yup, read all about it here, on PEZ Cycling News…
yes, it’s that time of year again, you know the racing has really begun when i’m back reporting on PEZ…
check out my take on Dubai, Qatar and what it means for the Classics right here…
brilliant article here from Suze Clemitson in The Guardian, thoroughly investigating the links between the pressure the sport brings, doping and depression.
“Perhaps Obree put it best: “It’s not that sport makes people depressed. A lot of people who suffer from depression have a tendency to have obsessive behaviour – that’s why more of them exist in the top end of sport. The sport is actually a self-medicating process of survival.”
is it just the pros though? i don’t think so.
great article here on The Outer Line about the UCI’s decision to have an independent commission look into the doping past to work out what happened and how.
but, they ask, it is enough? could the real reason behind the reluctance to have a T&R commission be the cost?
check it out, right here: Pay Now, or Pay Later?
this article originally appeared in SPIN Magazine, out of Singapore – catch my new column there every month, entitled ‘Rubber Side Down’
I’ll never forget my first ever group ride…
There I was, 15 years old and stick-insect thin in my brand new 7-11 uniform, which despite being an XS size still left me looking like Chris Froome wearing Fabian Cancellara’s kit. The slightest breeze and I almost fell off my Harry Hall newbie special, all 17 kilos of it, as the sleeves of my jersey became de facto parachutes.
I huffed and puffed my way that cold winter evening to the roads around the aerodrome where the Wednesday night chaingang ride was held, seeing a throng of about twenty grizzled older guys gathered. I got a nod from one of them whilst the rest eyed me up for a brief second, then carried on with their conversation about the local barmaid.
I looked around at the bikes, far superior to mine with their late ‘80s Campagnolo and Shimano groupsets gleaming in the evening light, and stared in awe at the bulging calf muscles, intimidated right from the off.
‘Crikey’, I thought, ‘I’m gonna get battered here.’
And then with a signal from the leader of the pack we were off, barreling down the flat road in no time, with cars and trucks whizzing close by. The front pair did a couple of minutes then peeled off, as I watched on from the back, eventually finding myself up at the front with an old timer next to me.
He started half wheeling me, then pulled away by a bike length. I changed down a gear, dug in a little, then pulled alongside. In a moment of youthful exuberance I pulled ahead the same way he had and forged on. This was how I’d been riding for the past three months, since I started cycling, banging along the roads of North Lancashire alone as fast as my legs would permit.
I knew nothing else really, and the old guy’s half wheeling had got me thinking I was in a race. Suddenly I heard a shout from behind and turned to see a guy break out of the group, chasing up to me, pulling alongside.
“Oi!” he shouted again. “What the &*%# do you think you’re doing! It’s steady pace tonight! Go on, *&%# off to the back!”
Thoroughly browbeaten, I peeled off and did as I was told. As I reached the back, the guy next to me then had a go at me for wobbling and told me to get behind him. Luckily the effort I was putting in hid my burning cheeks, now a deep red more from actual embarrassment than from the effort.
After another half a loop, another guy dropped back to me.
“Listen,” he said, “this is a group ride, it’s fast, but we’re not trying to drop anyone. You don’t attack on rides like this.”
“Sorry, I didn’t know,” I replied sheepishly.
“First time?” he asked.
“Yes, can’t you tell?” I answered.
“Well, now you know. And try to keep your wheel steady or no one is going to want to ride next to you. Watch and learn lad, and there’ll be no need for anyone to shout at you.”
And in that moment I went from being a newbie to being a learner. I watched, I studied the other, older guys, copying their style, holding my upper body and the wheel steady. It was something of a baptism of fire but it was a massively valuable lesson I’d just learnt.
I might have been younger than them, and maybe even stronger than a good few, but there was a hierarchy of experience amongst the group and I had to put my time in. I had to serve my apprenticeship.
And then, as I got older, it was my turn to bollock the new kids! That, has to be said, was a sweet moment!
Ok, I’m joking there. Maybe…! However, that experience when I was younger and living in England is one that is mirrored in many countries in the world, where young riders are taken under the wing of older riders who use their experience to guide and teach new riders how to behave on the road.
They teach you how to train intelligently, how to corner, to descend, and, most importantly, how to ride safely in groups and how to respect other riders.
I’ve lived out in Asia now for 15 years, and I’ve been in group rides in Japan, Taiwan and Singapore, and I’ve raced all over Asia, and if there’s one thing I’ve noticed in that time, it’s that older and more experienced riders seem to be less and less common, as more and more new riders of all ages are coming into the sport.
As a result, there’s less of the ‘old hands’ in comparison, and less of the knowledge of the road and of the bike being handed down to these new riders. And the result of that is often group riding that is not only erratic and more akin to all-out racing, but at times very dangerous indeed. Now, I haven’t ridden in a group training ride in the UK for some time, but I would presume that this situation is replicating there and in Europe and the US too, as more and more middle class and middle aged riders are joining the fray.
It’s gotten to the point now, here in Taiwan especially, where I hardly ever ride in groups of more than five or six riders. The last time I went on a group ride of more, there were thirty riders who clearly had never been shouted at in the way I was way back when I was 15!
The result? Utter chaos. Older guys who should have known better, even if they weren’t that experienced on the bike, were sprinting off from traffic lights or even cutting right through red lights, dodging between slowing cars and just generally riding like it was Paris-Roubaix and the approach to the Arenberg Forest, not a Sunday ride through a congested town.
I couldn’t help but think that the example they were setting was irresponsible at best and potentially deadly at worst. There was no cohesion in the group, and little respect for differing levels of ability. At every other convenience store the front guys would slow to a halt to wait for the stragglers, and then, once they reattached, they’d bolt off again!
I ‘d had enough. After thirty kilometers of that madness I turned off and rode alone. I would have had a good old rant at them but my Chinese unfortunately isn’t good enough…
Riding in groups is where young and other new riders learn their race craft. It is, in fact, where they learn how to ride their bikes for the rest of their cycling career, learning habits, be they good or bad, that are hard to shake. So, beter they be good ones.
And so, for those older guys out there who do know what they are doing, I encourage you to get angry!
We have a duty and a responsibility to shout at people who ride like idiots. Sometimes they know no better, simply because no one has ever told them – though sometimes, it’s true, they are just idiots! Either way though, a quick, verbal cuff round the ear can do a great deal of good.
That, or a quiet arm round the shoulder at a rest stop and an encouraging word in their ear would do. If enough of us do that then maybe we won’t be complaining about all the crashes that racing seems, inevitably, to bring these days.
Clubs and teams also should create beginner rides where new riders learn the craft of handling their bikes with others around. It can, ultimately, save lives.
Right, I’m off to learn some more Chinese. I’ve got some bollocking to do!
i’ve written this before but it’s worth noting again i think. when i started crankpunk i was between journalism jobs and seeking an outlet to write about what is one of the driving passions of my life, the bike, and all things cycling. as a rider and a racer who dropped out of the sport at 18 largely because of a disenchantment brought on by a growing awareness of doping at the top level, i was aware, as i returned to the sport after an almost two decade hiatus, that pro cycling was probably dirtier than ever (this was 2008), but had my love rekindled by rediscovering the simple joy of riding, and soon after, racing once again.
that the beginning of crankpunk coincided with the breaking of the investigation by USADA was a coincidence, but one that had and continues to have a profound effect on the content of this site. i believe that it’s impossible to separate that love for this sport and the curse of illegal substance abuse in cycling, and though it is a scandal in itself and an indictment of the severe failings of Verbruggen’s and MacQuaid’s UCI presidencies that it has fallen to ordinary fans to drive for the change so needed in the sport, this is where we are.
the bureaucrats failed cycling, many of the pros failed cycling, the team managers, doctors and organisers of races too, for so many years, that the onus is on us to make some f*&%ing noise. don’t listen to anyone who says it doesn’t matter anymore. it matters more than ever, with a certain Texan trying again to write his own script and squirm back into something resembling respectability – and not just him, others are at it too, some do it in their own passive aggressive manner, a la Leipheimer, others do it whilst polishing their own home-spun halos, like Hamilton, whilst countless others just go away for 2 years then resurrect careers and watch their bank accounts grow once again.
the web offers us an opportunity to make a little noise here and there, and though it is difficult to quantify how much, it does get noticed. whether these voices will ever influence policy is another matter, one that yet remains to be seen. but with people like Steve Tilford out there, and sites like Bike Pure amongst others, and with others coming along here and there, the clamour is growing.
one other that i’ve mentioned here is The Outer Line, whose authors have just posted an article very much worth a read, entitled The Forgive Me Roadshow, offering another reminder (and yes, it seems it is required, judging from some of the comments people post on cp and in other places) that nothing has changed for LA – his ‘Tour of Redemption’ (as termed by Betsy Andreu) sees him pulling out all the old tricks and carrying on business as usual.
a recommended read.
by crankpunk. this article originally appeared in The Roar
The Saxo-Tinkoff team released the following statement relating to Michael Rogers’ positive doping test on their website on Wednesday evening CET time:
“Today, Michael Rogers has been advised by the UCI that he returned an adverse analytical finding for clenbuterol in an A-sample taken in connection with Japan Cup on the 20th October 2013.
“Michael Rogers immediately informed Saxo-Tinkoff’s management about the notification from the UCI.
“The Australian explained to the team management that he never ingested the substance knowingly nor deliberately and fears that the adverse analytical finding origins from a contaminated food source.
“Michael Rogers participated in Tour of Beijing the week before the Japan Cup and travelled directly from China to Japan.
“Michael Rogers now has the opportunity to request an analysis of his B-sample. According to the team’s Anti Doping policy, Michael Rogers is provisionally suspended with immediate effect.”
Rogers was not the only rider this week to be found to have Clenbuterol in his system. Joining him was Belgium’s Jonathan Breyne (Crelan-Euphony), who rode in the Tour of Taihu Lake, also in China, on November 5.
This is of course the same drug that was found in Alberto Contador’s system and both Rogers and Breyne are claiming, as the Spaniard did, that he ingested the drug unknowingly after eating tainted food.
While Contador’s claim aroused some obvious questions as the drug is not commonly found in beef in Spain, Clenbuterol is known to be used in the meat industry in China. There have been other cases of athletes testing positive for the drug and support from WADA for their own claims that the drug was ingested unknowingly.
In 2011, a study by a WADA-accredited lab in Cologne, Germany, found that 22 of 28 travellers returning from China tested positive for low levels of clenbuterol, “probably from food contamination”.
WADA chief David Howman said at the time that:
“There seems to be some evidence that some beef in China may have been stimulated in their growth by the use of steroids.
“We have written to the Chinese minister to ask for a full explanation of what happens in the industry in China. We’re waiting for a response.”
There’s also precedent of riders having tested positive for the drug after travelling to a country that uses Clenbuterol in cattle being cleared to race soon after. In early 2012 Dutch XC rider Rudi van Houts was cleared after testing positive in 2011.
At that time, Dutch officials decided not to ban Van Houts, yet though he was not acquitted he was found “guilty without punishment”.
However, Chinese rider Fuy Li, then with Radioshack, did receive a two-year ban for the same drug showing up in his system in April 2010. He was furious with the ban, as was the Chinese cycling federation and as were Chinese cycling fans.
However, he does hail from a nation where the Chinese swimming team is banned from eating beef in their own nation. It’s worth noting too that in 2011 WADA released a statement warning riders to take care when travelling to Mexico and China, lest they eat contaminated beef.
And so what exactly is the attitude of the authorities to cyclists claiming that they ingested Clenbuterol-infected beef unwittingly?
As the case of the Dutch rider van Houts and the cases of Li and Contador showed, it is one that is difficult to work out.
For example, though Van Houts was not made to serve a full suspension, when Contador received his ban, WADA president John Fahey said:
“Every time a cheat is caught out, the decision is very good news for anti-doping, no matter what discipline he practices or which flag he defends.”
Rogers is not new to controversy over doping-related matters, which is also worth noting.
In May 2011, Rogers was included on the leaked UCI report that ranked riders according to the level of suspicion with which the UCI regarded them.
He was placed in a category that said that the riders included showed “overwhelming evidence of some kind of doping, due to recurring anomalies, enormous variations in parameters, and even the identification of doping products or methods”.
Rogers also left Team Sky for Tinkoff, a move that coincided with the team management requesting all riders and staff to sign an agreement saying they had never doped.
Rogers claimed the move was for financial reasons, and it is best not to speculate on that, but, at the same time, it should be noted.
So, where does this leave the fans? Further in the mire, one could argue.
As ever, I hope that these riders did indeed ingest the drug unknowingly, and there are precedents for this having happened before, but this is a sport in which riders have shown themselves willing to take banned substances to get ahead time after time.
Might a rider be tempted to take Clenbuterol knowing that they are going to or in a nation where there is a history of tainted beef?
Cycling, as with life, tells that anything is possible.
That we simply can not be sure about anything these days is a sign of where our beloved sport currently resides in relation to banned substances.
And as cases like that of Stuart O’Grady prove, we simply can no longer be sure about anything other than the fact that we can be sure of nothing.
What will the outcome be? With Brian Cookson and the UCI looking to send a clear message to riders, sponsors and fans about doping and their eagerness to tackle the issue more firmly that in MacQuaid’s day, a ban for both riders looks on the cards.
this article originally appeared on The Roar
It seems to be catching, like the sniffly cold your kid brings back from school that explodes into full-blown influenza and ravages the household. Except this isn’t merely a cold virus – it seems that several members of the cycling fraternity have developed collective amnesia.
Forgetting, it would appear, is this winter’s black, it’s that fashionable. Just when you’d have thought that lessons had been learnt from and opportunities to tackle the problems that blight cycling presented, heads are heading right back into the sand after their brief excursions into bleached-out daylight.
We, they, can no longer say we don’t know just how institutionalized the doping problem in sport is/was (delete as you see fit), and yet still individuals and companies that should know better are pandering to former dopers and, in one hard to believe case, even trying to cripple the agency that may have brought an end to a once seemingly glittering career.
One such instance is that of disgraced American professional rider and career doper Levi Leipheimer, who still turns up to thrill the masses at the annual Grand Fondo that bears his name.
Several large companies still flock to sponsor the event even after the ‘admission’ by Leipheimer that he doped for large swathes of his fairly successful career.
Some people seem to have no problem with this, but I have several. The former state that this is a great event that brings out over 7,000 people to enjoy the joys of cycling, but if the sponsors insist his name be taken off and if he didn’t turn up, wouldn’t the event surely be better for it?
What message is this sending out to young riders? That you can dope, have a financially rewarding career, apologise when you get caught, then carry on as if nothing happened?
And what of these companies? Will there be no blow-back for them for supporting the race and, by extension, the man whose name is attached to it?
I find this, in all honesty, unfathomable.
Next up we have Nicolas Roche, the Irish pro rider who plies his trade with the Tinkoff-Saxo team. Now, I’m not suggesting that pro riders have an automatic responsibility to put their careers in jeopardy by criticizing their manager and back room staff, but when you manager is about to be hauled before the Danish courts for his admitted doping offences and for the allegations by Tyler Hamilton, Jörg Jaksche and most recently Michael Rasmussen, who say he helped them dope, then surely it’s better to keep your mouth firmly shut.
But no, Roche is on CyclingNews telling the venerable website that Riis is all that and then some.
“When Bjarne’s around, the team is just that extra bit focused and that brings some extra excitement to the race,” said the son of Stephen Roche. “He comes with ideas that change the profile of the race. He takes the extra bit of risk in races, when maybe some sports directors mightn’t be ready to take the risk, which is normal too.”
The mention of risk comes, apparently, without irony.
To make matters worse, Roche is now on a team owned by a certain Oleg Tinkov, a man who said last week that “doping is over, cycling has changed.” Did the team members collectively cringe when they heard that? Didn’t everyone?
Fear not archaeologists, it looks like the dinosaurs are not yet extinct, at least not in professional cycling.
This brings us nicely to the Schleck brothers. The two lads recently will be working with Kim Anderson as their DS through to the end of 2014, a former pro that they’ve been guided by for some years now.
The excellent dopeology website states that Andersen tested positive seven times in his career and was finally banned for life – from riding, that is, not from being a DS.
Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that Frank at least values the knowledge and experience of Andersen – he was banned last year for doping himself, and was found to have transferred funds into the account of the doctor at the center of Operacion Puerto in 2006, Dr Fuentes.
Schleck was on the CSC team at the time, a team managed then by, you guessed it, Bjarne Riis.
Aren’t these little coincidences amazing?
Finally, we come to Jeannie Longo, the Frenchwoman with a palmares longer than Eddy Merckx’s who is currently trying to cripple the French anti-doping agency, AFLD.
Longo has had her brushes with suspensions but never actually received one. The nearest came in 2011 after she missed no less than three out-of-competition tests.
If you remember that loveable rogue, Michael Rasmussen, he got tossed from the Tour after just one missed test. Longo however got out of a lengthy ban via a loophole that everyone involved (except of course Longo herself) agreed was a proper cock-up.
No doubt about it – she dodged the tests and should have been banned.
Move on a little later and her husband gets busted after being named by dope-dealer Joe Papp as one of his customers. Seems that Longo’s husband was buying EPO from the American, dope that Papp said he was told was intended for Longo.
In early 2012 Ciprelli was charged with the importation of the banned substance EPO, on which he is said to have spent 15,000 euros on 15 purchases in 2007.
But do not fear, it was all apparently intended for him to help him recover from a cycling injury. That is some costly rehab.
No charges were brought against Longo, but she is seeking 1.1 million euro in damages from the AFLD, for her damaged reputation.
In a completely unrelated note, former pro rider Inga Thompson, a renowned anti-doping advocate, alleged in a November 2012 U.S. radio interview that Longo had used performance enhancing drugs during at least the latter part of her career.
Has Longo forgotten what the AFLD is supposed to do? And can she see no possible reason just why the AFLD and others might just maybe be a little suspicious when her husband is buying bucketloads of the very drug that makes cyclists go really fast?
Seems not. Seems like everyone’s just too busy forgetting.
not often i post links to other people’s articles here, but this one is really a great read.
by Richard Moore (author of Slaying The Badger), it features an interview with Shelley Verses, the first female soigneur on the European scene – and an American to boot!
cheers to former 7-11 pro Nathan Dahlberg for putting me onto this…
“When I think of my boys I want to cry,” she says. “Just the sheer thought of my boys’ faces on the start line; it was like walking through a hall of kings. The privilege; the honour to do what I did, in the years I did it.
“That I could even see Kelly, Fignon, Hinault, LeMond, Roche, Visentini, Breukink. All these fucking beautiful, these gifted people, and get to see that level of sport, to be involved at that level. It was a hall of kings to me.”
As an Englishman, I’ve become something of an expert in hope – and no, I’m not talking about cricket.
Every four years the football World Cup rolls around and every four years, once the utter despair and dejection of yet another woeful set of otherwise ‘plucky’ performances fades just ever so slightly, the players, manager and press start to say ridiculous things like:
‘Well obviously it will be hard, but yeah, I think we could win the World Cup next time around…’
There seems to be a collective amnesia, similar to those lapses in memory shown by people who’ve been through a traumatic experience. In this case though, it’s nationwide.
Now, I’m not about to compare Cadel Evans to the national English football team. First of all, Cadel’s a proven winner so on that level he’s far ahead of the English first XI.
Secondly, Cadel seems to understand what he is capable of, to know his limits, and that is not only admirable in a top level sportsman but rather unique.
He’s won at the highest level of his sport, and against men who were later proven to be substantially juiced up. Praised by Anne Gripper, the former head of the UCI anti-doping department, as the rider with the most level set of test results she’d ever come across – indicative of cleaner riding – he seems to have been doing it the right way too.
Alan Peiper, Aussie cycling legend now Performance Director at BMC Racing, might just have a case of ‘Ever So Hopeful’ where Cadel’s concerned.
Witness the interview he gave to CyclingNews just recently, in which he said that Cadel can win the 2014 Giro d’Italia.
He spoke of Cadel having ‘energy in the tank’ and said that “the way he rides a bike race, the way he can prepare and live for it, I think the Giro is definitely an obtainable goal for Cadel Evans in 2014.”
There is a precedent for this hope shown here by Peiper. In April of this year he was saying that Cadel had a chance to win the Tour de France.
However, his unusual race schedule in the build-up to the Tour – most modern riders aiming to win the Tour do not attempt to ride the Giro d’Italia also – saw him going into the third week exhausted.
Had he aimed for the Giro instead, and geared his season towards the Italian tour, might he have won it?
The answer to that is a no, in my opinion. He finished the Giro in third place, 5.52 down on Vincenzo Nibali, which was a great result in itself, but even had he specifically aimed for the race there is no way he’d be 6 minutes up on the Italian after three weeks.
Great as Evans was and indeed still can be on his day, this is a three week tour, not a one day race or a shorter, regional stage race.
If Nibali doesn’t race the Giro, something he still hasn’t definitively decided upon, and if none of the other top hitters attend, can Cadel win then?
His main challengers will most likely come from Sky, with Richie Porte lining up for them, and OPQS, where Uran now punks his crank. Evans finished just over a minute behind Uran this year, but it’s worth remembering that Uran was originally designated to ride for Bradley Wiggins, who eventually dropped out of the race.
Uran will be OPQS’s top GC guy at the race it looks like, and will have a full team supporting him all the way.
Porte is hungry, too. Very much so. Porte has received the nod from Sky for the Giro, and he is raring to go. A full strength Porte, with a powerful Sky team behind him – and the Sky boys, even their second string employees – are still a better and more cohesive unit than BMC’s top team.
“It’s the next step for me,” Porte said last month. “They want to develop me into a grand tour racer and that’s hopefully going to be my first big opportunity to lead a team.”
Then we also have Dan Martin of Garmin-Sharp, a rider who really found form early this year with a win at Liege-Bastogne-Liege. The Irishman is going for Pink too, and is entering his prime years.
“I’m going to win,” Martin has said. “I know I’m capable of it and that’s why I’m heading to Italy.”
Finally we have Joaqim Rodriguez of Katusha, who was third at this year’s Tour, surprising many who had felt he was more of a pure one day specialist than a three week GC candidate.
Can Cadel beat these guys? I have to say, again, no. He simply hasn’t got that same grinding ability in the mountains that allowed him in years gone by to cling on to the pure climbers.
And if Porte goes like he did at the Tour this year (apart from that very odd stinker of a day he had), and if Martin steps up and Rodriguez brings his Tour form, and, if Uran is going well, I think it’s 5th place at best for the Aussie legend.
*this article originally appeared on http://www.theroar.com.au