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Transport chief accused of “trolling vulnerable road users” after ironically tweeting photo of “cleared” cycle lane – with car parked in it; Astana sack López over doping links; No more racing jackets for G; Cav retirement rumour + more on the live blog

It’s Tuesday, it’s still cold, and Ryan Mallon’s back with another helping of the live blog
13 December 2022, 09:13
Transport chief accused of “trolling vulnerable road users” after ironically tweeting photo of “cleared” cycle lane – with car parked in it

Here’s another one for our ever-expanding ‘Why don’t cyclists use the cycle lane?’ folder, which, if we’re honest, may require a whole new filing cabinet at this point.

As the snow fell in Edinburgh over the weekend, the city council’s transport convenor, Scott Arthur, tweeted his gratitude that a footpath and cycle lane on the Comiston Road had been cleared.

However, the Labour councillor – whether intentionally or otherwise – failed to note one crucial element of the photo that ensured that the cycle lane wasn’t completely “clear”:

It’s safe to say that a few people were rather confused by Arthur’s tweet:

But if there are two things that people on the internet find it difficult to grasp, it’s the ability to have a rational debate and sarcasm:

However, those who did get the joke were perhaps the most scathing of Edinburgh’s transport convenor, pointing out that the motorist wouldn’t have been able to park in the cycle lane if proper segregation was in place:

Arthur became transport convenor in May this year, when a minority Labour administration took over Edinburgh City Council following a deal with Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, but said at the time of his appointment that he will stand down from the role when a “more able colleague” becomes available.

Since then, he has vowed to “move on from the war between motorists and cyclists” but has come in for criticism from cyclists who believe he is reversing the council’s plans for active travel infrastructure.

In response to Arthur’s ‘sarcastic tweet’, cycling advocate Dave McCraw tweeted: “Surely it takes a special kind of balls for a city’s transport chief to simultaneously remove bike lane protections and then troll vulnerable road users about drivers doing exactly what the removal of protection is intended to allow, no?”

Last month, the council voted to extend the Spaces for People walking and cycling schemes – which have since been rebranded as Travelling Safely – for a further 18 months.

“By extending the lifespan of these schemes we’ll have the chance to test and trial the measures to see how they’re working as life in the city settles to a new normality following the pandemic,” Arthur said.

“I know the changes have divided opinion but there is no doubt that providing safe spaces to walk, wheel and cycle can significantly benefit the health, wellbeing and pockets of people in the city, not to mention positively impacting the environment by supporting sustainable travel and better connecting people to public transport.”

> "Moronic" much-ridiculed zig-zag cycle lane now blamed as cyclist injured by shallow kerb crash

In September, the transport convenor said that the council was fully behind retaining “the majority at least” of the schemes, but also acknowledged that people who opposed the installation of bike lanes “feel let down by how councillors have dealt with this. They feel let down and they feel there was a lack of transparency and I think collectively in this committee we have a duty to rebuild that trust.”

13 December 2022, 09:58
Miguel Angel Lopez (copyright RCS Sport)
“Cycling. Never not entertaining”: Miguel Ángel López sacked by Astana due to doping links, but rider maintains he has “never tested positive”

On the subject of irony – this time of the unintended variety – Astana’s mercurial climber Miguel Ángel López has been sacked by the Kazakh team after fresh links to a suspected doping doctor were revealed.

López was initially suspended by Astana in July after reports emerged claiming that the Colombian was being investigated for his alleged involvement in a drug trafficking ring in Spain, led by physiologist Marcos Maynar, who was arrested in May charged with a crime against public health, drug trafficking, and money laundering as part of the Spanish police’s Operation Ilex investigation.

With the absence of any concrete findings from the authorities in Spain or the UCI, López’s summer suspension proved short-lived and he was integrated back into the squad less than two weeks later.

However, in a statement released last night – which appeared to cause so many clicks that the team’s website kept crashing – Astana announced that it “had discovered new elements showing Miguel Angel Lopez’ probable connection with Dr Marcos Maynar.

“Accordingly, the team had no other solution than to end the contract between team and rider, based on breaches of said contract and internal team rules, with immediate effect.”

Yes, you read that right. Astana, the team barred from the 2008 Tour de France for its widespread doping practices, led by former rider Alexander Vinokourov, he of the two-year suspension for blood doping and, when he returned to the peloton, bribery charges (which he was eventually cleared of due to the lack of concrete evidence), sacking a rider for his alleged involvement in a doping conspiracy.

Cycling can be a strange world sometimes.

Alexandre Vinokourov wins Liège-Bastogne-Liège in 2010 (©Photosport International)

Vino wins the controversial Liège-Bastogne-Liège in 2010 (©Photosport International)

In another eery throwback to the mid-2000s, Spanish newspaper ABC has reported that the “new elements” of the investigation discovered by Astana relate to a document which claims that López received a dose of menotropin, a human growth hormone that increases muscle mass and eliminate fluids, before the start of this year’s Giro d’Italia in Hungary.

The drugs were allegedly received by Astana soigneur Vicente Belda García, the son of former Kelme manager Vicente Belda, who was a central figure in the Operación Puerto case which brought down Jan Ullrich, Ivan Basso, and a host of others.

According to ABC, the drug caused a problem in López’s left leg, forcing him to pull out of the Giro during stage four’s ride to Etna. A hip injury was cited as the official reason for the 28-year-old’s early withdrawal.

Cycling author Peter Cossins noted the similarities between López’s DNF at the Giro and the early rumblings of Operación Puerto, sparked by Kelme rider – and eventual whistle-blower – Jesús Manzano’s adverse reaction to a drug at the 2003 Tour de France.

Miguel Angel Lopez on his way to winning Stage 17 of the 2020 Tour de France (picture credit Alex Whitehead

Alex Whitehead/

And if that wasn’t enough on your 2000s-era pro cycling bingo card, López has released his own statement, prepared by his lawyers, which describes his sacking as “a clear case of abusive termination without just cause” and includes one of that period's finest chestnuts – ‘I have never tested positive’.

“The rider hereby informs that he considers such decision as with no cause, and that there are no new facts which could justify such decision, not known or reported before November 2022 by Astana Team,” the statement says.

“The rider rejects any allegation that could damage his name and honour as professional rider, and reminds that he has never tested positive for any drugs or doping, nor has he been investigated by any authority.

“Mr. Miguel Angel Lopez hereby informs that he will defend his rights before the corresponding Courts, in a case which he understands as a clear case of abusive termination without just cause.”

It’s been a while since we’ve heard the ‘I’ve never tested positive’ line being trotted out, but it’s nice to have the old girl back, if only for nostalgia purposes.

López – known as ‘Superman’, for some reason – has been a consistent, if mercurial, presence on the sport's biggest climbs since turning pro in 2015 with Astana, where he has spent all of his career apart from one ill-fated and dramatic season with Movistar in 2021.

> Miguel Angel Lopez slaps fan who knocked him from bike

He’s finished in the top ten at all three grand tours and taken stages at the Tour and Vuelta – though if the current Puerto premonitions are anything to go by, his name may be remembered for completely different reasons in the years to come.

New generation, and all that.

13 December 2022, 13:05
Mark Cavendish, British road race championships 2022 (Alex Whitehead/
Is Mark Cavendish about to retire? B&B Hôtels management allegedly told riders and staff that sponsors pulled out of project after British champion decided to quit sport – but Pete Kennaugh says sprinter has “definitely signed a contract” for 2023

The collapse of the B&B Hôtels team last week – after an autumn long search for a substantial funding boost ultimately failed – has ensured that cycling’s rumour mill, usually dormant at this stage of the winter, has erupted into life, as riders contracted to Jérôme Pineau’s ambitious but ill-fated project now scramble to secure new squads for 2023.

One of those out-of-work riders is, of course, Mark Cavendish, the former world champion and 34-time Tour de France stage winner who, along with Audrey Cordon-Ragot, was set to spearhead Pineau’s attempt to achieve WorldTour success.

> “This time it’s over”: Mark Cavendish’s B&B Hôtels team to close its doors after search for sponsors falls through

While the French team’s collapse, confirmed by the UCI’s publication of its squad list for 2023 yesterday, has unleashed a tidal wave of rumours concerning Cavendish’s possible destination, one entirely different kind of rumour has emerged in the past 24 hours: that the Manx Missile is preparing to step away from the sport altogether.

According to the Placeholder podcast, hosted by former Cycling Tips editor Caley Fretz, a source close to the B&B team says that Pineau and the management, when informing the riders last week that the squad was about to collapse, claimed that Cavendish had backed out of his agreement to join the team and instead had decided to retire from the sport completely.

Cavendish’s alleged last-minute decision then caused the incoming big-money sponsors, who seemingly had been wooed by the prospect of having their name plastered across the chest of a potential Tour de France record breaker, to withdraw their funding, causing Pineau’s precarious house of cards to collapse.

As Fretz points out in the podcast, the source – deemed to be reliable – may be correct about the contents of the meeting. Whether Pineau and his fellow management were being entirely truthful about the reasons behind the team’s demise is another matter entirely.

Surely Cavendish, on the brink of a career-defining bit of history, wouldn’t simply slink off into the night without any kind of announcement or fanfare?

Mark Cavendish after winning 2022 GB National Championship (copyright Alex Whitehead,

 Alex Whitehead/

Pineau’s alleged attempts to deflect the blame for his squad’s collapse appear to have lost even more traction today, as Cavendish’s fellow Manxman and friends Pete Kennaugh told the Never Strays Far podcast that the former world champion has indeed “signed a contract” for 2023.

“From what I can gather, he is very well, very happy, good morale,” Kennaugh said.

“So, he’s definitely signed a contract. With whom, I don’t know.

“He was at Gent Six last time I spoke to him for Iljo Keisse's retirement race. Good spirits, talking about training hard this winter on the Isle of Man.

“He’s doing well and he’s ready for next year. Every top sprinter in the peloton should be very worried. He’s definitely got one.”

As has been the case throughout this off-season when it comes to Cavendish – watch this space.

13 December 2022, 11:06
Geraint Thomas during Stage 3 of 2020 Giro d'Italia (picture credit LaPresse, RCS Sport)
The Giro according to G: Thomas to target Italian grand tour in 2023

We all knew it was coming, but 2018 Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas has confirmed that he will be heading to the Bel paese next May for the Giro d’Italia.

Despite finishing an impressive third at the Tour this year, the Ineos Grenadiers rider said in November that he will focus on a return to the Giro in 2023, where the Welshman has unfinished business after two freak crashes spoiled his previous overall bids at the Cora Rosa.

The 36-year-old also noted his disappointment at the dearth of time trialling on the 2023 Tour route, which Giro organisers RCS Sport have more than made up for with three races of truth on the menu for next May, totalling 71 kilometres.

And last night, Thomas finally officially confirmed his grand tour priorities for next season, with this rather jazzy announcement video:

And this altogether more straightforward post from later in the evening:

One of his potential gregarious wasn’t too impressed with G’s choice of pizza, however: 

13 December 2022, 11:48
Geraint Thomas at 2022 Tour de France (Copyright A.S.O., Charly Lopez)
“The demise of an icon”: Is this the end of Geraint Thomas’ long-term relationship with his beloved Oakleys?

2022 has been the year of high-profile retirements. Some of the leading lights of the late 2000s and 2010s, including Vincenzo Nibali, Alejandro Valverde, Philippe Gilbert, Lisa Brennauer, Richie Porte, and Tom Dumoulin have finally left the peloton, leaving some big shoes for a new generation of hungry talent to step into.

We learned last night, however, that time may also be up for one of the true icons of that era – the Oakley Racing Jackets.

Geraint Thomas and Chris Froome on final stage of 2018 Tour de France, picture credit ASO, Alex Broadway KASK cycling helmets

ASO/Alex Broadway

The distinctive – if rather divisive – glasses have long been discontinued by the Californian company, but have maintained their place in the pro peloton thanks to one famous fan: Geraint Thomas.

The Welshman has stuck with the Armstrong-era throwbacks through thick and thin, from Tour victories to close encounters with trees, so much so that when he was mandated to wear another, more modern, less bug-like pair for one stage only at the Tour this year, ripples of shock and apprehension spread throughout the internet (I may be exaggerating slightly, but it was still a surprise not to see his face dominated by those garish white frames, resembling Bob Dylan on the Rolling Thunder Revue tour).

Geraint Thomas' glasses (GCN)


But all good (or at least memorable) things must come to an end, and while we will see Thomas at the 2023 Giro, we almost certainly won’t be seeing his trademark Oakleys.

Yesterday, the Ineos Grenadiers confirmed that they will be partnering with British brand SunGod for 2023, ending their 12-year association with Oakley.

“INEOS Grenadiers is a performance-led team so we pride ourselves on working with the most forward-thinking, agile and performance-driven partners – that’s why we’ve chosen SunGod as our new, long-term eyewear partner,” Deputy Team Principal Rod Ellingworth said in a statement.

All well and good, but won’t somebody please think of Geraint?

Luckily, cycling writer Caley Fretz has, mocking up an image of what Thomas will look like in his new team-mandated shades:

Whatever you think of the Racing Jackets (and personally I’m a fan of the modern, oversized models) that image is just not right.

Why must all my teenage cycling memories be ripped from me, why?

13 December 2022, 14:01
“I’d much rather be hit by a sliding pedestrian or cyclist!” Cyclists blast ‘car-centric’ weather warnings

We love a dodgy info-graphic here on the live blog, and with snow and icy conditions sweeping the country (okay, okay, not all of it – pipe down in the comments), the Met Office has duly obliged.

Yesterday, as it reported that a snow and ice warning was set to put in place today in northern Scotland and northeast England, the Met Office – with the aid of a lovely cartoon – helpfully showed us the dangers of stepping outside in such weather, whether by bike (you’ll skid) or on foot (you’ll end up on your backside).

But what about motorists, I hear you cry? Well, according to the Met Office’s cartoon, you’ll simply glide on past the stricken cyclists and pedestrians, your car immune to the icy conditions:

An earlier weather warning from last week, however, did at least show that you can very briefly lose control of your car on ice, before correcting it and continuing on your way. If you’re on your bike? Well, you’re hitting the deck, of course:

The tweets have been described as “weird car-centrism” by transport journalist Carlton Reid, while lecturer Neal Hockley wrote that the Met Office “seems to be promoting cars as immune to slipping on snow and ice. Seems they didn't see the video from Gloucestershire yesterday or think about externalities. I'd much rather be hit by a sliding pedestrian or cyclist!”

Meanwhile, out on the non-animated roads:

13 December 2022, 16:56
Down in the comments section at midnight: Sarcastic tweets, Met Office musings, and G’s glasses

This morning’s cautionary tale about elected representatives trying to be funny on social media has prompted some harsh criticism of Edinburgh City Council’s approach to active travel: reader OnYerBike was particularly scathing about transport convenor Scott Arthur’s “cleared cycle lane” tweet, whether it was a misjudged attempt at humour or not:

I don't think there's a good explanation.

Either the tweet was serious and meant to be taken at face value, which suggests the councillor didn't recognise a problem with the car being parked there (whether it be the councillor’s or someone else's).

Or it was ironic/sarcastic, in which case I think it's very poor taste coming from the Transport Convenor of the council, who has done (as far as I can tell) nothing to actually address problem parking across the city since being elected and very little to promote active transport more generally (and indeed has overseeing some measures being removed).

This seems to me a common thread from Cllr Arthur – he talks like he cares about active travel but actions speak louder than words and as time goes on, the silence is increasingly deafening.

Meanwhile, Seventyone pointed out that the Met Office’s seemingly “car-centric” weather warnings, and focus on the danger posed by icy conditions to cyclists and pedestrians, could actually be “due to the likelihood that the roads have probably been gritted and the pavements and cycle lanes probably haven't?

“It's actually a subtle hint to councils to grit all transport infrastructure, not just roads?”

Then again, maybe not…

And finally, as we solemnly gathered this afternoon to mourn the passing of one of the peloton’s most distinctive fashion statements – Geraint Thomas’ awful Oakley Racing Jackets – Rendel Harris noted that, thanks to SunGod’s rather groovy Tempests, all may not be lost for G in his quest for outdated racing chic…

SunGod Tempests.PNG
13 December 2022, 16:39
I wonder what the Met Office would say about this

All that talk about cycling in the snow has got me excited for a certain cyclocross World Cup race coming up this weekend:

It’s just a pity I’ll have to settle for watching it at home this time around…

13 December 2022, 16:28
‘The kids these days, they have an app for everything, even for checking their brake pads…’
13 December 2022, 15:57
Priorities, priorities

It’s basically the inverse of the Highway Code’s hierarchy of vulnerable road users… 

13 December 2022, 15:18
Pierre Rolland of B&B Hotels descends from Mont Ventoux, 2021 Tour de France (Emma Wilcock/
Tour and Giro stage winner Pierre Rolland retires from professional cycling

While the rumours circulating around Mark Cavendish’s apparently imminent retirement appear somewhat fanciful, one grand tour stage winning veteran has decided to step away from the sport following the demise of the B&B Hôtels team.

Pierre Rolland, a double Tour de France stage winner on summit finishes, announced his retirement from professional cycling on the social media.

“I would have liked for the adventure to continue but destiny decided otherwise and I’m announcing to you that I’m ending my professional career,” the 36-year-old Frenchman said in a video which featured some highlights from his 15 years in the peloton.

Turning pro with Crédit Agricole in 2007, Rolland burst onto the scene by winning two races as a neo pro, before taking the mountains classification at the Dauphiné Libéré.

In 2011, he won one of the greatest stages in the Tour de France’s modern history, beating Samuel Sánchez and Alberto Contador on Alpe d’Huez, on the way to finishing 11th overall while riding most of the race in support of Europcar teammate Thomas Voeckler, who narrowly missed out on a podium place in Paris.

The following year, Rolland repeated the trick, soloing to the win on the Tour’s hardest Alpine summit finish on La Toussuire.

Already established as one of the peloton’s most dangerous baroudeur, especially in the mountains, Rolland also proved his credentials as a capable GC rider, backing up that win in the Alps with eighth place overall at the Tour in 2012 (along with the white young rider's jersey), before finishing an impressive fourth at the 2014 Giro d’Italia. He also secured the overall victories at several short stages, including the Circuit de la Sarthe and the Vuelta a Castilla y Leon, and took two top tens at the Dauphiné.

But it was stage hunting where Rolland really excelled, and in 2017 – by then riding for the Cannondale-Drapac team – he once again soloed to a mountain breakaway stage win, this time at the Giro d’Italia, his third victory at a grand tour.

Pierre Rolland wins Stage 16 of 2017 Giro d'Italia (picture LaPresse - D'Alberto - Ferrari - Paolone - Spada).jpg

Rolland wins Stage 16 of the 2017 Giro d'Italia (LaPresse - D'Alberto) 

As he settled into elder statesman status at B&B, the results slowly dried up, though he would remain a constant presence in breaks at stage races and grand tours.

As B&B imploded last week, Rolland was forced to deny that he’d agreed a deal with Peter Sagan’s TotalEnergies team.

“Surprised to discover where my future will be written in the press,” the veteran French rider wrote on Twitter last Thursday. “I will keep you informed in due time on my social networks of what my future will be.”

In a year of high-profile retirements, this afternoon’s announcement closes another entertaining door in cycling’s recent history.

13 December 2022, 14:45
Human Powered Health emerge as the latest in a long line of teams linked to Mark Cavendish’s signature

So, file Human Powered Health alongside Israel-Premier Tech (though that one’s since been quashed after they rescued fellow Brit Stevie Williams from the sinking B&B ship), Ineos, Arkéa-Samsic, Astana, AG2R, Trek-Segafredo, retirement, Total Énergies…

It seems a bit of a long shot, however – even with Cavendish on board, Human Powered Health will struggle to pick up a Tour de France wildcard place. As Wielerflits noted, the American team has only been invited to two WorldTour races in the past four years, and is yet to make its grand tour debut.

But at this stage, who really knows?

13 December 2022, 12:29
Matej Mohoric milan-san remo victory - via sprint cycling agency
“I haven’t seen much enthusiasm for dropper posts,” says Matej Mohorič

Remember that time in March when Matej Mohorič blew everyone away on the descent of the Poggio and we all went dropper post mad?

Just in case the early spring is a distant, fading memory for you, here’s a quick recap: At the first monument of the season, Milan-San Remo, the Bahrain Victorious escaped on the fast, technical descent into the finish to secure the biggest win of his career – with the help of a MTB-style Fox Transfer SL dropper post.

“It helped me to lower the centre of gravity to handle the bike, but still to remain seated on the saddle,” Mohorič told the podcast after his victory.

“I was looking forward to the race and experiencing the features in the race. In training it seemed to me that it made a huge impact, and then in the race it really confirmed it.”

At the finish in San Remo, the 28-year-old claimed that he may have “destroyed cycling”, as now every pro would presumably rush to use the new tech.

> It wasn't just the dropper post: Matej Mohorič used "secret" wheel bearings and bigger disc rotors for Milan–San Remo win

However, speaking at his team’s winter training camp in Spain, Mohorič is now unconvinced whether dropper posts will catch on in the peloton.

“I didn’t see so much enthusiasm about using it in road races after I used it successfully in San Remo,” he told Cycling News this week.

“But I still believe it makes a difference. It makes the bike easier to control and lowers the centre of gravity. If there’s a chance, I’ll definitely use it again in some races, but I don’t know what the others will do.”

The two-time Tour de France stage winner noted that most teams may be reticent to try out dropper posts as most seat tubes on road bikes wouldn’t fit those currently on the market (a requirement by the UCI for any new tech). Bahrain Victorious, on the other hand, were able to use the Fox Transfer SL – rather than their sponsor FSA’s own dropper post – thanks to the Merida Scultura’s traditional, rounded seat post.

“It’s not so easy to implement on a road bike. It needs to be assessed by the UCI, safety tested, approved, so it’s not so easy," Mohorič said.

“The one we used was completely standard and that’s one of the rules you need to respect, it needs to be tested and so on. So, it’s not going to be easy for all the others to use. I'm not sure if they will push for it or not.”

13 December 2022, 10:57
A snowy path to the future?

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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