Do you wanna be in my team?

It’s that time of year when sports people, including cyclists, are picking up awards, left, right and centre. So I thought I would join in by nominating my cycling team of the year. I should stress that there will, alas, be no glittering award ceremony, no trophies and no champagne.  Though if any of them cares to pop around in the off-season, I will be happy to crack open a bottle of my favourite beverage. The awards will, like all these awards, be totally subjective and will involve one, well-known judge – me.

The criteria for selection to Sheree’s Superteam of 15 riders are multitudinous; but being hardworking and having a cute smile will certainly put you in the mix. I had to apply a numerical limit otherwise I’d have found it hard to stop and, before you know it, everyone would be on my team. So in no particular order, here are the winners:-

Alberto ” Big Brown Eyes” Contador: What girl wouldn’t want this year’s Tour winner on her team. Bert makes the cut thanks to his stoicism in the face of relentless provocation. Yes, he let his legs do the talking.

Tom “Bad Boy” Boonen:

Tom and Susi
Tom with my friend Susi

Not his most glittering season – true – but as the winner of the first cycling race I ever saw (TdF Stage 6, 2004), Tom is guaranteed a place on my team whatever. I should add that Tom is very popular with the ladies, whether or not they’re cycling fans. It’s hard to explain his allure but suffice to say he’s a man who looks damm good in lycra.

Cadel “Cuddles” Evans: For attacking and  proving everyone wrong on his home turf (Mendrisio) and having the “guts” to leave the comfort zone of Silence-Lotto for a team (BMC) which may or may not ride in next year’s Tour.

“Fabulous” Fabian Cancellara: He showed everyone how to win a World Championship time-trial (again) with style, panache, power and with room to spare.

Sammy “Gold Medal” Sanchez: Yes, the Olympic Champion makes the cut too mainly because he’s a joy to watch going downhill and he’s nearly always got a great smile on his face.    

Philippe “Pants on Fire” Gilbert: I just couldn’t leave out the man who singlehandedly hoovered up four wins in a row at the end of the season. Plus, he’s another one with a cute smile.

Barbie Barbie
Barbie Barbie

Heinrich “Barbie Barbie” Haussler: Probably, the best smile in the peloton. That’s right, no other reason.

Alexandre “He’s Back, He’s Attacking” Vinokourov: He’s done his time, he’s back and he’s launching those trademark attacks which make him so popular with cycling fans.  

Johnny “Off the Front Again” Hoogerland: I appreciate that after the Vuelta and World Championships, Johnny’s fans are now legion. Almost single-handedly he justified Vacansoleil’s invitation to the Vuelta. Will this, plus the freres Feuillu, be enough to guarantee a Tour invite next year? We all hope so. 

Mark “Manx Missile” Cavendish: The fastest man on two bicycle wheels for giving me bragging rights down at the cycling club. Long may it continue.

Bradley “So-Skinny” Wiggins: For proving to me incontestably that if I lose weight I too will climb faster, though probably not as fast as Brad.  

Jens “Hardman” Voigt: A huge favourite among cycling fans for his unstinting team work. I still wince at the thought of his face plant in this year’s Tour. I also love the way the French announcers say his name “Jen-sa Voy-te”.

Kenny “Never Say Die” van Hummel: Another one who won over fans with his determination to pretty much daily beat the cut off in this year’s Tour; often after riding most of the parcours on his own. A sight we will probably be denied in next year’s Tour.

Jose Vicente “Really Long Name” Garcia Acosta: He’s finished 25 Grand Tours and he’s Valverde’s faithful and untiring domestique. This man can ride tempo all day and for that he gets on my team.

Bernard “Faithful” Eisel: The man charged with shepherding the Manx Missile to within sniffing distance of the finish line: yet another upstanding lieutenant for the team. 

David “Dodgy Bike Handler” Moncoutie: You’re probably wondering why he makes my team. It’s partly because of his climbing ability but largely because, like me, his bike handling skills leave a lot to be desired.

Now those of you who can count are possibly wondering why, when I said a team of 15, there are 16 names. Obviously, I have one reserve rider.

My team will be managed by Bob Stapleton, head of the most successful team of the last couple of years, Columbia-HTC, but they’re going to be wearing Cervelo kit;CERVELO easily the nicest and most flattering, even in white and, like me, riding BMC bikes. That’s, regrettably, where the similarities start and end.

Relegation woes

A week or so ago Pat McQuaid, UCI Head Honcho, talked about the bar being raised for acquisition/retention/renewal of a Pro-Tour licence. It now appears that this bar is results based with financial, ethical and political considerations. The two bottom ranked squads, Bbox and Cofidis, are being denied renewal of their licence based on their lowly UCI ranking (see table below). The lowest ranked Pro-Tour team Fuji Servetto is apparantly re-inventing itself as Footon Servetto, leaving the two formerly mentioned teams in the relegation zone, although, critically, their place is assured in next year’s Grand Tours. Unsurprisingly, their top riders are already talking about jumping ship while team managers are putting on brave faces and sponsors are standing firm.

Lampre’s licence has been (provisionally) renewed for the next 4 years and Milram’s (the only German Pro-Tour team) for next season. Astana’s is under review in the light of the financial issues earlier in the season.

On the other hand, Pro-Continental teams Cervelo, Diquigiovanni and Acqua & Sapone, on account of their league spots, will gain automatic entry into Pro-Tour events. This rather begs the question of why should one bother paying the additional costs inherent in a Pro-Tour licence.

Add in new teams Sky (licence confirmed) and The Shack (licence pending) and one is back to 20 top teams with automatic entry into Pro-Tour events, though not all those organised by ASO, Unipublic or RCS. This could leave slim pickings for Pro-Continental teams such as Vacansoleil, Skil Shimano and BMC who have all strengthened their squads in the hope and expectation of clearing the bar.

UCI Rankings

1 ASTANA 1100
2 CAISSE D’EPARGNE 1048
3 TEAM COLUMBIA – HTC 957
4 TEAM SAXO BANK 941
5 LIQUIGAS 923
6 CERVELO TEST TEAM 804
7 QUICK STEP 760
8 SILENCE-LOTTO 717
9 RABOBANK 667
10 TEAM KATUSHA 637
11 GARMIN – SLIPSTREAM 612
12 EUSKALTEL – EUSKADI 551
13 LAMPRE – N.G.C 465
14 SERRAMENTI PVC DIQUIGIOVANNI-ANDRONI GIOCATTOLI 379
15 FRANÇAISE DES JEUX 238
16 AG2R LA MONDIALE 206
17 ACQUA & SAPONE – CAFFE MOKAMBO 189
18 TEAM MILRAM 182
19 BBOX BOUYGUES TELECOM 170
20 COFIDIS, LE CREDIT EN LIGNE 166

Weapon of choice

I would have liked to be able to report that during the Vuelta my hors categorie ironing mountain has been much reduced; but that would be a lie. If anything it’s grown and having sorted it into various piles, in an effort to make it look as if I’ve done something, it now closely resembles a Vuelta

Stage 12 Almeira - Velefique or piles of ironing. You choose
Stage 12 Almeira - Velefique or piles of ironing. You choose

parcours, not dissmilar to this.  The small 3rd category climb is my pile of ironing while the remaining peaks are my husband’s. I have yet to figure out how this man generates so much ironing. I can only give thanks that his favoured sport of the moment (cycling) has kit which does not need ironing. A major improvement on tennis and golf where both kits have to be ironed. In addition, it requires some ingenuity to restore the snowy whiteness of tennis attire after he’s played on clay courts. It’s probably no different to dealing with the cycling attire of teams Francaise des Jeux, Columbia-HTC and Cervelo after a day riding in the rain. I wonder what they use? My weapon of choice is low temperature Ariel, plus Vanish (for whites), on a long, cool wash-cycle.