A Rainbow Jersey and Dodgy Commentary

So Thor Hushovd is the new World Champion, Norway’s first ever winner of the road race. In fact it’s Norway’s first ever medal of any kind in either the road race or the time trial. Hushovd did what he does best, he survived with what was left of the bunch as the likes of Cadel Evans and Phillipe Gilbert were swept up, and he powered past everybody in the resulting sprint. There was plenty of debate in the build up whether the race would come down to a bunch sprint or not. Although the top placings contain a number of sprinters, it definitely was not a ‘bunch sprint’.

The group which contested the finish contained a mere 18 riders, plenty of whom were not sprinters at all (Cadel Evans, Frank Schleck, Fabian Wegmann). I suggested before that the race could play out in a similar fashion to an edition of Milan San Remo. I daresay that this was far more exciting, and the group that contested the finish was considerably smaller than the group which usually battles for the win in Milan San Remo. Although with Hushovd, Freire, Gilbert, Davis and Pozzato in the final selection, there was five riders who have previously finished on the podium of the Italian monument classic, and they ended up filling three of the top four places. There was one previous winner of Milan San Remo who was not at the finish though, Mark Cavendish, thus proving Hushovd, (and Cavendish himself) absolutely right.

Hushovd won this race using the one great skill he utilised to beat Cavendish to the Green Jersey in the 2009 Tour de France: climbing. Norway only had a three man team with Hushovd along with Edvald Boasson Hagen and Alexander Kristoff. Because there was only three of them there was no real onus placed on them to do any great share of work in hauling breaks back. This responsibility fell on the shoulders of the big teams like Spain, Italy and Germany. Hushovd remained patient and was brought back to the front of the race to launch his finishing sprint to beat the remains of the front group of 18 riders. Unlike Hushovd, who is primarily a classics rider, Cavendish has only once won a sprint from a group of a similar size to this. That was in the Tour of Qatar in 2009. In that instance however, the whittling down of the peloton was due to crosswinds and echelons rather than hills and climbing.

Bernard Hinault - The last rider to win Paris-Roubaix as World Champion, 30 years ago.

It is fantastic that Hushovd will now continue from where Cadel Evans left off, as a World Champion who has never been embroiled in a doping controversy. Although I must qualify that by saying that Hushovd has recently spoken out against Floyd Landis’s decision to talk at an anti-doping conference. Statements like this from active riders seems to me, to just encourage the code of silence regarding doping within the peloton. If a former doper wishes to speak about his experiences then I feel he must be allowed to do so.

Hushovd has already stated that his big goal for next year will be to win Paris-Roubaix while wearing the rainbow jersey. This is a feat which has not been achieved for 30 years but has actually been done on five separate occasions. The most recent to do it was Bernard Hinault in 1980. Before him came Francesco Moser in 1978 and a young Eddy Merckx in 1968. Finally Rik van Looy managed it to do it twice in a row when he won back to back World Championships in 1960 and 1961, and followed it up with back to back Paris-Roubaix wins in 1961 and 1962.

As the World Championships took place in Australia, this meant for us Europeans that the races took place at horrific hours of the day. Accordingly, this also meant that Eurosport decided to show delayed coverage of the racing at more sensible times rather than provide live coverage. As a result, I had to watch Hushovd’s victory on BBC, where the commentator Hugh Porter really put into perspective what an immense job David Harmon does on Eurosport.

Porter did his best to sound excited and provide us with a colorful commentary but he fell woefully short of the standards set by Harmon. He spent a large amount of time simply naming out riders that were in a particular breakaway, more often than not getting the names wrong, which only served to confuse the former World Time Trial Champion Chris Boardman (who was doing a fine job as co-commentator). It wouldn’t surprise me to learn that Porter had money riding on the ‘big sprinter’ André Greipel, as he spent a large chunk of the race working out whether he was “in the front group, or the group behind, or maybe he was in the front group, yes that’s him! No wait, our computer is saying he’s not in the front group, but I really think that’s him Chris! Yes, the big German sprinter is in here”.

Apart from his constant referrals to ‘big sprinters’ such as Alexander Kolobnev, Tony Martin and Samuel Sanchez, his biggest gaffe came in the closing kilometres. He failed to see Gilbert being swept up by the peloton as Vladimir Gusev attacked and he proceeded to spend the final three kilometres wondering why the pictures weren’t showing Gilbert off the front. I will be most certainly looking forward to returning to the tried and tested combo of David Harmon and Sean Kelly for the remaining races of the season.

Irish Champion Matt Brammeier leading the early break which almost pulled off an amazing feat.

As for Nicolas Roche, he appeared in the large group of 35 riders that went off the front with about 70km to go but ended up fading badly to finish in 97th spot almost 15 minutes back. The huge efforts he put in throughout the Tour de France and Vuelta a Espana must surely have taken its toll on him. Coupled with the fact he only flew out to Australia on Wednesday, a good few days after most other participants, it was always going to be a tough race for him. In fact, he was one of only three riders to finish in the top 20 of both the Tour and Vuelta and to even take to the startline in Geelong, the others being Luis Leon Sanchez and Ruben Plaza.

I was a little surprised to see Matt Brammeier in the break of the day. Surely the goal was to try and launch Roche into a position where he might scrap for a medal. Sending a team mate into an early break so your own team is not obliged to chase is a valid tactic, but not one that needs to be employed by a team with only three riders. Brammeier, I feel, would have served the Irish team better by staying with Roche as long as possible. Although, perhaps Roche had announced that morning that he wasn’t feeling the best, in which case Brammeier had nothing to lose by being in the break. Despite my tactical misgivings, it was nice to see a green jersey at the head of the race for most of the day.

The five man break Brammeier found himself in almost engineered what would have been a bizarre scenario. The race route brought the riders on an 80km route from Melbourne to Geelong where they were to ride 11 laps of a 15.9 km circuit. By the time the leading group containing Brammeier reached the finishing circuit, they were more than 20 minutes ahead of the peloton, almost the amount of time it takes to complete a lap. Had the group been allowed a further 2 or 3 minutes lead, they would have had one lap completed as the peloton entered the finishing circuit. The five riders could have re-integrated into the peloton with a lap in hand over everybody. If that scenario had played out, there is no way that any riders could have lapped the field on the testing Geelong circuit. We could have been waking up to headlines of Matt Brammeier – World Champion!

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  1. Tom - October 3, 2010 @ 8:05 pm

    Sean Kelly always sounds like he’s talking around a mouthful of . . . something.

    Is he really the best guy they could possibly find?

  2. irishpeloton - October 3, 2010 @ 9:26 pm

    I think he is. He is brilliant at calling a race. His accent may a bit unorthodox, but he certainly knows his stuff and I think he complements David Harmon’s style very well.

  3. Mick - October 3, 2010 @ 9:43 pm

    What kind of accent do you want Sean Kelly to have ? Bloody rubbish , Kelly knows his cycling and thats what matters

  4. Ronan - October 6, 2010 @ 10:28 pm

    No need to “clarify” anything regarding Huschovd and doping. He’s completely right about Landis. landis is just trying to use his own murky past to bring himself back from bankruptcy. No one wants him anywhere near legitimate bike races because
    a) he’s a shameless doper
    b) he’s a shameless liar with the credibility of creationism
    c) he’s a travelling circus

    I find it very strange you would need to appendix Huschovd’s doping credentials just becaue he doesn’t want to associate with the likes of Landis. it’s pretty unfair on a great bike rider who has never had any suspicion attached to his career whatsoever.

    Why would Landis being at the world championships be a positive thing? Why would Huschovd welcoming Landis make him more credible? It wouldn’t. Landis has zero interest in making cycling cleaner. This is the guy who less than a year ago was begging for a contract with Rock Racing (!!!)

    i really can’t stand the assumption that being anti-Landis makes you soft on doping. It’s way off the mark. Landis should keep his comments for the court room where hopefully he’ll expose the Armstrong fraud. Outside that it’s just a massive publicity tour for his upcoming book. (Maybe people can get a trade in on his last book, which has to be considered somewhat obsoloete for obvious reasons)

  5. irishpeloton - October 7, 2010 @ 9:44 am

    Landis was a shameless doper, now he is most certainly a shameful one.

    Landis was a shameful liar, now he is telling the truth.

    Even yourself, by saying that you hope he’ll expose the Armstrong fraud in a courtroom are suggesting that what he has to say is credible and believable.

    I wouldn’t call him a travelling circus either, he wants to help in the fight against doping by talking about his experiences in an open forum. In the conference in Australia he didn’t mention the words ‘Lance’ or ‘Armstrong’. He is co-operating in an investigation against the US Postal team, and has been keeping appropriately shtum about the matter since the investigation began.

    Riders like Hushovd and people like Pat McQuaid saying that Landis should go away and that he is no good for cycling is, in my opinion, no different to Armstrong chasing down Filippo Simeoni in the 2004 Tour de France, followed by the ‘zip the lips’ gesture, albeit on a less dramatic scale.

    I don’t agree with everything that Bernard Kohl has had to say on the issue. Sweeping statements like ‘no rider can win the Tour de France without doping’ serves no purpose only to sully the reputations of riders who do indeed ride clean. But Landis has not indulged in any such grandiose statements. He has simply told us of his own experiences with doping, which happened to involve other riders, and he named those riders. He didn’t make any claims about riders or incidents which he did not witness first hand himself.

    However, something Bernard Kohl also said was that he had been tested 200 times in his career, and for 100 of those tests he had drugs in his body. Obviously, for 99 of them, he got away with cheating. But when Landis speaks out and helps guys like Michael Ashenden find the ‘missing piece of the puzzle’ as to how doped riders (like Kohl) have passed the doping controls, how is that a bad thing?

    As for the money Landis procured from well wishing supporters, that was of course deplorable, but doesn’t make his admission now any less important. And having read this article this morning:


    he seems to be addressing the issue.

  6. Ronan - October 7, 2010 @ 3:39 pm

    Landis has always simply acted in his own interest and his white knight crusade now is no different. He only took up this crusade when he reached total bankruptcy and couldn’t get a pro contract from anyone, although he was willing to ride with anyone. He says the tests are badly flawed and don’t work, yet proudly displays his “negative” results on his fridge door. He’s a confused individual and those who know him speak of a deeply troubled and emotinally under-developed man. He has a clear grudge against Armstrong that will unfortunately probably forfeit any credence afforded his statements in a court case.
    You say landis is now telling the truth. What do you base that on? I am 100% certain that Armstrong doped for most of his career as I was certain that Landis cheated his way to the 2006 tour de France. But I cannot give the details of Landis’ allegations any credibility. He has forfeited all credibility.
    Landis is bad for cycling because, as Kohl, he uses the sport to justify his own actions instead of taking the responsibility himself.
    I think it’s a mistake to equate Huschovd’s distaste for Landis with the “culture of silence”; this is something that has no place in the career of Huschovd. To equate his actions with Armstrong’s notorious treatment of Simeoni(and others) is wrong.
    I understand that you lend a lot of weight to Landis’ confessions, seen as they actually swayed your opinion on Armstrong. But Armstrong is a man shrowded in suspicion. Huschovd has not worked for years with Dr Ferrari, Huscovd has never needed help from the UCI to overcome a steroid positive, Huschovd has never had retrospectivve testing reveal EPO in his blood, Huschovd has never made five figure donations to the UCI, Huschovd does not have a history of training in remote places or being late or unavailable for tests, Huschovd has not actually increased his red blood cell count in the third week of the tour, Huschovd occassionally goes through natural dips in form.
    Huschovd has a long career of impeccable behaviour and results and I just think it’s deeply unfair to even slightly taint his reputation because of his feelings towards a guy like Landis.
    i just want to be clear regarding what I said about the upcoming court case. I do hope that Armstrong is found to have defrauded the American people because that’s what he did and if this happens it will have to be on the back of many testimonies from eye witnesses not just Landis’ as his word is worth so little.

  7. irishpeloton - October 7, 2010 @ 5:14 pm


    Firstly, I must clarify that I don’t suspect Thor Hushovd of anything untoward. I think he is a great World Champion to represent the sport, as Cadel Evans was, and I agree with all of your assertions about him.

    Also, I wouldn’t equate Hushovd’s words with Armstrong’s actions against Simeoni, however I would consider it to fall under the same category of behaviour, that of frowning upon former dopers talking about their experiences. It’s the only way this plague is going to end, if it stops being so taboo to pipe up and talk about it.

    As for why I think Landis is telling the truth now? He has a lot more to lose by telling the truth than by maintaining his lie. There is no Tour de France to win back by coming clean at this stage. And that is besides the fact that by admitting he was lying before, he has effectively perjured himself, and will have to also suffer legal consequences. This is how Marion Jones ended up in prison.

    Also, I doubt that the Food and Drug Administration would have continued on their investigation this long and have impaneled a grand jury if their wasn’t a substantial element of truth to Landis’ allegations.

    If you don’t think he’s telling the truth now, do you think he was telling the truth before and should be given back his yellow jersey? Or do you think he’s telling the truth about his own doping and lying about all of his team mates’ doping?

    Finally, I also hope that Armstrong is found to have defrauded the American people, if that is indeed what he did. I’m no lawyer, but I don’t think Landis’ word will be worth little in a court of law. I would imagine it is worth exactly the same as anybody else claiming to be a witness.

  8. Ronan - October 7, 2010 @ 8:25 pm

    To answer your question, my belief is that Landis has only a vague idea of when he’s telling the truth and when he’s lying. Also, I don’t believe Landis had anything to gain by maintaining his lie about his win. Admitting doping himself is what lends weight to his accusations against Armstrong, and those accusations are what he’s hoping will get him that big book deal, slots on Letterman and Sixty Minutes and so on. I believe he’s still telling lies at least in part. Don’t forget this all happened after he was turned down for a job at Radioshack. I think it’s apparent that he’s pursuing this partly in grudge against Armstrong and Bruynell and partly to put bread on the table.

    I’m no lawyer either but it is a fact that someone who has been shown to be a habitual liar has very little weight in a court room. Cases are often won and lost on the impression that a witness is untrustworthy. Armstrong’s defence lawyers will very easily paint a picture of a man with no scruples, a liar with a grudge and the prosecution will need major corroboration.
    Cheers, love your blog.

  9. irishpeloton - October 8, 2010 @ 10:45 am

    Cheers Ronan, a good debate never hurt anybody! But as Obama always says, it’s better to focus on our common interests rather than on our differences. Ultimately, we both just want the sport we love to be free of doping.

    Did you ever read the email exchanges between Landis, Armstrong, Brent Kay and Andrew Messick? Armstrong’s people published them online to paint Landis in a bad light, but they have since been taken down. To me anyway, Landis seems quite lucid and together, and not at all like the deranged or mentally unstable character that Armstrong is trying to paint him as. Although I do agree that Landis is a rather odd person in general.

    If you’ve not read them, let me know and I’ll send them you’re way, I saved them before they disappeared off the Radio Shack site.

    Also, do you happen to know a guy called Dan Ring?

  10. Ronan - October 8, 2010 @ 5:30 pm

    ha ha. Yea, Dan told me to check this site out about a year ago. I went to college with him. He was a good man when trying to keep some level of sanity between thermodynamics and physics labs and other life sapping subjects.
    I never read those e mails, I’d appreciate it if you’d send them my way. Armstrong’s not afraid of a little manipulation here and there (and everywhere), so I’ve no doubt the e mails are probably presented to portray landis as poorly as possible. It’s quite a cat fight between those two. Armstrong must really regret getting back on his bike. As if getting kicked up and down France wasn’t bad enough!

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