Friday, April 8, 2011

Theme: Spoiled Riders and No Machismo

A theme has been bubbling up from the old guard: today's riders are spoiled and lack machismo.

Here is Cipollini commenting back in December, 2010:
Mario Cipollini has launched a stinging attack on what he called the lack of machismo in modern cycling. The Italian, who recently joined the Katusha team as a consultant, said that he is bemused by the reaction of certain riders in the current peloton to defeat.

“I lived a very different cycling,” Cipollini told L’Equipe. “At the beginning of a sprint, I felt like a gladiator, ready to do anything to keep my place. And when I lost, I wasn’t capable of going to congratulate whoever had beaten me, like Andy Schleck did at the Tour. Me, I’d hate him because he’d taken the bread from my mouth.”

The friendship between Andy Schleck and Alberto Contador is something that Cipollini finds difficult to fathom and he echoed the thoughts of the late Laurent Fignon on the aftermath of the “Chaingate” incident.

“Seeing Schleck and Contador embrace on the Tourmalet after crossing the line and then seeing Contador affectionately pinch Schleck’s cheek during his interview was unreal for me,” Cipollini exclaimed. “Logically, Schleck should have been raging, he had just lost the Tour after all.

“After the chain slip incident on the Port de Balès, he should have attacked the Spaniard day after day, in front of the microphones and on the air too, without giving him time to piss!”

Nor did Alberto Contador escape Cipollini’s criticism. “Machismo is disappearing, I can’t find it in Contador,” he complained. “Contador has the anonymous face of a surveyor or an accountant.”

Cipollini was also left bemused by the reaction of Italian leader Filippo Pozzato at the end of the world championships road race in Geelong.

“Pozzato has just been beaten for third place and a second later he has only one idea in his mind, to congratulate the winner,” Cipollini said incredulously. “What can be going on in his head? Has winning become so incidental at this point that there is no joy or disappointment? Are they only working men now?”

“I read an interview with Umberto Veronesi, a scientist, a reputed oncologist and Minister for Health,” Cipollini continued. “In five hundred years or more, human beings might have both sets of genitalia, male and female. I don’t want this evolution to have started already in cycling…”

Cipollini admitted to being far more expressive when he was defeated and he believes that the riches now on offer to top cyclists mean that the edges have softened on many rivalries.

“At the end of Milan-San Remo in 2003 I threatened to strangle Bernhard Eisel while shaking my fist because he had blocked me with 300 metres to go,” Cipollini recalled. “And I was really frightening. I could see it in the eyes of the spectators.

“I had the meanness in me and it was necessary. The others weren’t going to give me any gifts. In Flanders, on the Koppenberg, the gregari would throw themselves under your wheels to block your route. And if you were in a bad position 3km from the line, Kelly and Vanderaerden would start an echelon straight away to put you in the ditch. That was the rule.”

Kuiper comes out of retirement to prove a point...
Dutch legend Hennie Kuiper, the former Olympic and world professional road race champion, held a press conference on April 1st, 2011, in Amsterdam to announced that at nearly 63 years of age he is returning to the sport that he loves, not as a DS but as a rider – he said it a result of unfinished business, and to prove a point about some of what he calls "today’s crop of softies!".

The winner of four out of the five “Monument” classics and having ridden the Tour de France 12 times, finishing second twice and winning the stage to Alpe d'Huez on two occasions. Kuiper used the conference to announce his return and alongside the launch of the new Dutch team which he says will be made up of riders who in his words “are old enough to know how to suffer properly”. The squad, known as Vindmill Rossin, will be using the legendary Rossin bikes.

Here is Roger De Vlaeminck, four time Paris-Roubiax winner, in a recent interview with Gazzetta dello Sport (as reported by Stephen Farrand in
Tom Boonen could win Paris-Roubaix for a fourth time on Sunday, equalling the record of Belgian classics legend Roger De Vlaeminck. But that is where the similarities between the two Flemish riders go, according to De Vlaeminck in an interview with Gazzetta dello Sport, who predicts that Fabian Cancellara, rather than Boonen, could be the first to match his record.

Just like during his career in the 1970s, De Vlaeminck is not afraid to speak his mind about the current generation of ‘spoilt’ riders. He described Filippo Pozzato as ‘too good looking to be a rider’ and revealed he prefers French-speaking Philippe Gilbert to fellow Flandrian Boonen.

“It’s about time, considering the record has lasted for 34 years,” De Vlaeminck said bluntly about Boonen’s chances of winning a fourth Paris-Roubaix.

“But I think Cancellara will beat the record before Boonen does. He can win on Sunday by dropping Boonen. I like Cancellara, he attacks and races with panache. Everyone rode against him at Flanders, even the mechanics of the other teams who wouldn’t give him a bottle. That was scandalous. But he was the strongest. Boonen is a good rider but he’s not as strong as he once was.”

De Vlaeminck refutes the idea that he and Boonen are very similar as riders.

“How can you say that? He can’t climb and can’t time trial. Cancellara is good at time trials but can’t climb, so neither of them are like me. I was more like Merckx…

“I was a bandit. If Boonen is the God of Belgian cycling, then I’m the devil.

“Our generation was classier, too. Look at Saronni? He won the Giro at just 21. We always raced to get a result and me and Merckx fought even for the criteriums. These days they use 50 races a year as training. We were more complete and could win in a sprint, on a climb or in a time trial. And there were far stronger rivals. At Roubaix I was up against Moser, Maertens, Kuiper, Raas and Hinault. Today, apart from lucky cases like Nuyens at Flanders, there’s just Cancellara and Boonen.”

Despite being Flemish to the bone, De Vlaeminck admits he’s a fan of Philippe Gilbert, from the French-speaking Walloon part of Belgium, even if the Omega Pharma-Lotto rider always avoid the cobbles of Paris-Roubaix.

“I like Gilbert far more than I do Boonen. He’s a nice guy, kind and not at all big-headed. He races all year, right up to Lombardy and can win alone. I wish he’d try Paris-Roubaix. I’ve nothing against Boonen but you can’t be a fan of both of them in Belgium and I’m not going to change my mind.”

Gazzetta also asked De Vlaeminck about Filippo Pozzato. He dismisses the Italian with some hard truths and blunt criticism about owning a Ferrari.

“Pozzato was a champion when he was young and had more class than Boonen. I don’t know his problem but he’s lost a lot of time. He should be able to easily win Paris-Roubaix. His problem is that he’s too good looking to be a rider.”

“A Ferrari is not the car for a rider, it’s for a footballer. The boss of Brooklyn (Giorgio Perfetti) gave me a Ferrari when I won Milan-San Remo but I couldn’t get my bike in the boot and had to take the saddle off, which I then forgot at home. I sold it after a year.”

De Vlaeminck won 249 races during his 16-year career. He won all five monumental Classics but dismisses the idea that Cancellara can pull off the same achievement. He also has some choice words for modern-day directeur sportifs. His only involvement in cycling was as a mentor for some rider from Zimbabwe but watched the Tour of Flanders at home, claiming he had not been invited by the organisers.

“Cancellara better hurry up because he’s already 30. I think it’ll be hard for him, especially at Lombardy and I don’t think he can beat Gilbert at Liege,” De Vlaeminck said.

“I’m not interested in the ‘politics’ of cycling and I was tired of driving a team car at 30km/h behind the riders. I’m against race radio because the races are better without all the tactics but perhaps the directeur sportifs are scared of falling asleep.”


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  1. Ha Ha...Great story about old time bike racing. I like the part where De Vlaeminck says he forgot his saddle at home because he couldn't get it and his bike in the boot of the Ferrari he was given for winning Milan-San Remo. Bike wouldn't fit so he sold the car!

    Are you sure that press conference about Kuiper returning to racing at 63 was instead not on March 31st but April 1st? Sounds like an April Fools joke to me.

  2. @Robbin: ahhhh yes, the press conference was to be April 1st; Ive corrected it :-) :-)

  3. "Everyone rode against him [Cancellara] at Flanders, even the mechanics of the other teams who wouldn’t give him a bottle. That was scandalous"
    The video of Cancellara begging a borraccia from the roadside crew was shown on "Radio Corsa" RAI Sport2 Thursday evening. Hopefully he'll win Roubaix (though in the interview he said he doubted his chances).

  4. Some superb quotes assembled on one page. It makes for entertainment and the sport needs these characters. It was a shame to see Cancellara row back on his talk earlier this week; although I felt he crossed the line from entertainment to negative talk on Nuyens.

    As for the satisfaction gained today from third place, I'd look at the points and the contracts available. Whereas it might have been a failure to lose a race in the past, today a rider who regularly finishes in the top-10 can be assured of a very good salary.

  5. The "good old daze" get rather polished in the memory of most though we'd certainly like to see more pros RACE more races than they currently do. We're rooting for Boonen while trying to find a way to watch Paris-Roubaix without having to cough up $40 to CyclingTV! Sometimes the interest in a race like this (vs the Ronde which was available world-wide for free) works against the fan in the USA. Next year we'll be there in person and spend the $40 on beer and frites!