2. MTN-Qhubeka aiming to shake up the peloton
February 5 | The latest Telegraph Cycling Podcast looks ahead to the stage races in the Middle East, discusses the prospects of the first African team to be invited to the Tour de France – including an interview with Brian Smith, the man who assembled the squad – and pores over the fallout from Lance Armstrong’s latest TV interview, with the BBC last week.
The top riders are in Dubai this week – where Mark Cavendish won the first stage of the Dubai Tour on Wednesday – then it’s on to Qatar and Oman. Richard Moore, Lionel Birnie and Daniel Friebe discuss these now traditional curtain-raisers to the European season, analyse the characteristics of each race and what they mean in the context of the cycling year.
In part two we talk to Brian Smith, the Scotsman who has been heavily involved in signing big-name riders to MTN-Qhubeka, the African team that will make its Tour de France debut this year. With Edvald Boasson Hagen, Theo Bos, Matt Goss and Britain’s Steve Cummings, they have a strong mix of African and non-African riders, and Smith says part of the job will be to restore the confidence of riders whose recent results have not matched their potential.
“We want to try new things, try new tactics, to create things and do things a bit differently,” Smith tells us. “There are bullies and there is a hierarchy in cycling, but if we’re on the start line, we’ve merited our place.”
In the final part we discuss Armstrong and his first TV interview since he admitted his doping to Oprah Winfrey over a year ago. Did he say anything new? How should we view Armstrong now? And Daniel asks, why the hand-wringing over Armstrong when others are venerated, including former champions who, like Armstrong, “also made the choice that was available in their respective eras, using whatever means were available at that particular time.”