Fresh from his FOURTH place in the British Cycling National Road Race Championships last weekend - just one second behind riders of the caliber of Adam Blythe (Team Tinkoff), Mark Cavendish (Team Dimension Data) & Andy Fenn (Team Sky) - our star blogger Mark McNally of Belgian Pro-Continental outfit Wanty-Groupe Gobert returns to team action at the Tour of Austria.
Well, it's been a while. Yesterday I started the Tour of Austria with a short, sharp hillclimb stage. We were transported back down the mountain, complete with bike, via cable car, which was a first for me.
I sit here now, typing away in a ski chalet up in the Austrian mountains, reflecting on today's first road stage and thinking about that other race thats going on in France… apparently its a pretty big one. It seems the race over there has been punctuated by crashes with dashes of classy bike riding from the likes of Mark Cavendish & Peter Sagan, with sprinkles of heroics from Jasper Stuyven in today's final and my old friend Sam Bennett battling on, battered and bloodied after hitting the deck hard yesterday.
Sometimes I think thats the beauty of bike riding. That it can be so cruel and so beautiful at the same time. Take for instance yesterday's stage in Le Tour. It should have been a straight-forward-ish run for the GC contenders, and a all out sprint for the sprinters. And it nearly was if you take away Contador's crash and the horrendous crash in the finish. But that's just it with cycling - it's never straight-forward. I think in a way the contrast between the pain and the euphoria it brings is what makes it seem all that more beautiful. After all, life is like an eternal Muller rice advert ‘You can’t have the pleasure without the pain’.
I can’t help but feel that sometimes a lot of the crashes, bad luck and general madness that happens in bike races could be avoided. I seem to have the same conversation over and over again and the same question comes up ‘Why are there so many crashes these days?’
Truth be told none of us have the answer. I can’t help but feel that if everybody just relaxed, respected their opponent, and gave a little bit more room to each other, so much many incidents could be avoided. And I don’t just mean bike riders. I mean race motorbikes, team cars and even jury cars.
It frightens me how little regard some cars in bike races have for our safety, especially after all that has happened this year. No sooner is a rider dropped from the peloton his is bombarded by a constant pressure from cars and motorbikes to get past him at all costs. I find myself constantly wondering why the Jury car must always sit on the back wheel of the last man in the peloton? Would it not be safer to leave at least a car length or two? What is so important that they have to sit as good as on top of the last man in the peloton. Anyway this is just one example there are many more similar problems with virtually all race vehicles be it moto, jury cars or even our own team cars.
In summary to all this, sometimes I think in cycling (and I mean everyone involved; riders, organisers, team managers, EVERYONE!) we lack common sense and respect for our fellow man because lets not forget respect is a two-way street. These are just a few of my passing thoughts as I’m sat on a double bed (shared with my team mate… not my choice i can assure you) with my compression socks on sweating in an uncomfortably warm and humid ski chalet.
I do not admit to having all the answers but I’ve seen first hand the tragedy that the madness that is sometimes cycling can be and I can’t help but feel in this day and age something needs to change.
Follow Mark's training and racing on Strava.