Tweets of the Week: Mod is for modest, Movember madness and marriage proposals

Funny, cruel, odd, personal … you get it all on Twitter. Each week, we’ll have a rundown of some of our favourite tweets. Here are the tweets for the week ending 4th November 2012.

I don’t want all this attention … really!

We’ll start with Bradley Wiggins – Tour de France defending champion (although chances are he won’t defend next year), no doubt soon to be Sir (although would a Mod want to be part of the Establishment?) and reformed tax avoider (news is he has pulled out of that Cayman Islands scheme). But, as we see from the tweet below, he’s quit Twitter…

He never really tweeted anyway, so not sure if we’d have known if someone hadn’t pointed this out.

Now, last week was the unveiling of what looks like a cracking parcours for the 100th Tour de France. A night-time finish in Paris complete with fireworks, twice up Alpe d’Huez, time trials that don’t seem designed to crush the life out of the race the second week in … so much to get excited about! But it was Wiggo’s attire at the presentation that elicited a lot of comment – even a few arguments.

With a haircut like that and a peacock-blue coat while all around him was wearing black – nah, that wouldn’t attract undue attention. It’s a wonder we can even notice him, blending so seamlessly into the background. (Is it just me or does he look like Napoleon?!) Here are some of the horrified reactions…

Of course, in that lineup we also see the recently divorced (from Bernie Eisel) Mark Cavendish, former Sky water-carrier and super-domestique. Looks like Brad has decided that anything Cav can do, he can do better.

While Wiggo’s rival teammate is swimming with blondes and dolphins.

And now a word from our German riders

I must admit, I was never a Jan Ullrich fan – I never understood why, if you wanted to win the Tour de France, you would come to the race overweight. However, with all the crap surrounding those years coming out of late, my opinion of him has softened quite a bit (I’m sure he’s relieved!) and this picture, which he posted on Facebook, softened my opinion just that much more. He looks really happy, doesn’t he? Good on him …

One German rider who knows about babies is, of course, Jens Voigt. The man is a non-stop baby machine – someone should have told the customs officer.

And a picture of Jens in the airport … LOVE the t-shirt!

And here’s a picture of the god of the Argonauts, Marcel Kittel. I don’t think I need to explain why I like posting pictures of Marcel, do I?

But hey, who knew that tennis superstar (and Mrs Andre Agassi) Steffi Graf won a sprint in the Giro?!

#Movember madness

Koen de Kort has convinced the mighty Greg Henderson to participate in Movember as well. They’re on the team Mouthful of Awesome, so give generously. Here’s the progress so far …

Personally, I’m hoping for a Yosemite Sam-like tache on Greg by the end of the month! Remember Dave Zabriskie’s facial ornament from a few years back? Something like that!

Skins walk off the field

Skins, who do a wide range of compression clothing, have decided to sue the UCI for the Armstrong debacle that they feel damaged their brand, which brought out a little discussion from our revolutionaries. The UCI must be feeling really embattled at the moment – Kimmage is suing them, Skins is suing them, fans want to sue them … could get interesting in the next few months, people, very interesting indeed.

Speaking of cycling clothing, can a cycling jersey be at the forefront of the zeitgeist? If so, reckon Velocast has nailed it. By the way, these really are for sale – and there’s also a lovely line in t-shirts. Christmas is coming up, people. And in the spirit of the UCI, I reckon that with all this free publicity to the tens of fans who read this column, I should be getting a t-shirt in the post as a thank-you unrelated merchandise sample …

Oh, unless you count this response. Team Cupcake, anyone? Yes! TEAM CUPCAKE! Somebody make a jersey from that, please!!!

Goin’ to the chapel and we’re gonna get married …

I am a girl, Taylor. And I would marry you… (sigh)

And on that note of wishful thinking, I leave you until next week, tweeties!

Friday Feature: Up close and personal with Orica-GreenEDGE’s Lionel Marie

Lionel Marie, Orica GreenEDGE (image courtesy of Orica GreenEDGE)

I think it would be fair to say that this has been more of a season-long encounter rather than a one-off interview, reflecting the very hectic work load of a Directeur Sportif. Lionel Marie is one of five DSs at Orica-GreenEDGE and is a rare beast, in that he is not a former professional cyclist. However, he is a man with all the relevant academic qualifications to go with his bags of on-the-job experience.

Sheree: Do you come from a family of cyclists?

Lionel: Far from it, my parents weren’t even keen on me cycling and still really aren’t all that interested in the sport but my grandfather was a keen cyclist. A neighbour first took me for a ride when I was about 12 but my parents wouldn’t allow me to race until I was 17. I was inspired by Bernard Hinault who, like me, hails from the north of France – I admired his aggressive qualities on the bike.

Sheree: A Frenchman on an Aussie squad. How did you end up at Orica-GreenEDGE?

Lionel: It’s a bit of a long story. After school, I studied for a degree in Sports Education and then took further qualifications, specialising in cycling. I started my career in northern France, training school children, progressing after four years to a regional role at the Cycling Federation in Normandy where I was responsible for selecting and developing the younger riders in all disciplines – road, track and cyclo-cross. In 2000, Roger Legeay, team manager at Credit Agricole, approached me to work as a coach and DS at the U23 feeder team where I was fortunate to work with many of those who are now well-known French riders. But sadly, four years later, the arrival of the ProTour signalled the end of the feeder team as all the available financial resources were needed to support the main team.

I had offers from a number of other squads but chose to work at Cofidis alongside Francis Van Londersele – like me a career coach, not a former rider. It was here that I worked for the first time with riders from other countries, riders such as Stuart O’Grady and Matt White whose humour and esprit de corps I really appreciated. In fact, such was my relationship with Matt that I followed him to Slipstream Sports in 2008 when the team was still only ProContinental and largely operating on the US circuit. When Matt left what had then become Garmin in December 2010, I told him I’d be more than happy to work with him again. My chance came at the end of 2011 with GreenEDGE, the first of many Australian projects to really get off the ground and enter cycling at the top level.

Sheree: The culture and dynamics at both Garmin and GreenEDGE must be very different to those on the French teams?

Lionel: Yes, they are. The biggest difference is that the newer teams are not weighed down by historical baggage. They tend to be more open-minded, particularly towards new ideas and new technology, which I find particularly interesting and personally challenging.

Sheree: You must be delighted at the way things have developed this year at Orica-GreenEDGE. The team has had a very successful maiden year with a number of riders scoring points and winning big races such as Milan-San Remo.

Lionel: We couldn’t have gotten off to a better start with Simon Gerrans winning his home tour. If we’re honest, it’s probably worked out better than anticipated and I feel we’ve met, maybe even exceeded, the high expectations. The Australians love their sports and they now have a team to get behind much in the same way the British have Sky.

Sheree: We saw one another quite a few times during the Tour. I couldn’t get over the oppressive press presence. Didn’t you get fed up with everyone asking you how you were going to beat [Mark] Cavendish?

Lionel Marie with Matt Goss, who lives just down the road from him in Monaco (image courtesy of Orica-GreenEDGE)

Lionel: Not really, it’s a valid question and I’m still not sure we, or indeed anyone else, have come up with a satisfactory answer. I can only promise that we’ll keep trying.

Sheree: Many criticised this year’s Tour de France for being boring. Do you agree?

Lionel: No, not at all. Remember, I’ve worked with Bradley Wiggins at both Cofidis and Garmin. Indeed, I introduced him and David Millar to O.Symetrics so I might just have had a little part to play in Bradley’s victory.

Sheree: Am I right in saying the O.Symetric oval-shaped rings only really work if you have a beautifully supple pedal stroke and a naturally high cadence?

Lionel: Yes, that’s right. The guy who invented them comes from down here [Cote d’Azur]. But it’s not just about the equipment, both riders [Wiggins and Millar] are supremely talented and have those slightly off-the-wall characters that tend to separate good riders from great ones.

Sheree: So, why wasn’t the Tour boring?

Lionel: There was much to admire about Sky’s rigorous planning and thorough preparation. There’s much we, and other teams, can learn from them. They have a particularly disciplined way of working and I consider myself fortunate to have had an opportunity to visit their HQ in Manchester and observe them at work. The way they leave nothing to chance and the level of expertise they have at their disposal is impressive.

Sheree: Does this mean that Orica-GreenEDGE has their own chef?

Lionel: Yes, rider nutrition is just one of the many pieces of the puzzle we have addressed.

Sheree: So run me through a typical day for you at one of the Grand Tours.

Ready for another long day at the wheel (image courtesy of Orica-GreenEDGE)

Lionel: Up at 06:30 for a quick run before breakfast. After packing and putting the bags on the bus, I’d check out the day’s weather forecast and go over the map for the day’s stage again. We typically liked to get the bus and riders parked up around 90 minutes before the start of the stage. Matt handled the briefing of the race day strategy while I went over the race route drawing the riders’ attention to areas where it might be useful to attack or be on one’s guard. I’d also advised on the likely weather conditions. At Grand Tours we have three directeur sportifs. I’d travel with Matt in the first car while our third directeur would drive the second one. Typically, he’d look after all the team’s logistical issues. After the stage, we’d have a debriefing with the riders in the bus but once we, and they, left the bus, we stopped talking about racing to leave them adequate time for massage, rest, recuperation and dinner. As we’d have only eaten a sandwich at lunch, the entire staff sat down to dinner together and then we’d finally be in bed somewhere between midnight and one o’clock in the morning.

Sheree: Wow, that’s a long day!

Lionel: Yes, it generally takes me a week following a Grand Tour to recover.

Sheree: What about other Tours and one-day races. How do you prepare for these?

Lionel: Obviously, the Tour de France is the most stressful of all the Grand Tours. The Giro and Vuelta tend to be more relaxed and convivial. At other stage races, there’ll be only one DS, so there’s more work but it’s frankly nowhere near as hectic.

Planning for some of the major one-day races tends to start early. For something like Paris-Roubaix we’ll start discussions in December to ensure that we have the right equipment, particularly tyres. At Milan-San Remo, the riders will be briefed in detail the night before rather than on the morning of the race because it’s such a long race.

Sheree: One thing I did observe at the Tour from you and the other DSs was what I’d call “everyone singing from the same hymn sheet”. Have you all been trained to deal with the media?

Lionel: Yes, it’s an important part of our job promoting the culture and ethics of the team and it also helps us to better deal with those journalistic traps.

Sheree: What about training camps to prepare for certain races.

Lionel: Yes, we’ll do those too. For example, we held one for the World Championship team time-trial in Valkenburg. We also hold camps on different continents. The Aussies head back home in the winter to prepare for their national championships and the Tour Down Under. So we’ll have stages for them in Australia and others in Europe for the remainder of the team.

Brothers-in-arms Lionel with Matt White (image courtesy of Orica-GreenEDGE)

Sheree: We’ve spoken of your friendship and working relationship with Matt White, who has stood down as DS while the team conducts an investigation. If I’m honest, I’d prefer former riders who’ve doped to counsel and guide the current crop of riders on how to avoid those dangers rather than a more rigid and less forgiving “throw the baby out with the bathwater” approach. What are your thoughts?

Lionel: Matt was a rider in a bygone era. He’s a fantastic man-manager with some really inspirational qualities: he breathes cycling. In the past five years, we’ve worked very closely together and his integrity has never been in question. I’m proud to call him my friend.

Sheree: Anything else you’d like to share with us?

Lionel: No, other than saying I consider myself to be very fortunate to have a job I really love doing.

Sheree:Lionel, many thanks for your time. It’s been illuminating chatting to you and I’d like to take this opportunity to wish you and Orica-GreenEDGE an even more successful second season. Maybe you’ll find the key to beating Cav!

What’s happening in November?

With the season over, there’s no racing to look forward to until the 2013 calendar kicks off in January Down Under. However, we’ll still be busy here at VeloVoices, looking back at 2012 (and dipping even further back into the history books), ahead to 2013 and bringing you the very best interviews and features as usual.

However, let’s kick off our look forward to the next month with our usual selection of some of the more notable birthdays in the peloton.

This month’s birthdays

5th: Matt Goss, Orica-GreenEDGE (26 years old). After his breakthrough year in 2011, when he won Milan-San Remo and stages at Paris-Nice and the Tour of California, no less a rival than former HTC-Highroad teammate Mark Cavendish identified him as one of the few sprinters he feared. But things never quite came together for the Aussie in 2012, with a stage at the Giro his only individual victory. At the Tour de France he raced consistently but never quite had the firepower to outgun Cav, Sagan and Greipel, registering two seconds and three thirds.

With Cav gone, can Swift become Sky’s lead sprinter for 2013? (image courtesy of Wikipedia)

5th: Ben Swift, Sky (25). Another sprinter who followed up a promising 2011 with a mediocre 2012, Swift has all the raw potential to succeed Mark Cavendish as Sky’s lead sprinter but has yet to put it all together. He won the scratch race at the Track World Championships and added two silvers, but on the road his only notable wins came at the Tour of Poland, where he bagged a brace of stages and the points jersey. At the Vuelta he was blown away by John Degenkolb, registering only a second and a third place.

6th: Thomas De Gendt, Vacansoleil-DCM (26). Unlike Goss and Swift, De Gendt improved on the potential he displayed in 2011, when he won stages at Paris-Nice and the Tour de Suisse. Although he missed the Tour de France to get married, he again won at Paris-Nice and recorded a stunning solo victory on the Stelvio at the Giro, which helped put him on the bottom step of the podium. He nearly repeated the fear at the Vuelta at the summit of Cuitu Nigru, but was beaten at the last by Dario Cataldo.

10th: Amets Txurruka, formerly Euskaltel-Euskadi (30). The Basque rider has been released after six hard-working seasons in which he registered only two victories in minor races. His best results have come at the Tour de France, where he narrowly missed out on wins in 2007 and 2009 and was the most combative rider overall in 2007, where he finished 23rd – which still stands as his best Grand Tour result. In 2012 he started all three three-week races, finishing 42nd in the Giro and 30th in the Vuelta after abandoning the Tour.

13th: Laurens Ten Dam, Rabobank (32). The hirsute Dutch climber, affectionately known as the Wolf Man, has often ridden in support of others during his career but has recorded a stage win at the Criterium International as well as top ten finishes at the Tour de Suisse, Tour of California and Volta a Catalunya. This year he rode both the Tour and the Vuelta, finishing 28th in the former and an impressive eighth in the latter – his first ever top 20 Grand Tour finish.

Nibali rode with panache, but missed out on several big wins (image courtesy of Danielle Haex)

14th: Vincenzo Nibali, Liquigas-Cannondale (28). The ‘Shark of Messina’ added third place at the Tour to his 2010 Vuelta win and pair of Giro podium finishes. A strong climber and a demon descender, wherever Nibali appeared this year a daring attack was sure to follow. One such surge saw him fall just short at Milan-San Remo, where he finished third. But he was also second at Liege-Bastogne-Liege and won a stage and the overall at a punishing Tirreno-Adriatico.

16th: Mikel Astarloza, Euskaltel-Euskadi (33). The Basque rider originally rode for AG2R before joining his ‘home’ team in 2007. A strong stage race rider, his only professional individual victories are the overall at the 2003 Tour Down Under and a stage at the Tour de France in 2009. He finished in the top 20 at the Tour in three consecutive years (2007-9), with a best of ninth overall in 2007. Since returning from an EPO ban in August 2011, he placed 48th in the Vuelta this September.

24th: Luis Leon Sanchez, Rabobank (29). The Spanish national time trial champion in four of the last five years, Sanchez has just completed the most successful year of his career with nine victories including his second Clasica San Sebastian and stages at Paris-Nice, the Tour de Romandie (two) and the Tour de France. A past Paris-Nice and Tour Down Under winner, he has four Tour stage victories and placed tenth overall at both the Tour and Vuelta in 2010.

Ivan Basso (image courtesy of Liquigas)

Basso never quite hit the heights in 2012 (image courtesy of Liquigas)

26th: Ivan Basso, Liquigas-Cannondale (35). Now entering the twilight of his career, the veteran Italian took his only victory of the year in the season-ending Japan Cup. One of the big favourites to add a third Giro win to his 2006 and 2010 titles, he lacked explosiveness on the big climbs and could only finish fifth. He has previously won six stages at the Giro and one at the Tour, as well as the overall at the Criterium International (2006) and Giro del Trentino (2009).

26th: Bauke Mollema, Rabobank (26). A promising young climber, the Dutch rider claimed the points jersey at the 2011 Vuelta en route to fourth overall to cap a season in which he was fifth at the Tour de Suisse and top-ten at Paris-Nice and the Volta a Catalunya. His most prominent 2012 results were third overall at the Tour of the Basque Country and seventh at the late-season one-day Classic Il Lombardia.

27th: Francesco Chicchi, Omega Pharma-Quick Step (32). The under-23 world road race champion back in 2002, the Italian is now a hugely experienced sprinter with over 30 professional victories to his name. He started 2012 in blistering form, racking up five wins including a brace at the Tour de San Luis by mid-March but could not add to his tally thereafter, with just a single second-place finish at the Giro.

And don’t forget …

Look out for plenty of exclusive features over the next month, kicking off with our interview with Orica-GreenEDGE directeur sportif Lionel Marie tomorrow (Friday).

Later in November, we will bring you our comprehensive round-table looking back over an exciting – and sometimes controversial – year of racing. And then we will turn things over to you as we ask you to vote for inaugural annual VeloVoices Awards – your chance to make your opinions heard in a variety of serious and not-so-serious categories. (Sorry, but there won’t be a big black-tie dinner where you can meet and greet your heroes – at least, not this year!)

Of course, we’ll still be bringing you our regular favourites: Tweets of the Week on Tuesdays and our Friday Features. And look out for more posts celebrating rider birthdays and delving into the rich history of cycling over the next few weeks.

And if that still isn’t enough for you, follow our Facebook page and Twitter for even more great images, discussion and banter.

Whether serious or light-hearted, VeloVoices is the place to come for all the latest cycling news and views! Pro cycling for fans, by fans.