Cycle Sport May is out in UK shops now, featuring the very best writing and photography of professional cycling. It features interviews with former world champion Thor Hushovd, UCI president Pat McQuaid, Paris-Roubaix winner Johan Vansummeren and a joint Q&A with old rivals and new team-mates Robbie McEwen and Stuart O’Grady, plus part two of our new anonymous column from inside the peloton, written by a professional cyclist.
Words by Cycle Sport Staff
Tuesday March 13, 2012
Our cover star Thor Hushovd is a difficult rider to pigeonhole. Such are his all-round abilities that it would be easier to list the things he’s not good at. At the Tour de France alone he’s worn the yellow jersey, won the green jersey, and taken stages ranging from prologues, through bunch sprints, team time trials, breakaways, uphill finishes to mountain stages. His spell in the yellow jersey last year, which lasted from stage two all the way into the heart of the Massif Central, was one of the biggest stories of the race. He also has the distinction of having won at least a stage in every Tour going back to 2006, a run of six races that puts him joint fifth in the all-time list of riders winning stages in consecutive Tours.
But Hushovd has unfinished business with cycling. He craves a Paris-Roubaix win, and his move to BMC was partly motivated by frustration at the team tactics he was forced to follow at Garmin in last year’s race. While his team-mate won, Hushovd was reduced to the role of Cancellara-blocker, sitting in the Swiss rider’s wheel to discourage him from attacking.
Hushovd spoke to Andy McGrath about his superb performances at the Tour de France, and about his Roubaix ambitions. “I’m not obsessed with winning Paris-Roubaix,” he insisted. But McGrath doesn’t believe him. “For Hushovd, Roubaix is everything,” he writes.
Also in the magazine…
Who is Pat McQuaid and why is he running our sport? Lionel Birnie attempts to answer this question, through a two-and-a-half hour interview with the president of the UCI. In this major feature, we go back to the beginning of McQuaid’s involvement in cycling as a young racer, then team manager, race organiser, UCI member and finally president.
McQuaid’s tenure as president has been marked by almost permanent controversy. He was elected in 2005, the start of his presidency coinciding with the birth of the ProTour, which caused the UCI to fall out with the race organisers in a damaging struggle for control. Grand Tour after Grand Tour was hit with doping scandals, while there were allegations of favouritism towards Lance Armstrong following the rider’s donation of funds to the governing body. Now McQuaid is facing a revolt by the cycling teams, whose organisation the AIGCP recently passed a motion of no-confidence in the UCI.
What is it about McQuaid that seems to get so many people’s backs up? And is he the right man to run our sport? We attempt to answer those questions.
For Birnie’s account of the interview, and some more of his conclusions, read our bonus feature, on the Cycle Sport website, Interviewing Pat McQuaid.
People are already starting to ask, who is Cycle Sport’s man in the bunch? We’d tell you, except we’d have to kill you. In his second piece, our anonymous insider talks about race programmes – how they are set, who decides who races where, and how much influence riders have over them. “Initial programmes are decided by the management in November or December…Watching the riders come out of that meeting is always amusing. For every rider that comes out all smiles, there is another who looks like they’ve just come out of court with a guilty verdict, with almost none of the races they’d been hoping to do. There are eight poor saps at Euskaltel who have to ride Paris-Roubaix every year, for example.”
Robbie McEwen and Stuart O’Grady were lifelong rivals, right from their first meeting 20 years ago at the Australian Institute of Sport in 1992, all the way through to the 2000s, when both were attempting to win stages at the Tour, along with green jerseys. Their rocky relationship came to a head in 2005 when McEwen spent the final 50 metres of a Tour stage whacking O’Grady with his head, while O’Grady was being extremely assertive with his elbows. Now, they are team-mates on Australia’s first top level team, GreenEdge. Age seems to have mellowed the pair, and Gregor Brown sat down with both of them to chat about their concurrent careers, ambitions and experiences. O’Grady and McEwen reminisced about faxes being their only way of keeping in touch with home, how to fight for position, Classics wins and the friendship that grew out of their rivalry.
What’s it like to win the Tour of Flanders? Seven previous winners have shared their memories with Cycle Sport, in our Ode to the Ronde. Michele Bartoli, Fabian Cancellara, Tom Boonen, Gianni Bugno, Alessandro Ballan, Andrea Tafi and Eddy Merckx explain their tactics, the place the race holds in their hearts and the significance of their wins. Here is an edited version of Alessandro Ballan’s testimony:
”This is my favourite race above all else. The first year in Flanders, I finished in the second bunch. Passing the big screen in the square in Geraardsbergen, I saw the leading riders and said to myself, ‘Next year I want to be there with them.’
“That’s exactly what I did, attacking alone after the Koppenberg and breaking away for 50 kilometres. And three years later I came back and won it.
“I always eat a lot before big races. That morning, it was the same as the night before: three plates of pasta. At the start line, I felt sick, but after two hours it was fine. It had been worth it.
“I did everything to get away on the Muur van Geraardsbergen. The mass of people you pass is something special, especially in first place. I waited a moment, saw that Leif Hoste was coming and we worked together. In the final kilometre, he didn’t want to come through. I knew he’s a gran passista [diesel-type rider], I didn’t know about his sprint. He jumped and I lost two or three metres.
“After I passed him, there was a great silence from the fans. Hoste was their favourite.
“The next day, when I was taking a taxi to go home, the cabbie asked: ‘So what were you doing around here?’
“I said, ‘A race yesterday, the Tour of Flanders.’
“’Oh, how did it go?’
“He started jabbering away, delighted for me. I realised I had won something important.”
Not many people considered Johan Vansummeren as a favourite for Paris-Roubaix last year, but the tall Belgian was the biggest beneficiary of clever team tactics by Garmin-Cervélo when he escaped to win solo. Ellis Bacon interviewed Vansummeren about that win, about the fine balancing act needed to maintain pace and composure while his rear wheel slowly deflated along with his lead over his pursuers, and about proposing to his girlfriend in the chaos of the aftermath. Can he win the race again? Not necessarily, but he’s part of possibly the strongest team for the cobbled classics. There’s a high chance that if he’s not the first across the line, he may have played a part in a team-mate being the winner. Featuring portraits by Richard Baybutt.
Davide Appollonio is probably the second most exciting young sprinter on Team Sky, and given that the first is Mark Cavendish, that’s a huge compliment to the Italian. Gregor Brown has interviewed Appollonio about his ambitions and his unusual career choices: unlike most of his countrymen, he’s opted to race exclusively for foreign teams, first Cervélo, then Sky. We first noticed Appollonio towards the end of 2010 when he started picking up top fives in good races, and won a stage of the Tour du Limousin. By the time he finished a close second to Cavendish in a 2011 Giro stage, riding with a similar low position to the Brit, we knew he was going to be good. 2012 will more likely see him as a lead-out in the bigger races, but at just 22, Appollonio’s got plenty of time to learn and develop.
Women’s cycling is slowly growing, but it has a long way to go before it achieves anything like parity with the men’s side of the sport. It has potential, but big races continue to disappear, while the UCI neglected to mention it at all in a recent report boasting of the healthy position (read: financial turnover) of professional (men’s) road racing. Andy McGrath spoke to four prominent members of the women’s peloton, Giorgia Bronzini, Judith Arndt, Chloe Hosking and Katie Colclough, to ask them, what needs to change in women’s cycling. The four riders came back with a variety of ideas. Let’s hope that the UCI read this feature, as well as the one about their boss elsewhere in the magazine.
Iconic Places visits the Col d’Allos, in the Alps. The Allos was the last col upon which Eddy Merckx looked invincible – in the 1975 Tour, he led alone over the top, and looked like he was about to clinch his sixth victory in the race. But on the next climb, to Pra Loup, he was caught and dropped by eventual winner Bernard Thévenet. It’s no exaggeration to say that the Col d’Allos was a witness to Merckx’s transition from superman to ordinary mortal. Chris Sidwells looks at the history of the Col d’Allos in the Tour, and describes its wild terrain and unforgiving altitude. It’s been over a decade since the Allos was used in the Tour, but this epic climb deserves to be revisited.
Plus…All our regular features – Graham Watson showcases his best pictures from Qatar, Oman and Het Nieuwsblad; Shop Window makes us all wish we had more money to spend on bling kit; Broomwagon announces the Tour de France 2014 will be held in China; Any Questions with Jesse Sergent (“Can you haka?” “No.”; Superteams show that the balance of power in cycling has shifted to the mid-Atlantic; In praise of the Tour of Qatar; Blythe’s orange shoes; Tommeke’s ton; Taylor Phinney’s extraordinary hand-drawn self-portrait in The Write Stuff; Team of the Month; Top 10 lost races; Geraint; scurrilous rumours, quality writing and pictures and much much more.
Here’s what the critics are saying about Cycle Sport May 2012…
“To be sure, it’s fair and balanced journalism.” Pat McQuaid
“Thanks for running the photo of my good side.” Thor Hushovd
“Fooking brilliant.” Mark Cavendish
“It’s certaintly at the head of the general classement of magazines.” Sean Kelly
Cycle Sport May, featuring the very best writing and photography of professional cycling, is available from Wednesday March 14 in the UK, priced £4.35, and later in the USA. It is also available electronically through Zinio.