The end of the road season is nigh. Well, more than nigh. It’s here.
The finish last Sunday of top class racing for another season might have been marked by the rolling of tumble weeds across an unfathomable expanse of featureless desert. Or had we merely tuned in to the Abu Dhabi Tour?
The mood among cycling’s delegation to the richest emirate in the UAE, by contrast, was upbeat to say the least, with the great and good, from UCI President Brian Cookson to newly-crowned world champion Peter Sagan, present and correct (‘present’ in Sagan’s case - cycling's rock 'n' roll rainbow jeresey holder turned up in a t-shirt).
Matters might have been a little more downcast in Tours, but that is probably the case on any given day. Abu Dhabi is blessed with nearly 3,500 hours of sunshine each year and the unimaginable wealth of natural resources; Tours, by contrast, must content itself with the annual visit of 150 or so exhausted cyclists, eager to draw the season to a close and enjoy a month off the bike.
As is often the case, the men doing the work are keener for it to end than those of us who merely watch them toil. Pah! They are paid handsomely for their efforts, while the interested observer endures the flickering internet feed and the vagaries of Eurosport’s broadcast schedule without reward.
How to fill Sunday afternoons now? How might an afternoon at work be passed, now that the escape to, say, stage four of Tirenno-Adriatico, is effectively barred? Heaven forefend that work should take place. There must be more productive methods of filling time.
Browsing the Rouleur website is highly recommended, of course, or even carefully turning the pages of the magazine, should the spotless gloves necessary for the task not draw undue attention to your skiving.
The more ambitious (or less supervised) might be tempted use hours no longer consumed with, for instance, a quiet stage of the Eneco Tour, to begin work on a restoration project and so get the jump on the competition bound for L’Eroica next year.
Do not despair completely, dear reader. There is the cyclo-cross season to contemplate, for a start: a muddy hell of 180bpm heart rates and shin-shattering obstacles; riders always one miscalculated tyre pressure from careening to catastrophe.
For the viewer, top class 'cross offers a different view of cycling perfection: unnervingly fit and impossibly skilful competitors who glide across the sands of Zonhoven and Koksijde as Cancellara flies across cobbles.
With Olympic year fast approaching, the track holds renewed interest for Bradley Wiggins and might do also for the floating voter deprived of the WorldTour. Cycling’s knight will compete at meetings big and small, from the Revolution Series to the European track championships.
Rouleur’s British constituency is doubly spoiled: London will host its first Six Day event in decades later this month and the final round of the Track World Cup next February. Who needs the Tour de Suisse anyway?
Properly managed, there is no need for the cycling fan to go ‘cold turkey’. Alternatives are plentiful, and by the time the Tour Down Under begins in January, you’ll wonder what the fuss was about. Leave loitering around Costa Blancan hotels in search of a closed-season fix to those beyond help. It’s what we’re here for.
STAT’S THE WAY, UH-HUH, UH-HUH
94 – days until the start of the Tour Down Under
5 – days until the first European round of UCI Cyclo-Cross World Cup
0 - days until the European track championships begin (today)
Marcel Kittel wins his first bunch sprint of 2015
Marcel Kittel wins his final bunch sprint of 2015
Marcel Kittel pledges allegiance to Alpecin caffeine shampoo