Stages of Light and Dark
by Bjarne Riis
I read this book for Cycling Shorts during the summer and it has taken me a long time to finally put my thoughts about it into words. Not that I have mixed feelings about the book I do not but I needed to take time to try to put into words my thoughts as I suspected that I might just be a little controversial.
I believe it is important for us to confront the issues raised and Riis was the fifth book I read in the summer that dealt with drugs in cycling. The first was Paul Kimmage’s Rough Ride, the second was David Millar’s Racing through the Dark [read Cycling Shorts review here], the third Laurent Fignon’s We were young and carefree, fourth Willy Voet’s Breaking the Chain [read my review here]. Each book gave me a different perspective or view of doping and substance abuse and its inherent and historic nature in cycling.
Each subsequent book made me feel that Paul Kimmage was being very unfairly treated as he really only scratched the surface and really did not reveal as much as others but what was clear is that he had opened pandoras box and the establishment was not happy.
What Riis has done with his book has really given a broad insight into the hard work and stresses that face a professional cyclist. Just like other cyclists Bjarne faces that difficult decision to dope or not to dope. Riis makes it totally clear that it was his call and his alone. No one forced him no one pushed him but he felt he had no option. Just like Darth Vader Riis stepped over to the darkside. Just like Lance; Riis, when quizzed never actually said he did not dope but edged answers in the same way any good politician does, “I have never tested positive, I have never given a positive test” rang out, persuading fans and team mates that he was clean. But was he, like others, fooling anyone? Probably not those close to the riders who often had a clear idea of what was happening but kept their heads down (to listen to Cycling Shorts interview with Ned Boulting on the subject click here).
As with Voets and Millar, Riis is very open about what he did and how me managed to avoid detection, however Riis goes further and deals with the effect on him emotionally of his choice. Like Millar he comes back and has a desire, or so he claims, to help clean up the sport and run a lean and clean team. The book covers the setting up and running of CSC which greatly complements the Nordisk film Overcoming about the 2004 Tour de France. Riis goes on to share his deep feeling of being stabbed in the back with the implosion of the team as the Shleck’s, Andersen, Nygaard and backroom staff plot against him and set up Leopard Trek. Once again Riis bounces back and with the drive an passion he has for the sport he loves he manages to rebuild and create a new team.
Riis’s book is a great read and I am surprised that Cycling News can write the article below. Pederson and the author of the article have obviously never read Riis Stages of Light and Dark as Riis clearly speaks out about his past in full. In my view, no he is not damaging cycling and its credibility, he has messed up and is trying his best to make amends.
Riis Stages of Light and Dark is a great read and I would highly recommend that you dash out and pick up a copy to read. 100%
Riis: Stages of Light and Dark
Vision Sports Publishing (14 May 2012)
Available in paperback, iBook & Kindle
RRP £12.99 (Paperback) RRP £12.99 (Digital)
Riis damaging cycling and its credibility, Danish UCI member says
By: Cycling NewsPublished: November 28, 2012, 17:05, Updated: November 28, 2012, 17:06Edition:Second Edition Cycling News, Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Saxo-Tinkoff team owner needs to “come out and talk”
Bjarne Riis and his teams have established Danish cycling in the world, but his actions now are “very damaging to the sport and its credibility,” according to the Danish representative at the UCI. It is “high time for Bjarne Riis to come out and talk.”
Riis confessed in 2007 to having doped when he was a rider. He has since been named as providing doping advice, if not more, in various books and doping confessions from recent riders. The Saxo-Tinkoff team owner has consistently refused to comment on such matters.
“Here in Denmark we have a single problem in Bjarne Riis,” Peder Pedersen told feltet.dk. “His team and his comings and goings have been tremendously positive for the development of Danish cycling and the resulting high interest.
“But he keeps quiet at the moment and will neither confirm nor deny the allegations that are against him, it is very damaging to the sport and its credibility. All who follow it here can see that there are answers missing to some things, giving insecurity and losing credibility. So it is high time that Bjarne Riis comes out and talks.”
Since 2006, Pedersen has been a member of the Anti-Doping Foundation (CADF), set up to work with doping cases and to stay on top of anti-doping testing and developments. He is aware of the ironies involved.
“I have been involved in the Anti-doping Foundation for six years, where I have a clear conscience about what we have done. Of course it’s very uncomfortable, it appears at the moment. Although most of it belongs to the past, we should not be blind to the fact that it also reaches into the present and in the future. With the revelations that have come, then that is what we really need to make sure to get it handled.”
New riders Lauryn Theryn and Joanne Blakeley will join current riders Eve Dixon, Frankie White, Melissa Bury and Nicola Soden for the 2013 season.
Lauryn joins the team with a wealth of sporting experience and success. Athletics was her main sport up until the age of 20. She was a thrower who competed in the Javelin and Discus at World Youth Games and Commonwealth Games standard. She finished her athletics career in 2006 in order to focus on Bobsleigh where she competed for Great Britain on the Europa Cup Circuit, World Cup Circuit and at the World Championships. She finished Bobsleigh in 2008 ranked 6th in the World, the best result for a British Women’s team in over a decade.
Lauryn Theryn Bobsleigh
Lauryn took up cycling in 2011 after attending a talent transfer programme run by UK Sport called Girls 4 Gold. She joined the Cardiff Jif Cycling Cluband raced for them on the road and track winning Welsh National medals in both disciplines. During the winter she took up playing Rugby and was selected for the England 7’s Development Squad.
After sustaining three serious injuries early in her rugby career she took up cycling again to keep fit. She moved to Manchester in April this year to work for British Cycling setting herself the goal of competing in the British Track Championships and won a silver medal in the Team Sprint.
Champion Systems Maxgear
Lauryn commented “I am really excited to be given the opportunity to race for a local team and am really looking forward to racing with the other girls. My goal for next season is to be a reliable rider who works hard for the team and isn’t afraid of pushing my own physical boundaries in order to rise to any challenge.”
Jo is relatively new to cycling after coming from a running background. She was shortlisted for the Girls 4 Gold programme along with Lauryn. She joins the team after a year of riding with local club Seamons CC in which she achieved a great deal. She won the TLI National Road Race Championship and has produced some solid top twenty placings in National Road Race Series Races. She is also a very strong time triallist with several wins and podium places and 5th at the National Hill Climb Championships this year.
Jo wants to build on her road racing experience next year and is “eager to start racing with and learning from my new team – who love cycling as much as me! I’m particularly excited about racing in Belgium with them next year and gaining more experience on the track and in other areas.”
Ian Bury, team manager, said “Lauryn has had a spectacular sporting career so far both on and off the bike. She is a very driven individual and has much to offer to the team with vast sporting experience and a strong team ethic. Jo is also an exciting new addition to the team with a lot of raw talent. She can do a strong time-trial and is super enthusiastic to work hard with the team. We are very excited about 2013.“
The team have worked well as a unit this year with top tens and podiums in the National Women’s Road Race Series, National Women’s Team Series and races in Belgium and Holland. There has also been top National Championship performances, with Nicola placing 10th in the National Scratch Race Championship, Melissa winning Rollapoluza National Championship and second in the Grass Track 800m National Championship and most recently hill climbs with Eve winning the National Junior Women’s title for the second year running.
2013 line up:
Follow the riders progress at maxgearettes.blogspot.com or on twitter @Maxgearettes
Pictures kindly supplied by Ed Rollason: www.edrollasonphotography.co.uk
Newport Velodrome – ©Dave Gratton AKA SunflowerDave (on Flickr)
For someone who always has a lot to say for himself, thinking what to write about is more difficult than I thought! I should hasten to add, that’s not because I can’t think of anything, it’s because I’ve got so many ideas running around in my head it’s so difficult to chose.
So my decision has been made for me because for the first time in weeks I have an hour or so to spare to put pen to paper (yes, I am actually writing this on paper) as I’m sitting in the stands watching my daughter Ffion take part in a Welsh Cycling youth track session. So the subject: the importance of good cycling facilities, specifically Newport Velodrome.
The difference this sporting facility has made to Wales is difficult to quantify, but if you look at the numbers of riders both before and after this facility was built who are at or on their way to the top of the cycling tree, it’s obvious that its impact has been massive! The same can be said of Manchester Velodrome and I am sure it will be the case with the Olympic Velodrome; we should also consider Herne Hill and the riders that have benefitted from that facility. What it shows it that good facilities really do make a difference to the progression of riders coming through the ranks, whatever their cycling discipline. Of course we also need champions to inspire youngsters into the sport, but we’ve got such a conveyor belt going at the moment there is no worry about these facilities being under used.
So what memories have I taken from Newport Velodrome over the last 8 or 9 years that I’ve been making the 30-minute drive from Abergavenny to get here?
Well I might as well start with my number one memory and also because “why shouldn’t women’s cycling be given priority over men’s for a change?” If I can find the photo to accompany this when I next go hunting in the attic I’ll post it at a later date, as even now I find it quite hard to believe. Picture this: a women’s keirin with six riders on the start line. In amongst the six, the current senior World Champion wearing her stripes Clara Sanchez. Also on the start line I think it was Sandie Clair. Next up to them, a few star struck young girls from the UK including two from Wales, my 13-year-old daughter Becky and Katie Curtis. I can’t recall another current senior world champion ever racing in Newport, so that line-up is implanted very firmly in my head. By the way, it was France first and second with Becky coming in third to the disbelief of the French coach, especially when finding out Becky’s age.
As for other memories of female competition in Newport, between 2006 and 2007 the Youth and Junior Track National Championships had such strong fields the racing really was fantastic to watch. Seeing Becky, Lizzie Armistead, Joanna Rowsell, Jess Varnish, Laura Trott, Dani King…(I could go on) racing against each other with Hugh Porter getting very excited on the microphone really was brilliant. Looking back now I honestly think you could see then who was going to make it to the top and they weren’t all winners. The look of determination in a rider’s eyes is something I believe is what sets them apart and that is something you can spot at a young age. If someone happens to win a Youth National Championship on the way to the top that’s nice, but ultimately you need to look at the bigger picture and remember it’s not a sprint, it takes a lot of time and effort to win at elite level. And that’s what people will remember; senior champions not 11-year-old ‘superstars’!
On that last point, some really bad memories for me have been watching young girls of Under 12 and Under 14 level attempting to break a National Record as if it was the be all and end all. They have been all kitted out with the best equipment money can buy and their parents have been shouting so loudly at them as if they were doing it themselves, but why? Many of those I have watched are either no longer riding or just riding now and again. And why provide the best equipment at such a young age? Good equipment yes, but keep the very best as a reward and as an incentive when they are racing at international level. I really would like to see some sort of equipment specification cap on all youth riders to make it more of a level playing field and to give them something to aim for.
While I’m in the process of airing my concerns, the other thing that really worries me is that young riders seem to be specialising on one cycling discipline at ever-younger ages and training to the detriment of their education. Youth sport should not be like that. If I could single out one young rider who has got the balance right and sets an example for other to follow it is Elinor Barker and look where she is now! Elinor has given most forms of cycling a go, but over the time I’ve known her and the family her education has come first. She’s obviously had coaching, but it has been Elinor’s drive and determination to succeed that has won her the Junior World Time Trial and of course her supportive parents (I believe there could be another reason and the same applies to Becky as well; both Graham, Elinor’s dad and myself are ardent Newcastle United followers and maybe it’s because the girls have never seen us celebrate the winning of a trophy that they are doing their bit to cheer us up!).
On the male side of things, at the same time as that outstanding crop of girls I mentioned the boys’ fields were also amazingly strong and they provided fantastic racing to watch. Jason Kenny, Peter Kennaugh, Alex Dowsett, Luke Rowe, Adam Blythe, Andy Fenn…(once again, I could go on) are just a few of the names that cycling fans would recognise from the Olympics and pro-peloton this last year. Despite many outstanding races and individual performances the one that stands out still after these years is Andy Fenn’s Youth 500 metre time trial. Here was someone mixing it up with the best youth riders this country had to offer in all the circuit races around the country and he was winning the endurance and pursuit events on the track. In the 500 metre time trail he was up against all the best youth sprinters in the country including current BC Academy sprint member Peter Mitchell. I can still picture him going around the track now. I seem to recall I was sitting in the stands next to Iain Dyer, National Sprint Coach and Trevor King, father of Dani and a few others and the first thing that came to my mind was that here was the person to follow in Jason Kenny’s footsteps. Well I was wrong on that front, but I really think he has the potential to be the next big road sprinter from GB. I am not saying that Andy will be another ‘Cav’, because I am not sure there’ll be another in my lifetime, but I am sure that he’ll be winning many races and stages over the next few years. Another rider I’ve watched in Newport in a similar mold to Andy is Sam Harrison, although he’s got a few years to catch up yet.
As recent as last winter I was sitting in the stands of Newport Velodrome watching the annual ‘Winter Track League’, which mixes all abilities up into different races, both male and female. In Wales we are very lucky indeed to not only have Elinor Barker coming up into the senior ranks, but we also have Amy Roberts. To see both Elinor and Amy mixing it up with the men in the ‘A’ league really is a great sight and I am really excited about the prospect of those two girls representing Wales and GB around the world over the next few years. The girls often found themselves riding in amongst elite men, well not just elite, but professional riders. Last year watching Luke Rowe, Magnus Backstedt, Jonny Bellis and many more on a Tuesday night with the rain hammering down on the velodrome roof, whilst sipping a cup of tea, is fascinating, enjoyable and a relaxing time in amongst my hectic lifestyle.
I have never been in Newport Velodrome with a full stand of spectators, but with the success of this last season and the accessibility of cycling stars to the general public I think I might get to see that over the next couple of years. What Newport needs is the right event to fill the stands, something that has got my mind running wildfire again! Now, if that event gives equal precedence to the women riders or better still star billing, wouldn’t that be amazing?
…Next time, whenever that will be, I’ll probably write about organising my first ever hill-climb and also about the importance and thrills of cyclocross.
Thanks for reading.