Uli Fluhme & Pietro Caucchioli’s little chat, doping, and the tainted legacy of certain brands

Uli Fluhme and his wife run the Gran Fondo New York organisation and have a very clear rule in, or all places, their rule book, that states that no rider that has been banned for doping, ever, can compete in their events.


Participate yes, race, no.

When he got an email from Pietro Caucchioli asking if he could start at the front in the GFNY, he said no, but you can do participate and start at the back, explaining that the front line was for competitors, not riders who had served doping suspensions.

Some background on Mr. Caucchioli’s career, with Alessio, Credit Agricole and Lapmre:

2001 Giro d’Italia

9th GC, winner Stage 8 & 17

2002 Giro

3rd GC

2004 Tour de France

11th Overall

2005 Giro

8th overall

2006 Vuelta a Espana

Led the Mountains Classification, Stages 9-11

Then Pietro got suspended for “abnormal testing results” in 2009 and he was sanctioned by the UCI on the basis of his biological passport on 3 June, 2010. He was banned for two years and lost his contract with Lampre, and did not return to the top ranks. He now works for Ale bike wear.

And who says doping pays? You cynics!

Ale, left red-faced in his pink kit
Caucchioli, left red-faced in his pink kit

Uli went on a closed FaceBook page that I am a member of that discusses all things doping, a page whose other members include several former pro riders, fans, journalists and similar folk who aren’t exactly the biggest fans of doping, and posted the messages you are about to read below. He granted permission for me to publish this.

Uli Fluhme (to the FB page members): We recently had a former pro ask for a front start at Gran Fondo New York. I decided to make our conversation public because these guys haven’t understood anything. Note: parts in […] are pertaining to an expo booth and not relevant to this part of the conversation.

PC: Hi Uli,
For the race me for sure I want to race and Al [name edited] is not sure 100%, I need to pay to race? I was 3rd, 8th and 9th in the General at Tour of Italy and I won to stages also at same race, 11th and 12th at the Tour the France…
Probably I have some people who want to race also and I would like to know if they can start with me in the first group ( for them i will pay )…I don’t race to be in the front but I want to enjoy the day with some dealers and friends.

UF: Hi Pietro
Of course I know your racing history. GFNY is open to everyone, pros and amateurs alike. However, riders who have served a doping ban will not receive a timing chip and have to pay their entry. Usually they will be starting from the same corral as their age group but you can start like all exhibitors in the third corral.
Rule 2.2: https://granfondony.com/granfondo-2014/race/rules/
Many thanks

PC: Hi Uli,
I didn’t read this rules and 2 years ago I start at the same Granfondo with the chip in the first 200, I don’t want the chip, I am not interested in the real race and my friends also.
I will speak with Al, about this, thanks.
I will send you an update, if we confirm the booth.

PC: Hi Uli,
I am sorry for my late reply, I has been very busy with the Press Camp in California.
I didn’t want to give bad advertising to NY Gran Fondo, I didn’t saw the rules before.
So we will not participate to the expo, thanks.
Best regards
Pietro Caucchioli

UF: Hi Pietro
We have no problem with you riding. You just wouldn’t get a free entry or timing chip. You would start with the other exhibitors.
Best regards

PC: Hi Uli,
as You know Alé is a new Brand owned and made by APG, one of the biggest company for bike clothing, I don’t want to risk nothing, we never know.
I wish you all the best for the event, thanks
Best regards
Pietro Caucchioli

UF: Pietro
I know Alé and APG well and like what you guys do. If anything, it’s a bigger risk not to come because that would mean Alé is shunning events that are antidoping.
We strongly believe in antidoping and implement a lifetime competition ban at first offense. However, while we don’t give a second chance in competition, we believe in second chances in life because everyone can make a mistake.

PC: Uli
I don’t think is a big problem for Ale’, but I am not stupid.
I don’t think you believe in a second chance on the life otherwise you should given me a different reply.

UF: Pietro
Life yes, competition no. You had your chance in bike racing. A stealing cashier at a bank will never work as cashier again. A doctor misusing his license to sell drugs illegally will lose his license for good. You got caught cheating in bike racing so we think you should not compete again. But we certainly give you a chance in your new role at Alé.

PC: Uli
I’ve never asked to compete in the GranFondo, just ride. I closed with the competition in 2009 and I promise to me and my family I’d never raced again. I don’t consider the granfondo a race, because the races are different.
For you this is business, for me is different I have spent most of my time riding a bike and I like to mix work with fun.
You can think what you want about me and I don’t want to persuade you I am a good person.
Sorry if I have taken your time.
Take care


If that seems a little long and convoluted I apologise but there is something very important going on here.

When Uli stated that Pietro would have to pay and that GFNY had this anti-doper regulation, Pietro decided not to book a place for the company he works for at the expo. You could say that this is because he did not want any bad publicity for Ale, and that is understandable. However, it amounts to a blacklisting of this event because of the anti-doper rule.

What if Ale had just decide not to employ a former doper? You might think ‘well, he has a right to make a living’ but would a doctor fired from his job for misconduct be an ideal candidate for a company selling medical equipment? And was part of Pietro’s appeal to his employers not his success as a rider?  Successes that, at least for a part of his career, would seem to have been ‘aided’ by illegal substances.

If there were no non-doper rule at GFNY, Uli and his organisation would now be preparing a booth for Ale and would receive payment from Ale for that service. However,  because of this ruling, and Caucchioli’s past, and the fact that Ale employs him, that will no longer happen.

I have spoken with more than a few former dopers and for all intents and purposes they are nice folk, but they cheated in cycling and so should have no role in cycling thereafter. Whether that means no gran fondos in their name, no role in managing or coaching riders, no role in commentating on cycling, nor working with a bike brand, whatever, it should be a no.

It’s time that companies accept their responsibility for their role in this circus, time Specialized stop supporting Levi’s Gran Fondo and Astana (though it might have taken them being kicked out to finally get them off Mike Sinyard’s bikes), time Lake stop giving Hincapie shoes, time Oakley and Nike faced up to supporting Lance all those years (a Lance that many in those companies must have at the very least suspected of being juiced), and time Trek did the same and apologised to Lemond.

Regarding Trek, there was an article recently in SportCal.com that read less as journalism and more as a statement from their marketing department. The writer asked whether the association with Armstrong has tainted the brand, and this was the reply:

“The bicycle, regardless of what is going on with the rider above it is still the bicycle. So we have that experience to be proud of.”

Trek also has ‘declined to comment’ (what a nice, f&ck you phrase that is) on whether Armstrong remained a shareholder in the company.

Doping in our sport, in every facet, in every nook and crannie and under ever slimy stone goes so deep that it is literally off the charts, like a giant, rotting iceberg with only it’s venomous tip above the oily waters.

The past is the present, make no mistake about it, and it was ever thus.

That’s not to say there is no hope though, but we’d be fools to expect change to come from above.






Author: Lee Rodgers

Cycling coach, race organiser, former professional cyclist and the original CrankPunk.

3 thoughts

  1. I do hope that Sinyard has considered walking away completely from anyone, any team or entity that employs doping offenders/enablers, and, I’m guessing it’s a simple numbers decision for him. Who would be left to put bikes under? Perhaps my idealistic dream for an inflection point – like Specialized dropping anyone doping related, simply isn’t realistic. And the JV’s and Vino’s of the word won’t go quietly – apparently the Pietro’s either, rotting iceberg indeed. I hold hope for change as well, and agree it will most likely come far away from the media glare of the “stars” who juiced and continue to make huge amount of money off the sport. I don’t really know how they are able to look in the mirror.

    1. as i have said Dean, the thing they do is not the thing we do. we ride bikes. they do WWE on wheels. we are the sport. it’s the guys and lasses who get up on Saturday after a crap week at work, squeezing time in here and there on the trainer Monday to Friday, who go out for 5 hours and feel like kids again for the first 3 hours then suffer for the last two and get home and can’t move for another 5 hours, it’s them, they are the keepers of the flame. they’d never dream of doping and all the people driving past in cars seeing this person huffing up a hill would never imagine they are heroes but they are, because they are out there remembering childhood, embracing possibility and dreaming still. you don’t just win when you cross the line first, you win every time you clip in. everything else is just cherries.

      i know a guy who worked for Specialized for many years and he recently asked his former colleague there why they didn’t just pull the plug on Asstana to get the kudos and, the guy just shrugged.

      who cares right? right.

  2. 1 – someone should contact Ale / APG and ask for their company policy on doping, as well as whether they are deliberately boycotting the GFNY and if Pietro makes their policy on doping
    2 – publish the results so we can determine what their company stance is on doping in cycling

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