I interviewed Laura Trott once, if you can call it that. I was phoned out of the blue by a PR and told Laura was on the end of the line and I had ten minutes. To this day I maintain they had called the wrong Graham.
So the conversation was stilted to say the least. You could hear her people shuffling things around on the other end of the line and you could tell she was on speakerphone.
Being put on the spot like that can have its pitfalls, not least a lack of research and a complete absence of questions. Which is why I clean forgot, or had chosen not to remember, that she had been spotted getting off with fellow Olympic cyclist Jason Kenny on the back row of the London 2012 beach volleyball finals and the pair were now officially a couple. Had been for more than a year by then.
So I asked her if she had a boyfriend. She took it well, considering.
Anyway she’s a bit of a unit on a bike is Laura and I mean that in the most sincere and flattering way. As far as the general public is concerned, she’s as big as Wiggo - probably bigger. Metaphorically speaking.
No surprise then that Halfords, that car parts pedaller that also sells bikes, has snared her to put her name to a new range of “female specific” bikes.
Two things here: I think female specific bikes are nothing more than a marketing ruse to sell more bikes. All the serious female cyclists I know - and by that I mean women who go out simply to ride a bike rather than to reach a destination - ride non female-specific bikes. They’re not moaning, they’re not saying “ooh this feels a bit blokey.” No. They are enjoying the ride.
Secondly. What, Laura? Halfords? Are you serious? Did you see what they did to Boardman? His brand was so wrecked by the time they’d finished with it that he had to sell it to them and go on a safety crusade.
Clearly there are cogs whirring and deals being made that I am not party to, and they probably involve six-figure sums. Why else would Wiggo, the epitome of cycling panache, a man so cool that he can freeze lakes with one eye closed, who has had a tattoo fackin’ sleeve of indeterminate designs done because he’s that cool, who doesn’t just break Hour Records, he sautes them and eats them with a nice glass of Chianti. Him. HE has even been smoothtalked by the Halfords moneymen and their humongous wallets that they probably wheel around on Go Travelling Trolleys.
But Laura? The nation’s cycling sweetheart? She should be made of sterner stuff and she should have taken notice of those who went before her. Just look at Victoria Pendleton. She rides horses now.
Image management, it’s a tricky business and shouldn’t involve anything orange.
Talking of management, our Laura has gone on the record as saying she will “miss Shane Sutton’s pep talk” but his departure from Team GB won’t affect her medal chances at Rio much, because the groundwork has been done. Laura is a product of Sutton’s methods, he shaped her and nurtured her track career. Jason Kenny's opinion of Team GB was that "everyone is treated like kids."
People will claim Sutton had his favourites and made everyone else’s lives a misery. Even his favourites say he made their lives a misery sometimes, such was his dedication to Team GB and his demands that everyone else followed suit.
I have met him quite a few times and he was always friendly, even when I asked questions about cycling that were quite clearly below him and which I would have fully expected him to have said “don’t waste my time with that shit, Graham.” But he didn’t. I know he has featured in the past few columns and some might have taken it as a slur on him but it should be clear that it was mere satire. He’s a good bloke in my opinion. For an Australian.
But we've heard that before. "He's alright outside the office." Nevermind that they're a complete dictator in it.
I think the thing with Shane Sutton is personality. His heart is right there where it should be, but it comes with a loud bark. Sometimes you can come across the wrong way when your intentions are entirely honourable.
Sometimes you get hung out to dry for it.