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Letters to Cyclingnews - August 3, 2007
Here's your chance to get more involved with Cyclingnews. Comments and criticism on current stories, races, coverage and anything cycling related are welcomed, even pictures if you wish. Letters should be brief (less than 300 words), with the sender clearly identified. They may be edited for space and clarity; please stick to one topic per letter. We will normally include your name and place of residence, but not your email address unless you specify in the message.
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Part 1: What about
team suspensions?, WADA vigilantes, Vino response, Vino excluded, but why the
whole team?, Unanswered questions, Tour de France doping "scandals", State of
cycling, Spanish ethics and the A.C. joke, Sinkewitz positive, Secondary testing?,
Editorials calling for ending Tour, Rasmussen's location, Quality control and
anti doping, Positively False, McQuaid: not the Godfather of cycling, Less mountain
What about team suspensions?
I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiments expressed in Ralph Hildebrand’s letter of July 16 and the teams need to bare responsibility for the actions of their riders.
The reason I say this is two fold.
Firstly in the Astana case, somebody either team personnel or independent of the team had access to Vinokourov the night before the time trial. A blood transfusion is not a quick procedure and at the very least somebody would need to enter his hotel room with a cool box containing blood bags, a drip & transfusion apparatus. If the transfusion was not administered by team staff then somebody must have seen an individual enter Vino’s room, and lock the door for at least an hour while the transfusion took place. The photos on cycling news show Vino’s bodyguard and a large number of team personnel so if they are denying all knowledge they are therefore complicit in allowing their rider to dope while they looked the other way.
Secondly in the case of Rasmussen I find it impossible to believe that in this day and age with mobile telephones, email etc, the Rabobank team management had no knowledge of their star riders whereabouts in the 3 months running up to the Tour. Furthermore, to start him in a race knowing full well he had missed two out of competition tests and that he was in therefore in breach of a UCI rule to start the tour within 45 day of missing two tests condones his actions.
They knew he had disappeared to “gear up” for the tour and were willing to ride the storm until the heat got too much. Theo de Rooy’s defiant comments before his rider was sacked only seek to confirm this.
Both these teams should be refused entry to UCI sanctioned events whilst they provide documentary evidence including emails, text messages and team communications supporting the fact that they “knew nothing”.
In the long term the only way that doping will be stamped out in cycling is if the European Parliament invokes legislation which makes it a criminal offence to use performance enhancing substances with the punishment being a prison sentence & lifetime ban from competing in any sport. In cases where the team is complicit (such as above) team management should also be liable to prosecution.
Has anyone considered that there may be another explanation for some doping by cyclists that appears so inexplicably stupid, especially the cases of Tyler Hamilton, Floyd Landis, and Alexander Vinokourov. That is that the WADA labs have decided in the words of the director of the Montreal lab, Dr. Christiane Ayotte, during the Landis arbitration, that the labs need to be “creative” because of rich athletes and their lawyers, and have decided to be very creative and deal with those athletes that they “know” to be cheating, but have been unable to prove.
In the case of Hamilton, if the documentation submitted at his CAS appeal is to be believed, there was some evidence to believe he had had at least one autologous (his own blood) transfusion, however a positive test for this does not yet exist. After his spectacular winning of the Olympic CLM, the WADA lab in Athens initially determined his blood sample to be negative, then for some reason, checked again and determined it to be positive. By this time the “B” sample had been frozen and could not be used for counter analysis.
This problem was solved by the WADA lab in Lausanne determining from blood taken during the Vuelta, that he had received a homologous (another person’s blood of the same type). If indeed he was a client of Dr. Fuentes, I find it impossible to believe that he would have done this.
Floyd Landis got himself back into a position to win the TDF with his magnificent ride on stage 17 last year. He succeeded in taking so much time back because the parcours went from one climb directly into another until the 20km run up the valley to the final climb, and the other favourites team did not decide to chase until it was too late. It was tremendous achievement, and well within his documented capability. The rest of the story is well known by now; although in this case it was not necessary to actually do anything other than be “creative” in their testing methods. This was well documented during the Landis arbitration
Vino was injured and suffered very badly in the first Alpine stages and then came back to ride a tremendous CLM and almost put himself back into contention. Then voila! The “highly respected” LADD determined that he had received a homologous transfusion. Can any rational person believe that an athlete of his knowledge and experience would not have known that this was easily detectable? Can any rational person believe that he did this? There must be a “creative” explanation.
Once again, I find myself amazed at quotes such as "I wish everyone would shut up about due process, proper procedures and riders rights." These quotes clearly come from those who have either never experienced judicial or procedural misconduct or have absolutely no ability to empathize with anything other than their own desires. Although it is true that this is not a criminal process, it is nevertheless a legal process whose results will dictate the outcome of millions of dollars.
In contrast, would anyone going through a divorce allow their spouse to make a closed door deal of which they were not a party that claimed all their assets without asking for either due process or legal representation?
Why would we expect a different standard for professional cyclists? Quite frankly, why would we ask professional cyclists to submit to a system that is not supported by the jurisprudence of any Western Nation?
If we are going on our personal feelings alone to make decisions about doping, then we've missed the point. If Floyd Landis is innocent of doping and his positive was faked or botched, then who is it who has really done damage to cycling? Why should Floyd, or anyone else in this situation, be held accountable for the resulting damage?
Due process is not just a luxury for people accused of crimes. It is an enshrined constitutional right that is supposed to mitigate the temperament of emotions by taking "due time" to gather the facts and conduct investigations that lead to the truth. Punishing a doper who hasn't doped won't fix a doping problem. Ignoring due process will only foster a situation of politics where accusation and innuendo matter more than facts and the truth. How could this possibly be good for cycling or anything else for that matter?
If either Vino or Moreni's B Sample comes back negative, who should be held accountable? Quite clearly, someone should be.
Eric E Greek
It is a harsh punishment for the other Astana riders, but that could be looked at from a number of different ways.
Firstly, you could take the view that where there's smoke there's fire and by the actions of one all are under suspicion. This possibly better describes the apparent systematic doping of certain teams in the 80s and 90s.
Secondly, you could take the view that the team and its management are ultimately responsible for the actions of its riders and Thursdays the team should be punished as well. The threat of this type of punishment will put pressure on teams to better manage their riders through strong anti-doping programs.
Thirdly, this will encourage fellow team riders to put pressure on non-compliant individuals within the team to conform to anti-doping policies.
Ultimately, punishments need to be severe enough that the penalties associated with doping far outweigh the potential reward to individuals and teams from doping influenced performances.
I think the penalties in the Cofidis and Astana messages send a very clear message to the teams and other riders -- it is only in your interest to oppose doping.
The Rabobank situation was different -- under current regulations Rasmussen had not committed an offence, though many believe that four missed test should be an offence no matter the jurisdiction of the testers. Hence, there was no justification to kick the team out. But the pressure that penalties of the sort levied out to Cofidis and Astana created perhaps put enough pressure on Rabobank that they took their own action. This is the sort of responsible action that's necessary if cycling is to be made clean -- and it should be made clean.
This question has come up a lot during the past few days, but to me the answer is obvious. One, it introduces a strong element of peer pressure and helps to counteract the ‘omerta’ effect.
If you suspect one of your team colleagues you are more likely to blow the whistle if your future is going to be affected as well. Second, it brings in the team management into the equation – something that has been lacking hitherto. After all, blood doping is not something that you can do easily by yourself in a toilet; it’s a complex and elaborate medical procedure that must involve several people, including non-riders. They are more likely to think twice if the whole team could go down the tubes as a result of their activities.
So it’s a tough reaction, but a logical one I feel.
My thinking has changed a bit after this tour. I think significant progress has been made specifically because whole teams are punished. Sure, some innocent riders take some arrows, but at last the support system is under attack.
Let's get real here. When someone is going with their fingers in their nose... when two riders are interviewed immediately after the stage and one looks like he just got off the couch and the other is gulping and gasping for air between words, you want to tell me people on the team don't notice something fishy?
You can see the difference in the peloton. Riders are suffering. Heck, now they look like I do when I'm on the rivet, except they're going much faster, but we're both drooling on the top tube. It's heartening to see that tired people look like they should. Tired, whipped, glassy eyed, salted lips. That's what you're supposed to look like when you pushing beyond the limits.
Where I work, not reporting unethical behaviour is as bad as transgressing yourself. The DS and doctors must see the difference. So must others on the team. My suggestion is: if anyone tests positive in a stage race then the whole team should leaves. If anyone tests positive in a one-day race, the team is excluded from the next ProTour race. We keep hearing that cycling is a team sport, Only when the entire team is punished is it a truly team sport.
I am delighted that at last drug cheats have been dealt with so decisively, but if you get the chance to ask those in the know, I would be really pleased if you would ask the following:
1. To David Cassani - If you either saw Rasmussen training in the Dolomites when he was meant to be in Mexico and this actually emerged, why did you take so long to make this fact known?
2. To the Doping controllers - Why did it take so long to before Patrick Sinkewitz’s test were made public, when Christian Moreni's test for testosterone were made public so quickly?
3. Again to the doping controllers - Why are names being made public before a requested B test has been completed?
When all the drama started at the Tour, I had many reactions including shock, anger and sadness. But when the latest news came out that Iban Mayo had tested positive for EPO, I became suspicious--not of the riders but of the UCI. Now, McQuaid comes out and says that Mayo was a "target" of the UCI and that they use "intelligence" to target riders. Does he think he's in charge of the CIA? I find his choice of words a little suspicious, especially "target". He sounds so smug and every time he opens his mouth, I get sick to my stomach.
How convenient also that of the 3 positives, they were all for different reasons (testosterone, blood transfusion and EPO). Granted, Moreni has confessed, but I'm still suspicious of the UCI. They made the riders sign that agreement to be able to ride the Tour and now they have riders to use as examples and to say "Hey look, we can catch you no matter how you're doping". I'm not saying the riders aren't guilty, only they really know for sure. I'm just saying it makes me think maybe there's some hidden agenda here that's really not so hidden. Oh, and let's not forget the money.
I fell in love with cycling only 2 years ago and it seems I found it just in time to witness some of the worse cycling had to offer including the doping scandals and the rift between the UCI and the ASO. But, I absolutely refuse to let all of this turn me away. I refuse to let all those that want to convict before someone's had a chance to defend themselves sway my beliefs.
Why is it people automatically take the labs and/or the UCI's word as gospel? Are they infallible? Vino probably knew he wasn't going to win the Tour after his crash and he's won stages in the past, so why would he risk his entire future? Mayo probably knew he wasn't going to win either. It's just not adding up for me.
So I'm going to continue to love my sport and follow my favourite riders and not listen to rumours and innuendos and hope that things get better.
These are tough times. Cycling finds itself in a crucible. But cyclists are famous for placing themselves in the most horrid and strenuous situations only for the chance to show their mettle in conquering them.
I was rooting for Michael Rasmussen before this morning, but, alas. His own team's distrust of him makes his character a shaky one upon which to root one's hopes. Contador will win the Tour this year. He is young, as is Linus Gerdemann, the German prodigy. Others shine as well; the Chavanels, Mauricio Soler, etc.
We have to keep a reasonable perspective; cycling is the only sport out of many which has cracked down on the athletes implicated in Operation Puerto. Football and others have done nothing. The scandals should not diminish our fervour for cycling but should reinforce it. This is the only sport that has the balls to eliminate its most prominent performers.
We must look to the future. As you know, for a sport where suffering is the most important determining factor (especially in the Grand Tours), strong, honourable competitors will arise to lead it. Let's just try not to worry.
Tom Boonen has alluded to the need for lifetime suspensions for Vinokourov and other recent positive riders. This is in no way unreasonable. As I have mentioned earlier, Honour is at the core of the sport of cycling; It pervades the tactics, the training and the mentality required for success in the sport. Let us make no mistakes about it: the future fans and sponsors demand a clean sport. We demand riders for whom we can cheer, despair and hope without qualms over the man's simple lack of decency.
We demand, all of us that follow cycling, we demand an hombre muy hombre, a cyclist, an entire peloton that competes openly with true transparent dignity. Let us hope and demand not in vain.
Zachary Rockwell Ludington
Who do we believe? You want to believe your heroes but when those you believed previously turned out to be lying what do you do? For now I’ll celebrate the latest TdF victor, that is, until he is proven otherwise. That’s all I can do.
I still don’t totally understand the problem everyone is having with the “state of cycling” these days. The races will continue, the big names will still shine and the new guys will surprise us. And during these times people will continue to get caught for doping. Is that such a bad thing that even big named riders aren’t exempt? I think it’s a great thing! And I think that we are heading in the right direction, albeit a bit clumsily.
Cycling and doping controls obviously need some fine tuning, but shouldn’t that be expected? Lots of ideas are hatched last minute but at least they are being hatched instead of swept under the rug as in previous years.
I certainly don’t agree with everything but at least something is being done. So shouldn’t we applaud these folks for wanting to make changes and for those wanting to voice their opposition to doping? I’m all for it because we have to start somewhere!
As for the power struggles between the sanctioning bodies, governing bodies and the organizers, that’s a different story. They have a bigger problem they have to solve and in the process doing so, hopefully they don’t forget the guys that make pro racing what it is: the racers!
I just want to say I really enjoyed the racing in this year’s TdF. The final TT absolutely had me on the edge of my seat during the Levi, Cadel and Contador battle. All out effort, that’s what racing is about.
Document #31 of Guarda Civil’s Operation Puerto clearly shows medication plans for nine riders of Manolo Saiz’s Liberty Seguros team 2005: R.H. – Roberto Heras, M.S. – Marcos Serrano, J.B. – Joseba Beloki, etc. end A.C. – Alberto Contador.
On the right of A.C., Dr. Fuentes’ handwriting says “Nada o Igual a J.J.”. J.J. is team mate Jörg Jaksche, who confessed multi-year systematic doping a week before this year’s Tour start.
In the meantime, A.C. has been cleared. Nobody remembers neither his codename’s appearance on said document nor his phone conversation with Dr. Fuentes. We can only assume, as Jaksche recently said, that also the blood bag labelled “A.C.” has disappeared. For some strange reason, the new Spanish cycling god has been cleared and protected.
For a cycling fan of no specific team or nationality, it is very frustrating to see that Italian Fuentes-clients Basso and Scarponi (correctly!) have received their sentence and got suspended, while ALL Spanish riders have continued to ride.
It seems that Spaniards are genetically superior to riders from other nationalities, further evidenced by this year’s Tour de France final general classification: the Top 10 includes six Spaniards, while 13 out of the first 23 come from Spain.
It is difficult to find words for Spanish cycling ethics. If the UCI’s war against doping was for real, why not ask for those over 100 blood bags and extract DNA samples? Maybe Spanish teams and riders should be banned for two or three years from international races, if there is no cooperation from their authorities against cheating and doping. It might be the only language they understand.
So much about Spain’s new cycling hero A.C.
In this year’s Tour, we have all experienced shock and a roller coaster "ride" unexpectedly due to some of the events that have occurred. Recently, Sinkewitz of the T-Mobile team tested positive. As a result people are pointing fingers and criticizing both the management and sponsors of the T-Mobile team. I guess there is some confusion going around, so allow me to try and clarify a bit.
The T-Mobile team has gone from just another team in the tour, to the future "dream team" of cycling. To be on the team, all the riders must sign contracts, in doing so they agree to have their blood volume frequently tested. These tests are carried out by independent professional hired by the team’s management, to ensure that the riders are not experimenting with blood doping. They also include a clause that states that any suspicion of doping could lead to the immediate removal from the team and program.
Would someone who is just trying to take us all on a "ride" really put so much time and effort into creating a team? I think not, especially not a smart business man like Mr. Stapleton.
I believe the real issue here is that people are cynical after what happened in the Tour. If you truly want to believe in this clean dream team, and you did until this event, keep believing.
Bob Stapleton and the team’s management, whom were hand picked by Bob, are all on board this ride together, fighting for a clean sport. The public bashing and lack of support is only making a hard task, harder.
Why listen to me though right? I mean I am only a 17 year old girl, who loves to ride her bike and follows both the women’s and men’s professional cycling. So here are my reasons; today, everyone is worried about the future, where we might be, not only in sports, but in all areas of our lives.
Here is someone who is trying very hard to try and change the future of cycling. He truly believes in changing the sport, making it fair, and safe. He is honestly trying to save the sport. I happen to know this man very well, as he is my dad. I can tell you one thing for sure, he is not just another smooth talker, trying to take us on a ride, he has always been a cycling fanatic, as long as I can remember at least and he has always been the amazing business man he is today.
Everyday I am proud of my dad. He faced discrimination early on in this fight, from other teams and their management, and now from the public, some who used to see the dream that he is trying to make come true. At heart, he is genuine, and motivated. Everyone who knows him knows this is true; he is always fighting for what’s right.
So, Vino gets fired for blood doping and says he didn't. In his case (and that of Tyler Hamilton), why don't the riders submit fresh blood samples to be evaluated by laboratories outside the realm of cycling/WADA?
That is, if Vinokourov really didn't have blood from two individuals in his body, why not prove it with a new sample, tested by a different lab? At this moment, he is ardently claiming innocence. So if that's true, then he should have no problem giving some more blood to prove it. He's been so much as convicted here and now, so what is there to lose?
I'm no biologist, but red blood cells typically live 120 days. If the blood in his body is tested today, what would it show? I'd like to know; surely he can afford the Money to clear his name instantaneously.
I'm astonished by press editorials calling for stopping the Tour De France. We have had 4 incidences out of the 189 riders. So why should the tour stop because 2% of the riders are bad and a working drug screening system?
They were caught and we can completely forget about them. These papers are mad because they likely wrote large well written articles about the suffering, determination, and performance of riders like Vino and Rasmussen, only to have their stories corrupted and degraded. I understand their initial angry feelings, but those days-old papers are already lining bird cages.
Look to the new day and stories of the real riders. I still feel that this tour has a different feeling; a feeling of being clean by having some great close competition and real suffering.
There were many athletes at the 2004 Athens Olympics caught doping - some in competition and others just before the games began. But I don't recall anyone saying the Olympics should be cancelled.
Contador, Evans, and Leipheimer look to be fantastic champions to stand proud on the podium in Paris. The time trial battle for which step will be great. The Green and Polka Dot jersey competitions remain great stories.
I believe that Michael Rasmussen could easily verify his claim that he was indeed in Mexico, and not Italy, as was claimed during the period in dispute by simply providing credit/debit card payment records.
Unless Rasmussen simply takes out gigantic sums of cash to carry wherever he goes in the world (highly impractical for a cyclist), there should be ample records of purchases and withdrawals charged to his personal card.
Assuming such records show that he was, as he claims, in Mexico, Rasmussen will have grounds to sue Rabobank for untold millions for robbing him of his probable Tour victory and slandering him as a liar.
If, on the other hand, such records show he was not in Mexico after all, we will know he got what he deserved. Either way, it's time for Michael Rasmussen to back up his claim of innocence. In this case, at least, he truly can prove a negative.
Many years ago a great clinical pathologist in New York berated his colleagues saying in effect “If we treat them like that we will teach them to hide bad apples”. He was talking about the quality of or lack of it, in the Pap smear test. Significant, yes.
If you wish to stop the hiding of bad apples there needs to be a profound change in management style at the top of the cycling doping authorities. Their recent comment amounted to defaulting responsibility to the team managers. If, as reported, the Danish Cycling Federation took a firm stand by suspending its star rider, then others are beholden to support this action at the earliest opportunity. Then, if, as with Petacchi he was cleared, an apology would be similarly needed. Many riders are similarly afflicted.
Further to this the riders are correctly aware that some of the testing procedures lack precision at marginal levels, this is in the nature of biological analysis, and there is no point in making a secret or a game out of it. Although some of their henchmen were recently painfully ignorant of blood transfusion realities.
If you wish to make firm pronouncements you need a simple robust technique whose reproducibility and reliability approaches 99%. Hypothetically it is possible, with enough resource, to check the Heamatocrit, HCT, of all the riders before the start of each stage. A limit would be set at a physiologically safe level such as 50 ± 2%. If a rider is outside this limit he simply does not start regardless of the reason. Yes, very unfair to the few who are "normal" at this level.
It is the human equivalent of weighing the bikes, except most will aim to be well under and not dehydrated. This test can be performed to a precision of ± 1% by an unsophisticated technique and with no external IT connection. Only the race starter and a rider's representative need to have the key to the coded samples and be inside the lab. It would require a bank of micro ultra centrifuges, adequate safety containment, and a team of around 10 technologists, preferably volunteers on expenses only. The process needs to be totally transparent and very, very robust.
I am an aging armchair cyclist who spent his life helping the quality of medical laboratory results improve along with many others. When I started it was the style to ridicule techs who could not get the "right" result, that has changed to a supportive attitude, reinforcing the belief that no one wishes more to get the right result. The only sin is dishonesty and the sanctions are severe. As many know, the fathers of Quality Control process were the Americans Demers and Deming, who initially were without recognition in their own land, so the Japanese learned first from them.
The only tenable change process has to be sustained by the riders themselves. Their personal qualities of self discipline, courage, and fortitude make this a possibility, although difficult in such a material world. To do this, they must be fully included and empowered in the process; it has to be their tribal wish to race without physiological or drug additives. Alternatively these magnificent risk takers will continue to be tempted to run the risks involved, hoping that this time their gurus will get them under the radar, or help them hide them there apples.
Even so Cycling appears to be closer to ethical behaviour than many high value sports, so many can take pride in this.
Positively False: The Real Story Of How I Won The Tour De France.
I thought this book was well written for its intended audience. This book was not created for the enthusiastic cycling fans that are already up to date with this unique case and all its ups and downs. It is published for the many individuals who said, "Floyd who?" as well as those who read of his victory but were confused by the test results and the vehement denial by Landis. Landis himself admits that by denying ever using testosterone, he places himself in a group of those who acted in a similar fashion only to either later admit doping or be proven by evidence to having obtained doping products. Floyd wants to tell his story.
Floyd also discusses his tactics to give away the lead to Pereiro, his bonk, his recovery, his do or die attack strategy (including the 90 some water bottles), even a few power stats. In fact, Landis claims his power meter is what allowed him to win the Tour de France by helping him to apply his strength without going over his limits, including his attack to isolate the other team captains and drop them all to move up to second place.
No one has questioned his time trial results, as everyone expected Floyd to take yellow in the Tour's final time trial.
Landis also mentions the expenses alone were enough to take the fight out of him, beside the fact that no one has ever won their case against doping charges in the USA. Then there is the lab and their inadequacies and the phone call offering amnesty to Landis in exchange for testimony against 'a more famous rider'. (The name of that cyclist was not part of the conversation.)
Win or lose, Landis has been through hell. He never received the rewards of victory, which can never be returned by a court victory. He deserves to be heard.
Currently, there is far too much "half-wheeling" going on among the supposed leadership of cycling's various organizations. The ASO pointedly failed to invite UCI president Pat McQuaid to the Tour, an understandable if ungenerous response to the recent disagreements between the two organizations. Rather than suffer this slight in stoic silence, McQuaid obtained (probably through strong suggestion or persuasion) an invitation to the start of the Tour's Stage 19 time trial.
Once there, McQuaid had to announce publicly that "I don't think the Tour de France belongs to the ASO, I think the Tour de France belongs to the cycling family and I am president of the cycling family."
Could this remark possibly have been more fatuous? Not only does it exhibit the diplomatic skills of a bull walrus, but it also demonstrates the exact attitude that created the UCI's problems with race organizers in the first place. For more than one-hundred years the ASO (and its predecessors), as well as other race organizations, through their own efforts and at their own financial risk have developed the substantial good will that their races now enjoy--good will that represents the value of each race to the ones who took those risks.
The UCI--ostensibly the administrative and regulatory body for cycling--now is attempting to appropriate that value for its own purposes. It is trying to dictate how races will acquire and use good will in the future. If the UCI were a governmental agency, this effort would likely be considered corruption; that is, the use of regulatory power and influence improperly for private benefit. That the UCI claims its efforts are for the benefit of the "cycling family" doesn't make its tactics any less improper. One can understand the organizers' natural resistance to these efforts.
No one has elected Pat McQuaid "president of the cycling family." No one has suggested that he become "first citizen" of cycling. Rather, he appears more like the black-sheep brother who causes fraternal dissension instead of recognizing and assuming his appropriate family responsibilities. If the UCI simply would concentrate on its core mission--the most important of which at the moment is administration of a fair, accurate and comprehensive system of rider health monitoring--the professional cycling family would be a lot better off. The race organizers need to have a measure of confidence that the UCI is not working to siphon off the value of the races those organizers present.
If the Pro Tour is to survive in any form, the UCI must step back from its push to become the czar of all professional cycling, and all parties must sit down and discuss solutions to cycling's immediate problems in a mature, professional and relatively non-egocentric manner. The failure to do so is much more likely to destroy cycling than is a less than one-hundred percent clean peloton.
Now that another Tour is over I would like to put an idea forward.
Traditionally the Tour's decisive stages are in the mountains where the best riders come to the fore and the "lesser" riders are ruthlessly shelled out in to the auto bus.
However would it make for more exciting racing if there were a flatter course from time to time where other skills would come to the fore such as the stamina to go into long breakaways and ability to ride in cross winds - witness the stage where Moreau lost time when the field split on a "transition" stage? Are we really seeing the best riders at the top of the GC or just (a) the lightest and/or (b) those with the best organised teams to work for the star?
I'm not suggesting a flatter Tour every year - the Tour has to have its great climbs the Aubisque, Ventoux etc - but is it favouring a certain type of rider too much.
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