At the start of a new year, it seems obligatory for anyone who writes about cycling to give a run-down of their predictions for the season ahead. In a sport that is notoriously difficult to predict, some of the following might be long shots…but here goes:
In a scandal which rocks the sport to it’s very roots, the hair of German sprint hotshot Marcel Kittel, winner of 4 stages at the 2013 Tour de France, tests positive for a range of banned hair products. As is often the case in the cosmetics industry, the pseudo science behind the banned products is sketchy at best, but the UCI take the decision to ban the young star as the hair in question offers Kittel a clear aerodynamic advantage.
Kittel’s defence that his fabulous hair is largely contained within a helmet during races is not enough to convince the governing bodies, with one unnamed source admitting ‘there may well be no actual advantage during races…but that hair just makes him look so bloody fast, it’s not fair on the others!’
In a bizarre twist, it is later revealed that balding 2013 Vuelta Espana winner Chris Horner has been photographed in the off-season with a magnificent full head of quiffed hair, raising suspicions that the American may have been involved in some kind of illicit hair transplant with the big German. Though he continues to maintain his innocence, claims that he has been the victim of contaminated hair products picked up while racing in Germany don’t wash.
One Man And His (Froome) Dog
During stage 2 of the Tour de France, there is chaos in Yorkshire as a scheduling mix-up leads to a clash with the regional finals of ‘One Man And His Dog’ (the televised sheep-dog trials enjoyed in this part of the world). Mid-stage, the peloton gets dramatically herded by an over zealous Border Collie, who manages to enclose almost the entire field in a small sheep pen.
The lucky rider is Frenchman Thomas Voeckler who, due to his free spirited refusal to follow the herd and the fact that he often resembles an over excited dog whilst riding, manages to escape the clutches of the sheep-dog and build a twenty minute lead at the head of the race.
Chris Froome eventually asserts his authority and gets the dog under control with a series of grunts and whistles, causing enough of a distraction for the riders to escape their pen and give chase to the fast disappearing Frenchman…but to no avail; Voeckler stays away to take the stage and the Yellow Jersey, and lead the race by some eighteen minutes (he holds the jersey until the third week of the race when, in the Pyrenees, he is momentarily distracted by a cat and heads five miles in the opposite direction trying to chase it down).
Froome wins the race overall, and finishes a creditable second place in ‘One Man And His Dog’.
Following the controversial finish at the 2013 World Road Race Championships, where Alejandro Valverde appeared to decline to assist fellow Spaniard Joachim Rodriguez in the final run-in (allowing Portugal’s Rui Costa a clear run to the title), simmering tensions between the two come to the fore at the Giro d’Italia.
After words are exchanged, the two leap from their bikes and come to blows, attempting to give each other a dead-leg before rolling around on the tarmac in a frantic horizontal wrestle (by now surrounded by the watching peloton, chanting fight! fight! fight!)
Although at one point Valverde appears to have Rodriguez contained with a well administered Chinese burn, Rodriguez responds with a massive lycra wedgie which leaves Valverde in a state of crippling embarrassment. The peloton register their approval by pointing at him and laughing, whilst one unnamed rider (thought to be Bernie Eisel) posts a video of the fight on You Tube.
Headmaster…sorry, President of the UCI Brian Cookson admonishes both riders publicly, stating they have ‘let themselves down, their teams down, in fact they’ve let the whole peloton down’, and puts them in detention for an hour to think about what they have done, causing them to finish the race outside the time limit and thus be expelled from the race.
Proof indeed that we are truly entering a much needed phase of zero tolerance from the new UCI President.
Just when we thought the horsemeat scandal was dying down, Peter Sagan’s galloping form of 2013 is finally explained…as the Slovakian disappoints his many fans by testing positive for horse DNA. It is thought this may have come about as a direct result of a steady diet of microwaveable ready-meals from the ‘bargain’ end of the supermarket freezer.
Reports that Alberto Contador is later seen clearing the cabinets of his local Aldi remain unconfirmed.