Qatar’s cooled bike path could lure Tour de France

A story on today’s points to a story on about Qatar’s application to play host to the world’s biggest annual sporting event.

The oil-rich Gulf State has a problem. It’s hot. But there’s a plan: a cooled cycle path. It just so happens I did a podcast on this subject in 2006, before I created The audio-and-pix interview with the project’s tech advisor can be seen here on YouTube:

Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme said Qatar could be a contender by 2014: “The candidacy is a logical step for Qatar, which after hosting the Asian Games in 2006, is also a candidate for the Olympic Games of 2016. The distance [from France] shouldn’t be a problem. When we took the Tour to London, everyone said we were crazy.”

Tour de France route vid on YouTube

The parcours for the 2008 Tour de France was unveiled in Paris last week. As per last year, ASO has produced a snazzy route video and loaded it to YouTube.

There are no snarky mirror shatterings, Floyd Landis will be happy to hear, and no mentions of any of Le Tour’s problems in 2007. Christian Prudhomme is stamping his authority on the race, and is clearly hoping for a new start for the iconic race.

Phil and friends go cycling in the Peak District

The Phil and Friends Challenge Ride starts and ends in Stannington, near Sheffield, every August. This was the seventh ride, and as always, was led by Phil Liggett, the ‘voice of cycling’. The ride benefits the CTC Charitible Trust.

There were a couple of hundred participants with the ‘friends’ being Eurosport commentator David Harmon,’s Carlton Reid, and Ron Gray, founder of the Lanterne Rouge club.

Riding with this bunch for part of the way were Brian Robinson, the first Brit to finish the Tour de France (with Vic Denison in 1955), and Martyn Bolt, a councillor with Kirklees Council. Evidence of Bolt’s power was seen on the drag up Holme Moss – council workers had painted permanent road markings telling cyclists the distance to the summit.

Check out all of the YouTube videos here and subscribe, for free, to hi-res versions via iTunes here.

Millar switches tacos

Brit David Millar has joined Team Slipstream, the cleanest, greenest cycling team in the world. It’s also the only cycling team sponsored by a manufacturer of gourmet burritos.

Team Slipstream powered by taco-maker Chipotle is managed by former pro Jonathan Vaughters and is famously green and clean.

Its youth program is much admired and, for the future of cycle sport, probably needs to be slavishly copied.

Sir Paul Smith meets David Millar:

The Slipstream team is owned by software entrepreneur Doug Ellis who holds it’s vitally important for team members to be squeaky clean ie drug free.

David Millar finished his two-year suspension for EPO use in June last year and was brought back to the pro peloton by the Spanish Saunier Duval team. Millar will hand back his Scott Addict and will now race on Team Slipstream’s Felt bikes.

Team Slipstream has also signed US pro Dave Zabriskie and an un-named former winner of Paris-Roubaix. Is it Stuart O’Grady, Fabian Cancellara, Tom Boonen or Magnus Backstedt? Vaughters isn’t yet ready to say.

Team members don’t just sign pledges that they’re clean, they submit to medical profiling, including blood volume tests. 30 per cent of the team’s budget is spent on its clean medical profiling.

The team will be based in Spain and, because of its highly ethical stance, is highly likely to gain Continue reading “Millar switches tacos”

Dirty stinkin’ rats? Guilty until proven innocent?

Here’s a TV debate on the latest Tour de France debacle. This debate was shown on the France24 English-language news channel, Thursday 26th July.

Andrea Sanke, France24
Andreas Evagora, deputy head of news, Eurosport, Paris
Philip Turle, journalist, Radio France 1
Carlton Reid, editor,
Danny Nelissen, former Tour de France rider, Team Rabobank, now Eurosport’s Benelux commentator

This video can be placed on iPods via iTunes here, or as a direct .m4v download here.

189 riders started the race. A tiny – but prominent – few have had (leaked) Adverse Analytical Findings. One has admitted guilt, Moreni. Moron.

More may be doping, but have evaded tests.

None of this is good but I’m with UCI boss Pat McQuaid and the IOC* on this one: cycling is doing more than any other sport to cleanse itself of the cheaters but, de facto, that means there will be drugs busts. Going forward? You’d be mad to dope.

However, despite the fact there are clearly dopers in cycling it’s simply unfair to tar all with the same brush or to assume all the currently accused riders are guilty.

Now, they may be guilty as hell but what has happened to innocent until proven guilty? Heaven help him if Bradley Wiggins is ever (wrongly) accused of doping at some point in his career. He’s famously anti-drugs and has stated his unbending views on those he believes are cheaters, including Floyd Landis. However, in the current climate anybody can be accused of doping and it’s instant trial by media.

Labs can also make mistakes. They often do. ‘A’ tests in other sports tend not to be leaked and mistakes are withdrawn by the anti-doping authorities long before the AAF makes it into the public domain. In cycling, the merest sniff of controversy and you’re guilty, no chance of rescuing your reputation.

Fevered hacks, embedded on the Tour de France merry-go-round, are upset and wounded, I understand that, but whipping up the lynch mob does journalism no favours. Cycling is the loser, unfairly so.

* IOC perspective on recent revelations on the Tour de France

26 July 2007

The recent doping-related events at the Tour de France, whilst disturbing, indicate a painful, slow but nonetheless significant shift in attitude against those who choose to violate the rules in sporting competition. The revelations serve as a valuable reminder that the fight against doping in sport is a daily battle which must be fought in concert by the sports authorities, sports teams, athletes and coaches, and governments.

It is understandable that the incidents of the past days leave sports lovers feeling deceived. Despite this, it is important to recognise that an increase in exposure of those who are not playing by the rules – be that through increased testing or through other means of proving doping – is an important signal that increased efforts in the fight against doping do have an impact.

Moggies to be in vanguard in war against dopers

A French news agency reports that a team of scientists from MADA is to attempt to retrain a famous American cat to spot cyclists who dope. If successful, the new technique could be rolled out on other cats, starting with kittens.

Currently, Oscar curls up next to care-home residents about to expire, but Dr. Steffen F. Line of MADA believes the cat’s ability to sense when a person is close to death could be used in sport.

“Cats often can sense when their owners are sick or when another animal is sick,” said Dr Line.

“They can sense when the weather will change, they’re famous for being sensitive to premonitions of earthquakes.

“Oscar is not psychic, we believe he is picking up on biochemical impulses. We hope his talents extend to the ability of telling when a banned substance is being used in sports such as cycling.”

Cycling is currently reeling over a number of cases of sporting fraud, including in the ongoing Tour de France.

Patrice Leberk, CEO of the company which owns Le Tour, is a cat lover and would like to see the use of felines in anti-dopage.

“We’ve tried sniffer dogs. We’ve tried being nice to the riders. We’ve tried being horrible to the riders. Nothing seems to work. Oscar may be our last hope. My own moggie can hum La Marseillaise and if he can do that who knows what specially trained cats will be capable of?

“We need to catch them young, of course. I plan to donate some of my own kittens to further Dr Line’s research.”

Cofidis rider Bradley Wiggins said: “See, I told you Floyd Landis was guilty.”

Polka dot bra in Tour de France cheat shock

The ‘Men in black’ just can’t beat pro-cyclists willing to use any and all means to help them win.

Click this video for incriminating evidence of the yellow jersey getting grossly unfair hillside assistance:

Oh, and want to wallow in a 10-minute interview with Alexandre Vinokourov? Here he is after stage 13 of this year’s Tour:

And this Kazakhstan news anchor says the behaviour of a world-famous Kazakh citizen is “disgusting” and “unacceptable.”

‘Cycling has blood on its hands’

A fair enough Vino-related headline, you might think. But, er, it’s from Al Jazeera.

UPDATE: Al Jazeera has now changed its headline, it’s now ‘Cycling in disarray’. Not quite as catchy.

Tour de France viewing figures higher than 2006

More than a million people watched the London-Canterbury stage live on Britain’s ITV1. And as this year’s Tour is the most open and exciting for years, TV audiences across the world are up (apart from in Kazakhstan…)

When the Tour rolled out from the centre of London, 480,000 people were estimated to be tuned in via ITV1, 7.4 per cent of the total UK audience. By the end of the stage, 1m people were watching, 8.95 per cent of the audience.

However, when the Tour moved to France and the coverage in Britain switched to ITV4, available only via cable and set-top boxes, the audience, understandably, dropped. On Tuesday 10th July the audience was 329, 000, a 2.2 percent share. Nevertheless, this is high for ITV4.

Across the world, year-on-year audiences for the Grand Boucle have risen. The Danish national cycling squad may have kicked him out for not alerting dope docs to his whereabouts but Michael Rasmussen is popular with his home crowd. Danish channel TV2 reported viewer numbers are up by 40 percent. A massive 80 per cent of the Danish population watched Rasmussen pull on his first yellow jersey.

Spain’s Television Espanola said audiences were up by 11 per cent in the first half of the race and this is now likely to be higher as the race powers through the Pyrenees, close to the Spanish border.

The core audience in France rose 6 per cent, said TV station France 2. Plus, new for this year, the lucky French get to watch their national Tour in high-definition…if they have HD-TVs of course. Apparently, you could see every hair on that now-famous Golden Labrador…

RAI TV of Italy reports that an average of 1.2 million people saw the ninth stage in the Alps.

In the US, the Versus channel reports that viewer impressions are up 5 per cent to an average 219,779 homes over the first half of the race. Tiny compared to the Armstrong years, but with no American in contention for the top spot this is to be expected.

German TV stations ARD and ZDF controversially pulled the plug on their Tour coverage on the first sighting of an AAF – Adverse Analytical Finding – but up to that point the TV audience had been steady at 1.4 million. SAT1, a German satellite TV company, picked up the pieces but most Germans will have tuned in to the Eurosport to get their Tour fix.

It’s worth pointing out that the AAF reported for Patrik Sinkewitz of T-Mobile was leaked after the A test when it shouldn’t have been revealed before a confirmatory B test. The test was carried out in a training camp six weeks ago. Why was it leaked when it was? There are certainly echoes of the errors and leaks made last year in the case of 2006 winner Floyd Landis. If only execs at drug testing labs and cycling federations also had to lose a year’s salary for their transgressions…

Phil Liggett’s pre-Tour predictions:

Fabian Cancellara winning Stage 3 (with breathless commentary from Liggett and Sherwin):

Tour de France: dog v wheel

Is this the weirdest moment of the ’07 Tour so far?

A weighty Golden Labrador waddles in front of T-Mobile’s Marcus Burghardt on stage nine. Upon impact the rider’s wheel folds, and the dog walks away, nonplussed.

Get a 16-second clip on your iPod or computer here as an mp4 or here on iTunes.