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Snake Pass: Cycling UK to challenge council decision; Cyclists – defeating traffic; 'If you have to ring your bell too much, you’re in the wrong place for bikes'; Remco and the peloton's law-breaking motorists; The cost of cycling + more on the live blog

The weekend’s almost in sight – and Ryan Mallon is here to round up the latest news and views on Thursday’s live blog
10 March 2022, 17:18
Cue the Jaws theme...
10 March 2022, 17:13
More bells and whistles: ‘If you have to ring your bell too much, maybe you’re in the wrong place for bikes’

Last bit of bell chat, we promise!

We received the following email earlier today, which attempted to place the debate over bell use by cyclists in a rural, horsey context:

The problem with bells is that they are harsh and received as aggressive i.e. 'get out of my way'.

There is the very real problem, in rural areas, that the sudden and unexpected sound of a bell from behind startles horses with potentially serious implications.

Far better, in most circumstances is a gentle, friendly 'Hi', well in advance, and repeated slightly more loudly as required. In the case of horses it is unfamiliar sounds from the blind areas to their rear that is most problematic, so keep making gentle conversation as you pass carefully alongside until the horse can see you.

If you are having to do this often enough that it becomes a pain, maybe you are in the wrong place for bikes.

Some sage and sensible advice concerning behaviour around horses on the road, for sure, and to which I imagine most rural cyclists adhere.

However – just playing Devil’s Advocate here – I wonder how his ‘if you use your bell too much, you’re in the wrong place for cycling’ line would work if applied to motorists and car horns? Just a thought…

10 March 2022, 16:45
Rollapaluza 2013 national finals winner John Paul (pic
Tributes pour in for former world junior sprint champion John Paul, who has died suddenly, aged 28

John Paul, a British track cyclist who twice represented Scotland at the Commonwealth Games, has died in his sleep aged 28.

Inspired by Chris Hoy’s performances at the 2004 Athens Olympics, Paul (known affectionately as JP) was part of British Cycling’s Olympic Development Programme.

He became junior world and European sprint champion in 2011, and won the junior European title in the keirin in 2011 and 2012.

He placed fourth in the team sprint and 16th in the sprint for Scotland at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi.

Four years later, at his home games in Glasgow, he finished 11th in the keirin.

Glasgow Track Racing Club, who will hold a memorial service for John, said in a statement: “There will be talk of the once in a generation talent that John possessed on a bike, but his ability to inspire, encourage and joke around off the bike was where we valued him most.

“JP was a truly remarkable man, with a love and passion for the sport that he used to help those around him. As a man he was also someone who cared so deeply for his family and took great pride in telling us stories about them.

“We cannot begin to imagine their loss and grief and can only send our love and condolences their way.”

Tributes have poured in from across British and Scottish cycling, with leading riders such as Katie Archibald and Sir Chris Hoy paying their respects to a “much-loved teammate and friend”:

10 March 2022, 16:27
The a-Pog-alypse continues at Tirreno-Adriatico

He just can’t help himself, can he?

Tadej Pogačar backed up a potentially generation-defining win at Strade Bianche on Saturday with an almost nonchalant display of power to win stage four of Tirreno-Adriatico today, ahead of Jonas Vingegaard, Victory Lafay and Remco Evenepoel.

A frenetic stage saw Donald Trump’s cycling ambassador Quinn Simmons take the mountains jersey with a strong ride from the break while Ineo Grenadiers rider Richard Carapaz was dropped surprisingly early on.

The final rise to the line in Bellante featured attacks from Evenepoel and Richie Porte, before Pogačar decided to put the hammer down, almost cruising home after the damage was done.

The Slovenian superstar now takes over the blue leader’s jersey from Filippo Ganna, leapfrogging Evenepoel in the process, who remains in second.

With a potential third monument win in less than a year at Milan-Sanremo looming ever larger on the horizon with each passing display of dominance, it’s no surprise the puns are coming in thick and fast:

 The laidback, easy-going character of Pog’s dominance on the road is matched only by his post-race interviews. When asked who he was watching during the race, the 23-year-old simply replied: “My team, riding at the front”.

However, interview of the day goes to second-place Vingegaard, who had to ask his interviewer what competition the blue jersey was for, and referred to double world TT champion Ganna as “what's his name”.

Kids, eh?

10 March 2022, 15:51
Remco Evenepoel at Tirreno Adriatico 2022 (picture credit RCS Sport).JPG
Remco caught speeding: a short history of the peloton’s law-breaking motorists

It must be tough sometimes being Remco Evenepoel. The latest in the long line of Belgian riders labelled ‘the next Eddy Merckx’, the Quick Step-Alpha Vinyl rider – who has just turned 22 lest we forget – has had the spotlight relentlessly shone on him since he burst onto the scene as an all-conquering junior.

His otherworldly talent has never been in question (as we can see at this week’s Tirreno-Adriatico, where he looks best poised to challenge Tadej Pogačar for the win), though he’s also had to constantly fend off accusations that he’s cycling’s ‘enfant terrible’, a disruptive presence in both his Quick Step team and the Belgian national squad.

This morning’s news – that Evenepoel was fined and banned from driving for three weeks after he was caught speeding at 125km/h (almost 80mph) in a 70km/h zone – certainly won’t dissuade anyone sceptical of the young Belgian sensation’s attitude. 

However, Remco certainly isn’t the first high-profile pro cyclist to be caught speeding behind the wheel.

In 2008 Tom Boonen – the original celebrity poster boy of Belgian cycling – lost his driving license for 14 days after his was similarly caught driving at 120km/h in a 70km/h zone.

The speeding offence for Boonen – arguably Belgium’s biggest sporting star at that time – came either side of two positive out-of-competition tests for cocaine in 2008 and 2009 (and another earlier cocaine positive in 2007).

An altogether different character, 2010 Tour de France winner Andy Schleck, successfully appealed a one-month driving ban in 2017 after he was clocked driving at 52mph in a 30mph zone in his native Luxembourg.

Later that year another Tour winner who arguably failed to fulfil his early promise, Jan Ullrich, was handed a £7,700 fine and a suspended 21 month prison sentence after he crashed into two cars in the village of Happerswil in Switzerland.

The German, who has had a number of well-publicised problems with drugs and alcohol, was found to be ‘heavily drunk and medicated’ at the time of the crash. Luckily there were no injuries, despite Ullrich driving at over 130kmph in an 80kmph area before the incident.

Ullrich’s personal demons were certainly not an anomalous feature within the peloton of the 1990s, with some of the sport’s most tragic stars committing driving offences as they struggled with addiction, depression and the after-effects of the sport’s toxic atmosphere in those years.

The mercurial and troubled Belgian star Frank Vandenbroucke, the subject of Andy McGrath’s new book God is Dead, reviewed by today, was twice stopped by police in 2002 while under the influence of alcohol behind the wheel.

Marco Pantani - car crash Cesena 2000

In November 2000, the Giro and Tour winner Marco Pantani damaged eight cars while speeding the wrong way up a street in Cesena. The Italian climber, who by that point had already succumbed to cocaine addiction, despite winning the Ventoux stage of the Tour four months before, was involved in three separate incidents involving cars that day.

10 March 2022, 15:27
Paris-Nice: Brandon McNulty solos to stage win, while Jumbo-Visma finally show weakness

Up until today, the Paris-Nice peloton had been decimated by two things: the flu and Jumbo-Visma.

Well, the flu may still be rampaging around the bunch – a remarkable 22 riders either failed to start or abandoned today’s stage – but Jumbo-Visma’s iron grip on the Race to the Sun was loosened quite dramatically on the roads to Saint-Sauveur-de-Montagut, despite Primož Roglič pulling on the yellow jersey at the finish.

There were whispers this morning that the jersey’s previous incumbent, Wout van Aert, could possibly hold on to Sunday’s finish in Nice, especially with bad weather expected to play havoc with the higher and harder climbs over the weekend.

But at the bottom of the day’s last categorised mountain, the Cat One Col de la Mure, van Aert was dropped swiftly and definitively, though whether the cause for this surprise and sudden collapse owes to illness or different goals further down the line is unknown (his team says the latter).

 In any case, Jumbo-Visma, the undisputed team of the race, suddenly looked fallible, and their leader Roglič – especially once Rohan Dennis’ spirited stint at the front was up – ominously isolated.

On the final uncategorised climb to Saint-Vincent-de-Durfort, attacks from Dani Martínez, Aleksandr Vlasov and Simon Yates duly followed, though Roglič being Roglič, the Slovenian also put in a few short digs of his own. He takes over yellow, but suddenly the race seems more open than ever.

Ahead of the emerging GC battle, UAE Team Emirates’ Brandon McNulty emulated his leader Tadej Pogačar by soloing away on the Col de la Mure, putting nearly two minutes into his breakaway companions Franck Bonnamour, Matteo Jorgenson and Harm Vanhoucke.

The American’s spectacular lone win, his first WorldTour victory, makes up for a poor start to the race which saw him drop out of the race for yellow.

10 March 2022, 14:34
Like father, like son

Want to feel old? Ben Wiggins – son of Sir Brad – picked up a bronze medal in the team pursuit at this week’s British national track championships.

The 16-year-old was riding for the Fensham Howes–MAS Design team, alongside Alex Beldon, Matthew Brennan and Jed Smithson.

Young Wiggins also clocked a 4:29 in his first crack at a four-kilometre individual pursuit, though hit the deck during the points race.

Along with his track racing, Ben – born almost a year after his dad took three medals, including a gold, at the Athens Olympics – has been trying his luck racing in Europe this season. After struggling at the junior Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, he heads to Nokere Koerse this weekend hoping to build on his track success.

Wait until he grows his first sideburns...

10 March 2022, 12:43
Another bike chain statue for the collection

In the market for a life-sized human figurine made entirely from bike chains? Brilliant, because I have just the thing for you.

Apparently these figures, made by South Korean artist Young-Deok Seo, represent – I think – the striking dichotomy between the things that can both restrain us and also help set us free (think Bruce Springsteen’s The River album but with bike parts, not Cadillacs).

According to the artist, “the figures are completely bound, both literally and figuratively, by a type of chain that typically represents choice and freedom (of travel, of movement)”. Hmmm… yep, I see.

And I’m sure they’ll go well in the living room next to the other bike chain statue you were gifted last Christmas…

Dog Poo Chain.png
10 March 2022, 12:26
The Race to the Sun or the Hunger Games?

Even though the road only starts to tilt upwards in earnest today, the crashes and the wind has made the opening section of this year’s Paris-Nice particularly brutal (not that the Jumbo-Visma riders have noticed).

18 – 18! – riders who finished yesterday’s time trial failed to take the start this morning, including Matteo Trentin, who seems to be suffering from symptoms of concussion suffered after a crash on stage two, Quick Step’s classics men Yves Lampaert and Zdeněk Štybar, and BikeExchange sprinter Dylan Groenewegen.

According to the Twitter page Domestique, today’s stage features the highest recorded number of DNSs on a single day at a WorldTour stage race. 15 riders failed to start stage 10 of the 2020 Giro d’Italia, while 13 riders registered a DNS before stage 6 of the Tour of the Basque Country in 2015. 

Only 126 riders remain in the Paris-Nice peloton, with four days to go – already one fewer than the number which finished the race last year (though, as cycling writer Sadhbh O’Shea pointed out, still some way off the 61 who finished the Covid-hit 2020 edition). 

And with snow forecast as the riders enter the mountains, expect the DNS and DNF tally to continue to creep up…

10 March 2022, 11:56
British cyclist sets new Everesting world record

My legs hurt just thinking about this…

Over the weekend, British rider Nima Javaheri set a new Everesting world record of 38,703m – the equivalent of four Mount Everests – by climbing the Col de la Croisette side of Mont Salève, located on France’s border with Switzerland, 57 times over five days.

Taking minimal breaks as per Everesting rules, Javaheri rode for almost 114 hours in total and covered 848 kilometres. He is only the fourth person ever to complete a quadruple Everesting.

As part of his attempt, Javaheri raised over £10,000 for cancer research charity Blood Cancer UK, in support of his friend David Rogers, who has lived with Chronic Myeloid Leukaemia (CML) since 2013.

Fair play. Kind of puts my Sunday spin into perspective…

10 March 2022, 11:30
Mullen and Bennett – the new Yates twins?

For years cycling fans (and some commentators) grappled with one of the sport’s toughest questions – which Yates twin is on the front?

That eternal conundrum was finally solved when Adam moved across to Ineos Grenadiers last year, leaving brother Simon at BikeExchange.

But it seems as if autograph-hunting followers of the sport have been stumped by another puzzle as they mill around the team buses before races: ‘which Irish Bora-Hansgrohe rider am I looking at?’

In fairness, with their full kit on it’s easy to mistake sprinter Sam Bennett and time triallist Ryan Mullen. It used to be simpler when both men rode for different teams, but since Mullen joined Bennett as the Tour de France green jersey winner returned to his old stomping grounds at Bora, the task of distinguishing between the two has been made somewhat more difficult.

And if you don’t keep up with your national championships, that fact that Mullen wears the Irish bands on his kit probably only serves to further confuse matters, rather than work as a handy identifier.

I noticed this phenomenon first-hand at the soaking wet road worlds in Harrogate in 2019. While standing outside the Irish team’s campervan, a knowledgeable fan posed for a photo with one of the riders.

“Good luck, Sam”, she told him.

“Thanks, but I’m Ryan,” came the bemused reply.

I suppose it could be worse for Mullen. About a decade ago, someone congratulated me after hearing that Ryan Mullen (not Mallon) had ridden well at the Irish nationals. Evidently, that particular person hadn’t been paying close attention to my TT times…

10 March 2022, 10:43
The cost of cycling

A neat pro-cycling line in the midst of the current fuel crisis (from the former host of SBS’s Tour de France coverage no less) – though some were quick to suggest that riding a bike perhaps wasn’t quite the money-saving panacea they hoped it would be… 

10 March 2022, 09:56
Cycling UK set to challenge council’s decision on Snake Pass

Some potentially good news on the Snake Pass front, as national cycling charity Cycling UK looks set to challenge the council’s decision to close the road to cyclists and walkers: 

10 March 2022, 09:35
Snake Pass: Cyclists – defeating traffic for over a century (until the council steps in…)

On Monday’s live blog, we featured a very dramatic tweet from everybody’s favourite billionaire Elon Musk, in which he claimed that “defeating traffic is the ultimate boss battle. Even the most powerful humans in the world cannot defeat traffic.” 

Alright Elon mate, whatever you say.

To prove the Tesla CEO wrong, one cyclist filmed a wonderful video of his ride up the Peak District’s Snake Pass while it was closed to motor vehicles thanks to ongoing works on the landslide-affected road.

Sunshine, great roads, remarkable scenery, cyclists of all types, walkers, no cars (alright, one…) – pure bliss.

The video even ends with a pointed message for Mr Musk – “get a bike, you absolute spoon Elon”. Turns out cyclists are the most powerful humans in the world after all. I knew it.

> Closure of Snake Pass to bike riders described as an ‘anti-cyclist decision dressed up cheaply as Health and Safety’ 

Of course, as we saw yesterday, those delightful images are now a thing of the past, after Derbyshire County Council decided to extend the temporary ban on motor vehicles to include cyclists and walkers as well.

Maybe Elon had a word with somebody at the council…

Ryan joined as a news writer in December 2021. He has written about cycling and some ball-centric sports for various websites, newspapers, magazines and radio. Before returning to writing about cycling full-time, he completed a PhD in History and published a book and numerous academic articles on religion and politics in Victorian Britain and Ireland (though he remained committed to boring his university colleagues and students with endless cycling trivia). He can be found riding his bike very slowly through the Dromara Hills of Co. Down.

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