For many cycling fans Eurosport is the cycling channel. This year the television company played a blinder – to use a technical football term – when it recruited Laura Meseguer to its ranks for the Vuelta. Fitting, really, given that the guy who hired her is responsible for both football and cycling coverage on Eurosport. [My dream job – Ed.] Laura and I first met at the Tour de France and then spent the rest of the season just missing one another at various events due to pressure of work. But I’ve finally tracked her down and we’re enjoying an espresso together on the VeloVoices sofa. Continue reading
Naturally, I’ve chosen three of the riders with the most panache to follow in 2013. I couldn’t resist the opportunity to comment on the Velvet Samurai, a.k.a. the Incredible Hulk, a.k.a. the Terminator, Mr Peter Sagan after a 2012 season in which he collected stage wins en masse and won the coveted Green Jersey at the Tour de France. I’ll also be keeping my eye on an ageing Thomas Voeckler, who showed he still had it in 2012 after his brilliant Tour of 2011. Finally, I’ll be watching Dutch national champion Niki Terpstra play his role on the most talented Classics squad in pro cycling, Omega Pharma-Quick Step.
Peter Sagan (Cannondale)
Age: 22 (but only just, as he turns 23 on January 26th).
Role: All-around bad-ass. [What’s that in French? – Ed]
2012 WorldTour ranking: 8th, 351 pts.
- Won five stages at Tour of California, 1st in points classification.
- Won four stages at Tour de Suisse, 1st in points classification.
- Won three stages at Tour de France, 1st in points classification.
- Won stages at Tour of Oman and Tirreno-Adriatico.
- One-day Classics: 2nd at Gent-Wevelgem, 3rd at Amstel Gold, 4th at Milan-San Remo, 5th at Tour of Flanders.
- Slovakian national road race champion.
Why I’m following him:
Everyone wishes they were following Peter Sagan but only a few can hold his wheel. I hope to see Peter vault from stage collector to one-day Classics collector. He has the ability to wreak havoc on both the cobbles in the future and in the hilly Ardennes now. He is the future Tom Boonen, Fabian Cancellara or Philippe Gilbert. Maybe the future is now?
Thomas Voeckler (Europcar)
Role: All-rounder, Europcar team leader.
2012 WorldTour ranking: N/A. 17th in UCI Europe Tour, 282 pts.
- Two stage wins at Tour de France, 1st in mountains classification.
- Won Brabantse Pijl.
- One-day Classics: 4th at Liège-Bastogne-Liège, 5th at Amstel Gold, 8th at Tour of Flanders.
- 7th in Road World Championships road race.
- Winner of the VeloVoices Sartorial Elegance Award. [Obviously this one should go at the top – Ed.]
Why I’m following him:
Thomas Voeckler is one of the most entertaining riders to watch when he goes on the attack – which is quite often. His tongue flaps around and his face winces as he desperately tries to escape the peloton. His bibs are the perfect length and his Colnago bicycle is the epitome of style. I hope he’ll surprise us again this year with some stunning victories in 2013, maybe at Flanders or Liège or on the island of Corsica. I look forward to seeing him in person at the Tour de France.
Niki Terpstra (Omega Pharma-Quick Step)
Role: Attacker, breakaway specialist.
2012 WorldTour ranking: 31st, 160 pts.
- Won the trade team time trial at Road World Championships (as part of OPQS team).
- One-day Classics: Won Dwars door Vlaanderen, 3rd at Paris-Tours, 5th at Paris-Roubaix, 6th at Tour of Flanders.
- 3rd overall at Eneco Tour.
- Dutch national road race champion.
Why I’m following him:
Niki is the type of rider I would like to be. He is a great teammate and loyal domestique but he’s also the master of the well-timed solo attack for victory. As the time of writing, 2013 has already seen him win the Six Days of Rotterdam on the track with teammate Iljo Keisse. It is the first win of 2013 for OPQS.
Anyhow, I’ve been reviewing the first part of Oprah’s Lance Armstrong interview this morning. Here’s my gut-reaction analysis.
1. A ‘tell-some’ interview
This was never going to be a full-on tell-all confessional but equally Armstrong had to say something. So we got a ‘tell-some’ affair – more than many expected, not as much as hoped for. Did we find out anything new? Not really, although it was nice to have the existence – but not the identity – of ‘Motoman’ confirmed.
2. Admission does not equal apology
Armstrong admitted a fair amount, but when it came to apologies he was evasive, barely acknowledging whistle-blower Emma O’Reilly. Betsy Andreu? He merely said he never called her fat. Her immediate reaction on CNN says it all. Hell hath no fury …
3. Nice try, Oprah
Oprah had done her homework, and her use of direct yes/no questions up front to tease out the key admission that Armstrong used EPO and blood doping during his seven Tour wins was particularly effective. Did she ask all the right questions? Pretty much. But did she ask all the right follow-up questions? No. Several times she backed Lance on to the ropes and didn’t press home the advantage. Ultimately this wasn’t Sixty Minutes or a court of law. There is a reason Armstrong has avoided both.
4. PR 101
The first 15 minutes set the agenda and dictated headlines around the world with soundbites such as “I’m a flawed character” and “I didn’t have access to anything else that nobody else did”. It was also clear the PR strategy had been well rehearsed. A line was drawn beyond which Armstrong would not go – he didn’t say anything he hadn’t planned on saying. He picked his battles too. So he didn’t attempt to discredit everyone but he did attack the testimony of Christian Vande Velde, a minor figure in the drama. Ultimately, though, people will reflect on the things he didn’t say rather than the things he did.
6. Still a control freak
Despite Armstrong’s pre-interview statements about allowing Oprah free rein, this was still a managed PR exercise. He has had three months to prepare, he chose the interviewer and he called out the UCI’s reluctance to enter into a truth-and-reconciliation process by launching one of his own, on his terms. Lance freely admits to being a control freak – nothing has changed.
7. Voices lie, bodies don’t
When pressed, particularly on issues which still fall within the statute of limitations (such as whether he doped during his comeback) or could land him with major new lawsuits, Armstrong’s body language tightened up noticeably. He often touched or covered his face, a clear indication of deception, which told its own story.
8. Targeting ‘everyman’
Most serious cycling fans saw through much of what Armstrong said (or didn’t say), but they were not the real target audience. Neither were the acolytes who still believe he is not guilty, or don’t care if he is. In both camps, opinions are entrenched. The real target here was the man on Main Street who was still on the fence. Did it work? Time will tell.
9. That’s the opening gambit – what’s the next move?
There was an element of damage control here, with Lance applying a Band-Aid to the gaping wound of his shredded reputation. However, he would not have agreed to such a candid interview if there wasn’t a greater potential long-term up-side. What’s his ultimate agenda? A truth-and-reconciliation speaking tour? A future tilt at political office? Whatever it is, we can be sure this is just the first move in Armstrong’s chess game.
Part two of Oprah Winfrey’s interview with Lance Armstrong will be shown in the UK on Discovery at 2am tomorrow (Saturday).