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David L. Stanley

2018: Four Thoughts on the Early Season

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David L StanleyDavid Stanley is an experienced cycling writer. His work has appeared in Velo, Velo-news.com, Road, Peloton, and the late, lamented Bicycle Guide (my favorite all-time cycling magazine). He blogs regularly for Dads Roundtable. Here's his Facebook page. He is also a highly regarded voice artist with many audiobooks to his credit, including McGann Publishing's The Olympics' 50 Craziest Stories and Cycling Heroes. And there is his masterful telling of his bout with skin cancer, "Melanoma: It Started With a Freckle".

 

March 5, 2018. Four thoughts on the early season.

Thought #1: Team SKY’s marginal gains are marginal cheats.

In 2003, Dave Brailsford became the Performance Director at British Cycling. In the 2004 Olympic Games, Team GB won two golds, their best performance since 1908. Along the way, his riders have had remarkable results. He claimed it was based on ‘marginal gains.’ As Brailsford explained in a 2012 interview with BBC Sports:

The whole principle came from the idea that if you broke down everything you could think of that goes into riding a bike, and then improved it by 1%, you will get a significant increase when you put them all together.

Many of us were happy to believe in this plausible and clean method of performance enhancement. Today, it strains belief that more than 10% of still believe that a clean pillow, a tasty biscuit with one’s tea, and several sets of intervals at a power level determined by a Cray supercomputer are sufficient to create the finest teams of Tour de France riders in history.

Take your pick: the Brave Brave Sir Wiggo packages, the Froomination of the unfortunate salbutamol inconsistencies, and the latest – the testosterone patch mishegoss (a Yiddish term that means crazy, senseless behavior) – they all begin to add up to another team-instituted doping deus ex machina devised by Brailsford as he took over for Peter Keen at the turn of the century.  Marginal gains are now measured in micrograms.

Thought #2: Good-bye to podium girls

With podium girls going the way of comfortable air travel and AOL dial-up, we can move into the 21st century. As a 20-something racer in the 1980s, the idea of young women for rent and display at the end of each stage made me uncomfortable. As I aged into elder statesman status, I came to realize that there was no reason other than the stand-by “Sex Sells” for those women to be on the podium. If local dignitaries can fire the start pistol and drop the flag, if a favored ex-racer can wave to the crowd from the chief commissaire’s vehicle in front of the race, then certainly those same good people can step forward to hand out the flowers, the cheese, the dairy cattle, the stuffed lion, and perhaps a nice check to the racers who earn the podium.

Podium girls

Change is coming...

How many of the podium women have a #MeToo story (or perhaps #MoiAussi) to share? Probably all of them. Kudos to ASO for a class move.

Thought #3: When it comes to US Cycling, it’s a woman’s world.

Chloe Dygert just shattered the 3,000 meter pursuit record at the World’s in Appeldorn. She chopped off 2 seconds and recorded a 3:20.1 in a qualifying heat. Let me do the math for you. That’s 33.55 mph average speed. Nest time you’re driving at 35 mph, stick your head out the window-You don’t ride that fast, do you? Whose record did she break? Sarah Hammer’s record. Another American.

Top US finisher in Strade Bianche’s muck and mire on Mar? That’d be a stellar Megan Guarnier in 12th place. Top US man? Alex Howes, who rode a strong race to grab 43rd. Howes is the real deal, do not bet against him in any of the spring Classics, yet Guarnier was in the race until the final attack.

Who snagged a silver medal at cyclocross World’s just a few weeks back? That’d be Katie Compton. Since 2012, she has stood on the podium at 21 UCI World Cup events. Stephen Hyde rode a solid race to finish 15th ahead of a boatload of seriously talented and supported Euro-pros. He’s gonna be something. When he grabs his first World Cup win, he’ll be just 24 WC wins behind Compton.

Yes, I get it. The men’s talent pool is much larger and top shelf results are more difficult on raw numbers alone. My point is not to compare apples and oranges.

My point is that the US women are kicking ass and taking names and you should take notice. Get to your local race a little early. Choose a favorite woman and make some noise. Get your friends cheering for someone else. Make a few wagers. These women are good. They are the faces of US cycling in 2018. Not only do they deserve our support, they are exciting to watch.

And no, you cannot climb the Mur de Grammont as fast as Carman Small unless you’re holding onto a motorbike and the only way you’re as fast as Coryn Rivera over the last 200 meters of a hard criterium is with a bungee cord.

Thought #4: Balance is everything.

Yesterday’s Strade Bianche was beyond epic. Legendary. Heroic. I’ve been touting ’18 as Benoot’s breakthrough year via Twitter (@dstan58) since December of ’17. Thankful that I no longer race in conditions like that, it was lovely to sit on my couch, dogs at my feet, coffee at hand, and watch 300 Herculean cyclists take on the mud and gravel, rain and wind.

Strade Bianche

Hard way to make a buck...

All who finished are my new heroes, but none more than Romain Bardet. His thoughts at the end of a 5 hour cyclocross race: “I’ll be back for sure. It’s pure cycling here…I like Italian races, Italian culture and Italian food," Bardet said. "There's some good wine in Montalcino near here and so it was the perfect way to buy some good Brunello wine, taste some good wine and spend time with my family. And also be 100 per cent focused on the race."

Bardet is from Brioude, in the Loire department, in the Auvergne. They’ve been making wine there since the 5th century. The man knows his stuff. Save a few pennies and treat yourself to a bottle of Brunello. It tastes like Bardet climbs. Heavenly.

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