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Sir Brad wasn't even off his bike when the phone rang; "Are you watching this? Isn't it heartwarming, nostalgic? I'm almost in tears ..." Yes, friend and sage of VeloVeritas, Vik had just watched the finale of the Gent Six Day on the box – so did I; for the first time in years I wasn't there – that ‘real life’ stuff got in the way. And last week's Cycling Weekly brought us ’12 things you didn’t know about Jason and Laura Kenny’ – to push their new book (that one I said Vik has pre-ordered the other week): "Jason once ate four out-of-date yoghurts, despite not being hungry. And not liking yoghurt." Enough said, I think.
‘Why do you rant about cycling?’ they ask us. ‘Because someone has to!’ we reply. There has to be a voice in the wilderness ... Did you watch the Worlds? Dave, Ivan and Vik all boycotted it – although they admitted to watching the finale. The Belgian offensive in the desert would have done Field Marshal Erwin Rommel proud – but apart from that and Sagan’s killer finale the race was processional.
TUE's - once again I'm reminded of Elton John's words; 'and all this science I don't understand...' The forums are ablaze with righteous indignation from carpet fitters and bike shop mechanics, all of whom are well versed in conditions which affect an athlete's breathing and the treatment of any ailments related thereto. Me? I'm a glazier originally and I can't remember Prednisolone ever cropping up once during my 'apprenticeship.'
Who’s Filippo Ganna? Just the World Individual Pursuit Champion, that’s all. But don’t worry, we’d never heard of him either, until he won it. The rot first set in when the UCI ‘unified’ the professional and amateur pursuit titles in 1993 and cut the distance back to 4000 metres – the pros had previously contested the title over 5000 metres. But wet rot gave way to even nastier dry rot after the Beijing Olympics when the UCI announced that the individual pursuit was being chopped from the Olympic programme.
We make no apology for more ranting – there’s much to get upset about in the sports firmament at the minute. It’s hard to believe that the public would be so naive as to believe that Athletics would be squeaky clean given the sums of money washing around and the vested interests of the massive sportswear companies who depend on big results from their sponsored athletes to shift their sweat shop trainers, track suits, sweats and Tee’s.
It’s a while since we had a decent VeloVeritas rant and the year end is always a good time to take stock; in this VV View edition we compare the Six Day men of then and now, Chris Froome's data, Cycling Weekly's change from specialist to generalist magazine, disc brakes and of course, sadly, doping.
Righteous indignation - we’re all good at it. The Astana situation gives us the opportunity to use words like ‘scandal,’ ‘disgrace,’ ‘joke,’ ‘appalling’ and all the rest. Here’s the ‘but’: whilst here at VeloVeritas we’re not card carrying members of the UCI and Brian Cookson Fan Clubs we do understand that that the organisation has to work within a framework called ‘rules.’
You have to be in the right frame of mind to rant – unless you’re a Master, like Vik – VeloVeritas’s cycling sage and soothsayer, Vik can waken up ranting and probably rants in his sleep. I can’t do it to order – but the stars have aligned this morning and there’s a lot to get off my chest...
I can remember perfectly where I was when Marco Pantani died; sitting in my living room in Dysart. The flash came over Eurosport News and I rang Viktor to tell him; ‘hardly surprising’ was the reply. I knew what he meant, the little Italian’s life had been on a self destructive spiral for a some time - rehab or disaster were the only two possible destinations. It was the Spartan philosophers who first coined the expression, ‘never speak ill of the dead.’ And whilst it’s always dreadfully sad to see a young life wasted, I’m puzzled by the current revisionist accounts of his life which are doing the rounds on the 10th anniversary of his death.
VeloVeritas thanks you for reading in 2013, hopes that you are having a good holiday season, enjoyed the company of family and friends, ate and drank too much and didn’t have too many arguments. We’ve now entered that no man’s land between Christmas and New Year and whilst we’ll do our best to keep the interviews coming from the track men who are making the boards hum, the rising talents and the men who skim through the mud as sweetly Fred Astaire coming down a staircase – the year cannot be let slip without a rant . . .
In the film, ‘A Few Good Men’ Tom Cruise’s military lawyer character is cross examining Jack Nicholson as a high ranking officer; ‘I want the truth!’ says Cruise. Jack’s reply has now entered movie folklore and cliché; ‘You can’t handle the truth!’ He got that one right, I can’t handle the truth – whilst I’m well aware that most of the peloton was kitted up for two decades and that it's indefensible, I can’t see how yet another biopsy is going to change anything.
It creeps up on you, the need, nae, the burning desire to rant. The last straw was Chris Froome's comments about the Tour organiser's intention to include cobbles in the 2014 race. Chris isn't keen - he wants just long, flat time trials and mountain stages; but we guess he's OK with the sprinter stages. too? The TT stages are for the specialists, the "rouleur" who can find the groove and churn the big gear. Anquetil, Indurain and Wiggins all fall into this mould - punish your opposition in the TT then hold on to your gains in the mountains. It’s the classic Grand Tour tactic; effective but not the most inspiring to watch...
On the one hand we don’t think that disinterring the dead is the way forward; the French Senate mass exhumation was a pointless exercise as far as we’re concerned. But once you have a Zabelombie walking the streets you have deal with it. As I recall from George A. Romero’s classic ’78 movie – ‘Zombies, Dawn of the Dead’ you have to part the head from the body, shoot it in the head or at last poke a long screw driver through the 'lug-hole' (messy). But do we see a rush from the UCI to comment on the latest gore fest and efforts to contain the virus - originally returned on a space probe from Venus, if I remember correctly? Or was it a laboratory in California?
The release of the French Senate ‘findings’ on the ’98 Tour – why do it now, what do it at all? What’s the point, other than to create a mess and give Brian Cookson a fresh crock of manure to hurl at Pat? Justice is not meant to be a lottery – of course it’s not right that the riders named cheated but what can we do now? And if you’re going to have an expose then it has to be full – not selective. It’s not right that O’Grady gets crucified simply because he’s about the only one still racing – up until last Sunday, that is.
I try not to rant, honestly – but sometimes I have to. It just gets to a stage where someone has to say something. Take Monday; I was driving the van, the window was down, it did actually feel like summer and I was mellow. Then the sports news came on Radio Two and as Johnny Saunders uttered the words which jarred; ‘Italian cyclist,’ I thought; “no, please not Vincenzo!” But no, it was Vini Fantini’s Mauro Santambrogio.
The Italians love a good 'Giovani' - Under 23 rider. Today's Edinburgh edition of the Gazzetta deals with Battaglin's fine Stage Four win. The Italian journo's are already thinking about when he's going to buy a Lambo/date a model/move to Monaco and they can say; 'he's not serious!'
I didn't stay up, I must confess; but I was trawling YouTube as the clips were still being posted. The man, Lance Armstrong, "fessed up" - my jaw dropped, I never thought I'd see the day. Albeit I think his memory is flawed about the comeback years. I thought Oprah made a decent fist of the rest of the interview.
Just like those CNN images from Iraq when the Saddam statues crashed to the ground, Lance is in pieces in the dust – the legend shattered. The Zealots told us that it was a great day and the start of a new era in cycling. But it’s ‘Xmas gift ideas’, what’s left of the Six Day scene, Sven Nys in Belgian 'Cross and the transfer market which dominate the news. And whilst I might be naive and do think that it’s a cleaner scene that it’s ever been during my lifetime, with team orchestrated doping gone and a sea change in the attitudes of riders and staff – there’s still something “rotten in the State of Denmark.” Lampre star, Michele Scarponi claims that he only met with Dr. Michele Ferrari for two tests at the end of 2010 and ended the association immediately he signed for his current squadra.
I had intended to start this piece on the subject of Mr. Dettori’s current woes by saying that Frankie seems like a cool guy to me; but then reminding us that so too did Tyler H. and Lance. But one of our readers has given me a better intro which underscores my point. Namely that it’s not just about Lance and ever stiffer penalties. Our reader reckons I should have pressed Tony Doyle for answers on ‘drugs in the six days’ when I interviewed him. Why? It was a quarter of a century ago and the kitting up taking place back then was positively common or garden, compared to Lance and Co. Sure, there are the anecdotes – like the rider who bolted out of the drug test cabin screaming, without pee-ing, claiming that the tester had tried to, ‘touch him.’ Good chat with a beer, but hardly moving us along and out of the mess we’re in.
LanceGate is divisive, no question. Our editor, Martin and I have similar views on many things in cycling – but not on this one. Martin thinks that the boil must be lanced; (pun intended) get the puss out before the healing can begin. My feeling is that what’s happening is the equivalent of dropping a nuclear depth charge into a huge cesspit – spectacular, very messy and with no real positive effect, unless you’re a tabloid editor or a ‘forum sitter.’ But maybe I’m wrong, maybe we need to get the tube down there into cycling’s stomach and pump it dry?
It’s not hard to dislike Lance Armstrong; he’s arrogant, controlling, self-obsessed, hypocritical and brought to cycling the horrors of bodyguards, blacked-out SUV windows, black socks and celebrity visits to the Tour de France. He scarcely bothers to conceal his contempt for journalists, but used them to ‘spread the gospel’ when it was convenient. But on the other hand, it’s hard to dislike Michael Barry – smiling, polite, helpful, intelligent and grounded; a pleasure to meet and interview. But here’s the rub – they both regularly ‘kitted up’ as part of their stage race regime. So how come one is a ‘monster’ and one is a ‘victim?’
The last time I wrote on this subject my pal ‘Denis from Montreal’ said; ‘Hood should stick to derailleur reviews.’ But you have to give grudging respect to any man that still refers to a rear mech as a ‘derailleur.’ Least I be accused of practicing ‘Omerta’ here’s what’s on my mind regarding a certain cycling commentator and his much criticised views on LanceGate..
King Pyrrhus of Epirus gained a victory over the Romans in 279 BC at the battle of Asculum in Apulia. The Epiriotic forces, although they won the battle, suffered severe losses to the elite of their army. A Pyrrhic victory has come to be known as one which comes with a devastating cost. Whether you love Lance Armstrong or hate him, have no doubt that if he is ultimately snared, brought down and skinned with his hide left out in the sun to cure then it will not be a triumph, it will be a disaster.
Dear Mr. McQuaid, I'm so glad you've decided on VinoKolGate that: "Yes, there are rules about that. It is clear, if there is evidence, there could be penalties after an investigation on our part." I'm sure that you're aware that there have been arrests in the UK for the hacking of mobile phones and email accounts, and that there's not a court in Europe which would accept evidence obtained by hacking, but I realise that these are mere bagatelles to the might of the UCI and those Eastern riders have to be sorted out.
'If you're right, you're right,' said Malcolm X. However, sometimes it's hard to be right. Despite the fact that I think the UCI are doing a less than brilliant job, I think cycling is right to try to eradicate the pills, potions, transfusions and suppositories that blight it.
The VV View: The UCI constitution is a little bit of a scary document, running to 23 pages with 87 articles, some of which have up to seven sections. We thought we might pick out a few quotes; it's 'a non-profit-making organisation' and should 'encourage friendship between all members of the cycling world' as well as 'promote sportsmanship and fair play' and there should be 'non-interference in the internal affairs of affiliated federations.' Just so we remember what the organisation is meant to be all about.
I've known John for 43 years; we went to school together and although there have been spells when our lives have gone in different directions for a while, it takes us about three minutes to pick up the thread and it's as if we've never been out of touch. John has lung cancer, one tumour in his lungs and three in his brain; he starts chemo and radio therapy, this week. When his son asked me what I thought, immediately I said; 'look at old Lance, he was at death's door and came back to win seven Tours.' Then I got to thinking; if the finest legal minds that Tour Down Under and Giro d'Italia start money can buy are unsuccessful and the 'Federal probe' nails the Texan, what will that have achieved?
It's too long since I had a rant; I'd like to thank Mario Cipollini for providing the spark for this one. I meet my pal Ivan on a weekly basis for a 07:45 coffee at a secret location. The theme of this morning's rant-fest was what would happen if Rik Van Looy met the Schlecks? We reckoned that 'The Emperor' would just need to look at Andy before the start and the 'Luxembourg Pro Cycling Project' (great name for a team) rider would run off home to Luxembourg and his Teddy bear...
It's not until you go to a big Fondo, Marca or Sportiv that you're able to figure out how the likes of Cervélo can sponsor a pro team. On the start line you'll see hundreds of Looks, Colnagos, Treks and-Cervélos; all sold at full price. But how much money can you make on a bike frame?
'With the current system we're shafted' says BC coach Rod Ellingworth regarding the fact that the world's best roadman sprinter will have a whole two team mates in Melbourne. The GB and Sky 'spin machine' continually tell us how strong British Cycling is; but when it comes down to it, we're actually joint 22nd in terms of numbers of riders we're eligible to send to the Elite Worlds. This puts us on par with great cycling nations such as Korea and Brazil.
We've all been hearing recently about the riders who showed questionable figures in their Biological Passports but who have escaped any sanctions so far, whilst certain others have been lambasted, suspended, and are facing the possibility of - or are currently serving - lengthy bans. Last year the word was that a number of very big names in the sport were in the same boat, and may have been asked by officials to 'lay low' for a while until their numbers returned to more normal values, or until the heat died down. And now, thanks to Landis, we are presented with the allegation that Armstrong paid the UCI to bury a positive test result from the Tour de Suisse - but how is that possible?
It's great to see cycling breaking main stream - a double page colour spread in the Times. It's almost as if the guy that bank rolls the team, owns the newspaper. He does? Oh! We're treated to nine examples of marginal gains...
Fourth in the Worlds Elite TT, second only to Zabriskie in the US TT champs and with a Garmin contract neatly signed. But scratch all of the above and file under, "Another one bites the dust!" albeit the 'B' sample might just be 'clean.' We asked Paul Coats, who's a lecturer at Strathclyde Institute of Pharmacy & Biomedical Sciences, for an expert view.
I hope you all had a good Xmas; Viktor didn't - but that shouldn't surprise us. He did make a good point though - namely that Sky are well behind with their training camps; all of the big squadra have had one, if not two camps already. From a fitness and bonding point of view the digital vision guys are behind the eight ball already; it'll be interesting to see if that makes a difference come flag dropping time.
It's been a good week if you read the Guardian's cycling coverage and like a rant. 'I'm better than Armstrong now,' says Wiggins - reads the headline; of all the bike riders in the world that one should not make that statement about, Lance Armstrong is the absolute top of the list.
It's funny how things work out, Alberto Contador signs a contract with Specialized bikes for 700,000 euros last week. So will he be riding for one of the teams who ride on Specialized bikes; Quick-Step or Saxo Bank? Ah! Then Quick-Step announces that they will no longer be riding on Specialized, but will be on Eddy Merckx bikes.
'Are you going to have a rant about this Sky carry on, on that site of yours?' enquires Viktor. 'Damn right!' says I. All pro cyclists demand respect, it's easy to forget that even the guy who finishes stone last in any pro race has to be pretty good to get a pro contract in the first place; but the two French riders just signed by Sky leave me a tad puzzled.
AC/DC got it right; "Come on, come on, listen to the money talking." It looks like VeloVeritas' hot tip on 'Bert bolts to Garmin; Brad flies to Sky,' has unwound. Sky's 'capo,' Rupert Murdoch has deep pockets, but at some stage he has to say- and following on from the musical intro - just like Donna and Babs did; "enough is enough, is enough!"
"A week is a long time in politics," said Harold Wilson - even longer at the wheel of a Transit; still, I'm sure that my column in L'Equipe isn't far away, now. Lombardia was great, I love that race, and Milan - San Remo too; do yourself a favour, go and see them - you'll thank me. However, all is not well up in the land of mountains and lakes. Milano is apparently mightily pee-ed off by the 'strike' in the Giro, when the riders went on a go slow because of the 'dangerous circuit' - but the organisers couldn't help but notice that despite the 'dangers,' the peloton raced the last few laps, for the stage win.
"Our pal Bosisio positive,' said the text from Dave. Gabriele Bosisio of LPR Brakes and Italy was the subject of a UCI out of competition test; "the adverse finding was a direct result of a targeted urine test, conducted immediately after a blood test triggered an unusual blood profile within the biological passport program," said their statement. On the Kroonplatz time trial stage of the 2008 Giro, we gave Gabriele a shout as he came down off the mountain, after his ride.
I had one of my secret meetings with Ivan yesterday-I can't tell you when or where, in case the Moderator from Velo Riders tries to arrange a 'hit!' The man from behind the Urals was telling me that we didn't see on Eurosport, after Cadel's win, was the press conference he gave.
"Cometh the hour, cometh the man," the hour was a sunny late September afternoon in Mendrisio, Switzerland, the man was Cadel Evans. Al Hamilton mentioned Cadel's name before the race and I concurred that he could be in the mix and worth a medal-but the winner?
Ed Hood is a sad old git who is stuck in the minutia of cycling facts and figures! The trouble is that so am I, maybe even worse! Ed was very excited by the book (Tu vueltas) I sent him with all the details of all La Vuelta a España's from 1935 to 2008, lots of info for us sado's. Ed touched on some details earlier, but two specific years caught my eye.
I was coming down the 'parachutes' in the Transit on Friday - the old East 25 course - when I got the text message from Dave; 'Garcia and Hesjedal away with two K to go.' I was talking to Ryder only last night-about his great ride on stage 9, when he was second to Simon Gerrans; then the next text came in; 'Your man has won!'
I did a Vuelta preview the other day; I mentioned the Castillan (Spanish), Basque, Catalan and Galician languages. But Al Hamilton has put me right; "Spain has five languages registered at the EU; Castillano, Basque, Galician, Catalan and Valenciano." It reminded me of what they say about Belgium; "there's no such place as Belgium." It's a conundrum, that diversity is what makes Spain the country it is.
Thursday - "Comic Day;" back in 1982 or '83 I was desperate to get my paws on it to read about 'Lloydy' winning the "25." I'd bought a Telegraph on Monday morning, so I knew the first six, but that was all. There was no VeloVeritas, back then. I can still remember my impassioned plea to the newsagent when he told me it wasn't in; "but you don't realise how important this is, I need to see that magazine!"
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