Cycling’s saviours

As I was scanning the news this week, an item caught my eye. Ben Spies, Moto GP Rookie of 2010, racing with his own Elbowz Racing Elite Cycling Team, had finished a very respectable 12th, and first in his category (Cat 2), in the 90 mile Copperas Cove Classic road race. Heath Blackgrove, a former New Zealand Road Race Champion, and leader of the team, finished atop the podium. 

Spies, nicknamed “Elbowz” because he rides his motor bike with his elbows sticking out,  set the team up this year which, while aiding development of local talent, will also support Spies’s pet charities. The team, a mixture of emerging talent and seasoned riders, will compete largely on the US Criterium circuit, as well as the odd UCI race, select US NRC and regional races. It’s a 2-tiered squad with a roster of  eight full-time elite riders and six locally based ones.

Of course, Spies is not the only speedster who enjoys taking to two non-motorised wheels. Alan Prost competes (and places well) in a number of cyclosportives, including L’Etape du Tour. Last year I had the not inconsiderable pleasure of riding from London to Paris in the company of Nigel Mansel who, you’ll be reassured to learn, is nothing like he’s portrayed in the advertisement for a comparison website. Seven times Rally World Champ Seb Loeb, I understand, is frequently found astride a cross country bike. Moreover, a year or so ago, I recall former F1 World Champion Fernando Alonso expressed a desire to set up his own ProTour Cycling Team.

Maybe, this is what cycling needs. A real shot in the arm. The boys on two and four motorised wheels earn enough to set up and run their own cycling teams. Plus, they could presumably tap into their existing network of sponsors. This would allow them to compete against one another all season, on and off the track, whatever the discipline. Loeb’s team pitted against Alonso’s, Spies’s and Rossi’s. Now that would be worth seeing. Move over Pat and make room for Bernie!

Spanish conquistadors

The weather this week end was bike friendly, enabling me to enjoy lengthy rides on both days. I rode on my own on Saturday as my beloved was still in the UK. Sunday, I teamed up with a couple of my clubmates to ride to the pointage in Cannes. The roads, in both directions, were thronged with cyclists, much to the annoyance of other road users: most notably our 4-wheeled friends.

After a good ride, there’s nothing better than a relaxing afternoon on the sofa watching someone else expend effort. This week end saw the climax of the Moto GP season in Valencia. Having caught some of last week’s action in the 125cc class, where the kid who won went from the back of the grid to atop the podium in impressive style, I decided to check out this week end’s Championship decider.

Marc Marquez, who had so impressed me last week, demonstrated he had an old head on very young shoulders (he’s only 17) by shadowing his nearest rival, Nico Terol, playing safe and leaving nothing to chance to wrap up the Championship in his inaugural season. Brit Bradley Smith won the race, recording his first ever, and last, win in 125cc as he, like Marquez, is moving up next season to Moto2. Another Spaniard, Toni Elias won the Moto2 Championship.

Jorge Lorenzo had already won the overall Moto GP Championship, but 2nd and 3rd places were still to be decided. Casey Stoner started on pole and Dani Pedrosa signalled his intent to hang on to his championship 2nd spot by zooming from 8th on the grid into 2nd place on the 2nd bend in the first of 30 laps. However, he was later  hampered by his injured shoulder,  fading after 10 laps. Nonetheless, he retained that overall 2nd place.

Pole starter Casey Stoner would clearly liked to have left Ducati on a high note (he’s moving to Honda), but was unable to fend off a resurgent Lorenzo who overtook him with 8 laps remaining. In the early rounds, Jorge had demonstrated some superb bike handling skills to remain upright and retain control of his bike after tangling with rookie Marco Simoncelli, who’s around 25kg heavier than most of the other riders, Jorge included. He then moved through the field with seeming ease.

Lorenzo’s team mate, Valentino Rossi, would also have liked to finish his 7-year long stint with Yamaha (he’s replacing Stoner at Ducati) with a win but, on the day, he readily settled for 3rd behind Stoner and 3rd in the Championship behind Pedrosa. So, in only his 3rd season in Moto GP, Lorenzo recorded his 9th win of the season, his 16th podium (equalling Rossi’s record) and won overall with a points total of 383, thereby beating the previous record (also held by Rossi).  Rookie of the year, American Ben Spies will be riding with Lorenzo at Yamaha next season.  In reality, next season starts this week with bike testing  on the Valencia circuit.

Winning Trio

(Photo courtesy of Eurosport)

Postscript: I thought Marc Marquez was young but an article about an even younger rider caught my eye in today’s Nice Matin. Eleven year old, Nicois, Fabio Quartararo is the reigning 50 and 70cc Spanish Champion who, at the week end, was gunning for the Campeonato Mediterraneo 80cc Championship. He finished 4th overall, leaving him something to aim for next year. When he wraps up the 125cc Championship in a few year’s time, remember where you first heard his name – my blog.