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Cycling on track in delivering value for money for GB

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David Bond | 18:01 UK time, Tuesday, 27 September 2011

With Mark Cavendish delivering Britain's first world title in road cycling for 46 years, is the sport now Britain's most successful?

UK Sport certainly seems to think so.

The government agency responsible for funding our elite Olympic athletes told me that in medal terms alone cycling is the best performer since the introduction of lottery funding in 1997.

Here are some statistics which back up that argument.

Since 2001 British Cycling has won a total of 103 world championship and Olympic medals on the track and on the road.

The only sports which come close to that level of success are rowing and sailing, with Britain's rowers winning 51 senior world championship medals over the same period.

As ever with statistics they need some qualification. Rowing does not have a world championships in Olympic year so, again, the number of medals up for grabs is lower.

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Mark Cavendish sprints to title

Perhaps the last three years provides a better measure with rowing winning 27 medals - just four behind cycling for the same period.

But whichever way you slice it, cycling's return is extremely impressive.

In financial terms, it is also one of British sport's biggest success stories.

Over the last 10 years British Cycling has received just under £44m, which works out at £417, 475 per medal.

Compare that to athletics which received more money than cycling - £50m - but has won just 36 medals since 2001.

Again this comes with a hefty footnote as athletics hosts its world championships every two years instead of annually.

And UK Athletics will no doubt point out that winning medals in athletics is harder than any other sport because of the sheer number of countries and top athletes competing for the top places.

That is undoubtedly true. But the financial calculation is quite revealing nonetheless. In athletics the cost per medal in the last 10 years is £1.4m - three times more expensive than in cycling.

Despite all this British Cycling is preparing for London 2012 knowing it is likely to win less than the 14 medals it won in Beijing in 2008.

That is because the sport's world governing body, the UCI, has dropped two events - the individual pursuit and the Madison - to ensure greater parity between men and women.

But with Cavendish leading GB country to the top of this year's road world championships medal table in Denmark, there is every chance that any shortfall on the track could be plugged by this new success on the road.

British Cycling's performance director Dave Brailsford, says we are now a "genuine cycling nation". It is becoming increasingly hard to argue against that.


  • Comment number 1.

    I fully agree and think it's time for the nation to agree that cycling is now the most successful sport we have. The performance of our road and track team members improve year on year and we can be thankful to lottery funding for helping us provide world class facilities. The sky team on the road is growing from strength to strength and only poor misfortune robbed us of potential victory in the tour de France this year. I love cycling and I hope the BBC recognise our talents and start televising events. Itv coverage as well as espn is good, but I hate adverts on live events!!

    I also think that our performers are the best athletes around. Their precision, skill, endurance and speed is awesome and I appreciate what they can do given I am a regular ammeter road cyclist.

    Cav for sports personality of the year and team britian for team of the year!!

  • Comment number 2.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 3.

    Great job by all involved Cav in the rainbow jersey... incredible and how they got it was unfathomable to me watching.
    Cav has no chance of winning SPOTY - Can you imagine them having to show Cav in his SKY jersey at the event?
    The BBC thought he deserved about 2 hrs on the front page while all the journos had to write stories about how rubbish Lewis Hamilton has become.

    Looks like you've managed to hide this blog where you are not going to get shelled by folk unhappy about the Sky deal. Great job - shame it looks like its hidden for everyone who might want to celebrate the Epic ride by TeamGB.

  • Comment number 4.

    Good to see Cycling finally rising up the BBC pecking order, hopefully the BBC won't get the Tour de France and try and share it with sky. Leave ITV4 to is excellent coverage. Seems the BEEB only recognises sport when there is success.

    Be great to see Cav win SPOTY, the guys are legends, well done

  • Comment number 5.

    Agree with point 2, this comparison of medals it utterly meaningless without knowing how many are available, very weak journalism.

    Cycling has been brilliantly successful, can't fault them. Because of the technology involved it is an event, like rowing, where throwing money at it is going to help. This is much less true of athletics. You could have all the resources in the world and you still couldn't guarantee an olympic track champion, you need a freakishly talently individual to start with.

  • Comment number 6.

    Cycling is a brilliant sport. Drama, danger, selflessness, breath-taking fitness, skill and most importantly the athletes are often likeable and down to earth like Cavendish and Wiggins.

    When you consider that most of us have owned a bike at some point and the delight and enjoyment it brings (my 5 and 6 year old just love their bikes), it makes you wonder why cycling is so marginalised in the media. Hopefully our current crop of superstars will knock football further down the sports pages.

    A big thank you to Ch4 and ITV4 as well in recent years for covering a great sport during a time when GB cycling wasn't in the headlines as much as they are now.

  • Comment number 7.

    are u serious about this aricle??? what about, Donald, westwood, mcilroy, Casey, poulter, Mcdowell, clarke,, three top ranked players in the world plus major winners,, its a self funding game, much more world wide competitive than any sport other than football and we have top three british plyers ranked 1,2,3. in te world, they generate money for the economy not sucked it out.. just look at the ryder cup solheim cup and walker cup how good a spectator sport is that!! generating many millions in revenues. why?? cos people want to watch it, want to play it and its as clean as a whistle,, cycling ? give me a break..

  • Comment number 8.

    @5 PHStenning

    Technology does not make a large difference in cycling. A full Areo Time Trial bike only account for 2% of drag, while Cavs special helmet saves him only 2-3watts.
    The level of fitness these guys have is far beyond that of most athletes. A talented individual is needed, like Miguel Indurain with a resting heart rate of 42bpm, or Cavs who can chuck out 1200watts for 200meters after 200km of riding at over 40km/h.
    Sorry for the rant but it was a poorly thought out comment.

    Wow this blog was hidden and basically pointless ... not comparison in medal numbers, and no real point, especially when we still spend just under half a million pounds ($500k) a medal, thats bad buisness, and if if it was private money would have been withdrawn by now.

    Cav should win SPOTY, but wont cause he doens't have a ball in his sport.
    Neither GB, nor Sky, nor HTC will win team of the year for the same reason.

    And while i'm here, No To Sky

  • Comment number 9.

    Why the downers on Cycling? As a runner I'm astonished by the power and stamina of the current British cycling squad - both male and female. Just had a quick look and it appears there were 10 titles up for grabs in Denmark and that includes Junior and U23 which I'm sure are not included in the athletics stats above. Compare that with, I think 47 titles on offer in Daegu for Athletics. Mo Farar - fantasic achievement - Dia Green - Brilliant! but my SPOTY vote goes to Cav and the cycling team.

  • Comment number 10.

    Cycling is a minority sport.That those who do participate are successful is commendable but you could say the same about darts to be honest.

  • Comment number 11.

    Comment 5 is utterly false if you are talking about road cycling. Perhaps money makes a massive difference on the track but in road cycling teams are multi-national so it's a moot point. The road World Championship success was all about, psychological strength, experience, tactics and sheer willpower. Cavendish is a freak of nature, even with the brilliant GB support he still had to come from nowhere to win, a complete one off and a master entertainer, there will never be a cyclist like him in this country again! Enjoy it while you can.

  • Comment number 12.

    Our cyclists have been the envy of the world since Beijing.
    Hoy and Wiggins are legendary. Cavendish is surely the best sprinter of all time, and still improving.

    Arguably, the success of the Brits have been a real fillip for the image of the sport worldwide.

    It's wonderful to see some great new young riders coming through, like Alex Dowsett (winner of the individual time trial in the Tour of Britain) and Lucy Garner (junior womens road race GOLD).

    And frankly, the few I've mentioned are just the tip of the iceberg, and the quality runs right through the backup teams, coaches, mechanics. It's a privilege to see it all happening, and thrilling to watch the sheer brilliance of some of these people.

  • Comment number 13.

    #5 so you think you don't need to be that talented to be a top cyclist? Naive comment to say the least!

    The competition is not as great as athletics, as the article points out, but not as talented? Seriously.

  • Comment number 14.

    The UK used to be better at track events, but made investments in cycling infrastructure to win Olympic medals once athletes from poorer countries started winning. I think a track medal is worth significantly more than a cycling medal, due to the greater competition and level playing field in accessibility to higher levels of the sport. And cycling is way less entertaining than team sports such as rugby, football and cricket.

  • Comment number 15.

    Disagree with 14 on excitement. TDF was brilliant for spectacle. I marshalled at Tour of Britain and was happy to spend several hours waiting for the glimpse of the pelaton as it raced past. Watching Cav kick for home is every bit as exciting as a kick off the bend in the 800m or a winger flying past outstretched arms to touch down in the last minute in Rugby. Just enjoy the sport that's there instead of knocking what you don't understand.

  • Comment number 16.

    Only an idiot would say that golf was as clean as a whistle - an untested sport is a dirty sport

  • Comment number 17.

    A quick glance at the lefthand nav in the sport section of this website tells you all you need to know about where the BBC think cycling comes in the hiearchy, puff pieces like this notwithstanding. Doesn't matter to me, I'll watch it anyway, fantastic entertainment. And the less we have to say about well informed comment such as "cycling is way less entertaining than team sports" the better, eh.

  • Comment number 18.

    It's about time Cavendish gets the recognition he deserves in Britain. He's described as 'David Beckham' stature on the continent, where countries draw in 10-15 million + viewing figures for the TdF. He has been described as the greatest sprinter of all time, not just this generation. He has to win SPOTY. The only other contenders are golfers (Clarke and McIlroy), and with no disrespect have had one victory in the year each, and been nowhere for the rest of it. Cavendish has dominated the sport all year, from the Giro, Tour and now the Worlds.

  • Comment number 19.

    So... how do we get people to vote for the greatest sportsman I've seen. He doesn't kick a ball or earn £100k a week, how does the missile win SPOTY?

  • Comment number 20.

    It's a shame that Britain's cyclists don't get the recognition they truly deserve. Cav is an absolute legend, one of the greatest ever, on a sporting par with Pele. He IS that good. By the end of his career we will have borne witness to something truly special. It is a shame that we are not showing the appreciation and recognition that he deserves. It will be very, very sad if he doesn't win SPOTY, he truly deserves it.

    (Not forgetting the other amazing British cyclists out there.)

  • Comment number 21.

    These comments about cycling being a minority sport are missing an important point - how hard do you have to train in order to win a medal in the top events? That is the measure of how much a medal is "worth" isn't it?

    Sure - having more people involved generally raises the level required to win big events. But look at cycling and consider how much harder you must train to win the Tour de France or Olympic road time trial compared to, say, the Ryder Cup. There is no comparison (sorry golfers!). Being a pro cyclist these days is so hard it can reduce your life expectancy! That requires something a little special both physically and mentally. Sadly some choose to take drugs too, but that makes it harder for clean riders like Wiggins, not easier.

    Just because a sport is a minority sport, it does not mean it is easy to win. Some sports are more difficult to win than others and cycling is one of the hardest.

  • Comment number 22.

    as an avid cyclist, dirt rider that is, it disturbs me that nobody ever makes a point about our success off-road, just this year, 20 year old Danny Hart from Northern england won the UCI DH world championships in Champerey, Switzerland in treacherous conditions.... or shall I point to one Gee Atherton who in 2010 didn't finish outside of the top 3 all year at the World Cup events all year, eventually leading to 1st place overall, or in the previous year, Steve Peat from sheffield, one of the most experienced mountain bikers in the world, finally after over 10 years of pro riding managed to clinch onto that World championship trophy, yes, at some events like the world champs they ride in team GB colours... only because UCI say so though, why is it that they get barely any national coverage compared to road/Olympic events when in recent years they have been just as successful if not more successful than any other British athletes.... or shall i point out some of the events we have hosted.... how about the World cup round at Fort William in Scotland... widely remembered as one of the best DH tracks in the world and pretty much the best ran event ever year without fail!

    well that's my 2 pence worth, goodnight!

  • Comment number 23.

    Agreed with 22, created a login just to back him up.

    Danny Hart should have been front page material after his run. An analogy is hard to come by, but it's fairytale.

    A newcomer, fresh from success on the junior tour does well all year due to his outrageous skill and ability to calculate and accept risk. But no wins. On the final race of the year (a one off event considered as important as winning the whole tour), all the pros who have been on tour for 5+ years simply cannot cope with the course, it's just too wet and slippery. He destroys it.

    As another commentator put it, most of us have ridden bikes so can relate to some degree. Ride bikes with any kind of frequency though and this achievement becomes even more impressive.

    Downhill is UCI sanctioned just like Road and BMX, which see plenty of headlines on the BBC. There's worldwide hype about this run, get it in an article!

  • Comment number 24.

    #10 it is unbelievable that you can even compare cycling to darts, these guys have to be in strict control of their diet through the year and can't just knock in a pint during a race. Secondly, it is a minority sport in the UK. Have you ever seen the crowds at de ronde van vlaanderen (tour of Flanders which is in Belgium and is a monument btw).

    #14 I guess you did not watch the Giro d'Italia last year or the Milan San remo and vuelta espana this year or the Paris Roubaix and de Ronde every single year. The road race world championships were awful dull though this year. Also, if track cycling was more challenging then why did wiggins shift to road racing. I also don't think you have heard of Jose rujano or Sergio Luis Henao (who has signed for sky), both of whom are colombians and one is an elite climber while the other is one of the brightest talents in the sport.

    Cavendish is most definitely not the best sprinter Of all time, he is at a similar level to cipollini and outside the GTs he only shows himself in the Scheldeprijs consistently And can definitely not compare to Freddy Maertens who at his best would rack up around 40 wins a year (Cav generally has 20-25).

    #12 British cycling is at it's highest point in a long time but barring Cavendish at the moment there is no really dominant British rider, Wiggins saying he can win the Tour is just a load of rubbish. If Contador hits the form he had in the 2009 Tour and and this year's giro nobody can even come close to beating him. As a track cyclist though he was a legend but given that he has become a stage racer and lost weight he will not be the same force in the velodrome anymore.

    #22 Danny hart is brilliant as a prospect, was it in Switzerland that he won by some 15 seconds.

  • Comment number 25.

    Geraint Thomas is a big prospect in the cobbled classics as he showed this year in de ronde, when riding for juan Antonio flecha

  • Comment number 26.

    @20 + 24 (not 44)

    Cav's is not yet the best ever. He is the most dominant winner of the TDF, even ahead of the best ever cyclist Eddie Merckx (on comparision in terms of time). No-one can match him in a pure sprint, never has one man dominated so hard in a sprint. Maertens was a quality sprinter, but so was Zabel and Cipollini, but none of them dominate the GT sprints in such a way.

    Can Wiggins also be considered for SPOTY. He's been on the form of his life, winning the Crit. Dauphine, 3rd in the Vuelta, 2nd in the WCTT, 3rd in Paris-nice, as well as being near the top in all TT's he entered

  • Comment number 27.

    I agree with the comments questioning the credibility of the blog and all the statistics. I am a big fan of cycling and Cav should rightly be hailed as a very special talent. It is a shame that the World championships can't recognise the teamwork involved as well as the individual success.

    However the article distorts the reality with the statistics and suggest the track records and the road records should be shown separately to start with. I think the track championships have a more limited number of riders and countries participating in comparison to road races and therefore the challenge is much harder. Also by separating the two styles I think you will see a slight decline on the track versus a growth in success on the road, the push by Sky and Brailsford (who should take every plaudit handed out, Coach of the Year?) being significant over the last 2 years.

    I am not knocking any of them but would like to see a balanced article rather than cheap sensational journalism. It may lead to posts on BBC site like "Pooley loses World championship in the rain" which is a disgrace as Emma Pooley medalled for the second year running in a field of circa 150 competitors!! Great achievement

  • Comment number 28.

    The whole team performance was amazing and it is a little disappointing that the BBC continue to virtually hide their cycling coverage and focus on medals, Olympics, etc rather than properly reporting in the sporting action - time to catch up BBC!

    @14 - Britain and Australia dominate in track cycling but it is a minority sub-sport for most countries where cycling is itself a big sport. Those cyclists suited to the road would chose the road over the track every time - so is it crazy to say that there is less competition.

    @7 - comparisons between sports are generally pointless but as you opened up that can of worms, what Cavendish has done in the last few years is the equivalent of a golfer winning every Major and lower-tier event that he enters. No golfer dominates golf in the way that Cavendish dominates bunch sprints.

    Bunch sprints are usually a bit of a lottery, but Cav has changed the question from "who will win?" to "will anyone beat Cav this time?"

    @22 - Danny Hart's win was incredible. Rob Warner's commentary of the race was legendary!

    @26 - Wiggins has come close to many good results but his best result has been winning the Dauphine this year, which hardly compares with Cav's achievements. I fear that Wiggins' time is running out and that he will be overtaken by the younger guys coming through before he really gets that legacy making victory.

  • Comment number 29.

    @27 - good point about Pooley. That headline was a disgrace. She did amazingly well to get bronze on a course that was totally unsuited to her. Non-one expected her to be able to regain her title on that course and so to announce it as a loss rather than a great performance was disgraceful.

  • Comment number 30.

    SPOTY nominations are decided by sports journalists. He will win if he deserves it, by receiving more votes.

    This year, I think it will be tough because there's a few names (Alistair Cook's performances in winning the ashes and dominating world cricket? Darren Clarke, as a personality is up there with the most popular. Rory McIlroy too.

    I'd also like to quash this theory that it is easy to suggest one sport is easier than another.

    Darts players might not have the physical workload in terms of fitness than cyclists, but at the end of the day, the best still have to put general 'effort' in on a full time basis. Any top sportsman or woman has to dedicate their life to the sport they participate in and it's rather derogatory to suggest otherwise.

    Also rather weak journalism AGAIN from Bond. Absolutely meaningless stats thrown in to back up what point exactly? That, in a less competitive field, we've won more medals than the field with the most participants? Also - what are you suggesting? Taking out athletics funding and putting more into cycling? (we already dominate enough) Put more money into athletics?

  • Comment number 31.

    UK's best sport? This really depends on what form of cycling we are talking about. Track? Maybe. Road? No, though there has been an incredible transformation in recent years. Cycling as a whole? Still probably no. I would guess that at the moment Cricket fills that slot.

    I used to watch a lot Football, Motor sport and Cricket, and still try to, but for me when I discovered cycling I found it a more compelling and satisfying sport to follow. Milan - San Remo, Ronde van Vlaanderen and Paris - Roubaix were all fantastic this year (especially Flanders), and it's so frustrating that the British media largely ignore these huge race. Because of the huge tactical element and unpredictability, there's a good case for saying that the monument classics are the most exciting things about the sport. I remember watching Flanders this year from about 80km to go and there was never a dull moment (actually a bit like the Alpe d'Huez stage in this year's TdF, with the situation changing constantly).

    And also, cycling and darts (@10)? Road cycling, which is a massive sport in Europe? I imagine it competes with Tennis for Europe's 2nd most popular sport. It's only minority if you take the typically ignorant British viewpoint.

  • Comment number 32.

    Britain a cycling nation? Not while road cyclists are still regarded as a form of vermin and those who kill them are let off with a few license points.

    Cav for SPOTY? Don't bother. Get him on Top gear Star in a Resonably Priced Car and have him kill off the cyclists-don't-pay-road-tax-myth.

  • Comment number 33.

    Hard to say cycling is our most successful sport based on medals. What about cricket? The number of medals for being the no. 1 ranked Test team in the world and being unbeaten in Test series for nearly 3 years is severely limited - but in terms of fan base, media coverage, domestic income, TV hours etc etc its surely been a more successful 3 year period than cycling?

    Or F1... only two titles per year there, drivers and constructors - but between Button, Hamilton and McLaren we've hardly had a bad few years there either.

    Or golf? The UK has delivered majors from McIlroy, McDowell and Clarke, been an integral part of Ryder Cup success and has the world no 1 and 2 in Donald and Westwood, alongside a plethora of other top players (Rose, Poulter, Casey etc). Again, medals is not a measure of success that lends itself to much comparison aside from 2 or 3 sports.

  • Comment number 34.

    How is comparing the number of medals between two sports over a time period relevant without knowing the number of events over the same time period?
    Agree with earlier comments - poor article. Is it half finished? Why on earth would you begin to mount an argument based on statistics but leave out vital information?

  • Comment number 35.

    It's great that at last cycling is getting decent television coverage, both on BBC and ITV as well.Whatever some may say this is the best squad in depth the UK has ever had, both male and female.A green jersey in the Tour is an incredible achievement, the way the team fought Sunday to bring home a gold for Cav is proof of their absolute quality.It shouldn't be compared to other sports, in the fact that for the sheer length and effort the Tour de France is an event in sport like no other. The problem we have in the UK is that unless it's golf,football or tennis it's a so called minority event,cycling is very far from that, the velodromes and tours boost incredible crowds,why because it's one of the greatest sports of all.

  • Comment number 36.

    As a cyclist (more MTB than road but I do both) I am delighted with the success and the comments about Danny Hart, Gee etc. (but the writer forgot that Tracey Moseley was World Champ last year and World Cup Champ this year and that Annie Last was silver medalist in the U23 XC worlds!)

    As a sailor I'd also query whether cycling is the most successful UK sport?

  • Comment number 37.

    David, while I see the sentiment and ambition, your piece is full of holes I'm afraid.

    If you're trying to compare (the wiseness of this is disputable) sports, why don't you go the whole hog and normalise the data to compare number of medals versus number of opportunities to win, or alternatively, numbers of medals won against events competed in - to get a 'success' ratio.

  • Comment number 38.

    When you consider that the British Cycling programmes main source of income is lottery funding and one major sponsor in SKY compared to the huge sums of money in Golf Cycling is clearly more successful!

    I work in sports development and unfortunatly my own NGB is very badly run and uses it's resources poorly in my opinion. All "minority" sports should look at the way BC have used there resources and take note. The return that has come from all there hard work rightly makes the sport Britains most successful sport currently.

    People are right that cricket has a shout, but England are only No.1 in Test cricket. Britain have won titles across all disciplines of cycling - Road, Track, BMX, Mountainbiking (thanks to the avid fans for pointing that on out) -

    F1??? Give me a break, how much money is involved in that sport and how big a return in-terms of British drivers taking titles - 2 in 5 years! Also, almost every team is British-based - barring Ferrari & Toro Rosso & HRT - and the sport is supported by British engineering brilliance so hardly a global competition!

    I think the point made by Mr. Bond, not brilliantly I'll admit, is that British Cycling is performing on the biggest stage regularly and doesn't excuse failure. Other national squad - athletics, football, rugby union, rugby league - all have a ready made excuse when floundering on the world stage and do so having wasted a greater amount of money in doing so. BC represent value for money for a funding body that must support over 40 sports!

    Research what others sports get interms of funding and find me a sport that produces results better than British Cycling. Bet you won't find one!!!

    Also Cavendish for SPOTY! Voted for him past 2 years and will again this year! Shame its a sham of a popularity contest because no doubt Clarke/McIllroy will take the top 2 for performing well over 4 days just once!!!

  • Comment number 39.

    Out of interest, how many events are there at a Cycling World Championships compared to the Rowing World Championships?

  • Comment number 40.

    At 20:53 27th Sep 2011, PHStenning wrote:

    Agree with point 2, this comparison of medals it utterly meaningless without knowing how many are available, very weak journalism.

    Cycling has been brilliantly successful, can't fault them. Because of the technology involved it is an event, like rowing, where throwing money at it is going to help. This is much less true of athletics. You could have all the resources in the world and you still couldn't guarantee an olympic track champion, you need a freakishly talently individual to start with.



    Money in rowing allows for many coaches, athletes to train full time, good facilities. The boats they race in however are exactly the same as the ones used by every other country.

    Winning is all down to the athlete, how they have been coached, prepared and their physiology.

  • Comment number 41.

    Is UK Sport only interested in professional sports, or those which appear in Olympics and Paralympics?

    I know of a sport in which the British team has produced medals at World and European championships in most of the last few years, and certainly without the multi-million pound budgets hogged by those who get the most attention and rather ironically just occasionally slag off other sports for being elitist - all for a few thousand pounds per person per year, including a fair chunk of their own money.

    If gliding had been in the Olympics, would it have received as much occasional transitory attention and as much public financial support as archery, curling, diving, rowing or synchronised swimming?

  • Comment number 42.

    I'd just like to add my praise for the Downhill MTB riders who hardly ever get any recognition. Steve Peat is a true legend in Downhill and if you look at results in the men's world cup DH races there's often GB riders taking up to half of the top 20 places. The GB womens' DH is also very strong. It may be a minority sport but it's highly technical and requires considerable bravery.

  • Comment number 43.

    "If gliding had been in the Olympics, would it have received as much occasional transitory attention and as much public financial support as archery, curling, diving, rowing or synchronised swimming?"

    Yes, but it's not.

    If you went on the UK Sport website, you would also see this:

    "UK Sport works in partnership to lead Olympic and Paralympic sport in the UK to World Class Success."

  • Comment number 44.

    I did go on the UK Sport website, and I'll amplify my point.

    UK Sport seems to be spending about £3 million per year each on handball and water polo, with 30 so-called development athletes in each, and no podium athletes.

    There is a question posed rhetorically in the blog about value for money in winning medals.

    Plenty of sports of which we almost never hear will have had as much or more success on a lot less funding than the Olympic sports.

    At UK Sport's level of involvement it's a bit tricky to see it as supporting sports at grass roots and encouraging more to take part. That's absolutely not what it's for of course, but what is the value to most of the UK of being able to see a few minutes of telly of someone British winning a medal in a sport of which they don't know a lot?

    The cycling and rowing teams are doing brilliantly well, and so are others, and I'm nt decrying that.

    But some of those Olympic sports have fewer participants on a countrywide basis than plenty of non-Olympic sports. When we talk of investing in sport, what do we actually mean?

  • Comment number 45.

    Trying to make an equivalence between medals and money is a challenge to put it mildly. One can throw statistics around but it would be hard to produce a really objective view.
    What impresses me most about British Cycling is the way they have managed to transform GB from very little to incredibly successful. There is a narrative behind this journey that other sports should read, inwardly digest and learn from. It wasn't money that started this - British Cycling had little at the start of the journey but systemetically and ruthlessly pursued excellent, started to become successful, acquired extra funding as a result and exploited every penny they were given to the full.
    British Cycling is brilliantly run (by the likes of Brailsford and others) and we should all rejoice in its success and not get distracted by subjective comparisons.

  • Comment number 46.

    If Cavendish doesn't win BBC sports personality of the year I'll eat my bike.

    Maybe the BBC could start showing some live pro cycling action from Europe? Perhaps in place of the European Show Jumping and Dressage Championships?

  • Comment number 47.

    Mr. Bond is either a bit thick ... or worse he assumes we are. As many have already pointed out the statistical ... erm ... analysis is just laughably inept.

    Lazy, incompetent or probably both, a truly awful blog about a truly great sport.

    The BBC spends a fortune on this site and I visit it every day - but generally just for an overview of what's going on and as a portal to other sites. So many of the articles and blogs are second and third rate, a terrible shame. I don't like Beeb bashing but they deserve it. A bit of professionalism at managerial level, out with the lazy and incompetent journalists, in with people who understand and have something insightful to say about their sports could turn this into a truly great site!
    Unfortunately the problems at the BBC start at the top, it's who you know not what you know I imagine, so it's pointless to even hope things will change for the better.

    Anyway back to the cycling. Track medals are great and I'm not belittling anybody's achievements but the road is where it's at. The best riders from the big cycling powers are on the road (that's where the money is), being best on the track is a little bit like being best at softball (instead of baseball). I'm not saying those medals were easy to win but it's not quite the elite level of the sport. Cav is obviously a proper world class cyclist but none of the others have really proved it yet - though Wiggins has done remarkably well. So best sport, no ... but we're on the up which is great.

    I'd say golf, triathlon and then minority sports (where very few countries play) like cricket, snooker and darts.

    Oh ... and we're world champions at rubbish journalism!

  • Comment number 48.

    'People are right that cricket has a shout, but England are only No.1 in Test cricket. Britain have won titles across all disciplines of cycling - Road, Track, BMX, Mountainbiking (thanks to the avid fans for pointing that on out)'

    Wrong, England are not only world no.1 Test team but also world Twenty20 Champions and have just beat the ODI World Cup winners and are a rapidly improving team.

  • Comment number 49.

    @46 Jimmy(Monsieur Mangetout in disguise?). Assuming Chrissie Wellington's recent bike accident doesn't stop her competing and winning in Hawaii then she's even more deserving I believe.
    Enjoy the bike, I'll take the soft option and boil up my spikes with some Fava beans!

  • Comment number 50.

    "But with Cavendish leading GB country to the top of this year's road world championships medal table in Denmark, there is every chance that any shortfall on the track could be plugged by this new success on the road."

    That'll be the 'new success' that delivered two medals at the Beijing Olympics in the women's road events.

    Yup, BBC Sports and statistics tend not to meet up very often and, when they do, half the stats are omitted.

    Next on BBC Sport, Hazel Irvine (bless her) compares chalk with cheese and suggests that 99% of the time chalk is preferred by British snooker players and makes them statistically better than snooker players from other countries.

  • Comment number 51.

    Mark Cavendish's performances this year have been superb and should make him favourite for SPOTY. Whether they do or not is a different matter given a. cycling's continuing existence in the margins (albeit popularity on the rise) and b. rightly or wrongly the continuing question marks about drug use in cycling generally. His ability to win whether well lead-out or not make him the best sprinter I have seen, certainly better than Cipollini, Abdujaparov, Nellissen, Zabel, van Poppel, etc.

    We should be grateful (and most of us are) for all our of successful sports men & women including the likes of Darren Clarke and Rory McIlroy but until the likes of Westwood and Donald (and Andy Murray) can convert their performances generally into Major/Grand Slam victories they will remain slightly behind those who have achieved the really big victories.

    Don't forget the test cricketers for SPOTY (the Ashes was partly after last year's) probably for the team award if only because the high level of performance of so many of them makes it hard to identify a stand-out.

  • Comment number 52.

    Why do people feel the need to point out the flaws in every article they read? Mr Bond clearly states the discrepancies between the number of world championships held between the sports and that their are obviously different numbers of medals available. Personally I feel that this is a nice short article which serves its purpose, If you wan t a better breakdown statistically the source of his information has made very clear - UK sport and as they informed him it was the most successful sport since lottery funding began it seems there must be something to back this up!

    Personally I have been delighted with the recent successes in road cycling, I've only followed for the last 5 years or so and began by getting into the Tour De France and this has now expanded into the sport as a whole (although Track and Off road cycling come a distant second for me).

    Cross-sport comparisons are always difficult but the success and growth of the sport since I have been watching has been immense and can only serve to increase coverage, interest and participation in the coming years.

    Cavendish has to be one of the favorites for SPOTY although I wouldn't mind if he missed out to either Alistair Brownlee or Helen Jenkins who have excelled in triathlon this year. But I fear the award will go to a sportsman/women who participates in a much more popular sport regardless of the merits of their achievement!

  • Comment number 53.

    The quality of so many of the responses to all the blogs these days is terrible. They've become more and more full of agitators/trolls who don't actually give a damn about anything other than trying to rile people into a response, and then prolonged exchanges.

    Some of the garbage written about how fit/unfit and how talented/untalented you need to be in order to perform like Mark Cavendish highlights the mindset of some of the "contributors" on here. Those with a genuine interest should (and I'm sure are) bask in the man's achievements, and those of his team-mates and applaud them for what they've done.

    With the likes of Twitter, perhaps Cavendish has a good chance of being up there for the Sports Personality award if the support can be marshalled.

  • Comment number 54.

    @50 knucklonian
    thank you ... laughter is the best medicine!
    @52 clueless
    BBC employee perchance? And how can you mention Brownlee and Jenkins (great performers both) but not Chrissie Wellington who is quite simply the most phenomenal athlete on the planet. Her performances equate to Nicole Cook finishing top 10 in the TDF general classification.
    Most worthy of the realistic SPOTY contenders, Alistair Cook.
    Team of the year - England Cricket team or Solheim Cup girls - one of the finest pieces of sporting drama I have ever had the privilege to watch!

  • Comment number 55.

    I forgot to mention the Solheim girls have as much chance as CW of winning their category at SPOTY. Cav? Maybe ... just maybe ... here's hoping!

  • Comment number 56.

    Mattlehagi, I am not and never have been an employee of the BBC - I just like reading short interesting blogs about sports that I am interested in and do not see a need for the plethora of posters who seem to chastise the majority of blogs I read. I would rather discuss the issues that a blog raises rather than the merits of the author.

    I didn't mention Chrissie Wellington as she is not somebody that I know very much about (I had to Google her!) I suggested the triathlete's I did as I know they have been very successful this year (and Alistair over the past few years) and although my knowledge of the sport is very limited they seem to me the sort of individuals who should be nominated and perhaps favorites to win SPOTY. I think followers of every sport will have their own choices and as a massive cricket fan I would love Cook to win it and think that the England cricket team should be up there for team of the year.

  • Comment number 57.

    #26 Maertens' record in GTs is brilliant, beyond anything Cav can achieve. 1977 vuelta he won 13 stages and the GC he later won 7 stages in that year's Giro. He holds the record for most stage wins in a single edition of the tour with 8 victories. The reason I compared cavendish to cippo and not zabel is simply because as a pure sprinter Cippo and Cav were much faster in a straight line than Zabel but both of whom couldn't get over a speed bump.

    The road racing scene is not all about the Olympics and there are quite a few races much more important than them. I'd rather

    #39 there is the road race and individual time trial for men and women in the elite U23 and junior categories.

  • Comment number 58.

    Forgot to add that Cipollini and Cavendish had the best lead out teams in their eras in Saeco and HTC.

  • Comment number 59.

    @56 haventaclue
    It was a joke aimed at your defence of what I (and many others it seems) consider a worthless and lazy piece of journalism. The reason there is so much criticism (much of it intelligent) of these blogs is simply because so many of them are so poor.
    Brownlee and Jenkins I agree are superb athletes worthy of much greater recognition. Anyway now you know about Chrissie, the uber-dominant superstar of endurance sport, who also happens to be a virtual unknown in her own country. And yes, AN Cook for SPOTY, the best of the likely contenders.

  • Comment number 60.

    I'm so pleased that cycling is finally getting the recognition that it deserves in the UK. Having been an avid follower since the late 80s (i'd also like to thank the likes of Ch4 and ITV4 in doing a fantastic job), on the continental scene there hasn't been much home-grown talent to cheer on -excepting of course the great Chris Boardman, Robert Millar, Sean Yates, Max Sciandri (remember him?!) and latterly David Millar.

    Now we have a fantastic breadth of talent to choose from, with riders able to tackle the technical difficulties of the track as well as the stamina and tactics involved with road racing. I was so impressed by the professionalism of the GB squad on Sunday, in delivering Cav to a truly historic and emotional win. Congratulations to all involved, hopefully this will be the start of greater popularity in this country.

  • Comment number 61.

    **British Cycling's performance director Dave Brailsford, says we are now a "genuine cycling nation".**

    I wish I could agree with that. There's no doubt at all about Britain's accomplishments in track cycling, definitely the most successful nation of the last decade, but is anyone other than perhaps Chris Hoy close to being a household name?

    At the end of a year like 2011, a genuine cycling nation would have not just Cavendish, but also Chris Froome high on the list of people deserving SPOTY recognition. Second in the Vuelta is a helluva feat, but he can't even cop a mention on a blog post about Britain's cycling successes...

  • Comment number 62.

    @59 Mattlehagi,

    I have a thought about why I look at these reports with a significantly different perspective to you (and many other readers). If you read them as journalistic articles i.e balanced articles with strong evidence to prove the assertions made then you are always going to be disappointed. For me they are blogs, which are very short opinion pieces designed to invoke a discussion about the topic at hand.

    As a side note I don't mind all of the negative comments, many can be constructive or rightly point out opinions of the author that are incorrect however its the ones which personally attack the fitness of the Author which seems pointless to me.

  • Comment number 63.

    @62 havent...
    Yes a good point.

    However looking at this article on its own I'm not sure your argument holds water. The header above this article says "comments and analysis". Mr. Bond has clearly tried to do a bit of analysis here. He takes the pseudo-intellectual (pseudo because he doesn't actually do it) line of "we must look beyond the headline statistics to see how significant they really are" but then totally fails to deliver either through incompetence or laziness.

    Also the fora are there for any who want to discuss their favourite sport without the need for a journalist to kick things off, that's the whole point of them. Yes this is a discussion area but the piece written is the starting point of the discussion and in this case it's a very poor piece indeed. Our license fees pay this guys wages don't forget. He has insulted us with this shoddy effort and deserves the stick he's been given.

  • Comment number 64.

    Okay Mattle I'll concede that I didn't read the headline 'comments & analysis' I just considered it to be a standard blog and therefore more of commentary and wasn't looking for significant analysis. And when I said that it was good I mean't as a comment piece to instigate a debate about the relative merits of success across different sports. As a piece of analysis I'll agree its fairly shoddy (I like to be diplomatic in my complaints!) and I would like to hear from Mr Bond as to what he was trying to achieve.

    To produce some analysis across sports it should be the bare minimum to produce a ratio of medals won to those available, the probability of winning these medals in relation to competing athletes and how other nations support their athletes (in finance and technical assistance) and also when discussing finances in relation to medals some quantification of non 'medal' victories, such as does finishing on a podium at a Grand tour qualify as a medal?

    To get back to cycling, what do people think of Cavendish's proposed move to Sky (if in fact that is where he has chosen to go)? I'll admit that I was nervous to how Sky could focus on both GC and points jersey's and was not sure that splitting their focus would end up with them perhaps missing out on both. But after last Sunday I feel that Cav doesn't need all of his team to win a bunch sprint and so perhaps it is possible to split their focus and be successful.

  • Comment number 65.

    One interesting note regarding Cavendish when comparing him with other major sporting stars.

    I recognise Cavendish can be extremely cocky and has previously behaved like a spoiled brat, however, this year in particular he appears to have developed into a more modest, appreciative, well balanced personality. With the weekend as an example, he is quick to praise the efforts of his teammates, express regret that his teammates cannot share the rainbow stripes and acknowledge the quality of his competitors.

    He's also modestly aware of his position among the real historical greats of cycling and react giddily like a schoolgirl to his achievements and the potential for further successes.
    It's not often a sporting star with such talent, has utilised it on the biggest of stages and has so quickly played down his own ability.
    Ladies and gentlemen is it possible we may actually see a BBC SPOTY with a personality?

  • Comment number 66.

    Good point @Havent....

    I suspect Cav's ability to win stages would be affected by Sky's GC hopes.
    The inability to offer an entire team at his disposal leaves him open to attacks that would reduce the liklihood of a bunch finish.
    Cavendish finished the job in the last kilometre on Sunday, but the team put in essential work before that point to reel in significant breaks and keep the pace high to minimise attacks. Without this work, there may not have been a bunch sprint and guys like Cancellare, Gilbert and Haussler would have been likely to attack from further out to avoid a bunch sprint which was always going to be in Cav's favour.

  • Comment number 67.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 68.

    @26 "He is the most dominant winner of the TDF, even ahead of the best ever cyclist Eddie Merckx (on comparision in terms of time)."


    Are you for real? If you disregard Cavendish's first TDF (2007, due to him abandoning after stage 8) he has appeared in 4 TDF's, with 20 stage wins, and a single green jersey. Compared to Merckx, who in his first 4 TDF's won not only 24 stages, but 4 yellow jerseys, 3 green jerseys and 2 polkadot jerseys!

    If you still think Cavendish is the more dominant rider of the TDF, in comparison of time, compared to Merckx, I'd like to see how you came to that conclusion!

  • Comment number 69.

    Interesting article, perhaps we should ask your colleague James Munro who got a bit embarassed when Team GB were winning gold medals in 2008

  • Comment number 70.

    Cavs can get over a speed bump ... see Milan -SanRemo or Stage 6 of this years TDF. Good point on Maertens, but i would point out that Cavs is still improving.

    I'm not trying to say Cavs is better than Merckx, but in a straight sprint between the two, Cavs would take it. And a large number of Merckxs wins were in the mountains or time-trials.

    Since when did this turn into Cav bashing!! Yes some of my comments may have been a bit overblown, he is still the best sprinter in the world, has been for at least 3 years, and should win SPOTY over McIlroy or Clarke who only won 1 event each.

  • Comment number 71.

    '64 havent

    I agree entirely with your point about the Sky team (something I wandered about too when I heard they were in the mix to sign him) ... they seem loaded with GC men and these guys can't afford to be wasting energy keeping the pace high on the flat stages. I think Cav will find himself having to hitch a ride on someone else's train which he has the ability to do but is obviously not ideal. How other teams react will be fascinating. It will make for a great TDF that's for sure.
    Now wouldn't this question have made for a much better blog to get the ball rolling?

    @65 knucklonian
    Yes, I admit to really not liking him to begin with .. but he certainly seems to have grown up and I am a fan now for more than just his cycling ability. Still believe he's a huge long-shot for SPOTY unfortunately. However since CW won't even be nominated I'll be unlikely to watch. Giggsy, Zara ... it makes me despair!! Any more good jokes to cheer me up?

  • Comment number 72.

    Just read your bio in the corner Mr. Bond - BBC Sports Editor. Thanks for your INSIGHT, how lucky we are! Pearls before swine I'm sure you think. Any chance of you manning up to defend this trash? Of course not. We all know you and your cronies couldn't give a damn about the quality of your work or what we think. Enjoy my license fee.

  • Comment number 73.

    Mattlehagi, I'm sure when he does sign the BBC will publish something about how Sky plan to deal with the contrasting demands. But I wonder who will write it, Cycling coverage is poor on the BBC website and this is one of things which frustrate me about the institution as a whole. Excessive coverage of football (Dominated by the premiership), even during the off season and a lack of depth in other sports or just no comments/analysis at all. The world championships finished on Sunday and I was waiting 4 days for something on the BBC discussing the success of the British team!

    As for Sky I think they will go with Froome, Wiggins and 2 other climbers and then Bossan Hagen as an all rounder (no Thomas as its an Olympic year and that's his focus) another time trial specialist to keep the pace high on the flat stages and then 3 sprinters (inc Cav)

    Personally I'd love to see them sign Tony Martin as well!

  • Comment number 74.

    Average_man, you know what I mean. Zabel during his heyday was a better version of Hushovd (minus the cobbles). I saw the MSR in 2009 and for all money it looked like a Haussler victory but he when Cav sprinted he just assaulted the field. Cav on top form can get over speed bumps and the poggio. My bone of contention with Cav is that when he is so dominant, he could have shown himself more often through the season.

    #73 Tony Martin has signed for OmegaPharma Quickstep, the only other team in contention to sign Cav (very minute shot though) as they have Brian Holm and half the HTC squad. Froome super domestiqueing for Wiggins would be a waste for him and considering he had so many offers (8 or 9 teams wanted him) I don't think he would have accepted sky unlesshe had a definite leadership role. I Think he may do the Giro Vuelta. Uran, Zandio should be wiggins domestiques in the TdF. Henao, who signed for Sky is super talented and before long will most likely become their leader (he won the Vuelta Colombia at 22).

  • Comment number 75.

    @74 I didn't know Tony Martin had announced where he was going next year, and I'm looking forward to seeing a few more stunning time trials from him. I do think if Sky are going to split their focus someone like Tony Martin who can sit on the front of the peloton for 10-15km and keep the pace really high and stop others attacking is a must (and it cant be Wiggins or Froome as they'll need to conserve their energy). I don't know much about a lot of the sky squad so do you think they already have someone who could fill this role?

    As for Froome I agree with you that he should be a leader, I just think as Wiggins has said if he wins it it would be difficult for him to come back and defend, they may sell him a year as a super domestique in the tour to give Wiggins the best chance (After all wining a GT is their primary goal). Also I'm a big fan of having more than 1 person who is capable of challenging (look at the Schlecks) it does give you options on your strategy, the ability to attack on consecutive days and if something does go wrong for a rider (caught behind a crash for example) you still have options.

  • Comment number 76.

    yes they could go that way, so risky though. One guy gets ill and another has an accident and suddenly you're in big trouble. As I sit here I can't think of a better way of doing it though, you know your stuff!

    Do you, or anyone else, think Froome would have won the Vuelta if he hadn't been working for Wiggins. It seemed to me he waited for Wiggins on Angliru but they lost pictures at the crucial moment so I can't be sure. If he did wait (even if only for a short while) then he caught the guys who finished 2nd and 3rd right at the finish. One second closer to Cobo and 2nd place would have given him the 13 seconds that separated them a week later. Plus of course he put in a lot of work for Wiggins at other times. Of course he was very diplomatic talking about how Wiggins was the stronger on some stages but I never really saw that except where he'd buried himself for Wiggins before the finish a couple of times. What do you think?

  • Comment number 77.


    I do think Froome could have won the Vuelta if Sky had decided earlier to favor him, He looked so strong in the stages leading up to the Time Trial and then hi effort their really blew me away. I think the reason they didn't switch earlier was summed up by Dave Brailsford when he said that although he knew Froome was capable he's never shown that kind of consistency before over a long stage race. I think the particularly gruelling nature of the course this year (some of the non-mountain top finishes were insane!) made them hesitate over whether Froome could keep it up.

    I have to admit though that I think in the second half of the race I knew it was going to be an uphill struggle for Froome as Cobo just looked so strong (although for a few minutes on Pena Cabarga I thought he'd cracked him). and when it got to the flat for the final 4 stages it was always going to be difficult for him to pick up time. I do think Froome if he can maintain the consistency will be a GC contender over the next few years.

    You raise an interesting point about bonus seconds available, where do you stand on them? I know they push people to try and win stages but for me I'd prefer a GC which is purely down to the riders times.

  • Comment number 78.

    Rowing does have a world championship on an olympic year which is for Non-Olympic Events LM1X, LM4X, LM2-, LM8+, LW1X, LW4X, W4-, M4+ and M2+.

  • Comment number 79.

    @77 get back to you later, busy playing poker1

  • Comment number 80.

    I have a German friend (huge Voigt fan) and we discussed this a lot. They certainly make for more aggressive riding and add to the spectacle (which is important, ultimately fans foot the bill in professional sport) but they do perhaps detract from the pure aesthetic of the GC. Having watched the Vuelta properly for the first time this year I thought the stages were more interestingly set up than on the TDF (that cobbled ramp finish was a bit excessive though) making it tougher for pure sprinters but meaning less routine stages and more interesting viewing. Overall I preferred the Vuelta though the Schleck long range attack and Evans clawing it back was the best stage on either tour. I'd like to see a few less super-flat stages at the TDF but France is of course a lot flatter than Spain so that may be hard for them to set up.
    On balance I think the time bonuses add a little something and the best guy should still win GC either way so I'm just about in favour - close call though!

  • Comment number 81.


    Glad I Wasn't the only person willing to point this minor fact out.

    another point i missed out was the success of the Elite women in the DH category, 3 places in the top 10 overall this year, Rachel Atherton won BBC Midlands Sportswoman of the Year in 2008 and alongside her brother they were both nominated for BBC Spoty award... both of whom I believe should have placed a lot higher than they did (neither of them made the final round I believe) this is a sport that genuinely has massive potential within the U.K and with the correct funding and guidance at the lower levels of the sport its quite obvious that within the next 10 years we have the potential as a country to win a lot of the top medals at the dop of DH racing and the rest of the off-road categories, taking this into account, i did follow a bit of the coverage of Cav winning and it was thoroughly deserved.

    I just believe the sport that i love and live by should be given more international coverage, especially as the BBC seem so into promoting youths in sport etc.

  • Comment number 82.

    #80 The tour has been a pretty low standard race for a long time int terms of excitement. Even this year it was a brilliant 1 week stage race. They could add another time trial and spread the mountains evenly through the 3 three weeks rather than in the last week.
    The cobbled uphill, do you mean the Valdepenas de Jaen? That was brilliant and tailor made for Joaquin Rodriguez, one of the home favourites.
    #81 The Atherton family is top quality. Isn't their father their coach as well. I don't get the UCI MTB highlights till a month after the events take place (I'm Indian and cycling here is non existent).
    The Danny Hart victory commentary was gold, pure and unabashed bias followed by an epic closer.
    #75 I don't think sky will have anywhere near as good a sprint train as HTC. In HTC, Peter Velits did a lot of pulling in the HTC train. They are looking at signing Eisel, who will be the lead out man for Cav and Thomas may play the Martin role. But (huge but) he may not do the tour next year and focus on the team pursuit.


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