It’s been a long three year wait, but everyone’s favourite far-flung, sun-drenched, and (let’s face it) gentle introduction to the elite road racing season, the Tour Down Under, is back!
I can already feel the rush and hear the purr of those wheels in motion… (Apologies if that’s stuck in your head for the rest of the day.)
But two things will be missing from this year’s WorldTour curtain raiser in South Australia, as it marks its 23rd edition and the first since the Covid-19 pandemic struck in 2020.
First, Willunga Hill, the Tour Down Under’s traditional GC battleground, has been excised from this year’s race, in favour of the optimistically named Mount Lofty in the Adelaide Hills.
Richie Porte battles with Rohan Dennis on Willunga in 2015 (credit: Regallo)
Second, the man synonymous with the Tour Down Under and Willunga itself, Richie Porte – responsible for six successive stage wins on the famous hilltop finish between 2014 and 2019 (as well as a bonus non-WorldTour win on Willunga at the 2021 Santos Festival of Cycling) – will not be there, having hung up his wheels following the truncated Tour of Britain in September.
While the cycling world will have to adjust to missing out on Porte’s annual surge up Willunga, the 37-year-old Tasmanian – whose successful 13-year pro career, after bursting onto the scene as a neo-pro for Saxo Bank at the 2010 Giro, featured stints at Sky, BMC, and Trek-Segafredo, multiple stage race victories, and a podium place at the 2020 Tour de France – appears to be enjoying life as a newly self-styled MAMIL:
However, while the majority of comments under Porte’s Instagram post were from well-wishers and fellow pros, a few – for whatever reason – referenced the two-time Paris-Nice winner’s weight.
These rather bewildering comments prompted Porte’s wife Gemma to pen a Twitter thread criticising cycling and more broadly society’s obsession with weight, noting the intense pressure pro cyclists are put under during their careers to maintain a specific diet and shape.
I think Iv ranted about this before but I need to rant again so here we go. A thread…
Richie has been officially retired for 8 days and I’m already tired of seeing/hearing comments about his weight/size.
— Gemma Nicole Porte (@gemmanicoleb) January 7, 2023
“Richie has been officially retired for eight days and I’m already tired of seeing/hearing comments about his weight/size,” Gemma Porte wrote.
“We knew the comments would come and yes we’re therefore probably hyper aware ,but in my opinion any comment is inappropriate, thoughtless, and just f**king rude. Some comments are positive/congratulatory about weight gain… still not wanted. His weight shouldn’t even be a conversation.
“If you want to comment on somebody’s weight, message your best friend or discuss it at home with your partner (ideally not in front of kids in the hope there’s one generation not as obsessed with weight as us,) DO NOT comment on their photos or, worse, say something in person.”
Porte also noted that most of the comments referencing weight weren’t actually “from trolls”, but “people simply not thinking and not realising how inappropriate it is to comment on somebody’s weight, athlete or not!”
She continued: “Richie has been an athlete for well over a decade, training every day once sometimes twice, with his weight/diet closely monitored and major sacrifices being made in other parts of life to maintain that intensity. That will obviously now change in retirement and so will he.
“Retirement is a MAJOR adjustment physically and mentally… for anybody. Stop critiquing every change and let people find their own way.”
While Richie Porte’s Instagram post commemorating his “first ride as a MAMIL” has attracted attention for some of the rather unnecessary comments underneath it (though, as it was on Insta, the comments were actually to the right of the photo, but I digress), eagle-eyed road.cc editor Jack Sexty also noted that the Australian, finally free from the tyranny of sponsor-mandated equipment, had opted for a Team Sky-era Pinarello Dogma – complete with rim brakes.
That rather old school choice by Porte, who rode discs during his final year as a pro with the Ineos Grenadiers as well as during his two-year stint with Trek-Segafredo, has certainly gone down well with some of cycling’s more traditionalist fans:
Today’s main live blog story, on the rather ill-advised comments aimed at a fit and healthy Richie Porte as he begins to enjoy life after a decade-plus in the stressful and ultra-controlled environment of professional cycling, has got plenty of you talking (and has even attracted a few likes from pro cyclists on Twitter – Hi, Matteo Fabbro).
Here’s a selection of some of your thoughts from Facebook, Twitter, and (of course) the comments section:
Looking good .... and most importantly healthy.
— RoadRideEvents (@roadrideevents) January 9, 2023
This guy is an absolute legend and looks as fit as a butcher dog.
— ZwiftyCXer (@T15TSL) January 9, 2023
“Good for Richie and Gemma for standing up on this,” says road.cc reader SimoninSpalding, who then turned to an arguably more pressing issue: “My issue is how Richie thinks he qualifies as a MAMIL already? He needs a few more years before I will accept him into the club.”
Would love to see @richie_porte still wipe the floor with all the people making the ridiculous comments on the club ride sprints.
— Steve Gabriel (@stevegabe1980) January 9, 2023
I’d say he now looks like most of us out there who enjoy cycling, good food with the odd treat. Oh and he can now enjoy his time with his family so good on him! Gota admire those professional armchair coaches eh 😂 go #RichiePorte
— Marti Jerrard - K74 (@K74Marti) January 9, 2023
Weight, and shape. Unbalanced bodies finely tuned for powering bicycles. It must be a relief not to contort to conform to elite cycling expectations.
— Nick the Wink (@nickTheWink) January 9, 2023
However, in the comments section, ejocs reckoned that the remarks about Porte’s weight were taken out of context: “As far as I can tell, the weight-related comments on Porte's post are referencing his failure to sport a MAMIL body (for example: ‘You need to work on your gut a bit, carbo load and decrease your cycling, that should do the trick’), not mocking him for gaining weight.
“In other words, they're playing up the inside joke he himself referenced in his post. True, that wouldn't be obvious without some cultural context, but for once I don't think Instagram and internet commenters are as horrible as they're being portrayed.”
Whether it’s a cyclist post career or a female or male cyclist at the top of the sport, big or small, comments about body morphology are universally rude and unwelcome. It’s a tough convo even with a coach in-season! 🤦🏼♀️
— Melanie McQuaid (@MelanieMcQuaid) January 9, 2023
Over on Facebook, Phillip Griffiths wrote: “Can't understand the comments. He doesn't look big. Looks normal. However, he is retired. It's time to enjoy life after making so many sacrifices in his life. Eating things and doing things he couldn't. Cycling is an extreme sport for staying extremely light.
“Kit sizes are also a joke. I wear size small tops but have to buy XL in cycling. Doesn't make any sense.”
Similarly, Jimmy Ray Will noted pro cycling’s unhealthy obsession with weight as a factor behind some of the comments directed at Porte.
“I always struggle when professional cyclists complain about excess focus around weight,” he wrote. “The key fundamental of the sport is about generating as much power as possible, with as little body weight. If this triggers people, they should probably do something different.
“Professional sport is very rarely, if ever, a healthy lifestyle, you make a choice and you deal with the consequences.
“I think it is scary looking at that photo of a normal, slim man, and being shocked at how 'chunky Ritchie is looking these days'. There is nothing normal about this sport, but the problem is the sport and not the people commentating.”
Finally, many were just buzzing to see a retired pro back where they belong: riding a bike with rim brakes…
Great to see him on rim brakes!
— Pete (@smythy75) January 9, 2023
And ineos socks lol
— elaine smith🏴☠️🇬🇧🇺🇦❤️💂 (@miffysmithe) January 9, 2023
No issue with his weight! Im more stoked to see him on rim brakes and alloy wheels.
Keep rolling legend
— Rob Dallimore (@Mr_Rob_Dobolina) January 9, 2023
Christ I wish I was as "obese" as him. Most amateur cyclists would be super happy with that physique!! Power to you Richie and great to see you really prefer rim brakes
— jonathan cave (@dozerman) January 9, 2023
We’ve got a classic Twitter debate to take you into lunchtime on the blog today…
The following clip, posted this morning, shows a police officer overtaking cyclist James on the Blackshaw Road in south west London late last night.
23:18 Sunday 8th Jan. Blackshaw Rd SW19. Is this an acceptable pass by a Police car?? What sort of driving example is this? I can understand if he was on a call but otherwise it is just impatience and blatantly ignoring the rules of the road. What do you think? pic.twitter.com/uPaKEWSu0c
— James Bikelover (@Mad_1nventor) January 9, 2023
Though the overtake was fairly wide and gave James plenty of space (perhaps for all the wrong reasons), much of the spirited debate that has followed underneath the clip has centred on the driver’s decision to pass the cyclist on the wrong side of a pedestrian refuge island:
This is right outside St George’s hospital. Rightly or wrongly, at all times of the day and night you can find people wandering and crossing the road. If they looked the right way as they stepped out but were hit by a vehicle on the wrong side of the road….
— James Bikelover (@Mad_1nventor) January 9, 2023
Yes, absolutely. Police drivers are highly trained and you have no idea where they were going, blues and twos or not.
— John Pearse (@Jaypers777) January 9, 2023
Ridiculous driving by the police who are not above the law, though they often think they are.
Apologists are just that.
Definitely report, the police can easily establish who it was even without the number plate.
— HARRIS PROPERTY (@AlanHarrisSpain) January 9, 2023
As several commenters noted, the driver’s failure to comply with the ‘keep left’ sign at the pedestrian island could result in three penalty points (though as we’ve seen on the live blog in the past, that doesn’t always prove the case).
That's a clear contravention of the Keep Left sign and at least one driver I reported (with video) was prosecuted for that.
I'd report it to Op Snap
— 🚲 Will - @WilliamNB [at] toot.bike 🇿🇦🇬🇧 (@WilliamNB) January 9, 2023
If it was an emergency, then it can be justified by the police via job records. If it wasn’t an emergency, then the driver needs consequences.
— CyclingMikey (@MikeyCycling) January 9, 2023
The Met has at least responded to the video, sending James one of those automated ‘get in touch’ messages…
Please DM us, so we can take further details. Thank you https://t.co/dinxYKkXmT
— Met Contact Centre (@MetCC) January 9, 2023
London’s Santander Cycles hire scheme witnessed another record-breaking year in 2022, as figures released by Transport for London (TfL) show that 11,506,889 bikes were hired last year, 565,625 more than in 2021, another record-breaking period for the scheme.
The period between September 2021 and August 2022 was a particularly ground-breaking one, as each month recorded the highest number of hires for that month since the scheme was launched 12 years ago.
The data from 2022 also shows that the new fleet of 500 e-bikes added to the initiative in October have proved a success, with 129,232 hires made so far. Waterloo Station was the most popular docking station in 2022 with 131,005 hires.
“It has been another incredible, record-breaking year for London’s tremendous Santander Cycles scheme with over 11.5 million rides, proving that the boom in walking and cycling we saw during the pandemic is here to stay,” says London’s Walking and Cycling Commissioner, Will Norman.
“2022 also saw the introduction of fantastic new e-bikes with more Londoners than ever using sustainable ways to get around the capital.
“The Mayor and I are determined to continue building a cleaner, greener and more prosperous London for everyone. Santander Cycles plays a hugely important role in making active travel around the city as accessible as possible.”
Mark Cavendish may not be fully confirmed as an Astana-Qazaqstan rider just yet – an inevitable announcement currently delayed by the ongoing trial related to a violent robbery at his home in 2021 – but one thing is certain: his coach won’t be making the move with him.
On Friday, Soudal-Quick Step confirmed that Greek coach Vasilis Anastopoulos, credited by Cavendish with helping revive his career in 2021, when he roared to four Tour de France stage wins and the green jersey, will stay part of the Belgium squad’s set up.
According to Cyclingnews, Cavendish had attempted to bring Anastopoulos with him to the Kazakh team, with advanced discussions reportedly taking place.
However, these talks appear to have broken down and the Greek coach was introduced as part of the Soudal-Quick Step setup at a team presentation event on Friday.
The failure to secure a move for Anastopoulos will come as a blow to British champion Cavendish, who has been described by the Greek coach as “almost part of my family”.
The Manx sprinter has been as equally gushing in his praise for Anastopoulos.
“The feedback from Vasilis… I love it. He’s doing every pedal rev with me,” the former world champion told Procycling magazine’s Ed Pickering in late 2021.
“He’s invested, so passionate. Fuck, I wish I’d met him 10 years ago… He gets so much out of me.”
Yesterday’s feature on the rising cost of cycling – which explored the impact of inflation on bikes, equipment, and clothing in recent years, and compared prices between 2009 and 2023 (with some fairly nifty graphs thrown in for good measure) – has led to quite a bit of discussion on the ol’ interweb.
Responses have ranged from those who feel that they are being “ripped off” by the inflated prices of recent years, while others have noted that inflation isn’t the only driving force here, and that the quality of bikes, components, and kit (even those with the same brand names) has surged in the past decade, resulting in a heftier price tag in your local shop.
Of course, it’s a complex issue, and we’re currently working on a follow-up podcast and video which will address some of the things we just didn’t get round to in the initial feature.
In the meantime, here’s a selection of some of your thoughts on the current state of the cycling market:
In a year with much of the global economy heading towards recession, I am seeing +$8000 bikes sporting low end group sets. I get inflation but this is just infuriating and makes a person not want to get a new bike.
— Ron (@pursuit0226) January 8, 2023
Liberating that someone finally addresses the absurdly high price tags. Bikes have gotten more expensive, heavier and harder to service - and the prices are not justified, nor on apparel. Good on you https://t.co/ch9OaBIIcI
— Jens Brahe (@wonderbrahe) January 8, 2023
An interesting article. I wonder if there are any economists who could weigh in on the appropriate use of inflation.
The bike industry would certainly argue that whilst the names might have stayed the same, the bikes themselves have improved significantly. Inflation statistics are based on a basket of goods that stays largely the same - a pint of milk produced today will be essentially identical to a pint of milk from 2009. But today's bikes are arguably "better" than those of yesteryear - certainly the manufacturers like to tell us that every iteration is more aero, stiffer, more comfortable etc. than the previous generation.
I note that all the current generation of bikes have disc brakes, where as they were all rim brake in 2009. In several cases you're comparing mechanical groupsets to electronic ones (Google suggests the Tarmac SL3 was available with Di2 but the RRP quoted is for a SRAM mechanical equipped version - but I might be wrong on that one).
More obviously, the (current) Defy Advanced has a carbon frame, while the 2009 Defy was aluminium alloy. I note that in 2016 Giant released the Contend, which on paper appears much more directly comparable to the 2009 Defy, and the current RRP for the entry level model is £849. A quick browse on cycling retailers websites indicates there are a number of entry level road bikes that look at least as good as the 2009 Defy with an RRP <£1,000.
Similarly, while the "range topping" Madone might have got more expensive, the RRP of the cheapest current Madone, the SL6, is only £4,800. I wouldn't want to say that is a "fairer" comparison, but I would say given the choice between a factory-fresh 2009 Madone 6.2 and a current SL6 for the same money, I for one would probably go for today's model.
I guess my conclusion would be that if you're a competitive cyclist who wants every last marginal gain, then yes you would need to spend more today to have the latest and greatest tech. But for everyone else, there are still some very good bikes at sensible prices.
Two of my bikes are second-hand (and 20+ years old) and my carbon road bike with full Ultegra was a bargain from Wiggle/CR, just before prices went crazy in 2020. I can't imagine justifying a new bike now. It makes no more sense for me than a Ferrari I can't really use.
— Roy Everitt (@Paris2Pyrenees) January 9, 2023
ooblyboo: "I think road.cc deserve some credit for attempting to illustrate the rate at which prices have risen, even if the comparisons aren't perfect. It has been a few years since I upgraded to a new bike and at today's prices I just can't imagine doing so. My last purchase was a second hand TT bike which is now nearly 10 years old. A half-decent new one now is often greater than the cost of a brand new motorbike and the price isn't justifiable.
"Many models from recognised brands are becoming unaffordable. I will keep my ageing steeds going but as a commenter notes below, the alternative is the cheaper Chinese brands. Not an approach I am particularly keen on because it looks like a bit of a lottery but channels like TraceVelo show that there is quality to be had in certain corners of the internet at somewhat more reasonable prices."
IanEdward: "They'll just charge what the market can bear. Now they've seen what people are willing to pay for electronic gears and disc brakes it would appear that the sky is the limit! Meanwhile you can still buy high end aluminium wheels for £350, 105 mechanical rim brake groupsets for £300, good framesets for upwards of £750... You can probably still build a very nice fast bike for £2k if you wanted but no whirring gearshifts and no disc brakes..."
Kil0ran: "If you're willing to BYO (build your own) it's still possible to get an affordable bike. Go with Tiagra - or even Claris - and source parts secondhand. The secondhand market is absolutely saturated at the moment. Know which brands spec the same frame from Claris to Dura-Ace, have a decent set of easily convertible wheels and you can build a high-end bike for low-end money."
If you have a bike then you don't need another.
If you don't have a bike but want one then buy second hand.
Those in the business of making and selling need you.
You do not need them.
— 💚💛❤ Perrywong ❤💛💚 (@Perrywong) January 8, 2023
Whitby’s Donkey Track, featured on the blog last April, never seems to get any easier, no matter which angle you look at it from…
— Rob Ainsley (@realcycling) January 7, 2023
Naw come on, that's someone's roof.
— Gareth Cartman (@clevergareth) January 8, 2023
Coming down looks a hoot though pic.twitter.com/R7l0QSP8z5
— Dr Johnny Bananas (@barbedquill) January 8, 2023
Let the ‘where’s the steepest street in Britain’ debate recommence:
No. But not sure that counts. It’s TOO STEEP.
— Simon Warren (@100Climbs) January 7, 2023
Vale Street(also Bristol)? pic.twitter.com/IhuKkBWjAc
— Clockwise (@Clockwisesss) January 7, 2023
That's Gold Hill in Shaftesbury. Always good fun to ride up, I haven't dared trying it down. pic.twitter.com/vi2uiqnFqc
— Nathaniel Cleland (@bellezzasolocle) January 7, 2023
The mercurial Colombian climber Miguel Ángel López has finally secured a ride for 2023, signing for third-tier outfit Team Medellín-EPM a month after he was sacked by Astana-Qazaqstan for his alleged links to a doping investigation in Spain.
The 28-year-old, who has endured a chequered few years punctuated by a brief, tumultuous, and ill-fated spell at Movistar before his abruptly curtailed return to Astana in 2022, was confirmed as the Colombian Continental outfit’s new singing yesterday, and will represent his new team at this month’s Vuelta a San Juan.
However, Medellín’s position in cycling’s third tier means that López won’t be present at this year’s grand tours, or the WorldTour stage races he’s conquered in the past, such as the Volta a Catalunya and the Tour de Suisse.
Estamos encantados de hacer oficial la vinculación de @SupermanlopezN al equipo para la presente temporada. Qué orgullo que vistas nuestros colores y representes a Medellín por Colombia y el mundo.
Bienvenido campeón, MEDELLÍN será siempre tu casa 🔝 pic.twitter.com/4LwQdoIJuP
— Team Medellín EPM (@team_medellin) January 8, 2023
“It was a complicated year, being without a team in 2023, with all the team’s filled up and there wasn’t any space,” López said Monday.
“This team has given me a big opportunity to race in 2023. To start with in the Vuelta a San Juan, and we can race and get through the season.”
“Get through the season” – ever the optimist, Miguel…
López’s shunting to the periphery of pro cycling was confirmed last month when Astana announced the termination of his contract, claiming that the team “had discovered new elements” linking him to alleged doping doctor Marcos Maynar.
These “new elements”, Spanish newspaper ABC reported at the time, relate to a document claiming that López received a dose of menotropin, a human growth hormone that increases muscle mass and eliminate fluids, before the start of last year’s Giro d’Italia in Hungary.
López, who was initially suspended by Astana in July when his name came up following Maynar’s arrest as part of the Spanish police’s Operation Ilex investigation, of course strongly denies the allegations, and even trotted out the well-worn ‘I’ve never tested positive’ line following his sacking in December.
At Medellín, he will join former U23 world champion Fabio Duarte and – ironically, considering the nature of the investigation which prompted López’s dismissal from Astana – former Operación Puerto alumnus, 46-year-old Óscar Sevilla.
The Tour de France stage winner’s arrival has also heightened the rumours that Medellín will splash the cash on another Colombian star without a team for 2023 after being caught up in a doping scandal, Nairo Quintana.
The Giro and Vuelta winner was let go from Arkéa-Samsic – despite recently agreeing a three-year contract extension – after being disqualified from last year’s Tour de France following a positive test for Tramadol.
Quintana has yet to announce a new deal for 2023 but, like López, is expected to seek refuge away from the biggest teams, with Medellín highly touted as a possible destination.
Are we beginning to see the foundations of a Colombian Rock Racing?
“Cyclocross is a simple game. 50 men ride around a field for 60 minutes and at the end, Wout van Aert always wins.”
— Niall McGlone (@niallmcglone) January 8, 2023
Does this mean Mathieu van der Poel needs to practise his penalties?
As most train services return to normal today for the first time since Christmas, new data has shown that the number of cyclists on Pancras Road, King’s Cross, more than doubled during the recent rail strikes.
According to a study conducted by transport technology scaleup VivaCity, the number of cyclists increased by 102 percent compared to the three previous ‘non strike’ days, making up 18 percent of the total traffic in the area.
However, while the number of people on bikes swelled during the strikes, the number of cars also rose by 20 percent.
“With train strikes having a huge impact on travel across the capital, it’s interesting to see how many Londoners have opted to cycle to work during the weeks affected by train strikes,” says VivaCity’s CEO Mark Nicholson.
“It’s promising to see active travel being prioritised, our mission is to work with local authorities to ensure that London’s roads are well equipped for, and welcome these changes in the long term.”
From bike borrowing coppers and prison breakaways to Hangargate, part 1,458, here’s a quick roundup of the weekend’s cycling news, just in case you were, you know, actually out on your bike…
— Bart Hazen (@Bartoli84) January 8, 2023
If Fem van Empel’s experience at yesterday’s Zonhoven round of the UCI Cyclocross World Cup can teach us anything about the week ahead, it’s that we shouldn’t get too disheartened if it gets off to a rough start.
The 20-year-old Dutch sensation and current World Cup leader crashed three times in the opening two laps of the sandy, runny course (including a spectacular, headfirst fall on the first lap’s descent, which also saw British wonderkid Zoe Bäckstedt hit the sand).
— Bart Hazen (@Bartoli84) January 8, 2023
Despite falling outside the top 20 following that disastrous start, the Jumbo-Visma rider stayed cool, picking her way through the crowd to eventually finish third – behind the peerless Shirin van Anrooij and second-place Puck Pieterse – and retain her lead in the World Cup standings.
See, things will get better, I promise…
Although try telling that to Mathieu van der Poel, who seems stubbornly stuck to that second spot on the podium behind his apparently unbeatable nemesis Wout van Aert, as next month’s worlds in Hoogerheide rapidly approaches.
After Mathieu van der Poel took quite a spectacular fall, it was down to the superb Wout van Aert to solo to another win at the #CXWorldCup in Zonhoven
— GCN Racing (@GcnRacing) January 8, 2023
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.