Some of the things Sir Bradley Wiggins might say to Andrew Marr about Grand Tour TUEs

I could have misjudged XIX Management’s strategy on this, but their game now is re-positioning Wiggins as a mainstream “inspirational” lifestyle brand. That’s why they’ve chosen Marr and not a sports outlet or journalist. I didn’t see this coming.

So here’s some things that seem to me obvious lines that you’ll hear in the interview (which is a pre-record anyway):

  • They were within a strict framework that all agencies agree, we didn’t bend the law, we stuck to it
  • They were medically necessary, I followed doctor’s orders
  • Dr Freeman has been British Cycling doctor and has spotless record
  • Leinders played no role in my TUEs
  • We’d done lots of data and the inhalers were ineffective in managing the condition over 3 weeks
  • In shorter races my respiratory condition was manageable with inhalers
  • While others have abused TUEs we had absolutely no intention in our use
  • We didn’t have any fat to burn, I would have got sick if I lost more fat
  • I know it looks bad, but we’re not in the cheating game
  • I love this sport
  • I couldn’t cheat and live with myself, my wife, my children
  • Here’s my numbers, they were as strong before use as after use

Eyes down for a full house, Sunday 0900BST on BBC One

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Here’s why Sky should have invested in a British Women’s team

Because women control the vast majority of consumer purchase decisions in the household

70-80% was the figure I was told by Bob Stapleton, owner of High Road Sports in 2011 – HTC-Colombia – on the process of searching for new sponsors.

You don’t believe me? Try Bridget Brennan writing in Forbes:

Women drive 70-80% of all consumer purchasing, through a combination of their buying power and influence.

Because Sky Italia

So if Italy’s Giro Donne is the biggest race in women’s cycling and you have a commercial satellite television business in that country, you’d want to find some way to get traction in that market with the people who drive purchase decisions.

Why do you think the men’s team keeps on hiring young Italian riders and persuading some of their best riders to schlep round the old boot in May, when the goal is to win a race in France in July?

Sky Italia’s contribution to the Team Sky budget probably could have kept a very well-appointed women’s team running for every year they’ve been running.

Because it cost less than buying out Bradley Wiggins contract

Depending on who you believe, the price of getting him out of Garmin-Slipsteam was £2m or as high as £4m.

For that, you could have had an Olympic and World Champion, one of the top climbers in the world and a TT goddess, one of the best young riders, a top domestique. And control over the development of one the strongest teams anywhere in cycling – the women’s track endurance squad.

Because they’d already done it once with incredible success

It was called Team Halfords-Bikehut. It resulted in Nicole Cooke becoming the first and only professional cyclist to win the Olympic and World Road Race titles in the same year, 2008.

There’s five riders on that squad who have gone on to win World or Olympic titles. That’s quite some strength in depth given the small squad. You might recognise some of the names – Lizzie Armitstead, Jo Rowsell, Wendy Houvenagel.

Was it a hard slog for the likes of Brailsford and Fran Millar with limited rewards? Undoubtedly, but so was finding something for Wiggins to do after 2012, but they stuck at that as well.

Working in a publicly funded organisation isn’t meant to be easy or without struggle. Trust me, I’ve worked for one for the last decade.

So you can go away and make excuses, or tell people to get over themselves.

Those four things, that’s a better business case that there was to launch a men’s team during the second Armstrong era, then hiring riders and staff who everyone else knew had skeletons on the mantelpiece, let alone closet.

Posted in British Cycling, Economics, Professional, Women | Leave a comment

Does British cycling have a problem with women?

So, we’re here again, debating sexism and British Cycling.

Nicole’s article contains a more analytical and well-evidenced case. That GB’s women did not have access to the ultra-aero UKSI bikes for London 2012 road races, what can you say?

Look at the gold medal potential in that women’s squad  – Cooke, Pooley, Armistead – versus the men – Cavendish.

Now there is a case that until 2012, British Cycling’s progress was hampered in previous cycles by inequality in events on the track.

If you look at the depth and breadth of support offered to Bradley Wiggins over his career, you can see this illustrated

We’re now two full Olympic cycles on from Beijing 2008, eight years in which to effect change.

And we’re still hearing the same criticisms from female athletes and an absence of a visible female presence in senior leadership roles within the organisation.

British Cycling vs UCI

But discussing British Cycling in isolation is rather like worrying about a puncture while ignoring a buckled wheel.

There’s a long and deeply entrenched sexism in cycling as a whole. It’s going to take a while to equal things out.

So establishing a Women’s World Tour is a step in the right direction on the road.

But the absence of a clear plan to phase in minimum wage equality as part of that project represents a massive missed opportunity.

Effective change is rarely comfortable for existing stakeholders – it shouldn’t be – but it demands a degree of ambition and disruptiveness that goes beyond what we’ve seen so far.

For me, Cookson’s new UCI, lacks the willingness to be disruptive in a meaningful way for cycling. Bradley Wiggins argues this in a recent Procycling interview.

Bradley Wiggins on uci and change - "they need to take big decision that will have a longer lasting effect on the sport"

And that ripples all the way down the sport.

Diversify for Tokyo

We’re too far in to the current Olympic cycle for Rio to really do anything meaningful. So we have to look to Tokyo 2020 as the point at which we can deliver something substantive.

Quotas are ugly tools, but in small workforce populations, they can even up the odds and create the environment for transformation. Elite sport is one such environment.

To reach a goal of 50% of women’s Olympic Podium Programmes (OPP) on the track – endurance and sprint – being run by women would require one appointment over four years.

Does anyone this is unrealistic?

You can run all the Breeze rides you like, but if women don’t see a place for themselves at the top of the sport, then you will never fix the problem.

Posted in Bradley Wiggins, British Cycling, Culture, Women | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment