TRACK ATTACK AT HOG HILL?

I’ve had a brilliant idea. [We’ll be the judge of that – Ed.]

It came to me when we were talking about the Hog Hill circuit to the east of London in the office the other day.

Bear with me, please do read on, no matter how daft it sounds on initially hearing it, but wouldn’t it be fantastic to hold a track meeting style event on the road race circuit there?

There is a vocal element among British cycling’s fraternity that bemoans the emphasis on track racing. Road events and riders, they contend, do not get the same level of support.

Well without getting into the reasons why having a solid track programme is very definitely A Good Thing, I think I may have hit upon a solution that will combine the easy accessibility of track events with the thrill and excitement of the road.

No doubt someone will email in to say they did this at Eastway in the 1960s, but to the best of my knowledge, this hasn’t been done before. Please correct me, if I’m wrong.

So, how would it work? Well, you take all the best track race formats and hold them on the Hog Hill circuits with competitors riding on road bikes.

It would be a day of competition, a festival of cycling, drawing riders and their supporters from all over the country. There’d be food, drink and entertainment, and a public address system to tell everyone what’s going on. It would be open to all ages and abilities.

Just as cyclo-sportives are driving up participation in cycling events, a track meeting on a road circuit could be an introduction to competition.

What are the possible events?

Scratch race:
A road circuit would be ideally suited to small bunches. Races could be as many laps as you like, according to the age and ability of riders taking part.

Points race: 10 laps with a sprint every lap.

Individual time trials: One lap, two laps, however many laps you want. Does what it says on the tin.

Team time trials: For teams of four.

One-lap sprint: Could be man against man, or mimic the Keirin with six riders, minus the motorbike, of course.

Team sprint: Just like on the track. Three laps, three riders, a rider peels off after each lap.

Devil: Bunch race, last over the line each lap is eliminated.

And on it goes. In fact, the possibilities are endless. Is it a great idea, or have I lost my marbles? Have your say, email cycling@ipcmedia.com with the subject title ‘That ridiculous idea’.

CUT THE VUELTA

Anyone who read of Victor Cordero’s proposal to spice up the Vuelta a Espana by holding a race within a race (or something) can be forgiven for rolling their eyes.

Sorry to repeatedly bang the same drum, but the solution for the Tour of Spain is simple. Cut it to a fortnight and be done with it. Obviously Senor Cordero doesn’t read our sister magazine, Cycle Sport, because we’ve returned to this theme a couple of times since first suggesting it five years ago.

Professional cycling in 2008 does not need a third three-week tour, particularly not a late-summer one that’s interesting only to the Spaniards and a handful of foreigners.

The Vuelta should be commended for shortening the stages, which has livened up the racing, particularly in the mountains, but generally, I struggle to hold interest. And I am the sort of obsessive who will watch every minute of live coverage available – yes, even the ENECO Tour.

The Tour of Switzerland is the only race major that breaks the week-long format without being three weeks long, and that’s lost between the Dauphine Libere and the Tour de France. The calendar is crying out for a two-week race, one that minimises the dull transitional days.

In this era of made-for-TV sport, where organisers and television companies are bending traditional formats to make events more viewer-friendly, Cordero should be applauded for trying to think laterally.

But having a week of racing to decide which teams progress to the subsequent two weeks is convoluted, unworkable and, ultimately, pointless. After all, what if the overall leader is eliminated because all his team-mates are too lowly placed? Daft.

That’s me being charitable. If you want to know what I really think – the only way to make the Vuelta exciting is to subject the last-placed man on general classification to I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here style challenges.

One day he has a musette full of grubs and insects and must eat them for our amusement. Next day he has to race over five mountains in a gorilla suit filled with custard.

Now I’d definitely watch that.

CELEB CYCLISTS

Bradley Wiggins was a guest on BBC2’s morning cookery and lifestyle magazine show Something For The Weekend on Sunday.

Britain’s success at the World Championships, and the forthcoming Olympic Games, means that the nation’s cyclists are going to be in demand from mainstream telly and print media over the next few months. And rumour has it Wiggins has his autobiography coming out after the Olympics, so his publisher will be fixing him up with more appearances.

Good thing too, because aside from promoting the sport, Wiggins is a bit of a natural in front of the camera. In fact, unlike so many sports stars who mangle the English language (John Terry, I’m looking in your direction) most of Britain’s top cyclists come across extremely well when they’re on the box.

Which makes it all the more frustrating when they are asked banal questions.

Inevitably, considering the fact the host was Tim Lovejoy, creator of the lads mag style Soccer AM on Sky, one of the first questions was about how Wiggins goes to the toilet when he’s cycling on the road.

“Normally we just have a wee outside any French village,” was Wiggins’ deadpan answer.

He was shown how to cook toad in the hole by the programme’s cook, Simon Rimmer. Hardly post-race food, I’d have thought.

It’s great to see cyclists on ‘normal’ telly. But at what point will television interviewers actually stop asking cyclists how they go to the toilet? After all, it’s not as if they’re captured on camera squatting in the street, like Paula Radcliffe, and no one asks her about that Every. Single. Time.

THANKS EUROSPORT

Having slated Eurosport’s coverage of Paris-Roubaix last week, the station got it right this weekend, so it’s only fair to redress the balance.

A full hour of the best action from the Amstel Gold Race shown shortly after the race had finished proved that delayed coverage is the infinitely preferable to patchy ‘live’ pictures.

For a start, the broadcaster is not at the mercy of the wind or the riders. A tailwind can mean a race runs 20 minutes ahead of schedule, cutting down the actual ‘live’ action to half-an-hour, as happened with Paris-Roubaix.

And it was nice to see a bit of the French Cup race, Tro Bro Leon, which is a cross between Paris-Roubaix and the East Midlands CiCLE Classic and was won by Frederic Guesdon.

NO ROOM AT THE FIN

We’re travelling to see Fleche Wallonne today, the midweek Classic that starts in the grimmest town anywhere in western Europe, Charleroi, and finishes on top of a hill above the second grimmest town in western Europe, Huy.

I apologise to any residents of the two Belgian towns for insulting their places of residence, but I speak as someone who lives in Watford and works in Croydon, so I know what I’m talking about.

However, I’d have snapped up a room at the Charleroi Ibis if one had been available. Heck, I’d even have eaten in the restaurant. Admittedly, we left our search for accommodation till just after the nick of time, but we were surprised to find there was absolutely no room in Liege, Charleroi, Huy, Namur or La Louviere. In the end, we’ve managed to score a couple of rooms in Dinant, which at least means we’ll get a chance to see a bit more of the Ardennes.

And why was it so difficult to find vacancies?

Was it because the world’s sports fans have descended on the region for Fleche Wallonne and Liege-Bastogne-Liege?

Or was it because the European Seafood Exposition is taking place in Brussels this week and every hotel within a hundred-mile radius is fully booked.

WHERE’S DI LUCA?

A year can feel a very long time. Just ask Danilo Di Luca. Fifty two weeks ago he was the toast of Valkenberg, having won the Amstel Gold Race to become only the fifth rider to win all three Ardennes Classics in his career.

He was about to dominate the Giro d’Italia too.

One year on and he’s been definitively cleared of doping or even thinking about doping by the authorities in Italy. His childlike hormone levels were due to a gulp too many of water, apparently.

But still the teams and race organisers don’t want to know. Discarded by Liquigas despite being a reigning grand tour champion and Classic winner, Di Luca ended up at LPR Brakes.

And the organisers of the Ardennes Classics – Leo Van Vliet and ASO – declined to extend an invite.

So, instead of going head-to-head with Damiano Cunego and Frank Schleck on Sunday, he was riding to second place in the not-quite-as-prestigious Giro d’Oro.

He was beaten by a team-mate. Now that’s just rubbing it in.

CYCLIST HEADS ENGLAND RUGBY SQUAD

Nice to see a cyclist, Martin Johnson, named as England’s rugby manager.

Johnson was a hit at the recent Revolution meeting, where he took on Geoff Thomas in an Italian pursuit to raise money for charity.

Whatever next? If Fabio Capello fails to get England’s 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign off to a good start there’s only one answer: Wiggo for England.

PREVIOUS TUESDAY COMMENTS
April 15 – Thanks a bunch, Eurosport
April 8 ? The Tuesday Comment live from Belgium
April 1 ? Why I believe Rob Hayles
March 25 ? Just how good can Emma Pooley be?
March 18 ? Forget sitting in a bath of beans, cycling is the new charity fundraiser
March 11 ? Can Sportive riders defy UCI ban?
March 4 ? Why Het Volk is the real deal
February 26 ? Pendleton Poses Nude and the Demise of the Archer
February 19 ? Let Levi Ride? Leave it out
February 12
February 5
January 29
January 22
January 15