Mark Cavendish and Bradley Wiggins have both been in the spotlight after being asked their reactions to Lance Armstrong’s confession in doping to Oprah Winfrey, part one of which is due to be aired on Friday morning in the UK on, of all places, the Discovery Channel. It will also be streamed live.
Wiggins, speaking to Sky News from Team Sky’s training camp in Mallorca, Wiggins said that the team wasn’t too concerned because they were concentrating on the season ahead.
He went on: But you’ve seen the reaction to it the last few months and there’s a lot of angry people about that are taking their frustrations and venting their anger in all different directions.
“But they need that closure in their life because they've been battling for so long for this.
"It will be a great day for a lot of people and quite a sad day for the sport in some ways," he said of Armstrong’s reported confession.
"But I think it has been a sad couple of months for the sport in that sense,” he added. “The 90s are pretty much a write-off now."
While that decade had been blighted by doping with use of EPO widespread in the peloton well before the Festina scandal of 1998, Wiggins’ remarks provoked widespread criticism on Twitter.
Several users pointed out that the first of Armstrong’s seven Tour de France wins that he has now been stripped of only happened in the final year of the decade.
Wiggins himself has been elevated to third in the 2009 Tour de France after Armstrong was stripped of all results dating back to August 1998.
Twitter users also focused on comments that Wiggins made about Paul Kimmage, although his remarks about the Irish former pro cyclist turned journalist are not in an edited version of the interview posted to the Sky News website.
However, that segment was included in audio of the interview included in Irish radio station Newstalk.ie’s Off The Ball show.
Earlier this month, in an interview published in German on newspaper Frankurter Allgemeine's website, FAZ.net, Kimmage said: "I don't know anyone who could say that the last Tour de France was totally convincing. If you apply the same standards to Bradley Wiggins as to Lance Armstrong, there are alarming similarties."
He went on: "Look how their teams are dominant. There are four, five riders who ride very strongly for three weeks without a bad day. The question is, is that logical?'
Referring to that interview, Wiggins said yesterday: “We saw last week with Paul Kimmage with me and the team, he’s just eaten up with it, and I think to people like that it’s just going to mean a hell of a lot. What they do with their lives after he does admit it is anyone’s guess."
After playing the interview, the Irish radio show’s presenters criticised Wiggins for having singled out Kimmage and, in their words – not his, as has been said – describing him as “bitter.” They also said that given his status in the sport, Wiggins should be much more forthright about his views of Armstrong and should be hailing a great day for the sport.
“What it has to do with Paul Kimmage and how bitter Paul Kimmage is, is an eye-opener for me,” said one.
In a series of tweets today, Kimmage said: “Interesting that Bradley Wiggins is still following the Lance Armstrong blueprint for success:
"1 Ignore the message 2 Attack the messenger
“If I still had a job [he was made redundant by The Sunday Times a year ago tomorrow], I'd be camped outside the Sky training camp in Majorca and would not go away until Wiggins adressed the message... the hiring of Gert Leinders, and the sacking of four key members of staff since he won the Tour.
Kimmage concluded: “Oh, last thing Bradley, if you would like to address those issues in an interview, I'd be more than happy to sit down with you.”
Even before he won the Tour in July, Wiggins learnt that being favourite for the race meant that his performance would be scrutinised from all angles and that questions would be asked about how he achieved it.
That’s unsurprising given the history of some of the men who have stood on top of the podium over the last couple of decades.
Until he and Team Sky manage to satisfy some of their more vocal critics, the hard questions will continue to be asked – and Kimmage will be foremost among those who want to ask them.
Meanwhile Cavendish turned the air blue at the Omega Pharma-Quick Step presentation in Ghent last night when he was repeatedly asked his opinion regarding Lance Armstrong’s reported confession.
His frustration is perhaps understandable – he was there after all to be officially presented to the public alongside his new team mates including Tom Boonen – and it’s also one that won’t surprise seasoned Cav-watchers.
According to ITV Sport, the former world champion had in fact already replied to two questions put to him on the subject.
“There's been reports that he's confessed to doping but I haven't seen any interviews yet, so until then I can't really comment," he said in reply to the first.
Then, when asked if he would be watching the interview, he explained he wouldn’t, since he’d be travelling to Argentina where he is riding the Tour de San Luis, which starts next week.
ITV Sport says Cavendish then took a member of team staff to task, saying, “Why was I left alone there with that guy asking about Lance? One of you should have been around then.”
Despite that, it seems no-one thought to forewarn reporters taking part in a subsequent round of interviews, and when he was again asked his opinion Cavendish, whose autobiography Boy Racer, carries the two word quote “Cool Kid” from Armstrong on the cover of the paperback version, really blew his stack.
"**** off, seriously **** off if you're asking about this," he is reported to have said, before asking one of the team’s staff, “Can you get him away please. Please get this guy away. He just wants to talk about Lance, **** off.”
[We have a hunch the words asterisked by ITV all started with 'F' - ed]
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.