Journalists are often the bearers of bad news, but in this instance, I bring an air of optimism to this week's column.
Why do I feel so good? Because almost a month after the blue riband event of the year has passed, the Tour de France, cycling has a healthy aura about it, and not just in Europe.
Take a look at last weekend. Not far from where Usain Bolt's scintillating world record-breaking 100 metres victory took place Sunday in Berlin, Germany, Garmin-Slipstream's Tyler Farrar set a precedent of his own the same day by capturing the Vattenfall Cyclassics in Hamburg, becoming the first American to win the Classic won by Stuart O'Grady in 2004, a milestone for the South Australian as much as it will be for Farrar.
Speaking of America, a pair of two-wheeled events of significance
Stateside deserve mention. On Saturday in Leadville, Colorado, Tour de
France podium finisher Lance Armstrong demonstrated his form honed on
the roads of Europe has not deserted him, riding close to two-thirds of
the 100-mile race on his own and slashing 15 minutes off six-time
winner Dave Wiens' previous best time.
Then on Sunday, our own Ben Kersten came out on top in the US criterium championships
in Downer's Grove, Illinois, repaying the trust of his Fly V Australia
team, although the title and jersey (ineligible to non-Americans) went
to John Murphy of Ouch/Maxxis.
A couple of years ago, in the latter half of 2007, I was commissioned by Procycling magazine to interview Kersten, who'd just returned from a lucrative season as an invitational Keirin
rider at the birthplace of this dangerous game's inception, Japan.
(Coincidentally, a few months earlier, I was on the same flight to
Tokyo asKersten and sitting one row behind, en route to Europe to report at the Spring Classics and Giro d'Italia, which is how I found out what he was up to.)
At the Hotel Cleveland in the inner-city Sydney suburb of Surry Hills and seven thousand, eight hundred kilometres from Tokyo, I reacquainted myself with Kersten
over a few beers Ã¢â¬â it's not often I get to conduct an interview 15
minutes from home Ã¢â¬â and was quietly impressed by the lack of
braggadocio and levelheadedness of this gifted young man (then 25 years
old) who every mother would want as a son, every girl would want as
their boyfriend, and who appeared to have the world at his feet.
But recurring back problems, the axing of the Kilo from the Olympic
track program Ã¢â¬â "I put my whole life into one event and then they took
it away," he told me Ã¢â¬â which forcedKersten to attempt to transform
himself into something else (at the time, he didn't know what), then
narrowly missing the cut for the team sprint squad at the Beijing Games
Ã¢â¬â the third time he'd missed Olympic selection Ã¢â¬â placed his career in
limbo. That's why it's so good to see him find his feet, and back in
There were also the junior track world championships in the Russian capital of Moscow. And Australia wasn't without a high-level race, either, as the inaugural six-day Tour of Geelong
wrapped up over the weekend, Victoria again showing why they're the
envy of all other States when it comes to competitive cycling Down
Under; by consequence, it produces a disproportionate number of our
This time, however, it was a pair of Queenslanders and a Tasmanian on the winner's dais, Kersten's
Fly V team-mates Darren Rolfe and David Kemp occupying the first two
places in the final classification and rounding off a bumper weekend
for the fledgling outfit directed by former proHenk Vogels, with Praties' William Clarke third overall.
Amidst a global recession, cycling is thankfully weathering the storm, and appears to have a healthy glow about it. Viva le vÃ©lo!