Thursday, 23 June 2011

"A lot of risks are being taken," warns Cav

Mark Cavendish, often called the fastest man on two wheels, has warned that the pressure to achieve high results in professional cycling is so great that the sport is becoming too dangerous.

"These days, the results appear on the Internet so fast, without a report of what actually happened, everybody's got a point to prove," he told The Independent newspaper. "They're fighting and fighting and fighting - there's a real pressure to deliver and a lot of risks are being taken in the peloton."

Manx Missile Cavendish says pressure to appear in the top classification is so great
that riders are taking dangerous risks.
There have been two well-publicised accidents in cycling this year. The first claimed the life of 26-year-old Belgian Wouter Weylandt after he crashed at 70kmph in the Giro d'Italia. The most recent involved 28-year-old Mauricio Soler, who remains in intensive care with serious brain injuries after a crash in the Tour de Suisse but is no longer in a medically-induced coma. Fabio Casartelli died aged just 24 in an 88kmph crash in the 1995 Tour de France. Injuries are par for the course in cycling - almost all professionals and the majority of amateurs will be forced to spend at least some time out of the saddle due to accidents. Doping takes its toll too - the most notable victim being Tom Simpson in 1967 on Mont Ventoux, but there are many others who have done themselves damage by resorting to drugs when they couldn't find the strength to push that little bit harder. Twelve professionals have died in races since 2000. Seventeen others have been killed "during training or another reason related to cycling" over the same period according to Wikipedia.

Cycling has always been thus: Henri Desgrange, organiser of the Tour de France in the earliest days of the race, verged on the sadistic in his efforts to find and introduce harder and harder stages. He once claimed that, for him, the ideal Tour would be one in which only one rider finished, in other words one in which all others fell by the wayside. Some races, such as the infamous Paris-Roubaix which has earned the sobriquet "the Hell of the North," seem designed to put the riders though as much agony in conditions as dangerous as possible. Endurance races such as The Race Across America encourage cyclists to continue until exhaustion makes it impossible to go any further by timing constantly so that some riders go without sleep.

What can be done? It's this very hardship that makes cycling the unique, testing, punishing and rewarding sport that it is. Without danger, it would not attract the passionate superheroes that it does and would be a very different, less interesting thing.

The Independent states that Cavendish blames bloggers. However, his statement that "A lot of the journalism is quite bloggy, opinions rather than facts, and riders try to get in the results to impress those journalists" would seem to suggest that he's actually blaming professional journalists who write like many bloggers, not those bloggers themselves. Nevertheless, cycling blogs - including this one - should understand that what we write does get read and sometimes even forms opinion, so we do have a duty to make use of facts. We're amateurs, but it may be up to us to show the journalists how to be professional.


  1. Fantastic. It's the internet's fault.

  2. Heheheh. Isn't everything these days? PS - you're my first commentor. That means I've got to buy you a beer. :-)