Meanwhile, not at the Vuelta…

I love the Vuelta as much as any self-respecting cycling fan with a penchant for hot weather and steep hills, but as we’ve reached the first rest day in the big Spanish race, it’s a perfect time to go ‘around the grounds’, as football commentators used to say.

There’s been a lot happening in cycling outside the Iberian peninsula, here are my picks.

 

  1. Tour de l’Avenir

We say this a lot, but Australia continues to develop some really outstanding young riders. This year’s Tour de l’Avenir produced some outstanding results for the Australian team (it’s an U23 race and riders represent national teams), particularly Robert Power who finished second overall.

Some recent riders who have made the podium in the race include Tejay van Garderen (2009), Bauke Mollema and Tony Martin (2007), Jan Bakelants and Rui Costa (2008), Tejay van Garderen (2009), Nairo Quintana (2010), Esteban Chavez (2011), Warren Barguil (2012) and Adam Yates (2013).

Generally, to win or podium at this race is a good sign of impending World Tour contracts and big time success. You’ll also notice a lot of Colombians win it, and this year was no different, with Miguel Angel Lopez taking the title. Watch out for him.

Power, who rides for the Jayco-AIS World Tour Academy team, has perhaps been less widely heralded than some of his contemporaries. That will change, now that he’s become the first Australian to reach the podium. It’s a big deal. Especially when you consider he’s only 19.

His teammates also had a big week: Campbell Flakemore won the opening prologue and wore the leader’s jersey; Caleb Ewan won a stage; and Jack Haig finished 12th overall. The production line of Aussie road talent continues.

 

  1. Goss to leave Orica-GreenEdge

Matt White has confirmed to Cycling News that Matt Goss is leaving the team at the end of this season. It’s sad to see the departure of the team’s original marquee rider, but the last two seasons have been disappointing for Goss.

He simply hasn’t won enough races, and the team has moved on as Michael Matthews has proven to be a more than able replacement in the sprints.

What’s next for Goss? He turns 28 at the end of this year, so he’s still got plenty to offer if he can recapture his spark. The rumours are that MTN-Qhubeka is interested, and that would be an interesting parallel with another former Columbia/HTC-Highroad alumnus Gerald Ciolek, who has successfully rebooted his career with the African Pro Continental team.

Goss could also be a hugely valuable contributor in the World Tour as a lead-out man. He made his name leading out Mark Cavendish, and a return to that role might be a viable way to keep himself in a big team at the big races.

Whatever happens next for Goss, I don’t think anyone could say they were surprised to see him moving on. For whatever reason, things just haven’t been working for him. This might be the kick in the arse he needs to get his career back on course.

 

  1. Tiffany Cromwell rides into top ten at GP Plouay; stakes claim for World Championships spot

Tiffany Cromwell should be the first Aussie rider picked for the women’s road race team at the World Championships, if recent form is any guide.

After missing a bronze medal by a tyre’s width at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games, Cromwell bounced back to claim 5th overall at the Tour of Norway, and then an aggressive 10th at the GP Plouay this week (read her race report for Cycling Tips here).

The good results against the best in the world are becoming more and more consistent, and Cromwell has shown she can perform well on tough courses. First picked, I tell you.

 

  1. Daryl Impey is back

Orica-GreenEdge’s South African sprinter Daryl Impey has beaten his doping rap, and will return to racing this week at the Tour of Alberta. His defense team successfully demonstrated that his positive test for the banned diuretic Probenecid was due to contaminated gel caps sold by his pharmacist, who’d been dispensing the banned substance to a previous customer.

Plenty of people will be sceptical – we’ve hashed this one out again and again, and people’s views don’t tend to shift much – but I feel for Impey. As he said on his website, he’s been put through hell because his pharmacist got sloppy:

“It has been definitely the hardest two months of my life, it has been a huge financial loss and has been tough on my whole family. But I was determined to show that I am clean and that I would never cheat to try get an advantage over my competitors.  I am so relieved that this has now been proven.”

The stress on athletes that occurs because of the extreme rigour of anti-doping protocols is enormous. It’s not just the early-morning door knocks and post-race urine samples, it’s keeping your whereabouts updated every day, reading the labels of everything you ingest. But the most difficult and frustrating thing is that athletes are quite literally trusting their careers to strangers, and feel like they have no control over their fates.

Plenty of people simply won’t believe Impey, or will argue that he got off on a technicality (as with Michael Rogers). I’m starting to wonder if the combination of strict liability, a huge ever-changing list of banned substances, and incredibly sensitive testing methods is actually damaging the athletes it’s supposed to protect.

If your career can be ended by having the bad luck to have a sloppy pharmacist, then the whole anti-doping system starts to look like a big dumb lottery.

Have we reached a point where we’re jailing people for jaywalking because of a recent spate of murders?

This piece first appeared on The Roar.

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