Cyclingnews New Year Message
Best Wishes for 2000 to all cyclists around the world!
A New Year Surprise for you!
To celebrate the beginning of the new year, we at cyclingnews have decided to provide a few little pieces of action from cyclocross races in Belgium. Given it's the time of year that many riders have to brave some fairly ordinary conditions in the pursuit of a spin, we have obtained a couple of clips featuring number 1 'crosser, Sven Nijs. They were sent in by one of our correspondents, Patrick Njis (no relation).
The first clip, which we featured at Christmas time was of Sven and his mates dashing through the snow at the World Cup event in Kalmthout, complete with vocal encouragement from the surprisingly strong crowd. Please click on this link and the 344KB MPEG file will come down to your desktop (please be patient).
The second clip shows Sven during the Superprestige race in Diegem, where he experienced some bad luck. The clip shows Nijs rejoining the leaders after breaking his pedal and falling behind, eventually finishing third in the race.
Please note, they are only a very short clips taken from the spectator's perspective, but they're a lot of fun and the cheering really adds to the atmosphere. We have tested the download in our office on Macintosh and Windows machines running both types of browsers and it works fine, but if you experience any problems, please let us know.
We are very interested to learn about how your PC operates with these forms of media. You can take this as as a sneak preview to some of the enhancements we have planned for the site as we head into the new decade/century/millennium.
The year in review
"They say the darkest hour is right before the dawn,
Bradman, by Paul Kelly, 1987
This is a line from a song by Paul Kelly and he is actually referring to Sir Donald Bradman, the great living batsman in the game of cricket, and number 6 in the list of all-time athletes this century as voted by Reuters sports journalists (just one place ahead of Mr Merckx). "The Don" was a beacon of hope to a country that was on the skids due to the '30s depression. He helped inspire a return to better times.
When I was watching the Tour de France this year and saw Lance Armstrong soar to the top of Sestrieres in Italy, I thought of Kelly's poetry and love of a game, and felt we were witnessing a return to heroism and pure courage in cycling. Here was a new man who never gave up and returned from cancer to scale the peak of his sport.
The previous year, the world's number one bike race had been ripped to the core by drug busts and the sight of dedicated athletes being hauled off in the middle of the night for extensive drug testing and narcotics officers trampling over decades of tradition. It was bleak stuff. Hopefully, that tradition was not the part which involved using performance-enhancing substances, but a tradition of showing respect to individuals who were suffering nearly all the way to Paris. They deserved better.
Then just prior to this year's Tour, we had the patron saint of talented eccentrics kicked out of the Giro on its penultimate day. I know for many, this really was our bleakest hour. We looked to Pantani as the man above it all - riding on pure talent and flair. Wrong.
After such a heavy dumping, Armstrong's ride in the Tour was a redemption for the sport, even though some fairly chauvinistic reporting tried to detract from his achievement. To those who think the true believers are naive, well, present some facts. Otherwise, keep it to yourself.
But it's impossible not to ignore the drugs issue, and I doubt we have heard the last of it. Indeed, there are some very revealing figures which the UCI will not release - presumably because it will show endemic usage of EPO.
Away from the road, we also witnessed another inspired return to the top by one of France's greatest cyclists, Marion Clignet. In early 1998, the world record holder in the individual pursuit was considering a premature retirement due to crippling arthritis and renewed bouts of epilepsy.
I watched this woman training during this period, when just walking was painful, and I have not witnessed a more committed bike rider - male or female. Even though most had basically written her off, Marion did not believe it was time to retire from the sport, and she kept searching for a cure. She also kept training and riding her bike.
This year at the World Track championships in Berlin, she returned to the top in emphatic style, leaving the world's best behind her by dominating the individual pursuit for her first gold medal and then two days later, showing her class in the points race by lapping the field and taking out her second gold.
Over the next day or so, keep a look out for Marion's story, which we're delighted to offer to you. In fact, we are very grateful to the generosity of those riders who take the time to write their diaries, which provide all of us with a glimpse into their life as a pro.
All in all, an eventful year. We watched a wily veteran bag the World Cup on the road (Andre, champion of the over-30s), saw Cadel lose yet another gold in the MTB Worlds (all good luck towards the Olympics) and Anna Wilson take further steps in her illustrious career. At the track worlds, we saw riders from China and Korea win their first-ever medals, while France continued their domination. As they say, the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Changes at cyclingnews
Back at home, this year also saw a change of ownership at cyclingnews, and while many were disappointed to see the departure of the site's founder Bill Mitchell, it seems other visitors have been unaware of any change. I can only take that as flattery, as to maintain Bill's standard of reporting was our primary goal.
A couple of weeks after the changeover in September, I appointed Jeff Jones as the online editor and to help generate the pages which are viewed every day. Jeff had impeccable credentials for the job: an A grade bike racer who'd spent two seasons in Belgium, as well as a PhD in chemistry, which of course made him perfect for the job. Jeff and I took great satisfaction in scooping the Web at this year's world championships, providing the only coverage of the races other than the pay TV channel Eurosport. For those people outside the broadcast area of pay TV, cyclingnews was the only place to find out who was leading, who'd dropped out and finally who'd won.
There is an extended family of correspondents who regularly contribute to cyclingnews, including Tomas Nilsson, Hans Wilbrink, Tim Maloney, John Alsedek, Rui Pinto, Mark Chadwick, Graham Fowler, Laurie Cousins, John McElvery and many, many others. We couldn't do it without their help.
Above all, it's your interest in cycling which is what gives this site is raison d'etre. Thanks for visiting, best wishes at Christmas and have a great new year.
Gerard, Jeff and all at cyclingnews