Basso will win the Tour

July 1, 2011

Why Basso?  Well, I started with the favorites and started eliminating riders who would not win the tour.  That left Basso as the only man standing. I know that is not really a ringing endorsement but that’s all I have this year.  Here is my thought process.

Contador.  Now that Contador is in, everyone is jumping on the Spaniard’s bandwagon.  I’m not so sure.  I think those bandwagon jumpers will be saying “Where’s the beef?” three weeks from now.   I just don’t think you can win the double (Giro and Tour) in this day and age.  The last rider wo did so was Marco Pantani in 1998 and he had a little help.  Even with pharmacology, he needed a faltering Jan Ulrich to take the jersey.  I’d rather look at more recent examples where riders who fared well at the Giro were spectacularly absent from the Tour.  The most recent example is Ivan Basso who, for the first time in his career, is skipping the Giro to focus on the Tour.  Why should I argue with him.  Bottom line, you can’t have both.

Andy Schleck.  Those who are not falling in behind Contador are going with Andy Schleck.  I fully understand that and I will put Andy on the top of my list of picks from the heart.  My problem is I look at the TTT and the Individual Time Trials and I can’t help but hear the quote from the famous Ty Webb.  “You’re not good Andy, you stink.”  So Andy will play the role of PouPou again this year.

Levi is losing the race against father time.  If he had a couple of years back he could sneak a peek at the podium and maybe even the top step.  I’ll say it flat out, I have never been a believer in Cadel.  The temperamental Aussie is good at most disciplines but not great at any.  I don’t see him even on the podium. Bradley Wiggins is more of a top five finisher, not a real contender.

An unexpected podium visit may come from Rabobank’s Robert Gesink.

So that leaves Basso.  He knows how to win and he is finally focused on this race.  While not a great time trialist, he is good enough not to lose the Tour in the race of truth which should be enough to win the Tour.

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Did you hear?

May 20, 2010

This morning, my inbox was flooded with emails along the lines of “Did you hear?”  Unfortunately, I did.  Again.  Another cyclist coming clean after years of protesting his innocence.  Increasingly, I am getting disenchanted with my  sport. 

I started this blog in July of 2006 and found it fun and cathartic to express my views on professional cycling.  I would scan the news and provide a brief interpretation from my point of view.  Shortly after starting my blog, the Floyd Landis story broke.  I weighed in occasionally, tried to lighten the mood often, and really tried to keep the other news alive.  I did not want my blog to become a doping column.  The problem is that quite often, the only stories were of doping.  Basso, Hamilton, Vinokourov, Heras, Rico, and on and on and on.  Dick Pound got more cycling press than anyone.  His “Q score” in cycling was probably higher than Alberto Contador.

Then cycling acquired an autoimmune disease and started to attack itself.  Pound vs. McQuaid became a bigger draw than MMA.  Over the last year, my writing became sporadic since it was no longer cathartic but maddening.  I’ll still write from time to time but I’m in a cycling low right now.

I still read the news, follow the races, and cheer for riders. And pray they are clean.


What do we do now?

July 25, 2007

My wife always says that I can find good in anything. I’m trying hard here. When I first heard the news regarding Alexandre Vinokourov a flood of emotions came over me. Most of them were variations of anger and disappointment.

My visceral reaction was wondering how could those with whom we trust our sport do this to us? How could Vinokourov deceive an entire country? He cajoled his native Kazakhstan to band together in the wake of the Liberty Seguros collapse. His Astana region paid big money to support him. He took their money and cheated them more than he cheated us.

Then after a few minutes, my rational side began to be heard. Another ‘A’ sample leak. LNDD does not have the best track record. I believe in my heart of hearts that due process must be followed before punishment is meted out.

I do have to say that the media reaction is a lot less restrained. The Versus coverage this morning was blunt and damning. Bob Roll had the harshest words calling Vino’s actions stupid as this type of doping is not only dangerous but easily detected.

The restraint and detachment that was shown with recent cases such as Basso, Ullrich, and even Patrick Sinkewitz was not here. Why is that? Are they also in the throes of the same visceral reaction I had? Had they doubts before the test? I just don’t know.

So, where are the positives? Here you go.

If true, then we can really turn a corner. Teams and authorities have put into place new procedures to insure a clean sport. No one will actually believe those procedures until they see them work. Riders will test the law until someone gets caught. With such a big name getting caught, maybe riders will finally be scared straight. I sense this attitude is pervasive with the next generation of riders. You can win clean. If you don’t subscribe to that belief then stay clean out of fear.

In a few years, we’ll look back on these days as the time when we broke through to the other side and became a better sport than we ever thought possible.

If false, we will have irrefutably exposed another problem that is potentially more deadly then athletes who cheat. The ADA system is broken and in desperate need of repair. Leadership will be changed and a new system put into place that has the confidence of all stakeholders (teams, riders, sponsors, fans, officials). After the first round of Operation Puerto, teams began to get the wake-up call. New measures were put in place to insure that a measure of integrity can return. The same will happen with the those entrusted to regulate the sport.

I can dream. I choose to stay with this sport because I love it so. I hope the custodians of this sport get their act together.


Making lemonade from lemons?

July 7, 2007

Generally, I’m an optimist. I try to see the opportunity in everything. I’m also loathe to carry on a meaningless conversation when there clearly is the proverbial elephant in the room. So you think I would be happy with Versus decision to attack the doping problem in its promotion of the Tour de France. In a cautious way, I am.

Yesterday’s Wall Street Journal (subscription required) describes Versus advertising campaign designed to attract viewers to its Tour coverage. Print ads contained a thinly veiled reference to the UCI pledge with the line, “Commitment isn’t just something you can sign your name to….You either have it or you don’t. And you won’t find proof of it in the ink on some dotted line. But you will find it in the mountains of France.”

I think it is courageous for the network to take this tack. You can’t continue pretending everything is perfect. You also don’t want to incite your core audience either.

Versus is getting some heat. Marketing agencies are calling the decision “questionable” Cervélo is confused stating that you don’t see the major US TV networks doing this with baseball. Versus response lends you to believe that the network, which is owned by Philadelphia-based Comcast, finds themselves in a corner.

Versus is in the middle of a transformation from a nice little niche network to a full blown sports network capable of challenging ESPN. Part of that strategy included a name change and acquiring the rights to the National Hockey League.

Hockey lost a season due to an owner’s lockout and has yet to fully recover. Cycling lost Lance Armstrong, and the American Market has not fully recovered either. On top of this, add Floyd Landis and Operation Puerto. What would you advise the network to do?  If you like Marketing and you like the sport, it is an interesting read and an interesting business case.

I guess it is easier to go all in when you are already down to your last stack of chips.


Basso: A sweet deal?

June 15, 2007

TDF Blog reports that Ivan Basso received the “maximum” suspension for his almost doping. Two years. The UCI asked for the two year ban as part of it’s hard line against cheats.

Let’s look at the hard time for a minute. First, Doesn’t the UCI run the ProTour? Isn’t the ProTour policy 4 years? Two years no racing at all and then another two years off the ProTour? Hmmm.

Also when is two years not two years. The AP is reporting that Basso is getting credit for serving 8 months of his suspension since CSC suspended it’s rider right at the start of the Tour de France. Uh, didn’t Basso sign and ride with Discovery? Wasn’t most of the suspension period during the winter months when there were no races to ride? Am I wrong? Is there something wrong here?

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Basso seen here while serving his suspension.


“I am Birillo”

May 8, 2007

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While not quite as famous as the four words penned by John Lennon, these three words may do more damage to cycling than any other. Ivan Basso had cultivated an altar boy image. He displayed his “aw shucks” demeanor while in the public eye. In the movie Overcoming, we saw a vulnerable son visibly concerned over his mother’s illness during the 2004 Tour. That vulnerability was further accentuated when Basso called Lance Armstrong during the tour for help in obtaining treatment for Basso’s mother. During that call Bjarne Riis seemed to “admire” the head game he perceived Lance to be playing. Riis painted himself with the same brush he used to try to paint Lance. Basso was perfectly cast as a boy in a world of cold calculating men who took no prisoners. Then there was “The Promise.” The much publicised promise to his mother on her death bed that he would win the Giro for her. Even if that meant sacrificing the Tour de France.

Well, it seems that the Basso onion has another layer. That of a cheat. He occupied such a high pedestal that his fall will be dramatic. The problem is that we put cycling on that pedestal with him. He was the savior. He proved that nice guys could finish first. You did not need the killer instinct 24/7/365 to win. You could compete fiercely but be a good guy.

My three words are, “I was wrong.”


Basso admits involvement. Valverde next up.

May 7, 2007

Did you order the Code Red?

I did the job I…

DID YOU ORDER THE CODE RED?

You’re goddamn right I did!

News agencies are falling all over themselves to reprint published reports that the quiet Italian has come clean (pun intended) and confessed to being involved with Operation Puerto. In a moment that I am sure was straight our of A Few Good Men, Basso admitted his involvement in Operation Puerto to the anti doping prosecutor, Ettore Torri. No reports on any type of deal that may have been struck since the bags of blood reportedly contained no EPO. Stay tuned.

With Basso out of the picture, the new Top Dog of cycling, Alejandro Valverde, is already feeling the heat. Originally, Valverde was tangentially implicated in records that were pretty far back in Dr. Fuentes records. Now, it seems that some bags of blood may be linked to “The Green Bullet” and those bags are reported to contain EPO. It remains to be seen if the man once called Invincible can beat this one.

Where does that leave us? Well cycling takes another one on the chin. Cut, bleeding, and staggering, cycling is struggling to get out of this round. With the admission of cycling’s poster boy and all around good guy, Basso, public perception may move to paint all cyclists with the same brush. Cyclists like Floyd Landis may find a “Trow da Bums Out” sentiment and a unwillingness to listen to what may actually be a valid case.