Mario Cipollini berates ‘boring’ races where Chris Froome and Peter Sagan dominate

Italian former pro Mario Cipollini wonders why other teams and riders can’t come up with a strategy to beat Chris Froome in the Tours and Peter Sagan in one-day races

Cycling has become a “bit boring” in the way that Team Sky and Chris Froome dominate stage races and how rival teams fail to stop Peter Sagan, says former sprint great Mario Cipollini.

Slovakian Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) won his third consecutive World Championship title in Bergen, Norway, on Sunday. Cipollini won his world title 15 years ago.

“Since the start of cycling, if you don’t have a strong national team then you can’t play for the world title. Sagan alone, however, wins three,” Cipollini told Radio24.

“Sagan is an exceptional champion, no doubt about it, but all the others? All the coaches, all the sports directors… What are they doing? Why do they let Sagan have a chance to sprint when in a race of 267 kilometres they can instead create another situation?

>>> Peter Sagan reflects on ‘unbelievable’ Worlds win as he dedicates victory to Michele Scarponi

“This ‘cycling’ is a bit boring. Take the Tour de France and the last Vuelta a España, Sky riding in the front and setting the rhythm. And Froome’s helpers are as strong as his main opponents, so they take care of the attackers – Nibali, Bardet, and the others.

Peter Sagan and Chris Froome at the Tour de France. Photo: Graham Watson

“Then, of course, Froome in the last three minutes of racing, the last one and a half kilometres, is trained and ready to make the difference. It’s a monotonous strategy that does not allow us to see something extraordinary.”

The Italian employed similar strong-arm tactics via teams Saeco and Acqua Sapone/Domina Vacanze to win his stages in Grand Tours – a record 42 in the Giro d’Italia – and classics Milan-San Remo, Ghent-Wevelgem and Scheldeprijs. Their lead-out paved the way for the modern sprint trains used by Mark Cavendish and Marcel Kittel.

“I wonder what has changed in cycling over the past 15 years. When I went to race the Zolder World Championships in 2002, when I was considered the favourite, my opponents were Erik Zabel and Robbie McEwen, namely Germany and Australia. Two great teams that did not help at all, so the responsibility was on the Italian national team all day.”

The 50-year-old wants to see other teams mount stronger offences against the stars instead of playing into their hands.

“Lance Armstrong himself had to deal with two national teams like Telekom and ONCE to fight for his victories. Miguel Indurain too, who also won a wave of Tours, also had some important rider to counter him. Now, Sky and Froome rule stage races and in one-day races, it’s Sagan, who also occasionally enjoys throwing them away,” Cipollini continued.

“Sagan leaves the day before to go to the world championship in Bergen, when others go early to acclimatise to the system, to see the streets, study curves. He gets there the day before, like playing a game of cards.



“The same thing with Alberto Tomba, who was at the start of an Olympics or World Championship with almost a childish unconsciousness. This is my view, I hope not wrong, but it shows that Sagan lives cycling in such a superior way, and his opponents do not even know how to make his life difficult.”

Cipollini, who briefly returned to cycling, retired in 2008. Many of his biggest victories are tarnished, however, by a report four years ago in La Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper that linked him via codename ‘Maria’ to the Operación Puerto doping scandal. Documents showed he used transfusions, EPO, hormones and paid €130,000 for doping.


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Paul Oldham’s modified, Three Peaks winning Scott Addict CX

Hope hydraulic brakes and some special additions to Paul Oldham’s bike for the particular rigours of the Three Peaks Cyclocross
– All photos by Andy Jones

Paul Oldham claimed his third consecutive victory at the Three Peaks Cyclocross race in the Yorkshire Dales on Sunday.

We took a look at Oldham’s race-winning Scott Addict CX machine after his victory.

Oldham rides for the Hope Factory Racing team, so it’s no surprise to see the company’s products adorn his machine.

>>> Paul Oldham and Christina Wiejak win 2017 Three Peaks Cyclocross titles (gallery)

Most notable is the hydraulic disc brake set-up, which uses Hope levers on the tops as well as SRAM hydraulic brake levers. Stopping power is provided by Hope’s RX4 calipers.

The wheels spin on Hope hubs, with Schwalbe G-One cyclocross tyres on the rims. The rubber is an interesting choice, as Schwalbe originally designed the G-One for dry, gravel conditions and so they lack the deeper tread of what is perceived as a traditional ‘cross tyre.

Paul Oldham on his way to winning the Three Peaks: light bike weight matters!

The single chainring set-up is based on SRAM Force CX1 with a Hope RX crankset, which uses an 11-speed wide-range cassette.

>>> Everything you need to know about the SRAM CX1 groupset

The frame and fork are stock Addict CX models, which are constructed out of carbon-fibre and have a reputation as being one of the lightest disc-brake specific framesets on the market.

Shimano XTR SPD pedals, Hope seat post, Deda stem and Ritchey bars complete the race-winning package.

Oldham has taped on a CO2 tube inflator to the back of the seatpost, with a spare CO2 cartridge wrapped in lagging and taped to the underside of the stem.

The bike’s top tube features a sticker bearing the legend “In loving memory. #RideForCharlie” to remember Charlie Craig, the promising young cyclocross star who died in January.

Paul Oldham’s Scott Addict CX in all its glory

Hope hydraulic brake levers on the tops

SRAM Force hydraulic brake levers/shifters

Hope RX4 disc brake caliper and disc

Hope brake caliper at the rear

Hope RX crankset with single ring for the SRAM drivetrain

Fast-rolling Schwalbe G-One tyres

SRAM Force CX1 mechanical rear derailleur

Shimano XTR SPD pedals

CO2 tube inflator taped to the Hope seatpost

Spare CO2 cartridge under the Deda stem, wrapped up to stop it rattling and keep it in place

Still a bit of fork clearance around those wide Schwalbe tyres

“Ride for Charlie”


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Ray Looze Named ASCA Coach of the Year – Video Interview

Photo Courtesy: Brent Rutemiller

Indiana University head coach Ray Looze was named George Haines Coach of the Year Thursday evening by the American Swim Coaches Association. Looze coached four swimmers onto the U.S. World Championships team this summer, including world record-setter Lilly King.

Looze was a women’s assistant coach on the USA staff in Budapest, and he led the Hoosier men to a seventh-place finish this summer at the NCAA championships, and his women took eighth.

King won four gold medals at the World Championships this year and set (or helped set) world records in all four events: the 50 breast, 100 breast and both the women’s and mixed 400 medley relays.

Looze also put Cody Miller, Blake Pieroni and Zane Grothe onto the World Championships roster, and all won at least one relay medal in Budapest.

After receiving the award, Looze spoke with Swimming World about what it meant to be honored by his coaching peers, whether he was surprised by his swimmers’ efforts this year and how he thinks they can maintain the Hoosiers’ momentum over the next few years.

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10 reasons why you should always without exception date a triathlete

10. All the cakes are yours

Easter eggs, Christmas chocolates, birthday cakes, those pretend After-Eight mints you get after a curry; they’re all yours because your triathlete date will shun them all for fear that one mouthful will cause them to put on a stone and  wreck all their PBs for the season. The only exception is immediately after a race when all the cakes are theirs, plus all the pies, pizzas, fruit, sweets, veg, cashew nuts you’ve had in the draw since last Christmas, and any other food they can find.

9. See into the future

If you want a looker-for-life and are concerned about what effect the ravages of time will have on the attractive athletic god or goddess you are dating, simply take a look at them immediately after early morning swim training to see exactly what they will look like in ten years’ time.

8. Win any argument with a light grip of thigh

I am to romance what soap-on-a-rope was to the 1970s, so occasionally the course of true love does not run smooth and Mrs B and I descend into crossed-words. On these occasions she is guaranteed to win any disagreement with the light grip of my thigh, or calf, or shoulder, or frankly any post-training muscle in my leg or shoulder area. Should you wish to press your point with any triathlete you’ll find even the gentlest squeeze of a tender quad will have the same effect as Mr Spock’s Vulcan death-pinch in Star Trek, and your paramour will thus agree to anything to be released.

7. Dream physique

If it’s buns of iron and guns of steel that flick your switch, you’ll find a tri date will oblige because all that sport inevitably has an effect on the typical triathlete body. Indeed the moment the sun is out you’ll find multi-sporters prepared to show off their physique more readily than a scaffolder. This is of course true of ALL triathletes and the fact that some of us appear to subsequently resemble a haunted hatstand needn’t concern you.

6. Energy to burn

When it comes to moments of intimacy, all that training gives triathletes energy to burn so prepare yourself for passion. And during those private moments ignore any beeping you hear, it’ll just be our Garmins recording our heart-rate so we can log it in our training diaries. Again, the fact that I am currently writing an erotic novel set in the world of triathlon called “Not Tonight Love I’ve Got Swim Training in the Morning” needn’t concern you.

5. Gifts galore

Not long ago my wife accused me of being “difficult to buy for”, to which I replied “I’m very easy to buy for, you just haven’t spent enough money.” Despite her subsequent light grip of my thigh I had at least been honest, and once you start dating a triathlete you need never worry about what you are going to buy them for birthdays again. Happiness in present-buying can be guaranteed by the purchase of absolutely anything made of carbon, anything that promises to use “new technology”, and any gadget that records more information than their current gadget, no matter how useless that information may be.

4. Seek and ye shall find

If you date a triathlete there’ll never be any worries about where your beloved might be for you. While your friends may fret about what their other half might be up to when they are out of sight, you have a range of resources to call on to tell you not only precisely where they are down to a specific grid-reference but also how fast they are going and in what direction. Thanks to Strava and a hundred other training apps you can geo-locate your loved faster than a CIA surveillance team, and best of all they are keeping this cyber-game of “Where’s Wally” going themselves by sharing all their training data on Garmin Connect and Facebook.

3. Absence makes the heart grow fonder

If absence does indeed make the heart grow fonder, then you should be very fond indeed of your triathlete-of-choice by the time they return from their training rides. When I return from a 70 mile cycle looking like a partially sentient kneecap and walking strangely because I’ve spent four hours  with a saddle wedged up my hoop I’m always struck by how fondly Nicky looks at me. And my “looks” I mean “glares”. And by “fondly” I mean “coldly”.  

2. NDIY

I bought my first house from a DIY enthusiast and as he proudly showed me round his bodgery all I can remember is the haunted look on his wife’s face, exhausted by years of having this meddling berk creating booby traps all around her feet all day long.

If you date a triathlete this will never be you because tri-ers simply don’t have enough time for home-improvements that might consume valuable training hours. Imagine the serenity and peace-of-mind that will be yours knowing that you are dating someone who will Never-Do-It-Yourself. No noisy drilling, no ham-fisted hammering, no shelves that might fall down (because they haven’t been put up), just the occasional wonky picture-hanging of medals and finish-line photos.

1. Guilt gifts

On occasion I’ve blithely done something which was so inconsiderate it has caused me to almost break my own toes curling them up like a pair of Ali Baba’s shoes with embarrassment. Usually this involves entering overseas races without due care and attention, and on these occasions I do what any self-respecting triathlete does, and that’s spend my way out of trouble with guilt purchases. These have included a holiday to Canada, a new kitchen, and a horse – *oh yes, and a luxury weekend trip to Stockholm. If you date a triathlete you will find yourself richly rewarded by your occasionally guilt-ridden loved-one when they realise that they might have taken you for granted. However please note that guilt-gifts are not just for sins already committed, but also for future misdemeanours….

*A few years ago I took my wife to Stockholm for a lavish weekend-break to celebrate her birthday and to witness the Swedish Royal Wedding and subsequent huge “Love Stockholm” festival. This extravagant attention on my part was greeted with delight, and not inconsiderable surprise, by Nicky because I am not generally noted for my sweeping romantic gestures. I therefore felt it best not to mention that it was also the Stockholm Marathon that weekend which I had already entered having forgotten it was her birthday…

The Weekend Warrior on… why you should never try to hide the truth from your wife

I must say that Nicky showed a remarkable lack of gratitude for what turned out to be an excellent weekend (glorious weather, a five-star hotel and a 2 hours 56 minutes finishing time) and her various revenges included listing my occupation on the in-flight immigration form as “Jihadist” in a bid to see me carried away in an orange jumpsuit. All in all though I think this story is an excellent example of why triathletes make absolutely ideal people to become romantically attached to, demonstrating as it does that heady mixture of surprise, guilt, excitement, athletic obsession, tension and exotic travel that keeps life with triathletes endlessly interesting.

It seems appropriate to now include a link to… 

10 reasons why you should never, ever, date a triathlete…

And Martyn will be available for his own brand of marriage guidance soon… 

More by Martyn

How to avoid looking like a tri numpty

21 baffling things about triathlon

Tri tosh translator: 10 things triathletes say – and what they really mean

10 reasons why you should never do an Ironman…

Race T-shirts: what yours says about you

12 of the best race-day excuses

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