January is a funny time of year in the cycling world; in contrast to the real world where the annual return to work, post-Christmas, in near perpetual darkness, causes gloom and doom to descend across the nation.
If you’re anything like me you can add to this little tale of woe an alarming lack of holiday entitlement from work – 1 day available in the next 12 weeks, courtesy of a holiday allowance frittered away in joyous fashion in the height of summer!
Ahh, happy days.
A friend of mine also recently informed me cheerfully that the first Friday after Christmas is universally referred to by solicitors in the UK as ‘Divorce Friday’.
Cheery stuff eh?
But back in the world of pro-cycling, everything is playing out in a kind of pre-season-training-camp-sponsor-pleasing-photo-shooting-new-team-name-remembering-soft-focus.
My knee-jerk reaction is to be struck with child-like awe that “the Team Sky training camp looks sunny,” followed by a 5-minute reverie staring at the wall and trying desperately to remember what it feels like to cycle in short sleeves, with warm sun cascading down and bathing bare skin. It seems barely believable, but that’s what happens in summer (even here in Lancashire) – my alarming lack of winter holiday entitlement is testament to that.
I’d love to be happy for all those pro cyclists and their year-long perpetual tans – I really would – but I can’t get beyond the jealousy and indignation I feel about the fact that my arms and legs are now as pure and white as alabaster (autumn and winter in the north of England will do that), whilst Nibali, Contador, Froome, Valverde and the rest, retain their mahogany outlook on life.
The idea that their tans might have chance to fade is laughable.
Judging by the training camp reports and photo-shoots, they also appear to have been riding their ‘good’ bikes all year, which I suppose is OK when you are in Mallorca or Tenerife, but I wish they would show some solidarity with the rest of us and clock up their base mileage on a 2004 alloy framed Pinarello Angliru with sub-standard group-set, a chipped paint-job, and a hefty weight penalty.
After all, the winter bike is a part of cycling tradition and folklore, not to mention an excellent way to toughen up and shed the last of the turkey and Christmas pudding holiday poundage!
Along with actual training, of course, our favourite cyclists find themselves performing all manner of promotional guff and sponsor friendly larking around. For the run down on this year’s classic and time-honoured team mug-shots you need look no further than The Jersey Pocket, who has this angle covered and needs no more comment from me.
For larking around, as my friend secondratecyclist demonstrates (with accompanying YouTube clip), Peter Sagan is your first port of call.
As for the new team names, getting to grips with them is like an annual memory test on a par with Bruce Forsyth’s Generation Game (apologies to non-UK readers for this quaint cultural reference. In fact, apologies to UK readers too).
“Ok Bruce, there was a cuddly toy, an electric blender, his ‘n’ hers dressing gowns, a state of the art TV, a Team Cannondale-Garmin, a Giant-Alpecin and a Lotto-Soudal”.
I imagine if you ride professionally for Omega Pharma Quick Step, you’d get used to your team’s name tripping effortlessly off the tongue any time you find yourself contractually obliged to thank your team-mates and promote your sponsors. I’m not sure the 2015 incarnation, ETIXX-Quickstep, scans quite as smoothly.
At least with Sky, Movistar, and Astana, we all know where we are.
In Astana’s case…
(insert doping related punch-line of choice).