Hair got me into cycling. I know it sounds ridiculous – the leap from barnet(1) to bicycle is not an easy one to imagine – but it’s true. The ponytails of firstly Robert Millar and then, and more importantly, Laurent Fignon bewitched me more than any lofty mountain pass or low-profile time trial machine. Who were these sportsmen who exhibited such flair with their hair? It is said that the aero disadvantage of Fignon’s follicle affectation cost him the 1989 Tour, which he lost to the tousled golden locks of the American Greg Lemond by just eight seconds, but (and I realise that it would have been scant consolation to the distraught Frenchman) it won my undying admiration.
Fignon and on and on.
The inaugural Dubai Tour was deemed a success by many commentators and journalists attending the event, and if they meant a triumph of style over substance then they would be entirely correct. We saw many, many pictures of the Burj Khalifa – the worlds tallest building – and almost as many of the Dubai Police Force’s utterly ridiculous fleet of supercars, which include a Bugatti Veyron, Ferrari FF and a Lamborghini Aventador. There were a few of camels, lots of sand and even a couple – hidden in amongst the rest – of cyclists in action.
Taylor Phinney won the opening day Time Trial and never looked in danger of relinquishing his overall lead across the 4 day event. Marcel Kittel, obviously concerned about having his much-talked about hair upstaged by Phinney’s own remarkably idiosyncratic barnet, proceeded to wrestle back the headlines by winning three sprint stages on the bounce. The long awaited resumption of battle between the German Giant and our own Manx Missile never got going, with Cav variously misfiring, miscueing and mishapping in the desert. It’s very early days in the season of course but that doesn’t seem to be affecting Giant Shimano who have started in majestic form. Cav, and reunited lead-out man Renshaw, clearly have some ground to make up.
Taylor Phinney doing the important stuff: looking good in Dubai.
Team Sky (or Sky Procycling as they were until the start of this season) have undoubtedly changed the way that cycling is perceived in this country. Although they were set up from the start as an internationally rostered team – albeit with a very clear aim of initially achieving success in the Tour de France for a British rider – they were often described as a de facto British national road team. The overlapping managerial & coaching staff from the national track squad adds fuel to this conflation, especially for the legions of new cycling fans that the team’s success has turned onto the sport. It was also inevitable that many of the existing and upcoming British riders would find a home at Sky where the people, program and language were most familiar. But what of those British riders who choose not to ‘Take to the Sky’ with Brailsford and Co? Are they getting a fair share of cycle fan’s support when faced with the media-attention black hole that the Tour-winning team creates wherever it goes?