art: David Gerstein
Tomorrow (or in a couple of hours if you live in Oz) sees the start of the Tour Down Under which is the beginning of the pro cycling season, which I for one am looking forward to immensely. As a fan of all things to do with the bike I am not beholden to one particular genre of cycling, instead I admire all those whose skill and dedication has taken them to the top of the tree be that on the track, on road or off. I do however have a huge admiration and fascination for the top roadies. Think about this, the riders will race over the season for around 10,000 km, that’s pure race distances and does not include all the training km that also take place, when you also take into account the conditions and terrain that they cover it is an incredible physical achievement simply to be in a position to compete. It is also a sport that generally contains all the top riders competing against each other all year, yes there are a few riders such as Thomas Voeckler or Marcel Kittel outside the top echelon of teams but in general the worlds best riders are in the top 18 teams. Compare this to say football where the best players are split between various countries and different leagues. What really makes it stand out however is the incredible level of teamwork and personal sacrifice that takes place to support certain riders within each team, whether that be the overall team leader or one of the team’s specialist riders for example the sprinting prowess of Mark Cavendish. The commitment and courage that will take place throughout the year is simply staggering, particularly bearing in mind that the riders, no matter how skilled they are, do put their lives on the line as the tragic death of Wouter Weylandt in last years Giro d’Italia amply demonstrated.
I’ve always followed the big races but this year I’ve wanted to watch the whole season unfold. The World Tour is pretty complicated as it is split into a variety of different events, some 1 day some several weeks all of which carry a different level of significance and history and it is not easy if you are not steeped in the sport to get to grips with it. Several months ago I came across the peerless blog The Inner Ring which is a fantastic, intelligent and knowledgeable blog on all things pro cycling which I’m going to use to help me follow the whole season through. There is a handy guide to all the teams as well as a breakdown of all the events and how the points system is calculated together with a downloadable calender of all the events. So join me and follow the season as the drama unfolds, and trust me drama there will be.
Finally consider this, I can never take a ball and go and have a kick around Wembley or the Millennium or bowl a few overs at Lords but I can if I want take a bike and ride on any of the roads that these guys ride – what other sport can you do that. It’s going to be a great season so lets ride – just try not to end up like Johnny Hoogerland at the Tour de France last year (note he finished the tour despite this !)