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.”
‘Cheering on a Competitor’ – My daughter Megan takes on the climb – Image ©David James
When I wrote my first blog for Cycling Shorts I was quite worried when I would be able to write a follow up. Well here I am one day after my “Ponderings from the Velodrome” went online and I find myself with about five hours to kill as I’m on a rapid return journey to Manchester by train.
As I get on the train in Abergavenny I am quite excited to be able to wear my new adidas Sennheiser headphones which were a present from Becky, so my first job is to select some appropriate music on my iPod and make a choice; either continue reading Rough Ride by Paul Kimmage, someone who I am really pleased to say I share a birthday with, or get my note pad and pen out and start scribbling. The fact that you’re reading this gives away the winner!
I did suggest last time that I would write about organising my first ever hill-climb and the thrills of cyclocross, but as the hill-climb was such a success and as I have been hassled ever since to make it an annual event, I am going to stick to just the one subject.
When as a family we first joined Abergavenny Road Club nearly ten years ago I remember one of the first ever road events we went to watch was the club’s Hill-Climb Championship. Living in Abergavenny we are fortunate to have many fantastic road climbs in close proximity to the town, the most famous of which is ‘The Tumble’. This climb has been used on many major events over the years; I can remember watching the Milk Race going up there many years ago and more recently, watching at the toughest part of the climb the last time the National Road Championships were held in the town in 2009.
‘Marking Up the Road’ my son Gareth on the right and my daughter Rachel’s boyfriend Luke on his hands and knees – ©Image David James
The club’s hill-climb used to start just as the road up The Tumble comes out of the trees about half way up the climb and was about one mile in length. In those early years I can recall about twenty riders taking part. I remember the winner the first time I watched, Nick Kenwright, someone who I believe had represented GB. Last year only two riders took part! Whether this drop in competitor numbers is because of the toughness of the climb, because there has been an increase in traffic, or for some other reason, the club’s committee decided we had to do something to rejuvenate the competition.
As we are good friends with Wiggle rider Ben Simmons who has been winning a few Red Bull Hill-Climbs around the country I thought it would be good to try something similar. I suggested to the club committee “Why not use the hill up to our house? We can get a road closure and all the kids can take part as well.” And so the inaugural ‘Cwmheulog Hill-Climb’ was born.
As we live up a dead-end lane, first thing was to get all the neighbours on board: job done! Next up was to speak to Monmouthshire County Council about the road closure. As a local authority Monmouthshire are a pleasure to work with and do everything they can to help with cycling in the county: job done!
Now the question was should I widely advertise the event or just keep it local and see how it goes? Keep it small scale was the consensus of opinion, so I sent out a leaflet with all the details and asked people to email or ring me to let me know if they were coming in order that we could provide free food for all competitors and spectators. With one day to go only one email had been received and I was starting to think it was going to be a big flop. That was until the night before the event when I was made aware that the email address I had put on the leaflet had been misspelt! How could I be so stupid?
A disturbed night’s sleep deliberating what to do, so first thing Saturday morning I’m in Tesco Abergavenny with my youngest Megan buying 120 sausages (half fat!), 120 fingers rolls and 25 garlic baguettes thinking I can always put the surplus in the freezer.
‘Hoping For A Top Quality Competition’ – Image ©David James
5.00pm comes around and the barriers and road closure signs are in place and there’s already a steady stream of cyclists and spectators making their way up the hill to signing on at our house.
51 competitors, 39 youth riders and 12 adults signed on to compete and there was a great deal more than that ready to provide vocal support. It wasn’t a case of putting surplus in the freezer, but raiding it for more supplies!
What can I say about the racing other than I know all too well what it’s like to ride up our hill, so every single person who gave it a go deserves a shout out. The spectators made for a brilliant atmosphere, ringing cowbells, cheering and shouting encouragement to every single rider.
It would be amiss of me not to mention that a youth rider, Evan Davies from Maindy Flyers who completed the climb in 1min 10secs, set the fastest time. Fastest adult was Abergavenny Road Club member James Woodier with a 1min 14secs ride and is the 2012 Abergavenny Road Club Hill-Climb Champion
Other notable facts from the night – all the food went! My wife Christine and Stephanie Best, one of the club coaches and a great volunteer, didn’t leave the kitchen as they slaved over the cooker!
It seems pretty certain with all the feedback I’ve received the hill-climb will become an annual event. Even Ben Simmons and Amy Roberts who were both there as spectators seem eager to get their best wheels out next year! I’ve also tapped up Magnus Backstedt to compete and he said he might as long as it is no more than a minute long!
So watch this space for an event next year that should be a lot bigger and even better. Before I get the go ahead though, Christine said she wants guarantees we are getting caterers in as she is not going to be missing out on all the fun.
Thanks again for reading, now back to Rough Ride.
In search of Robert Millar
Unravelling the Mystery Surrounding Britain’s Most Successful Tour de France Cyclist
by Richard Moore
What a book! Thought provoking or what?! To date this must be the most enjoyable book about a past cyclist that I have ever had the privilege to read. It was such a great relief to read In search of Robert Millar after having to plough my way through Sex, Lies and Handlebar tape (the story of Jacque Anquetil) which had taken the thick end of two weeks to read, where as In search of Robert Millar was devoured in a matter of days!
To put my desire to read this book into perspective I must stress that Robert was in a key group of Tour de France riders whom I viewed as my sporting heroes in the 1980’s and as a young rider I looked up to, not so much as people whom I wanted to emulate but rather riders with a wide range of skill sets I wanted to learn from. The list included Paul Sherwin, Sean Kelly, Martin Early, Robert Millar, Greg Lemond, Sean Yates and Malcolm Elliot. As a young rider and even now I would certainly never have been able to place myself in this group and most certainly never in the same build as Robert. If he was a thoroughbred race horse I was the working shire-horse! But what stood out to me was his ability to suffer and suffer again knowing that those he was racing against where suffering even more then him. His ability to change speed up hill and put his opponents into major difficulty was legendary no it was the stuff that young boys dreams are made of.
I guess like many I had heard the rumours that Robert was now Roberto Millar and had dropped off the radar, occasionally passing comment on various bike forums, but I never wanted to believe what I had heard without proof. In essence this is what drew me to read In search of Robert Millar, would I be disappointed?
The quick answer to this question is a resounding NO. Far from being disappointed it was great, through the eyes of Richard Moore, to get a sneak insight into the life and times of one very special rider.
Richard’s book really does give the reader good understanding of what drives Robert and the things that make him tick. So many people interviewed for the book highlight that Robert was a very special, talented rider, with a good insight into the development of a race and wining strategy. Richard also shows how far ahead of his time Robert was with training methods and nutrition. Information Robert read was applied and tested in the real world of racing, things that did not work for him were then discarded. Robert was very focused on what worked and refused to pay lip service or waste any time on fads or pointless lab research that would not be applicable to his world.
The most telling tale of lab work verse real life was Robert’s first contact with a young Sports Science researcher called Peter Keen (later Performance Director for British Cycling). At a cycling conference Peter was pushing the use of Maxim as a major enhancement to performance for riders (hmm cross reference my review of Nuun and the recent BBC documentary). Robert needless to say dismissed the lab research as the product had never been tested in the field and just like Graeme Obree his opinion is that water works best.
Robert’s and Peter’s paths crossed again later in the book when Robert had been employed by the British Cycling to aid the development of the Road Racing squad. Needless to say as Peter appears to be a numbers man and Robert appears to be an experience man with no formal qualifications in sports science, surprise surprise Peter chose to not renew Roberts contract. I shall refrain from expressing my opinion about this but really encourage you to read the book and make up your own mind about the benefits of a sports science degree or the knowledge and understanding gained from the University of Real Life.
For me the most exciting part of the book must be the Epilogue, where Richard shares his e-mail communications with Robert Millar about the writing of the book. What a fascinating exchange.
Robert Millar for my money a cycling legend with so much that we can learn from. I can not recommend highly enough that you sit down and get hold of a copy of In search of Robert Millar I am sure you will not be disappointed.
In search of Robert Millar
Author: Richard Moore
Published by HarperSport (HarperCollins)
Available in Paperback, iBook & Kindle
RRP £8.99 (Paperback), RRP £8.99 (eBook), RRP £18.99 (Hardback)
Previous reads include:
Sex Lies and Handlebar Tape Jacques Anquetil (reviewed August 2012)
In Pursuit of Glory Bradley Wiggins
Flying Scotsman Graeme Obree
Rough Ride Paul Kimmage
Riding through the Darkness David Millar
We were young and carefree Laurent Fignon
Boy Racer Mark Cavendish (read Darren’s review here)