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Tougher phone driver laws are now in place – but are they working?; Cyclists "pretending to be in the Tour de France" stump driver; Sagan to miss Flanders; Gazprom-RusVelo suspends activities; Self-hating cyclists; Bizarre poetry + more on the live blog

It’s Tuesday and Ryan Mallon is back in the live blog hotseat, still annoyed that he missed all the Led Zeppelin references yesterday…
29 March 2022, 16:49
Return of the king

After his ground-breaking and hugely popular win at Gent-Wevelgem on Sunday (I’m still smiling just thinking about it), man of the moment Biniam Girmay is on his way back to Eritrea, alongside compatriot and Drone Hopper pro Natnael Tesfatsion, where he will train for the next month before returning to race in May.

While fans have been clamouring for the 21-year-old sensation to race Sunday’s Tour of Flanders after his breakout performances on the cobbles this spring, Girmay has stuck to his original plan to return home after three months in Europe.

“I want to go back home,” he told the media yesterday. “My family is the most important thing in my life. More important than the bike, yes. It was my plan now to go home to wife and daughter. I want to stick to that plan.

“For three months, my wife has been taking care of the baby and everything. I'm in good shape, but I'm still following my plan. We will [do the Tour of Flanders] in the future. This is the beginning, so we have a lot of time.

“Of course, when you start the season, you have a schedule and I gave that already to my wife. She accepted it and so did I. But now, to stay one week longer is not easy. I will spend all my time in Eritrea with my family, so that's why it's more important to go home.”

The Intermarché rider’s next race will be at Eschborn-Frankfurt on 1 May, where he will hope to rebuild his form in time for his grand tour debut at the Giro d’Italia, which starts five days later in Budapest.

When asked whether he will target stage wins or the points jersey in Italy, Girmay – who says he “will remain the same man as yesterday” in the wake of his newfound fame – replied: “Everything is coming to me quickly now. We will see. I don't know the Giro yet. But you never know.”

Considering he didn’t know that much about racing in Flanders before last week, you never know indeed…

29 March 2022, 16:20
Pog: “I always go full gas”

Not sure if that’s a crumb of comfort or a harbinger of doom for Tadej Pogačar’s rivals as he steps into the cobbled unknown at Dwars door Vlaanderen tomorrow…

29 March 2022, 16:09
Max Walscheid shares image of shattered bike after he was hit by a driver last week

On Friday we reported that Max Walscheid was hit by a motorist while out training near his home in Germany. The Cofidis rider was struck almost head-on by a driver who was turning across his lane, resulting in him being airlifted to hospital where he was placed in intensive care.

Walscheid, who had been in sparkling home during the first few months of the season, winning the Grand Prix de Denain-Porte de Hainaut and coming fourth in Brugge-De Panne last Wednesday, yesterday evening shared a shocking photo of his bike taken in the aftermath of the collision.

Blimey.

But before this turns into another tedious time trial bike safety debate, Walscheid confirmed in the post that at the time of the collision he was “doing an easy ride - perfect conditions, quiet, open road – hands on the brakes, eyes to the front, on the right side of my lane and luckily only endurance pace.”

The statement reads: “A car was coming down the opposite direction, driving in its lane. No reason to worry. But suddenly, without notice and just before reaching me, it turned left and hit me frontal, without braking. It apparently wanted to leave the road into an exit on my right, behind me.

“Unfortunately my lane and me were in between, it didn’t see me at all and just wiped me off the road. The windshield catapulted me into the ditch and only there I slowly realised what just happened.

“I was airlifted to hospital and brought to intensive care. Miraculously I walked away from this without life threatening or major injuries, I was incredible lucky.

“Still it was by far the hardest impact of my life and I will need time to recover from that.

“Thanks for the overwhelming amount of messages in the past days! Please take care for yourself and each other in traffic. I don’t know why this happened, but what the car driver did, such mistakes, can very quickly have very sad consequences.”

Referring to the broken bike, Walscheid said: “Surreal to see this, reliving the horrible moments and yet being able to walk into the police station myself to pick it up.

“I was very unlucky, to be at the wrong moment at the wrong place, but I had quite a few guardian angels on my shoulders.”

29 March 2022, 15:39
Vittoria raffles off three Pinarello Dogmas to help Ukrainian children with cancer
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Vittoria (@vittoriatires)

Vittoria, the Italian tyre manufacturer and former neutral service supplier at the Tour of Britain, is giving away three Pinarello Dogmas as part of a fundraising campaign to support children with cancer in Ukraine.

Proceeds from the raffle will go to the Italian non-profit organisation Soleterre, which has been working to provide continuous cancer treatment for Ukrainian children whose chemotherapy sessions or surgeries have been disrupted following Russia’s invasion.

Donations towards the bikes will help supply medicines, medical supplies, oxygen, food, transport and chemotherapy drugs.

The Pinarellos are being donated by Vittoria’s neutral service team and are equipped with Shimano Ultegra, Qurano 46 carbon wheels and Vittoria Corsa cotton tubulars. They are available in sizes 51, 54 and 55.

For more information on how to donate, click here.

29 March 2022, 15:10
Eh… maybe we should take our anti-bike lane poster down now?
29 March 2022, 15:07
El Tractor returns to the peloton

Fans of steady tempos and farming analogies, rejoice – ‘El Tractor’ Tim Declercq is set to make his return to the peloton at Dwars door Vlaanderen tomorrow.

The Quick Step-Alpha Vinyl rider, known for his constant, break-killing presence at the front of the bunch in the classics, has been absent since February after being diagnosed with pericarditis, a swelling and irritation of the tissue surrounding the heart.

Pericarditis is usually the result of a bacterial or viral infection – the kind of which has been making its way around the peloton all season – and tends to alleviate once the infection is gone, though Declercq was advised to take a few weeks off the bike as a precaution.

The big Belgian’s presence is a much-needed boost for a Quick Step team which has so far failed to set the cobbled classics alight this spring. Reigning Ronde champion Kasper Asgreen was a distant tenth behind the dominant Jumbo-Visma duo of Wout van Aert and Christophe Laporte at E3, while at Gent-Wevelgem the ‘wolfpack’ even failed to place a rider in the top 30 for the first time since 2009.

With that kind of form, it might take more than a fresh tractor engine to save Quick Step’s classics season and knock Jumbo off their current perch.

In any case, the chances of breakaway success have taken quite the blow…

29 March 2022, 14:25
Dan Martin speaks the truth

Let’s just say that working the news desk on Sunday – and forgetting about the clocks changing the night before – wasn’t my brightest idea…

29 March 2022, 14:01
The ballad of the self-loathing cyclist

I came across a column in the Irish Times over the weekend titled: ‘As a cyclist, I have the right to despise cyclists’.

Naturally, my ears pricked up.

In the column Donald Clarke, the paper’s film correspondent, took aim at the literal fair-weather cyclists, “the half-assed sorts who take to belching internal combustion at the first spit of precipitation”, asking the reader: “Don’t you hate these part-timers? Don’t you hate their inability to commit?”

However, Clarke answers his own question by turning the gun on himself: “No, you don’t. You hate me. You hate my pompous exclusionary attitude. You are quite right to do so. I hate me.”

He continues:

Remember Woody Allen in Annie Hall. “Don’t you see? The rest of the country looks upon New York like we’re left-wing, communist, Jewish, homosexual pornographers,” his character says. “I think of us that way sometimes and I live here.”

It is, if anything, easier to be a self-hating cyclist than a self-hating New Yorker.

He goes on to say how he vehemently defends his fellow cyclists from “the familiar Clarksonian rants” that veer “through the unreasonable and into the hysterical”.

But Clarke also admits his displeasure at the cyclists who have the “need to publicly confirm all the worst stereotypes” by riding on the footpath or through red lights, or the lycra-clad “serious cyclist mob” who engage in Range Rover whataboutery whenever any biking misdemeanour is noted.

As with all such overheated enthusiasts, the pastime is elevated into a signifier of virtue and spiritual purity.

However, he concludes by stating that cycling is very much akin to tribalism and patriotism. And because of that, just as only the Irish can make fun of the Irish, only cyclists can make roll their eyes at, ridicule, or even hate other cyclists – not “those non-pedalling blowhards”.

Any self-hating cyclists out there agree with Mr Clarke?

29 March 2022, 13:22
Fixed-gear tekkers

This footage, shot from the GoPro mounted to Alec Briggs’ bike as he won the eighth edition of the Rad Race Last Wo/Man Standing fixed gear event in Berlin on Saturday, is something else – part crit race, part go-karting, and part German nightclub, all rolled into one:

That divebomb on the final corner…

Oh, and here’s some bonus drone footage too:

29 March 2022, 12:04
Bizarre cycling poetry, because why not?

I’m not even sure where to begin with this one…

29 March 2022, 11:41
Peter Sagan (via Team TotalEnergies on Twitter)
Sagan sits out De Ronde

When he’s not having a pop at Remco Evenepoel (see below), complaining about the peloton’s toilet habits, or rescuing British tourists, Peter Sagan has endured a pretty rough start to life at Team TotalEnergies.

After a promising fifth place at Milano-Torino, the three-time world champion looked a shadow of his former swashbuckling self at Milan-San Remo, E3, and Gent-Wevelgem, where he failed to finish.

The 32-year-old Slovakian superstar has therefore opted to sit out Sunday’s Tour of Flanders, a race he won in 2016, to undergo blood tests and a check-up in a bid to explain his poor form.

Sagan will instead race the four-day Circuit Cycliste Sarthe-Pays de la Loire as he aims to find his legs before Amstel Gold and Paris-Roubaix later in April.

TotalEnergies are hoping that the series of tests Sagan will undergo at his home in Monaco will give them greater insight into his early-season lethargy, which has been variously linked in the press to a lack of pre-season training, an unspecified illness, or the aftermath of a second bout of Covid which he suffered in January.

However, as Sagan’s star begins to wane just as a new generation of attacking, charismatic riders dominate the headlines, former Garmin pro Phil Gaimon may already have all the answers the 32-year-old needs:

29 March 2022, 10:50
Shots fired…
29 March 2022, 10:44
Worst multiple choice ever? Driver asks for advice on how to deal with “cycling club pretending to be in the Tour de France”

As far as multiple-choice questions go, I’m not sure you’ll see this one on an upcoming episode of The Chase…

Surrey’s Road Policing Unit took the opportunity to provide their own answer:

While cycling journalist Felix Lowe offered up his take:

29 March 2022, 09:26
New, tougher phone driver laws are now in place – but are they working?

Last Friday saw the long-awaited introduction of tougher laws on drivers using their mobile phone behind the wheel. 

It is now illegal for motorists to use a phone under virtually any circumstance while driving, including taking photos or videos, scrolling through their Spotify playlist, playing games, or even checking the time.

The new law closes a loophole often exploited by phone-using drivers. Before Friday, it was only illegal if a motorist was using their phone behind the wheel for “interactive communication” (in other words, texting or calling), with the rise of smartphones – and the myriad of non-communication-based distractions that they feature – quickly rendering that piece of 2003 legislation outdated.

The archaic nature of the new law was recently highlighted by the Crown Prosecution Service’s decision to drop their case against Everton manager Frank Lampard, after he was filmed by Mike van Erp (better known as CyclingMikey) apparently using a mobile phone and holding a coffee cup behind the week – presumably because the ex-Chelsea footballer’s phone use wasn’t for communication purposes. 

> Prosecution of football star Frank Lampard filmed by CyclingMikey using mobile phone while driving dropped, CPS confirms 

Under the new law, phone use will still be permitted in emergency situations, or as a contactless payment device (2022, eh?) if the car is stationary. Hands-free mobile use is still permitted, as well as using the device for satellite navigation purposes, provided it is kept in a cradle.

Anyone caught using their handheld device while driving could face a fine of up to £1,000 as well as six points on their licence or a full driving ban.

The government’s THINK! team has also launched an £800,000 awareness campaign, explaining the new law to motorists and the potential penalties for ignoring it.

So, how are motorists coping with the new laws?

Jim seemed cautiously optimistic that the message was getting through:

But he was swiftly brought back down to earth by the expert himself, CyclingMikey:

 And a few others:

Speaking of using your phone behind the wheel, active travel campaigner Adam Bronkhorst was sent these snaps of a gang of bike riding youths up to no good, which may or may not have been taken from the driver’s side of the car…

29 March 2022, 08:14
Gazprom-RusVelo suspends all activity as team manager accuses the UCI of “playing at politics”

The cycling team formerly known as Gazprom-RusVelo has bowed to the inevitable, officially suspending all activities and releasing riders and staff from their contracts – as the squad’s manager blames the UCI for “playing at politics” and not doing enough to save the squad.

Yesterday we reported on the blog that the Russian-registered squad had rebranded, changing its name to simply ‘Professional Cycling Team’ with a plain white and black kit, in a bid to secure a new title sponsor. 

However, as the UCI has banned all Russian and Belarusian teams from racing, the team’s Russian license meant that – despite the departure of Gazprom and new neutral look – they still couldn’t compete, even though the squad had funding in place for the whole of March and invitations to 15 days of WorldTour racing.

With no new sponsor on the horizon, which would have allowed the squad to race under a different nationality, manager Renat Khamidulin appears set to formalise the termination of rider and staff contracts, as well as winding down the team’s management company.

“We’ve suspended all activity as we said we’d do. We’re still looking for a sponsor but there’s nothing concrete in place and so I can’t ask the 52 riders and staff to wait any longer,” Khamidulin told Cyclingnews

“It’s tragic because we’ve got a perfectly functioning team structure, with team cars, team buses, bikes and equipment and riders who are able to win. Mathias Vacek won a stage at the UAE Tour and on Sunday Alessandro Fedeli finished second at the GP Industria in Italy [racing for the Italian national team].”

Riders and staff are now free to seek employment on other teams – but this will prove difficult with most squad budgets already allocated for the year, meaning promising UAE Tour stage winner Vacek and former grand tour contender Ilnur Zakarin will struggle to find new homes.

Despite the Gazprom riders’ predicament and the wave of injury and illness that has swept over the peloton during the early part of the season, the UCI has refused to increase the 31-rider limit for squad sizes.

And Khamidulin has pointed the finger at UCI President David Lappartient, who he says has not done enough to help save the squad or secure new contracts for its staff.

“The world of cycling is watching to see what the UCI does to help but we’re seeing they want to play at politics rather than defend and help the riders and staff,” Khamidulin said.

“The UCI wanted to punish a Russian team but they’re penalising riders from Italy, Norway, Spain and even Costa Rica. Even if three or four of the riders find new teams, all the others, 18 or so, are going to be left on the street. That’s not right.

“I’ve also got a mechanic from the Ukraine and Russian staff who have wives from the Ukraine, who have lost their jobs there. They’re desperate.

“That’s why I ask: where’s the UCI? Why won’t they help to keep the team alive under a different nationality?

“I’ve never had a clear response to my appeals. Yet I’ve seen that the French president Emmanuel Macron has spoken about trying to find a diplomatic solution for the war between Russia and the Ukraine. Macron speaks but Lappartient hasn’t spoken. Why not?”

Ryan joined road.cc 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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