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Cycling infra vs the peloton, part two: Bike rack derails Sam Bennett’s Sanremo chances; That Van der Poel attack – and those sofa memes; Cyclocross takeover at the monuments; “There is never a Plan B for cycling” + more on the live blog

It’s Monday, and after a weekend spent watching every sport under the sun and booking a cycling trip to the Isle of Man, Ryan Mallon’s back in the hot seat for the first live blog of the week
20 March 2023, 09:10
Bike rack foils Sam Bennett at Milan-Sanremo 2023 (GCN)2
‘Should have used an angle grinder’: Cycling infra vs the peloton, part two – Bike rack derails Sam Bennett’s Sanremo chances

I’m sensing a pattern developing during the big early season races this spring…

Earlier this month, a segregated cycle lane – installed to keep everyday cyclists safe as they exit a roundabout – proved a serious hazard during the final kilometre of a Paris-Nice sprint stage, as riders were forced to jink either side of the unmanned concrete divider at over 50kph… with no more than a splash of pink paint to warn them of the potential danger.

> Paint is not protection, pro cycling style

After the stage, Astana’s American climber Joe Dombrowski noted the irony of infrastructure designed to make cycling safer and easier in towns and cities in recent years has actually made pro racing more dangerous.

And just nine days later at Milan-Sanremo (we’ll get to that attack on the Poggio soon, don’t worry), it was the turn of the humble bike rack to foil the chances of some of those hoping for monument glory on the Via Roma.

With 34km to go at La Classicissima, as the bunch was steaming towards the start of the race’s finale at the Cipressa, a crash – seemingly caused by a road sign at a crossing and the bike rack jutting out into the road behind it, which, again, was devoid of any marshalling or warning signs – bought a number of riders down, including Irish sprinter Sam Bennett.

Fortunately, the Bora-Hansgrohe rider wasn’t injured too badly in the spill, though a team spokesperson later said that he has some back pain and may be a doubt for the Classic Brugge-De Panne on Wednesday, a race he won in 2021.

While most pundits and fans criticised the race organisers for not properly signposting the cycle parking hazard, it seems the Danish commentary team have been reading too much lately, and suggested a different way of dealing with a pesky bike rack…

20 March 2023, 16:11
Mark Cavendish at the 2023 Tour of Oman (A.S.O./Oman Cycling Association/Thomas Maheux)
Mark Cavendish’s Oakley-gate rumbles on as Scicon pulls out of Astana sponsorship

Just when you thought Mark Cavendish’s protracted transfer saga over the winter was done and dusted, with the Manx Missile now firmly settled (if not exactly firing at all cylinders) at Astana, there has been yet another twist in this most convoluted of plots.

As we reported last month on the live blog, the long delay in confirming Cavendish as an Astana rider for 2023 was partly down to a stand-off between the sprinter’s long-running eyewear sponsor Oakley and Scicon, the Kazakh team’s glasses supplier.

Long story short, Cav wanted to wear his trademark specs, Scicon didn’t want the team’s star rider to rep a rival brand.

Eventually, the Italian eyewear supplier gave in, and Cav rocked up for the early season sporting his groovy Oakley Katos.

Best road bikes under £3000

If you’re going to make such a fuss, at least put them on… Cav at last week’s Tirreno-Adriatico (Zac Williams/

However, the British champion wasn’t the only Astana rider turned by Oakley’s range of glasses. At the UAE Tour, Alexey Lutsenko made the switch to the Californian brand, and at Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico at least ten of Cav’s Astana teammates were pictured in Oakleys.

Cyclingnews has reported today that the mass exodus from Scicon was sparked by the Italian company terminating its contract with Astana, with the Kazakh team confirming that Scicon is no longer a team sponsor and that they are working on bringing a new partner to the team.

That means that, for the time being at least, Astana’s riders are free to select their own eyewear, while any new sponsor would, presumably, have to factor in Cavendish’s obligation to Oakley and adjust their expectations accordingly.

Scicon are also reportedly preparing a legal challenge over breach of contract and look set to pursue damages. has contacted Scicon for comment.

All this over a pair of glasses, eh?

20 March 2023, 15:18
“Your Strava cyclists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should”: Strava Art goes big, and I mean really, really big, as group of French cyclists set world record for largest GPS drawing on bike

We love a bit of Strava art on the live blog, from self portraits that even Bob Dylan would find puzzling and fun festive designs to the, ahem, rather more childish end of the spectrum (I’ll leave that to your imagination).

But while most budding Strava artists devote a few hours of riding around town to sketch their masterpieces, a group of friends from Montluçon decided to do it properly – by riding 1,025km across La France Profonde to create a massive velociraptor.

As you do.

French cyclists break Strava record for largest GPS drawing on bike

It took six days for the friends – Maxime Brugère, Florent Arnaud, Franck Delorme and Nicolas Meunier – and a whopping 44 hours of cycling to bring their dino design to Strava life, between 30 October and 5 November last year.

And today, the velociraptor – which followed the group’s 200km tyrannosaurus in 2020, and a 200km diplodocus the year after – was officially recognised by Strava as setting the record for the largest GPS drawing made on bicycles in the world.

Now, that’s a proper record, Mathieu…


If that wasn’t enough, it turns out the record-breaking friends aren’t just massive Jeff Goldblum fans – they want their drawings to change the world.

“Dinosaurs are proof that such strong species can quickly become extinct and that is what we are currently going through with the sixth mass extinction,” says project instigator Brugère.

“We are the main culprits of this environmental crisis, but also its main victims. As such, the future is in our hands and cycling is one of the best ways to contribute to change.”

See, I told you Strava Art could be serious…

20 March 2023, 14:39
Crowdfunder launched for top Australian cycling photographer who sustained serious injuries after being hit by driver

A crowdfunding campaign has been launched to support the recovery of iconic Australian cycling photographer Marcus Enno – better known as Beardy McBeard – who was hit by a driver while riding his bike near his home in Hobart, Tasmania, on Saturday.

According to an Instagram post shared by fellow Tasmanian Richie Porte and Shimano’s Toby Shingleton, Beardy “sustained serious injuries which will require surgery, rehab, mental health support, and changes to his lifestyle in the short and medium term”.

The post continues: “Marcus Enno aka Beardy McBeard is a cycling photographer that has captured the world’s highest-profile cycling races such as the Tour de France and Giro d’Italia as well as numerous gravel and road mass participation rides across Australia.

“If you have ridden a Yaffa Classic event, Goodness Gravel, Giro Della Donna, Gears and Beers etc... or been to the Tour Down Under, Cadels, or World Champs there is a good chance you have already met or had your photo taken by Beardy. He is simply an icon of Australian cycling.

“He has beaten cancer and made it to the top of the photography profession, but over the coming months Beardy faces one of his toughest challenges as he recovers from his injuries and works hard to get back to doing what he loves and helping to support his beautiful family.”

The proceeds from the crowdfunder, which has already raised almost A$30,000 on GoFundMe, will go directly to Beardy to cover medical costs, replacing lost income, and contributing towards his recovery.

20 March 2023, 14:06
I can see this catching on in London…

Hopefully questionable casquette style is the only 90s throwback going on in today’s peloton…

20 March 2023, 13:09
“The ability to cycle across the Thames in east London is collapsing before our eyes”

Looks like the lifts at Greenwich foot tunnel – you know, the one “dangerous” cyclists “zoom across” – aren’t functioning today, so at least Tower Hamlets’ councillors can rest easy this lunchtime in the knowledge that there’ll be no illegal zooming, as everyone makes it to work late… 

> Councillor calls for anti-bike barriers to prevent “dangerous” cyclists “zooming across” foot tunnel 

20 March 2023, 12:42
“A whiff of discrimination?” Readers react to cyclist’s encounter with the Isle of Man police

Did something happen on the Isle of Man last week?

Cyclist stopped by police while riding on Isle of Man Mountain Road 2 (credit - Chris Glencorse)

Here’s what some of you had to say about cyclist Chris, foggy mountains, complaining (or concerned) drivers, and persistent police officers:

> Cyclists criticise police's "lack of road user equality" after rider stopped on foggy climb due to motorists' visibility complaints 

And here’s the original story, in case you missed it for some reason:

> Cyclist stopped by police three times and “told to put bike in van” after a “load of complaints” from motorists on foggy climb

20 March 2023, 11:55
Cycle route diversion, Belfast (Cycling UK)
“There is never a Plan B for cycling”: Cycle route diversion putting cyclists’ lives at risk, say Sustrans and Cycling UK

A cycle route diversion in Belfast, put in place to allow for flood defences to be installed on a popular towpath, will put the lives of cyclists as risk, according to active travel charities Sustrans and Cycling UK.

Considered one of the most popular cycling and walking routes in Northern Ireland, the Lagan Towpath stretches for 11 miles between Lisburn and Belfast and caters for over one million active travellers each year, according to the Department for Infrastructure’s figures (a portion of the towpath also featured as part of the course for the 2008 U16 Ulster cyclocross championships, which saw this humble writer finish third – it was a poor turnout that year…).

However, part of the route will be closed for the next five months to allow for the “essential” construction of five miles of flood defences, which the DfI says will protect at least 1,500 homes.

But Sustrans and Cycling UK say the diversion that has been put in place for cyclists affected by the work – taking them along the Ormeau Embankment and into the city centre via the Ravenhill Road, which features a painted, advisory cycle lane often filled with parked cars – is not safe or fit for purpose.

> Government says Belfast bike lanes are “advisory” – after local cyclists claim they are “completely unusable” due to parked cars

“For the next six months people won’t be able to use one of the only safe cycle routes through Belfast,” Cycling UK said on Twitter, alongside an eye-opening video of the proposed diversion.

“This shows the suggested diversion is not fit for purpose. The failure to deliver any of the Belfast Bicycle Network means there is never a plan B for cycling.”

Sustrans have also called on the DfI to install safe cycling infrastructure along the route.

“The diversion put in place, particularly for cycling from east Belfast via the Lower Ravenhill Road and the Lagan Embankment is not safe,” a Sustrans spokesperson said.

“There is an ‘advisory’ cycle lane or painted line along this very busy road which is often filled with parked cars.”

A lecturer at Belfast’s Ulster University, Liam McComish, who cycles to work on the towpath, also told the BBC that the diversion is making him consider commuting by car for the next five months.

“It’s bad for me as a cyclist and it has increased the danger of my commute,” he said.

“It’s made me think twice about whether it’s safe to cycle and I might go back to driving more often because I do feel genuinely at risk.”

> Cyclists call on council to reconsider “unsafe” cycle route diversion

A DfI spokesperson, who noted that the Belfast Marathon will still be able to use a section of the towpath as part of its route on 30 April, after discussions with the contractors, said: “The diversionary route via the Ormeau Embankment/Ravenhill Road is the closest alternative designated cycle route. This route is signposted for pedestrians and cyclists.

“The existing cycle infrastructure on the Ravenhill Road is an advisory cycle lane and therefore parking enforcement is not permissible by law.”

20 March 2023, 11:22
You don’t have to be a cyclocross world champion to win a major one-day road race, but it helps: The ‘cross takeover continues, as U23 world champion Shirin van Anrooij wins Trofeo Alfredo Binda

Of course, Mathieu van der Poel wasn’t the only cyclocross star to win a monument this weekend.

At yesterday’s Trofeo Alfredo Binda, one of the oldest and most prestigious one-day races on the women’s calendar, U23 ‘cross world champion Shirin van Anrooij underlined her position as one of the most exciting prospects on the road with a stunning 25km solo raid to secure her Trek-Segafredo team’s third consecutive victory in Cittiglio.

It was also, amazingly, the 21-year-old’s first ever elite road victory, and caps off a tremendous year for the Dutch talent, who finished 14th overall and won the white jersey at last year’s Tour de France Femmes before taking three World Cup victories and winning the U23 world title during a cyclocross winter which saw her barge her way into a new ‘Big Three’ alongside the sport’s other wonderkids, Fem Van Empel and Puck Pieterse.

“I just can’t believe it, it’s my first victory for the team. I never expected to stay away, I expected them to come back for someone to win in a sprint. Somehow I won this race,” a laughing Van Anrooij said after her breakthrough victory on the road yesterday.

So after Tom Pidcock’s win at Strade Bianche, and Van der Poel and Van Anrooij’s monumental successes at the weekend, I think it’s fairly safe to say that we’re well and truly in the era of the ‘cross-road crossover.

I for one welcome our knobbly-tyred overlords…

20 March 2023, 10:43
Charles Leclerc on a Bianchi (via Scuderia Ferrari on Twitter)
Weekend roundup
20 March 2023, 10:05
Mathieu van der Poel wins the 2023 Milan-Sanremo (CorVos/
“I dream of going this fast one day… downhill”: THAT attack… and that meme-worthy sofa moment

I know, I know, it’s Monday morning, but I just don’t think I’ve fully recovered yet from Mathieu van der Poel’s thunderbolt attack at the top of the Poggio on Saturday – a thrilling, jaw dropping moment that may well define an entire era of bike racing.

> Milan-Sanremo 2023: Van der Poel pummels the Poggio to win first Monument of the season

(Or maybe it was all that whiskey I had on Saturday night…)

Anyway… If you thought the flying Dutchman’s attack looked good on the telly, here’s what it looked like on the roadside:

Cycling, eh? Bloody hell.

Not only did Van der Poel make history by winning Samremo 62 years to day after his grandfather Raymond Poulidor won his one and only monument, he also secured the biggest winning margin – 15 seconds – the race has seen since Giorgio Furlan in 1994…

And he set the new fastest time ever on the Poggio, covering the 3.7km iconic climb in five minutes and 38 seconds (that’s a ridiculous average of 39.4kph and an estimated 564 watts, for anyone looking to try it at home) – three seconds quicker than his all-star pursuers, Tadej Pogačar, Filippo Ganna, and Wout van Aert, who themselves were three seconds faster than the previous record time set by Maurizio Fondriest and Laurent Jalabert in 1995.

That record was also set during the second fastest ever Milan-Sanremo in its 116-year history, with MVDP averaging 45.773kph for the 294km race (a staggering feat do doubt helped by the strong tailwinds along the Ligurian coast, but still).

And, most importantly of all, Van der Poel, Ganna, and Van Aert’s incredibly tight and awkward sofa moment before the podium presentation has proved the inspiration for countless jokes and memes on the interweb, which is what this whole thing is about, really…

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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