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Posted on: 10th October 2015

Tour de France 2016

The Tour de France Route announcement is upon us. At the end of my pro career I scratched about for a bit and began a business as a tour operator. I had found my way of staying engaged with the sport and a way to share some of my own experiences with friends and guests.

At seasons end the preparation for the next buzzes on the backburner, contracts are confirmed and a break is essential. Not much has changed as my business cycle follows the same season.

Some riders will end a season at the end of the Tour de France, spent, having raced hard since January, burning the wick at the Giro and Le Tour. Contador aspired to line up for 2 Grand Tours wins but the modern era does not hand over successive wins readily. Froome too was gritting his teeth on the slopes of the Alpe d’Huez, burning out each team Sky super domestique until there was only Richie left as he sought to limit losses to the ever ready Nairo Quintana nipping at his heels. 

Froome didn’t have the Vuelta on his dance card at the end of Le Tour and to be honest I am not sure what was behind him lining up for La Vuelta 4 weeks later. Publicity!

For many the Worlds is the final sortie of the season and depending on your goals and style of racing it is either in or out of the program. It is of course a significant race and for me there was rarely an opportunity to race as a patriot. The worlds and end of season were more about, time off and the races were fun as riders spirits were high, the pressure off.

That wind down has changed significantly and where I too had had my final say just a week or too ago I now feel compelled to have just one more rant, the subject, Global Warming.

The tour du Abu Dhabi gave the moniker Aussie team a tour win with the charismatic Esteban Chaves taking the title in convincing form. The season has also shown some holes in Orica GreenEdge with many Aussies moving on but that is for another discussion.

The Tour of Abu Dhabi was delivered by RCS sport (Giro) in hot and I would have thought terrible conditions to race in. More than one stage was shortened due to the heat and there was much grumbling in the background despite our focus on world champions in white lycra on camels.

Globalisation of cycling is important, needed even but with the UCI president embarrassingly looking for contingency plans for the 2017 World Championships in Abu Dhabi next year one has to question the judgement of our governing body in allocating the event to the region. Do any of these decision makers ride a bike?

I am not sure that there is a big cycling community in the Arab Emirates. I can’t imagine riding in 50C heat, let alone train, let alone race. I get it, the dollars are important to the UCI but at what cost – to the riders and in fact the sport.

Back in 2008 I sat on the World Championship committee for the 2010 Worlds in Geelong. I remember the hoops we had to jump through, minimum road widths (4m) removal of road furniture, install a new bridge, all to satisfy the UCI. Interestingly, the Championship held the previous year in Switzerland (home of UCI) had a short fast section on a road less than 2.45m wide that was tolerated and proved to be advantageous to Cadel.

I hope the selection of Abu Dhabi for the site of the 2017 worlds proves not to be unfortunate. The significance of the stripes suggests the race needs to be run to standard, the victor truly a champion of what will be a race run in horrendous conditions. As a pro with ambitions to win any race, conditions are always horrendous. The Abu Dhabi course sounds like it just will be a terrible race where everyone just tinkles around until the last lap, survival the key and one where the sprinters will have their day in a spectacular dash. Can’t imagine how boring the commentating will be.

Perhaps a solution is to run the race at night but this would possibly impact too much on TV coverage and revenue that is highly sort after by the UCI.

On balance the race may be one that is fun to ride, tired riders will make plans for holidays on a day in the sun where there will be no expectation to win, you can’t win them all and the precious off season will be foremost in their minds. Joking and jostling as you lap the course, my feet burning instead of freezing I would be planning my summer sortie in Australia, away from the limelight of Europe. 

At the end of the day there is sure to be a grand party with dignitaries flown in from around the world for the Global Cycling Awards. Everyone would pat each other on the back and the UCI coffers would be a little fuller. And for 2018 back to China!

Written by Phil Anderson

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