I didn't stay up, I must confess; but I was trawling YouTube as the clips were still being posted. The man, Lance Armstrong on Oprah, he "fessed up" - my jaw dropped, I never thought I'd see the day.
‘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. We’re very near to the finish of one of the most evocative stage finishes in the Vuelta – Lagos de Covadonga.
The USADA Reasoned Decision; 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.
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.
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.’
If you write, one of the most satisfying things is when someone takes the time to tell you in response that they’ve enjoyed something you’ve written.
Despite the Lance Armstrong Scandal, 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.
Putting to the side for a minute the fact that Tyler lied for years about his PED use before finally coming clean and whether that means everything he says can or can't be trusted, and just reading this book with an open mind, it quickly becomes clear just how much an everyday part of pro cycling in the 1980's, 90's, and 2000's PED and illegal blood manipulation actually was. Of course, anyone with an interest in the sport already had more than an inkling that such cheating had always played a part, and fans of the sport have had to contend with scandal following scandal since forever, and particularly since the Festina affair in 1998.
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..
The Lance Armstrong Downfall: 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.
I bought most of the 'quality' Sundays, yesterday - to see what they had to say about the Giro d'Italia 2012. The Observer and Times ? nada. The Independent at least had the result. The Herald had a micro mug shot of Phinney and told us that he also won the opening stage of the Giro in 2010? However, the Times did have the 'Sports Rich List.' At number one in the UK is Becks with a fortune worth £160 million. On the world stage it's Tiger Woods, worth £538 mil.
The UCI is Always Right? Not for the first time, I’m confused by the actions of our sport’s governing body. First, let me quote what World Track Championship scratch and madison animator Andreas Müller told me the other day regarding rulings by the commissairs in Melbourne...
I know we're a hard-core bike racing site, but bear with me - Scotland doesn't produce too many world champions - and of those, none I can think of ever came from Kirkcaldy. Jocky Wilson was a legend and to hear of his death made me very sad - believe it or not, I always wanted to interview the man from the 'China Town' area of Kirkcaldy.
In the welter of knee jerk reactions to judge/condemn Contador and his Clenbuterol and/or criticize the UCI the real issues of this situation are being missed; there are two main points that I can see.
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.
World Road Race Championships 2011 - Cavendish and the whole team were brilliant, full stop. There can be no 'buts' or 'maybes' - his team...
The Danish Press did Cav proud at the World Road Championships 2011; having Peta on his arm doesn't hurt as far as the photo opportunities go. And being the saddo I am, the first thing I did when I got home was to buy the British papers. All of the quality dailies 'done him proud'-The Independent gives him pride of place on their sports section and Alasdair Fotheringham's prose is perfect.
'Senna,' is a powerful film; the man was fast, brave, committed, and ruthless behind the wheel, but religious, handsome, humble, funny, and devoted to his family, very fond of the ladies and an inspiration to a whole nation. And all of Brazil grieved for him when he died in that horrific crash at Imola in 1994. As well as a portrait of an amazing sportsman the film gives us a rare look at the machinations of the men-or rather man-who run the sport at the highest levels.
'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.'
I'll be glad to get to the Berlin Six Day 2011 and enter my six day bubble - these last couple of weeks have affected me badly. I love the sport, all of it fascinates me, road, track, cyclo-cross; I'd get into mountain biking but I have to stop the reading, interviewing and writing, somewhere. Lance, Floyd, Alberto, Trent, Matt - and now, Graeme.
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.'
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...
Cervélo , Contracts and Consumerism. 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.
‘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. we should 'Stop Messing with Nature'.
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, their positive could be buried, whilst certain others have been lambasted, suspended, and are facing the possibility of - or are currently serving - lengthy bans.
The women's 500 metre time trial was the first race I caught sight of on the TV - it's hard to get excited about it. But the Ballerup track was looking great, freshly sanded and with new advertising - what you don't realise until you look at the down tube of a bike that has just finished in a Derny race is the amount of soot and oil that the little motorbikes pump out - the joiners have buffed all that off, though.
'Sol y sombra' say the Spanish, 'sunshine and shade.' The 'sunshine' was the Primavera; a race I've been obsessed with ever since I was a young Merckx fan, waiting for my 'Comic' on a 70's Friday - Thursday if I was very lucky. The 'sombra' was Richard Russell's funeral; although maybe it wasn't 'shade,' as Bill Brockie, the former minister and CTC stalwart who managed proceedings so well, explained to us; 'this is a celebration.'
Rotterdam is readying itself for the Tour de France start this summer, and the Skil Shimano Team used it's 2010 presentation last weekend in the city to recce the route which will be used for Stage 1. The team is largely the same as last season, but has been bolstered by the addition of six riders; Dutchmen Job Vissers and Robin Chaigneau, Frenchmen Alexandre Geniez and Yann Huguet, Belgian Dominique Cornu, and Norwegian Frederik Wilmann.
It's great to see cycling breaking mainstream - a double page colour spread in the Times discussing Marginal Gains... it's almost as if the guy that bankrolls the team, owns the newspaper. He does? Oh!
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.
The Black List... 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.
Ben Swift - top guy, affable, always happy to chat, looks the business and has a great career ahead of him. But-I don't like what's happening with this Sky business. I might be wrong - and am probably writing my own obituary here, as far as Sky interviews goes - but it smacks to me of; 'we can't get Brad, so we have to get some one else who can win a bit and who's English!'
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.
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.
Ronnie Boa was a God like figure, when I was a 16 year-old with Kirkcaldy and District CC. He would come out at the start of the season and dominate - hilly time trials, road races, APR's, two-ups and even a stage in the Girvan. He was red hot favourite for the 25 title after banging out winning 58's at Stirling on a track iron; but on race morning he was a DNS, leaving the way clear for Drew Brunton to take the title.
"RIP VDB" said the text from John Stollery, waiting for me, when I woke up; there were others too, from Dave and Stevie all expressing sadness - for all his faults, he was a hard man to dislike.
The trouble with Richard Virenque was, that if he was seven times King of the Mountains; he was at least eight times King of the Erses.
"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.
Today the capital city of Spain didn't get awarded the 2016 Olympic Games - they went to the Brazilian City of Rio de Janeiro. I normally have my siesta around 4 o'clock in the afternoon, but today I watched the Olympic Games conference live on TV Copenhagen where they were to vote for the next Games after London.
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.
Some cycling pundits (aye, you Ed) have said that the Spanish team had a terrible World Championships - well bronze, a fourth, ninth and fifteenth is better than any other country than I guess Australia and Russia, although Russia only had two riders in the top twenty.
"Cometh the hour, cometh the man," the hour was a sunny late September afternoon in Mendrisio, Switzerland, the man was Cadel Evans.
A great ride from Peter Kennaugh; fourth is always the worst place to finish - it's hard enough to remember silvers and bronzes; never mind who was fourth. But a good ride and one that bodes well for his pro career.
Fabian Cancellara is a wonderful athlete, class personified. He looks at one with the bike and he's quite fearless; it's hard not to gasp as he blasts along at his 60 kph average (take out the corners, roundabouts and the climb, and that's the speed he's sitting at), skiffing walls and flicking that Specialized through narrow village streets like a kermesse king - a pleasure to behold.
The Vuelta has finished, so has the Tour of Britain, the Worlds are this weekend, the crosses have started and there's a nip in the air in the mornings - autumn is here. My favourite time of the year: in Scotland it rains less, the skies are blue, the air is fresh and leaves are so beautiful as they turn.
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.