Last Sunday, in Saint Quentin-en-Yvelines, Anna Meares became the greatest female track cyclist of all time.
That line at least led Cycling Australia’s release shortly after her breathless performance in the Women’s Keirin, where at 31, she shrugged off her competition to win her 11th World Title, a mark that’s never previously been surpassed in track cycling. Meares has taken world records, Olympic, Commonwealth and World Championship titles, she’s had a longevity, that’s made her a force over more than a decade, and, she could well do more before she retires. In short, she’s an extraordinary athlete deserving of all the praise she’s afforded.
But I’m always reticent to get swept away with the greatest, the best, particularly when it's further qualified, by the classic, 'of all time'. Comparisons, between sports, between athletes, between eras, are unsatisfying in their determination to simplify something down to a better or worse. They're compromised in their simplicity. More often that not weighted in the present, in what an author has seen and experienced - quickly forgetting history, ignoring context.
Rather than reminisce about one of his favourite 1980s Australian pub rock bands, Anthony Tan borrows its name to describe an increasingly familiar modus operandi when it comes to the stage race milieu in professional road cycling.
What most pundits took out of the recently compeleted Vuelta a Andalucía was that archrivals Alberto Contador and Chris Froome, the eventual winner by two seconds, are at a similar level, which bodes more excitement for the months ahead.
The Spaniard, who this season is attempting the rare (at least by modern day standards) Giro-Tour double, says he's a maybe little behind compared to the same time the year previous. The Kenyan, or Brit, or Kenyan-born Brit, who is seeking redemption after he and Contador left last year's Tour prematurely, and is targeting Le Tour and only Le Tour, says he's right where he needs to be.
There's few things worse than doing a job you're told to do, despite your capability or desire being amiss, writes Anthony Tan.
Have you ever been, or heard of someone, who's in a job not because they want to do it but because someone's told them they'd be good at doing it, or worse still, told them to do it regardless of their ability or wont? Or maybe they were good at it and wanted to do it at first, but as time has progressed, no longer exemplify the characteristics, or possess the capability or desire to fulfil the position to their previous potential?
"I never was a bunch sprinter - and I kind of said that when I was going there," Matthew Goss told me at the Herald Sun Tour, reflecting on his decision to join Orica-GreenEDGE for the 2012 season after the closure of HTC-High Road, the team he rode for previous.
The English Premier League is among the world's most watched sporting competitions because every game in the season carries weight. The same can't be said for cycling's WorldTour, writes Al Hinds.
My mum, the good soul that she is always opposed having cable television, for fear my brother and I would be glued to the screen thereafter, lost in the endless hours of programming it offered. But after we moved homes to an area where our aerial simply struggled to even pick up the faintest signals of her favourite ABC, she finally relented. We had the basic package, but back in those days, that also came with sport, and having only sparingly been exposed to wonders of the English Premier League previously, I quickly became a dyed in the wool fan of not just my anointed Arsenal, but also the league as a whole.
It was hard not to be carried away, and I must’ve watched hundreds of hours of the EPL between 2003 and 2005, hardly the best complement to my studies, but with an almost religious devotion, it was a part of my life. The history, the contest, the whole narrative of the 38 games. There were all sorts of battles within battles, derbys, the fight for spots in the UEFA Champions League, the title race, the battle for relegation. Every game offered something. The 2003-2004 season was brilliant as an Arsenal fan, the “invincibles” romped home, an achievement which now seems an age ago (C’mon ya Gooners), but the 2004-2005 season is perhaps more memorable.
Just because you believe something to be true, doesn’t make it so, writes Al Hinds.
Cycling Australia has had a bad 24 months. That much is clear as day. At a time when the sport’s profile is at record levels, and cycling’s elite sporting success is as good as it’s ever been, the contrast to the health of its administration could not be more stark.
It’s overspent its budget, despite an increase in funding from the Australian Sports Commission, has seen a stagnation in its membership base, and has had to overhaul its board completely under strict conditions dictated by the ASC. The longest serving board member is former president, now director, Gerry Ryan, and he’s been involved less than 18 months. But, we’re told, the clouds are clearing, and the organisation is set for a new era of stability and growth.