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Racing: Can we respect cyclists before dark ages return?

Byline: Bruce MILLINGTON

ONE day the fossil fuels will run out and, with nuclear power a no-no because the reactors would be sitting ducks for terrorists, things will be mighty different to how they are now.

It will cost a million quid to fly from Stansted to Barcelona, as opposed to the current tuppence, the only trains will be those ones they have on cartoons, with two blokes pumping away at each end of that see-saw type thingy, and the food you eat will be whatever grows or lives on farms within an easy horse-andcart ride from your home.

There is just one consolation from this vastly less luxury lifestyle that will be foisted upon us and our descendants: that there will be no such thing as heroworshipping of cars.

Those ludicrous people who currently love to spend their Sunday evenings on the sofa watching Top Gear will be out of luck. Drooling over Daimlers and masturbating over Maseratis will be impossible because the only cars in existence will be those that can be powered by cow-dung. They will have a top speed of about 13mph so talk of torque and superior handling around corners will be obselete.

And - best of all - people in Britain will learn to respect cyclists. Indeed, cyclists will be sporting gods, along with runners, jockeys and caber-tossers.

Bikes and horses will be the most common forms of transport and those who now worship the curves of the new Porsche will have to make do with admiring the sleek lines of the new Campagnolo racing bike.

It would be nice to think we can learn to love cyclists without the need for the oil wells to run dry first, but that's wishful thinking.

Right across mainland Europe people in fourwheeled vehicles treat those on two wheels as equals.

The cycle lanes in France are built for the purpose of getting from A to B safely on a bicycle, as opposed to the token stretches of slightly widened gutters our councils allocate when they want to be seen to be green.

And the consequences of our general disregard for cyclists is occasionally disastrous.

I read Cycling Weekly in the hope that I can glean snippets of information that odds-compilers have missed rich during those glorious three weeks in July when the Tour de France takes place.

But every so often, while scanning for clues, I wince at an obituary to a club cyclist who has been run over while out training or racing. It happens with distressing regularity.

YET I had hoped this week's offering could have been all about an uplifting antidote to all those stories of slain cyclists.

Because last Saturday Alexis Rhodes became Australian champion by pedalling clear of her rivals to win the Jayco Bay Classic in Geelong.

In the grand scheme of things, her success would not have merited a mention on the other side of the world, but it does because six months ago she was lying critically ill on a life-support machine after a car ploughed into her and five fellow members of the Australian national team during a training session in Germany.

Her friend and team-mate Amy Gillett was killed, but Rhodes battled back to full health and last weekend she crowned her recovery with a performance that left barely a dry eye at the roadside. How tragic then that the good vibes her victory generated should last no more than a day.

On a chilly Sunday morning in north Wales, a group of riders from the Rhyl Cycling Club were ploughed into by a car that had skidded on ice. Four of their number were killed.

In this instance, no blame has been apportioned to the driver. It was just a tragic accident.

But maybe, before the oil finally runs out, we will provide better cycle routes and bikes and cars will never come together in such a horrific way.

And maybe when cycling crops up in conversation, particularly in the media, people will recognise the risks people take to become top cyclists rather than the drugs these tiresome cynics lazily claim they take.

CAPTION(S):

Comeback heroine Alexis Rhodes (top right) and pictured with the Australian national squad which was struck by a car in Germany in July. The crash killed Amy Gillett (second right) and left Rhodes (second left) on a life-support machine
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Jan 12, 2006
Words:727
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