Blazin' Saddles

Six things learnt in the past week

Blazin' Saddles

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For obvious reasons, it's been a rather busy week for any sports blogger based in London. Along with all the Olympic action going on around town, there's the small matter of all the National House parties to attend (for networking purposes and research), not to mention the pursuit of that elusive late-night invite back to the Athletes' Village from one one of the Dutch women's field hockey team.

In a haze of Naomi van As hecticness, Saddles has managed to make the following six observations about the world of cycling this week...

Hoy is the greatest

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Last week Bradley Wiggins was the toast of Britain after the Tour de France champion took gold in the time trial to become the most decorated Olympian in British history. Even then, seven-medal Bradley shrugged off the "greatest ever" tag by stressing that it was golds that counted and that his tally of four only matched that of Sir Chris Hoy. British rower Ben Ainslie briefly flirted with the "best ever" tag when he picked up his fourth consecutive rowing medal on the weekend — but order was restored when Sir Chris notched two golds from his two London 2012 events to draw level with Wiggo but better his gold-medal count by six to four. Of course, it's all subjective, but Wiggins, sipping on vodka 'n slimline tonic with Paul Weller, will be first to concede his throne to His Royal Hoyness the Flying Scot.

The French are mighty bitter

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First it was Team GB's "magic" wheels and then it was the fact that they had "prepared" much better ("preparer" being a word with doping connotations in the French language); then it just got downright petty when L'Equipe ran a poll on their website asking the public whether they thought Britain had "cheated" in the Velodrome (more than 70% said "yes"). As if it wasn't cringe-worthy enough to see sprint silver medallist Gregory Bauge, a man recently banned for missing dope tests, turn the tables on gold medallist Jason Kenny by taking over the post-race press conference and probe about how Britain had achieved such "unbelievable" domination. Perhaps the host nation built on their previous success in Beijing and were bolstered by the fervent local support? Perhaps their preparation (with no negative undertones) has just been better?

Kenny's hot for Trott

Most British people didn't know who Jason Kenny and Laura Trott were a week ago and so seeing them relegate David Beckham to mere sideshow status is some achievement. It makes sense that the new golden boy and girl of British track cycling have combined to form one huge golden nugget. Like most people, Saddles found this out when he saw pictures of Kenny and Trott playing some tonsil hockey at the Olympic beach volleyball right behind the back of Britain's most famous Olympic boat driver. It must have been the first time multiple pictures of Beckham appeared in the Daily Mail when he was a mere addendum — in fact, on a few of the pictures, Becks even got in the way when turning to talk to Brookleo/Romyn. This very public display of affection between the two young cyclists came moments after Trott was seen flirting (or "having banter") with Prince Harry (she is an omnium athlete after all). How things can change in a matter of days once you have gold around your neck, eh?

Froome is a machine

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It's been an incredibly busy summer for Chris Froome. All those Tour preparations followed by busting a gut for Bradley in the mountains. A runner-up spot in Paris followed by a hefty Box Hill shift for Team GB in the Olympic road race and then a bronze medal in the time trial. Even then, the Kenyan-born 27-year-old couldn't let his hair down and help pace Bradley through his celebratory booze binge — for off went Froome to Monaco to go training with Richie Porte ahead of the forthcoming Vuelta, which starts next weekend. Sadly for Froome, in a mountainous Vuelta well suited to his strengths and in which he will finally be number one at Team Sky, he'll be about as spent as the initial London 2012 Olympic Park budget.

Yorkshire should host the 2016 grand depart

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Alistair Brownlee wins test event

Saddles was in Hyde Park on Tuesday to cover the Olympic triathlon event which ended with a gold and a bronze medal for the Brownlee brothers from Yorkshire. Safe to say, the atmosphere was fairly electric and there was perhaps one flag more prevalent than the Union flag: the blue flag boasting the White Rose of York. At this point in the Games, the county of Yorkshire boasted more gold medals than Australia in the medal table — in fact, Yorkshire had enough medals to make it ostensibly the 10th best nation in the world. One travelling fan told Saddles how he was backing the bid to bring the start of the 2012 Tour de France to Yorkshire. "It would be brilliant because the support would be huge and we have some great hills up there. Also, the race would have to pass through the rest of England en route and cycling is huge over here now." Indeed, the county of Surrey — which hosted the road race to Box Hill — is reportedly keen on getting involved as well. It looks like Wiggo and the Olympics have secured something special.

Bertie isn't the only one making a comeback

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Alberto Contador is making his return from suspension this week at the Eneco Tour ahead of the Vuelta — but it's not just Bertie who will be making a proper return to Saxo Bank colours and competitive racing. Spare a thought to his Spanish lieutenants Dani Navarro, Jesus Hernandez and Benjamin Noval — three chaps effectively made redundant while their raison d'etre sits out that clenbuterol ban. Seeing how much Navarro does for Contador in the major races, Saddles is surprised he wasn't caught short in Pau back in 2010 like Bertie — after all, surely his duties extend to tasting all Contador's food before ingestion, much like the food tasters of Cleopatra and the Roman emperors of yesteryear?

Other minor things confirmed/noticed/learnt this week: the Velodrome is by far the best London 2012 venue, Pat McQuaid looked somewhat distracted while handing out medals at the Olympics, the Eneco Tour is a bike race and not a series of concerts given by a French doctor-cum-hip hop artist, Bradley Wiggins looks good in a Paul Smith suit, Marcel Kittel's gastro is better, Filippo Pozzato never hid anything (apart from his hair), Astana now base their selection criteria on Velogames, Jamaica would have a hell of a track cycling team if only they gave sprinters some wheels...

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