Getty Images

Britain’s Olympic cycling coach resigns over comments

Leave a comment

MANCHESTER, England — One of the key figures behind Britain’s successful Olympic cycling team resigned on Wednesday, soon after being suspended by the national governing body for allegedly making discriminatory remarks to riders.

Shane Sutton stepped down from his position as technical director at British Cycling, saying the furor around his suspension has “clearly become a distraction” as the team begins its final preparations for the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

Female cyclist Jess Varnish said last week in British newspaper The Daily Mail that Sutton made derogatory comments about her body shape and told her to “move on and have a baby” after she failed to qualify for this year’s Olympics.

In the same newspaper on Tuesday, para-cyclist Darren Kenny said he heard Sutton refer to members of the disability team in derogatory terms.

British Cycling said Sutton was the subject of an investigation because of “allegations of discrimination that have been reported in the press.” Sutton rejects the accusations but has resigned.

“I look forward to taking a full part in the review process so I can respond to the allegations in detail,” Sutton said in a statement released by British Cycling.

The body has already announced it will be undertaking an independent review into its performance programs.

Sutton, a 58-year-old Australian, is a respected coach who has been with the Britain squad since 2002. He was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II in her honors list in 2010.

Under Sutton, Britain topped the cycling medal standings at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing after winning 14 medals. Britain won 12 medals in cycling at the London Olympics in 2012.

“Cycling is my passion and I have always worked to get the very best out of professional athletes,” Sutton said. “I am proud of what British Cycling has achieved and I am excited by the potential of the team for Rio. They will always have my full support.”

Speaking before accusations made by Kenny, Sutton denied making the comments about Varnish.

“Actually I’m embracing the opportunity to sit in front of the panel and give my view because I don’t think I’ve been heard properly from Day 1 of this,” Sutton told The Times newspaper. “I’ve had great support from everybody here, but at the end of the day it’s an allegation.”

Olympic cycling champion Victoria Pendleton, who is now retired, told The Daily Telegraph that she never felt British Cycling gave her the same respect as her male teammates, and said she knows “exactly how miserable they made me.”

2019 Tour will honor 1st victory of 5-time champion Merckx

AP Photo
Leave a comment

BRUSSELS (AP) The start of the 2019 Tour de France will be all about honoring Eddy Merckx in his hometown of Brussels.

Merckx, known as “The Cannibal” for his ferocious taste for victory, won the first of his five Tours in 1969. Half a century later, the Belgian great still sees it as one of the major accomplishments for a cyclist generally considered to be the greatest ever.

“I wore the yellow jersey 96 times. It is the best memory of my career. It still gives me goosebumps,” Merckx said during Tuesday’s presentation of the Grand Depart – the opening weekend of the three-week Tour.

Merckx also won a record 34 Tour stages and is among four riders who won the Tour a record five times. French riders Jacques Anquetil and Bernard Hinault, and Spanish great Miguel Indurain are the others.

Tour organizers said it will be the second time the race will set off from the Belgian capital, which hosted the race’s Grand Depart in 1958.

The 2019 race will also mark 100 years since the race leader’s yellow jersey was created.

When it comes to the first two stages on July 6-7, the iconic Wall of Geraardsbergen climb should take center stage.

The 192-kilometer (119-mile) first stage of the Tour will have the Wall, for decades the toughest climb in the Ronde of Flanders classic. The Wall will come early but the stage, which makes a big loop south of Brussels, is still set up for a sprint finish close to the royal palace.

It will also have its stretch of famed Flemish cobblestones and will pass through the hometown of soccer player Eden Hazard.

The second stage will be a 28-kilometer team time trial through the Belgian capital along its wide-open boulevards. The riders will also pass by St. Pieters-Woluwe in suburban Brussels, where Merckx lived as a child and where he got to pull on his first yellow jersey.

From Brussels, it is an easy trek south into nearby France for the rest of the race.

Peter Sagan wins prelude to Tour Down Under

AP Photo
Leave a comment

ADELAIDE, Australia — Three-time world road racing champion Peter Sagan of Slovakia made an outstanding start to the 2018 cycling season Sunday when he won the People’s Choice Classic, a prelude to the first World Tour event of the season, the Tour Down Under.

Sagan beat star sprinters Andre Greipel of Germany and Caleb Ewan of Australia in a bunch sprint to win the 50.6 kilometer (31.4 mile) race over 22 laps of a street course in central Adelaide.

The win means Sagan will wear the tour leader’s ocher jersey in the first stage of the six stage Tour Down Under on Tuesday. Sunday’s race does not count toward general classification.

Ewan won the race in each of the past two years and Greipel is the only three-time winner. The 132-strong field that lined up for the race Sunday included seven former winners.