10 May 2013

Three wheels on my bicycle

by Andy Steel

Well into the first week of the first Grand Tour of the cycling season and despite torrential downpours, plenty of crashes and oh yes, some excellent sprinting from the biggest names in the sport, the big news from the Giro D'Italia is the struggle for dominance among the superstars of cycling.

Not on the roads of Italy, though. Inside their own teams, and in their own minds.

The British triumvirate of Mark Cavendish, Chris Froome and Bradley Wiggins are at the forefront of the sport's move from kinda popular-but-niche to big big news, and their reactions have been interesting because they point to a sport where ego is looking as important as ability. This is not exactly new in cycling: even non fans will have heard of Lance Armstrong's control freakery in between jabbing steroids into his ass, and three stars in one team is pretty much a recipe for infighting. But it's a bit disappointing.

With the UK's national sport, football, held to be on a moral level usually reserved for rapists or politicians, you kind of hope other sports can provide the old fashioned ethos which football lacks. This is unfair, and anyone looking to pro cycling for a moral lead out must have been living in another dimension these last few decades. It's probably because Cav, Froome and Wiggo have been elevated to the status of national heroes for their performances in the last two years or so that it sticks in the throat to see them squabbling about who is No.1 rider in their teams.

Mark Cavendish has recorded a couple of stage wins already, so his move from Team Sky to Omega-Pharma-Quickstep is already reaping the rewards this most confident of riders clearly feels he is capable of gathering. Sky have made it clear that, after Wiggo's time as leader in the Giro, Froome will take up that role come Le Tour. So we can expect one of the two to bail out of Team Sky for next season since neither is willing to be a permanent No. 2 – Three into one won't go.

It's part of the price you pay for assembling a team of superstars: no doubt Rigobert Uran thinks he, too, deserves a shot at glory. I hope, though, that the shake down is quick and clean and that we aren't 'treated' to weeks of fevered media speculation as rider takes barbed shots at fellow rider. Sports needs heroes.

It's maybe idealistic to hope that cycling can regain some of its tarnished lustre through these three outstanding Brit riders. Why should they be less selfish than the rest of Britain, just because I want a hero? Fingers crossed, though, that the coming summer sees us talking about their ability to defy mind and body and pilot a bike over hundreds of kilometers rather than their political moves.

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