Saturday, January 21, 2006

Perpetual Cycle

In the aftermath of the recent tragedy in North Wales, in which four cyclists, of ages ranging from 14 to 61 were killed by a car which had skidded out of control in the icy conditions the latest issue of Cycling Weekly has extensive coverage and reader comments on the incident, including the harrowing story of one the survivors.

The editorial puts the tragedy into perspective by taking a positive line on cycling. The editor points out that the dangers of cycling are far outweighed by the benefits to one's health and fitness levels. Statistically you are more likely to be killed by an accident occurring in the home, such as falling off a ladder or drowning in a garden pond than on a bike. He goes on to specify that when obesity accounts for 30,000 deaths annually and heart disease brought about by physical inactivity accounts for 42,000 deaths. Speaking in a personal capacity, I can think of few other activities which produce such an adrenaline rush and sense of ecstasy and escape from the pressures of life. Food for thought indeed.

Tony Bell whose column normally takes an irreverent tongue-in-cheek look at the world of cycling takes a more solemn stance this time in calling for the creation of a single powerful organisation to represent cyclists in the UK so that such tragedies can be avoided in future. In criticising the generally cynical attitude of motorists towards cyclists he singles out the intensely irritating motoring journalist Jeremy Clarkson, whose column in that fine, upstanding bastion of the quality press The Sun tends to take a dim view of bike riders. Bell hopes that his proposed cyclists' union would do all in its power to have the obnoxious Clarkson charged with incitement to murder the next time he "writes one of his crass articles that describe how he would run down a cyclist 'for fun'". While we're on the subject, Clarkson could do the world a big favour by test-driving the new Lamborghini Cazzogrande off the white cliffs of Dover.

Who will inherit Armstrong's tour de force?
Now that Lance Armstrong has finally hung up his pedals after a record seven straight Tour de France victories, speculation mounts as to who his successor to the yellow jersey in this summer's eagerly awaited race will be. Apparently Armstrong's arch-rival and 1997 Tour winner Jan Ullrich is determined to seize what could be his last chance of victory. However there are other pretenders to the throne - Italian rider, Ivan Basso and Ullrich's former T-Mobile team-mate, the Kazakh, Alexandre Vinokourov. In what looks set to be the most open Tour for years anything can happen. Alisdair Fotheringham remains open-minded about Ullrich's chances:
"...whether he'll stay on the straight and narrow or start hitting the fridge for midnight feasts between now and June is anybody's guess - and the outcome of the 2006 Tour will hinge on that, too."

Ullrich...yellow fever in 2006?

The golden age of Irish cycling when Stephen Roche, the 1987 Tour de France winner and Sean Kelly, arguably the greatest rider never to win the Tour were two of the biggest names in the sport may be long gone, but the forthcoming launch of a new Irish team could signal the beginning of a renaissance. The Belgian-based Sean Kelly team under the tutelage of its namesake, the former world number one is to compete in professional and amateur events on the continent according to Shane Stokes in the Irish Times.

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