Category: punkopinion

Lee’s Lowdown on Strade Bianche: Valverde and Van Avermaet stain the white roads

Yeah, who to cheer for when one guy is an unrepentant doper, one is under investigation for connections to a dodgy doctor, when one rode on whilst under threat of suspension and the other is copying him?

If you love the sport, recognise the UCI (under current rules) is unable to temporarily stop you racing, know that race organisers are cowards and your team management are without ethics and any understanding why this has to stop, please stop taking advantage of all this weakness and stop crapping on the fans.

Take a stand and sit it out til all is resolved.

We’ve suffered Contador, Valverde and others, now Van Avermaet, who’s even missing a hearing date with the Belgian authorities to ride Tirreno-Adriatico.

Van Avermaet's Facebook profile pic

Van Avermaet’s Facebook profile pic

Click on the image below to head to PEZ – and kudos for them for publishing this, I know many other mainstream sites that definitely would not.

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“Your site is not a news site, it’s an op-ed site” – and what, exactly, are the others?

Sometimes I get a comment to an article and begin to write a reply but as I am in the middle of the process, I realise that the thing is becoming an article in itself. I’m not putting this up to have a pop at the commentator but I believe that this all concerns a very important topic in light of the reporting on the recent CIRC report and the Knaven issue. In fact, it’s important in relation to the whole sorry history of doping in our beloved sport.

 

The comment read:

“I have to say that I really do find your articles to be quite good and I appreciate that you keep on tilting at windmills.I do, however, object to the idea that news should be ever delivered with anything other then objectivity. Your site is not a news site, it’s an op-ed site. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, but you need to remember that the goal of any journalist should be to report the facts objectively. And yes I do realize that it is difficult to do that while you have to cozy up to the industry to get any stories whatsoever, that doesn’t change the fact that journalism should be above bias.”

 

My Reply:

Thanks for the comment and I would fully agree were it not for the fact that it isn’t merely an ‘idea’ that the news is delivered with anything other than objectivity but a concrete fact, and it’s not us ‘bloggers’ that are the chief culprits. The established cycling media have been selecting what to present the great unwashed public with for decades and it is precisely their biased and thoroughly subjective presentation of selected slivers of ‘the news’ that has in large part helped create the sorry mess we are stuck in right now.

They sat through press conferences after seeing unbelievable feats and asked no questions. Interviewed Hein and Pat and asked them about routes for the Worlds and ignored the deaths of young riders all over Europe and beyond. Along with their faith in objectivity was there also a directive to the hacks to leave their ability to ask uncomfortable questions at the door?

The fact is that journalism should indeed be above bias but that only works if those with their hands on the controls and with the resources to abuse that power do not do so. The media, the UCI, the race organisers, the riders and team owners and management have been feeding us a twisted narrative of lies and deceit for so long that we cannot even see that it is continuing now.

It is not always obvious but we must realise that the old adage that silence speaks louder than words is absolutely true in this case. For many journalists, then and now, what they did not discuss was far more revealing as what they did. For many, keeping Mum was the best way for them to ‘deal with doping’ and to keep their editors, advertisers and the teams and their riders happy.

What got shafted in that equation was the sport itself and its ever-faithful fans.

The goal of any journalist should be, in my opinion, to reveal lies that are paraded as truth. Lofty? No, not at all. That’s what a few used to do – it’s what very few still do.

The BBC itself was recently manipulated by Armstrong into granting his request for an filmed interview which came between his girlfriend taking the blame when he crashed the car drunk and being found out by the police, and that information becoming public. The interviewer gave LA another blast of oxygen for his fire whilst getting another notch on his celebrity bedpost and you want to tell me that is not biased nor subjective?

It’s not a case of ‘cozying up to the industry’ – it’s a case of being the industry.

If you’re here to lecture me on the role of impartiality in the press and to suggest that CyclingSnooze and others like it are unbiased when in fact they have been guilty of not only ignoring doping for many years but also of creating gods out of cheats that they knew as sure as they could be were cheats, then you are not going to get very far with that one.

I’d rather Armstrong, MacQuaid and Vino write the news than these so-called journalists – at least then those reading might easier see the true bias threaded through these thuddingly mediocre and contrived articles.

Regards,

LR

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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.

3D

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.
[…]
Cheers.
Pietro

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
Uli

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.
Thanks.
Cheers.
Pietro

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.
Pietro
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
Uli

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.
Cheers
Uli

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.
Thanks
Pietro.

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.
Uli

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
Pietro

__________

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Jonathan Vaughters graces Twitter with a description of crankpunk as a “talentless wanna-be writing [a] self-promotional blog”… Compliment accepted

A Twitter spat. My first. And with the mighty JV. I am honored.

Some back story…

It’s no secret that I feel that all former dopers – all – should not be welcomed back in any capacity whatsoever into the fabric of cycling, be it as managers, coaches, team owners or administrators.

I also feel that the UCI has to work to foster an environment in which teams are encouraged to and feel perfectly at ease with adopting employment policies which mean former riders and doctors that were/are considered tainted are no longer able to find work within the sport too.

This would mean no Riis, no Vino (well he might be off soon enough), and no Jonathan Vaughters. I’m not the only person to think this way by a long shot, however opinions like this are not often aired on CyclingSnooze nor on any of the other major sites and magazines, because if they were then these media outlets would lose access to quite a few teams and they may lose advertising booty from the team sponsors.

You also have certain former dopers now in management running or on the board of ‘important’ committees and organisations. The oft heard claim is that these former dopers know how to steer the sport along a new course because they have been there, done that.

Or been there, done this, and that, and yeah a bit of that, oh and yes, a shit load of that! And so on.

The problem here, as many can plainly see, is that you have former cheats supplying their own, often-changing narrative, one that justifies their doping in the first place (‘Everyone was doing it’ – not true) – a doping that was uncovered either at the time or years later yet never was confessed to until their pants were already down and their d**ks in hand – that therefore justifies the wealth and status they acquired with it – and finally justifies their position in the sport now (‘I was there, I am sorry, but let me help!’).

It is, as my Gran used to say, a proper bag of bollocks.

If you want to read more on my opinion of Vaughters and these others being in the sport, read here and, if you want to know why I think he should be out of Change Cycling Now, read here. It’s not the first time JV and I have ‘chatted’, previously we were going to have a chat on the phone but it never quite worked out, with, as far as I can recall, nothing but work getting in the way for both of us.

Which brings us to Twitter.

Earlier today I saw a little tweet from Vaughters about how he wished to invite two guys to listen to a talk he was giving in London about something connected to cycling and doping.

I then asked via a tweet if that was after the talk on dopers managing cycling teams.

Vaughters then replied with this:

Jonathan Vaughters (@Vaughters) tweeted at 10:03 pm on Mon, Mar 02, 2015:
@crankpunk101 It was going to be right after the talk on talentless wanna-bes writing self promotional blogs.
(https://twitter.com/Vaughters/status/572396774544969729?s=03)

The original I either can’t find or has been deleted, but here is an image of the tweet in Q:

1425311801655

Let’s take a look at this, a little more closely… Well, we don’t have to get too close do we.

It’s the Omerta again. ‘Shut up please, your opinion does not coincide with the reality I have constructed so please go away.’

Self-promotional? I can take that, there is an element to that in all we do, and yes there is that here in crankpunk, ego is as ego does, but the points I am making – we are making, meaning a large chunk of cyclists – remain to be answered.

As for the comment on Twitter – thanks. Compliment accepted.

___________________________________________

Postscript

Jonathan Vaughters apologised for his original tweet on Twitter which I read after I posted this and asked to talk. I stand by the article above though, and will be arranging an interview shortly, watch http://www.crankpunk.com for that.

Where does Froome vs Contador rank in the list of cycling rivalries?

if you’re coming to find the original version of this article you are out of luck. it’s disappeared. here is the article as best as i can remember it.

_____________________

Coppi and Bartali, Anquetil and Poulidor, Anquetil and the lock on his stepdaughter’s bedroom door, Hinault and Lemond, Lemond and Lance, Cipollini and Soul Glo, Lance and The Truth, Verbruggen & MacQuaid raging against common decency as ‘up to 100’ (Phil Liggett’s words) riders died in the first decade of EPO, cycling has seen some cracking rivalries over the years, epic battles that remain threaded through the tattered, grubby tapestry that is professional cycling and all its dystopian ‘glory’.

soul-glo

versus

Mario-Cipollini-thumb

As I was sat not riveted to the telly last week as Chris Froome and Alberto Contador smashed ten bells out of each other in the hills of Andalucia, I listened to the commentators gushing bukkake-like all over ‘this enthralling rivalry’ and I wondered if it was really that enthralling and even if it was a rivalry at all, and then concluded that I don’t care that much anymore anyway.

Contador has 6 Grand Tours under his belt and is hailed as the finest climber of his generation and one of the finest in the history of the sport. He took that natural climbing ability and then added to it a truckload of TT work to become one of the foremost riders against the clock in multi-day races, and he showed in the 2009 Tour that he has some serious mettle, as he withstood the barrage from the twin barrels of Bruyneel and Armstrong.

After that race, Contador said that “Armstrong is a great rider and did a great Tour, but on a personal level I have never admired him and never will”, with Armstrong responding that “a champion is also measured on how much he respects his teammates and opponents.”

So, Conty knows a thing or two about reading  folk (though to be fair Armstrong is not exactly a book, more an ingredients list on the back of a packet of Fruit Loops – brief, uninspiring and full of chemicals), and Armstrong’s quote?

Well, another classic from the non-winner of 7 Tours.

But I’m wandering. Froome is not exactly a pushover, has to be said. He’s won one Tour and just about every other race he entered in 2013 and many feel he should have claimed the 2012 Tour also, had it not been for team orders and a certain Sir Wiggins being team leader.

Froome’s miraculous upturn in fortune seems to have coincided with the surgery to remove his biceps. I guess the loss of .00257 grams can make all the difference.

Pins he can manage, shoelaces are another matter, but since he got rid of the biceps Froome is .0000000012784 watts better off. Win!

Pins he can manage, shoelaces are another matter, but since he got rid of the biceps Froome is .0000000012784 watts better off. Win!

If you’d heard the commentators gushing and frothing all over their mics as Conty dropped Froomey and then the reverse happened that day after, you’d have thought that all the bad things that have happened in our sport just never did.

Now, I’m not saying Froome is not clean, nor that Conty isn’t either. Anything, as they say, is possible.

However as I sit there non-entranced to the screen listening to the gooiness oozing from these guys mouths, I’m reminded that we’ve heard it all before. Liggett was all over Lance back in the day, we heard it with Landis, Hamilton, Valverde, Basso, on and on and on.
Here we have a guy that was busted for Clenbuterol who carried on riding and bringing the sport into disrepute (a la Kreuziger) when he should have done the right thing and stepped away until his case was cleared being led out by a guy (Basso) who was himself suspended for dodginess on a team started by a confessed doper (Riis) and now run by one of the seediest guys in the sport (and that is saying something) and staffed by an LA apologist (Yates) and riding bikes supplied by a brand with a healthy record of sponsoring dopers competing against a guy from a team that empolyed Leinders even though the word was out that he was about as clean as a poodle’s arse hair and had a teammate (JTL) that half the world and my Gran suspected of doping way before Sky signed him, and STILL you ask me to stand and holler and whoop and get excited?

I feel sorry for the genuinely clean riders, I really do, because they have a crap time of it, but they have to take responsibility and stop letting riders like Mark Cavendish reinvigorate the Omerta once again. I’ve been saying this for years, they have got to unite and to find a voice to make the work of the authorities that really do want to beat back the dopers easier, to find a way to demand true transparency and to accept that yes, crap as it may be, the son bears the guilt of the father.

No longer can the excuse that they may lose their jobs for speaking out be valid as there are plenty of companies that would like to sponsor a truly clean team – and I don’t mean a Jonathan Vaughters-style clean team, a hey-we’re-clean-well-if-you’re-gonna-threaten-us-with-perjury-and-prison-then-ok-we’re-not-really-clean-but-we’re-sorry-we-had-to-cheat-our-way-to-wins-medals-cash-and-fame kind of clean, but seriously clean.

And not like a Sky ‘clean’ either, not with questionable staff and suddenly improved new signings and the like, with TUE kerfuffles and rumors of ‘special’ bidons containing opiates.

Magazines and websites continue to run endless articles on Armstrong, giving voice to his defenders, Astana continue to churn out a doper a month, the old boy network  of former dopers still reigns, the guys commenting on TV continue to overflow with sycophantic adulation that spews out like bilge from a busted sceptic tank, and the fans, a huge chunk of them, still remain rapt.

Last week I heard someone saying how awesome the action was when EPO use was truly rampant in the peloton, and I just sighed.

Here’s an article from Outside Magazine about doping, featuring the former head of WADA, Dick Pound, and an epidemiologist and expert in sports doping from Penn State, Charles Yesalis:

It may be impossible to ever know the true pervasiveness of the problem, or the guilt or innocence of riders. Further, gene doping, a science that would render current tests irrelevant, looms on the horizon. Throw in an event like the Tour de France—and the dollars at stake—and an immensely challenging picture emerges.

“It’s an elephant,” sighs Dick Pound, president of WADA. “There are very heavily entrenched entities in this, and a lot of economics involved.”

The two realities of the Tour—its enormous popularity and the specter of corruption—persist side by side. “If there was a large boycott—no one watching on TV, no one cheering along the side of the road—then maybe things would change,” says Yesalis. “But I don’t think the fans really care.”

This is from an article from 2004.

Some things, it seems, never change.

 

 

 

 

 

Cycling Etiquette: Let down by my fellow roadies!

The back had been playing up again over the weekend so I took Sunday off, but felt better today so I decided to take it for a spin to see how it fared. I headed up into the hills nearby, enjoying the return to the bike and the rather haunting mist that shrouded the valleys.

'Turneresque', I thought, having just watched the excellent Mr. Turner the night before!

‘Turneresque’, I thought, having just watched the excellent Mr. Turner the night before…

I dilly-dallied a bit, poked and a-pottered a tad, and sniffed the odd tree and maybe possibly had a pee here and there, as is my wont, and was just having a fine old time all told, spinning around and messing about with the camera on my phone.

DSC_0406

 

Taiwan is a stunning place to ride it really is, with fantastic year-round weather. This time of year is my favorite in fact, with perfect riding weather (17 degrees today) just about daily.

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DSC_0413 - Version 2

After riding for 45 minutes on the plateau I headed back down the hill to town, and psssssssst – no, I didn’t encounter a seedy dude wearing a trench coat trying to sell me watches, but I did get a flat, front tire. No worries, I didn’t crash and I did have a brand new spare – which wouldn’t inflate. Grrrrr. Something wrong with the valve! Well, ok no problem, I’ve got the old puncture kit…. ah, yes, the one with all the patches dried up and useless. Great.

I realised I’d have to just walk down the steep bits and on the corners and drift down the straights, unless a biker came down or up the hill, a real possibility seeing as I was on one of the most popular hills in the area. Not more than a  minute after thinking that, a guy whizzed by me on a road bike, all kitted up, obviously someone who’d have a spare tube or a repair kit.

Did he stop? Did he balls! I shouted after him once, twice, but still he never looked back. As he rounded the bend I shouted ‘YOU F%&$@R!’ definitely loud enough for him to hear because I saw him turning around as he slipped out of sight round the bend. A pox on his head, be damned him!

Honestly, how could you see a fellow roadie walking his bike on a damp descent, a good 5km from the nearest town of any note, and not wonder if he or she had a problem? I always slow down and ask people if they are OK even if I see them only fixing a flat, just in case. It’s just common courtesy, right?

Well, apparently not.

As I was still cursing the guy and his bike in my head, another guy flew past me! He didn’t even get a hopeful ‘Hey!‘ from me, just a mouthful of curses that’d make a sailor blush. I was spitting feathers. The absolute arse.

Finally after a good 25 minutes of walking, slipping and drifting on far too expensive carbon rims (sorry Blk Tec), I came to a 7-11. They had, as many 7s here do, a pump for all to use, and, amazingly, a tool kit too!

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DSC_0418

Brilliant! Surely it’d have a puncture kit in it!

Well, it had some weird stuff in it but a puncture kit? Erm, no.

DSC_0419

And that’s why I’ll never ride a Merida.

And I’ll STILL stop next time I see someone by the side of the road. Why? Cos you should. It could be you some day.

Just don’t stop if it’s a fat bloke in a pink Giro jersey or a skinny arsed munter in a BMC kit….

 

Lee’s Lowdown on PEZ: The Evils of Ego

The weekly column on PezCycling News went up earlier today, click on the image below to head over there to read it.

Basically it covers how ego is an absolute necessity – to a point, but that it is also the beginning of the end it left unchecked…

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‘Madelaine Albright may sue Armstrong’

That’s what my source said to me. I can neither confirm nor deny it. It all stems from ‘that day’ when Armstrong’s missus lied to the cops…

You know, I don’t know why anyone in the USA is bothered about drink driving to be honest. If you watch too many Hollywood movies, as I might, you see it all the time. I thought it was legal over there. I thought DUI meant ‘Driving Under Inebriated’.

‘Ah sir, step out of the car please. Now, how much have you had to drink tonight?’

‘A coupla beers officer, honest.’

‘A couple! Why you..! Here, drink this, five shots of tequila and then be on your way.’

The worst thing for me about the whole ‘affair’ was not the crap that pair got up to and her ‘I don’t usually lie’ routine – clearly learned from her fella –  but the tweet LA sent out earlier in the day when he was at the gym.

It was this:

Does anyone have an Insincerity Counter? That is off the charts. The guy makes even a compliment smell like you’re driving past the sewage treatment plant.

Poor Madelaine!

She survived allegations of helping out in the murder up to half a million kids thanks to the sanctions brought against Iraq back in 1996, squeaked past the art ownership controversy that involved her family back in Austria in the 2nd World War, and even emerged into daylight after allegations of hate speech against Serbians and after evidence popped up that he company was involved in some slightly insideresque dealings in Kosovo around the same time – only to end up being tweeted about by LA and her ‘crushing’ of the elliptical trainer!

(I didn’t make that stuff up, Wikipedia told me).

Just when you thought you were out of the woods…

Probably the first time a politician has been sullied by association with an athlete. Usually the other way round, right?

Yeah, thanks Lance!

What next? Mouth ulcers from kissing toxic babies?

 

 

Lee’s Lowdown #4: Transcendence Through Sufferation

This article originally appeared on PEZ

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I’ve been sat here mulling over potential topics for this week’s Lowdown with my bike in the back yard looking at me like a jilted lover. She’s practically bleating at me like an orphaned lamb. Those hang dog eyes. She must have been a Labrador in a previous life.

“Sorry Eleanor, but I gotta get this thing in for PEZ. Forgive me baby!”

She’s having none of it. Says she’s gonna kick my ass later.

And she will. She’s awesome like that.

You’re reading this, I guess, most of you, at work or in the traffic jam on your way to work. Or sat in a toilet cubicle, trying to avoid work. If you’re not there you’re maybe at home, or sat waiting for the kids to get off the freaking swings at the playground. Or waiting for the judge to return from lunch. Wherever you are, whatever you should be doing, you’re definitely nor riding.

Hurts, don’t it? Most of us would rather be out there getting our butts kicked by our very own selves than doing much else. This is who we are. For a million and one reasons we need this. We need the comfort brought about by being uncomfortable. The solace of pain. The warmth that comes immediately once the suffering stops.

Whenever I interview professional cyclists, I always ask them the same question at the end. I rarely put the answer in the published interview, because I ask them out of my own curiosity, to see what they’ll say.

“Why do you ride?”

Simple enough right? I’ve had some decent answers, I’ve had some dull ones, but the best I ever received was from Andy Schleck (I know!).

Me: “Andy, last question: Why do you ride?”

AS: “Well, my uncle rode, my father rode too, and then my brother started, so I… [here he paused for a good ten seconds before starting again]. You know… I ride because if I don’t get out there and hurt myself for two or three days, I miss it.”

Booyakasha, baby. There it was, he nailed it – as least for me.

Not everyone will have that slightly unhinged motivation for getting out there and thrashing up the hills and through the valleys, with rednecks aiming their three-ton killing machines towards your back wheel, but for many of us it is a hugely compelling force, that need to hurt.

I used to ask myself, quite seriously, why I need this. I quickly realised that there was something deep inside my psyche that responded to the suffering, that actually embraced it, that found release through it. I never wanted to go sit on a mountain in the Lotus position to find peace. Too boring. Too pointless.

No, give me a bike. Let me sweat, let me swear, let me hate all of them for thinking they can beat me and let me ride myself into the road and then let me get off that bike beaten, cleansed and – whisper it – content.

The bike offers you the opportunity to become noble, no matter how fleetingly. This, after all, is how it all began, bike racing at least. The first races were gatherings of farm hands and coal miners from northern France and Belgium, young men who dreamed of escape much like too many African Americans and other disenfranchised folk do still today, seeking a way out of an impoverished life through sport.

Those guys became kings on those roads. Released. The new nobility.

This is essentially the bicycle as a means of expression, of making the universe sit up and hear the noise coming from that little tiny dot that is you.

The road the canvas, the wheels the brush, the will the ink.

Write that story. Write your story.

Is it still a madness, though, the need to hurt?

Heck yeah. Here’s the definition of insanity by Merriam-Webster’s dictionary as:

1: a deranged state of the mind usually occurring as a specific disorder (as schizophrenia) ­

2: such unsoundness of mind or lack of understanding as prevents one from having the mental capacity required by law to enter into a particular relationship, status, or transaction or as removes one from criminal or civil responsibility

3a : extreme folly or unreasonableness

3b : something utterly foolish or unreasonable

Unfortunately we are all too aware of the tragic stories of some riders that have experienced #1. It happens all over in our society for sure, but in sport, and cycling I would say in particular, the environment is so skewed as to accelerate this kind of illness.

For #2, I have just two words: ‘Lance’ and ‘Armstrong’. Say no more.

For 3.a and 3.b, well, we do this every day. Most ‘normal people’ would not head out to do ten hill repeats, or a 5 hour ride on a perfectly good and otherwise pleasant Sunday.

Of course it’s not just the madness that drives us, it’s what comes with it – the transcendence. Now bear with me here, I’m going to quote Ian Curtis of Joy Division to get where I want to go with this:

But if you could just see the beauty,
These things I could never describe,
These pleasures a wayward distraction,
This is my one lucky prize.               
Isolation, Joy Division

Bike, bike will tear us apart,  again...

Bike, bike will tear us apart, again…

That’s the bike. When people ask me ‘So why do you do it?’ with that scoffing tone – you know the kind, it forces an involuntary clenching of the fist, that kind.

Ian knew the score. There’s the answer. If you aren’t out with me on that five hour ride up those nasty hills, if you’re never going to be perched on three inches of leather for a long 80km/hr descent, if you’re never gonna find anything – be it cycling, running, fire juggling, whatever – that demands sacrifice and an unflinching embrace of your inner nuttiness, you’re not going to get it.

I’ll leave you with this from Oliver Sacks. He probably wasn’t talking specifically about the bike, but then again, maybe he was…

“To live on a day-to-day basis is insufficient for human beings; we need to transcend, transport, escape; we need meaning, understanding, and explanation; we need to see over-all patterns in our lives. We need hope, the sense of a future. And we need freedom (or, at least, the illusion of freedom) to get beyond ourselves, whether with telescopes and microscopes and our ever-burgeoning technology, or in states of mind that allow us to travel to other worlds, to rise above our immediate surroundings.

“We may seek, too, a relaxing of inhibitions that makes it easier to bond with each other, or transports that make our consciousness of time and mortality easier to bear. We seek a holiday from our inner and outer restrictions, a more intense sense of the here and now, the beauty and value of the world we live in.”

Right, I’m gonna go ride, and so should you…

Talansky & Leipheimer: a bromance for the ages

Ever fallen in love with someone?
Ever fallen in love?
In love with someone
Ever fallen in love? (Love…)
In love with someone
You shouldn’t’ve fallen in love with  
The Buzzcocks

Andrew Talansky knows that feeling. When all around you judge you for nothing less wrong than lovin’. How deep it cuts. The scars it can leave. Ah to be young and in love and misunderstood.

But the young American isn’t being shy about it, not at all. In fact, he’s telling all and sundry about it on Twitter, and, as you know, if it’s on there it must be real.

It’s great to see these two have healed the rift caused by Talansky’s comments back in January 2014, when he witheringly said:

I feel genuine hatred towards Leipheimer. He’s a worthless lying scumbag making false statements that hurt the sport I love.

To have gotten over being called a ‘worthless lying scumbag’ shows Levi to be a bigger man than I though he… oh wait, sorry, got that wrong!

Talansky was in fact talking about Di Luca there, not Leipheimer. You can see how I got those two mixed up though, what with both of them having lied for several years and for making false statements for, well, just about every day they woke up as professional cyclists, knowing full well they were juiced and were going to do it again. And again, and again, etc and so on.

Indeed Talansky could have been talking about any number of old pros who later ‘admitted’ there were essentially high-speed pharmaceutical cabinets on wheels in their day.

It’s hard to keep track though these days, with these modern pros who say they aren’t doping and can we all please stop going on about it and who then launch attacks on one doping ex-pro but not another because they don’t like what the guy said to a journalist. I’m never sure just who is the bad guy, but as a general rule of thumb it seems that if they speak English and if you admired them when you were younger, then they’re the ‘OK Dopers.’

Johnny Foreigner Doper I don’t Know = Bad.

English Speaking Doper I know = Good.

Not quite E=mc2 but it’ll do.

Still not convinced? See Cavendish & Ricco vs. Cavendish & Armstrong.

Or Talansky & Levi vs. Talansky & Di Luca.

Or any of the hundreds and thousands of ill-informed and frankly prejudiced (notice how I avoided saying ‘f**king dumb’ there? Phew!) forum posts on this matter.

Maybe it’s also that these guys are a lot like the old guys. Jonathan Vaughters, Talansky’s boss, said as much back in 2012.

“It’s not cool to say so, but Andrew has a lot of the same personality traits as Lance,” said JV.

Yikes.

Talansky himself isn’t quite sure what he’d have done ‘back in the day’ either.

“I can’t say I would have said no or yes [to doping back in Levi’s era],” said the Garmin rider at a press conference after he’d won a stage at Paris-Nice in 2013.

Great backbone there Andrew.

Sarcasm aside, it is disheartening to see that at least one (there are actually many) of the leading lights of the new generation does not grasp that, in spite of the pressures riders may face it is ultimately up to them to cheat or not. Others held out and at great personal cost, too. And remember, these guys didn’t decide to cheat just once – they decided to do it every single day for years.

Kind of like if you come from an Italian neighborhood which was once full of body-chopping-up Mafioso but now things are better and you have a management position in a reputable company but you still idolise the old boys and figure “Hey, they had to do what they had to do.”

Anyone from outside your particular environment would see that kind of thinking as nonsensical because it’s never ok to terrorise neighbourhoods and to butcher people in country ditches with a cutthroat razor, but to you, it makes perfect sense, in large part because you are still idolizing the old guys. You are romanticizing and yes, like Talanaksy with Leipheimer, you are blinded by some sick form of love and a misdirected sense or loyalty to a guy who cheated himself rich.

And who, actually, is still at it.

Back in 2013 at the Paris-Nice press conference, Talansky said “You look at what I’m doing … and if you want proof that cycling is clean now, look no further.”

Alright, let’s look at what Andrew is doing then.

He attacked Di Luca so feverishly because Di Luca said that to get in the top ten at the Giro you had to dope.

He attacked a former American pro rider back in 2012, Andy Jacques-Maynes, who had tweeted that “My perception is that EVERYONE [sic] racing in Europe has been doped at some point.”

Talansky wasn’t happy about that either.

“I would like to call out Andy Jacques-Maynes,” he said at the time. “He went on Twitter and said that everyone who races in Europe has done drugs at some point.”

Ok, I know what you’re thinking, these two were clearly guilty of exaggerating, and they probably were. But by how much?

A recent study by Sporting Intelligence finds that at least 65% of top ten riders at the Tour from 1998 to 2013 were either busted for doping or caught up in doping investigations and stings.

“81 different riders took a TdF top 10 from 1998-2013… 53 of those – 65 percent – were almost definitely doping,” states the article.

Screen Shot 2015-01-30 at 21.17.34

Have a look at this graphic from The New York Times also, gives a nice kapow kind of feel to the whole thing. You could play snakes and ladders on that grid quite easily…

Screen Shot 2015-01-30 at 21.11.57

So, that is 65% that we know of. Ask a few former clean pros if 65% is an accurate enough number for that time and they will, to a one, tell you that it is not – it should be far higher. Ask them what they think about these current riders and they will talk about micro-dosing, the benefits to dopers of the passport system, the prevalence of former dopers in management positions, riders still going to dodgy doctors (see the Padua Investigation and riders visiting Ferrari) and the sheer number of ‘new generation’ riders still getting busted, and possibly ask you to look at the widespread increase in doping amongst amateurs who are so lacking in natural talent that they should really have jacked in the bike and taken up badminton, and it’ll leave you wondering what the f**k to believe.

But be thankful for Talansky, showing us the way. Thank the lycra-clad gods that here we have a dude who is consistent in his censuring of former DopeKings. Thanks Eddy that we have a guy here who understands that to have his photo taken with Levi and to attend his Gran Fraudo would be really kinda messed up and send out at best a confusing message, at worse, to make it look like he was saying ‘well doping back in the day was ok cos they were all so sensitive & frail.’

So yeah. Andrew Talansky, we salute you.

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