Cycling: She is a harsh mistress

Sometimes, in the world of cycling, the stars align and you’re on top of the world. The next, it’s punching you in the stomach and stealing your wallet.

Ask every professional cyclist and they’ll tell you how up and down your luck can be in cycling.

Cadel Evans himself has experienced both ends of the spectrum. Always the bridesmaid and never quite the bride early in his road career.

Unfortunate crashes, competing against cyclists later to be found doping, and sometimes just unlucky.

Then, in 2011, nearly everything seemed to go right. Apart from a mechanical in the mountains at Le Tour that year, he rode the perfect race.

A tenacious chase up the Galibier kept him in contention for the general classification before he blew away his competitors with a whirlwind time trial that captured him the Maillot Jaune.

Richie Porte, Evans’ nemesis at times, is experiencing his own run of bad luck just as he enters maturity as a general classification rider.

Porte was meant to take over as Sky’s team leader in the 2014 Giro d’Italia but sickness saw that he didn’t.

He had a second chance at the Tour the following year when Chris Froome crashed out but a chest infection saw him unable to climb.

Now, fully fit and leading Team Sky at this year’s Giro, it seems cycling has some beef still with Porte.

A puncture early in the race saw him lose 47 seconds and then a further two minutes after receiving assistance from country-man Simon Clarke.

Now, he sits more than five minutes off the pace after he was caught up in a crash with 3.3 kilometres to go in last night’s stage.

In cycling, the race is not handed to the swift, nor the powerful, but those who persevere through trials and tribulations.

Porte’s resolve is being tested here. It’s up to him whether he throws in the towel or goes down fighting.

He has time trial tonight. A stage that, if he’s fit, he’s expected to win or, at the very least, finish in the top five such is his time trial ability.

This race still has a week to go and plenty of climbing to come. Porte’s down but not out. But now, it all depends on how much time he believes he can pull back on his rivals.

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Cricket World Cup Preview

The ICC cricket world cup begins tomorrow and it’s time to take a not so serious look at the ins and outs of a cricket tournament that takes way too long.

This year being hosted by Australia and New Zealand (The Kiwis have no idea how they got to be co-hosts either), the world cup will be played across six weeks, with very few people taking notice until the finals start.

Australia have been installed as firm favourites because, quite simply, they have three Mitches, a Mo O’Doom and a Faulkner.

They’re the hosts and ranked number one in the world. Anything less than another world cup and they’ll be ranked alongside the South Africans for choking ability.

Captain Michael Clarke has already been ruled out of the first match against England due to his ongoing hamstring injury.

The captain’s omission robs us of another chance for him to warn James Anderson of impending physical harm from Mitchell Johnson.

Glenn Maxwell has surprisingly hit some form in the lead up matches. He seems to be channeling his level headed alter ego, Max Glennwell. Let’s hope Max continues to appear at the crease.

There’s also the prospect of David Warner being accused of being a racist bogan when asking an opponent to speak English.

England captain Eoin Morgan continues the English captaincy tradition of being severely out of form whilst proceeding to goad Australian fast bowlers.

The Irish born, English captain said that Mitchell Johnson wasn’t a factor when they faced off at the WACA earlier in the summer, despite Johnson taking three top order wickets and triggering an English batting collapse.

There seems to be some credibility to Morgan’s words given no Englishman retired after the match. A slight improvement on their last visit to Australian shores.

The English (or International XI, their selection criteria seems to be pretty relaxed) have been in pretty poor form. They should still attract crowds even if the majority of the crowd is simply there to yell out “Stuart Broad is a sh*t bloke.”

The Indians have continued their inability to play in Australia, winning just one match since arriving on the continent against the cricketing powerhouse of Afghanistan.

We await the first DRS controversy for the Indians to turn around and say that it shouldn’t be used in the first place.

New Zealand meanwhile are quietly going about their business in the hope that nobody notices them until the knockout stages.

The South Africans are ranked close to Australia as possible world champions.

The world number one chokers will surely, at one point stuff up a run chase or drop a catch, prompting plenty of Australians to remind them that they’ve “just dropped the world cup”.

As always, the overused word, “minnows” will be overused when say Ireland manages to upset India.

Australia Vs India: Fourth Test Preview

The final Test of the summer begins on January 6th with Australia looking to wrap the series up 3-0 following the drawn Boxing Day Test.

India will be without newly retired captain, MS Dhoni, after the Indian legend shocked the cricket world and pulled the pin on his career following the end of the Fourth Test.

Australia though will have a peek into life without Michael Clarke and Mitchell Johnson after the left arm paceman was ruled out of the Test due to hamstring soreness. He’s replaced by Mitchell Starc.

The Sydney Test will likely be an emotional match for the Australians given that it will be the first time the Australian players will have played there following the death of teammate, Phil Hughes, back in November, 2014.

A permanent placard has been erected in the SCG Members’ area for Hughes, who called the SCG home when he began his First Class career.

There were rumours going into the Test that left arm finger spinner, Ashton Agar, would partner Nathan Lyon has a spinning duo but sense prevailed with Agar being named 12th man.

Despite being seen as a spinner’s wicket, only two spin duos have collected 12 wickets or more in a match in the last 20 years. Those two being Shane Warne/Stuart MacGill and Anil Kumble/Harbhajan Singh.

This match is also likely to be Chris Rogers’ final Test match on home soil with the wily veteran hinting that he will retire following this year’s Ashes series in England.

Murali Vijay and Virat Kohli present as India’s best chances with the bat whilst Australia’s fielders will help to put in a better performance after they put down a number of chances that could have won them the last match.

Ryan Harris will have to shoulder more of the burden with the ball as he leads the pace battery in the absence of Mitchell Johnson.

David Warner and Steve Smith will look to continue their terrific summers and Chris Rogers will hope to bid farewell to Australia in style.

Shane Watson has acknowledged that his position is under threat, having passed 50 just once in the past 12 months.

Another failure in this match and the returns of Mitchell Marsh and Michael Clarke could see Watson dropped from the side.

As the Australians will tell you, there is no such thing as a dead rubber. Australia will want to wrap the series up 3-0 and keep pressure on South Africa in the battle for the Number One Test ranking whilst the Indians will want to post their first win on Australian soil since 2008 when they defeated Australia at the WACA.

Aussies in Action Week 5

Yes, and welcome back viewers following the Christmas/New Years break. As always, there’s been plenty of Australians involved in sport around the world.

1. Australia wrapped up the Border-Gavaskar Trophy when they drew the Boxing Day Test to take an unassailable 2-0 lead. Australia though, are now down to their final Mitchell after Mitchell Johnson was ruled out of the fourth Test with hamstring soreness, he’s replaced by Mitchell Starc. David Warner also said that maybe the sledging should be turned down in the upcoming Test. In related news, Warner is being checked for a concussion.

2. The summer of tennis has kicked off with the Hopman Cup and Brisbane international beginning in the lead up to the Australian Open. Female tennis’ equivalent of Shane Watson, Samantha Stosur, was again bundled out in the first round when she let slip a 5-1, match point lead, in the third set. Very Shane Watson-esque of her.

3. Meanwhile in the round ball game, Australia’s squad has assembled ahead of the Asian Cup which starts later this week. With plenty of A-League players making the cut, Tim Cahill will be relying a lot on Mark Bresciano to supply him with good ball.

4. Still with football and evergreen keeper, Mark Schwarzer is heading off to Leicester City from Chelsea, preferring to actually play than sit on the bench and watch a kid half his age stand between the sticks. The 41 year old also enjoys a challenge and says that playing for Leicester will remind him of playing for Australia at the 2010 World Cup.

5. For the AFL and NRL, their public relations teams are breathing a sigh of relief after getting through the holiday period without an incident. It probably helps the NRL that Todd Carney is no longer affiliated with them and hasn’t been caught with his pants down… again. I guess full credit has to go to the boys, they’ve given 110% and made it through that tough period, now they just have to finish off strong as they complete the toughest pre-season ever.

6. In the Big Bash League, former legends are showing they’ve still got it, youngsters are making a name for themselves and ahhh Glenn Maxwell is being ahhh Glenn Maxwell. The no longer big show managed to embarrass himself when opening for the Melbourne Stars when he backed away and left a ball that cannoned into middle stump. The Big Bash League just isn’t ready for Glenn Maxwell’s antics.

 

Update: Jarryd Hayne

Former NRL fullback, Jarryd Hayne, is set to join an NFL franchise in the New Year.

Hayne has returned to Australia whilst he has his visa sorted. In an interview with News Corp, Hayne said that he had interest from 14 franchises but he is very close to signing with one.

The former Eel will likely join a “futures” squad at the end of the current NFL season when all NFL rosters are increased from 53 players to 90 players.

This will allow Hayne to train full time in the off season with an NFL side, rather than go through the draft.

A futures contract doesn’t lock Hayne into making the NFL though, as 37 players will be cut before the start of the 2015/16 season.

Rumoured to be leading the charge for Hayne’s signature are the Detroit Lions, San Francisco 49ers and San Diego Chargers.

He will spend Christmas and New Years in Australia before heading back to the States in January. Should he sign with a team, he’ll join the squad in February.

Aussies in Action – Week 4

With plenty of Australians in action around the world this past week, it’s time to take a not so serious look at their achievements.

1. The Western Sydney Wanderers lost their Club World Cup match against Cruz Azul at the Prince Moulay Abdellah Stadium in Morocco. The ground also doubles as Morocco’s national swimming stadium. It’s a pity nobody told FIFA that they hadn’t drained the ground for the football match.

Photo: Cruz Azul players make use of the swimming lane on the football pitch.

2. The First cricket Test at Adelaide concluded with an Australian win and an Indian collapse. The Indians looked set to reel in the 363 run target late on Day 5 before captain, Virat Kohli was dismissed by Nathan Lyon. The remaining Indian batsmen then quickly followed their stand-in captain’s lead by falling in a heap.

Photo: Ryan Harris contemplates stealing Virat Kohli’s knees.

3. Still on the cricket, and Steven Smith has gone from being dropped for not being Shane Warne, to fidgeting his way to the Test captaincy. Shaun Marsh has also been recalled to the side, with the Australian selectors deciding that averaging 37 in First Class cricket now qualifies to be a Test batsman. Josh Hazlewood has been handed his Test debut, selected in place of Peter Siddle  with the banana man having poor returns from his tours of both South Africa and the UAE.

Photo: Shaun Marsh celebrates receiving another Test cap whilst averaging less then Shane Watson

4. In world sport news, Rome has announced that they will tender for the 2024 Olympics. The IOC has informed them that the use of wild animals and slaves in the arena is now frowned upon throughout the world. Although don’t be surprised if Russell Crowe appears in the opening ceremony.

5. And in local A-League news, the ever young Archie Thompson netted a hat-trick as his Melbourne Victory drew with Sydney FC, 3-3 in the Big Blue. The *cough* quality *cough* of the A-League was on show with the 36 year old further establishing himself as the best goal scorer in A-League history.

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Aussies in Action- Week 3

With plenty of Australians in action around the world this past week, it’s time to take a not so serious look at their achievements.

1. The weekend saw the conclusion of the V8 Supercars season with Jamie Whincup doing, ahhh, what his last name says… winning cups. The Red Bull driver took out his sixth V8 Championship after the final race was washed out. Organisers at the Sydney Olympic Park say that they’ll be reviewing the course for next year and making use of the Aquatic Centre in order to include a swim lane.

Photo: Whincup puts the “Red Bull gives you wings” slogan to the test.

2. Continuing with motor racing and Toyota announced that they’d be joining the V8 Supercars series next year after organisers granted use of hybrid engines. Toyota have said they can’t wait to unveil their new look Prius in it’s race kit. Along with the use of hybrid engines, the V8 Supercars will also look to include drive-thru cafes along the circuit to allow the Prius drivers to stop in and buy their rainforest alliance, soy, decaf lattes.

3. To boxing/rugby league and Paul Gallen and Willie Mason won their respective bouts. Gallen’s opponent, former Cowboy Anthony Watts decided he’d rather pop out his own shoulder than face a fired up Gallen who seemed to be taking out all his frustrations in the ring. Robbie Farah has said he’d look forward to fighting Watts in his next bout. Mason, on the other hand, mistakenly took the rotund Ben Tameifuna for George Rose. The Sea Eagles prop expected Tameifuna to come out swinging in the first two rounds before sitting against the ropes, waiting to get subbed. The former All Black though seemed to get the better of Mason, even if the judges awarded the former Novocastrian the win. The benefits of playing for Manly already seem to be paying off for Mason.

Photo: Gallen introduces Watts to his famous jab. Better known as the Myles left hand.

4. The Australian Olympic Committee announced that they would accept the late night scheduling of the swimming finals for the 2016 Rio Olympics. A spokesman for the swim team announced that they would simply have to change the swimmers’ supplements program, swapping out Stilnox for No-Doze.

Photo: James Magnussen is all smiles hearing that he’ll be given No-Doze at the next Olympics.

5. Former Parramatta Eels fullback, Jarryd Hayne has reportedly met with members of the San Francisco 49ers coaching staff. Whilst discussions would only be preliminary, it’s a further step in the right direction for Hayne. With quarterback, Colin Kaepernick in a terrible form slump, if they see Hayne throw a ball anywhere near accurately, he could find himself in the middle of the huddle, calling the plays.

Photo: Jarryd Kaepernick?

6. In the first cricket test of the summer, Australia are well on top at 7/517 following Day 2. Before the match, Indian captain Virat Kohli said he’d be aggressive and look for wickets. David Warner saw that as a challenge and proceeded to despatch Kohli’s aggressive fast bowlers for more than 30 runs in the first three overs. Kohli then went to the tried and tested regulation field settings and hoped for the Australian batsmen to get themselves out. Rogers obliged followed by the customary wicket of Shane Watson who forgot he was no longer playing ODI cricket and nicked to the slips. Warner blazed his way to a century before Steve Smith fidgeted his way to three figures. Michael Clarke then limped his way to a ton sans a lower back and hamstrings.

Photo: Clarke celebrates his ton as Australia shows the Indians that just saying you’re going to be aggressive doesn’t cut it.

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