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Letters to Cyclingnews - March 23, 2007
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Popovych - the new Armstrong?
I was watching Stage 5 of Paris-Nice, and was taken back by how much Yaroslav Popovych rides and looks so much like LA on the bike.
Aside from the very obvious physical resemblance, there was the manner with which he captured the stage - outright aggression and strength, and absolutely impeccable timing.
When signing for Disco, the press release had Armstrong commenting that they (Disco) saw Popo as the long term future of the team; that he possessed true Grand Tour potential, and that during his time at Landbroudkrediet (I think that's how they spell it!), he'd proved himself to be more than capable of reading a race.
Then, during TdF05, he'd realised some of that potential in riding himself to the White Jersey; and followed that up with 'that' stage win last year (during, what has to be said, USPS/Disco's worst TDF to date).
I think we've witnessed something yesterday really important - Basso, struggling with form in Italy (Giro's not far away, Ivan!); Popo absolutely flying. Do we really think that IB's going to ride for Popo in his home tour, particularly after the way things happened after last year's race... no way, methinks! Johan Bruyneel's really going to have to use his management skills to keep them both going!
It's time to get the spondolies (cash!) on the Ukranian for May '07, for I reckon he's going to come good (consider also that Popo's track record for the Giro is very good).
All the best!
Remember a few years ago about this time, we were all writing our annual letters about how Lance Armstrong was getting hog fat from donuts and had lost his fire and that the year's Tour de France was gonna go to someone else. Heras wasn't it? And it was about time, we said. Lance was destroying cycling with his dominance of the Tour. It was becoming a bore. Not only that, unlike all of us, he was not always a nice guy! Oh my God! We couldn't wait until he retired.
Then all those new fans who didn't know a heart rate monitor from a big ring would leave us serious cycling fans alone so we could return to the past when all 27 of us knew each other by name. And we could look forward to watching 5 minutes of the Tour and no other races on TV.
Well things have improved now. No more seven-time winners to bore us all. Hell, we haven't even had a one-time winner since. Or maybe we have. Or haven't. We don't know yet. Cycling certainly has become so much more exciting. The alphabet soup guys are slugging it out everyday. We never had clowns as a major part of the sport as much when old boring Armstrong was around. Many of the top riders are dopers. Maybe. Or maybe not. We don't really know, but we can debate it based on second-hand stories and hearsay.
The Tour de Georgia has already been a nail-biter this year and it hasn't even been run yet. We didn't know if it would be. Just wait until the race. Who will win? Who knows - will we have to wait two years to find out after all the legal proceedings which may be needed? I hope so. It will be so suspenseful!
Things are so much better now. I hope we never have a guy like Armstrong who won seven times in a row again. Ya know, he didn't even race the Classics!
Has anyone noticed Tyler's dismal performance in the Tireno Adriatico? He is at least 40+ minutes down in the GC, almost last in the peloton. Anyone hear what is wrong? Or, is he just so badly out of shape after a two year layoff? Or, is it something else?
In the article, "Operacion Puerto investigation not complete", Pat McQuaid is quoted as saying : "it is unacceptable to the UCI and the sport that something like that can cause so much damage and yet there is absolutely nobody held responsible for it."
I fully agree with that statement. Yet, not for his reasons. I find it unacceptable that the UCI, WADA, Spanish authorities, and so on, caused so much damage yet they are not held responsible for ruining careers of riders that have yet to be charged for any crimes except for hearsay and rumors voiced by these governing bodies through the media outlets.
What is more wrong here? The fact that they are chasing their tails to try to keep their credibility? How about the fact that the Spanish authorities jumped the gun too soon without getting more solid facts before pursuing ghosts? Or the fact that without proper prior preparation and deeper investigation before making the case public these governing bodies have been the main reason that cycling is in such turmoil right now? The blatant disregard for individual privacy and rights as a human being without proper evidence is ridiculous. If anyone should be held accountable for this mess, it's the different country's governing authorities and the UCI and WADA.
The Spanish judge shelves the case because "contrary to French and Italian legislation... at the time of the investigation Spanish law could not pursue anyone criminally for doping or practices linked to doping." Shouldn't the Spanish authorities have known their own laws beforehand? To me, it looked to be a publicity stunt by the Spanish authorities to get in the spotlight in front of the largest cycling venue of the world, the Tour de France. What other motive would there be to drop a bomb like that without proper investigation of the facts and knowing what you can and cannot do to these riders, doctors, etc.?
It's just insane that no one seems to care that basic human rights have been violated and careers have been ruined because of the sloppiness of the investigation. We just hear the blame go to doping and the riders. Who's going to watch out for the innocent guy that was somehow mixed up in this mess? Or will cycling leave them out in the cold? My guess is yes.
Tired of the smoke and mirrors...
I will don my trusty tin-foil hat and suggest that the reason Puerto was shelved has more to do with some of the non-cycling names that surfaced (read: football) than anything else.
I do indeed believe this was part of but not the whole reason. We have to remember that there was no "anti-doping" law per se at the time of this investigations beginning. It was clearly partially begun in order to show the Legislature the need for such laws, so the possibilities of actual convictions were slim to none.
I do believe however that if futbol was not involved they would continue the dog and pony show just to keep the PR band wagon going. Now I think the following question should be asked: Is it wise for the Prosecutors to appeal? There have already been numerous questions raised as to disappearing blood, documents and even mysteriously added documents when they were transferred from Spain to the UCI and other bodies.
Would not the prosecutors be better off changing tack, acknowledging Fuentes got away with "Crimes against public health" and then try to roll the evidence into a new investigation of illegal drug trafficking, such as would be the case if Saiz was indeed buying medically controlled substances? I fear that continuing on the current course would only lead to further questions of the current evidence and if the evidence has any more holes punched in it, it appears that it will be useless for the purposes on any investigation.
Brad has a very good point here, the real aim of all racing, to my mind, is personal participation, to give the majority of cyclists chance to stretch themselves to the limit of their strength.
There is a place for professionalism, as in all sports, but now it would seem to be the tail wagging the dog and is on the way to destroying the pure sport of cycling, which is taking place in all corners of the world, and even such as the TT series held in Charlotte, North.Carolina at the Lowe's race track, where 4 to 500 riders stretch themselves to the limit, with little thought of fame or reward except the satisfaction of having pushed their bodies to the limit
This level of sporting achievement is what really makes sport worthwhile - without it there would be no professional sport - arguably leaving us with personal satisfaction.
There is a drug issue going on in an Australian native sport (Australian Rules Football) at the moment that makes cycling's drug testing and punishment regime appear draconian.
The CEO of Australian Rules Football announced during an interview in the last couple of days that they do not announce the names of players who have tested positive until their third (yes third) conviction.
Can you believe that! What do they do for the first two times; send them to the headmaster for a couple of strokes of the cane?
I think that humans being humans as they have been for umpteen tens of thousands of years will cheat to gain an upper hand everywhere they can, probably only some, but there will always be some.
Of course as more do it, more will try to keep up and justify that as there are others doing it they should do it too.
We should keep testing to try to keep the sport as clean as we can, but we should stop the self flagellation that we tend to do within our sport.
Interesting to read all the stuff about Ivan Basso and Trek's work with him in the wind tunnel to get a more aero position. David Millar went through the same process looking for more time trial speed.
The commentators on Eurosport broadcasting Paris-Nice recently said, during Millar's winning prologue ride, he had abandoned the fast wind tunnel aerodynamic position discovered during tests, because he had lost power and was back to his old powerful position.
I guess it looks good on paper and makes good copy, but the ups and downs of a never flat TT course and the vagaries of the wind make the whole point questionable about its real value.
It also brought a smile to my face to see a wheel manufacturer stating in a Cyclingnews review of the wheels, that the golf ball-like dimples on the hub body made the bike faster. Really? Yet the pics showed spokes were straight pull from a water wheel paddle like affair on either side of the hub!
I was wondering why Rabobank has non-matching water bottle (Tacx) and bottle cage (Elite) sponsors. The two companies seem to be each other's main rival in their business, it seemed awkward for them to appear on the same pro team bike. I've noticed Rabobank had this combination ever since the 2004 Tour (all the teams used the red Coca Cola bottle in 2003). Why is this?
Well said - I am actually getting a bit sick of the Armstrong-mania. He was a very good cyclist, of course, and deserves attention. But when you look at books, articles, discussions on the web - its always like.....Armstrong did this, Armstrong did that....as if there weren't any other good riders around to learn from.
Armstrong was physically very strong and very determined but technically and aesthetically Ullrich was a much better cyclist. And if we look at character and likeability, lets better not go there. So, I salute Jan Ullrich and wish him well and I think he gets a too hard time at the moment.
The previous writer Alain, like many others, insists that Ullrich and other riders could clear themselves by providing DNA and having lawyers monitor B testing. I just want to ask what universe he is from.
Ullrich and many others were denied their ability to work based on speculation. Primarily names on a ledger that "might" be code names for them. How would you like to lose your job and reputation because an investigation found your initials in a bookie's notebook? Not a single Puerto rider was caught doing anything, just a name in a book that might be them.
As for doubting the labs, let's see violation of chain of custody, improper access to specimens, violation of testing protocols, ignoring QA controls, improperly setup equipment, and the list goes on. I have worked both in emergency rooms collecting evidence and in laboratories that run the testing and what I have seen from WADA, UCI, and their labs should be criminal. Ullrich chose retirement rather that risk their ineptitude and negligence.
We should all be talking to or screaming at WADA and UCI to fix the system with secure chain of custody (hey the numbers do need to match), A/A and B/B testing (two labs run the A sample, both should be positive), and gag the labs and UCI (if you leak information, lab loses accreditation, UCI has to drop case). Then fix the rest of the process, look at Landis, he will have served a two-year suspension even if he proves his innocence.
I have to disagree with Rob Huber's letter .Lance Armstrong has given cycling its highest profile ever, not just in the USA but all over the world, you can not underestimate what effect he has had on our sport, mostly positive, more people are into cycling than ever before.
If you have to blame anyone, blame the heads of our sport who threw Ullrich, Basso and co. out on the eve of our most famous event without any real proof that they had doped, or the way the Landis affair has been handled. If these riders are guilty (it don't look good in Floyd's case) let's keep it quiet until we know for sure, this policy we have of finding riders guilty before the fact is killing our sport.
No footballers or other sportsmen were named in the Puerto affair. Only cycling has come out and named riders who we do not know are guilty or not. What is wrong with the heads of our sport? They could not do a better job to kill our sport off if they tried, so to accuse Armstrong is crazy, and riders like Boonen, Hincapie, Cancellara etc are making the classics more exciting than they have ever been.
The current state of cycling #2
Wow, I didn't realise that one man had the ability to wreak so much damage to such a large sport. If what Rob Huber has to say is correct then I seem to have misread the current situation where we have two very similar groups trying to take a dictatorial type control over something that has grown far larger than they were ready for.
How many times have we seen somebody run a very successful small business for years, only to have it implode when they try to go large? This will always happen if you are not looking far enough ahead. To say that it is down to the way one person became a superstar (and remember he only got that big because of cancer, there were better riders before him who did not find their way into every home) is a very narrow point of view.
What about the race organisers who wanted it on the world stage but didn't put in enough forward planning? The cycling body that came to be because the sport had grown so large, but then didn't build a good working relationship with the owners of the events that made it large?
Cycling needs the three tours because they are what the public know. (NFL without the Superbowl?). The tour organisers need the UCI because they can wet the public appetite with the smaller races around the world. When and only when all players realise this, is when cycling will move forward.
I also believe that they will have the power to tighten doping controls as well as stopping certain other groups from bringing the sport into disrepute merely on hearsay and innuendo. Until that happens, the general public will switch off, jump on their bike, and ride round remembering the old riders. Will the sponsors and TV channels pay big money for that?
The current state of cycling #3
If Rob Huber's letter of March 9 is anything to go by the current state of cycling is indeed confused or so at least are some of its tifosi.
Somehow Armstrong and the ASO have been in cahoots to the great detriment of cycling when at the same time they have been at loggerheads - whilst Lance has supposedly cynically worshipped at the shrine of Le Tour he has shaken French self belief to its very roots. Yet whilst all manner of theories and accusations have been advanced to rationalise this state of affairs, the ASO has taken the opportunity to expand its ‘merchandising' to a degree which would put the IOC to shame - in fact one could only feign surprise were it to claim royalties on every use of the word "Le" (whatever they are on its clearly addictive and is defended rabidly - take note UCI).
And of course Lance has been ‘arrogant' (strange I seem to have heard that word before) in ignoring other races on the calendar.
Get a grip - the Tour de France has always been the supreme, if not dominant race in world cycling - and rightly so. Yet the increased global (not just US) exposure, which seems to have coincided with the Armstrong era, has led many of us newcomers to cycling to discover and become enamored by the Spring classics, other grand tours etc.
Besides, Lance has won the same number of world championships (one) as Miguel Indurain and Bernard Hinault, for example, and at the real risk of over generalising, if you look at the career of some of the past champs including Indurain, their success in the lesser races seemed to have been largely in the years they did not do well in the Tour (the incomparable Eddie Merckx of course excepted and granted the odd Giro here and there in Indurain's case etc).
Perhaps Armstrong went to school on the likes of Indurain and taken things a step or two further - he was not the worst teacher and as for arrogance...? Let's try and avoid demonising individuals. Insidious doping scandals and hugely frustrating and ridiculous politics have harmed and continue to peg back a wonderful sport but at least in these parts cycling is the still ‘the new golf' - replete with all its traditions and many (not one) parcours.
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