inevitable email dropped into Saddles' inbox yesterday. "Well done for
predicting Nibali's win in the Vuelta but any chance of a new blog ahead of the
It was just
a matter of time. The combined big cheeses at Eurosport and Yahoo were always going
to give Saddles some beef. Eleven days without filing a new zany offering had
not gone unnoticed. A nasty smell hung in the air.
can BS say? How many articles do you want to read about Philippe Gilbert and
Fabian Cancellara being hands-down favourites for the road race and time trial
titles Down Under?
Is it just
Saddles or do interest levels in the cycling season take a huge nosedive once
the third and final Grand Tour is done and dusted - and the focus switches to a
global competition that effectively penalises riders who come from lesser
matters worse, this year's World Championships are in Australia - a country so
loved by its inhabitants that around 50 per cent of the population ship to
London at the first possible occasion once they've done their HSCs.
time difference, all the action pretty much takes place overnight. Already,
Saddles wakes up to a raft of tweets explaining - yet again - how Gilbert is
the man to beat, how Cav has revised his targets and how Greg Henderson is
still without a bike (sorry Greg, but checking your prized possession into the
hold of a long-haul BA flight without certain expectation of irreparable damage
is a bit like entrusting a box of six eggs to Egoi Martinez to transport in his
bike panier and then complaining that they arrived all cracked and smashed).
could be said about the Worlds that would be of any originality? That was (and
arguably still is) the dilemma posed to a decidedly out-of-sorts Saddles, who's
boasting about as much form as Michael Rogers on a time trial bike. Or Michael
Rogers, full stop.
Gee, it was
going to be a long and fruitless task. How about first reading up a bit on the
finish city of the road race - surely with a name like Geelong there would be
some scope for humour?
12th largest city in Australia was the set for Mel Gibson's 1979 dystopian film
Mad Max. This angle looked promising - if only Mark Cavendish would get in one
of his fiery moods then there would be certain scope for a riff on the Mad
But no, Cav
has been pretty reserved. In fact, following a training run over the course, he
confirmed the other day what Italy coach Paolo Bettini has been saying all
along: this is no course for Cav - in fact, this is no course for any pure
Hence why The
Usual Suspects of sprinting - Messrs Cavendish, Farrar, Greipel etc - can all
be discounted (Bettini didn't even bother selecting the likes of Bennati or
Petacchi in his squad).
potential opening firmly shut, Saddles resorted to desperate measures: random
search engine-based "research" using the combination of the words
"Geelong" and "rainbow".
Rainbow Riders. Sounded promising. Could it be a local cycling fan club set up
in the wake of Cadel Evans' dramatic win in Mendrisio last year? In a word: no.
It's an independent children's charity "based on the principles of equine
assisted growth and learning," which, quite frankly, sounds rather
options: Geelong's Rainbow chiropractic centre (if only Evans were still spineless,
they'd be potential there), Rainbow Pet Supplies (Evans and Molly? Saddles sees
a pattern emerging here. . .), Rainbow Wizard Car Wash (?), Rainbow Sash Lobby
Group for Gay Rights (incidentally, are there any gay riders in the peloton?).
No joy. But
then Saddles came to this one: Rainbow's Edge Psychic Readings, run by local
Geelong clairvoyant Samantha Merrigan, aka Crystal Spark.
had legs - in his time of need, Crystal Spark would come to Saddles' aide, show
him the way, give him some much-needed inspiration.
that's what she promises on her website: "The purpose of creating this
site is to help you to awaken and allow me to be your guide to reach your
higher purpose in this life."
higher purpose in life being, of course, the production of poorly thought-out
and humourless cycling blogs.
understand that there are times when we get a little lost along the journey and
need guidance and support to overcome confusion and need clarity and messages
to assist," Samantha continues, seemingly speaking directly to Saddles
(she must be psychic).
clicked on "Contact Crystal", Saddles wrote a little email politely
asking if she to use her other-worldly abilities to pick out a winner for the
she quotes $25 USD for one-off crystal ball readings via instant messenger, a
reply seemed about as uncertain as the BBox Christmas party.
But a day
later, she wrote a rather cryptic piece of advice: "May the journey of
visualising the cyclists riding through the wind feeling the breeze bring you
whispers of insightful messaged inspiring to please."
Oh well, at
least Saddles tried. Although how about a Crystal Spark-related punt anyway?
You see, the animations on her website are the handiwork of one Daniel B
Holeman - who shares the last two initials as Edvald Boasson Hagen.
you have it: despite displaying as much class as a housing estate in Glasgow
all season, the Norwegian will use supporting compatriot Thor Hushovd as a foil
to launch his own victory march in Geelong. It's written in the stars.
reality dictates that both the road race and the time trial titles will be
dictated by The Usual Suspects, however.
time trial, we already know that Cancellara has been revealed as Keyser Soze -
even if Crystal Spark had Saddles envisaging an upset from dark horse Reginald
Douglas of Saint Kitts and Nevis.
has had a season as successful as it has been long. Yes, the Vuelta was a big
disappointment, but it was entirely fitting that he registered a
record-breaking fourth World ITT gold medal in Melbourne. How much of a
travesty would it have been had the unique Cancellara gone to the grave sharing
the same gold medal tally as someone as average as Mick Rogers?
Sunday's road race, we've already discounted Cav and Farrar (although the
American will have loads of his Garmin team-mates on hand, while Cav will have
just David Millar and Jeremy Hunt).
champion Evans is back from a sore elbow but lacks the competitive edge he
showed so brilliantly at the start of the season.
Filippo Pozzato may have a strong team, but he's been firing blanks throughout
the season and may find that his imposed sex ban sees him lacking the
testosterone to make it round the undulating Geelong circuits.
harps on about Oscar Freire being a triple champion, but the truth of the
matter is that his last title came back in 2004 and this year's Milan-San Remo
win was an anomaly.
will see winning the rainbow jersey as the best way of asserting his authority
on the soon-to-be-formed Garmin-Cervelo hybrid. The route certainly suits him -
he won a similar finish in Barcelona during the Vuelta - but the Norway team is
not the strongest. Then there's always Cancellara.
truth of the matter is that it comes down to the conclusion made in the
introduction: Gilbert is really the one to beat.
In fact, if
crass boxer David Haye wrote this blog, Saddles would hate to think of the
depraved kind of analogy he would give for what is seemingly the most one-sided
race since David Miliband threw his hat into the Labour Party leadership
contest and - oh.
Alberto Contador pork chop-related doping soap opera throughout the day on