Philippe Gilbert made several comments on his personal website related to shortening the UCI calendar and maybe improving the weather. Kudos on the first and good luck on the second.
The Belgian decried the fact that riders had to endure brutal and dangerous conditions to provide a spectacle for fans, citing snow in Milan San Remo and scorching heat in the Tour of California.
While it appears that the new UCI under the smart leadership of Brian Cookson will revamp the calendar, shortening the race year and possibly cutting back the number of race days in the non-grand tours, we don’t see a solution for snow or heat.
The conditions in this year’s Giro d’Italia were described by almost every journalist as “apocalyptic.” The snow, rain, freezing temperatures and slippery descents effectively wiped out the chances of Bradley Wiggins and Ryder Hesjedal. Watching from a warm and cozy TV distance, we felt for the riders having to endure such misery and hazardous situations.
Then again, what are you gonna do? It’s like the old circus line: the show must go on. Somebody in sequined tights falls off the trapeze, they don’t fold the tent. You can neutralize a stage or reroute the course to avoid a dangerous descent but that seems to be the limit of the adjustments.
To some degree, it’s like the National Football League trying to make the game safer for players. Yes, you can mandate better helmets to reduce the risk of a concussion and try to legislate out helmet to helmet collusions, but it’s a violent game played by violent men. Nature of the beast.
Bad weather is part of the drama of cycling — Hampsted & Gavia! The slaves of the road are also slaves to the weather. It was almost inhuman to race stage two of the Tour of California in temperatures close to 110 degrees. It was a war of attrition that took half the GC challengers out of contention. Two years before it was the opposition, with a sudden snow storm in Lake Tahoe wiping out the first stage and shortening the second.
What are ya gonna do? Europe was hit with some of the worst weather in decades with several early season races cancelled, Milan San Remo truncated and everybody in rain gear most of the season. It was fitting that the 2013 began in miserable conditions and finished in FLorence for the Worlds in equally miserable conditions.
Cycling fans get excited about Paris-Roubaix and the Tour of Flanders just thinking about what the weather conditions will bring. It’s what makes the Hell of the North so Hellish. The Arenberg forest is even more of a spectacle when the cobblestones are wet and slippery. It’s insane, inhuman and incredible and that makes Roubaix the queen.
We think it’s just another reason we can identify strongly with top pros who race though snow and rain. We’ve all been out on a bike in a long day of rain, shivering on the descents, crawling down mountain roads, gripping the brakes all the way.
FOrmer Giro boss Angelo Zomegnan liked to say he put a little “drama” in every stage. Well, he put some much dangerous and ridiculous drama in that after a few years, he was fired. There’s a limit to spectacle and Crazy Z went hors category.
We’re all for shortening an out-of-control calendar but Phil, bad news on the weather: it’s not getting any better. The spectacle must go on, baby!