Barredo retires in light of biological passport violations case,’ says the CyclingNews headline.

So what, all them Spaniards are dodgy,’ we hear you say.

But let’s go back two years.

We’re standing in the low cloud and cold drizzle of an Asturian afternoon.

We’re high above the cave where Pelagius and his men had the vision of the Virgin the night before the battle; past the unmarked graves where the dead still lay on the mountain side and even higher above the twin Lagos of Enol and Ercina which give this strip of rough tarmac its name.

Our chosen spot is very near to the finish of one of the most evocative stage finishes in the Vuelta – Lagos de Covadonga.

Lagos de Covadonga is at cloud level.
Lagos de Covadonga is at cloud level.

Robert Millar wrote himself into Vuelta legend here in 1986 and we’ve decided we need to make the pilgrimage.

Despite the best efforts of the ‘Bigs’ the break has stuck and there’s one man alone on this monstrous mountain – Carlos Barredo.

We’re standing next to his best buddy and grandmother; they know Carlos is away, alone – but can he grab the glory?

Carlos' best pal shouts himself silly with only 150m to go.
Carlos’ best pal shouts himself silly with only 150m to go.
A special day for Carlos today.
A special day for Carlos on Covadonga.

He rounds the last corner, spots his companero and swerves towards him and the old lady – despite the pain, rain and gradient, he’s smiling like a madman.

And Yes! He wins the stage!

Granny and companero hug each other and cry.

Grannie Barredo cries with happiness.
Grannie Barredo cries with happiness.

Our eyes redden; ‘God! we love this sport!

Maybe he was clean when we watched him hurtle past but the joy of that day – which we often reminisce about – now lies heavy at the bottom of our hearts.

If we’re in our 40’s and 50’s and Barredo’s demise makes us feel like this, what effect must it have on the youngsters who love the Spaniard’s attacking style?

How the Lance fans feel, we can’t imagine.

The other week, we ranted about Scarponi – and as predicted, he’s been served a three month ban, over the winter.

In other words – zero punishment.

Scarponi has a lot of questions to answer, but have they even been asked?
Scarponi has a lot of questions to answer, but have they even been asked?

What we can’t understand is why the UCI does not drag him in and at least question him about; ‘the bags.’

Affairs like the Scarponi one mean that whilst most of us think that the ‘kitting’ [doping] situation is better, there are still riders who haven’t learned and who have no intention of changing their modus operandi. Indeed Benedetto Roberti, the Italian investigating judge describes a sport where drug abuse is still a significant issue.

This leads us to one of the main thrusts of this rant; ‘the UCi’s absolute number one priority should be to restore the sport’s credibility and to root out those who are still rotten.’

It should not be to promote even more ‘instant classic’ races in evermore outlandish locations with ‘World Series Cycling’.

The race has to come before the money

Sure, it’s professional sport and the aim is to make money – but a large part of the sport’s huge attraction is it’s history.

Covadonga, the Tourmalet, the Poggio, l’Alpe d’Huez, the Ventoux, the Kapelmuur – money doesn’t make legends; heroic deeds over time do that.

The Wincanton, the Red Zinger, the Tour de Trump, the Milk Race, the Kellogg’s Tour, the Tour DuPont – all dead and buried.

The Red Zinger is one of many races which had a short lifespan.
The Red Zinger is one of many races which had a short lifespan. Photo©usbhof.

And the races must be scandal-free – we’ve tried to explain before how crushingly depressing and de-motivating it is to be on the Tour when a drugs scandal breaks.

And there has to be consistency applied to punishment, we can’t decide who’s a ‘good’ doper and who’s a ‘bad’ doper.

We didn’t want Pandora’s Box opened; but now that it is, people simply cannot pick and choose.

We shook our heads when we read this;

“Our sport has been through some tough times and I think that the people you’re asking the question about, the people with the suspension right now in the off-season, have voluntarily taken that suspension to move the sport forward and provide awesome experiences for people, for the future of cycling.”

Voluntary’ suspension?’ – these guys should have received a two year ban.

They all admitted to taking EPO, cortisone, testosterone, HGH and blood ‘boosting’ transfusions.

When Iljo Keisse was under suspension on the much debated but far from black and white contaminated supplement case, the UCI forbade him to so much as act as Starter of the Gent Six Day.

The US federation should be telling any licence holders who attend the ‘good’ doper training camp that they run the risk of being suspended for fraternising with a known drug cheat who is currently under suspension.

Sponsors aren’t stupid.

And the word doing the rounds – from reliable sources – is that $60,000 went to each of those who ‘fessed up’ for their doing the ‘honourable thing’ in ‘LanceGate.’

Meanwhile, you’ll be aware that Rabobank and Nissan have ‘upped sticks’ – but at Continental level in the USA things are bad too, with four teams calling ‘time.’

Sponsors aren’t stupid, they see the inconsistency and double standards at work within the sport and hear how little faith there is in the governing body and then make their choice.

Rabobank are honouring their commitments to fund the team, but no longer want their brand to be associated with the ProTour team. Speaks volumes.
Rabobank are honouring their commitments to fund the team, but no longer want their brand to be associated with the ProTour team. Speaks volumes.

And on the subject of consistency and transparency, we need to know why Katusha didn’t get their Pro Tour licence.

Astana did, with Vino at the helm – and so too did Lampre, with a huge, grey investigative cloud still hanging over them as well as Radioshack, with Lance, Johan – and Kim Andersen who managed to receive a lifetime ban from the UCI for failing umpteen tests.

We’re not saying that Katusha sit around the campfire and sing jolly songs, but why them and not Lampre or The Shack?

It’s almost certainly political – not sensible at a time when the UCI should be playing it straight and fighting hard to prove they’re still fit to run the sport.

Hans-Michael Holczer and his Katusha team.
Who knows the real reasons for non-approval, for (the now replaced) Hans-Michael Holczer and his Katusha team.

We’re nearly finished – but no rant about the current state of the game would be complete without mentioning the ‘Change Cycling Now’ collective.

We just wish there weren’t so many vested interests at play and we question how Greg Lemond could ever become the UCI president overnight, even in a temporary capacity. That’s like trying to become Prime Minister of the UK without even being an MP.

Finally, we’re relieved to see that an investigation is going to take place in the UK about alleged drugs abuses in the Linda McCartney team, a decade ago.

That’s going to really make a difference.

Let’s hope that it’s ‘lucky ’13‘ for our sport in the coming year, with clarity, consistency, transparency and honesty – and no doping scandals.

Keep the faith and ‘hae a guid New Year’!    Ed and Martin.