a quick perusal of the adverts in the current (or previous) issues of the comic, procycling or cycle sport, shows that the prospective cyclist of at least a slightly serious nature, would need to spend a substantial amount of money to kit themselves out with a decent bike and all the clothing that needs to go with it (particularly in the weather most of britain has experienced over the last few weeks).
granted you can still pick up something reasonably decent for around £250 - £300 which will, at the very least, propel you in a forward direction when the feet press on the pedals. but it's unlikely to provide much resilience, light weight or a lot of fun over the period of return. by carefully checking adverts for decent branded bikes and componentry, i figure the aspiring armstrong or david millar would need to spend at least £900 to acquire a steed worthy of their future aspirations (and, let's be honest, to stop the background sniggering in the clubhouse)
so the fact that cycling's formula one (as the uci would like to have it) costs ludicrous amounts of money per bike is perhaps largely unsurprising. carbon fibre, featherweight wheels and either record or dura ace add up to a mountain of pennies. and i doubt we'd have it any other way. while trek bases its advertising and sponsorship on the supposed fact that lance's bike is exactly the same as can be had from your local trek dealer, there's the point of view that cyclists of such apparent unattainable skill and fitness should portray this aboard similarly unattainable cyclery.
when oscar freire won the world championship over a year ago, colnago replied with a very desirable white with rainbow bands c40. and yes, you can buy one of those now from your colnago dealer, but you couldn't at the time - so it had that extra appeal. wouldn't some of the mystery disappear if we could just buy the same machines as our heroes (financial wherwithal not withstanding).
so then when you see the current advert for cervelo bikes, one has to wonder.
in case you didn't know, cervelo are supplying all the bikes for bjarne riis's csc team this year (they all road look bikes last year - which seems quite strange to me since jalabert has left csc after two very successful seasons, to work for look bikes, and his presumably grateful ex-employer goes and gets a new model. thank you very much!).
anyway, bjarne is seen holding a cervelo frame, decked out in red and white, with his name inscribed on the top tube, extolling the virtues of the manufacturer's product. but the curious bit is the last paragraph. here riis states that he has achieved the dream of being able to pick and choose every single component on the bike, rather than getting them all from one supplier. some seem quite in keeping with this theme. for example, i've always thought american zipp wheels to be rather underrated and it's nice to see them reach one of the top teams. But does riis honestly expect us to believe that the very best standard wheels that he could get were those produced by sun-ringle? i have no direct experience of these wheels, but it strikes me as more likely that they approached hom rather than vice versa.
and here we run neatly on to the next part of the equation. if we treat riis's choice of alloy wheels as sponsorship rather than personal choice (this seems more likely to be honest), who can blame him? running back to the top of the page, we have already tacitly agreed that having a decent bike costs a lot of money and having very good cyclists to pedal said bike, costs a lot more money. and supporting this team of good cyclists on expensive bikes doesn't come cheap - travel, repairs, cars, trucks, buses, colour co-ordinated helmets - you catch my drift.
so it becomes worrying that the team who got a rider on the podium despite a broken shoulder at last year's giro (tyler hamilton) should state quite categorically that they will give this year's giro a miss to concentrate on the tour. it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy: as every team misses major tours to concentrate on the tour, the tour starts to become more important (is that possible?) and the others become less so. therefore the sponsors 'demand' that the team take part in the tour, and it becomes worrying that certain teams owe their existence or demise on gaining a place at the tour.
it makes a bit of a mockery of the system that cipollini's team have to prove themselves in the early season before jean marie leblanc will give them a wildcard entry into the 2003 event. if someone like cipollini can't get in on merit it becomes worrying.
so while it's unlikely that cycle racing will ever fade into obscurity (though to read the dailies, you could be forgiven for believing that this has already happened), it's unlikely to continue at the current level if corporate sponsorship disappeared. and if corporate sponsorship were to disappear, then bjarne riis wouldn't have the luxury of specifying wheels that few have heard of. and if the top guys can't afford to ride super duper machinery, then bike companies won't be able to sell it. and the house of cards falls apart. and i would like to still browse the magazines and drool over exotica, so i would like the tour de france to stop being the be all and end all of modern cycling.
is that too much to ask?
i have been asked to add the following link to the post by wheelygoodcause. they're a cycling club dedicated to arranging epic rides for charity and do not charge charities for the pleasure. They ride because they want to, and the next ride takes them from st malo to biarittz and then across the raid pyrenees. so i have. and here it is.
Remember, you can still read the review of 'the dancing chain' the utterly excellent book on the history of the derailleur bicycle by clicking here
any of the books reviewed on the washing machine post can probably be purchased from amazon.co.uk or amazon.com
as always, if you have any comments on this nonsense, please feel free to e-mail and thanks for reading.
this column almost never appears in the dead tree version of the ileach but appears, regular as clockwork on this website every two weeks. (ok so i lied) sometimes there are bits added in between times, but it all adds to the excitement.
on a completely unrelated topic, ie nothing to do with bicycles, every aspect of the washing machine post was created on apple macintosh powerbook g4, ibook and imac computers, using adobe golive 5 and adobe photoshop 7. needless to say it is also best viewed on an apple macintosh computer.