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The VV View: Our 2017 Highlights and Favourites, Leavers and Winners. And Chris Froome’s Salbutamol Problem


Isobel Smith. Photo©ThePressRoom/Facebook

The last rant of 2017, where did that year go?

In fact, where did the last 11 years go? It seems like t’other day we set the site up.

To business!

Unfortunately we must start with some very sad news:

Isobel Smith has left us.

A lady who did so much for Scottish cycling and always with a smile and a large helping of banter.

We’ll miss you Isobel. Coming up to races around Aberdeen and sharing your news and chat, your gentle teasing… it just won’t be the same anymore.

Chris Froome's Salbutamol Problem
The latest Team Sky / Chris Froome problem stinks to high heaven. Photo©Team Sky

Christopher Froome

Inevitably we have to mention Froome. Most of it has been said and we now have to hunker down and wait on the legal wheels grinding round.

But it’s hard to argue with the words of William Fotheringham in The Observer the other week; ‘Team Sky credibility has sunk to rock bottom, whatever the outcome, this is another nail in that particular coffin.’

And at VeloVeritas we’ve been kicking ourselves on this one; coming at salbutamol from the angle of the assistance it gives in oxygen uptake.

BUT… we’ve just seen this post on PV Cycling.

So why are we kicking ourselves?

Because back when GB’s domination of the world’s greatest bike race began we asked our friendly ‘cynical ex-pro’ on how these riders had become skeletal but were still generating as much power as a Ducati Monster?

‘They’re on an asthma drug which rips the fat off them but doesn’t affect their power so their power-to-weight soars.’

And you don’t even need a TUE – until you make the big mistake, that is…

You have to feel a wee bit sorry for Cycling Weekly on this one; in the last edition he was one of, ‘the all-time greats’ and all he has to do to win the 2018 Giro is turn up it would seem.

In the current edition they feel it’s best not to mention him in their list of, ‘The 25 Best British Riders’ of 2017.

Michele Scarponi. RIP.

Those we’ve lost

And unfortunately it wasn’t just Isobel we lost: getting old is just the way of the world and as the Buddha said; ‘A lifetime is like a flash of lightning in the sky.’

However, that doesn’t help when the heroes of your youth and/or people you admire and respect begin to fall.

I had it in my mind that one day I’d have to get myself down to Phil Edwards restaurant near Nice to meet the man; he was a joy to interview over the phone – alas, that’ll never come to pass now.

Whilst Michele Scarponi ‘had his moments’ with “i controlli”, the man paid his dues and in a world of grey, unsmiling pros always had time for his fans. Even after the dourest of days on the road there would be a touch of humour for the TV interviewer… a sad loss.

John Woodburn, what a man, top 15 in the Peace Race, 25 mile time trial champion, BBAR, End to End record holder and a modest, down to earth man – we rather thought he’d go on forever.

Chris Froome's Salbutamol Problem
Graeme Webb, World Road Champion. Photo©The Webb Family

A young man we never saw the best of, Dmytro Grabovsky passed this year too.

World U23 Road Race Champion, a two year contract with the world’s best team, QuickStep – but battles with alcohol, unfulfilled potential, and an early grave at just 31 years-of-age just don’t seen fair.

Graham Webb was the real deal. World amateur champion beating the likes of Jempi Monsere and Roger De Vlaeminck to the line; Gent amateur Six Day winner… but the pro world didn’t work out for him and he was another man who we never saw the best of.

Kilometre King, Lothar Thoms and the man who took his title from him in Leicester in 1982, Fredy Schmidtke died within weeks of each other; both were Olympic Kilometre Champions – Thoms was 61, Schmidtke 56 years-old.

A name which Scots may not be familiar with, but a man who did it all and was racing at a high level right up to his death at 57 years-of–age; Steve Tilford a legend in the US.

May they all rest in peace.

Chris Froome's Salbutamol Problem
Team Sky using discs at times. Photo©Cycling Weekly

Disc Brakes

Disc brakes, we have to mention them, they bug us.

Why do we need them?

MTB’s and ‘cross we understand but the road?

Because the bike manufacturers need to sell more bikes, everyone has carbon now so the marketing men in Taiwan need to give us another reason to buy a ‘unit’ – simples!

Chris Froome's Salbutamol Problem
Jess Varnish in (slightly) happier times in the national team. Photo©Martin Williamson

British Cycling HR Policy

And Jess Varnish v. British Cycling rumbles on with potentially disastrous results for British Cycling:

If she was fast enough wouldn’t BC want her to be racing for them?

Or is that an overly simplistic view?

And there is a precedent, Wendy Everson took BC to an employment tribunal in 2001 but it was ruled that the tribunal had no jurisdiction because she was effectively self employed.

But employment law has changed dramatically these last 16 years and you can be sure BC will have the heaviest legal artillery deployed on this one.

But another example of the sport being in the headlines for the wrong reason.

Chris Froome's Salbutamol Problem
Alberto Contador has his ups and downs, admirers and detractors. Photo©Luca Bettini


And we have to come to terms with a season ‘sans Tomeke,’ big, strong, charismatic and bar Sagan there’s no one close to replacing him – we’ll miss you, sir.

Alberto too: According to “The Comic” (Cycling Weekly) t’other week he ‘slipped quietly from pro cycling quietly and without fanfare.’

That’s funny, I could have sworn he won on the Angliru and sent Spain – and me – into raptures?

But that’s those boys at The Comic told us that whilst Froome ‘is out to prove he’s one of the greatest of all time’ in Contador’s case his clenbuterol case, ‘leaves too many question marks for his talent to be fully savoured.’

Just a pity your deadline wasn’t a day or two later, eh guys?

We try to avoid clichés here at VeloVeritas but a classic ‘Hero to Zero’ job for Christopher in the time scale of one issue of the mag.

But ‘Ciao, Alberto’, out at the top and with panache, we’ll miss you, Amigo.

Losses, dramas, intrigues, negz – what about the GOOD stuff?

The Good News

Katie Archibald
Katie Archibald – World Champion! Photo©BritishCycling

Katie Archibald: continues to amaze us, irrespective of the discipline or opposition she just keeps on winning.

Remarkable and fourth in the Cycling Weekly poll of Britain’s best 25 riders; Tom Pidcock tops that – hard to argue with.

Chris Froome's Salbutamol Problem
John Archibald in action at the Scottish 25 Mile TT Champs. Photo©Martin Williamson

John Archibald: Katie’s bruv, John is showing us that there’s more to him than big gears and dual carriageways as he finds his feet in that toughest of tests, the 4,000 metre individual pursuit.

To do the times he’s recording as (really) a track novice is very promising for the future.

We have an interview with him on the back of his recent track successes coming up soon.

Chris Froome's Salbutamol Problem
There’s a lot to look forward to for Mark. Photo©Ed Hood

Mark Stewart: Double European U23 track champion with a solid road programme and some strong results there behind him bode well for the future.

A future world champion on the track if you ask us.