Saturday 19 January 2013

"What is the Tour of FRANCE doing on British roads?"

As anyone with any interest in it whatsoever will already know, Stage 3 of the 2014 Tour de France is to start in Cambridge before heading into London for the end of the British leg of the race. Good reason for my much elation among Cantabrigian cycling fans - and, since the Tour brings with it vast numbers of money-spending tourists and is watched by an estimated 3.5 billion people around the world, good news for Cantabrigians in general, non?

Apparently not, going by some of the comments to have appeared alongside local paper Cambridge News' articles reporting the announcement. Of course, there are the usual trolls that will already be familiar to any regular readers, making the same tired comments they make every time there's a story even vaguely related to bikes and cycling, but in among them are some more interesting comments. Reading through them it becomes clear that, despite the race having existed for more than a century and despite it being arguably the biggest sporting event the world has ever seen, a surprisingly high number of people know virtually nothing about it.

Here's a selection, with answers and explanations by me.

Better get the roads fixed up first before Cambridge faces more law suits for injuries sustained from....

3.5 billion people around the world watch the Tour. Many thousands will travel from other parts of Britain and overseas to see the stage. Cambridge Council - just like French councils, when they hear the Tour is to pay them a visit - won't want to look like it can't look after the roads it's supposed to maintain. So they'll fix 'em, just like the French councils do. Better roads; good for drivers and cyclists alike.

Great, a pile of cyclists and roads closed disrupting everyones day. Just what we need.

The Tour de France was first held in 1903 and has been held every year since with the exception of  1915-1918 and 1940-1946. 2014 will, therefore, be the 101st edition of the race. The people who organise it and make it happen have become extremely good at making sure it goes ahead with the absolute minimum of disruption, attained by a system of rolling road blocks (in which police clear a section of road that moves with the peloton and support vehicles. As cycling fans are aware, watching a race involves several hours of waiting around followed by a few seconds of excitement - since the peloton is generally moving at around 30-35kph, it's gone as soon as it arrives. With the exception of the location of the Tour Village, road blocks will last very little time. The Village, the travelling infrastructure of the Tour, requires some time to be packed up onto trucks; however, since organisers need to get it to London in time for the end of the stage and then load it onto ferries before heading back to France, it too will cause very little disruption.

Well they won't have to worry about potholes in the roads, as most will be riding on the pavement.

Why would they ride on the pavement? Secondly, how would they when all those thousands of fans are crowding onto the pavement to see the race go by?

Let's see them go over the cobbles outside King's. (Note: there is a short and not very rough section of cobbles outside King's College.)

Call those cobbles? Google "Paris-Roubaix" and see the sort of road surfaces the riders face in that race - there's a very good reason it's sometimes called A Sunday In Hell. Many of the riders on the Tour will have ridden Paris-Roubaix or the same cobbled roads during one of the years when the Tour used them. If they can cope with the notorious cobbles of the Trouée d'Arenberg, where careers are broken as regularly as bones, they're really not going to be flustered by the cobbles at King's.

So, a great benefit to Cambridge, eh! As I don't own a shop or an hotel,can I assume all this additional income will be distributed by reducing my Council Tax in 2014? 

Good publicity for Cambridge doesn't pay my bill at the supermarket every week. It's only good for the people who own Cambridge, not us poor "plebs".

tell me how this pile of garbage is going make me better off.Are they going to pay my council tax for using our roads? Are they going to pay my fuel bill for my 4x4 sitting in traffic. Are they going to pay medical bills when they get ploughed over by frustrated drivers

Now. I'm no economist. However, even I can understand that when a city or region gets a massive injection of cash, it benefits all of its inhabitants. The two authors of these three comments are quite right that their council tax bills won't be reduced, but when Mr. and Mrs. Hotel Owner find they've got a few extra thousand quid in their bank account, they'll start spending more - in local shops, restaurants and so on. That way, the money that the cycling fans bring with them and spend here eventually makes its way down to all of us, even us poor plebs. Secondly, riders' medical bills are paid for by their insurance - cycling is a very, very dangerous sport, so much so that professional riders are estimated to have a 1 in 4 chance of spending time in hospital with a serious injury each year. If injured, they're whisked off to see private specialists rather than to a bed in the nearest hospital. Also, they're not going to be ploughed over by frustrated drivers - we're talking about a major international event, as big as the Olympics, with phalanxes of police officers, police cars and the Tour's own security making sure the race and cars are kept separate.

OMG thats all we need a load of illegal immigrants riding through our streets causing havoc. Cant we just sink all ships coming from france and go on strike at airports on the days they arrive .hahha give them dose of own medicine. Havent we got enough problems without importing more. who pays for there medical if get injured? us mugs again

Perhaps it might be wise to learn what the term "illegal immigrant" means before using it? As for medical bills, see above.

Great! Another bunch of drug users in the city, just what we need!!

A load of mad cyclists piling through the city out of their heads on drugs. . .well that will be novel. See it every day!

This should give the drug dealers of Cambridge a welcome boost in these dificult times. Good old Lance

The one thing that people who don't follow professional cycling all know about the sport is that all the riders are on drugs. Erm, the problem is that all the evidence suggests that in actual fact, very few of the riders are on drugs. Granted, not very long ago doping was an epidemic in cycling; two scandals within a decade of one another - the Festina Affair and Operacion Puerto - exposed the dark side of the sport and came very, very close to finishing off the Tour and professional cycling forever. So, cycling responded. The UCI, cycling's international governing body, introduced new rules designed to prevent cheating and catch dopers; now, professional cyclists face far more stringent and regular testing than any other athletes. According to Jonathan Vaughters, manager of the professional Garmin-Sharp team, the 400 riders that make up the 20 ProTour teams (teams that receive an automatic invitation to compete in the Tour) are subjected to 35,000 tests each year - that's around 88 tests per rider, or one test every four days. Perhaps that's why in 2012 only four riders (Ivailo Gabrovski, Frank Schleck, Steve Hounouard, Denis Galimzyanov) tested positive - the tests, and the harsh punishments for those who fail them, have left cycling as one of the cleanest sports around.

Secondly, street drug dealers tend to sell stuff like cannabis, heroin, crack, cocaine, amphetamines and so on. All of those have been used as doping agents in the past, but for years dopers have tended to favour substances such as erythropoietin and red cell-rich blood (either their own or someone else's) - in other words, not things commonly sold ten quid per bag on street corners.

cyclopunkcam: What I know about doping in cycling, I know from Tim Moore's book French Revolutions. From talking to various experts, he draws the conclusion that there are two kinds of winner in the Tour de France: those who take detectable drugs and those who take undetectable ones. Certainly, the majority of winners since 1980 have been caught, which is hardly encouraging!

That's a bloody good book and a superb introduction to the Tour and its history. It's very funny, too. However, two things must be remembered: Tim Moore is a travel writer, not a cycling historian, as he'd probably be the first to admit. Also, French Revolutions was published in 2001, more than a decade ago and before Operacion Puerto. A very great deal has changed - new laws have been put into place and new testing techniques have been developed. have the majority of winner since 1980 been caught out?

Let's see: Joop Zoetemelk won in 1980 and failed enough tests in his career to assume he may have had a little help that year, even though the tests he underwent revealed nothing. Bernard Hinault won in 1981, 1982 and again in 1986 (and in 1978 and 1979, too) - he never tested positive and is a very vocal opponent of doping. Laurent Fignon won in 1983 and 1984 and also never tested positive, though he later admitted to using amphetamines and steroids. If there was ever a rider who didn't dope, it's Greg LeMond, winner in 1986, 1989 and 1990 - LeMond's is probably the loudest of those voices to speak up against doping and he has repeatedly cast aspersions against riders he believes to be dopers: something he wouldn't do if he had anything to hide. In 1987 Stephen Roche became the only Irishman to have won the Tour. No physical proof that Roche doped has ever been found, though an Italian court found convincing evidence to suggest he did. Pedro Delgado won in 1988, despite having tested positive for a drug called Probencid, which is used to treat gout but also disguises the presence of steroids - however, at that time, Probnecid was not on the list of banned substances; though he is therefore officially not a cheat, as he was not suffering from gout there seems no reason not to consider him guilty of doping. Miguel Indurain won five times in a row from 1991 to 1995 - Indurain tested positive for bronchodilator Salbutamol, but had ingested the drug via his asthma medication and cannot be considered a doper. In 1996, Bjarne Riis won; in 2007 he admitted he had doped. In 1997 Jan Ullrich won - there is no doubt that he too was a doper. Marco Pantani, Il Pirata, won in 1998 - Pantani died of a cocaine overdose a few years later, but with the exception of one occasion with the now discredited 50% haematocrit test (which took a count of red blood cells in an attempt to reveal not proof but evidence of a possibility that a rider had used blood doping or EPO), he was never caught using drugs during a race. A certain Texan won seven Tours in a row from 1999 to 2006; following his confession there us no doubt that he doped and he has been stripped of his victories as a result. In 2007, Oscar Pereiro won; like Indurain, Pereiro tested positive for Salbutamol - and provided proof that, as an asthmatic, he had been prescribed the drug by a doctor and was not a doper. Carlos Saste, winner in 2008, never tested positive nor came under suspicion in all of his fourteen years as a professional rider. Alberto Contador won in 2007, 2009 and 2010, but later tested positive for a bronchodilator called Clenbuterol. The amount found in his body was too small to have had any effect and, although he was declared guilty due to being unable to prove that he'd ingested the drug in contaminated beef, the Court for Arbitration in Sport believed that he had probably ingested it in a contaminated food supplement rather than deliberately. He cannot, therefore, be considered a doper; however, he was stripped of his 2010 victory which was then awarded to Andy Schleck, who has never failed a test. Cadel Evans, another vocal opponent of doping, won in 2011 and has never failed a test, nor has 2012 winner Bradley Wiggins.

So, of the 17 riders to have won the Tour de France since 1980, seven were caught out as dopers. Three - Indurain, Pantani and Contador - are questionable; seven appear above beyond suspicion - it is not true that the majority of Tour winners since 1980 are guilty of doping. It's also notable that, if we consider Contador not guilty of intentional doping (as the CAS did, following a very lengthy investigation), then no doper has won the Tour since Armstrong's final victory in 2006. Things are, apparently, getting better.

Will they have to have lights on their bikes?

Unlikely. The Tour takes place in daylight hours, on closed roads.

Tour de France.....???? The clue is in the name..... Sod off back to France...

What is the Tour of FRANCE doing on British roads? Have they run out of roads or something. Surely we should be having the Tour of BRITAIN.

I wouldn't want to label the author of the first comment as a racist because I don't know him or her and, well, it's not a very nice thing to call someone. All the same, if he wants Britain to get rid of all foreign inventions, he'd better stop posting comments on the Internet - it was invented in the USA. He'd better stop using his computer too, because bits and pieces of it will have been made in countries other than this one across the world. If it's only French things he dislikes, he'd better never take or look at a photograph ever again, stop going to the cinema, uninstall DivX from his computer, avoid using anything made of latex, never use a taxi - or a normal car, since the French invented the internal combustion engine, take the pneumatic tyres off his steam-powered external combustion engine car, remove any laminated glass and ball bearings from the car too, never wear jeans or anything else made of denim, rely on his brain for maths rather use a calculator (he can use a pencil to work out the sums, but only until it goes blunt - they invented the pencil sharpener), take his chances with rabies and tuberculosis since he can't have the vaccinations, not take any antibiotics, refuse any blood and bone marrow transfusions he might need in the future - oh, and ask his dentist to only use medieval methods, since the French developed modern dentistry.

So what is the Tour doing in British roads? Well, it's recognising the fact that Bradley Wiggins became the first ever British winner last year. It's also acknowledging British cycling fans - and since we pay just as much "road tax" as drivers do (the cost of building and maintaining roads being met by council tax, rather than Vehicle Excise Duty) and, like every other tax payer in the country, stump up more cash to cover the extra £9 billion needed to build and maintain roads that isn't raised from taxes on fuel and new car sales, why shouldn't we be allowed to have an opportunity to see our sport's greatest race take place over here?

 In fact, it's not at all unusual for the Tour to visit foreign lands - the first time it did so was in 1906, when it dipped into German-controlled Alsace-Lorraine. Foreign visits have become a tradition; the 2013 race will be the first held entirely in France for ten years and 2014 will be the third time the Tour has been to Britain. And, as all cycling fans are aware, there's already a Tour of Britain. It's been around in one form or another since 1945, when it was called the Victory Marathon.

Yorkshire councils are spending 6.5 MILLION of council tax payers money to host this event. No wonder the tax continues to rise while councillors waste taxpayers money on fripperies like this. Anyone any idea whether Cambridgeshire taxpayers are going to foot some of this bill?

If ever there was proof that it's a good idea to finish reading a news report before getting into an irate rage, this is it. Had the author have taken the time to read a little more, he'd have been aware that although Yorkshire Council are paying £6.5 million to host their two stages, they stand to make £100 million. That's a profit of £93.5 million - you don't need an economics degree to know that makes sound financial sense. Cambridge is hosting the start of one stage and the race will spend only a short time on Cambridgeshire roads before moving into Essex and then into London, meaning that the costs of policing etc. will be much lower - while the profits remain high.

No comments:

Post a Comment