LONDON CROSS?

Has Ken Livingstone ever heard of cyclo-cross?

If not, we?d like to invite him to come with us to the Koksijde World Cup in November to see whether it inspires him to make a bid for a round of the cyclo-cross World Cup or the World Championships.

I mention it because our colleague over on mbr magazine, Andy Waterman, came up with an idea the other day.

?How about launching a campaign to bring a cyclo-cross World Cup race to London the same weekend we have the London Six-Day? It?d save me having to travel to Ghent and Koksijde,? he said.

Yes. Why not? Top class cross, with lashings of London Pride instead of Duvel, Jupiler and Leffe.

We may not be able to find a course suitable for the Olympic mountain bike races in the capital but a cross course, with its artificial obstacles, should be a doddle in comparison.

Andy suggested Richmond Park or Hampstead Heath as potential venues, where a cyclo-cross course could be constructed for a weekend in late January.

TFL loves cycling and although the cross Worlds may not be as big a money-spinner as the Tour de France it would underline the capital?s commitment to cycling and they wouldn?t even need to close any roads.

After all, Britain is practically the home of cycling at the moment. The Tour de France started in London last year and the wheels are already in motion to bring it back. The mountain bike Worlds were at Fort William.

Next month the track Worlds are in Manchester and the London Olympics and Glasgow Commonwealth Games are on the horizon.

The idea of a London Six-Day has been mooted ? there has even been a suggestion Ken may bid for the road World Championships.

But cyclo-cross World Cup or World Championships in London would be fantastic. So, if Ken and his staff want to join us in Belgium in November, get in touch.

STICKING UP FOR ALDAG

Cycling Weekly broke the news to Team High Road that they had not been included in the Giro d?Italia.

When we rang Rolf Aldag to ask his reaction on the squad?s omission from the second biggest race in the world neither he nor Bob Stapleton had any idea because they were in California for the team?s training camp.

Just before releasing the list of 21 teams to the media, the Giro organisers faxed some of the teams that were being left out with a simple notification but no explanation.

Just a few days earlier, Aldag had been telling us about the team?s plans for the Giro, which included taking Michael Rogers and Linus Gerdemann, giving it their best shot at the GC and seeing whether either of them was in a position to challenge for a decent finish in the third week.

Now those plans hang will have to be re-thought ? although I have a sneaking suspicion that High Road may well be offered a place in the Giro yet.

There is scope to include a 22nd team and Angelo Zomegnan has already hinted the door is not shut to High Road ? whereas it is to Astana, it seems.

And the question is, what?s the difference between the two? They both had positive tests last year and they both sacked riders.

High Road are now into the second year of Bob Stapleton?s regime, whereas Astana are only just setting out on the road to redemption having signed up to be tested by Ramsus Damsgaard, the Danish doctor who independently tests the CSC riders too.

So why give High Road the benefit of the doubt while remaining cautious over Astana?

Well, because High Road have made great strides to clean up what was clearly a pretty rotten squad. Stapleton said his riders were tested more than any other last year, that he accepted there may be positives in the first year and that the key was to take swift action ? as in the case of Patrik Sinkewitz and Lorenzo Bernucci.

But he also released Serguei Gonchar following concerns about his blood values. Remember this was a man who wore the yellow jersey for T-Mobile in 2006. Letting him go was a clear signal that misdemeanours would not be hushed up.

There are those who have questioned the wisdom of keeping Aldag following his admission he took EPO during his career.

Having seen Aldag face a grilling from the German media on a daily basis at last year?s Tour, it is difficult not to feel sympathy. Every day they sought him out and every day Aldag gave the same answers.

?I say to my guys, who are 25, 26 years old, look at me and learn. I am 40 years old and I can?t look back on my career with any sense of satisfaction because of the mistakes I made. I don?t want these guys to feel the same way about their careers that I do about mine,? he said.

Yes, Aldag took EPO. He did so without being detected too.

Now he regrets it and is keen to ensure the riders in his team do not fall into the same trap he did.

Can a poacher turn game-keeper? Should Aldag be taken at his word?

I think he should because he hasn?t shirked the questions, wearying though they are, about his past. He has faced them and knows he will continue to face them. And the way he does it doesn?t lead me to believe that he is doing it out of a stubborn defiance to continue earning a living out of cycling. He does it because he knows it?s the only way he can make amends.

LEG-BREAKER

The Koppenberg is back. Peter Van Petegem, Serge Baguet and Scott Sunderland are among the former riders who were asked to check out the climb before the organisers of the Tour of Flanders placed it back on the menu after another renovation.

It will be the seventh of 17 climbs in the race and, remarkably steep though it is, it won?t have a great impact on the outcome because it comes too early.

Instead, it?s the poor cyclo-sportive riders who are left to curse the organisers of the Ronde Van Vlaanderen.

The key to getting up it without having to walk is to set off early, before the roads get clogged up with an endless stream of riders ? all of whom will stop right in front of you just when you least expect it.

However, the Koppenberg is not the one that worries me most. The Paterberg always causes me the most trouble, partly because you grind almost to a halt on the sharp right-hander that leads into it, and partly because it comes so quickly after the slog up the Oude Kwaremont.

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