2010 News Review: MAMILs, guns, drugs, Boris, steak, Andy Schleck's bike+video & lots more
All cycling life is here in our look back at the stories that shaped 2010
While 2010 is looking for its coat before heading for the exit we'd thought we'd take a quick look back at some of the top news stories of the year. We've tried to cram as wide a selection of stories in as possible to reflect everything that has been going on in the world of cycling. We've made our selection based on a mixture of the most popular stories, the ones we reckon were the most important (not always the same thing) and some of our personal faves – think of it as a New Year's Eve party mix.
And Victoria Pendleton? Well the divine Miss P eating a Hovis sarnie was our 71st most popular news story of the year, surely a fact worth celebrating? it was either that or a picture of a calendar. No choice really.
Middle Aged Men In Lycra, they were everywhere apparently this summer what with cycling being the new golf 'n' all. Spotting statistical trends, and getting anyone to pay attention to them, can be a dry old game, but every once in a while some lucky type at MIntel or wherever not only spots a trend but also comes up with a media friendly acronym to describe it.
And while some in the media (and the cycling world) jeered, many proudly embraced MAMILhood. Dominic Casciani was amongst the first saying it loud, and saying it proud in a BBC blog and on road.cc, while in our biggest poll of the year, 50 per cent claimed MAMIL status with the rest only misseing out on grounds of being too young, too old, or too female, or having an aversion to Lycra.
At the height of MAMILmania MAMILs even got their own Facebook group – current membership 54 so maybe we'll downgrade from "Mamilmania" to "Mamillightinterest". The only real dissenters were those middle aged men who'd been cycling since well before middle age and who didn't like being lumped in with a load of new, er, kids on the block with too much money and not as many miles in their legs as them. Ho hum, then everyone got back on their bikes and forgot about it.
Tour de France winner eats dodgy steak… Who'd have thought that would be the biggest story of the year, but so it proved as the "meatgate" saga unfolded in the wake of Contador's failed test for Clenbuterol on the second rest day on this year's Tour de France. The meat took centre stage in Contador's furious protestations that he'd been unwittingly doped by a chemically enhanced Spanish steak, brought across the border when he turned his nose up at the menu on offer at the team's French hotel.
News of the failed test, confirmed by Contador's B sample, should lead to an automatic two year ban, the handing of the 2010 Tour title to Andy Schleck, and to Contador quitting the sport, possibly, maybe.
Happily for the UCI the rules dictate that they had to kick this particular hot potato over to the Spanish Federation to deal with, but the wheels of Spanish justice can grind exceedingly slow - remember Alejandro Valverde? - so this one is likely to run and run.
Along the way it's involved everyone from the outraged Spanish meat producers association, to WADA (who want the Spanish to get a move on), and Contador's new team - SunGard-Saxo Bank. In the meantime we've all learnt more than we ever wanted to know about Clenbuterol, animal husbandry, and drug testing protocols while Alberto has, at the very least, learned that it doesn't pay to be a picky eater.
Slipping your chain is one thing but losing your whole bike quite another, so maybe Andy Schleck should have twigged that it wasn't going to be his year when he did just that on Stage 1 of this year's Tour de France.
In the confusion of a chute on a patch of oil, Schleck lost his bike, it may have inadvertently ended up on the wrong team car or it have been snaffled by an opportunistic Belgian bike thief dazzled by such a fancy piece of kit landing at his feed – you do have to keep an eye on your bike at all times. We never found out if Andy got his bike back but a bike like that would have been too hot to handle after the heist so would most likely have been put on ice (we've got all the lingo), so if you should ever find yourself offered a bargain bike over a chocolate beer in a dingy Brussels bar it could be this one.
Speaking of crime, this was one of our most read stories of the year, although in terms of what NYPD officers are alleged to routinely get up to this would seem to barely qualify as news at all. The first part of the tale is pretty scary cyclist cut up by car with tinted windows (my internal alarm bell would have been ringing at this point) is then forced in to the kerb at a set of lights, so he taps on the window and finds himself staring down the barrel the gun in the hands of a man "with a look of death" in his eyes, well, he was telling his story to a tabloid. Cyclist calls the cops, spots car again next to two patrol cars tells the boy in blue who approach with guns drawn only to put them down moments later and turn their attention to the cyclist, Ryan Stepka.
Among one of the explanations floated for this was that it couldn't have been a gun because it wasn't the sort of gun carried by off duty NYPD officers, well, it's logic Jim but not as we know it.
Happily next day we were able to report that it has all been a silly misunderstanding. According to offier Joe Carrasco that wasn't a gun it was his police ID! It just looked like a gun while he was removing it from his wallet… of course. Still doesn't explain the "look of death". We haven't been able to find out anything more about this case so if anyone does know what happened next do tell. Oh, and maybe the NYPD should look at the design of their IDs before something dreadful happens.
Two Etapes, two days, two distances, 6 days apart, all to celebrate 100 years of the Galibier. Riders have a choice of Acte 1 or Acte 2, the former a relatively short 108km in the Alps (the organisers have effectively lopped of the Italian bit at the start of the actual stage), or a long and lumpy 208Km from Issoire to Saint-Flour away from the Alps in the Massif Central. Decisions decisions, the shorter route is for wimps right? Well, it does cram in the Telegraph (1566m), the Galibier (2556m) and finish with a jolly spin up Alpe D'Huez (1850m).
On the other hand, while Acte II is longer and has three categorised climbs it lacks the Tour monuments of Acte 1 and it is less accsssible for Brits. But it will take you through some spectacular scenery and is actually the sort of lumpy stage that the pros themselves dread more than the big set pieces - it will be a test. Our man Gregoire 500 is in training for it and you can follow his progress from Etape virgin to Etape non-virgin in the coming months. Oh, and if you are doing either ride don't forget our Etape Essentials guide, and there's also plenty of Etape related advice available on various threads in the forum.
More long distance cycling of a very different nature to L'Etape, in March a team of 7 celebs led by David Walliams rode the End to End to raise £1m pounds for Sport Relief. Yes, they did it in a relay but it's was still pretty much 1,000 miles non-stop, and they did it the hard way around starting in John O'Groats in snowstorms and sub-zero temperatures.
If they didn't win your respect they should have – Davina McCall doing a 2 hour late night stint when the thermometer never got above -10, is pretty hardcore in our book. None of them were cyclists beforehand, although Patrick Kielty and Fearne Cotton looked pretty useful on a bike, and they knocked the distance off in 82 hours and that was despite Jimmy Carr helping for a day. Most importantly they raised £1.3m and as a little bonus for the likes of us they put a positive image of cycling in front of a prime time audience on BBC1.
Legends leave us
Three men who had made massive contributions to cycle sport died tragically early this year. Laurent Fignon, who won the Tour de France twice in an illustrious career, died of cancer in August, he was 50. His career will be remembered as much for the 8 second margin by which he lost the 1989 Tour de France to Greg Lemond as for the back to back Tours he won in 1983 and 84. After his retirement he carved out a new role as a TV pundit and race promoter and earlier this year the English translation of his no punches pulled biography, We Were Young and Carefree, was published in which he was as unsparing of himself as his punditry was of others.
Jure Robic was probably the greatest ultra-distance rider of all time, five times winner of the Race Across America, including the 2010 edition, the 45 year old rider had also won the Tour Ultime twice and broke the world 24 hour endurance cycling record covering a distance of 834.77Km in 2004. Robic died on a training ride when he was involved in a collision with a car and trailer on a steep mountain descent on an unpaved road near his hometown Jesenice in Slovenia – he was 45.
Franco Ballerini, the Italian rider who specialised in the northern classics - most notably winning two editions of Paris-Roubaix in 1995 and 1998 died in February from injuries received in a rally car accident at the age of 45. Ballerini went on to enjoy phenomenal success as head coach to the Italian national cycling team helping their star riders to win five men's road world championships between 2002 and 2008.
Other untimely deaths in the cycling world in 2010 included Dr Aldo Sassi, who succumbed to a brain tumour at the age of 51 earlier this month. Sassi had been general manager of the powerful Mapei team when in their pomp and who also founded the Mapei training centre in Italy. Cadel Evans, Ivan Basso, and Michale Rogers were amongst his clients. Team Sky pulled out of the Vuelta when their well respected soigneur, Txema González, died soon after the start of the race from a blood infection, he was 43. Also this month the Argentinian ex-pro Armando Borrajo commited suicide after being kidnapped while campaigning for election to his country's national cycling organisation.
Turns out quite a few of you did as we discovered in March when we ran a story about cyclists captured by the Streetview camera, (a very honest camera that one). In fact a few you managed to get on to Streetview twice including Jurek the man whose first appearance sparked the whole story off. Other notable Streetview appearances included seanthecyclist riding out to a TT on the Isle of Wight, Psychalist and Mrs Pyschalist on a touring holiday (Streetview) kindly gave him an extra wheel, peterkvt80 not only got on to Streetview twice but his wife even popped off a shot of the Streetview car while out on a club run, one of a number that got captured including my favourite from Thomase which demonstrated the awesome power of the Streetview zoom and adscrim out buying sausages. Oh, and who was that shadowy figure captured out on the Sussex Lanes? Why it was that Vecchiojo.
More crime-related capers now, In July the Daily Mail exposed Channel 4 news presenter and CTC president, Jon Snow as a serial rule breaker and all round MENACE TO SOCIETY on his cycle commute to work leading next day to us exposing Oli as a serial law breaker and menace to society on his ride to work… and they say the camera never lies. (Altough I'm not entirely sure why 'they' say that: camera invented April 12th 1826; camera starts lying April 13th 1826.)
Anyway both stories generated a lot of interesting comments and some anti-London animus, although I'd have to say as a Londoner now living outside the great metropolis that it certainly has no monopoly on any form of selfish, rude or aggressive behaviour in this green and scepter'd isle, it's defo one of the better places to ride a bike too. So there.
Aside from alerting the nation to the Channel 4 newsreading menace in its midst in 2010 the Daily Mail also gave us "Britain's barmiest bike lane" which actually turned out to be quite sensible (you did have to engage your brain first mind), and had a little difficulty with doing their sums on statistics when it came to 20mph speed limits. Oh, and apparently Mark Cavendish is going to Sky.
Danny MacAskill rides home…
… Long live Local Sustainable Transport Funds!
It worked, it didn't cost much money so when the whispering campaign started after the election that the knives were out for Cycling England the quasi autonomous government body set up to promote cycling in England they didn't seem very credible… after all the coalition government is headed up by three blokes who are allegedly cyclist, but then the coalition prides itself on doing the unthinkable and sure enough those rumours proved true. CE's role was to target government spending to promote cycling as effectively as possible, ti was also responsible for the national Bikeability training scheme – that survives but from now on cycle projects will have to fight for a share of local sustainable transport funds the details of which have yet to be fully announced. The fear must be that efforts to boost cycling will stall as hard pressed councils use the funds to plug gaps in their transport budgets. We'll find out in 2011 and beyond…
Tick, tick, tick… Pierre Bordry head of France's anti doping agency the AFLD, scourge of dopers and the UCI, announced that he was stepping down. Normally when someone retires everyone gets them a present, but Monsieur Bordry controversial to the last decided to do things differently offering the equally controversial Jeff Novitzky, access to Lance Armstrong's B sample from the 1999 Tour de France. Novitzky is the US Food and Drug Administration Special Agent investigating allegations of doping in US cycling who seems to have a focus on Lance Armstrong in particular. Who says the French don't have a sense of humour? (Apart from anyone who's ever seen a Jacques Tati film, and okay Marcel Marceu wasn't that funny either).
Almost exactly 130 years to the day after the camera started lying, the Camcorder was invented, April 14th 1956 to be precise. A device with a slightly firmer grasp on the truth than its older sibling (depending on whose doing the editing of course). Fastl forward to this year and that fact was recognised in court in September when, in what we think was a legal first, a van driver was convicted of driving without due care and attention on the basis of a cyclist's helmetcam footage. after he cut up, and swore at the rider, before finally throwing a bottle of orange at him.
Ironically the first person convicted of an offence in the UK using evidence from a helmetcam was a cyclist who got off his bike to verbally abuse two traffic wardens in Salford in 2007. And though helmet cam footage is admissable the law isn't always keen to act on it as we reported in the case of the cycling barrister who filmed a motorist making a death threat something the police and the CPS seemed singularly unwilling to act upon.
Do we have to? Yes we do. Floyd Landis and his allegations about doping in US cycling and in particular within the US Postal team, headed by one L. Armstrong, and of a UCI cover up, was one of the biggest stories of 2010 and it will surely loom large in 2011 too.
Floyd Landis may be a man who's credibility is somewhere deep on the minus scale, but the worry for some must be that it's so far off the scale that it's coming back around on the plus side. In the US the Food & Drug Administration are taking what Landis has to say seriously enough to start an investigation headed by Special Agent Jeff Novitzky while in Europe the UCI wasted no opportunity to rubbish his claims. The jury is out while the investigations continue only time will tell if one or more of the protagonists will end up facing the business end of a judge and jury.
Finally no 2010 news review would be complete without mention of Boris Johnson and his mission to boost the price of blue paint in the capital. Not only did July see the launch of his flagship (okay it was Ken's idea first) London Hire Bike scheme, sponsored by Barclays, it also saw the first Barclays Cycle Superhighways, hitting the, er street too in a long slick of blue. Transport for London haven't been shy in talking about either unleashing what at times felt like one press release for every hire bike in their fleet… it was a struggle at times to find them all suitable docking points at road.cc but we did our best.
Both schemes have had their ups and downs since launch, but so far it has mainly been up and if nothing else they are helping to embed cycling as an accepted part of the the capital's transport system… shame about that blue though.
So, that was 2010, roll on 2011… Happy New Year!