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A few days have passed and I now have a bit more perspective about Padania, I need to go figure out what exactly happened as that last stage wasn’t the most difficult and I wasn’t *that* tired. I think maybe I just got a bit too relaxed about it and thought I had finished before I really had, also maybe the distance covered in the previous few days suddenly came crashing on top of me. A diet of mostly Nat Bs, all less than 150km hasn’t been the best prep for this racing.

I also have to say a big thank you to everyone for all the positive messages I have got since the race, they have been extremely encouraging.

Part of me wishes that I could have been plonked in to this position when I was 19 or 20 years old like all the other guys in the pro peloton were. I would have learnt just as quickly as I am now I reckon. All my years riding of racing in France, Belgium and the UK amount to something, - there is no doubt about that - but this racing is so different that my experience can contribute only so much to helping me in these races. It is a lot like going back to school and starting from scratch again.

More politics, I shouldn’t read large mainstream cycling internet forums, they are bad for you. There was a discussion about ‘Padania’ and the Lega Nord on the CyclingNews forum, it turns out they are a fairly nasty political party. I am not really political but I think overall it was right for me to ride the race despite protesters wanting a rider boycott, in fact I think overall it was a good idea that the race was held. So far as I can tell all that a sponsor can achieve by financing a race is to generate awareness about that particular thing that they are pushing. They can’t really change anyone’s mind about it, just make them aware of it, that is all. I reckon that’s a good thing because it accelerates the formation of opinions and the exposition of good and bad political ideas – in the same way that is probably grudgingly right to put Nick Griffin on question time (it exposed him to be an idiot). This race put Lega Nord’s intentions on the map for all to see and I think a lot people in Italy formed their opinions about Padania this last week, during the race, thanks to the race. Many people are against the idea and they peacefully protested against it in various ways, mostly by having a party on the road side with lots of Italian flags. I can’t think of a finer way to protest, perhaps these people should be grateful to Lega Nord for organising a race rather than something else, whatever their political intentions?

This is how I felt until the other day, anyway… there are rumours that tacks were put on the descent on stage 5 which caused the Farnese rider called Mazzanti to crash heavily, breaking his nose and almost severing a major artery in his neck. If this is true then the whole reason behind the tour is a disaster as all of the legitimate peaceful protest and political publicity and discussion will now be forgotten on both sides. Personally I wouldn’t have been too bothered had there even been tacks on the ascent (since it was ridden basically neutralised). Doing it on the descent has horrific consequences, such as death. My max speed on Saturday was around 90km/h and was done on one of the straights on that descent, such as the one where Mazzanti crashed. I was halfway down the peloton and saw him on the ground, I also saw 2 other people stop for punctures. As someone that doesn’t speak or read Italian that well it’s hard to tell how pumped up the protesters truly were, but now that I’ve seen some videos on youtube it makes things look a bit more serious. in the first 10 seconds of this one a policeman makes a complete idiot out of himself!

That said, the vast majority of protests were peaceful (if annoying) and most of them seemed to enjoy the race anyway.

Congratulations to Chris Hughes on winning his first road race, hopefully it is the beginning of a string of even better results and a stellar 2012. Chris’s result is thanks in part to Digby Symon’s excellent ERRL tutelage, he is back to his old self, coming second for 2 weeks in a row now! It’s like 2005 all over again…!

Jeannie Longo doesn’t have a computer or a mobile phone apparently. This makes it difficult for her to fill in her whereabouts forms. This is the extremely annoying and intrusive system whereby many higher level professional cyclists have to say where they will be for a certain time every day months in advance so that they can be randomly drug tested. I thankfully don’t have to take part in it but I am aware of how annoying it is, I am also aware that cyclists can’t be trusted and so that this appears to be the only way to do things. She rather stupidly I feel hasn’t bothered to be in the right places at the right time 3 times, which counts as a positive test and so she will probably have to serve a ban. So far, so normal for professional cycling.

What I find more silly is that she has lifted words straight out of Lance Armstrong’s mouth in her defence and said that she has been tested “more often than anyone else in the world”. This phrase has been repeated by so many dopers, suspected dopers and downright suspicious athletes in recent years that it will be seen by many as an outright confession. How she is not aware of this I have no idea (although I suspect her lack of computer may have something to do with it), but never mind, when I read it I gawped slightly at this massive PR faux pas. She has tested positive in the past for Ephedrine (1997).

Longo has always been an outlier in cycling terms due to her extraordinarily long cycling career and natural ability, her dominance internationally has only waned slightly in the last 5 or so years but only due to an increase in the depth of international women’s cycling, not so much a reduction in her own ability, nationally she is still at the top. To me she is a total enigma and has been ever since I raced against her in 2008 (can’t find the blog post about it mind), for which I give her a lot of kudos for being bothered to race with the blokes. I can’t get any grasp on what may motivate her to race anymore. To me it seems she has nothing more to prove to herself, or to anyone else for that matter and the enjoyment just doesn’t seem to be there, she has already tried to retire once already, sort of: Each to their own I guess, perhaps she continues to race because she feels she is a role model to older women, which is certainly true and very admirable. But to me she cuts a sad figure, I look at her and can only think that she is trapped by the sport of cycling, I mean, what else will she do? Similar things can also be said of many older pro cyclists, both male and female - although they are far more anonymous than her.

And now it looks like she may have bought EPO from Joe Papp via her trainer (Dan Staite’s dealer):

Here is a short and very funny video involving a hay baler: