Vélo Files: On My Mind

Anthony Tan

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Tough times for Froome-Dog (Getty Images)
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Never one to join the bandwagon or tread on eggshells, Anthony Tan tells it like he sees it in the week just past.

Sure, Boonen could do a great job, but is he willing? So far, there’s been no evidence to suggest he is.

1. Sayar Isn’t So…
It’s funny how every man and his dog decided to maul Mustafa Sayar after his mountain stage win that, two days later, earned him titleholder in this year’s Tour of Turkey.

In fact, Eurosport commentator and ex-pro Magnus Bäckstedt got stuck into the hitherto unknown third division pro as early as the third leg, considered to be the queen stage of the race and also finishing atop a nasty climb. There, Sayar finished third behind 22-year-old Eritrean Natnael Berhane and Belgian Kevin Seeldraeyers, riding for Astana.

Apparently, churning away in the big chainring, as Sayar is wont to do, is a tell-tale sign of doping.

“The only other time I’ve seen a rider do that was… Frank Vandenbroucke,” commented Bäckstedt.

“Enough said,” replied his cohort David Harmon.

So Berhane is hailed as African cycling’s next big thing while Sayar, two years his senior and with similar credentials, is the pariah of the peloton?

Seeldraeyers hasn’t done much since his breakthrough year in 2009, apart from ninth overall at the 2011 Volta a Catalunya. Do we question his performances, also?

After what happened last year, when Sayar’s erstwhile Bulgarian teammate, Ivailo Gabrovski, was pinged for using EPO, his overall victory rescinded and later awarded to Alexsandr Dyachenko, I’m sure doping officials would have kept a close eye on the Torku Sekerspor lot.

Should we ask Sayar questions along the lines of, “cycling needs a clean and credible winner”, as journalist Matt Rendell duly did Sunday in Istanbul? Yes, absolutely.

Without a skerrick of evidence, should we wait till analysis of urine (and hopefully blood) samples are returned before slagging Sayar off, left, right and centre?

Hell, yes. For now, let’s give him the benefit of the doubt.

2. Spaghetti Froomey…
I wonder if Chris Froome has undergone wind tunnel testing.

Actually, I’m sure he has – he does ride for Team Sky, after all. But when you see his ungainly style on the bike, and contrast it with Froomey’s roomie Richie Porte or Belarusian Kanstantsin Siutsou’s rock-solid pedalling, their upper bodies unwavering, you have to wonder how many watts he may be losing with his spaghetti arms and legs, and whether something can be done about it.

It makes him look fallible, even if his string of successes this season say absolutely not, with stage-race victories in Oman, Critérium International and just last weekend, the Tour de Romandie. There’s something Bradley Wiggins-esque about it, isn’t there?

Last season, many pundits thought Wiggo was going too deep too early, as he nailed wins in Paris-Nice, Romandie and the Critérium du Dauphiné, but the Kid from Kilburn proved otherwise, as Sky controlled all 3,497 kilometres of Le Tour like it was a one-man show.

So far, and like Wiggins’ superlative 2012, there’s nothing to suggest Froome nor his team will falter come July. His likely rivals for the maillot jaune, Alberto Contador, Joaquim Rodríguez and Cadel Evans, need to lift their game to avoid the TV viewing audience falling asleep by the remote. Or bank on another internal rivalry – albeit with consequences other than finishing 1-2 on the Paris podium.

3. Mark 2…
Mark needs Mark.

Cavendish needs Renshaw, and vice versa, that is.

You probably didn’t even notice, and I don’t blame you, but Cavendish was actually racing last week at Romandie.

After Froome won the uphill prologue there was a hat trick of sprint stages on offer and Cav’ finished 162nd, 140th and 136th. Right up there… Not! Instead, it was his Omega Pharma-Quick Step teammate, Gianni Meersman, who shone en Suisse, taking two stages and placing third in the other.

Gert Steegmans, the guy many thought would lead out the Manxman to umpteen wins this season, seems to have switched duties somewhat, despite highly successful lead-out roles for Robbie McEwen and later Tom Boonen. Niki Terpstra was last man for Cavendish at Qatar and did a great job on two occasions but in the bigger races, up against André Greipel, Marcel Kittel and Peter Sagan, a specialist is mandatory.

“The train on Omega Pharma-Quick Step isn’t working properly,” Jürgen Roelandts, third at the Tour of Flanders, told Matt Keenan in an interview on The Bike Lane, published last week on the Cycling Tips website.

“It’s working like us two years ago (when Greipel first joined the team, having left HTC-High Road) and we got it on track last year, really good. Boonen will be the key for Cavendish in the Tour, I think.”

Sure, Boonen could do a great job, but is he willing?

So far, there’s been no evidence to suggest he is, other than some words exchanged during the off-season. Snapping his collarbone at Flanders and writing off his spring in one fell swoop, I’d say that once healed, ‘Tommeke’ will be seeking redemption by way of victory himself, rather than laying it on the line for someone else.

Even if he places himself at the service of Cavendish, the pair is unlikely to team up till July – making for an untried, untested and unproven sprint train at QPQS.

Coincidentally, Renshaw’s bold move to have a go himself in the sprinting stakes has not gone without a hitch.

He’s said a number of times it is in part to do with the support, or lack of, provided. In moving to a Dutch-based team with a Dutch sprinter in Theo Bos however, and with few runs on the board, what did he expect?

Graeme Brown told me in an interview at this year’s Tour de Langkawi that Bos’ speed is “better than Cavendish”. “In terms of speed, he’s the quickest guy in the world. He’s just got to get himself (to the finish) fresh – that’s my role as well,” Brownie said in February, adding that for the remainder of the season, he’ll almost exclusively be at the service of Bos.

So, at 30 years old, keep plugging away, first to be selected in a sprinter-friendly race, then drum up the necessary support, and then try his best to take on the likes of Cavendish, Greipel, Sagan, Kittel, Goss et al – or return to a place where an opening clearly exists, where his talents will be lauded, applauded and rewarded, in a role that he could conceivably do for at least five more years?

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