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Ford becomes title sponsor of RideLondon – and cyclists aren’t happy; Santos Tour Down Under protest: Extinction Rebellion pensioners arrested for gluing themselves to pile of bikes; UK’s most flooded cycleways; Pinot set to retire + more on the live blog

It’s a wet and windy Thursday (at least where I am), and Ryan Mallon’s back with another helping of the live blog
12 January 2023, 11:22
ford park the car initiative - via Ford
“The whole point is to get people out of cars, not promote them”: Ford becomes title sponsor of RideLondon – and cyclists aren’t happy

So, it looks like the spectre of greenwashing will continue to hover over the cycling world today, whether it’s on the streets of Adelaide or the roads of Essex, as London Marathon Events, the organisers of RideLondon, announced this morning that one of the world’s biggest car manufacturers, Ford, has become the event’s title sponsor.

Last May, you may remember, Ford joined up with RideLondon as its ‘presenting partner’, which the American motor company said would help push its ‘Park the Car’ initiative, encouraging people to ditch the car and cycle or walk if the journey is under three miles.

> RideLondon announces... one of the world's biggest car manufacturers as presenting partner

And with RideLondon making a huge loss last year – the first time that the event was held since the dawn of the Covid pandemic, and the first in partnership with Essex County Council after moving from its former home in Surrey – thanks to the absence of a major sponsor, the car giant has now stepped up to front the three-day event, as well as becoming its official electric vehicle supplier.

The undisclosed three-year deal gives Ford the naming rights to all three of the RideLondon Essex sportive events (the routes of which were announced last month), the RideLondon FreeCycle through eight miles of closed roads in the capital, and the RideLondon Classique, a three-stage UCI Women’s WorldTour race, won last year by Lorena Wiebes.

> Route for RideLondon-Essex 2023 sportive confirmed

Unsurprisingly, the words ‘active travel’ featured heavily in RideLondon’s announcement with Ford this morning.

“This is a landmark day in the history of RideLondon as Ford becomes the title partner of the world’s greatest festival of cycling,” said Hugh Brasher, the Event Director of organisers London Marathon Events.

“We worked closely with Ford last year to amplify their work in promoting active travel and Ford’s innovative Park the Car initiative, which encourages car users to cycle or walk rather than drive short journeys. We look forward to building on our very successful partnership to build active travel into everyday life.”

Lisa Brankin, Ford’s Managing Director in Britain and Ireland, added: “Partnering with RideLondon, the world’s greatest festival of cycling, is a clear way for us to connect with a wider audience and share the countless benefits of cycling and walking.

“It’s also a fantastic opportunity for us further support both our Park The Car initiative, promoting smart choices around which mode of transport to use, especially for short distances, and also raise awareness of Ford zero-emission vehicles.”

RideLondon Freecycle (picture credit TfL)

RideLondon FreeCycle (Transport for London)

Meanwhile, London’s cycling and walking commissioner Will Norman was as equally effusive, saying: “We need to reduce the number of car journeys taking place by supporting people to switch to active travel options like walking and cycling, and the car journeys that do happen need to be cleaner.

“This way we can not only tackle the challenges of air pollution, the climate emergency and congestion, but also help to build a safer, greener and healthier London for everyone.

“RideLondon is a brilliant event which will inspire people to take advantage of an environmentally friendly, cost-effective and fun way of getting around. With Ford’s support we can now continue to deliver this world-class event and encourage even more people to cycle around our city.”

However, over on social media, not everyone was as impressed with Ford jumping on the cycling bandwagon.

“This is a terrible, terrible decision by RideLondon that goes against everything the cycling movement stands for,” wrote active travel advocate Charlotte Baker.

“The whole point is to get people *out* of cars. Not promote them.”

“A multinational motor vehicle manufacturer sponsoring a pedal cycle event. Irony, as they say, is dead,” writes Paul.

While others linked the sponsorship to Shell’s controversial deal with British Cycling:

Others, however, appear more willing to give Ford the benefit of the doubt:

What do you think? Is Ford’s sponsorship of RideLondon the antithesis of what cycling should represent? Or is it just money at the end of the day? Let us know in the comments… 

12 January 2023, 09:43
Tour Down Under Extinction Rebellion protest (Extinction Rebellion)
Two Extinction Rebellion pensioners arrested after gluing themselves to oil-covered pile of bikes in Santos Tour Down Under protest

Two women in their 60s have been arrested after gluing themselves to a pile of bikes on an Adelaide street, in what appears to be the first wave of Extinction Rebellion’s plan to disrupt the upcoming return of the Tour Down Under – and, more specifically, to highlight the apparent ‘greenwashing’ activities of its main sponsor, Santos.

The two women, aged 67 and 68 and dressed in cycling clothing, were charged by police with unreasonably obstructing the path of a driver or pedestrian after blocking a lane outside oil and gas producer Santos’ HQ for half an hour, ABC reports.

The protesters also covered themselves and the bikes in fake oil, which symbolically led to the front door of Santos’ building.

Today’s protest is the first of what the South Australia branch of Extinction Rebellion hopes will be a series of disruptions to the Tour Down Under, which returns to the international cycling calendar this weekend after a three-year Covid-related absence.

Last year, the group targeted the race’s little brother, the Santos Festival of Cycling, to protest a company which they believe is “driving global emissions to tipping points from which there is no return.”

> Extinction Rebellion to target Santos Festival of Cycling

Gas and oil producer Santos, which has sponsored the Tour Down Under since 2010, is one of Australia’s worst greenhouse gas emitting companies. Its status as the race’s naming rights sponsor has long been viewed as one of cycling’s most egregious forms of ‘greenwashing’ (which is saying something at the moment).

2020 Tour Down Under peloton rides through bushfire-affected area (Zac Williams/

The bunch rides through an area ravaged by bushfires during the most recent Tour Down Under in 2020 (Zac Williams/

However, when asked by Procycling magazine in late 2021 about the race’s relationship with Santos and its environmental impact, Events South Australia executive director Hitaf Rasheed said: “While none of our sponsors have any direct involvement in the organisation or running of [the Tour Down Under], we value these partnerships as they allow the race to continue to grow and elevate the event to a world-class offering.”

While insisting that they are not against cycling or bike races – just the companies seeking to profit or launder their image from them – Extinction Rebellion’s South Australian spokesman, Chris Johnson, said that the Australian government should be taxing companies like Santos more, rather than striking sponsorship deals with them.

“I think people are smart enough to understand that we are targeting Santos at this race, and if we’re there with a presence and we have banners that say ‘dump Santos’ or ‘disrupt Santos’, then it’s pretty clear that we're targeting Santos,” he said.

> "We respect the public's right to protest": British Cycling addresses Extinction Rebellion protest over Shell deal

On the other hand, South Australia’s tourism minister Zoe Bettison described plans to disrupt the Tour Down Under (a race that ventured through areas decimated by bushfires during its most recent edition in 2020) as “galling”, and claimed that Santos was committed to achieving net zero emissions.

2020 Tour Down Under peloton rides through bushfire-affected area (Zac Williams/

The 2020 Tour Down Under peloton passes a house destroyed by bush fires (Zac Williams/

“I think people are free to share their concerns; the disruption is what is outraging me,” she said.

“We’ve seen them hold up traffic before, we’ve seen them protest this way, but why are you going to do this at an event that is such an important event for South Australia?”

Maybe the tourism minister is just a massive Chris Froome fan…

12 January 2023, 17:45
RideLondon Ford
“In defence of Ford” and other comments about greenwashing

While Ford’s deal with RideLondon has sparked something of a backlash against both the company and the event online, today’s live blog comments section is – perhaps surprisingly – rather more balanced in its appraisal of the arrangement. reader Legin, for example, wrote “in defence of Ford Motor Company”, pointing out that “most cyclists also drive cars; motor manufacturers are long term sponsors of cycling; historically they have been the largest private employer in Essex; they have their own cycling club for employees; and prior to Covid restrictions they allowed use of the facilities at the Dunton Test Centre for go-ride racing and coaching.”

Similarly, Off the back asked “if these people who are protesting also refuse to watch any pro cycling? AG2R Citroën, Team TotalEnergies, Team Ineos. Car and petrochemical companies sponsor cycling all the time.”

“It’s all so tedious,” says PRSboy. “Cycling is not a 'movement'. I do it because I enjoy it, others do it to get around. On longer journeys I take my car because it’s cheaper and more reliable than public transport.

“We are not going to make the energy transition without the incumbent companies' involvement, and it’s naive to think they can change on a sixpence. Until then, it’s surely better to engage and hold them to account to their promises rather than shunning for eternity.”

Extinction Rebellion Santos Tour Down Under protest (9News)

Meanwhile, a few of our readers disagreed over Extinction Rebellion’s methods down under.

“I'm all for protest, but honestly I think my wokeness stops at environmental protestors targeting cycling events,” says espressodan.

“Yes, sportswashing is a thing, yes, stage races are hardly low emission events, but for goodness sake, choose your enemy. Literally everything else you could possibly target isn't something that at its roots is an emissions free transport machine.”

MattieKempy relied: “At first glance, yes, maybe, but then when you consider the environmental impact of cycling events on that scale, it's a bit more obvious.

“Consider the flights to get the 20-ish teams (140+ riders) and staff (probably more than 250), their bikes and kit to Australia, then factor in the carbon emissions of the race convoys, the spectator journeys to and from the stages, the plastic sh1t thrown at people by the caravan (if it's anything like the Tour de France), then multiply that by every WorldTour event, which I believe is approximately 40 events, the cause for a protest becomes much more evident.

“Cycling as a pursuit is quite environmentally friendly; cycling as an elite sport and business is definitely not!”

12 January 2023, 16:45
2022 Tour de France, Thibaut Pinot (A.S.O._Charly_Lopez)
Thibaut Pinot announces he will retire from cycling at the end of 2023

It’s a sad day for lovers of goats, panache, and tearful exits from grand tours, as Thibaut Pinot has announced that he will retire from professional cycling at the end of this season.

The 32-year-old, who has won six grand tour stages, Il Lombardia, and finished on the podium of the Tour de France (a race he came agonisingly close to winning in 2019) during his 13-year professional career, told L’Équipe today that he is “ready for real life”.

I’m not crying, you’re crying…

By announcing his retirement early, the popular Groupama-FDJ rider says he can ride every race “knowing that it is the last time, before I go to bury myself in my hole”.

Speaking of which, Il Lombardia, the Italian monument he won with an impressive solo attack in 2018, will mark Pinot’s last race in the pro peloton, while he is also scheduled to head to Italy for the Giro, the scene of another of the Frenchman’s devastating late abandons while in a strong GC position.

And surely – surely – there will be one last crack at the Tour in July. Come on Thibaut, do it for all the romantics out there…

12 January 2023, 15:54
2022-23 awards - 1
The countdown to the Recommends awards begins

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…

Yep, that’s right, Monday marks the start of our prestigious end-of-year (yes it’s January, but you know what I mean) Recommends awards.

> Starting next week: Recommends awards 2022/23

Throughout next two and a half weeks, we’ll be revealing the best bikes, components, accessories, and clothing that made into the tech team’s grubby little hands during 2022 – and, according to tech editor Mat, there are going to be a few surprises.

I can’t wait…

And, just to whet your appetite, here are the winners in the road bike category from last year’s awards ceremony/YouTube video:

12 January 2023, 15:27
I wish they’d come up with a snappier title…

> Netflix Tour de France documentary could take sport "to next level", says Patrick Lefevere 

12 January 2023, 14:58
Miguel Angel Lopez on his way to winning Stage 17 of the 2020 Tour de France (picture credit Alex Whitehead
“I didn’t dope, my biological passport is clean”: Miguel Ángel López breaks silence over Astana sacking

Grand tour stage winner Miguel Ángel López is adamant that he’s clean – and that he’s got the biological passport to prove it – despite his sacking by Astana-Qazaqstan for his alleged links to a doping investigation in Spain.

Speaking to Colombian cycling outlet ADN, the 28-year-old, who was unveiled by third-tier squad Medellín earlier this week, continued to deny any association with the alleged doping doctor Marcos Maynar, and said that he hopes to return to the WorldTour once his stint back home – away from the intense glare of the European racing scene – is finished.

“It’s a new experience, I’m motivated, I’m looking forward to a new season with beautiful experiences,” he said. “It’s a bit different to what I expected [for 2023], but I’m sure I’ll feel the support of the supporters here. This is the best team here in Colombia.”

> Miguel Ángel López drops down to third tier after Astana sacking

López, who was initially suspended by Astana last summer when his name popped up as part of the Spanish police’s Operation Ilex anti-doping investigation, before his contract was abruptly terminated last month, says his move to Medellín was “something nice after what happened, and sometimes you have to take a small step back to take a major leap forward”.

Reflecting on his turbulent 2022, the mercurial climber continued: “There hadn’t been a problem, things moved forward and we were looking forward to 2023 without any concerns.

“It [the initial suspension] had just been a bad moment that happened, a misunderstanding. I have nothing to repent about because I’m not doped, my biological passport is clean.

“Then from one moment to another it was as the ground had gone from underneath me. It was very hard, suddenly I found had no team, it was December 15th, almost Christmas.

“With the support of my friends and family I could get through. The key thing is there are no issues, so I decided I’d have to race in a non-WorldTour team and hope things go back to normal.”

The Tour de France stage winner also praised his new teammate, 46-year-old Óscar Sevilla – whose own career in cycling’s top flight ended after he was sacked by T-Mobile in 2006 thanks to his involvement with Operation Puerto doctor Eufemiano Fuentes – for “telling me I had to keep my head high and not to let the little things get to you. He’s one of the best riders in Colombian cycling, I’m proud to be racing with him.”

He concluded: “For me these have been various complicated years. Movistar [in 2021] wasn’t great for me either, so neither 2021 and 2022 have been easy and staying focused has been hard.

“But I’m 28, going on 29, so I can still see myself doing battle in the World Tour. Nobody’s perfect, everybody makes mistakes, so you have to get over them, keep going and move on.”

12 January 2023, 14:27
“There is a myth circulating amongst cyclists…”
12 January 2023, 13:33
“Great news for Ford, terrible for everyone else”: More reaction to THAT “absurd” RideLondon-Ford deal, as cyclists threaten to boycott event

The backlash against RideLondon’s sponsorship deal with Ford continues (and will probably continue for a while), with several of the event’s former participants taking to Twitter this lunchtime to declare that they’re “never taking part again” while the car giant remains as title sponsor.

Here’s a selection of some of those, shall we say, less than supportive thoughts and comments popping up on social media today:

And finally, an obligatory reference to Shell… 

12 January 2023, 12:58
“This doesn’t work as an active travel route whilst underwater”: Is this Britain’s most flooded cycleway?

With the most prestigious and hotly-anticipated awards of the cycling calendar set to be announced next week (more on those later), reader Bob got in touch to recommend – see what I did there? – that we launch an altogether different kind of cycling-themed contest.

“Can we have a competition for most flooded cycleway?” Bob asked, before submitting his own entry from Dunham Massey in Trafford, Greater Manchester, where three sections of the Trans Pennine Trail currently more resemble something you’d find Bob Mortimer and Paul Whitehouse filming beside than they do a National Cycle Network route.

“The third section is more like a river where the water flows from the embankment beside the gas works.” Bob told us. “The first two sections are blamed on blocked drains.

“I do report to the council every year, more in hope than expectation. Obviously, this doesn’t work as an active travel route whilst underwater, and unfortunately the only alternative by bike involves an A road and a B Road.”

Is this Britain’s most flooded cycleway? Or do you reckon you could trump it with your own underwater commute?

Bob thinks he has another contender on his hands near Stretford, so watch this space…

12 January 2023, 12:36
“Ford is serious about preserving the planet”: Car giant responds to criticism of RideLondon deal

It looks like it’s going to be a busy day for Ford UK’s social media team, who are already on the case, dealing with angry cyclists and active travel campaigners critical of the car company’s deal with RideLondon:

Of course, I think it might take more than a pre-drafted tweet to appease everyone:

12 January 2023, 12:08
Dating advice from Wout van Aert’s Strava

Or maybe he’s just a big Motorhead fan…

12 January 2023, 10:36
Come on, show us your numbers Valtteri…

See, Netflix was right – cycling really is the new Formula 1.

Hopefully all that training with his partner, Canyon-Sram’s Tiffany Cromwell, as well as a certain Texan, paid off for Bottas during his annual trip to the lab…

12 January 2023, 10:10
Tom Pidcock: Cyclocross world champion, Olympic gold medallist, Tour de France stage winner, and… Dino Boy

From accusations of greenwashing and important questions about the future of the planet to… well, Tom Pidcock wearing a dinosaur-themed helmet while training in Mallorca:

Never say you don’t get variety on the live blog…

Or maybe Pidcock was actually trying out an alternative punk version of the as-yet-unreleased Kask Elemento that tech editor Mat has been banging on about all week?

Ryan joined as a news writer in December 2021. He has written about cycling and some ball-centric sports for various websites, newspapers, magazines and radio. Before returning to writing about cycling full-time, he completed a PhD in History and published a book and numerous academic articles on religion and politics in Victorian Britain and Ireland (though he remained committed to boring his university colleagues and students with endless cycling trivia). He can be found riding his bike very slowly through the Dromara Hills of Co. Down.

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