'There is a lot of willy-waving about how much pain you can take, but in the end the race is about how fast you go, not how often you see Jesus.'

Michael Hutchinson, Rouleur Issue 49

'You don't have to be happy, and you almost certainly aren't, but you have to be able to function sufficiently to get up, have a kilo of porridge for breakfast and get on your bike. Even the most committed have to choose between speed and sanity.'

Michael Hutchinson, Faster, 2014

World Time Trial Championships 2014 – Tech Analysis, in short.

Before the race I was personally convinced that Wiggins wasn’t up for it, and that we’d see another crushing win by Tony Martin, but I’m happy to admit I was proved comprehensively wrong. In the end, Wiggins won comfortably. The superlatives have already been exhausted, but Wiggins was making it look easy whilst it seemed everyone else was trying to fight.

As always with a time trial, there were some interesting technical choices made by a few people evidently trying to squeeze the absolute maximum speed out of their performance.

1st – Bradley Wiggins (Great Britain) – 0:56:25.52

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Rode his team issue Pinarello Bolide, in Union Jack livery. It was was a standard Team Sky build, with the exception of an unusually large set of chainrings mounted on a Dura Ace 7900 crank. A quick google search tells me the maximum size chainset Shimano offer in Dura Ace Di2 9000 is a 55-42T, so I’m comfortable in postulating that the big ring is at least a 56T, but is possibly even larger. A marginal gain probably garnered from watching Tony Martin, larger chain rings/sprockets/jockey wheels are supposedly more efficient (the chain line remains straighter and the larger turning circle reduces fricitional loses, in theory).

Interestingly, Wiggins stuck with his team issue Kask Bambino helmet. At last years World’s, Wiggins wore the custom UK Sport aero helmet commissioned for the London Olympics in 2012:

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Wiggins did however opt for the GB only 'Addidas' overshoes (which again first surfaced at the London Olympics) – the distinctive seam running down the outside of the upper part, is the key indicator. Normal Sky overshoes, and those worn by nearly everyone else, appear to be of a seamless construction.

Staying on the overshoes theme, Alex Dowsett chose to go with the normal Smart overshoes (developed again by Drag-2-Zero), rather than the recently developed tall, striped model he and other Movistar riders have been wearing in time trials this season.

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As we can see, Dowsett also chose to wear the new Catlike round aero helmet, which doesn’t have a tail. Dr Hutch wasn’t convinced:

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2nd – Tony Martin (Germany) – 0:0026.23

Tony Martin rode his now standard set up – as much as you can call a 58T chainring ‘standard’. As usual, the large chainrings were paired with a large, wide range cassette and a long cage rear derailleur – enabling him to mostly avoid time loses accrued from shifting between the two front chain rings.

The only deviation from his team issue set up was his helmet – which is a model not currently in Specialized line up. It looks like a custom version of Specialized McLaren TT helmet, with a sharper tail and some fins.

A minor detail; this time, unlike at the Vuelta, Martin did not invert his rear skewer to tuck his rear derailleur cable out of the wind.

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4. Vasil Kiryienka (Belarus) – 0:00:40.64

A storming performance, he missed the podium by about 7 seconds (0.2% of his finishing time). I can’t help wondering if he would have finished 3rd with a faster skinsuit – like the ubiquitos bio-racer skinsuit that Doumoulin (who beat Kiryienka to 3rd) wore – or had at least kept it zipped up…

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15. Andrew Talansky (United States Of America) – 0:02:20.88

Talansky used the most recent iteration of Cervelo’s P3, rather than their flagship model, the P5. The geometries of the two models are slightly different – with the P3 having a slightly longer top tube/shorter head tube across the sizes – which perhaps enabled Talansky to get a more aggressive postion on the P3, but that is really just speculation.

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The Evolution of Ryder Hesjedal’s TT Position

Velonews.com originally covered this in a slightly different form, after Hesjedal’s Giro win in 2012:

Narrowing his frame decreased drag, even with the higher overall position. “Last year’s position was probably a mid-point between 2010 and now,” Ketchell explained. “We’ve just gradually gone to a more aero but also more relaxed position.”

Yet, whilst Velonews looked specifically at the change between 2010-2012, it’s interesting to expand the timeframe; as Hesjedal has changed his position quite significantly over recent years.

2008

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2009

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2010

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2011

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2012

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2013

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2014

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To my untrained eye, his 2009/2011/2014 positions look best; Hesjedal looks relaxed and powerful. And despite the improvements made for 2012/2013, Hejedsal now appears to have adopted a position more akin to his one from 2011. His 2010 position, on the other hand, looks terrible… But what do I know?

Clearly, not very much; data from Pro Cycling Stats tells a different story; in terms of his average finishing position, 2010 and 2012 have been two of Hesjedal’s best years for time trials.

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Furthermore, Hesjedal recorded his highest average speeds (across all time trials in each season) in 2010 and 2012; in 2012 Hesjedal was on average almost 2kph faster than any other year.

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Another interesting point to note is that whilst the overall trend for Hesjedal’s average finishing position is improving (i.e. he’s performing better, more consistently), the overall trend for his average speed is downwards, despite the improvement of aerodynamic cycling technology that is much vaunted by manufacturers. Perhaps time trial courses are getting harder?

VUELTA A’ESPAÑA 2014 – Stage 10 – Time Trial Technology Analysis

THE GOOD

Tony Martin (Ger) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team (1st – 00:47:02) image

  • Martin and other OPQS riders (e.g. Uran) reversed the rear quick release skewer to keep the rear derailleur cable tucked in – presumably for a small aerodynamic gain.
  • Used a 58T chain ring up front and a wide 11speed cassette – possibly an 11-32 – with a long cage rear derailleur. This has been Martin’s standard set-up for a while now; it allows him to stay in the big ring longer. Shifting down/up on the front could cost a second or two with each shift, as you need to back off the power slightly to avoid dropping the chain. Over a hilly course, these saved seconds add up. Drivetrain efficiency is also higher when using larger cogs, as the chain tension is increased – another small gain.
  • Using Specialized’s new S-Works Turbo Cotton Tyre  - nominally clincher only, it’s possible that Specialized makes tubular versions for their sponsored teams. That said, Martin has a well documented history of running clincher wheels/tyres, as there is some evidence they can potentially have less rolling resistance than even the best tubular tyres.
  • Unclear which skinsuit he wore – used to wear the now ubiquitous Bio-Racer ‘Speedwear Concept TT’, but is now usually wearing something with less ‘piping’ on the arms. It looks very similar to the Champion Systems Long Sleeve Speedsuit – note the seams at the elbow, the small, white concealed zip, and the way the collar stretches down (because the suit is shaped for a race position) when he’s standing up, but it may well be something else.
  • Bucking the trend for integrated visors on aero helmets, Martin continues with sunglasses (Oakley Radarlock XL) instead. Designed without a visor in the beginning, this is likely to be the fastest set-up with this helmet (one assumes the three-time World Individual Time Trial Champion has actually tested it).

Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team (2nd - 00:47:17)

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  • Essentially the same set up as his team mate, Tony Martin, including a ‘larger than normal’ big chain ring (though perhaps ‘just’ a 56T rather than a 58T like Martin). Unclear if he used the same extreme wide cassette out back – what looks like a normal, short cage, rear derailleur suggests he stuck with a less exotic 11-28 cassette.
  • Uran has flown under the radar so far in this Vuelta, climbing with the GC leaders on practically all stages (he finished alongside Froome on Stage 09, losing 23 seconds to COntador), but this performance shows his engine is ticking over very nicely. To finish only 15 seconds back on Martin is clearly a fantastic performance, even though we know from the technical Giro TT that he won earlier this year that these types of courses suit his abilities well. He remains a strong outside pick for the podium, but on past performances lacks the explosiveness required to wrestle the race lead from Contador.

Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Trek Factory Racing (3rd 00:47:19 – originally 2nd, but given a 07 second time penalty for ‘drafting’, and consequently relegated to 3rd)

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  • Wearing the Bio-Racer ‘Speedwear Concept TT’ – though most likely one that has been custom sized specifically for him, rather than an ‘off-the-peg’ version’.
  • Used a Zipp Sub-9 rear disc with the logos removed (to appease Trek’s wheel sponsor, Bontrager, who don’t make a disc wheel) – the dimples are the obvious giveaway.
  • Wearing Bontrager’s new TT helmet, the ‘Aeolus’ (like their aero wheel line). Snub-tailed, like the Kask Bambino – this helmet design is gaining popularity mostly due to the ‘Sky-effect’, i.e. The fact that Wiggins and Froome won the Tour for Sky two years in a row, both having dominated the time trials. The well known, but not-necessarily-data-supported, concept is that the shape is more aero, more of the time – i.e. less susceptible to head movements that are almost inevitable (unless your Tony Martin) during an effort of such intensity. Also suggested to be more aerodynamic at higher wind yaw angles, which are experienced at slower speeds (though one could reasonably argue ‘slower speeds’ are less of a consideration for Cancellara).

 

  • As an aside, it’s interesting to note that for the 2012 Olympic time trial, Wiggins and Froome both wore custom UK Sport aero helmets that were much more ‘traditional’, with longer and sharper tails that filled the gap between their heads and backs. Clearly this was a ‘money is no object’ decision. From this we can likely surmise that, if perfectly (custom) shaped, the longer/shaper tailed helmets can be faster – but when designing a consumer product, the snub-tailed style may possibly offer the ‘best fit’ for he majority who cannot afford to test out various helmet styles in a wind tunnel or even just on the road/track with the aid of a powermeter.

Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo (4th 00:47:41)

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  • Another Specialized Shiv (Martin and Uran also on Shiv’s) in the top five.
  • Recently developed, team-issue-only skinsuit, made by Sportful. Not yet available for the public to purchase (which is potentially not allowed under UCI rules – though the rules are notoriously hazy, and besides, it’s a crap rule). Zip is on the rear of the suit, and it features generous texturing (to reduce drag, like on the various other suits with similar fabrics) around the upper arms, chest and back. Also wearing unbranded aero gloves, potentially another Sportful prototype.
  • Contador joins various Movistar riders in wearing very tall overshoes (eg, Quintana, Dowsett and Castroveijo, amongst others - who have all tested their bike fits and Endura kit extensively, at the UK-based Drag-2-Zero wind tunnel run by Simon Smart), though Contadors are likely made by his sponsors Specialized or Sportful. The theory is that the material used is more aerodynamic than bare skin, so you want to cover as much as possible (hence the domination of long sleeves, despite the high temperatures). UCI rules stipulate socks/shoe covers Socks (and shoe covers) used in competition must not exceed the mid-distance between the ankle and the knee, though Quintana and Dowsett notably push this limit.
  • Specialized S-Works Turbo Cotton Tyre on his front wheel, possibly a tubular, but potentially a clincher as Roval (Specialized) does make a 60mm carbon clincher wheel.
  • Lightweight Autobahn rear disc wheel – tubular only. Different tyre (likely another Specialized model, such as the S-Works Tubro Tubular) on the back suggests that his front tyre is in fact a clincher (also increases the chances that Uran and Martin both ran clinchers front and rear).
  • Disagrees with Tony Martin, and uses a visor with his Spceialized McLaren TT Helmet - but probably only because it looks cool, as it’s supposed to be less aero.

Samuel Sanchez (Spa) BMC Racing Team (5th 00:47:50) & Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team (6th 00:47:51) image

  • Both wearing team issue Pearl Izumi skinsuits, like the ones recently provided to the classification leaders at the 2014 USA Pro Challenge. The checkerboard texturing across the front of the arms, back and thighs is unique to Pearl Izumi – it’s their ‘Transfer Aero fabric’. These skin suits, like Contador’s Sportful suit, are currently not available to the public.
  • Wearing a ‘prototype’ snub-tailed version of the Giro Selector TT helmet - another piece of kit that’s not yet available to the public, even though various iterations of it have been in action since at least the 2010 Tour De France (Warning: you will see a terrible TT position if you click that link. The odd looking skin suit was later banned by the UCI)
  • Sanchez also used a Lightweight Autobahn rear disc wheel.

THE NOT QUITE AS GOOD

Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team (8th 00:48:18)

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  • As the leader of the Combination Classification, Valverde was obliged to wear a skinsuit provided by the organisers – in this case Le Coq Sportif. Whilst Contador and Froome (amongst others) went for individual fitting sessions with le Coq Sportif before Le Tour this year, it appears that Valverde did not do so before the Vuelta. Compared to others, Valverde’s skinsuit is visibly less well fitted and has more creases.
  • Valverde also decided to forego the long Drag-2-Zero designed oversocks that Quintana was wearing.
  • These may seem like extremely marginal gains/losses but considering the high speeds involved (Tony Martin averaged just under 30mph/47kph), and knowing that drag increases with the square of speed, a 1% improvement in speed (Valverde averaged 28.33mph/45.6kph – so 0.28mph/0.46kph faster) could have potentially saved Valverde 29 seconds (48x60+18= 2898, 2898x0.01=28.98, please do point it out if this is wrong though; maths is not a strength of mine!) – more than enough to win or lose a Grand Tour.

Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky (10th 00:48:34) image

  • To be fair to Froome, his time trialing is normally very good, but he seemed to have had an off day. Froome, in true marginal gains style, seems to have got all of his kit right, but unfortunately his engine wasn’t as good as usual.
  • Froome wore a Sky-only skinsuit, which is so rare I’ve only seen worn by himself and Bradley Wiggins (who wore an early version, somewhat controversially, at Le Tour in 2012, then with arm seams removed, at the 2013 Giro D’Italia, 2014 Tour of California). The key identifying features are the broad white zip, down the front of the suit, and the non-texutred fabric, which appears much thicker than other skinsuits. Unlike almost every other skin suit currently being used in the professional peloton, this fabric seems to not have texturing of any sort. It is much smoother and more opaque, whereas most current offerings from other manufacturers are almost translucent in places (Contador’s Sportful, for example). Michael Hutchinson suggests in his excellent book ‘Faster’, that the permeability of a fabric affects it’s aerodynamics; less permeable = faster (hence why the UCI banned plasticised skinsuits, though as usual the rules are hazy).
  • Whilst I haven’t been able to confirm this (so please correct me if this is wrong), it’s likely that Froome’s teammate Vasil Kiryienka (7th 00:48:00) wore the Bio-Racer ‘Speedwear Concept TT’, that is otherwise the standard issue for all Sky riders.
  • Like (copying?) Tony Martin, Froome used an Ultegra 6870 Di2 GS rear derailleur – a medium cage derailleur, capable of handling a 32T sprocket on the rear cassette (compared to the SS version, which will only take a 28T).
  • Unbranded disc wheel – clearly not the ultra wide PRO TreXtreme disc wheel that Sky riders normally use. Possibly another Lightweight, as at only 780g it’s very light (and therefore possibly faster in a hilly time trial like this one), but it lacks the distinctive carbon spokes look - though this may have just been stickered over to keep the sponsors happy.
  • New tri-spoke front wheel from PRO, first seen at Le Tour, it’s 28mm wide at the brake track – inline with the current cycling trend for wide wheels. The HED H3/GT3 wheels that Sky used to use are 19mm/26.5mm wide, respectively.

Show Me The Money

There’s a worrying trend in the road bike industry at the moment; manufacturers seem content to make lots of claims about the effectiveness of their new products, but don’t actually provide any empirical data to back up these claims. The irony is that we live in the most data driven era cycling has ever seen; the proliferation of power meters (which without doubt will be a standard piece of kit within a few years, or maybe even sooner), GPS cycle computers, heart rate monitors, Strava, wind tunnel testing, etc…

What’s worse is that many seem to swallow these claims without much dissent; recently Velonews ran an article about new, ‘low-rolling-resistance’ tyres. In the middle of the article, this sentence appears; Zipp did not provide any data to back up its rolling resistance claims.’ – that should raise alarm bells in the head of any informed journalist (or consumer – why didn’t Zipp provide any data?

Likewise, Giro ran a teaser campaign for it’s new aerodynamic road helmet, the Synthe, claiming the new helmet is ‘16% FASTER’, ‘13% LIGHTER’, and ‘2% COOLER’ – but again, provides no data to back up these claims. Of course, any one with a set of kitchen scales could potentially verify the ‘13% LIGHTER’ claim, but the ‘16% FASTER’ is what most people are probably interested in, and since Giro plan to charge £200 (RRP) for it, it’s surely reasonable to expect that they provide the data to substantiate these assertions.

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Likewise, Bell (a sister company of Giro), says that its new Star Pro is faster (i.e. produces lower drag values) than four of its competitors aero helmets at 25mph, and a 30-degree head angle. Or at least that’s what I think it says – Bell doesn’t give any units to its data (is it grams of drag, or %, or something else?), just numbers and a basic graph:

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Why doesn’t Bell give us the actual CDA figures, rather than just numbers relative to a baseline (the Gage helmet)? What are four competitor helmets? According to bikeradar.com the competitor helmets are ‘Specialized (Evade), Giro (Air Attack), Louis Garneau and Lazer., but doesn’t quote a source for that information.

In my opinion, the likelihood is that these and other manufacturers don’t release the data because they don’t data won’t help them sell their product. Whilst manufacturers might claim they want to help make you go faster on a bike, they actually just want to make money first and foremost (see hydraulic road disc brakes). For example, It’s all very well saying the Giro Synthe is ‘16% FASTER’ than the Giro Air Attack at a stupendously specific speed, head angle and wind angle, but without the absolute CDA numbers from manufacturers we can’t make an informed comparison between other products – which the industry clearly doesn’t want anyone doing. Also, ‘16% less of a tiny amount of aerodynamic drag’ doesn’t sound as snappy, and might not be worth shelling out an extra £200 for.

There are some companies doing it right; Bontrager released a fantastic ‘white paper’ to support the release of its Aeolus D3 Tubular Wheel Line, and HED publishes some basic aero data for each of it’s wheels. If manufacturers were transparent, the world would be a better place (or I’d be happier at least). Of course it’s very probable that some of the above companies have released their empirical data from time to time - Zipp almost certainly has - but the important thing is to release all of the data, all of the time, not just that which makes your product look good (I’m in a dream world now).

In a nutshell, if you want to say there’s science behind your product development, then you need to follow the rules and publish your data. Otherwise, I’m calling bullshit.

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Nicole Cooke’s Retirement Statement, 14th January 2013

Introduction

Thank you all for coming here today to be with me and hear what I am going to say. I am here to announce my retirement and in one sense that is a simple thing to say and a simple story, but given that the sport I have given my life to has become more ‘fantastic’ than any soap opera and it has just given witness to the greatest ever sporting fraud, about which we get new and wider revelations each day, I thought it appropriate to share with you some of my experiences and, importantly some ideas for the future. And, understanding that for the duration of my career the sport has been through the darkest years, I want to both reflect and look ahead. I hope that in some small way, my experiences can help.

I am going to recount one of the aspects of my past career that few know about or understand, but about which I am most proud. I am going to talk about the abuse of drugs in the sport of cycling and my experiences and then I am going to talk about changes in the sport and look ahead at one overlooked but absolutely vital aspect.

I am very happy with my career. I have many, many happy memories over what has been my life’s work since I was 12. I am now 29 so that is 17 years of my life that I have enjoyed and now I am bringing to a close. I have won every race and more that I dreamed I could win. As a little girl of 12, after beating all the boys at the Welsh cyclo cross championships, I stood in front of the TV cameras and stated to the BBC reporter — when asked the question — what would you like do in cycling — I answered “I want to win the Tour de France and win the Olympic Road Race” At 12 I dreamed like every child. I hoped that some of my dreams could come true. You cannot imagine how happy I am to be here with you now, with my dreams fulfilled. I am very happy.

As Jon said – I have quite a collection of tee-shirts. Yellow ones, Pink ones, ones with rainbow bands and ones with coloured rings on. As I bring down the curtain on my career, I want to share with you something that I take the greatest pride in, which now, we could not imagine not being here, something now taken for granted.

Legacy

At the age of 12 one is unaware of the problems ahead. One expects there to be an infrastructure for both boys and girls to develop and demonstrate their talents; to nurture them. One does not expect that nothing is available if you are a girl or that worse still, girls will be specifically excluded, not allowed to compete. It is somewhat of a handicap trying to demonstrate just how good you are on a bike when you are not allowed to ride.

There were no British Championship events for Girls. My father and I worked very hard with British Cycling, formerly the British Cycling Federation (BCF). We strived to convince them to hold events for girls and to provide the necessary support to help them progress. We had to do a great deal in so many ways. Cycling was, and continues to be, a male dominated sport and “equality” from many points of view still has a very long way to go.

I want to describe just two events that proved to be turning points and changed some things, so much for the better.

One of the turning points was at the British grass track championships. It was the 800m British Championships for Women and Victoria Pendleton took part, indeed her father helped to organize it. There were no Youth (under 16) or Junior (under 18) races and, being only 14 at the time, I was not allowed to compete with the Women. Furthermore, I was expressly forbidden, by the BCF from riding in the senior women’s Championship event. I had received a 3 page letter telling me all the reasons why I could not compete! However, there was a non-championship open event called an “omnium” which included an 800m handicap on the same day, which I was allowed to ride.

The first event that day for women was the British 800m Championship which was won by a smashing girl, Helen McGregor. Later on in the day the omnium started with the 800m handicap. As usual, in a handicap, the British Champion was put off on the scratch mark with all other riders to start ahead of the British Champion.

The handicapper knew that the BCF had officially instructed the organisers to stop me riding the women’s championships because I was too young, and decided to intervene and allow history to run its course. I was put off on scratch with Helen, while all the other riders, started in front of us.

Showdown time!

Worth far more than any medal was the applause of the crowd of cycling enthusiasts as I crossed the line first. Those are memories that will never be forgotten.

This was typical of many episodes with the BCF in that it must have been embarrassing for the officials.

My father wrote to the official who had ruled I could not ride and asked for Championships to be established for girls. The result was that the following year, The BCF put on a superb set of British track championships. The Federation spoiled us with jerseys, bouquets and medals just like the boys, senior men and senior women. The BCF could not have done a better job in response to that embarrassment.

Success.

From 1998 on, there have been Youth track events for girls and later, as they saw them succeed, they put on Junior events as well.. Now all the budding young stars like Jo Rowsall and Laura Trott can see an aspirational pathway for the girls, just as there has been for the boys, that simply did not exist when I started out on my career.

The same goes for Road Racing. When I started, the only 2 or 3 races per year available locally for under 16s, would feature myself as the only girl, my younger brother and about 3 others. I have the most vivid memory of 5 of us competing in a race in a howling gale and rain on Aberavon beachfront up and down between some cones. My brother was 11 and about ½ the size of the 6 foot 16 year old who won. This example highlights the immense efforts of the people who put it on, despite the circumstances and sorry state of cycling in Britain at the time.

There are many good folk in the cycling community who go to immense efforts to do their very best. In that case it was Louise and Phil Jones, absolute stalwarts of the cycling community.

Perhaps one of the best memories of my cycling career came when I was a Youth age competitor. There was no British Championship Youth Road Race for me to ride.

My Dad looked closely at the rules and found a bylaw that enabled Youth age competitors to compete in Junior road events once they had attained the age of 16, even though they were still Youth Category. He then found another rule that said if there was no Junior event of equivalent standing, which was the case here, entrants were automatically eligible to ride the Senior equivalent event. Dad checked it all with the organiser of the Senior British Women’s Road Race Championships Jon Miles to see if it was all ok, and it was. And so I rode my first British National Road race Championships having just turned 16, by being a Youth riding up as a Junior and because there was no Junior race I could compete with the Seniors! Winning that Senior title astounded a lot of people and winning this race is one of my favourite memories. Indeed, I still keep in touch with Jon who was very supportive at the time and took the care and time to talk to the small school girl asking for advice about the course.

Again the BCF and the lottery funded coaching structure was embarrassed that I won and beat the funded riders on their expensive equipment and resources, on my cheap bike. They had a British Cycling Team car and back up. I had dad on his bike with a saddlebag of energy bars and drinks to hand out!!

What they did not know was that in the weeks before, I had spent the summer riding over the Grand Cols, including over the highest road ever taken by the Tour — the Cime de La Bonnette at over 2700m. I had ridden over this with mum, dad and my brother. I had put the hard work in and in my World, hard work counts for an awful lot.

I cannot help but think that, as a consequence of my letters the year before, and win that year; a Youth Circuit Race and a Junior category Road Race Championship and Series were put in place for female riders by the BCF.

Again they could not have done a better job. They stepped up to solving the problem I brought to light in a magnificent way.

Now I can attend local youth age events and see 45 riders, all locally based and there are 18 or so girls competing in their own race. This is a huge movement. I know Brad Wiggins and Mark Cavendish who have followed me onto the continent have rightly had lots of publicity for their successes and that has done an awful lot for the participation in cycling of both sexes. However, previously, there were no events put on by the BCF for girls and no support for girls. That all changed following my success as a Youth in the British Senior Championships. Now the likes of Dani King and Laura Trott have a shop window to display their exceptional talents. There is an infrastructure that supports them and nurtures their talent. I am just as proud of my part in bringing about those permanent changes as I am of being the first ever British winner of the Olympic Road Race or a major tour.

The Dark Side

I left school. There was no UK Lottery funding available to me. The 12 year old inside me with a dream of riding the Tour de France and collecting a few tee-shirts, knew exactly what I had to do I had to get across to the continent and join a team. Going there was great. It was one of my dreams coming true for me. Women’s Road cycling was huge at that time; both the women’s Tour de France and Giro (Tour of Italy) were 2 week events and looking like they would expand to 3 weeks to match the stage races for men. The World Cup visited more parts of the World than the men’s and had 160 rider fields and I was now going to be part of it.

I feel really privileged. I have not had to work, I have been able to travel the World and do something that really excites me and gives me great pleasure. That I was able to satisfy that inner 12 year old’s desire for collecting coloured clothes was another delight!

I have ridden professionally on the Road from 2002 to 2012. Those 11 years of my adult life I have given to the sport have been the very best I could give. It has been an incredibly turbulent time for the sport and it has not come out of it well. So many competitors have abused the sport by taking performance enhancing drugs and generated a travesty.

After the Festina tour in 1998 it was obvious to everyone who followed the sport that drugs were endemic. Like many, I hoped I could win races clean and that things would improve in that dark world as my career progressed.

We were all told in 1999 that testing was now improved and the show had been cleaned up. After all we now had a new, brighter than bright, clean tour Champion in Lance.

I did not have long to wait before encountering suspicious circumstances. In the fridge [in a team house] were various bottles and vials with diaphragms on top for extracting the contents via syringes. I rang dad and asked what I should do. We chatted it through and came to the conclusion that even condoning the presence of ‘medicines’ in the house I was staying, could lead to pressure being put on me, or in the worst case, if there was a raid on the house, it was highly unlikely that any of the “professionals ” I was sharing the house with were going to say “it’s a fair cop guv, That gear is all mine.” So, I emptied the fridge and put the lot out in the front garden and [said] either it went or I went. It went.

I have had days where temptation to start onto the slippery slope was brought in front of me. [In one race] I was asked what “medicines” I would like to take to help me, and was reminded that the team had certain expectations of me during the race and I was not living up to them with my performance over the last couple of stages. I said I would do my best until I had to drop out of the race, but I was not taking anything.

Pressure was put on me but I was determined, and fortunate. I had a very good team-mate who was in a similar predicament and she took the same stance I did. Team-mates that say “NO” are priceless. I would have been very naive to think that I would not encounter moments, like this. I am appalled that so many men bleat on about the fact that the pressures were too great. Too great for what? This is not doing 71 mph on the motorway when the legal limit is 70. This is stealing somebody else’s livelihood. It is theft just as much as putting your hand in a purse or wallet and taking money is theft. Theft has gone on since the dawn of time but because somebody, somewhere else, does it, does not mean it is right for you to do it. There can be no excuse.

In all this furore, the women’s scene has been hit twice.

Every scandal on the men’s side has caused sponsors to leave on the Women’s side. And with such thin budgets, the losses have a greater relative impact on what survives. In areas where there was unique female development and growth, such as in Canada, which hosted a major Tour, a World Cup and the World Championships, all geared to supporting their number one rider — Genevieve Jeanson, there has been calamity. Perhaps Jeanson will not be a name familiar to you. She was the Canadian superstar, a national icon. She never tested positive. She missed a drugs test when she beat me and received a meaningless fine as a consequence. She exceeded the 50% Hematocrit level and the authorities acted in line with their legislation and imposed a “health rest” on her.

Second fiddle to Jeanson during this time in Canada was a rider with morals called Lyne Bessette. Nobody can give back to Lyne Bessette or I the wins Jeanson stole from us. Throughout her career Jeanson repeatedly lied, just like Lance and yet now, she confesses that she had been on an extensive doping program since she was 16. The full story only came out, via quality investigative journalism.

Jeanson states, like all the others, she is “repentant” and all that is behind her. All these “born again” champions of a clean sport. They could be more accurately described as criminals who stole other’s livelihoods who are only ever genuinely sorry about one thing — they are very sorry they were caught.

I do despair that the sport will ever clean itself up when the rewards of stealing are greater than riding clean. If that remains the case, the temptation for those with no morals will always be too great. Lyne summed it up quite nicely with a statement that won her few plaudits but was entirely right. I can’t help thinking that the cheats win on the way up and the way down.

Tyler Hamilton will make more money from his book describing how he cheated than Bessette or I will make in all our years of our honest labour. The situation requires the very basics of morality. Please don’t reward people like Hamilton with money. That is the last thing he needs. Donate his literary prize and subsequent earnings from such publications to a charity. There are many places infinitely more deserving than the filthy hands of Hamilton. I am happy to offer some ideas!

It is obvious that this issue is wider than the remit of the sporting governing bodies. It is no modest “sporting fraud”. Wider society has to act.

I have ridden through some of the darkest days of the sport in terms of corruption by the cheats and liars. I cannot change the era or time that I am born into. I am very proud that I have met the temptations head on and have not wavered in my honesty or sold my ideals. I have always ridden true to myself and placed my morals beyond a need to win. I have ridden clean throughout my career. In a sport so tainted, this has generated many negative consequences. From the single example above; my team-mate and myself not getting paid for the rest of the year, after the Tour de France, being simple evidence. I am so very fortunate to have been able to have won clean.

Perhaps a major factor is that the races are short – only 3 hours long! This is perhaps a hard and unpopular fact that the male side may need to embrace if it is genuine about wanting to clean itself up.

I have been robbed by drug cheats, but I am fortunate, I am here before you with more in my basket than the 12 year old dreamed of. But for many genuine people out there who do ride clean; people with morals, many of these people have had to leave the sport with nothing after a lifetime of hard work — some going through horrific financial turmoil. When Lance “cries” on Oprah later this week and she passes him a tissue, spare a thought for all of those genuine people who walked away with no reward – just shattered dreams. Each one of them is worth a thousand Lances.

Protection for women riders

Whilst the UCI have spent the past 10 years trying to defend the indefensible Armstrong position, with time wasting actions such as suing Paul Kimmage for libel after Kimmage dared to bring their “good name” into disrepute; whilst they have been so engrossed trying to find receipts for the equipment they bought after Lance made donations to them and suing Floyd Landis after he blew the whistle and holding press conferences calling Landis a liar. Whilst they have been so busy with all these “priorities”, the women’s road sport, that looked so promising in 2002 when I turned professional, has crumbled.

There are so many ways in which the UCI could support the sport for women, but instead they have acted, regardless of their intent, in a way that has caused the sport to lose events. Gone are the women’s Milan San Remo, the Amstel Gold Race, Tour de L’Aude, Tour Midi Pyrenees, and Tour Castel de Leon. No HP tour in America.

No Tours in Australia, New Zealand or Canada. Instead of a two-week Tour de France we have nothing. Today, in January, the major race in the women’s calendar this year, the one from which I have the pink T-shirt, has no organiser and no route.

With sponsors and support lost, the riders in the sport are exposed and vulnerable in so many ways. Many riders receive just token reward or rewards paid out in a capricious and unfair way. Some receive nothing. Then for those of us fortunate to be towards the top of the spectrum, those with a contract — too often, that piece of paper given to us is a joke. In 11 years of professional riding I have had to take four teams to court to achieve settlement against a straightforward contract to get my wages owed to me. I have won every time, but this is incredibly abrasive and exhausting in so many ways.

This year, as I prepared for the defence of my Olympic title, I received no wages after March. Yes, there is a taboo about revealing what really goes on. Riders move teams. Teams find new riders trying to make a start in cycling with no idea of what is out there or what tricks the managers can get up to. Tales go round that certain riders are “difficult”. I certainly was. The stories are invented. Riders are labeled as uncooperative, selfish, not team players – it must be the case, rider A has been in the sport four years and has moved teams each year.

Novices and those new to the sport are encouraged to ride against certain riders.

At the end of this season I visited an erstwhile team-mate who left Europe halfway through the season because her wages had not been paid. She has a daughter. How is she meant to pay for food for herself and her girl?

To employ a “cleaner” or a youngster to wash up at a bar, an employer must pay a minimum wage. The UCI Road Commission headed by British Cycling’s Brian Cookson has stated that whilst a minimum wage is required for all male professionals, female riders do not deserve this. Only as recently as this October the commission rejected this simple request. There are two aspects of this case. One is straightforward and moral.

Society cannot continue to leave all those girls in so vulnerable a position. A simple bar placed at the entry point for the sport would dispel all manner of problems. Are these girls that race for a living an underclass? They are somehow a sub-race not worthy of the most basic protection we afford the rest of our citizens in whatever employment they find themselves. Please understand, this is not about money, the main driver is the protection that will come from the placement of an absolute starting point for payment. The second factor is the one that demolishes the argument that it is sport; surely they are doing it for fun? Well what makes it different for men then? Why is there a minimum wage put in place for male riders? It protects them from being taken advantage of.

Why are women not worthy of that same protection?

Women’s cycling has declined through each year of my career. It is not a sustainable business model. Yes new races have been added to the calendar but loss exceeds growth. Look at the Giro – whilst team Sky plot their team for both the Tour and the Giro, the girls don’t even know what part of Italy the race will take place in! This is not a time for “tweaking” or “minor correction”. Whilst so much time, energy and resource has been spent defending and analysing the indefensible, from a woman’s perspective, Rome has quietly burned down. Radical and significant change is needed and the enforcement of a minimum wage is the foundation stone. I know teams will go out of existence as a result. The first hand experiences of many of those people I value and respect, along with my own experiences, mean that the loss of many of these teams will not be mourned. There will be then proper reward and proper cognisance of those that try and do it right. The good teams left will rightly be celebrated. And that is how it should be.

Summary

So, my roller coaster of a cycling career has come to an end. I have worked very, very hard, putting in many, many thousands of miles in all kinds of weathers. I have had many head winds from many places that you would not expect. But I have an awful lot of people around me who supported me through thick and thin. Many have helped me but a few special names are Andy Walser, Rod Jaques, Chris Price and the surgeon Jonathon Webb who operated on my knees. Also, from the early days, Ron Dowling, Brian Rourke and Cliff Poulton, and two no longer with us — Geoff Greenfield and Walter Rixon.

I have enjoyed the adrenaline of competition, that feeling of fear going in to the closing stages of races, never giving up and getting every last bit of energy out before the finish line. I have loved the thrill of the tactics and cunning unfolding on the road and the elation of winning. I have had great battles with many different riders over the years and I also look fondly on the races I did not win as they often served as harsh lessons to me and helped me improve.

I really do treasure the letter the official wrote to me after winning the Olympic Road Race, the same official who blocked my path when I was 14 at the grass track. He and I greet each other very warmly each time we meet and I am very fond of him. He was magnanimous enough to admit his error. British Cycling and the scene in Britain is changed out of all recognition to that which lay ahead of me as a 12 year old, dreaming of riding the great climbs and perhaps getting a coloured T-shirt or two along the way. I will take pride in every Dani King, Laura Trott or Jo Rowsall that achieves a medal. They have a pathway and support system that was not available before that dreaming 12-year-old helped cause permanent change. I upset many people. I am so glad I did in this respect I have ridden through the time of Lance and all the dreadful tragedy that the abuses surrounding him have brought to my sport. I have faced up to the temptations, but have always remained true to the 12-year-old inside me. Yes I have suffered as a result, in many ways, but so what, I am not alone, I am one representative of that group, those who do it right.

And as I check out, that 12-year-old has a basket of T-shirts; a collection that brings the biggest smile to her face.

My time in the sport is finished. I hope I will look on in 10 years’ time and see a vibrant and healthy women’s road scene. The key to that will be that the female athletes are treated with respect. Just like others in our society and their male counterparts, I hope they have the protection of a minimum wage.

In a drawer I keep two sets of medals that remain so dear to me. Alongside the Olympic road race and World Championship road race medals, the first ever pair won in the same year together, a unique first for anyone, male or female. Alongside them, four other gold medals. The first ever ones awarded at the first ever British youth Girls track championships. I am just as proud of each of those sets. I really hope I have helped create change.

Thank you all for coming here today and listening to my account. I leave the sport and hope that during my time in it I have helped make it a better place. I hope that by bringing a wider understanding to some of the issues that face the sport it will create change so that the 12-year-olds dreaming today can have a rewarding future within it. I look forward to the exciting next chapter of my life and I thank you all for your support during the last one. Thank you.