Monthly Archives: December 2013

Froome signs new Team Sky contract

Tour de France winner Chris Froome has agreed a new deal with Team Sky.

“This has been an incredible year for me and I’m delighted to finish it off by signing a new contract with Team Sky,” said the 28-year-old Briton.

It’s impossible to win races without the right team beside you so I’d like to thank everyone at the team for their continued support

Chris Froome

“I’ve been with this team since the start and I know this is the right place for me to continue to grow.”

Froome, born in Kenya, won the

Tour de France for the first time in July,

emulating the success of his fellow Briton Sir Bradley Wiggins.

“It’s impossible to win races without the right team beside you so I’d like to thank everyone at the team for their continued support,” added Froome.

Team Sky have also extended the contracts of other members of their team, among them Peter Kennaugh, David Lopez and Ian Stannard

“We’ve consolidated what is an incredibly strong group of guys over the winter,” said Team Sky performance manager Rod Ellingworth. “The team’s core remains intact and that’s important going forward.

“Everyone is committed to keep improving and we always look to provide the best environment for riders to do that.”

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/cycling/25494207

Cycling helping to heal Rwanda

Rwanda was torn apart by genocide in 1994, with up to one million people being murdered in the African country within 100 days.

With the 20th anniversary approaching, I travelled to the country’s capital city Kigali to meet a group of cyclists who are helping the country move on from its sad and difficult past.

I’m not sure what I was expecting but the first thing I noticed were the hills – perfect for cycling.

I was here to watch the Tour of Rwanda – an 800km journey around this beautiful country.

The race began in 1989 but in the last few years it has grown from three teams to 16. It now attracts cyclists from around the world and is regarded as one of the best races in Africa.

Team Rwanda

Team Rwanda

At its heart is Team Rwanda. Starting as a project to bring mountain bikes to the country in order to help farmers get coffee off the mountains, it has grown into a national racing team.

Everywhere you look there are people on bikes in Rwanda and they’re used for everything – from transporting people to moving huge parcels. But before 2007 they weren’t used for racing.

I sat down with the coaching team at the team hotel one night and time and time again the message came back loud and clear that cycling really can alter the course of a life here.

It has clearly not been easy. There have been many problems a normal bike team wouldn’t have encountered. Education was a real issue, the rider’s diet had to be changed to enable them to cycle all day and many of the team have experienced trauma, having been young children during the genocide.

But Team Rwanda is making a huge difference to these young men’s lives. They’ve been able to buy houses with their race winnings; they can support their families. And it’s not just the cyclists – they’re helping train mechanics, coaches, trying to create something sustainable for the future.

BBC team in Rwanda

Team BBC

There’s clearly a great deal of pride in the national team. The race is covered on the radio and estimates suggest that around half of the country’s 10 million population would be listening to the Tour’s progress round the country. As we followed it the numbers of people lining the streets to cheer their favourite riders on was unbelievable. It really was inspiring.

The genocide still looms large in this country and it’s not hard to find reminders of Rwanda’s tragic past. One afternoon, we travelled to a memorial in Murambi, just 20km from the finish line of that day’s stage.

It was a strange place – an empty building on the top of a hill. A local guide told us it had been intended to be a school, but it had remained unfinished after one of the worst acts of the genocide happened there. Some 45,000 local Tutsis had fled to the school looking for sanctuary. Instead they were trapped on the hill, the water was turned off and one April night they were attacked. Only 13 people survived.

Driving back to Kigali gave me some time to reflect on what I’d seen in Murambi. Being at a sporting event which is having such an impact and meeting these inspirational cyclists, I found it hard to keep my emotions in check.

Cameraman with locals in Rwanda

The message coming loud and clear from them was that they are proud of their country. They want to be united, they want to be Rwandans and see their flag flying and people wearing their shirt. More importantly they want to see a better image of their country. They’ve moved on and I think they want us to do the same.

Team Rwanda didn’t win the Tour this year, in fact they never have. There’s clearly a long way for them to go before their cyclists get on podiums or are good enough to take part in classic races like the Tour de France. Their journey will start with the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow next year and maybe continue on to Rio in 2016.

What’s been achieved here, though, has never been seen anywhere before. From a cycling nation that came from zero to where they are now is quite simply remarkable.

As my time in Rwanda drew to a close, I was struck by something Nelson Mandela once said: “Sport can create hope where once there was only despair.”

It’s simplistic but you can see how this inspiring team embodies the progress that this remarkable country has made.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/get-inspired/25432087

One kidney, two wheels, best in the world

Within days of becoming the fastest female transplant cyclist in the world, Ottilie Quince was waking up in hospital – uncertain whether her only kidney was still part of her.

In August, Quince won two world titles, all the time knowing that her kidney, the one given to her by her mum six years ago, had a cancerous tumour.

“I was a bit down. Very nervous. Scared. It was a weird week,” the 31-year-old from Luton told BBC Sport.

“After the successful operation it dawned on me I was a double world champion, without a tumour, and could possibly be even fitter.”

The hidden link

Ottilie Quince and her mum Lesley Ranson

  • Ottilie Quince learned of her kidney failure in 2006
  • In 2007 her mum, Lesley Ranson, gave her one of her kidneys
  • Quince, a sport therapist, was forced to give up playing football and took up cycling
  • Quince is now a four-times world champion across time trial and road race

Quince, a defender for Luton Ladies Football Club at the time, found out seven years ago that both of her kidneys had barely developed from when she was a child.

A routine check-up showed she had high blood pressure and, after tests, it was determined she was in end-stage kidney failure. The football career was to go no further.

Quince would need an organ donor, or face the prospect of a dialysis machine.

Dad had already ceded one to Quince’s uncle. One brother was not the correct blood type. That left two other brothers and her mum, Lesley.

“My mum really wanted to be the donor. She didn’t want to see two of her kids in hospital,” Quince, a qualified sports therapist, explained.

“She said she created me, she wanted to fix me.

“But to find out who was the best match, we had to do 24-hour urine collection, weeing into this container. My brother was working in the City and he would have to carry a large backpack filled with fluid.

“We tried to make a game of it by calling it the X Factor. My mum and brother went through to boot camp. We always had humour because they could see I was deteriorating.

I became really yellow. I looked like a Simpsons character

“I became really yellow. I looked like a Simpsons character.”

Named Poppet – because “they just popped her in” – Quince’s new kidney not only enabled her, with the help of a heap of medication, to pursue competitive cycling, but created an intrinsic link between her and her mum.

“Without Poppet I’m nobody,” she said. “On Poppet’s birthday, my mum and I go for out a meal. I write a card and usually end up crying on it like a big wuss.”

And it is because of that transplant that Quince sits in her Luton living room, amid a jungle of bikes hanging from the wall, interspersed with four world championship medals dangling from nails.

As she talks, Cav and Wiggo stride through the house like they live there. They do. They are her cats, named after British cycling heroes Mark Cavendish and Bradley Wiggins. This girl is cycling mad.

After having to give up football, something had to fill the void.

“It kind of makes you feel alive – going down a big hill or slugging your guts out up a hill,” said Quince.

“I made a friend called Sam in hospital, who had a second kidney transplant which her body rejected. She died of a heart attack in her mid-20s three or four years ago.

“There’s one hill out in the countryside I named ‘Sam’s Hill’. It’s a bitch of a hill. If I’m feeling down I go up that hill and get her to motivate me. I know it sounds silly.”

By 2010, Quince had won the road race and time trial for her age group at the British Transplant Games.

A year later, she repeated that feat at the World Transplant Games and then did the double again earlier this year – only this time beating every other woman in the field.

“People ask, ‘compared to an Olympian, how good are you?’ The answer is ‘not very’,” is her honest assessment of her capabilities.

“But compared to any other person on 12 tablets a day, with somebody else’s organ in me – I’m the best in the world.

“I’m on too many drugs to become an Olympian. Even if I were any good I’d be banned.”

As it stands, Poppet has recovered from her brush with cancer well, but she will have regular six-month check-ups.

In the meantime, Quince has turned her attention to other battles.

World Transplant Games 2013: Overall medal table

After spending £2,500 to go to this year’s championships in South Africa, and seeing numerous team-mates do the same, she is working with Transplant Sport UK to try and secure some sort – any sort – of financial backing.

British athletes took 13 cycling medals, including nine gold, at this year’s world championships – none of them received lottery funding.

Personally, she is dabbling in track cycling, mixing it at national-standard events.

But, high on the agenda, is a mission to prove the importance of being a donor – you never know, you could become a small part of a world champion.

“If somebody has saved your life, what are you then going to do with your life?” Quince asked.

“If you’re just going to exist then fine. My friend ran the London marathon six months after a heart transplant. We’re showing our donors how much we appreciate it and how proud we are of them.”

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/cycling/25003642

Don’t ever congratulate me on finishing second

There were days at this year’s Tour de France, in between Chris Froome’s fireworks, when it seemed Mark Cavendish was the only rider in the race, which is some achievement when you are nearly four hours off the lead.

If the Douglas dynamo was not winning stages, he was losing them, avoiding one pile-up, being

blamed for another,

throwing a tantrum about his bike, getting

urine thrown at him

or

clashing with a journalist.

There was even one day when

a team-mate won a stage

only to say Cavendish had told him how to do it.

Cavendish’s ability to generate stories is second only to his knack for winning, so it is hardly surprising he has just released a second autobiography,

At Speed. 

The 28-year-old was in Salford earlier this month to surf the BBC’s sofas and flog a few hardbacks. It is a mark of how far he has carried us all, in terms of cycling knowledge, that this time nobody asked him if he had a bell on his bike.

We still have a bit to learn, though, as I discovered in the middle of a question about his

amicable divorce from Team Sky

last year.

“One thing we’ve got to talk about is the

Giro d’Italia,” 

Cavendish interrupts.

“I won

five stages and the red jersey

[the prize for the most consistent finisher] – a sprinter hasn’t done that for ages.

“There was a big thing made of the Giro when Brad Wiggins was going for it but

when he dropped out

everybody forgot about it. For a sprinter to win five stages and the red jersey is a big, big thing.

“To then go and back it up at the Tour with two more stages, that’s quite good.”

He is right. It is quite good. Winning that jersey made him only the fifth man to claim the points prize at all three Grand Tours [Italy, France and Spain], and the second of those five stage wins was enough to take him to the top of

Cycling Weekly’s all-time British rankings. 

The problem is, and Cavendish writes about this with admirable candour, “quite good” means relative decline.

Marcel Kittel

He’s not just had a good year, he’s good

Cavendish on Marcel Kittel

Four stage wins in 2008, six in 2009, five in 2010 and 2011, he even won three riding for a team that actively avoided the sharp elbows of the bunch sprint in 2012. Cavendish has made following the Tour easy for reporters: he has either won a sprint, or he has lost it.

Not this year, though. This year somebody else won, a man Cavendish describes as a “Dolph Lundgren lookalike”.

Half a foot taller, two stone heavier and three years younger than Cavendish,

Marcel Kittel  

had disappointed on his Tour debut in 2012, pulling out ill and winless in the first week. What a difference a year made.

With Cavendish held up behind a crash, Kittel won the 100th Tour’s

first stage in Corsica.

The Manxman would make it 1-1 four days later in Marseille, only for Kittel to win the 10th and

12th stages,

the first after Cavendish controversially tangled with the German’s Argos-Shimano teammate Tom Veelers, and the second in a flat dash to the line.

Crashes, punctures and other bouts of bad luck (Cavendish turned up in Corsica on antibiotics for a case of bronchitis) happen, but defeats in one-on-one sprints?

“Kittel is good,” says Cavendish, stressing every letter. “He’s not just had a good year, he’s good.”

And then, just as it sounds like Cavendish is anointing his successor, the man

L’Equipe hailed as the greatest sprinter  

in Tour history is back.

“But at his age [25] I was winning five, so I’m not that worried,” he says, as if anything else would be preposterous.

“I know the problems we had this year, so I’m not stressed.

“But it was the first time I felt really threatened, so I know I can’t take things for granted anymore. I’m positive we’ll dominate again.”

Words spoken in December will not count for much next summer, but he will only need to remember what happened in Paris, on cycling’s most iconic drag strip, to find the motivation to keep fighting.

“Three of us all finished within centimetres of each other, but the photo-finish spoke unequivocally: I had lost, yet again, to Kittel, had even lost out for second place to [old rival Andre] Greipel, and in the process lost

my 100% Champs Elysees record

and a little faith in myself,” writes Cavendish in “At Speed”.

“Never before had I come across the line and glimpsed the Arc de Triomphe through the gloomy tint of defeat.”

Just to underline the point, there is a telling anecdote in

sports writer David Walsh’s 

latest book, “Inside Team Sky”, the team Cavendish swapped for Belgian outfit Omega Pharma – Quick-Step (OPQS) last year.

Sharing beers at Team Sky’s victory party in Paris,

mechanic Gary Blem  

tells Walsh about the time he said “well done” to Cavendish for coming second.

Walsh writes: “‘Gary,” said Cavendish with the kind of post-race passion that is exclusively his, “don’t ever, ever, congratulate me on finishing second’.”

It is hard to think of a better quote to sum up not only why Cavendish is tied for third in the Tour’s

all-time stage wins list 

on 25 (and with time to overhaul Eddy Merckx in first on 34), but he also might be the United Kingdom’s most dependable sportsman.

The most remarkable thing about his career is that he has done it all without giving much thought to how he prepares to race. That is not to say Cavendish has not worked hard; if anything he has raced too much.

“He has always raced a lot,” says his friend and training adviser

Rob Hayles. 

“If you average it out across 2013, he raced every third day.

“He knows he can’t keep doing that, so this year we’re going to load things towards the Tour: he will be racing less, training more.

“We will also be doing a bit more gym work, a few new stretches, some cardio stuff… to be honest, I am amazed at how well he does by just riding his bike. He could get even better, but who am I tell him?”

One possible consequence of this new approach is that Cavendish will not be on the start line to defend his “maglia rossa” at

the Giro in Belfast.

He had only intended to ride 10 to 14 days of it this year, but, having won four of the first 13 stages, Cavendish did not want to pass up a shot at a prize he had lost by

one point in 2012.

He got his jersey in the end, but it cost him.

Mark Cavendish at the Giro d'Italia

Cavendish’s victory in the final stage of the Giro d’Italia was one of 20 wins in what would be a great year for anybody else – that there is even talk of decline is a testament to his brilliance in recent years

“Everybody who rode the Giro, let alone finished it, didn’t do well at the Tour: its severity, the weather, the terrain, it killed us,” he admits.

“So if I do it this year, there’s only a small chance of me finishing. I don’t like not finishing races but I can’t risk hurting my chances of getting the yellow (jersey).”

Do not panic, Cavendish is not attempting to reinvent himself as Britain’s next Tour champion. For the second straight year, the Tour

is starting with a sprint. 

And if that is not alluring enough, it finishes in his

mum Adele’s hometown of Harrogate. 

“I want to win things in the build-up – and I want to do well at the whole Tour – but if there’s one day I had to pick it would be that first stage in Yorkshire,” he explains.

Arriving at the start in Leeds a bit fresher will help, but the biggest cause for optimism about this new phase in his career is what happened a week after the Tour: his OPQS boss Patrick Lefevere realised Cavendish could not do it on his own.

It is to the

2011 world champion’s

credit that he does not use his team’s mistakes in the final kilometres of flat stages last year as an excuse, but it was clear to most observers that Kittel was being given a better sling-shot to the line by his lead-out men than Cavendish was getting from his.

“You’ve got to give the other teams some praise,” says Cavendish now, denying he was at times almost coaching his team-mates on how to slip-stream him to success.

“[Kittel’s team] Argos worked extremely well. So don’t be derogatory towards us, give them the credit.

“They were phenomenal. It was the best lead-out team I’ve seen since HTC, by quite a margin.

“(Greipel’s team) Lotto 

think they have it drilled – they don’t, they just bash people out of the way. Argos have it drilled.”

The HTC he refers to is the team that catapulted him to 20 of his 25 Tour wins. It disbanded in 2011, the year Cavendish won

the sprinter’s green jersey

at the Tour.

Mark Cavendish and Mark Renshaw

The Cavendish-Renshaw double act never worked better than in this famous victory on the Champs Elysees in 2009 – it was Cavendish’s sixth win in the race, and Renshaw coasted over in second

His lead-out train at HTC  

was an awe-inspiring sight, with the final link being Australia’s

Mark Renshaw 

guiding Cavendish to within 200m of the finish. That double act was broken when the Australian tried his hand at being the main man elsewhere. Now, two years later,

they are together again.

If that doesn’t have Argos and Lotto worried, Lefevere also tempted Italian veteran

Alessandro Petacchi 

out of retirement to help the man he pipped to the green jersey in 2010 win it back from Slovakian superstar Peter Sagan.

“We’ve strengthened our sprint team a lot, which is really promising,” says Cavendish with the enthusiasm of a five-year-old on Christmas Eve.

“We’ve signed Renshaw, who we know is the best lead-out man in the world, and I’ve already

started working with Petacchi

– he’s just been mind-blowing, he is so smooth.

“Combine those two with Gert Steegmans and Matteo Trentin, and we’ve got a formidable line-up. It’s exciting.”

Exciting, yes, but something that must be practised, which means another change this season will be that whenever Cavendish races he will be joined by at least two of his Tour sprint train.

“People said we didn’t get our sprint train right this year,” says the man who might instinctively know more about what it takes to win a sprint than anybody who has ever swung a leg over a bike.

“But it normally takes two years to get a sprint train right; we were getting it right within six months.

It took Sky 

two years to build a General Classification team, and that’s not as intricate as a sprint team.”

The split-second judgements of riders travelling at 40mph might be intricate, but the mission statement is simple. Towards the end of his book At Speed Cavendish spells it out.

“The Tour de France is my raison d’etre as a cyclist, the fulcrum of everything I do.”

Kittel and co, you have been warned. Cavendish has tried coming second and he didn’t like it.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/cycling/25405240

AUDIO: Former team boss backs Tiernan-Locke

Endura Racing team manager Brian Smith says he is still “100% behind” British cyclist Jonathan Tiernan-Locke, despite the 28-year-old facing disciplinary proceedings amid allegations of anti-doping violations.

Talking to BBC Radio 5 live, Smith said that “common sense” told him that Tiernan-Locke, who strongly denies any wrongdoing, was not a doper.

Tiernan-Locke used to ride for Endura before moving to Team Sky.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/cycling/25429516

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