British Cycling creates £45,000 funding scheme for event organisers

The recent Tour Series Grand Final in Manchester saw circuit racing return to the city centre

Cycling’s national governing body has announced today that a £45,000 fund is being made available to event organisers in a bid to raise participation levels in the sport.

Following the disruption of coronavirus (COVID-19), 1.3 million fewer adults are taking part in sports than before the pandemic, according to a Sport England Active Lives survey.

Worst-hit are individual sports and those involving women, young people, disabled people and those from diverse ethnic communities.

British Cycling’s cycling delivery director Dani Every said: “Like many sports, we’re concerned by the impact which COVID-19 has had on participation amongst women and girls, para-cyclists, younger age groups and diverse ethnic communities in particular.

“Having a vibrant calendar of local, accessible events is absolutely vital if we want to reverse that trend.

“We have made good progess in addressing historic inequalities in our sport over recent years, and with the support of Sport England we’re determined to build on that work and ensure a full and speedy recovery across the disciplines.”

There are two funds available – regional and national events taking place up to March 2023 can apply for a grant of up to £300 and £500 respectively – while £200 grants are available to entry-level events aimed where novice riders or first-timers are encouraged to get involved.

The funding is supported by Sport England’s Sector Renewal programme.

Concern about entrant numbers have also been raised by Cycling Time Trials (CTT), a separate national governing body for the specific discipline known as the ‘race of truth’.

A survey was issued in April of this year to try to find out why people are not currently riding in events up and down the country.

Events have been returning to their traditional slots in the calendar after COVID-19 enforced cancellations or rescheduling.

Van Aert’s absence from De Ronde makes space for others as target on Van der Poel’s back grows

The Oude Kwaremont – over 2 kilometres of distended cobbles at 12% gradient in places – faced three times

The Elite Men’s Ronde van Vlaanderen takes place this Sunday with no clear favourite to win Belgium’s most gruelling spring Classic.

The most-favoured riders in this year’s field comprise those on mixed form or with limited exposure to the complete rigour of the 272.5 kilometre Monument.

National road race champion Wout van Aert was expected to fly the flag for Flanders but the Team Jumbo-Visma star pulled out two days before the start after contracting Coronavirus (COVID-19).

On the team’s website Directeur Sportif Arthur Van Dongen said: “It’s unfortunate for Wout but certainly for Belgium and the team.

“He will come back stronger than ever. We will sit down with the team, make a new plan and discuss how we can win the Ronde with the new team composition.”

Van Aert’s team-mates Christophe Laporte and Tiesj Benoot will be eager to learn the new plan of attack on the route containing 18 hellingen and seven flatter stretches of unadorned cobblestones.

These two have enjoyed a renaissance following their arrival at the start of the season from Team Cofidis and Team DSM respectively.

The 29-year-old Laporte demonstrated his power with second place in this season’s Gent-Wevelgem and E3 Saxo Bank Classic ridden over similar but shorter parcours.

The Frenchman would have occupied the thoughts of other teams on Sunday before any Van Aert intervention and should be put in the service of the stronger Benoot.

The Belgian has demonstrated his ability to stay in the wheels in this race with three top-10 arrivals in Oudenaarde in the last four years.

Second place in last Wednesday’s Dwaars door Vlaanderen was just reward for a series of testing attacks in the final 15 kilometres which shed the lead group of all but eventual winner Mathieu van der Poel.

The 28-year-old Benoot stepped from the shadow of Van Aert – who was missing from the race – and will need to reprise those last efforts on Sunday.

The Paterberg climb may be the crowning moment of Benoot’s race, coming inside the final 30 minutes of six-and-a-half hours of racing.

Fans waiting there recently have missed the insurmountable charges that were a feature of Fabian Cancellara and Peter Sagan’s triumphs.

Instead, passages of the Oude Kwaremont have seen the first steps in the coronation of Philippe Gilbert, Niki Terpstra and Alberto Bettiol in the last five years.

Impossible to ignore on any part of the course will be Sunday’s enigma, Mathieu van der Poel, who played his hand in most of those races.

The Alpecin-Fenix ace has never featured outside of the top five here and took the top step in a famous head-to-head with Van Aert in 2020.

In an ordinary year, his track record and a victory in Wednesday’s warm-up make odds of 9-4 for the win on Sunday seem generous. Remove his longtime rival and they seem gift-wrapped.

However, the 27-year-old Dutchman now has the biggest target on his back and with only four racing days in anger this season, this self-assured rouleur needs to extract every last drop of natural talent as he may only have the form for one attack from distance.

Reining in four or five moves might be beyond him.

If Van der Poel does go long, he may well be rolling through and off with Tadej Pogačar.

It’s fanciful to think the peloton could let this happen without some diversion but a shock may just be required to test the mettle of Team Jumbo-Visma or the lamented Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl.

Pogačar’s experienced road-captain Matteo Trentin should pilot the debutant to the head of affairs.

But where the race narrows on the Taaienberg or should the forced march up the second ascent of the Oude Kwaremont draw the main contenders out, he may lack the power to flatten the cobblestones.

The Slovenian prince arrived in Belgium with the confidence and mastery of early season stage race wins at the UAE tour and Tirreno-Adriatico.

Add a magical escape amidst the puff of a Tuscan white-gravel cloud at Strade Bianche and those surges at Milan-Sanremo and it’s clear he is ready to bestride any worlds as yet unconquered.

The rainbow stripes have adorned the back of Mads Pedersen and he finished in a resilient second place here in 2018 as a 22-year-old.

He is not amongst the favourites for the win but the maturity shown in his performances so far this season allied to his staying power might see him feature well in any sprint finish.

Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl are synonymous with the Tour of Flanders – a team in their colours have won three of the last five editions.

But the surfeit of potential winners in each of those years has now been reduced down to one in the guise of last year’s champion Kasper Asgreen.

He cannot be ruled out of any sprint finish although a distant third at Strade Bianche and unilluminating run of recent performances from the team in their homeland will demand all of DS Wilfred Peeters’ guile to get him there.

With Mike Teunissen and Nathan Van Hooydonck likely to be setting the tempo for the Dutch unit of Team Jumbo-Visma, a more streamlined Belgian unit could bide their time keeping the Dane out of danger for longer.

A podium spot could go to INEOS Grenadier’s Tom Pidcock but the final 50 kilometres will need to be unusually one-paced as he has yet to show form at the distance of a Monument in this category of racing.

The British rider’s verve and talent for bridging small gaps, seen across Belgian semi-classics over shorter distances require a stronger team here to limit any big efforts and team mate Luke Rowe’s absence puts more on his plate in his second edition of this brutal race.

Trek – Segafredo state early season intention in French opener

The Routes des Crêtes should test early season sharpness (Image credit: Jp Valery on Unsplash)

The assurance of a French road-racing season is generated in Sunday’s Grand Prix Cycliste de Marseille La Marseillaise.

The 174.5km one-day race sees traditional threats from the home front with AG2R Citroën Team seeking a fourth win in five years.

Last year’s victor Aurélien Paret-Peintre is missing but Benoît Cosnefroy and Lilian Calmejane will ride.

The 29-year-old may have the advantage over Cosnefroy who has already adjusted his season after a positive Covid test.

Trek – Segafredo bring a very strong squad to a race they are not familiar with – former world champion Mads Pedersen, Edward Theuns, Toms Skujiņš and Bauke Mollema are among the seven scheduled to start.

They may spring a surprise in Frenchman Tony Gallopin, who has been on the podium three times in this event.

Their Etoile de Bessèges intentions may be clearer with the same starting line-up ready for the five-day stage race which begins next Wednesday.

Trek’s main competition will come from EF Education – EasyPost who can choose between Magnus Cort, Michael Algren or have Alberto Bettiol as an outside bet.

British fans will be see Owain Doull supporting colleagues in his American team and Connor Swift, riding for Team Arkéa Samsic, could compete in the sprint.

14 of the top 25 riders last year did not start the previous edition but five out of the top ten from 12 months ago have returned.

All the main contenders will be able to get over the Col de la Gineste inside the last ten kilometres for a fast downhill finish into Marseille but the Routes des Crêtes will test early season sharpness with 3.3km of climbing at 9%.

Some clouds are likely but the thermometer is still threatening 60 degrees Fahrenheit for race day.

A continuing passion for cyclo-cross in the North West of England

A group of cycling administrators have demonstrated their dedication and joy for the sport by managing cyclo-cross races for all ages across the North West of England.

The North West Cyclo Cross Association (NWCCA) has been hosting a league programme for over 15 years.

Committee members received messages of thanks for their work in co-ordinating the staging of the only HSBC National Series Trophy event for elite riders in 2020, at the Westmorland County Showground in Cumbria.

They were also able to put on a small series of regional races after their usual league format was ruled out due to regulations around holding sporting events during the lockdown.

A number of the committee are also competitive racers. 

The NWCCA league programme is built on a solid foundation of camaraderie, competition, participation, safety and fun. 

Entrants (and their supporters) to the third round held at Towneley Park in Burnley in October 2021 – organised by Cycling Development Pendle Partnership – confirmed this.

Over 70 cycling clubs across the north of England are represented by around 300 riders across nine categories for boys and girls, then through the juniors up to veteran categories.

Many have a history recognising their results in road or track cycling rather than the mud, drops and hurdles of a typical cyclo-cross course but have riders keen to demonstrate that cycling competition continues beyond end of the road racing season.

Bury Clarion – members have included twins Adam and Simon Yates, who found international success on the road riding for professional teams – have nine riders in the NWCCA league.

One of their team was five year-old Sky Howarth. Her father David, who also rides cyclo-cross, said there is a waiting list for the kids’ Wednesday night practices where he and his wife Sarah volunteer. His daughter practices with them in the woods and gravel of Burrs Country Park in the town.

David Haygarth, Team Manager of NWCCA, highlighted how enjoyable the association want the environment around race day to be.

He said: “It’s a very accessible family way to get youngsters into the sport and as a parent with a daughter who races I’m really very comfortable, feel very safe there leaving Elsie to her own devices all day and I have done since she’s been, you know, nine or 10.

“It’s always been like that and it’s been the same with other people’s kids. 

“I think that’s one of the key reasons you can get youngsters talent spotted that way, they keep on coming, you know.

“We don’t lose many youngsters, like some sports do.”

The appetite to remain involved appears insatiable too. 67 of those taking part today are registered in the Veterans’ 50+ league – by far the largest list of entries in a single race.

63-year-old Peter Murray took his place on the start line alongside 10 others registered in the 60+ league. As well being a competitive racer here in Burnley, the university lecturer also races nationally.

Speaking on the phone after finishing 7th in his category, he explained how his efforts up and down the country benefit from the poularity of the NWCCA.

He said: “What I do find in the riders from the north west, there’s a camaraderie there. Very strong. We’re all cheering each other on in each other’s races.

“A lot of riders say that’s a real encouragement to hear a Scottish voice, in my case. But you know they hear a Lancashire accent or a Manchester accent shouting at them from them sidelines that’s a real boost. The camaraderie kinda transfers over to national level and there’s a kinda gang mentality, a gang support.”

The Scot’s enthusiasm is kindled by the variety of the courses the association’s organisers lay out.

He said: “I think the standard of the course design has come on in the five years I’ve been doing it, I think the courses have got better. And when I say better, I mean tougher.

“They are of a higher standard, more technical I think. It’s weather dependant, for example the first of the national rounds this year was in Derby and it was really dry and although it was quite technical, twisty, because it was so dry and the ground was hard and compact it was really fast.

“It was a really tough race. Whereas the ground here, in the north west tends to be softer, you tend to get more mud. The course designers can build with that in mind. I know that Dave Haygarth does when he designs the course in Westmorland.”

Karen Heppenstall is a committee member and takes pride in their part in the planning of the October 2020 event in Cumbria with the support of British Cycling officials, at a time when sporting events were falling off the calendar due to the pandemic.

She said: “Essentially Dave did all the landowner negotiations, volunteer arranging and I was actually working really closely to make sure we were as Covid safe as we possibly could be.

“And actually the work we did together with British Cycling set the blueprint for racing to come back. That then gave us the framework for Living With Hope”

This was the name for a series of races for the region’s riders on the Broughton Hall Estate in Yorkshire after the test-bed of the national event. 

Haygarth also reflects on the association’s recognition in putting on the HSBC National Trophy Series event whilst admitting his own instincts for racing spurred him on.

He said: “Len (Woffindin), who’s the chief commissaire and one of the real driving forces…said he’d never seen as many people coming up and thanking commissaires and officials afterwards.

“It’s a bit like the ref in football, no-one ever thinks they’re on your side and of course they are.”

“From a purely selfish point of view I wanted to race as well, and I wanted Elsie to race, my daughter.

“So you know, we must be able to find a way, we must be able to find a safe way of doing this in a controlled environment with all the correct risk assessments and mitigations in place.

“I got a letter from the CEO of British Cycling at the time and she just said what a lovely time she had and she thanked me and the team personally for putting on an event during these hard times.

Within the UK, different territories were setting their own rules for travelling outside of their boundaries meant that the Trophy couldn’t continue without the best riders.

Haygarth said: “It’s not fair to…people in Wales being told they can’t travel out of the country. 

“We can’t have a national championship if the best riders in the country can’t get there.”

Back on the course in Burnley on race day, Jo Whiteley was marshalling at the exit of a grassy section before the gravel incline into the course’s wooded area.

Jo’s eight year-old daughter Seren had just come third in her under 10s race and said: “The mud makes me go faster.”

Her mum was sitting in for husband Jason who was riding for Chorley Cycling Club in the veterans 50+ league. With his NWCCA league membership comes the responsibility of volunteering to marshal or help out at one event per year.

Haygarth says around 400 people will help out and race in order to qualify for league placings whilst acknowledging that this helps out some of the clubs gather the organisational numbers they need on race day. 

In between being part of the team running the day, Karen finished third in her race and David was fourth in his.

This event in October 2021 was the third of nine rounds of the current North West Cyclo Cross League season. The final race in this league season is to be held at Buile Hill Park in Salford on 29 January 2022, organised by Salford CC.

The biggest moment of 2021

A view

The finish line at Vélodrome André-Pétrieux

Not since the conquering days of now-retired lions had there been such a margin of victory in this most gruelling bicycle road race.

The painted concrete surface of Vélodrome André-Pétrieux welcomed Lizzie Deignan as an immortal as it had for Johan Museeuw, Tom Boonen and Fabian Cancellara. 

The winner of the inaugural Paris-Roubaix Femmes entered the arena with a lead of more than a minute over second-placed Marianne Vos.

The Trek-Segafredo rouleur increased her tempo from the peloton with 82.5 kilometres remaining, just before the first of 17 sectors of pavé – cobblestones considered unroadworthy save for agricultural vehicles.

By the finish two hours later, audiences and spectators had their fill of crashes and attrition, counter-attack and agony. 

Only revealed afterwards, the blood-smeared tape on the winner’s handlebars signified the victory, creating a new metaphor to match the significance of the moment and define the glory of sport.

After 118 men’s editions of the ‘hell of the north’ the pace of levelling out stutters still as the cycling world unseats itself from the mud of values locked in a time which saw this region choked by the inhumanity of wars. Prize pools are matched across some races and TV time is going up. Slowly.

It is painful to witness inequalities in exposure and pay and in promoter apathy – legacies still bundled over or slammed into by all-too powerful voices within the machine. Voices still given oxygen across the spectrum of women’s sport. 

British National Road Championships receive boost as live coverage confirmed

Mark Cavendish at the site of his 2013 win in the National Road Race.
Image Credit: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com

British Cycling has announced there will be live broadcast coverage at the 2021 National Road Championships from Lincoln which begin this Thursday.

In addition to the loyal and passionate fans who will line the roads around the city and surrounding lanes, a growing band of followers to streaming services will now be added to those watching highlights on television.

The news is a welcome boost for the cycling organisation after it published its vision to 2024 last month as legends and newly anointed heroes will be on show bidding for a national crown.

Viewers can follow the action here:

  • Road races (Sunday 17 October): Live coverage through GCN+, Eurosport Player and British Cycling’s YouTube channel (UK-only), plus a full highlights programme on ITV4 at 7pm on Tuesday 19 October.
  • Circuit races (Friday 15 October): Live coverage through GCN+, Eurosport Player and British Cycling’s YouTube channel (UK-only), plus a full highlights programme on ITV4 at 7pm on Monday 18 October.
  • Time-trials (Thursday 14 October): Updates through British Cycling social media channels, plus a full highlights programme on ITV4 at 7pm on Monday 18 October.

Mark Cavendish is expected to ride in the men’s elite road race – returning to the site of his victory in the 2013 edition.

A surprise selection for this year’s Tour de France allowed him to match Eddy Merckx’s record for stage wins in the event and no doubt helped Eurosport see a 42% growth in viewers in the UK to its app over the first few stages alone.

The world’s most accomplished road race sprinter was a welcome roadside visitor to the Women’s Tour of Britain as it passed through Essex last week – introducing son Casper to the peloton and highlighting the legacy being left by the current crop of female riders.

New world hour record holder Joss Lowden is scheduled to line up in the elite women’s time-trial.

Her form should be good after a brilliant ride in the Grenchen velodrome in Switzerland on 30th September followed eighth place in the individual time trial at the world championships in Belgium ten days before.

Chris Froome was scheduled to on the start line in the men’s elite time trial but has opted to finish his season and will now not be appearing.

I’ll walk, but not in old heroic traces, And not in paths of high morality

“I’ve said to a few people, it was like when I was going out in the dark and then you walk into the light, it was kinda like how I feel through my darker times, that what you come into.”

When you first meet Rob Flood, it’s hard to reconcile his words. The grin, the dad jokes and his placid nature don’t associate themselves with this blackness.

If you follow his Instagram account, you’ll appreciate the results of physical engagement with starting a day before his family, before sunrise, exercising by walking amongst the watching streetlights.

You’ll sense the energy in him to take on laps of a local park, or riding his bike quickly over a 30 kilometre route before breakfast.

So far, so much like most social media content, indulgent to a cynical eye.

Look deeper and you’re gifted the unseen nourishment gained from these workouts. Standing on top of Rivington Pike, a local hiking landmark in Lancashire, to capture a sunrise, Rob is clear to document the transformative nature of his journey upwards, ensuring each mental step forward is indelible to his audience.

For he is a trained Mental Health ambassador for the Movember Foundation and local walk leader for Walk & Talk 4 Men.

After meeting the walking group founder James Mace at a Movember event in London in 2019, Rob was quick off the mark “to bring men’s health to the northern hardy men.”

The arrival of his only son, in 2012, came just after Rob’s lowest point, which led to anxiety and depression.

He says his family (twin daughters Grace and Isobel followed in 2015) are his main stimulus to bring about change, “….especially like, with Caleb, to be able to speak about, openly, about, if he has any concerns or issues.

And if they all see me doing it, then hopefully they’ll be able to open up and speak about it themselves.”

Whilst the robustness and reward of his own exercise regime is reaching into his home, his local area and the walking group he leads, via the thousands of pounds he has raised for men’s mental health charities, this tough honesty and openness are an inspiration too.

His and Mace’s monologues are stirring, being documented on the storyboards of the group’s accounts. A 45 minute video conversation between them reveals the self-effacing nature of Rob’s attitudes toward his fitness and charitable work.

Communication is the key and in walking, he said, “Men find it easier to be shoulder-to-shoulder than face-to-face.”

Rob’s social media content acts as a simple catalyst and a message to others. The impact of a like, a thumbs up or a reinforcing message after posting them is a terrific spur for him. “He gets quite elated by it, yeah,” said his wife Becky, “Knowing that helps him. I think that’s how it started the journey.”

There is tension about the previous macho nature of nationwide sponsorship campaigns that led to the exclusion of some of the most in need. Rob is keen to emphasise that getting ordinary men to open up is more important to him than waxing lyrical about a curated handlebar moustache, or personal best.

You read about Rob Flood’s work as a Men’s Mental Health Ambassador for Movember and Walk&Talk4Men.

Headline taken from Stanzas by Emily Brontë.

A selfless allocation of responsibility

A view

The illegal rave held in the Castlefield Bowl in Manchester on Wednesday 31st March, an outdoor place normally reserved for small organised concerts or screenings of football matches, caught the authorities and police off guard. Once reinforcements arrived, the crowds dispersed. The story made the regional news websites. Local councillors raged about the messy aftermath, selfishness and lockdown restrictions being ignored.

Organised events usually show consideration towards the host area. Temporary bins and litter pickers are organised. Nothing from these bacchanalians. The authorities were left to clear up. Step forward Gary Rumens, local resident and co-leader of Clean & Green Castlefield, a volunteer neighbourhood action group.

A couple of months after the event, Gary cheerfully engages with group members clearing nettles and needles out of some council-owned planting beds, ready for his team to install fruit trees. He disperses a philanthropic theory towards misuse of the area, a more liberal approach than his mood just after the rave.

Gary wants to stop problems like littering and anti-social behaviour coming to Castlefield, via education and self-reproach. Convinced that local residents are not a part of the problem, he turns his attention on those who descend on this relatively traffic-free, calmer pocket of the city centre, with a heritage taking in a Roman Fort, two canals and cast-iron reminders of the choked, cobbled excesses of the Industrial Revolution.

“The residents of Castlefield, probably, quite young, I find that they’re quite a socially responsible bunch, from people that I interact with. I think it (the littering) comes from people out-with the city centre, they’re happy to bring, you know, their food and drink here but they’ll leave it because they automatically assume ‘this is someone else’s problem’. A lot of people think it’s OK to put a bag of rubbish on top of the bin if it’s full. Well, no, you can’t.”

His group helped the council clear 58 bags of rubbish from the Spring rave. Out of sight, out of mind, some say. It’s worrying that even this act of charity attracted negative views. More so if they come from some within the community; some want to see more control and prevention from those in authority.

Gary is concerned about responsibility being reallocated from self, “I’ve had one or two maybe, people, hit back at the group for that you know, ‘Why are you cleaning up after everyone, that just reinforces the idea that ‘this group will pick it up’, which I can understand, you know.” His outlook is towards selfless sharing – keeping tidy and well-tended public spaces like Castlefield should be no different than for a National Trust setting.

It’s a noble thought for an area of the cramped city now dominated by towering modern apartment blocks, promising secure dwelling for young renters, recycling through their temporary stay of execution from adulthood.

He hopes that his group will inspire this demographic to come together for the curation of their neighbourhood. However, when dodging the dog-poop bags left on the towpaths like black tar deposits belched from the chimney of a Victorian mill, you know that these too are locally sourced.

Traffic flow on social media could slow progress

A view

The news that Chris Boardman has been appointed by the Mayor of Greater Manchester to become the region’s Transport Commissioner will certainly increase the traffic flow on his social media channels, the veins of its commentators protruding like the routes on any local tram, bus and rail map. 

Boardman can expect the usual unproductive shouting matches between those for and against his ideas. Unfortunately, disproportionate voices spook some councils. He highlights cool cities like Copenhagen and Utrecht as meccas of the art of moving people around urban areas. They have the advantages of a more enlightened society which accepts shared space and own both cars and bicycles. 

Both he and the government have framed their goals around the phrase ‘active travel’ and are rightfully promoting the wide range of benefits to society of getting around under our own steam, especially within cities and towns. 

Cities and towns that existed for centuries without cars.

For a brief, unintended period in the lockdown spring of 2020, Manchester residents saw those benefits. Polluting nitrogen dioxide levels reduced by nearly 50% . The vistas of the city grew more stimulating and peaceful at the same time, helped in part by the introduction of low-traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs).  

One difficulty for Boardman in selling this vision is that the majority of day-to-day car users coming into the city from the outskirts didn’t see it. What they thought they saw working from home was that LTNs were holding up ambulances.

Accepting the quieter, safer cities which come from reduced motor vehicle use should be a reasonable measure for members of our society to think about their own accountability and responsibility without turning to the polemic highways of social media to disrupt the betterment of the same society. If it isn’t, then the growing creep of authorities making car use in cities more difficult may have to harden and follow the same methods employed in making smoking anti-social.

Roglič finds sanctuary and takes lustrous stage win

A view

With a new haircut he looks like Lionel Messi. Or maybe the mind’s eye is bloated by images of the superstar footballer who has just closed the book on his own Spanish journey.

In the last 18 months only his eyes provided insight. When the helmet slunk as the forlorn warrior dragged himself up La Planche des Belle Filles on the penultimate effort of the 2020 Tour de France. With no visor he could not blur that which our own eyes had refused to accept as being true.

And on multiple finish lines and in front of the bright colours of a board advertising things. The simple shield in a pair of sunglasses protected him from us as much as the banality of those answers. Their stark monotony batted back the predictability to his inquisitors.

Until now.

Primož Roglič met all of the expectations by taking victory in the opening stage of this year’s La Vuelta ciclista a España. It’s necessary to analyse the part played by the technology and training. And to acknowledge the temperature on the start line as compared to other finishers. And of course, the climbing metres involved in the first third of the 7.1 kilometre individual time trial. He was very slippery through the technical aspects of the route, his head sinking into the narrow recess of his chest in the fashion of taller riders.

Starting last as favourite, and having a target to chase hasn’t always suited him. The route matched his style. Adam Yates of INEOS Grenadiers had led for a time and team mate Sepp Kuss had performed well. Alex Aranburu of Astana – Premier Tech had the honour of waiting patiently for Roglič’s coronation following an eight and a half minute loop around the Catedral VII in Burgos.

But everything after the final 25 metres appeared bright and new. Something approaching a smile before the line. He could not have registered his time to Mas at Movistar, or to Yates’ team mate Bernal, or to Carthy of EF Education-Nippo at this point. He stepped off the bike and approached the steps to the entrance of the Catedral and turned half way up to acknowledge the well-wishers.

An interview was given whilst warming down on a static bicycle. It was expressive from behind the mask. The pupils were open wide and easily endorsed the smile. He nodded in approval and acknowledgement of the questions in a bid to provide warm and rounded answers. “You don’t wish for more when you cross the line.” he said when asked if the effort required of the day’s route compared favourably the one required to win the gold medal in the recent Men’s Individual Time Trial in Tokyo.

He blew a kiss to the gallery after collecting his reward on the podium.

It’s reasonable to suggest that a victory obtained for Slovenia, a relatively small and fledgling country in Olympic terms, can tilt the orbit of one of its superstars beyond its usual axis. He was one of only nine winners from his country of any event at the summer games and the only winner of gold in any cycling discipline.

The glow of his reception from around 1,000 fans when returning to Ljubljana airport on 30th July is likely still to be radiating from within. Without either contributing to the conversation, both he and compatriot Tadej Pogačar unwillingly participate in a tug-of-love with the Slovenian public.

Tokyo and competing for his nation without race radios or well-wishers threw him a lifeline, away from the furnace of this year’s Tour de France. The removal of team mates as early as the second stage and tension surrounding his own two falls doubtless drew down on his own reserves until his departure was confirmed before the start of the ninth stage.

If, during his enforced breaks and also during down time with his family, he has reflected on the impact that crashes and DNFs have on his body and what he has achieved this season, he may not wish to swap what he has achieved for just one Tour de France victory.

A third consecutive victory in La Vuelta ciclista a España to add to an Olympic TT gold and victory in a very tough week-long World Tour stage race would be proof of his abilities. That reaction before the line in Burgos was proof of his stability.