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Royal Parks Police criticised for “tone-deaf” tweet about red light jumping and footpath riding; Netflix and Tour; Pidcock out of Strade Bianche; ‘I’ll park where I effin’ like’; Sivakov switches from Russia to France + more on the live blog

It’s Friday, Strade Bianche and Paris-Nice are just around the corner – and Ryan Mallon’s back to bring you the latest news and views on the last live blog of the week…
04 March 2022, 18:00
‘Twas the night before Strade Bianche

Ah, gravel…

For a sport which likes to position itself as in thrall to the latest technological and physiological advancements, professional cycling remains deeply entrenched in tradition and nostalgia.

Nowhere is this push-and-pull between past and present more apparent at Strade Bianche, which takes place tomorrow over the gravel roads of Tuscany.

Strade Bianche is arguably the sport’s newest bonafide classic, first held in 2007, but its appeal is rooted in the myths and legends of a bygone era.

The white gravel roads, the dust, the scenery, the iconic finish in the medieval city of Siena, the openness of a race which seems to defy specialism, attracting spindly grand tour contenders and cobbled classics brutes alike – it’s a heady mix, and one which has helped place the race already among cycling’s biggest and most popular one-day classics.

So what about tomorrow then? Well as we saw earlier, the big three of cyclocross – Tom Pidcock, Wout van Aert and Mathieu van der Poel (the latter duo having won the last two editions of Strade Bianche) – will all be missing from the men’s race, so 2019 winner Julian Alaphilippe and the seemingly irrepressible Tadej Pogačar step up as the big favourites. Watch out for the in-form Tiesj Benoot and Pogačar’s exciting young teammate Alessandro Covi too.

In the women’s race, last week’s Omloop winner Annemiek van Vleuten will be aiming to secure her third Strade Bianche title, while Demi Vollering will be looking for revenge after her narrow defeat to van Vleuten in the sprint last Saturday. Elisa Longo Borghini and the ever-consistent Kasia Niewiadoma (who has finished in the top ten every time she has raced Strade Bianche) are also ones to watch.

And if all that wasn’t enough to whet your appetite, there is the tantalising prospect that rain could turn the famous white roads brown tomorrow, à la the epic 2010 Giro stage to Montalcino won by a mud-splattered Cadel Evans. Before you get too excited, however, the below picture was not taken on the actual Strade route, but near Groupama-FDJ’s hotel. We can dream…

04 March 2022, 17:29
British Tour de France cyclist Colin Lewis dies after short battle with cancer

The British Olympic and Tour de France cyclist Colin Lewis died early this morning after a short battle with cancer, Mid Devon CC has announced.

Lewis, who served as club president of the Mid Devon club until his death, was part of a generation of pioneering British cyclists in the 1960s and early 1970s. He was the highest placed British rider in the road race at the 1964 Olympics, before twice winning the national championships in the late 1960s.

In 1967 and 1968 Lewis became the first Welshman to ride the Tour de France (and the last until Geraint Thomas forty years later).

At the 1967 Tour, he roomed with Tom Simpson before the world champion’s tragic death on the slopes of Mont Ventoux. Lewis’ traumatic first experience at the sport’s biggest race – and his passion for cotton racing caps – also provided the origin of one of my favourite ever cycling tales, which I included at the bottom of an article on Peter Sagan published earlier this week.

Lewis was legendary for his competitiveness and was a member of the Holdsworth team which dominated the British pro racing scene in the early 1970s. He later ran a cycle shop in the Devon resort of Paignton and served as club president of Mid Devon CC, passing on his knowledge and experience to younger generations of racers.

He died this morning, aged 79.

04 March 2022, 16:44
Bikes in Brussels (via European Cyclists' Federation on Flickr)
30kph speed limit reduces road fatalities by 50 percent in Brussels, new study finds

One year ago Brussels implemented a city-wide speed limit of 30 kilometres per hour.

Since then, according to two new studies published this week, road fatalities in the Belgian capital have been reduced by over 50 percent, while the number of cyclists in the city has continued to grow.

The number of people riding their bike in Brussels increased by 20 percent in 2021, even following the ‘boom year’ of 2020, which saw a massive 64 percent increase in cyclists.

One cycling counter, located on the Molenbeek canal bike path, broke the one million journey barrier in December 2021, while other areas which have invested heavily in permanent cycling infrastructure, including bidirectional cycle lanes, have also seen a substantial increase in journey numbers.

15 percent of those surveyed also said they rode their bike to work all or some of the time.

Since the 30kph speed limit was imposed across the city last year, road fatalities have decreased from 11 to five, while 100 people were seriously injured on the road in 2021, 21 fewer than the previous year.

According to the study, travel times for motorists did not rise following the introduction of the 30kph limit, while speeding also decreased in the capital by 2.4 percent.

Camille Thiry, spokesperson for Brussels Mobility, said the reductions were “a very positive development,” but Brussels Mobility Minister Elke Van den Brandt maintained that the “objective remains zero deaths and zero serious injuries in Brussels.”

In February, the City of Brussels also announced plans for the establishment of a larger low-traffic area within the “Pentagon” city centre, “to improve the quality of life of inhabitants and the general atmosphere of the capital for tourists and visitors.” The changes will come into effect in August.

04 March 2022, 16:09
Pid-sick: Tom ruled out of Strade Bianche with stomach virus

Bad news for British fans or lovers of attacking racing – Tom Pidcock has been ruled out of tomorrow’s Strade Bianche due to a stomach virus.

The cyclocross world champion was one of the favourites for this year’s edition of the gravelly Tuscan classic, after finishing fifth on debut in 2021.

The Ineos Grenadiers rider was an attacking presence during Opening Weekend, finishing 18th at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on Saturday after infiltrating a dangerous break that was ultimately brought back.

He again was instrumental in blowing the race apart the following day at Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, but admitted afterwards that he made “a bit of a mistake” in allowing Tiesj Benoot to take him out of the back of the break.

The Brit is the latest of the pre-race favourites to drop out of tomorrow’s race, with 2020 Strade Bianche winner Wout van Aert preferring to line up for Sunday’s opening stage of Paris-Nice instead, while last year’s victor Mathieu van der Poel is still building up his fitness after a lay-off due to a recurring back injury.

Pidcock will hope to be recovered in time for Milan-Sanremo in two weeks’ time, before turning his attention to the cobbled classics in late March and early April.

04 March 2022, 15:45
Rubbish cycling infrastructure, #753
04 March 2022, 15:30
Cyclist saved by worker leaving nightshift after suffering heart attack

A keen cyclist who nearly died after suffering a heart attack while riding his bike was reunited yesterday with the two civilians who saved his life.

77-year-old Frank Kelly was cycling near the Nissan plant in Sunderland last summer when he suffered a cardiac arrest.

Fortunately, Nissan worker David Freeman, who was just finishing his night shift, was first on the scene and along with co-worker Karl used the CPR skills they learned to keep the cyclist alive until the paramedics arrived.

“If they hadn't been there, I wouldn't be here,” Frank told ITV.

Freeman said: “Obviously it's quite a difficult thing – a scary situation – but I had the training thankfully, just put it to use.

“I'm very proud, glad he's made a full recovery, very pleased.”

“When I did my CPR training with Nissan and the ambulance service 10 years ago, I hoped I’d never have to use it,” Karl said, “but this just shows why it is so important to get this training.

“I don’t even normally drive that way – by chance I had taken a detour to a newsagents on my way in. It was a collective effort from me and some other passers-by to keep him alive until the paramedics arrived.”

Frank spent six weeks in Sunderland Royal Hospital recovering, and says: “There’s still a long way to go but I’m getting there slowly.

“I’ve already met the two lovely Nissan lads but have really wanted to meet the ambulance staff to say thank you. Without them all, I wouldn’t be here today.”

04 March 2022, 15:16
Bigham breaks British pursuit record

The records keep falling for Dan Bigham, who set a new British individual pursuit record during qualifying today at the rescheduled British track championships in Newport.

Bigham, who broke Bradley Wiggins’ British hour record in October 2021 with a distance of 54.723km, blasted around the 4,000 metres in a time of 4:05.274, over four seconds quicker than the previous record set by John Archibald in 2019.

Bigham’s time would have been enough to set the world record for the pursuit less than two and a half years ago, and is three and a half seconds quicker than the Olympic gold medal-winning German team pursuit squad at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.

The current world record for the individual pursuit is held by American Ashton Lambie (who set a time of 3:59.930 in August last year), while the flying Filippo Ganna has set the quickest ever time at sea level, riding a 4:01.934 on the way to the rainbow jersey at the 2020 Berlin track worlds.

Ineos Grenadiers’ new performance engineer Bigham will face Charlie Tanfield, who qualified with an impressive time of 4:08.953, in the final later today.

04 March 2022, 14:45
What empty cycle lane? Busiest day ever yesterday on Cycle Superhighway 3

The Cycle Superhighway which runs along the Embankment in London recorded its busiest ever day yesterday, with over 15,000 commuters riding their bikes along the segregated east-west route.

According to the Twitter page of the CS3 Embankment route, by 7.12 pm last night at least 14,986 cyclists had ridden past the counter.

That number – which may actually be higher as the counters don’t always register large groups correctly – surpassed the previous weekday record of 14,505. The best combined weekend score is 27,000, recorded over the 2020 VE bank holiday.

And who says that cycle lanes are always empty?

04 March 2022, 11:39
“I cycled into a work today, managed not to jump a single red light or ride on a footpath”: Royal Parks Police criticised for “tone-deaf” tweet

Royal Parks Police caused a stir on Twitter last night after one of its officers boasted about managing “not to jump a single red light or ride on a footpath” while cycling to work during the London tube strike yesterday.

The officer also warned that “the tube strike is not an excuse to cycle on pedestrian only footpaths” and said that enforcement against such an offence was carried out yesterday evening.

 The tweet was heavily criticised online as “tone-deaf”, with some Twitter users expressing dismay that Royal Parks Police would indulge such “cycle-phobic” language:

Others questioned the force’s priorities when it comes to road safety, especially in the wake of Tuesday’s tragic death in Holborn:

Last month, the Met’s Roads and Transport Policing Command was similarly derided after tweeting that officers in Hackney had fined 18 cyclists in the space of 90 minutes for jumping red lights. One user asked the team “one day could you please send 14 officers to sit at the lights and look for phone drivers? A fiver says you’d get 18 in 10 minutes.” 

04 March 2022, 12:57
One for the commissaires

And here was me thinking that the abuse of tramadol was causing all the crashes in the peloton…

04 March 2022, 12:50
Swipe right for more cheesy cycling pickup lines…

That line’s worthy of a trip to the cinema for sure (or perhaps a night on the sofa with the upcoming Netflix Tour doc?). I imagine Sagan himself would be proud.

Alright, ‘fess up – who’s been guilty of using their own cycling-themed pickup lines? I’m sure a few around here have – let’s see them in the comments!

Probably best to steer clear of ones about performance enhancement, mind you…

04 March 2022, 12:26
Pavel Sivakov
Ineos rider Pavel Sivakov switches nationality from Russian to French

Ineos Grenadiers rider Pavel Sivakov has been granted permission from the UCI to change his nationality from Russian to French, in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The son of two former elite Russian cyclists, Alexei Sivakov and Aleksandra Koliaseva, Sivakov was born in Italy and raised in France.

Before turning professional for the then-Team Sky in 2018 there were rumours that the stage racer would ride for his adopted country, fuelling French hopes for a first home Tour de France win since 1985.

Five years ago, Sivakov told Cyclingnews: “I perhaps feel I am more French than Russian but the two countries are part of my culture.” 

But today the switch was made official, taking effect immediately, meaning Sivakov can compete for France at this year’s world championships.

> UCI bans Russian and Belarusian national teams after invasion of Ukraine

In a statement released by Ineos, he said: “I was born in Italy and moved to France when I was one year old. France is where I grew up and was educated and where I fell in love with riding my bike which led me to racing. It feels like my home.

“I have wanted to become a French national for some time and had made the request to the UCI, but given what is happening in the Ukraine at the moment, I wanted to fast track this. I want to thank the UCI and the team at Ineos Grenadiers for supporting me with this process and helping make this a reality.

“To now have the opportunity to race as a French national in international events makes me incredibly happy. It would be a dream to race in Paris at the 2024 Olympics for France.”

> Ineos Grenadiers’ Russian pro Pavel Sivakov denounces invasion of Ukraine

On Tuesday the UCI announced that it was banning all Russian or Belarussian teams from its events, though riders licensed to either of the national federations of those countries will still be allowed to compete for teams registered elsewhere. 

Sivakov’s decision means Bora-Hansgrohe’s Aleksandr Vlasov is the only remaining Russian rider in the WorldTour. Both Sivakov and Vlasov have spoken out against the war since it began last week. 

In today’s statement, the Ineos rider said: “As I have previously said, I am totally against this war and all my thoughts are with the Ukrainian people. Like most people around the world right now, I hope for peace and a swift end to the suffering happening in the Ukraine.”

Sivakov has long been touted as a future grand tour winner. Could his change in nationality – albeit made in the most tragic of circumstances – hold the key to finally realising Ineo supremo Dave Brailsford’s longstanding dream of winning the Tour de France with a French rider? 

04 March 2022, 10:31
‘I’ll park where I effin’ like’: Belfast edition

Classy response from a 4x4 driver called out for parking in a Belfast cycle lane:

04 March 2022, 09:56
Riding into the weekend like… a Dutch dinosaur
04 March 2022, 08:54
Tadej Pogacar, Stage 19 of 2021 (picture credit Tour de France A.S.O./Pauline Ballet)
Netflix and cols: Tour de France docuseries on the way?

If, like me, you thought that Movistar’s ‘The Least Expected Day’ series was the greatest piece of television ever made, then you’re in luck – according to the Telegraph, Netflix is close to securing a deal for a large-scale behind-the-scenes docuseries at this year’s Tour de France.

The streaming giant is currently holding discussions with Tour organisers ASO and the eight teams it hopes to focus the series on, including Ineos Grenadiers, Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl, Movistar (so expect more destroyed footage and tantrums), and Jumbo-Visma.

The Dutch team have also reportedly struck a deal with Amazon to be the focus of their ‘All or Nothing’ series, following in the footsteps of Manchester City, the New Zealand rugby team, and a horrific acting performance from then-Spurs manager José Mourinho.

Box to Box films, the producers of the hugely popular Formula 1 ‘Drive to Survive’ series, have been lined up to make the show for Netflix. Apparently there are still some issues over television rights and financial remuneration for the teams, though one source has described the deal as a “no-brainer” and that the teams are close to signing off on it.

If the mainstream success of ‘Drive to Survive’ is anything to go by (viewing figures for F1 were boosted by 53% after the show’s first season), the series could be instrumental in bringing a swathe of new fans to the sport, who may soon be hooked on the intricacies of sprint trains, echelon-riding and team leadership struggles.

I for one can’t wait to find out who Audi-driving Jim from down the road prefers in the great Pog versus Rog debate…

 The fly-on-the-wall series, like the Movistar, Jumbo-Visma and Tour of Flanders documentaries before it, could also give existing fans a tantalising glimpse into what really goes on at the breakfast table and behind the tinted windows of the team bus (beyond some pre-approved footage for Eurosport).

The Tour-only focus of the current proposal has raised some concerns that the Netflix series will simply serve to make the world’s most powerful race even more powerful, but if the show is successful it could potentially lead to a season-long documentary, introducing more casual observers to the wonderful world of the classics and other grand tours.

However, some on Twitter have worried that the producers will attempt to concoct the kind of manufactured drama which marred the finale of the Formula 1 championship last year:

While some fear that a glitzy, scandal-filled Netflix doc could eradicate part of the sport’s charm, it’s worth remembering that most of cycling’s mythology is founded on reporters delving into – and exaggerating – the riders’ personalities, the big rivalries, and the drama on the road. If anything, Netflix may well tap into the very foundations on which the Tour de France was built, but packaged for a 2022 audience.

In any case, if the series does go ahead, let’s just hope UAE pick Marc Soler for the Tour, eh?

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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