at Sky, a lover of the sport and his doping incident happened 15 years ago - unfortunately though being a good guy cannot get in the way of implementing a firm anti-doping policy, if exceptions has been made for Julich then could they have been made for other? Where then would the line be drawn? In the overall scheme of things it's probably only right that Bobby should go as per the policy, whether that policy is right is another matter.

Marcel Kittel 'Sick' of Contador et al
There must be something in the Spanish water because so far we have, disappointingly, seen Samuel Sanchez and Miguel Indurain come out in support of Lance Armstrong. Adding to that list this week was Alberto Contador who spoke out in support of Lance - whether he means it, is trying to stay on Lances 'friend' list (should Lance want to out anybody else...) or he has been terrible disillusioned with his own 18 month UCI/CAS saga I'm still unsure, but young German printer Marcel Kittle had a few things to say about it on twitter: "I feel SICK when I read that Contador, Sanchez & Indurain still support Armstrong. How does someone want to be credible by saying that?! I mean, it makes it all worse. They should play their false game somewhere else. Or do they ride for money instead of joy?!". Marcel received overwhelming support for his comments on twitter, from me included (good on you lad!) though one tweeter wasn't too impressed, he replied to Kittel with "Don't you think it's better to shut your mouth. Cycling history always turns back 2 people like you." to which Kittel bravely replied:  "Not anymore! I'll risk it!". It really is a great to see some riders speak out like this, I only hope that it is a trend that continues.

Domestic Doping?
We all know that at the top of the sport doping is serious business but where there is competition there will always be those willing to cheat and in cycling that means doping - even if the rewards are comparatively small to those that earned Lance Armstrong 'legend' status. With news emerging that a Positive test at Australian Continental level racing going un-noticed and dropping both the UCI and and Australian authorities in hot water alongside Metaltek-Scott rider Marcel Six getting slapped with an 18 month ban for refusing to take an anti-doping test during a round of the Halfords Tour series this year is domestic doping on the rise? Probably not, but with less strenuous testing and riders fighting to turn full-time pro there is always going to be those who turn to drugs. We have in the past seen amateur riders test positive at Gran Fondos (like Sportives but with prizes) and low category races and the trend is a little worrying.

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