Whilst it’s true that cycling must evolve to remain relevant, to simply change for change’s sake will alienate more than attract – and there are certain elements that should remain unchanged, writes Anthony Tan.
It would be daft to think Paris-Nice is called a ‘mini-Tour de France’ because it is owned and run by the Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), the same body who run Le Tour and a slew of other top cycling races with an iron fist. No, primarily and quite simply, it is because in most of its previous editions, the parcours, in part or whole, has resembled a truncated version of that 3,500-odd kilometre loop tackled in July.
So, when the route of this year’s Paris-Nice was unveiled – sans prologue, sans time trial, sans major mountains, sans hilltop finish – those riders seeking to test themselves on a Grand Tour styled parcours would have been sorely disappointed. 2013 Tour champ Chris Froome is unquestionably the top dog on Team Sky, so naturally, at the time, he got first dibs on where he wanted to go; Richie Porte, therefore, settled for Paris-Nice, where he is the champion of yesteryear. Yes, the Tirreno-Adriatico percorso was better for the Tasmanian, but it was more important for Porte to handle the sensation and responsibility of team leadership, because experienced as he is, it is arguably something he needs more than anything.
For all the benefits social media offers our 21st century world, there are arguably as many drawbacks. To the psychologically vulnerable, it may even contribute to self-harm or worse still, suicide. In the wake of recent events, Anthony Tan believes a moment or two extra could make the difference between life and death.
“Everything seems the same today, the same issues and the same people (all so goddamn annoying). Yet I know from how I am feeling – and these weak, shaky hands, the ones I just want to wring out – that this is a problem of perspective. I need to regain control of my mood, lest this drag on, the black dog of depression barking its negative thoughts louder and louder until my consciousness is backed up against some bare wall in my head. I don’t want to be lying under a desk again, desperately trying to interrupt my mind as it mulls over numerous failures, old regrets and pet peeves that seem so insurmountable. I don’t want to be still while the world keeps moving.”
This is how Sean Parnell, a journalist from The Australian, began his feature article ‘Taming The Black Dog’, published Friday.
As far as the sprinters on their team are concerned, is it a case of too many chiefs and not enough Indians? Anthony Tan explores the enviable sprint conundrum at Orica-GreenEDGE, and wonders if it’s time for subtle change.
“N’golo was a Congolese word for force, for vital force. Equally could it be applied to ego, status, strength or libido. Indubitably did Ali feel deprived of his rightful share. For ten years, the press had been cheating Ali of n’golo. No matter if he had as much as anyone in America, he wanted more. It is not the n’golo you have, but the n’golo you are denied that excites the harshest hysterias of the soul.”
So said the great writer Norman Mailer in his seminal boxing book, The Fight. (Yes, I know I’ve quoted from it before, but I really like it.)
A term recently used by the director of the Australian Institute of Sport, defending an ethos he says is far removed from a win-at-all-costs mentality but is nonetheless unpityingly pragmatic. Whatever you want to call it, the system in place at the AIS is no different to the system we all face in life, writes Anthony Tan.
Monday last, attending the Jayco-AIS World Tour Academy Team launch at the Middle Park Hotel, a Melbourne drinking hole owned by Jayco owner and Cycling Australia president Gerry Ryan, listening to CA national performance director Kevin Tabotta talk about the reality of what’s in store for the Class of 2014, I was reminded of some recent comments made by the eponymous owner of the Drapac cycling team, and wondered if they had any merit.
Also on a Monday and also a team launch, though one month ago at Adelaide’s Mercury Cinema, slotted in between the People’s Choice Classic and the Tour Down Under proper, Michael Drapac denounced our elite sports system, otherwise known as the Australian Institute of Sport, believing it to be founded on a win-at-all-costs mentality, after AIS Director Matt Favier described their modus operandi as “compassionately ruthless”.
It promised to be one for the history books. Still somewhat caught in a state of suspense and disappointment, Anthony Tan vacillates over the after effects from this year’s Jayco Herald Sun Tour.
So… we’re all left ruminating what might have been at the Jayco Herald Sun Tour.
It would be both ignorant and disrespectful to suggest Simon Clarke, the overall winner, would have capitulated on the final of three ascents of Arthurs Seat; a ferocious attack one-and-a-half kilometres from the line, delivered by Avanti wunderkind Jack Haig, leaving the Orica-GreenEDGE rider and second-placed overall at the start of Sunday’s stage, Cameron Wurf of Cannondale, in his wake, reeling.