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Tour de France 2014 | Why cycling is challenging to become Britain’s most popular sport and Cavendish threatens to sue

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RACE AGAIN TIME: Stage 3 of the RACE AGAIN TIME: Stage 3 of the Tour de France from Cambridge to London passes the iconic Chronophage, the world's coolest clock.  It was designed by one of Britain's greatest ever inventors Dr John C Taylor who is based on the Isle of Man. Sadly fellow Manxman Mark Cavendish was missing -  ruled out of action for up to six weeks by a shoulder injury he sustained in a crash on day one.

RACE AGAINST TIME: Stage 3 of the Tour de France from Cambridge to London passes the iconic Chronophage, the world’s coolest clock. It was designed by one of Britain’s greatest ever inventors Dr John C Taylor who is based on the Isle of Man. Sadly fellow Manxman Mark Cavendish was missing – ruled out of action for up to six weeks by a shoulder injury he sustained in a crash on day one. PHOTO: Henry Iddon

British sport is so often a roller coaster of highs and lows. From winning and losing the Ashes, to Champions League triumphs for Manchester United and Chelsea, to the latest disastrous showing by Roy Hodgson’s England at the 2014 World Cup.

Two years ago at London 2012 we hit so many highs across the board it was almost unbelievable. At the weekend Mark Cavendish, who for so long was recognised around the world as “the fastest man on two wheels” crashed out of the Tour de France when he was the great British hope to win the first leg from Leeds to Harrogate. It was another devastating disappointment for the Manxman who failed to claim his anticipated Olympic road race gold two years ago.

by John GubbaBut single out one sport that has gone from strength to strength over the past decade and you have to pick cycling. While Cavendish is now embroiled in a bitter exchange with Norwegian rider Alexander Kristoff who has accused him of “crashing on purpose” at the climax of  Saturday’s stage one of the Tour de France, his sport and his own profile in the UK has sky rocketed.

Cavendish, anonymous not so long ago in public consciousness in the UK, has become one of our most recognised sportsmen with huge earning capacity. That’s why he must defend his reputation and his image, responding to the slur from Kristoff by insisting:  “I would normally say it’s best just to let some things go, but this is libellous and we are considering legal action.”

Meantime, cycling continues to grow in popularity with ever increasing numbers taking to the streets the length and bredth of the British Isles. The last time the TDF took place on English soil was 2007 when membership of British Cycling was hovering around the 20,000 mark. Seven years later that figure has soared to 93,000, with 3,000 new members signing up every month.

It is a surge in popularity inspired by unprecedented success for Team GB at successive Olympic Games and beyond. For the last two years the world’s most gruelling cycling race has been dominated by the Brits with back to back wins of the TDF by Sir Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome. Both have been well supported by the impressive Team Sky, the professional outfit Cavendish also used to race for that is managed by Sir  Dave Brailsford, the brains behind much of our cycling success.

In Sir Chris Hoy – who won a sixth Olympic gold medal in London – we boast the the most successful British Olympian of all time.

It is a success story that extends from the track to the road and now to staging the first three legs of the world’s  most famous cycling event. Tour de France race director Christian Prudhomme has pledged that the race will return.

Prudhomme said pleas had already been made for a fifth visit of cycling’s most prestigious race – previously hosted  here in  1974, 1994 and 2007.“The question is not if but when, although I don’t have the answer for the second part,” he said. “We have many requests to host the Tour from Holland, Belgium, Italy and Spain.”

Pilot and inventor Dr John C Taylor OBE sets off on first Trans-Atlantic HUSKY Flight 

For more information about the legendary Dr John C Taylor check out this blog by Tina Fotherby of Famous Publicity bit.ly/1lm2YWD 

 

Why Wiggo is my vote for Sports Personality of the Year in this the greatest ever for British sport

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Bradley Wiggins: a great personality - not just an remarkable sportsman

Bradley Wiggins: a great personality - not just an remarkable sportsman

BY JOHN GUBBA

Forget 1966 – London’s Olympic year of 2012 is the greatest ever in the history of British Sport. That is why winning this year’s Sports Personality of the Year Award will carry extra significance for the winner.

Simply getting nominated is an achievement in itself this year and the BBC’s shortlist for the Top 12 is a remarkable roll call of extraordinary sporting heroes. Britain can be proud whoever gets the people’s vote. And we could genuinely make a strong case for every one of these incredible men and women.

The most emotional triumph for me was watching Sir Chris Hoy make it six Gold medals. But this was the year that his good friend Bradley Wiggins put the cherry on top by winning the Tour de France.

It has been a traumatic year for the sport following the exposure of Lance Armstrong as a drugs cheat. But Wiggins and the rest of our great British cycling stars are now deservedly the envy of the rest of the world – and Wiggo this year stands out from the crowd, not just for his sporting achievements, but also as a wonderful personality with style, poise and an impressive aura that makes him the pride of 2012.

Nicola Adams

Age: 30 Sport: Boxing - First woman to win an Olympic boxing title

Ben Ainslie

Age: 35 Sport: Sailing – fourth straight Gold made him most successful Olympic sailor

Jessica Ennis

Age: 26 Sport: Athletics – Olympic poster girl set three personal bests on way to Heptathlon Gold

Mo Farah

Age: 29 Sport: Athletics – first Briton to win Olympic Gold in both 5,000m & 10,000m at the same Games

Katherine Grainger

Age: 37 Sport: Rowing – struck Gold in rowing after three silvers at successive Olympic Games

Sir Chris Hoy

Age: 36 Sport: Cycling –  emotionally made it a British record six Olympic Gold medals

Rory McIlroy

Age: 23 Sport: Golf- youngest winner of US PGA Championship since Seve ballesteros and a Ryder Cup winner

Andy Murray

Age: 25 Sport: Tennis – ended Britain’s 76-year wait for a Grand Glam champion in epic US Open final after Gold at the Olympics

Ellie Simmonds

Age: 18 Sport: Swimming – won two Paralympic Golds to add to the two she secured as a 14-year-old four years earlier.

Sarah Storey

Age: 35 Sport: Cycling – four cycling titles at Paralympics to complete  a British record-equalling total of 11 gold medals.

David Weir

Age: 33 Sport: Athletics – clean sweep of four gold medals at Paralympics for the ‘Weirwolf’

Bradley Wiggins

Age: 32 Sport: Cycling – first Brit to win Tour de France and then took his fourth Olympic Gold

Gold Rush on Greatest Day for Our Greatest Team was priceless, magical, unbelievable – more than we could ever dream for!

‘Do you realise who you’ve just knocked off his bike madam?’ even Wiggo will laugh when he gets over pain of bruised ribs

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Bradley Wiggins may have thought his time was up on the eve of the launch of his aptly named book

Bradley Wiggins may have thought his time was up - and now his coach has also been knocked off his bike

BY JOHN GUBBA

Fact as they say is often stranger than fiction, and it was truely sureal to hear that one of Britain’s greatest ever cyclists Bradley Wiggins was knocked off his bike by a woman driver on the eve of the launch of his book ‘My Time.’

The Olympic champion and Tour de France winner was left with a few bruised ribs when he was hit by a Vauxhall Astra van while on a training ride near his home in Lancashire.

Picture the scene when the shell-shocked woman driver was asked by police: ‘Do you realise who you’ve just knocked off his bike madam?’

For comedians around the world it is a priceless punchline for a million jokes. Happily, Wiggo – who was today well enough to be sent home after spending the night in hospital – will surely see the funny side when he gets over the pain. Doctors have confirmed he will make a full recovery.

But in all seriousness, it is time that more was done to protect cyclists. British Cycling is calling on the government “to put cycling at the heart of transport policy to ensure that cycle safety is built into the design of all new roads, junctions and transport projects, rather than being an afterthought.”

Just how serious this issue is has been underlined by the news that Wiggo’s Team GB head coach Shane Sutton has also been knocked off his bike and “suffered bruising and bleeding on the brain.”

Sutton was involved in a collision with a Peugot 206 on the A6 near Levenshulme in Manchester and is expected to spend several days in hospital.

Lance Armstrong still owes the world an apology for making a generation hail him one of sport’s greatest ever icons

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Nike said it would continue to support the Lance Armstrong Foundation, also known as Livestrong, but the cancer charity faces an uncertain

Nike have announced they will continue to support the Lance Armstrong Foundation, also known as Livestrong, but the cancer charity founded by the drugs cheat still faces an uncertain future

BY JOHN GUBBA

It has been a dramatic week in the long-running Lance Armstrong saga – and any doubts that the former cycling icon is a serial cheat have been well and truly smashed. What is so staggering about the revelations that have finally exposed the lies is how this drugs cheat managed to cover up his deceit for so long.

Many sports enthusiasts who have grown up worshipping Armstrong wanted to believe the disgraced cycling hero was innocent. But the weight of evidence against him has been overwhelming. There was no escaping the truth when the United States Anti-Doping Agency published their report a week ago, including damning evidence from no fewer than 11 of his former team-mates.

The shockwaves from the scandal will reverberate throughout sport for a long time to come. The fact that five current riders gave evidence against Armstrong, and in so-doing implicated themselves incurring six-month bans, indicates how far reaching the cover-up was that protected him for so long.

When the American was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and banned from cycling for life by USADA it was a sad conclusion to a story that inspired millions of people around the world. The news that Armstrong has finally been ditched by his biggest sponsor Nike and forced to step down as chairman of the cancer charity he founded 15 years ago is confirmation that the decline and fall of one of sport’s greatest ever icons is complete.

But I can’t help thinking that Armstrong still owes the world an apology. It is never too late to say you are sorry. And the pain of the embarrassment he has caused would be eased ever so slightly if Armstrong showed some remorse and publicly accepted his guilt.

The one thing that no one can take away from Armstrong is the pride and satisfaction he surely feels for setting up the charity that has raised nearly 500 million US dollars to help people affected by cancer. His story may have been built on a lie, but winning his own battle against cancer inspired millions and is an achievement that the world would feel more comfortable respecting if he comes clean and tells the truth.  

Sadly it’s official: Lance Armstrong is a drugs cheat – but it’s not terminal for the sport he dedicated life to after beating cancer

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The fight to live: Lance Armstrong's lifestory will always be one of the most inspirational ever written

Lance Armstrong's lifestory will always be one of the most inspirational ever written


BY JOHN GUBBA

Anyone who truly loves sport has every right to be devastated by the news that Lance Armstrong has been stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and given a lifetime ban by the United States Anti-Doping Agency after quitting his long fight to clear his name of being a drugs cheat.

Armstrong continues to strongly deny doping. But his decision not to contest the charges alleged by USADA, namely that he used banned substances –  including the blood-booster erythropoietin (EPO), steroid and blood transfusions – as far back as 1996, means that he will forever be branded a drugs cheat by the sport that gave him the will to live.

It is a tragic conclusion for an athlete who for so long has been regarded by so many as the most inspirational of them all.

His remarkable fight to beat cancer makes his story so compelling that whether or not he is guilty of the charges, unlike any other fallen hero in the history of sport, Armstrong will always be regarded as an inspiration by millions, especially the terminally ill.

After being diagnosed with stage three testicular cancer, the cyclist was given a minute chance of survival, due to the fact that the cancer had spread to his lungs and brain. But Armstrong beat all the odds before proceeding to win an astounding seven consecutive Tour de France titles from 1999 to 2005. Whatever the record books say – and USADA insist all his achievement since 1st August 1998 must be erased  – Armstrong’s feat after beating cancer is truly remarkable.

Surely, for that reason alone he will forever be a role-model for anyone diagnosed with a terminal illness. Not to mention he has done more than most athletes for charity in building a global foundation helping millions of cancer survivors.

The harsh reality is that Armstrong’s name is blackened forever. But the sport he helped put on the map has a bright future thanks largely to Great Britain’s golden generation of cycling heroes. In Bradley Wiggins, Sir Chris Hoy, Victoria Pendleton, Laura Trott and  the rest of our truly outstanding Team GB riders, cycling has an army of role models to inspire generations to come.

As far as the record books go ‘the king is dead, but long live the sport.’

How Armstrong announced giving up fight to clear his name:

“There comes a point in every man’s life when he has to say: ‘Enough is enough.’ For me, that time is now. I have been dealing with claims that I cheated and had an unfair advantage in winning my seven Tours since 1999. The toll this has taken on my family and my work for our foundation and on me leads me to where I am today – finished with this nonsense.”

The move followed a US court ruling against Armstrong’s attempts to block USADA’s investigation. He consistently maintained he never failed a test for banned substances, although that is disputed. But USADA said its investigation revealed a systematic programme of drug misuse in Armstrong’s team and claimed 10 of the cyclist’s former team mates would testify that he was at the heart of it. The agency also told Armstrong it has blood samples from two and three years ago that are “fully consistent” with illegal doping.

Day 2: Silver for Lizzie Armitstead in a thrilling women’s road race gets Team GB up and running at London 2012

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Silver medal for Lizzie Armitstead

Lizzie Armitstead - claimed place in history winning GB's first medal at London 2012

BY JOHN GUBBA

How fitting that a week after the nation was gripped by cycling fever when Bradley Wiggins won the Tour de France, Team GB’s first medal at London 2012 came in the road race.

After yesterday’s shattering disappointment when Mark Cavendish was unable to win Gold in the men’s event, 23-year-old Lizzie Armitstead showed true grit and determination to win silver in the women’s race.

And what a thrilling women’s road race it was.

Chased by the peloton, the breakaway trio of Armitstead, Marianne Vos and the Russian Olga Zabalinskaya powered through the heavy rain to set up a pulsating finale.

Former world champion Vos held off a gutsy effort by Armitstead in the final sprint for the line. But this was an heroic effort by the Yorkshire girl who claims her place in history as the first medal winner for Team GB at London 2012

Marianne Vos (left) pips Lizzie Armitstead to Gold

Marianne Vos (left) pips Armitstead to Gold

It was a great achievement that left the thousands of supporters who lined the streets of London singing in the rain.

“I’m so shocked, it feels really strange,” said the Leeds-born rider as she climbed from her bike. “My teammates did exactly what they were asked and I can’t thank them enough. Emma [Pooley] attacked on Box Hill which was great as I needed an aggressive start.”

As London 2012 is already experiencing, sport is always guaranteed to serve up a kaleidoscope of human emotion. Moments after Armitstead’s joy we heard the news that 38-year-old Paula Radcliffe’s dream of winning her first Olympic medal is over.

After four previous unsuccessful Games appearances the world record holder will not compete in the marathon because of a foot injury.

SWIMMING: What an outstanding display of guts and determination by Rebecca Adlington to defy the odds and win bronze in defence of her 400M freestyle title.

It was no surprise that French favourite Camille Muffat took the Gold this time. But the hugely popular swimmer from Mansfield – a double Gold medallist four years ago in Beijing – sent the home fans wild with delight when she gave everything to force her way onto the podium.

“I’m so proud to win a medal at my home games,” said an emotional and clearly relieved Becky as her thousands of supporters cheered in the background. It was a magnificent effort after she only squeezed into the final as the eighth fastest swimmer.

Beth Tweddle gives a celebration hug to Hannah Whelan

Beth Tweddle hugs Hannah Whelan

GYMNASTICS: Beth Tweddle produced one of the best routines of her life with a brilliant performance in qualifying for the final of the uneven bars. And then crowned a remarkable day by leading GB teammates Imogen Cairns, Rebecca Tunney, Jennifer Pinches and Hannah Whelan to the team final.

It continued the buzz of excitement around the British gymnasts started by the men’s team who yesterday qualified for their final.

Former world champion Tweddle, aiming for a medal at this her fourth and final Games, recorded the highest score of the day on the uneven bars. She pulled off an intricate routine with a seven star manoeuvre, one of the hardest in gymnastics, and wowed the crowd with a double, double dismount which included two somersaults and two turns.

For good measure she threw in her signature move, the Tweddle, when she catches the bar with her hands crossed.  The judges awarded her a score of 16.133.

Ben Ainsle - aiming to match Danish sailor Paul Elvstrom's record of four Olympic Gold medals in the sailing

Ben Ainslie - aiming to match Paul Elvstrom's record of four Olympic Gold medals

It’s been a tough road to fitness for Tweddle, in this her fourth and final Olympics. It has meant sleeping with an ice chamber on her knee to ensure competing in today’s qualifying round.

SAILING: Ben Ainslie made a great start in his bid for a fourth consecutive Olympic Gold medal with second place behind Denmark’s Jonas High-Christensen in both of his Finn class races on the opening day at Weymouth.

The 35-year-old Brit – traditionally a slow starter – lies two points behind his rival in the 10-race series.

BEACH VOLLEYBALL: The hottest tickets in town on the first Sunday at London 2012 were arguably the Beach Volleyball. And what a treat there was for British fans who braved the wet conditions at Horse Guards Parade – and were rewarded when Team GB’s women won a thriller.

We've done it:  Dampney (left) and Mullin celebrate

We've done it: Dampney (left) and Mullin celebrate

Zara Dampney and Shauna Mullin dramatically fought back after losing the first set to beat Canadians Marie-Andree Lessard and Annie Martin 17-21, 21-14, 15-13. “To bring home a win for GB was amazing,” said Mullin. “The crowd just kept us going. It would have been amazing whether we won or lost.”

“I lived every point and all the ups and downs.” added Dampney.

BIKINIS ARE BEST INSIST GB’S BEACH BABES 

 

Cycling guru Dave Brailsford: We want to inspire next generation

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No pressure: It's not just about winning

No pressure: It's not just about winning says GB's Performance Director Dave Brailsford

BY JOHN GUBBA

As Team GB’s cycling heroes prepare for the weight of expectation on their shoulders at London 2012, it is worth listening to the wise words of Performance Director Dave Brailsford, one of the driving forces behind the sport’s outstanding success story in this golden era for British riders.

With one eye on cycling’s legacy after the Games Brailsford told me: “This is the top of one wave as it were where people want to perform and absolutely execute and deliver what they’ve been working for for a long long time. But also we want to inspire the next generation.”

Clearly, the British cycling guru wants Team GB to continue their global domination of their sport. And it was mission accomplished at the Tour de France when Bradley Wiggins became the first Brit to win cycling’s premier event, with world champion Mark Cavendish and Chris Froome sharing in the glory.

But the charismatic coach is on a mission to grow the sport as well as Britain’s medal haul.

“There’s winning which is obviously the most important thing. But it’s not the be all and end all either,” said Brailsford, adding: “People can be inspired not just by winning but by the way you go about it.”

When I asked him if he felt any extra pressure to maintain British cycling’s domination at London 2012 he replied: “I don’t feel any pressure. But there’s a responsibility to be the best that we can be.”

WIggins, Froome, Cavendish: Cycling supermen are Pride of Britain

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Bradley Wiggins makes history - first British winner of Tour de France

Bradley Wiggins makes history - first British winner of Tour de France

BY JOHN GUBBA

This has been the greatest day in the history of British cycling: Bradley Wiggins becoming the first Brit to win the Tour de France as Mark Cavendish claimed his fourth consecutive final-stage victory.

With Team Sky teammate Chris Froome completing a Tour de France 1:2 for Britain it just does not get any better than this.

With London 2012 just six days away and Team GB favourites to win more cycling gold medals this is a golden generation for a sport where quite literally the sky’s the limit for Britain’s elite.

That's four - Mark Cavendish wins final stage of Tour de France on Champs Elysees

That's four - Mark Cavendish wins final stage of Tour de France on Champs Elysees

 

MARK CAVENDISH – LANDMARK FOR CYCLING

 

British Olympic Association right to ban drug cheats Dwain Chambers and David Millar from London 2012

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BY JOHN GUBBA

Daley Thompson was absolutely right when he attacked the “failings” of the World Anti-Doping Agency and declared “Keep these drug cheats away from our Games.”

Whatever you may say about re-habilitation or restraint of trade, the thought of sprinter Dwain Chambers or cyclist David Millar competing for Britain at London 2012 is a non-starter because it would send out the wrong message.

Thompson, the Olympic decathlon legend Thompson summed it up perfectly when he wrote in his Sportsmail column: ‘I don’t see why we should be dragged down by the rest of the world, who impose a maximum two-year ban on even the most motivated cheaters.

Daley Thompson backs the BOA's lifetime Olympic ban on drug cheats

Daley Thompson backs the BOA's lifetime Olympic ban on drug cheats

‘If we want high standards in this country then we should be entitled to them. If the rest of the world don’t share our standards or can’t enforce them why should we have to kowtow?’

Dwain Chambers may be the fastest man in Britain and David Millar, who has become an outspoken advocate for clean sport, would clearly be a key member of the cycling team aiming for Gold in London. But the BOA have the support of over 90% of British athletes for their rule of a lifetime Olympic ban for drug cheats and they know what is best for sport.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport today began their hearing into whether or not the BOA’s Olympic ban on drug cheats should be upheld following a challenge by WADA. But even if the BOA lose, in my opinion they must remain free to select whichever athletes they deem fit to represent GB and that must not include Chambers or Millar at London 2012.

The S Plan: Get Fit with Christie & Jackson

The S Plan: Get Fit with Christie & Jackson

For Chambers, who finished with a bronze in the 60 metres behind gold medallist Justin Gatlin at the World Indoor Championships in Istanbul at the weekend, that may seem like double standards. Gatlin, banned in 2006 after testing positive for excessive testosterone, is free to compete for America in London. Chambers, banned in 2003 for taking steroids, is not because the BOA now impose the only lifetime ban in world sport.

But the Olympics are special and only by the rest of the world agreeing with the BOA’s tough stand will the Games’ idealistic principles be preserved.

Britain’s greatest ever sprinter Linford Christie – who won 100 metres Gold at the 1992 Olympics four years after being beaten by drug cheat Ben Johnson – made his feelings known in Fitness video the S Plan when he declared: “I take it more personally when people I’m competing against cheat because they’re robbing me of something that (is) rightly mine.

“I’ve got to work hard for it. I’ve got to suffer through injury and everything else so why should they come along and get it so easy.”

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Mark Cavendish winning Sports Personality of the Year Award is “landmark for cycling”

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BY JOHN GUBBA

You don’t have to be a cycling fan to appreciate 2011 Sports Personality of the Year Mark Cavendish – the guy is one of Britain’s greatest ever athletes.

It was moving to hear the 26-year-old make his emotional and humble thank you speech on accepting the coveted award and the public’s long overdue recognition.

Cavendish, only the third cyclist to win after Tommy Simpson in 1965 and Sir Chris Hoy in 2008, said: “This is a landmark for cycling. For cycling to be recognised in a non-Olympic year is unheard of.”

The Manxman won five stages of this year’s Tour de France – including the final time trial in Paris – to clinch the green jersey awarded to the race’s best sprinter for the first time.

2011 Sports Personality of the Year Mark Cavendish

2011 Sports Personality of the Year Mark Cavendish

He followed that success by confirming Britain’s emergence as a major nation in road as well as track cycling by taking gold at the World Championships in Copenhagen in September.

“I am absolutely speechless, some of my team-mates here will say that is a rare thing” said a clearly elated Cavendish.

“I had a group of guys who rode in Copenhagen who brought the rainbow jersey back to Britain after nearly half a century and that is a massive thing. Even to be nominated in the top 10 is an incredible thing.

“That we can produce champions from such a small place is superb. Now I see so many people out riding bikes, commuting to work or doing it as a hobby, they can see what it’s like to ride.”

And that is the rub. Just like British rowing enjoyed unprecedented success when Sir Steven Redgrave – winner of this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award –  was named Sports Personality of the Year in 2000, this could be the breakthrough moment for the sport of cycling.