Tagged: valverde

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.

Screen Shot 2015-03-11 at 21.17.48

Italian cycling is the dirtiest and most corrupt, right? Think again…

*use Google translate please on the Italian websites featured)

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The Italians. Reel off the names of the heroes of Italian cycling and it reads like a Who’s Who of serious heavyweight dopers.

Mario Cipollini, Ivan Basso, Danilo di Luca, Francesco Moser, Riccardo Ricco, Emanuele Sella, Michele Scarponi, and of course the great imbiber, Marco Pantani. Let us not forget also Graziano Gasparre, busted for transporting a veritable drugstore about under his skin.

Gasparre was busted for amphetamine, EPO, HGH, testosterone and cocaine.

If you’re gonna do it proper, Graziano, do it proper!

anyone got a straw?

Gasparre: anyone got a straw?

Il Campionissimo, the great Fausto Coppi, is the greatest rider in a fine tradition of snorters, poppers and needle heads from the Old Boot, and he wasn’t shy about admitting it.

In a TV interview back in the day, he admitted taking ‘la bomba’ [amphetamine] pretty darn regularly.

Question: Do cyclists take la bomba?

Coppi: Yes, and those who claim otherwise, it’s not worth talking to them about cycling.

Question: And you, did you take la bomba?

Coppi: Yes. Whenever it was necessary.

Question: And when was it necessary?

Coppi: Almost all the time.

amphetamine: the chemical diagram of choice for riders in the 50s... and 40s... and 30s... and 60s...

amphetamine: the chemical diagram of choice for riders in the 50s… and the 40s… and the 30s… and the 60s… how they got this down their throats i’ll never know…

There’s no doubt that then that there are some pretty high profile dopers in Italian cycling, and you will often hear people – particularly the English and the Americans – cite the Italians (along with the Spanish) as being the ‘worst for doping’.

But is that actually true? In the past few years surely the highest concentration of dopers have come from the English-speaking nations, in particular from the USA.

‘Ah but ya see, like Lance said, they were just doing it to catch up!’

Yeah and that completely justifies driving what has been called ‘the greatest fraud in sporting history’ – and that is even if you believe that guff.

Back to Italy and their innate need to cheat – cos that’s what we feel it is, let’s be honest here – take a look at this report in VeloNews from back in 2011:

Doping controls on Italian juniors’

Is it a sign that things have gone too far? Or simply an effort to nip the doping scourge in the bud? Officials from Italy’s anti-doping brigade at CONI carried out controls on junior cyclists racing in an event Sunday in northern Italy. The Giornale di Vicenza reported that officials took urine samples from junior riders 13 to 14 years old. CONI confirmed it tests up to 40 juniors throughout the racing season. Italian cycling federation president Renato di Rocco defended the practice, telling the newspaper:

We have to come to accept the fact that we have to start with prevention at the age of 13. The parents and society can have a guarantee that sport will be cleaner, that everyone is racing at the same level, something that’s been questioned for a long time now.

“But something must be said, with all honesty, that there are parents who put high concentrations of caffeine in the water bottles of their own children. It’s time we make a reflection and do all we can to prevent the next generation from entering the road to doping. It’s called prevention.”

I read this and I thought ‘Whoah, those Italians are doping their kids!

I’m sure you will agree, that is hardcore. My initial reaction though ignored the other vey important factor here, and that is that the President – no less – of the Italian Cycling Federation – no less! – was coming forward and saying that yes there was a problem, that yes, the ICF intended to do something about it, and that hell yes, parents of young kids who were coming into the sport deserve to “have a guarantee that sport will be cleaner, that everyone is racing at the same level.”

Is this happening in America, where some very questionable characters still dominate USA Cycling?

No.

(If need be, google Steve Johnson or Thom Wiesel or, alternatively, just read this from me. For some real fun though, go read about American juniors being doped way back when by Chris Carmichael – damn, what a GREAT coach he is, deserves every penny of that wonga he sits on…).

Is this kind of an early, grassroots prevention plan that they have in Italy being presently undertaken by the UCI?

Not that I know of, and certainly wasn’t under Pat MacQuaid.

Even if the kids aren’t doping, and let’s hope they aren’t, this is exactly the kind of thing that this sport needs. I know it is terrible and awful to say that we need to test juniors and oh my goodness please let them be kids for just a little while longer but if this is all part of a system that educates them against doping later and means that parents have peace of mind that there kids aren’t going to be thrown to the wolves once they move up the ranks then yes, do it.

Italy isn’t shy at taking the lead on anti-doping in other respects either. You may remember that the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) went after Alejandro Valverde for doping when everyone else was happy to look the other way, it seemed.

As the article on Podium Café stated at the time:

‘According to CONI, Valverde has violated section 2.2 of the WADA code, “use or attempted use of a prohibited substance or method.” Note that a ride need not actually use blood doping to violate the WADA code, but only “attempt” to use. The Basso case provide the precedent in this context. If CONI can prove its case, the violation carries a two year suspension.

‘In Italy, the Valverde case has never sat well. While Italian star Ivan Basso sat out for two years after conviction in the Puerto case, Valverde continued to win races. Few in Italy believed that Valverde was innocent in the Puerto case. The Spanish authorities have all along proved slow to act on the Puerto evidence. So, too, has the UCI.’

The UCI? Slow to act on a doping case involving a major star? Never!

Did the Spanish federation assist CONI in its case in any way? Or at the very least, let them get in with the case unobstructed?

No. They rushed to Valverde’s defence, as they did when Alberto Contador tested positive for Clenbuterol.

Valverde got a two year ban as a result of this, thank CONI, though he still protests his innocence, as any smart doper will, because fans prefer to be lied to and know it is a lie than to be told the truth as it will mean they’ve been taken for chumps.

Funny old world eh?

Still not sure about the claim that Italy is really not as bad as you thought?

Let’s move on then to Italian gran fondos and some information provided by Uli Fluhme, director of the Gran Fondo New York (GFNY) series.

“Italy,” Uli says, “is at the forefront of doping control in amateur cycling.”

How so? Well, let’s let Uli explain.

“A Gran Fondo in Italy means racing at the highest amateur level. Anyone who doesn’t make the jump from “dilettante” (elite amateur) to pro at 23/24 years old, races granfondo. Any other kind of masters racing is almost non-existent.

“Because cycling is extremely popular in Italy, it is also highly competitive. I’ve raced as an amateur in many countries around the world. Nothing comes close to the level of racing in Italy. While the first granfondo happened in the 70s, the real revolution came in the mid 90s with the introduction of chip timing.

Uli Fluhme

Uli Fluhme

“It allowed cyclists to compete in various categories throughout one big peloton. With that kind of competitiveness you get teams, team cars, sponsors, ex-pros – and of course doping. By the late 90s the level of racing at the front was so high that doping was the only explanation. More and more the regular rider and racer got fed up with granfondo superstars that raced like professionals – and doped for it.

“At first the bigger events liked the racing and the magazines talked about the races. But soon doping controls became the norm. More and more riders got popped. Thanks to a very strict antidoping law, the Italian police started crack-downs on doping rings that sometimes involved a pro here and there but most often dozens of amateurs.”

Hence those reports that come out of Italy and seem to make no sense to the rest of us about doping operations getting busted that come with a long list of amateur riders’ names. It’s not as simple as saying ‘well in Italy even the amateurs dope.’

It’s closer to the truth to say that these guys are doping because the prestige that comes with wining these races – and many are screened live on TV – is massive. You can see a similar trend in the USA in Masters racing. It is not the cash prize that so attracts these guys, but the lure of celebrity.

“In 2011,” continues Uli, “under the tutelage of the late Andrea Pinarello (he died of a heart attack at a race, only 40 years old), the Five Stars League was formed. It contained of the 5 most important granfondos in Italy.

“It had the following rules:

 1. Ex-pros are not allowed to race granfondo for a certain number of years

2. Pros can ride but not race granfondos.

3. The Top 100 riders of the previous year are subject to blood testing before each 5 Star League event

 [the TOP 100! – cp.]

“As a result, the speeds at the races dropped and many of the Top 100 riders disappeared from the 5 big events. Of course it didn’t stop all dopers but it was a good start. While the league does not exist anymore (trying to get the 5 biggest events at one table was probably too difficult), its spirit lives on in each of the event. Ex-pros are still not allowed to race for a number of years and doping controls continue to be done by the federation at numerous granfondo events.”

The number of names, the vast majority amateur, here on this list (in fact on the first page alone!) is impressive.

“The conclusion,” says Uli, “is not that Italians are all cheaters. The conclusion is that there is testing happening at races and events (Triathlon, Half Marathon, Gran Fondo) where other countries look away.

“Look at the Granfondo Roma, where organizer and attorney Gianluca Santilli also works for the Italian Cycling Federation (Federciclismo) and is part of the amateur cycling committee in the UCI. He’s at the forefront of the antidoping movement in Italian cycling. One of his race rules is that a rider testing positive at his event has to reimburse the cost of the test. Furthermore, if he/she is part of a team, the team can be held liable as well. It’s a rule we also implemented at GFNY.”

the Gran Fondo Roma - quite popular, then

the Gran Fondo Roma – quite popular, then

And finally, another notable first that I know of in cycling, the Italian national team management decided back in 2009 to no longer select former dopers for the national team, a decision that saw them clash with the Court of Arbitration in Sport.

The British team adhered to this rule until the British Olympic Association rescinded its ban on the selection of former dopers, meaning that David Millar could compete at London 2012.

If an athlete cheated in any other way though – for example a marathon runner getting in a taxi at KM12 and getting out ahead of the field again at KM39 – would they be allowed back?

What exactly is the difference there?

Anyway, I’m wandering. Back to the Italians.

One forum commentator said back in 2009 when the Italians selected their World’s team and left out Basso that “It is ironic because Italy does have some of the toughest laws but most corrupt administrators.”

‘Most corrupt’ – not sure how to measure that, but yes, there has been corruption in Italian soccer, cycling and athletics (such as in this case , but do remember Carl Lewis et al before you start spitting feathers), but with all the evidence, noted above, to indicate a real attempt by the Italians to clean up their most beloved sport, can we deny that they are leading the fight against doping in cycling in several major areas any longer?

I think not.

a View on the Vuelta

this article originally appeared on The Roar

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It’s a common sight in pro cycling these days – seeing a team attempting to boss a stage by sending their men to the front of the peloton from a long way out.

They do so with the hope of winning with their protected rider, only to see them fail. There are, most often, just too many variables to be controlled.

However, Orica-GreenEDGE pulled it off in style yesterday at the Vuelta a Espana.

Fascinating too to see a rider coming into his own, as Michael Matthews did by taking the win off the plucky Dan Martin. Matthews was confident enough to let Martin try to come back at him and it’s a confidence well deserved as he is turning out to be a very versatile – and very good – rider.

It might sound a little condescending to herald the ‘arrival’ of a rider with an already impressive palmares, one that shows evidence of early promise and of course a total, before yesterday, of three stage wins in Grand Tours (two at the Vuelta in 2013 and one this year in the Giro), but it’s the respect with which he is now viewed by the peloton that marks the difference.

Many names were bandied about before yesterday’s stage but when Matthews gave a pre-stage interview in which he downplayed his chances of taking the leader’s jersey but spoke with no little belief in his ability to take the win in Arcos de la Frontera, there was a real air of self-belief about him.

In the end though he managed both the win and to take the race lead.

Screen Shot 2014-08-26 at 10.26.16

The Vuelta peloton is one with some great riders that were, on paper, perfectly suited to the finish yesterday but Matthews looked unbeatable, coming from a boxed-in position with 500 metres to go to storm the line. He might not yet have the mountain legs needed to podium in a race this long but he is without question the top world-class Australian in the World Tour.

You have to feel a little sorry for the Irishman though. His Giro got off to the worst possible start – and end – with a broken collarbone in the first stage TTT sending him out of the race. Yesterday would have been a perfect comeback but it wasn’t to be.

In truth though, I doubt that even a race-fit Martin would have beaten the Orica-GreenEDGE man, as he looked to have power to spare.

The rider Mathews took Red off, Alejandro Valverde, was criticised after Stage 2 by some commentators for having his team chase hard to close down the lead of the breakaway rider Valerio Conti of Lampre-Merida.

It seemed odd to put a team to work so early in a 21-stage race, – some said naive – but this may well be Valverde’s last hurrah and perhaps he was a little too eager to ensure his day in Red.

There’s little doubt that teammate Nairo Quintana is the rising force in the team and the Colombian’s disappointment at missing the Tour because Valverde wanted the team to concentrate its resources on his vain attempt to win the race was understandable – though a win at the Giro must have salved those wounds.

Could there be some tension on the team bus? If there is, the Colombian is sure to make his point in the high hills.

One positive to come out of the Vuelta already was the withdrawal, voluntary, of Chris Horner by his team. The Lampre rider returned low cortisol levels as a result of taking oral cortisone (allowed) at the Tour de France. His cortisol level would not be enough for the UCI to suspend him but as Lampre are members of the Movement for Credible Cycling (MPCC), which does consider the level shown by the American to be unacceptable, he was pulled.

This is a real step in the right direction and Lampre should be applauded for this step, even if, in my opinion, they should not have signed Horner in the first place.

It also highlights the folly of trying to ride in a UCI sanctioned when sick and unable to continue without banned medication, even despite the fact that the authorities allowed the medication in question.

Horner took the cortisone to see off a lingering bronchial infection but that choice has come back to hit him hard. As defending champion he must be gutted to be sat at home watching the race on TV, but he made a choice. It might seem harsh, the decision, but your chickens are going to come home to roost sometime.

Fascinating Vuelta this one, with Froome and Contador peaking after their mid season problems, and Quintana presumably rested too.

Let battle commence.

Quintana not at the Tour? aw come on!

by crankpunk. this article originally appeared on The Roar

“I would have liked to raced the Tour again this year, but the team wants me to go to the Giro. The one who pays has the final say.”

Thus spoke Nairo Quintana just a couple of days ago after it was revealed the 24-year-old Colombian would not be racing the Tour de France.

Why?

Because Alejandro Valverde has been chosen to lead them in July.

Why?

Well, because, as the Movistar team from which the pair hail had no leader for the Giro, for perfectly (I stress perfectly) obvious reasons, the team management has decided to send the guy who came second in last year’s Tour to Italy in May.

All clear? No? Not to me either.

Nairo's elder brother, Jesus. big balls run in the family

Nairo’s elder brother, Jesus. big pink balls run in the family

“Personally,” opined Movistar general manager Eusebio Unzue, “I don’t think taking Nairo to the Tour with his age, plus the pressure of improving last year’s result, is interesting for his future.

“I prefer to keep him growing into the formation period he’s still in and let him know the Giro, because we think it’s an extremely interesting race for him to progress on so many aspects, and where he will enjoy full leadership in a Grand Tour for the first time.”

But after Alejandro busted a tire on Stage 13 in last year’s race and lost a whopping ten minutes-plus on the stage and on the GC, it was the Tour debutant Nairo Quintana upon whom the Movistar leadership duties fell. And the youngster did not buckle.

In fact, he grabbed that bag of responsibility with a steely grip and set about putting in the only real challenge that the eventual winner Chris Froome faced all Tour.

the Giro? polka the other one...

the Giro? polka the other one…

Let me remind you what happened once Alejandro’s assault on the podium went flat and Nairo took to the hills.

On Stage 15 to Ventoux Quintana attacked Froome and dropped the pack, taking the Briton with him, though he was eventually dropped before the line as Froome won.

That took the Colombian to sixth on the GC. Not bad, not bad at all. A debutant of lesser caliber would have been thrilled at that and might look to cement his place, maybe go for a top five.

Not Quintana though.

Stage 18 took the peloton over l’Alpe d’Huez twice and took Quntana from sixth on the GC to third, after he finished fourth on the stage. And then on Stage 20, sensing he was flying and getting better and better in the hills, he attacked and beat Joaquim Rodriguez and Froome for the stage win – his first ever in the Tour, on his debut (this is worth repeating) and into second on the overall, where he ended up in Paris.

Oh yeah, and he won the King of the Mountains competition, and the Best Young Rider competition. It was the best debut since Jan Ulrich in 1996.

He finished 4.20 down on Froome. Valverde finished over 15 minutes behind.

Now, let’s grant Alejandro 10 minutes for that flat tire, and Quintana still emerges as a more natural Tour rider. And let us not forget to take another minute or three off of Valverde in lieu if his wealth of Tour experience.

Conclusion? Quintana is not only the most dangerous threat to Froome’s dominance from within the Movistar team, he is the most dangerous threat within the entire peloton.

Unzue says Quntana has a better chance to win the Giro than to beat Froome, but the Colombian himself said something that makes me, for one, think it is the elder, Spanish rider who has the ear of the team hierarchy and bears more than a sliver of responsibility in the decision.

“It’s a decision that also takes into consideration the interests of the sponsors and Valverde,” said Quintana.

Jealousy on Valverde’s part? At 33 he knows, as a rider who is not 100% suited to Grand Tours (he’s never ridden the Giro, by the way), he has little realistic chance of any higher than fifth place – and that is if everything goes swimmingly.

Quintana, on the other hand – one badly timed mechanical or an off-day for Froome – could win it.

It is a travesty that Quintana is out. He supplied us with the most exciting Tour debut in years and it harked back to the days of young, hungry riders coming along and upsetting the status quo with their verve and raw ability.

Certainly, most young riders do need protecting, but when a guy like Quintana comes along, give him his fill. Let the boy ride!

The 2014 Tour de France will be a less thrilling spectacle without him.

Lombardia, Purito, PEZ and me

yes, the good folk at PEZ Cycling News have once again been good enough to grant me some blank space to ramble.

here ya go!

though he spoke through gritted teeth, the man on the left copuld clearly be herds to say '**** ******* ***, *** ******** ***** ******' *******.'

though he spoke through gritted teeth, the man on the left could clearly be heard to say ‘**** ******* ***, *** ******** ***** ******’ *******.’