Friday Group Ride #129

Is it just me? It felt like the Tour (grand as it always is) was somehow lessened by these Olympics. Riders who might have gone harder in France saved themselves for London. Tom Boonen comes to mind immediately. Even Mark Cavendish, who was always going to take a back seat with Team Sky teammate Bradley Wiggins in yellow, used the Tour as training for the road race in his home country, rather than going full gas for another green jersey. A further cadre of riders pulled out of the Tour consoling themselves that the Olympics might still define their season, Thor Hushovd (he missed both races in the end) among them.

So what do we think of that? Has the Olympics, the road race and time trial, been worth it? Did you care when Alexandre Vinokourov rode off with the gold medal? Was Wiggins’ ride in the TT a valedictory, a simple victory lap or a true coronation? Did the Olympics turn you on?

I will say that I was tremendously disappointed in the road race. Team GB didn’t execute the plan for Cavendish. In fact, having watched Wiggins and Chris Froome both medal in the time trial, you have to ask if they were even the right guys to have in the road race. Were they saving themselves for their own event at Cav’s expense?

And then watching Vinokourov, one of the enduring faces of the sport’s doping past, cross the line, arms aloft, turned my stomach. Here is a guy who hasn’t won a race all year, but suddenly he has the legs to take a gold medal. When Rigoberto Uran turned to look over his right shoulder I immediately thought, “NO!NO!NO!” And it was over.

On the flip side of the coin, Marianne Vos’ road race win over Lizzie Armitstead was nail-bitingly dramatic, and certainly helped the pro women get some much deserved camera time. Kristin Armstrong’s gold in the TT a few days later was also good. Watching her with her son, on the podium, made me all emotional. And I abhor time trials.

So this week’s Group Ride asks: Was it worth it? Was Olympic cycling (and yes, I know the track events are still in progress) a worthy distraction from our normal program? Did London 2012 lessen the Tour, or was it another marquis event that will bring lasting attention to the sport? My British friends are thinking the latter, but how does this all look from your corner of the globe?

Photo: © Surrey County Council

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  1. michael

    Robot, on this very rare occasion I think you may have missed the boat on your analysis of the men’s race. I didn’t ever think it was a realistic ask to have 5 guys control a 250km long race. World’s last year had 3 extra bodies to use up. I don’t think Cav or Team GB were ever a serious threat to medal much less win, Olympic races are never designed to turn into processions.

    I don’t know what the US coverage showed post-race, but the feed i was watching in Canada showed Froome and Wiggins just absolutely WASTED post-race. They left it all out on the road, at least until Cav told them to shut it down when it became apparent it was hopeless. I think the real guilty party in all this was Brailsford and the rest of the coaching squad, who seemed to be narrow-minded in their tactical planning and not willing to let Cav follow the right wheels and do some group surfing to get back up to the front. They let too many good opportunities go by to let him do that.

    Not happy Vinkourov won, and I think the same thing you do – how did a guy who hasn’t done sqaut all year and laboured through the TDF win a 250km road race a week later?

    What the men’s race lacked for excitement the women’s made up for. Agressive racing from the gun, and one of the best one day races I have seen all year from either men or women.

  2. brian

    Team GB have only themselves to blame. Their attitude was similar to that of an arrogant and egotistical heavy-weight boxer guaranteeing victory. “We’re all-in for Cav everybody – so stand back everybody and watch how its done.” Well – the peloton did stand back and watch Team GB drill themselves to death, then attack when they were exhausted. Duh.

    Even your average Cat3 knows 4 guys controlling a 6-hour race is ridiculous. How brilliant would it have been to send Stannard up the road in any serious break that goes on the last few laps of Box Hill? Germany would have to chase and I expect that Australia would’ve been compelled to help as well – even though the venerable O’Grady was in the lead group. I expect the one minute gap would’ve been erased pretty quickly.

    Watching the GB boys take responsibility and ride tempo for so long was very impressive, but this easily predicable failure is on Brailsford’s shoulders. Plus – as is often the case when things don’t go his way – Cav was a complete whiner in saying the world was against them. Well of course they were – it is the Olympics after all. And GB’s attitude only increased their responsibility. Millar’s post-race comments we’re much more gracious and sportsmanlike.

    I thoroughly enjoyed the race from the last two laps of Box Hill for three reasons – the racing became unpredictable with so many attacks, the drama of wondering if GB could hold it all together and the very impressive showing from Team USA. I’ve often been disappointed that US riders don’t put much emphasis on the Olympics or World Championships, but clearly with the younger generation moving up, we should have more to cheer about. Duggan in the break, TVG killing it at the end and Phinney just missing a medal. Sweet.

    And no – I’m not happy at all about Vino winning. Please leave the sport Vino. Please.

    I agree though – the women’s race was better. A great showing by USA, tons of attacks, horrible weather conditions, a late break and Marianne Merckx, er, Vos sealing the deal. Huge bummer that Shelly Olds flatted when she was in the winning break. I’d like to see women’s racing more often for sure. I think we’re all missing out on some great racing.

  3. Alan

    I ws thrilled to get to see the women’s road race and it was indeed exciting. The inequality in salaries on the women’s side concerns me. If they showed the races there would be more fans and more money.

    As the folks above stated, the men’s road race was a predictable result. If GB wanted to neutralize the breakaways they should have covered them. No way any team (country) was going to help them pull Cav to the line.

  4. Nelson

    Olympics tend to change perspective on most things (even our routine) I still think the best men won their category and dont really think Cav had a chance for green at the tour after stage 5. As for Vinokourov, didnt he win a TDF Stage? He has the legs and last I checked, has tested clean all year. Not my first pick, but I have a hard time saying he doesn’t deserve it.

  5. TallMoots

    I am excited by all the coverage about the women’s road race both here and elsewhere. I was a great race to watch. In many ways more so than the men’s.

    But this race was not new. Often women’s racing is at least as exciting as men’s races. It would be great if this particular race would remind us to watch (and report) on women’s cycling with a little more interest. Maybe we could help salaries become more equitable.

  6. Bill

    I think both the men’s and women’s road races were the two most exciting races I’ve seen in a long time. No race radios and smaller teams directly effected the outcomes of both races. I was screaming at the tv when Vino bridged to Uran. No! No! No! You can’t let Vino get away! Bring him back immediately or he’s gone!!! It was too late in the race though. Everyone in that group of 25 or so was watching each other at that point. Game over. I was disappointed about Vinokourov winning at first too. But then I started thinking about his background and career. Where he came from. Old eastern bloc values. There’s a scrappy desperation there. I will never forget his 2003 season in the wake of Andrei Kivilev’s crash and death. He was tough as nails. If so many others paid their dues and were allowed to be there and potentially win he deserved to be too. He always reminded me of another Andrei: Tchmil. Vino won on tactics and emotion more than legs. And Vos is truly the queen of the womens peloton now. The strongest won that race on that day for sure.

  7. armybikerider

    Why did it turn your stomach? I think that Vino deserved the win as much as anyone else in that race. Granted he has a checkered past but, but he paid the price and is clean (presumably) now. He’s been there before with a Silver in the road race in Sydney. I think it’s remarkeable that he broke his femur last year at the TdF and now goes on to win the gold in 2012!

  8. James

    I think the whole drive to win the Olympics is based on the “I’m the champ for 4 years” mentatlity. Frankly, I find the race a bore. The only good thing that came out of the men’s race this year was the fact that Vino won and is retiring so we don’t have to put up with gold helmets, bar tape, shoes, stripes in jerseys, etc. ala Bettini and Sanchez! The olympics should be an U-23 race so it doesn’t take away from other, more important races!

  9. Joe Breach

    I awoke at 5 am to watch the race hoping for some excitement after a very boring TDF.I thought the US rode well with Dugan in the early break and two riders in the winning break. Too bad Vino won but dope or not he’s one tough sob. If there had been race radios, no way he stays away to the finish!

  10. Jim Couch

    Brains & legs

    I thought both the men’s and the women’s road races were excellent, exciting events. With small teams and no radios I think the racing was destined to be exciting and dynamic, and on the Olympic course unlikely to result in a sprint finish. IMHO the a number of teams threw the race away when they bet it all on a sprint finish. In particular the British seemed to think it was a simple matter of getting Cavendish to the line and it would be a foregone conclusion. Not so easy without the crutch of race radios and big powerful teams!

    As for Vino – he had good legs, but moreover, he road a smart race! Heads & legs! I think one of the downfalls of the radios is that most riders no longer know how to think for themselves. Clearly Vinokurov had the brains and the guts to capitalize on the situation. I am the first to say I am not a big fan, but I think he clearly earned his gold medal!

  11. dacrizzow

    not sure what everyone’s issue is with Vino. he doped, got busted, did his time and came back. the peloton is full of those guys. David Millar for one who seems to be everyone’s darling. Mcquaid said he was col with it. that Vino had as much right to win as anyone. and it wasn’t legs, it was heart and being able to read a race. knowing everyone was too busy waiting on everyone else to make their own move. if there’s any suspicion it should be on the columbian climber who nailed second on a flat breakaway. but you know, he had the heart to do it and made for an exciting race. get over it guys. at least it wasn’t a 6 hour group ride with a 20 second sprint at the end. yeah….that would’ve been exciting. (note the sarcasm)

  12. Scot Jarchow

    Ok not a big Vino fan, but if anyone was actually was watching the final 10 stages of the Tour, they may noticed how often Vino was in the most significant break of the day. I can remember at least four stages that he was in a significant break in the second half of the tour. At the time I was wondering why he was always in the break, and was wondering how he had the energy to be in the breaks that often… His victory was not a surprise in my eyes.
    I was ecstatic that Vos won the women’s road race. Definitely a worthy champion! As far as women sports are concerned: I think women volleyball (both beach and indoor) and women soccer is actually better to watch then the men’s games. Maybe with more women becoming CEO’s of companies, maybe they will see more sponsorship being funneled to women’s sports.
    Little Rant: I really hope Vino was clean, but then again I seen some performances in the pool & on the track that make me wonder if cheats are getting ahead of testing methods. Also, I do not know about anyone else, but I will take any racing sports over scoring performance sports any day of the week! I watched the women’s gymnastics all around finals and scoring on the floor routine left me wondering what PEDs the judges were on!
    Final: Hats off to the British for their enthusiastic crowds, they have been incredible! I am sure the cyclists were the only athlete’s shocked by the number of spectators watching their performance.

  13. Jesus from Cancun

    I enjoyed the whole Olympic leadout, from the beginning of the year. I have always had a high regard for the Games as the highlight of sports, of the physical capacity of mankind.

    I also believe that Cav’ didn’t stand a chance for Green this year with Sagan in the race and with a teammate in yellow; Olympics or not.
    At the same time, I thought it was uber-cool to see a World Champion carrying bottles and taking pulls for a teammate, and later to see a Yellow Jersey leading out a Rainbow Jersey for a stage win. That earned a lot of sympathy points for Cav’, Wiggo and also Froome and the rest of the Sky team.

    As the Olympic road race, I think that GB team commited the sin of arrogancy. Sure, we all knew that their goal had to be to bring Cav’ to the line for a sprint, but there were several bullish statements made before the race. They clearly announced, and then showed during the race, that there was no plan B. And with a 5 rider team and a whole peloton racing against, their Master Plan had a huge potential for failure.

    I think they were expecting other teams to ride with them for a sprint finish. But when Germany didn’t commit, Australia didn’t ride, and everyone else watched and waited for Box Hill to try to jump away, it became a race for the attackers.

    I might be alone in this, but when I saw Vino’s attack I yelled YES, YES, YES!! I was hoping to see a Latin American give a better fight for the Gold and got kind of bummed when Uran got caught off guard like a rookie, but I was very happy to see Vino winning a race that broke the script and rewarded the attackers. And when I think successful, exciting attackers I think Vino, Nibali (who I think deserved better in this race), Voeckler, LL Sanchez, Morkov…

    I think that Vino is a deserving winner. He cheated and got suspended according to the rules. Now the same rules allow him to race and win as deservengly as anyone else.
    No, Vino is not a media darling. He is a natural born attacker who has animated pro racing for many years. Who would forget the Giro in 2010?.
    He made a huge mistake, like others, and came back after his punishment, like others.

    I thought it was very sad to see him finish his career at the roadside with a broken leg, I knew he deserved better than that.
    Then he came back this year, mainly because his team desperately needed his UCI points, and even if not much was expected from him, he was an animator in several races, even in a couple stages of the Tour. Sooner or later, he deserved a win this year.

    I always thought that someone with his skills, attitude and racing background deserved a rainbow jersey or an Olyimpic medal before he retires. I think this Olympic medal is not only his reward for a hard fought race, it is a reward for a hard fought career.

    I understand why so many people would have rather seen a winner who hasn’t been involved in doping, a posterboy. But I see it from another perspective: Nobody knows exactly what is in each rider’s head when he dopes. Maybe poor values, arrogance, fear of losing his job, false sense of security, desperation… whatever.
    I believe that when a rider with panache comes back from suspension he has something to prove. Controls are stricter on them and they surely don’t want to mess with the devil again, so they have to work even harder and even stay off some legal supplements to avoid any problems. If they do that, and still win, my hat is off for them.

    Now, I won’t even try to explain why I cheer for Vino and hate Ricco so much, but that’s another story.

    As for the ladies’ race, I think that we all agree this time that there is not a more deserving Olympic champion than Marianne Vos. There is your postergirl. Chapeau.
    For purists and chest beating observers, be glad that Jeannie Longo wasn’t there to perform another miracle again.

    And standing applause for Wiggo and Armstrong. Everyone expected Wiggo to win, but he still had to go out there and pedal faster than the rest, right? What a season, you could see it coming for years, but it has been just amazing.
    And Armstrong… wow, just wow. She is the same age as my wife! I can’t even imagine how hard it has been for her to do what it takes to stand at the top of the Olympic podium. Impressive, she is an inspiration.

    I think that for cycling, the Olympics began much earlier than the opening ceremony. For me, it has been the highlight of the year. The world records in the team pursuit, amazing.
    I am only disappointed about the individual pursuit and Kilo being replaced by the Omnium. I have never liked the Omnium too much, I see it as a race for those that are not too good in the Kilo, or in the pursuit, but are good enough to be consistent in several races.
    I rather see specialists breaking world records, but maybe one of these days I will get used to it.

    Oh, and last… Shooooot, how close was Taylor Phinney to medal, twice? Wow, that would have been something, eh?

  14. Chris

    The result made my stomach churn a bit, but the race itself was nothing short of scintillating. Watching GB go from being firmly in control to suddenly spinning the pedals in desperation and recruiting helpers from the peloton was remarkable. Heavy hitter after heavy hitter (Nibali, Cancellara, Gilbert, and Vino) bridged to the breakaway, and it started to become clear that the race was getting away from Cav and crew. 9 man tactics don’t work on a 5 man team, even if it’s the TDF 1 and 2 finishers chasing for you.

    Vino may or may not be above suspicion, but he won by reading the race and by timing his attacks to perfection (when the break started looking at each other, when Uran had a brain fart), so respect to him. He was visible and aggessive for the whole of the TDF, so it wasn’t a case of his legs undergoing a miraculous rebirth.

    The TT, on the other hand, did feel like a bit of a foregone conclusion, especially with Canc and Big Tony riding injured. I stayed invested in the race by rooting Canc on in hopes that he’d at least medal, but it wasn’t to be.

  15. Marky Schwitau

    A Question for those of you with more experience:
    Is Blood doping considered an equal offense to some sort of synthetic super drug? On the face of it, it doesn’t sound quite as diabolical.

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