BRITS ON THE ROAD TO SUCCESS

For British spectators, the Giro d?Italia surely has to go down as the most successful of all time.

We counted six Brits out of Palermo three weeks ago and counted them all back into Milan on Sunday. It?s the first time six British riders have finished a grand tour, which a few short years ago would have been absolutely unthinkable.

There were two stage wins for Mark Cavendish, and two second places, David Millar contributed heavily to Slipstream?s team time trial victory, Charly Wegelius and Geraint Thomas did sterling work for their teams, Steve Cummings was fourth on the toughest mountain stage of the lot and Bradley Wiggins was fourth in the final time trial.

It is remarkable to think that in 1998 there were no British starters in the Giro d?Italia. Two British riders started the Tour de France. Chris Boardman won the prologue before crashing out while still in the yellow jersey. Max Sciandri was the other but in truth he was an Italian cyclist with a British passport, having been born in Derby. Boardman also started the Vuelta, but packed.

The following year Boardman rode the Tour and reached Paris, but that was it as far as Brits were concerned. One British rider deemed good enough to race at the very top level.

It was ironic that Boardman, a rider who came to prominence on the track, was the only rider able to operate at that level at the time because back in Manchester, the British Cycling Federation was getting a lot of criticism for concentrating on nurturing track riders.

Road riders were, the critics said, being written off for good.

Ten years on the picture couldn?t be more different. Of the six who finished the Giro, two were assisted by the Dave Rayner Fund (Millar and Wegelius), while the other six came through the British Cycling track system.

The riders keep on coming too. Ben Swift netted the biggest win the British Academy squad has enjoyed in Italy so far, winning a senior race on Sunday. And the riders who are being taught and nurtured in Tuscany are not all track machines, they are road riders.

People may still be scoffing at the suggestion but a British professional team is only just around the corner.

No longer are we hoping that someone, somehow, will make it to the top and beat the rest of the world virtually single-handedly. There is an infrastructure in place to identify talented riders and develop them.

If the question was: ?Is there a boy in Britain aged between 11 and 15 now who can win the Tour de France before 2023?? the answer has to be: ?Of course there is.?

The point is, all the detractors who say it cannot be done because Mark Cavendish or Geraint Thomas can?t do it are missing the point. Ten years ago we didn?t have a Mark Cavendish or a Geraint Thomas and the same people were saying we?d never have riders capable of winning grand tour sprints or getting round the Tour and Giro at the age of 22.

The question is can British Cycling find him and help him maximise that potential? It seems Dave Brailsford is determined to.

This week we assessed the men likely to take up the road and time trial places in Beijing. Read who?s in the frame for Beijing 2008 here

ONE GOLD IN THE BAG?

We don?t count our chickens? feet here at The Tuesday Comment, but if Shanaze Reade doesn?t win a gold medal in the women?s BMX race in Beijing, we?ll be very surprised indeed.

She was already a red-hot favourite but a second successive world title, achieved in Taiwan at the weekend, shows she is currently a long way ahead of the best.

Hopefully by the time the Games arrive in London in 2012, the UCI and the IOC will have equalised the appalling inequality between the number of men?s events and women?s events will have been wiped out.

There should be a women?s team pursuit and team sprint, a women?s Keirin in London. And while they?re at it, they can reinstate the kilo and the 500-metre time trials.

SPORTIVES

It?s a big weekend for some of us in the Cycling Weekly office.

Cycle Sport deputy editor Edward Pickering is off to ride the 170-kilometre Ventoux Beaumes de Venise sportive on Saturday, which seems to climb Mont Ventoux from about three different directions all in the same day. Personally I think it?s madness. If you want to find out more about the event go to www.sportcommunication.com

CW?s sub-editor James Shrubsall and I will be tackling the 255-kilometre Paris-Roubaix sportive, while our colleague Ian Cleverly rides the 190-kilometre event on a ?cross bike. Cleverly by name, Cleverly by nature, it seems.

If you want to read my blog, complete with last-minute nerves it is here.

Five days to go until the Paris-Roubaix cyclo-sportive and as it gets nearer my almost puppyish excitement is being tempered by some rather black thoughts.

AFTER LONDON, DOHA

Doha, the capital of the Middle Eastern country Qatar, is in the running to host the 2016 Olympic Games.

The final candidates will be announced later this month with Baku in Azerbaijan, Madrid, Prague, Rio de Janeiro, Tokyo and Chicago are also hoping to make the shortlist, with the final decision due towards the end of 2009.

Having been to Qatar for the cycle race a couple of winters ago, I can confirm the country is extremely serious about hosting the Games.

The penny really only dropped when I saw the Tour of Qatar and spoke to the Qatari dignitaries who had been behind the link-up with ASO (the organiser of the Tour de France) to make that race happen.

I remember the sports minister telling me with a steely-eyed confidence that Qatar would host the Olympics. The Tour of Qatar was part of an orchestrated campaign to bring top-level sporting events to the country. I nodded politely, looked beyond the cranes that covered the horizon into the baked desert and thought: ?Not a chance, mate.?

But top golf and tennis tournaments and the bike race were followed by the 2006 Asian Games, held at the Khalifa Stadium. Qatar also harbours hopes of hosting the football World Cup.

One thing Qatar can?t guarantee is a rip-roaring cycling road race as it?s very, very flat. Mind you, Mark Cavendish will be 31 in 2016 so perhaps that?s no bad thing.

Come on Qatar!

FOOTBALLERS SPOIL EVERYTHING

Never let it be said that the Premiership is a hotbed of greed, self-interest and stupidity!

At long last, FIFA, football?s world governing body, has agreed to sign up to the World Anti-Doping Agency?s code.

The code requires each national federation to put together a registered pool of top athletes who should be made available for dope tests.

Each athlete must give accurate information about their whereabouts for a one-hour period each day so they may be visited by random testers for out-of-competition tests.

It appears the Professional Players Federation is preparing a legal challenge on the basis that it would be some kind of infringement of their human rights.

For a professional athlete to be available for one hour every day is a pain, but it is not an outrageous imposition.

I just love the inference that this kind of whereabouts scheme is not needed in football because there?s not a problem with performance enhancing drugs. In that case, where?s the problem?

The wider problem for the fight against drug-taking cheats in sport is that footballers probably have the financial clout to take on WADA in the courts. If they were to win and dismantle the ?whereabouts? scheme it would be a serious blow.

PREVIOUS TUESDAY COMMENTS
May 27 ? What should we make of this Giro? Credible or incredible?
May 20 ? Conte reveals a cheat?s charter
May 13 ? Why Cavendish is a superstar
May 6 ? Astana for the Giro! Yawn
April 29 ? Yeah, well done, Liquigas
April 22 ? I?ve had a brilliant idea!
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