Contrary to what the world’s fastest sprinter thinks, Anthony Tan says bloggers cannot be held accountable for the risks taken in pro cycling.
7 Apr 2015 - 11:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:37 PM

Contrary to what the world's fastest sprinter thinks, Anthony Tan says bloggers cannot be held accountable for the risks taken in pro cycling.

"A lot of of the journalism is quite bloggy, opinions rather than facts, and riders try to get in the results to impress those journalists. It's like when you were an amateur and you had to prove yourself all the time to become professional. Nowadays, it's like that in the professionals, too."

- Mark Cavendish

Er, hang on, one second, Cav'… Are you saying that the dangers of professional cycling are augmented by way of bloggers, and riders are taking unnecessary risks trying to impress those bloggers?

I don't buy it.

"These days the results appear so fast on the internet, without a report of what's actually happened [that] everybody's got a point to prove, they're fighting and fighting and fighting," Cavendish told journalist Alasdair Fotheringham of The Independent last week. "There's a real pressure to deliver and a lot of risks are being taken in the peloton."

The pressure to perform has always been there. The critics have always been there (just that in the pre-Internet days, they were called columnists or opinion writers instead of bloggers). In races like the Tour de France, the stakes have always been high, and as such, so has the competition and the desire to win. I mean, if you don't have a point to prove and you're not fighting – either for yourself or your leader – really, what the hell are you doing in a sport as viciously contested as professional cycling, where bunch sprints often resemble a cockfight on wheels?

And it's debatable whether cycling today is more dangerous than it was last century, as Cavendish argued. With mandatory helmet use, improved bicycle technology and superior communication, it could well be asserted it is, in fact, much safer.

Pressure is par for the course: it is part of what makes riders like Cavendish and Alberto Contador thrive, and others crumble. It's often why I continue to be in awe of their feats, albeit with a good dose of cynicism thrown in, should I later learn that the integrity of those results be under scrutiny. But you hardly blame Wouter Weylandt's fatal crash at the Giro or Mauricio Soler's death-defying spill at the Tour de Suisse or any other crash on the media. (Unless on the rare occasion a press moto loses it on a descent with the bunch right behind, or a cameraman jumps out in the middle of the road too soon after a bunch finish.)

As Cadel Evans told me a month after Weylandt's death, "Without risks in life, I think it would be difficult to have a 'life'. On the other side, Wouter's very sad passing has highlighted the risks of our profession. Am I scared? Yes, but mostly of the bad drivers on the road we encounter regularly out training."

I have no doubt Cav's feelin' under the pump right now. Though it comes more from speculation he will not take a salary from HTC-High Road owner Bob Stapleton next season, but instead be an employee of Team Sky, where he is rumoured to have signed a pre-contract for £1.5 million (roughly A$2.3M) a year from 2012 onwards.

Stapleton, after months and months and months of denying requests for comment about his team's future, finally gave an interview to AFP last week, confirming what most of us knew all along. "If we haven't secured a sponsor by the end of the Tour de France," warned the charismatic Californian businessman-entrepreneur, "we will have to sit down and start considering how to wind down operations. The world's best team, a leader in the sport for the past several years, needs a title partner."

Again, this pressure comes not from the media, but simply from the situation at hand: HTC-High Road riders will need to perform at this year's Tour to either secure that title sponsor Stapleton so desperately seeks, or to make sure they're not without a job in 2012. The only way to do that is to ride their socks off. The media coverage, should they accomplish their goals, will only aid their cause, bloggers included.

As Daniel Friebe, the journalist closest to Cavendish, wrote of the Manxman in this year's Tour de France guide, "Logic suggests that at some point during the 2011 race, the world's fastest and most emotional sprinter will be upset about something."

Before a pedal's been turned, it appears Cav's already a little upset and emotional. But as history has shown, that only seems to help him.

Question is, will it help save HTC-High Road?

P.S. Apart from my usual reporting duties, I'll be a-blogging, a-podcasting and a-Twittering during this year's Tour, dissecting the world's greatest bike race in every which way imaginable. Just to piss Cav' off, of course.

Follow Anthony on Twitter: @anthony_tan