UCI Launches Anti-Doping Education Program

September 28, 2009

In 1930, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, in an effort to alleviate the effects of the… Anyone? Anyone?… the Great Depression, passed the… Anyone? Anyone? The tariff bill? The Hawley-Smoot Tariff Act? Which, anyone? Raised or lowered?… raised tariffs, in an effort to collect more revenue for the federal government. Did it work? Anyone? Anyone know the effects? It did not work, and the United States sank deeper into the Great Depression. Today we have a similar debate over this. Anyone know what this is? Class? Anyone? Anyone? Anyone seen this before? The Laffer Curve. Anyone know what this says? It says that at this point on the revenue curve, you will get exactly the same amount of revenue as at this point. This is very controversial. Does anyone know what Vice President Bush called this in 1980? Anyone? Something-d-o-o economics. “Voodoo” economics. – Ferris Bueller’s day Off 1986

Professional cyclists must be feeling that their profession is becoming more like a job every day.  The latest is the mandatory training program on doping.  Riders must complete a DVD or online “training” course by the start of the Tour de France next year or lose their ability to race. 

Was that wrong? Should I not have done that? I tell you, I gotta plead ignorance on this thing, because if anyone had said anything to me at all when I first started here that that sort of thing is frowned upon . . . you know, cause I’ve worked in a lot of offices, and I tell you, people do that all the time. George Costanza Seinfield

I put training in quotes because if you listen to the UCI, the main goal is more CYA than education.  The UCI wants to squash any excuse of “I didn’t know” or the old “Was that wrong?” I have to tell you, I have sat through many of these type of education courses.  When written to cover a rear end, there is no more boring course on the planet. 

I wonder if Ben Stein is the host?

Bueller? ... Bueller? ... Bueller?

Bueller? ... Bueller? ... Bueller?


Vuelta brings the Grand Tour season to an end

September 21, 2009

This past weekend saw the conclusion of the Vuelta a España.  This closes the door on the section leg of the cycling season.  The first section, Spring Classics, seem so long ago.  Now the hard men of the Spring return to close out our season with the Fall Classics and the World Championships. 

All in all, I think this season is shaping up to be a success.  Most of the press reports have focused on the races and riders actions within those races.  The only detours have occurred when personality clashes found their way into the headlines. 

I’d rather read about ego clashes between two great riders vying for control of a team than two organizations vying for control of cycling.  So in summary, cycling’s glass is half full.  That’s not to say that everything is just great in cycling.  The Vuelta presented us with a glimpse of why constant vigilance is needed.   

First, you have the return of AlexanderVinokourov to the peloton.  Getting absolution from his home country/team to ride again, he came back to top level racing.  It also seems that two years as a cycling’s outcast did nothing to humble the Kazak rider.  Fortunately, he was never a factor before exiting due to fatigue.  Hmm.  How ironic.

The winner was, until recently, Spain’s favorite son.  On one hand it was good to see Alejandro Valverde fulfill his potential as a Grand Tour rider.  It was looking clear that a three week race is a bit too long for a man that was once labeled invincible.  On the other hand, I’ve stopped wishing for Valverde to fulfill his potential after CONI released their information.

Between the two extremes, I loved watching the next generation have at it.  As most of the top names are beginning to wind their season down, those who labored in their shadows are getting some time in the sun. Men such as Lars Boom, Philip Deignan, and Anthony Roux.  This is what cycling is all about.

Skil-Shimano first to fold

September 17, 2009

You got to know when to hold em, know when to fold em,
Know when to walk away and know when to run.
You never count your money when you’re sittin at the table.
There’ll be time enough for countin when the dealin’s done. – Kenny Rogers, The Gambler

With seven ProTour licenses up for grabs, the stakes are pretty high.  Around the table competing were incumbents Cofidis, AG2R, BBox Bouygues Telecom, Lampre and Milram.  As the locals settled into their seats, the sound of distant hoofbeats caused heads to turn towards the swinging doors.  Riding into town were some high rollers.  

The swinging doors creaked open with the first high roller.  Scott Sunderland of Team Sky.  Scott carries the bankroll of none other than Rupert Murdoch himself.  The doors to the saloon had not yet ceased swinging when John LeLangue entered the room.  John had just won a big three way tournament with Bob Stapleton and Johan Bruyneel and walked away with the George Hincapie trophy.  He was looking to extend his lucky streak at these tables for his BMC team.  Whispers began about his chummy relationship with ASO.  Was a back room deal cut? 

There was not enough time to conclude this conversation when a nervous hush fell across the room. All had heard the distinctive sounds of spurs against the wooden porch outside.  Several folks looked nervously at the Marshall sitting at the bar.  Marshall Pat McQuaid subconsciously touched his six shooter.  No comfort was derived by finding it in the holster. Although the setting sun would only allow a silhouette to be seen, they all knew who had entered.  The Boss was playing this hand himself on behalf of his Radio Shack team.

Big Tex looked over at the Marshall and asked “Did you bring the licenses?” The Marshall opened his vest to reveal seven slips of paper.  With a wry smile, Lance Armstrong turned to the dealer and said “Deal. I think the game is Texas Hold ‘Em.”

Skil-Shimano,which was able to ride in the Tour de France this year as a wildcard, looked around the table and threw in their cards. 


Not another Raymond Poulidor

September 17, 2009

There is an old saying that says when you are putting together a basketball team remember, “You can’t teach height.”  This let’s everyone know that you need a combination of hard work and a little bit of luck in the genetic lottery. So, the first step in becoming a professional cyclist is to pick the right parents.

Folks like me, have come to grip with the fact that while I have the passion of a thoroughbred, I have the body of a Clydesdale.  That was tough to realize and took a little while to settle in.  The feeling is very similar to a mountain stage in a bike race.  You all start at the bottom together.  Then as the stage grows, the pack starts to thin.  That’s OK because even through you are at your limit; you are still with the elite group.  You’re ego convinces you that you are just as good as anyone in this group.  Then the group becomes more of a line and you are at the back of that line trying to hold the wheel of the person in front of you.   The ego still sees the group, sees the leader and feeds you the information that you belong.  Then, someone picks up the pace.  You see the wheel in front of you inch away.  You are now only a couple of feet behind that wheel and desperately trying to hold on to the lead group.  After all, you worked as hard as anyone there so you belong.  Right?  Wrong.

The big engines take it to a level you had no idea existed.  Then the realization quickly sets in.  You are not a thoroughbred.  You are at peak fitness, the best you can be, and you are dropped.  This figurative example happens to all of us at some point.  Some earlier than others.  The acceleration tends to happen between town sports and travel, middle school and high school, high school and college, college and the pros. 

Sport drops us.  We all can’t be Tiger Woods, Lance Armstrong, Michael Jordan.  

Now, let’s say you won the genetic lottery.  You are blessed with the natural ability that 99.9% of us envy.  Sprinkle in some hard work and you stay with all the accelerations and make it to the top!  Only to find out that at the top, there is one person who had a better lottery ticket.  Only one person.  If you were born a little earlier or a little later and you would have enjoyed the accolades you so richly deserved. 

The last Triple Crown in horse racing was won in 31 years ago in 1978.  No horse has been able to do it since.  The horse was called Affirmed.  What a beautiful horse.  Very few horses were blessed with the ability to run like Affirmed.  Certainly not in the last 31 years.     In all three Triple Crown races, Affirmed ran away from the field like they were standing still.  Everyone except Alydar.  Alydar might be the second best horse of the last 50 years.  Also a beauty to behold.  Alydar had only one flaw.  He was born at the same time as Affirmed. 


When the greatest horses of all time are mentioned, Affirmed is hailed as one of only 11 Triple Crown winners.  Alydar barely gets mentioned.  Alydar is the only horse ever to finish second in all three races.  And those seconds were measured in inches.  If it were not for a cruel twist of fate, there would be 12 Triple Crown winners. 

Is Tyler Farrar cycling’s Alydar?  Is Andy Schleck?  I hope not.  I am huge fans of both and don’t want to see these two cyclists as a footnote in history.  After watching the Tour de France this year, I marveled at these two riders.  Then I lamented the fact that they are part of the Mark Cavendish/Alberto Contador era in cycling. 


I know what my fall felt like.   When you get that far, how does it feel?