DAN MARTIN U A E EMI R AT E S
The rainbow jersey is truly an icon of cycling. Few other sports acknowledge so visibly their ‘best in the world’. Cycling is also different in that its arena is more varied. Other sports have the same competitors, week-in, week-out, and the best of the best at the world championships, yet for cycling it is impossible to design a course that attracts everyone.
So I applaud the UCI for having a so-called ‘sprinters’ Worlds and then this year a ‘climbers’ course. For years, the attempts to attract all types of rider meant the in-between circuits suited the same riders. It’s a strange race to ride, very different to any other. It’s lot less controlled. Usually, at most races, there are 20 teams and maybe 15 team leaders. At the Worlds you have 60-odd teams, and a lot of riders who are restrained by team orders all year have their opportunity.
This brings me to the start list. It’s impossible, but as the sport enters new markets, it needs to be a true world championships. In athletics, there is a qualifying standard. If you aren’t good enough you can’t take to the start line. Yet in road racing it is not the world rankings that decide the number of starters for each country but the continental rankings. Take Ireland for an example. In 2016, I made a big contribution to the number of spots the team had, but then chose not to attend the ‘sprinters’ champs in Qatar. To appeal to a wider audience, surely it would make more sense to invite the top 200 riders in the world to the event and then have a reserve list behind that, although again clearly this is a flawed idea as the stronger nations would have huge teams and kill off the race.
It really feels like I am going around in circles, but doesn’t that sum up cycling? On paper it is the simplest of sports - first across the line wins. But delve deeper and it’s a complicated web with so many issues making it impossible to keep everybody happy.
Dan skipped the Worlds in Qatar in 2016 as it was too suited to sprinters