LECCO, Italy (RKP) — Coursing through a pouring rain, backlit by motorcycle headlights, a broadly grinning Joaquim Rodriguez on Saturday became the first Spaniard to win the Giro di Lombardia.
The Katusha rider escaped a strong group of contenders on the final climb to Villa Vergano and held them off on the rain-lashed run into the finish to claim Il Lombardia by just nine seconds over countryman Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Colombian Rigoberto Uran (Sky Procycling).
The victory also set the 33-year-old atop the UCI WorldTour rankings with 692 points, bumping Tour de France champion Bradley Wiggins down to second place with 601.
“It’s the biggest win of my life,” said Rodriguez, who this year won the Flèche Wallonne before finishing second in the Giro d’Italia and third in the Vuelta a España.
“Since this morning I just felt that things would go right. I saw people getting tired during the race and I was feeling good. But I didn’t think I’d be going to the finish on my own. I thought I’d have to contend the sprint with (Alberto) Contador and (Vincenzo) Nibali.”
The 251km “Race of the Falling Leaves” celebrated the year of Felice Gimondi’s 70th birthday with a sendoff from the man himself in Bergamo and the reintroduction of the grueling ascent of the Muro di Sormano a half-century after it proved so challenging that many a rider found himself off the bike and forced to walk.
The brutal incline, which averages 15 percent but serves up ramps as steep as 29 percent, arose after 165km of racing, including the 9.6km grind up Valico di Valcava, with a grade averaging 9 percent. Two more climbs followed the Sormano — the first to the tiny chapel of Madonna del Ghisallo and the second to Villa Vergano, where Oliver Zaugg attacked to win the 2011 edition of Il Lombardia.
It was a damp, misty day that dawned for the final major classic of the 2012 season, and with 88km to race the four survivors of a larger break — Steve Morabito (BMC Racing). Cristian Salerno (Liquigas-Cannondale), Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale) and Alberto Losada (Katusha) — held just over a minute on the peloton, which included world champion Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing), sporting his brand-new rainbow jersey, and Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank), who had been on a tear since his return from suspension, winning the Vuelta a España and Milano-Torino.
As the bunch reached the foot of the Sormano, Amets Txurruka (Euskaltel-Euskadi) tried his luck, chasing the leaders in slow motion up the short, insanely steep lane, which — clogged as it was with screaming fans — was barely wide enough to accommodate the team cars.
Txurruka didn’t make much headway, though, and as Bardet and Losada pulled away from Morabito and Salerno, the Basque rider drifted back to the peloton.
A persistent chase gradually reeled in Salerno, then Morabito, leaving only Bardet and Losada out front, clinging to a 20-second advantage on the vicious 2km grind through a thick mist.
Losada, too, would drop off, leaving Bardet the last man standing; he topped the Sormano alone as Rodriguez briefly tested his legs behind. Purito took a slight gap over Nibali (Liquigas) and Contador going over the top, with Gilbert, Ivan Basso (Liquigas) and Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) further back yet as the Sormano took its toll on the field.
Bardet rode cautiously down the technical descent toward Nesso, cornering gingerly on the narrow, damp road, at one point unclipping his right shoe and extending the leg for balance.
Behind, others were either less cautious or less fortunate. Gilbert crashed and ended the race in a BMC team car, his bid for a third victory in Il Lombardia at an end. Others hitting the rain-slick road included teammate Alessandro Ballan and Luca Paolini (Katusha). Paolini’s teammate Daniel Moreno likewise slid out in a slick left-hand hairpin, but remounted and continued. Even a photo moto went down in the fog.
There was a regrouping with 67km to race, on the flat preceding Madonna del Ghisallo, and some discussion among Contador, Basso and Nibali as Bardet stretched his lead out to more than a minute.
Hesjedal led a pursuit that began eating into Bardet’s advantage, trimming it to 45 seconds with 55km to go. Then Kevin de Weert (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) attacked up the right side of the road, taking a slight and brief gap over an apparently unconcerned peloton. Bardet soldiered on alone, just 27 seconds ahead but losing time to the chase.
With 52km to go the peloton had Bardet in its sights. A quick pull of the trigger and that was that — it was gruppo compatto with 51.5km to race.
The detente didn’t last long. Gritting his teeth, De Weert had another go, quickly taking a 40-second gap with 47km remaining.
At the summit of the Ghisallo De Weert had extended his lead to 45 seconds, but on the descent the pursuit began nibbling away at his advantage, closing to within a half minute with 37km to race, as Losado did yeoman’s work at the front for team leader Rodriguez.
A few kilometers later Nibali, Bauke Mollema (Rabobank) and Paolo Tiralongo (Astana) all went down in a slick corner. And then De Weert slid out in a right-hander, and that put paid to his day in the sun with 30km remaining.
Losado continued to drive the bunch as Basso looked around for Nibali, who was off the back after his spill.
And then Rui da Costa (Movistar) attacked up the left side of the road alongside Lake Como. Mikel Nieve (Euskaltel) followed, and as Basso dropped back for a word with Nibali there were two off the front with 23km to go.
Basso shepherded Nibali back to the other contenders as Losado, incredibly, continued dragging a greatly reduced peloton along. Finally Lars Petter Nordhaug (Sky Procycling) took over the chase with a pair of Lampres in his slipstream.
Nieve dropped back but da Costa kept plugging away, holding to a lead of some 20-odd seconds as he raced toward the final climb of the day, to Villa Vergano. There was no question of his remaining out front, however — behind, Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel), Damiano Cunego (Lampre) and Hesjedal were all edging forward, awaiting opportunity.
With 13.5km remaining Da Costa sat up and called it a day as the peloton — down to perhaps 30 riders — rolled toward what would be a dark, sodden finale.
Marco Marcato (Vacansoleil-DCM) attacked early on the Villa Vergano climb, which averaged 6 percent and maxed out at 12. Gorka Verdugo (Euskaltel) and Alexandr Kolobnev (Katusha) followed as Hesjedal led the chase.
The rain worsened as the kilometers ticked off toward single digits, and umbrellas popped up along the finish line.
And then Purito leapt away on the final climb, as Zaugg had last year, and with 8km remaining the Spaniard was on his own, driving toward the line. Chasing some 10 seconds down, raising roostertails in the rain, were Hesjedal, Uran and Sergio Henao (Sky), Nairo Alexander Quintana (Movistar), Mauro Santambrogio (BMC), Contador and defending champion Zaugg.
The conditions were atrocious on the final descent, yet, incredibly, neither hare nor hounds went down. And as the road flattened out with 3km to go Rodriguez was still powering along alone out front.
The chase was growing bigger, though, as Mollema, Frekrik Kessiakoff (Astana) and Franco Pellizotti (Androni Giocattoli) latched on. And that may have played out to Rodriguez’s advantage, with no one eager to tow a rival toward victory.
Or perhaps it was simply a matter of resignation to the inevitable.
“We expected Rodriguez to attack on the final climb, or else Contador,” said Uran, who earlier in the week won the Giro del Piemonte. “When he did, we just couldn’t follow.”
Images: Fotoreporter Sirotti, RCS Sport
Thank you for your column on Paul Kimmage’s legal troubles last week. I went ahead and donated $100 to his defense fund mostly (and I think I am quoting something you once said) “because I f’in’ hate bullies.”
Anyway I was wondering if you could go into a little more detail about what Mr. Kimmage might be facing in this case and what were the actual statements he made that caused him to be sued.
I also noticed you argued that the fact that The Sunday Times and L’Equipe weren’t being sued was an indication that the UCI, Hein Verbruggen and Pat McQuaid were using the law suit to send a signal to all critics. In one of the links you provided, though, Verbruggen is quoted as saying that “No it’s him. He’s said it. You don’t sue the paper.”
Is Verbruggen right? That doesn’t make sense.
First off, I want to thank you for helping out with what is rapidly becoming a referendum on the UCI’s leadership as much as it is a defense fund.
As I post this, the Paul Kimmage Defense Fund is now up to $43,730.49 and growing. That is an incredible show of support from 1369 donors and the news is even better than that.
Several of us have been exchanging emails with Mr. Kimmage regarding the case and it appears that there may be Swiss attorneys willing to take this thing on pro bono (that’s lawyer talk for “free”). Of course, that shouldn’t dissuade you or others from continuing to donate, since there will be significant costs involved and losing this case could prove to be rather expensive, too. I’ll touch on those topics later.
A significant show of support
Last weekend, Kimmage’s former Sunday Times colleague, David Walsh, was in Missoula, Montana, interviewing Tyler Hamilton, who has, since his “60 Minutes” appearance in May of 2011, been quite open about doping practices on the U.S. Postal team. Of course, he’s gone into even more detail since the publication of his book “The Secret Race,” which he produced with Dan Coyle.
The Walsh interview was notable for a number of reasons, since Hamilton and he weren’t exactly on speaking terms after Walsh wrote some scathing columns about him after his 2004 positive for homologous blood doping. But the two men sat down in Montana and had a long conversation, which Walsh wrote about in last week’s Sunday Times.
Perhaps one of the most touching parts of the article came at the end, when Hamilton reflected on a career that was largely highlighted by doping.
“You know how I’ve still got every bit of memorabilia from my career, tons of stuff from the Tours and classics; bikes, jerseys, trophies, race numbers, everything. It fills an entire room,” he told Walsh. “I don’t want any of it and have been thinking what to do with it. I’m going to auction it online and donate the proceeds to anti-doping. Do you think that would be okay?”
Do you think that would be okay? Yeah, I do.
The two men had coffee on the Sunday morning after publication of that story and Hamilton decided that he will donate the proceeds of such a sale to Kimmage’s defense fund. If and when that happens, I will certainly let you know here and I am sure the guys over at NYVeloCity.com will, too.
Of being fools, etc.
So, now to the case. The complaint, filed in the Est Vaudois District Court in Vevey, Switzerland, involves charges levied by three plaintiffs: The UCI, former UCI president Hein Verbruggen and current UCI president Pat McQuaid.
The three plaintiffs are claiming that Kimmage made statements against their reputation and honor and are therefore pursuing a civil complaint under Article 28 and 28a of the Swiss Civil Code:
Any person whose personality rights are unlawfully infringed may apply to the court for protection against all those causing the infringement.
The litigants are lumping the UCI into Article 28’s definition of “any person.” (Apparently, International Governing Bodies are people, my friend.)
Swiss Civil Code broadly protects the person against the affronts to the rights of life, limb, body, health, reputation, privacy and the right to personal liberty. Those rights are specifically enumerated in the both in Switzerland’s Federal Constitution and Swiss case law shows that they have been expanded to include those rights outlined in the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights Fundamental Freedoms.
Article 28 is a remarkably broad provision that is used in civil libel and slander actions. (Interestingly, that same section of Swiss law is also often used by bank customers who believe that their rights to secrecy have been violated.)
In this case, the plaintiffs note that the alleged violation involves Kimmage’s “violation of their social rights and in particular of their reputation – both intrinsic (which denotes the sense of their own worth) and extrinsic (this refers to the qualities that are necessary for a person to be respected in his social environment).”
The complaint points to a number of instances in which Kimmage either questioned – or allowed and encouraged others (mostly Floyd Landis) to question – the plaintiffs’ integrity, “causing them, at the very least, annoyance … and, therefore, moral prejudice.”
The complaint begins by noting that since 1989 Kimmage “has been writing a great deal about cycling in general and its various stakeholders of all kinds … often in negative terms.”
Specifically, the complaint points to Kimmage’s 2010 interview with Landis, in which the rider “made a number of comments which cast aspersions on the Claimants’ honour,” including accusations that the plaintiffs’ did note care “about the rules, of pulling strings, of being corrupt, of not genuinely wishing to establish discipline in cycling, of having, by their behavior, been behind his decision to resort to doping, of ‘loading the dice,’ of being fools, etc.”
The complaint goes on to say that “despite the fact that Floyd Landis’ remarks cast doubt on the honour of certain persons, Paul Kimmage did not hesitate to publish his interview with him in the Sunday Times and on the Internet.”
Did not hesitate to publish
Take a look at that key phrase, “did not hesitate to publish.” The plaintiffs are following a traditional strategy in that they are going after Kimmage for repeating what they assert are false statements by Landis by publishing them in the Sunday Times and, in their entirety, on NYVelocity.com.
Verbruggen, as you noted, said that he didn’t intend to sue the Sunday Times or L’Equipe because “you don’t sue the paper.” He’s not entirely correct there and there exists a long history of cases in which newspapers, radio and television stations and now websites have been sued for publishing the defamatory statements of others which they knew – or should have known – to be false.
In their complaint, however, the plaintiffs point to the Times inclusion of a disclaimer – “The opinions put forward are those of their authors only – as the apparent justification for not including the newspaper in the suit.
Apparently, while nervous attorneys don’t always believe the disclaimer will prevent an aggressive plaintiff from pursuing action, Verbruggen seems to regard it as a magic wand, once passed over something he perceives as libelous will protect all but the original speaker from liability.
Maybe that’s why the good folks over at NYVeloCity.com weren’t named in this thing either. Andy Shen wisely included “We’d like to thank Kimmage and Landis for speaking freely, and note that the opinions within are strictly theirs” on top of a complete transcript of Kimmage’s conversations with Landis in January of 2011.
Later that year, however, L’Equipe included no such disclaimer in its publication of Philippe Brunel’s interview with Kimmage at the 2011 Tour de France.
In his interview Kimmage expressed anger and frustration “because doping was tolerated by the riders’ entourage, by the organizers, and by the UCI, which, as everyone knew, concealed the tests. That is what annoys me. The UCI is never responsible for anything! But everything would be put right if there were honest people at the head of cycling ….”
So why sue Kimmage, in part at least, for things he merely repeated in a way that a newspaper or website might? Again, as I said last week, I suspect that two of the three publishers who could have been named as defendants have deep pockets. If the Times and L’Equipe were sued, they would show up with a team of lawyers and with resources that could potentially overwhelm the otherside.
Add to that the fact that Rupert Murdoch, who owns the Times, is also the sponsor of one of cycling’s biggest teams, SKY, and that L’Equipe is part of a much larger enterprise that also runs the Tour de France and one might sense suing such folks might be impolitic at best.
But Kimmage has no such protection. He’s an easy target who, until last week at least, was himself overwhelmed at the thought of fighting a lawsuit in Swiss courts. The suit is largely tailored to send a message and picking an individual, rather than a corporate entity, is a much easier way to transmit that message.
What are they looking for?
The three plaintiffs are specifically seeking damages of 24,000 Swiss francs ($25,000 U.S.), which they promise will be donated to “anti-doping efforts,” should they win. If he loses, that means Kimmage may join Lance Armstrong in making a substantial “donation” to the UCI’s anti-doping fund.
They are also seeking an injunction preventing any further statements by Kimmage “claiming that the International Cycling Union, Patrick (Pat) McQuaid and/or Henricus (Hein) Verbruggen knowingly tolerated doping, concealed tests, are dishonest, do not behave in a responsible manner, do not apply the same rules to everyone, did not get rid of Lance Armstrong after he reportedly produced a predated certificate, or from making any other allegation of the same kind and from allowing third parties, including Floyd Landis, to make comments which attack the honour and the personality of the International Cycling Union, Patrick (Pat) McQuaid and/or Henricus (Hein) Verbruggen.”
If they win the case, the plaintiffs are also asking the Court to order Kimmage to publish, at his own expense, the Court’s findings in The Sunday Times of London, L’Equipe, Geneva’s newspaper Le Temps and (get this) on NYVeloCity.com. That’s a fairly expensive proposition (although I am assuming he’ll get a “bro’ deal” over at NYVeloCity).
They also ask that Kimmage be charged with criminal contempt of court under Article 292 of the Swiss Penal Code.
Realistically, the civil penalties and the criminal contempt charges will be difficult to enforce outside of Swiss borders. Still, the bigger consequence is that the three plaintiffs would succeed in delivering a message to virtually anyone who levels a charge against the UCI or its leaders.
Mounting a defense
Like I said, until last week, Kimmage was pretty disheartened. The support that has been shown since the Paul Kimmage Defense Fund was established is overwhelming. Kimmage said this past week has been “incredible.”
Kimmage said he’ll now be able to afford to bring in witnesses and present expert testimony to fend off the plaintiffs charges that he made allegations knowing – or having should have known – they were untrue.
The standard is a subtle one. Truth is, in fact, a defense against the charges leveled by Verbruggen, McQuaid and that other plaintiff, Mr. UCI. But Kimmage doesn’t have to actually prove what he said was true. What he has to show is that he had a reasonable basis for believing those allegations were true. He has to show that he did not knowingly make a false statement and he has to show that he had reason to believe that what Landis and others said about the UCI and its leadership was true.
Look at the evidence out there. We all know about the miraculous appearance of a back-dated prescription for butt cream that made Lance Armstrong’s 1999 positive for corticosteroids disappear. That alone would serve as a reasonable basis for Kimmage’s claim that the UCI held out some kind of double standard for some athletes. Kimmage’s references to the alleged suppression of Armstrong’s positive test for EPO at the Tour de Suisse is based on statements from two of Armstrong’s former teammates – Landis and Hamilton.
Kimmage can also point to Armstrong’s “donations” to the UCI of $25,000 in 2002 and $100,000 in 2005 as the basis of at least the appearance of a conflict of interest.
While Kimmage is listed as the “defendant” in this suit, if he comes to court with sufficient resources to make his case, it may end up being the UCI and its leadership that are on trial. Kimmage stands more than a fighting chance of winning this thing. With your support, that chance is getting better every day. You should pat yourselves on the back.
The Explainer is a weekly feature on Red Kite Prayer. If you have a question related to the sport of cycling, doping or the legal issues faced by cyclists of all stripes, feel free to send it directly to The Explainer at Charles@Pelkey.com. PLEASE NOTE: Understand that reading the information contained here does not mean you have established an attorney-client relationship with attorney Charles Pelkey. Readers of this column should not act upon any information contained therein without first seeking the advice of qualified legal counsel licensed to practice in your jurisdiction.
I have been in a car, and it was awful. For some reason the first week of school, which in the Boston metro area is a total shit-storm of kids from 5-25 converging on a road system built for wagons, livestock and foot traffic, saw me confined to the family truckster for 5 straight days of commuting disaster. I’ll not enumerate the circumstances that led to this sad state of affairs, but I will tell you there’s not enough NPR and climate control on this planet earth to make me feel ok about sitting through lights for more than 6 full cycles.
And the truth is, I want it this way. I want driving around my city to be this painful. Pain motivates change. The harder it is to drive, the more sense it makes to ride, right? Well, maybe. Or maybe sense doesn’t enter into it. Perhaps we’ll give up our cars when they pry our dead asses from the heated, bucket seats they’re comfortably ensconced in.
The one positive thing that came of this week of automotive torture was a cycling fantasy that will no doubt lead to the reconfiguring of my bike-centric world view.
As I sat there in no-go traffic, idling, a steady stream of particulates and greenhouse gas spewing from my tail pipe, I thought, “What if there were no cars? What if cars were over? What would that mean for my everyday life?”
I have bikes. I have a lot of them (at least relatively speaking), so getting myself around isn’t an issue. I also have all the clothing necessary to do the aforementioned getting around in weather best suited for cocoa by the fire and/or lowland flooding. Moving me wouldn’t be a problem.
The challenges arise when I start to think about getting my kids around and laying in supplies. We live close enough to the elementary school that the average day wouldn’t be hard, but trips further afield might necessitate a harder think. Both my boys can ride their own bikes, so on a planet with no cars, I assume they would rise to the need and pedal themselves where they need to go, which would make them fitter and perhaps even more enthralled with cycling than they already are.
It would change the way we shop for food, smaller trips, more often, and it would radically alter our vacations, I think. But now we’re into the 1% problems, quibbling over luxuries. Perhaps I’m missing something, but I don’t think it would be that hard for me and mine.
This week’s Group Ride asks you to imagine the Carpocalypse and tell us just how different YOUR life would be. What would be the greatest sacrifice of living entirely by bicycle? How close are you already to living solely on your own two wheels? And how anxious are you to see this bike-topia arrive on your own car-benighted shores?
Early in the 19th Century the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge—famed for his poem Kubla Khan and laudanum—coined the term “suspension of disbelief.” It was his way of codifying the belief that a fantastic story if “infused with human interest and a semblance of truth” could be made believable. It’s what we did to our parents in high school when we lied about our whereabouts. We used the names of friends and familiar locations, places that we frequented in an effort to throw them off the scent. For me, it worked until some time in my senior year.
If my opening paragraph isn’t sufficiently obscure, give me a second. I’m now going to pull in T.S. Eliot, who coined the term “objective correlative” early in the last century. It is an image that explicitly defines something that can otherwise be difficult to describe. To that end, I submit the image above from the film “Blade Runner.” Whether you like science fiction or not, the work has widely been hailed as the finest sci-fi film ever committed to celluloid. And for reasons that may never be fully plumbed, it achieves that element crucial to all science fiction: suspension of disbelief. We don’t question that there are androids, that it never seems to stop raining or that the 21st Century’s version of the car flies, as shown above.
Let’s consider the alternative. Above is a still from the Disney film “John Carter,” arguably one of the biggest flops of this year. Post-mortems on the film have decried the wooden acting, the Swiss-cheese script and the hyperbolic special effects. I can’t say what killed the film, but I know what killed it for me. I had been excited to see the Edgar Rice Burroughs masterpiece made into a film, but was dismayed the moment I saw the first trailer and it was precisely because of John Carter’s ginormous jump contained with said trailer. I recall commenting to my wife, “Okay, I’m out.”
It was that whole suspension of disbelief thing. “John Carter” takes place on Mars and has loads of jumping in it; it’s a thing, as they say, and over there (Mars, that is) to jump is to sak. The problem is that seconds into the trailer comes this jump that looks like Evel Knievel sans motorcycle and, well, it just looks silly. So I didn’t go see it. (As a complete aside, there’s a pretty fascinating discussion of bigger-than-life jumping in the movies in a piece published on Slate, though I think it gets the conclusion exactly wrong, in part because of the dismal box-office take of “John Carter.”)
Suspension of disbelief is crucial not just to science fiction, it’s crucial to all story telling. Imagine if you didn’t think that women really talk to each other and hang out as portrayed in “Sex and the City.” Apparently lots of people believe there are women exactly like them—and why shouldn’t they?
So when Philippe Gilbert stormed to victory at the World Championship Road Race on Sunday, if you’re anything like me you felt relief, the relief of seeing a longstanding omission—the absence of Philippe Gilbert from the podium—finally corrected, and along with it you felt elation, that Dopamine spark of joy at seeing a rider you like spank the field. Gilbert is a rider whose style I like and—more importantly—whose riding I’ve been hoping is clean. But that’s a problem; for suspension of disbelief to work you have to be all-in. The moment you even ask the question about whether or not what you’re seeing or reading is real, the illusion has been busted—metaphorically and literally.
I actively want to believe that a clean rider beat a field that was partially or maybe even mostly clean. Actually, it doesn’t matter just how clean the rest of the field is, so long as Gilbert was clean. That’s the key. In winning, cycling is as clean as the winner.
Which is why I hated the Olympic Road Race outcome with a passion that I (otherwise) reserve for child molesters. Alexander Vinokourov is part of that generation of riders, guys whose knowledge of the sport is so predicated on medical assistance that I suspect they have ceased to believe they can achieve anything remotely like their doped form through clean methods. It’s a kind of worst-case-scenario for institutional memory, dysfunction that persists simply because all other ways have been forgotten. Clearly, Vinokourov’s statements following his suspension and his refusal to talk about his “dark page” and his inability to understand what this issue was when he decried that he had only engaged in the training methods used by everyone else have shown him to be a rider that cycling can do without. Seeing him win the gold medal was a moment that didn’t fill me with the slightest bit of elation. The question I asked myself was, “What are the chances that he’s clean?”
That, ladies and gentlemen, is the big problem. But here’s the thing: It’s not Vino’s fault. And that I’m asking questions about guys like Gilbert and Bradley Wiggins isn’t their fault, either. The problem lies with the UCI. I have observed in other pieces that the UCI has long been a status-quo organization. Until recently, they really only ever made efforts to change the sport after colossal embarrassments. And defining those embarrassments is easy; they are any time the sport makes international headlines for a reason not connected with a win. Tom Simpson dies during the Tour de France. International headlines. Bad for business, need drug tests. A few Dutch cyclists die in their sleep because of a little-known drug that turned their blood to pudding. Not even national news? Whew; stay the course. Olympic gold medalist Fabio Casartelli dies after hitting his head in a crash. International headlines complete with color footage. Bad for business; need helmet rule. A soigneur with enough doping products to start a pharmacy is stopped at the border. More international headlines. And now, the biggest name in cycling in the last 30 years has been shown to be playing the game, well, the way it’s played.
Bad for business? Yeah, ya think?
Whether or not the allegations that the UCI covered up positives by Armstrong are true, it doesn’t matter. There is plenty of damning evidence that they only ever acted enough to maintain the appearance of a clean sport. Had they truly been serious about cleaning up the sport they would have gotten serious about testing for EPO in the wake of the death of Bert Oosterbosch, the first of those Dutch cyclists to die in their sleep. They wouldn’t have waited years and years to come up with the half-assed solution of testing hematocrit levels. No, had they been serious, they would have begun investigating a test for EPO before Greg LeMond retired.
But let’s take a moment to consider the situation the UCI was in. Hein Verbruggen had inherited the mantle of a sport that had been doped since the first running of Liege-Bastogne-Liege. Up until the 1990s, an approach of making the sport clean enough that no one was dying had more or less worked. If there is one sin for which we should forgive him, it is that he believed he should stay the course, that staying the course was the best approach. What he didn’t anticipate was American society. What he didn’t anticipate was a world where you’re either a saint or a sinner, but never both. What he didn’t anticipate was the perfect storm of Lance Armstrong, Macchiavellian doping and ambitious American investigators.
Verbruggen’s sin, and now by extension Pat McQuaid’s, is that he claims that the sport is clean, the UCI did all it could, all it needed to, that no more could have been done than was. Which is just crazy talk. The first lesson you learn as a bike racer is that just because you won a bike race you should never, ever think that means you are the fastest guy on a bike.
And so I submit to you the de facto evidence that the UCI has not done enough: Every time someone wins a big bike race our response is not to celebrate; rather it is to wonder, to ask the question, “Was that athlete clean?” Why was Bradley Wiggins asked about his training methods at the Tour de France? Simple, because he was wearing the yellow jersey.
We have lost the suspension of disbelief. And given how hard most of us want to believe, how much we love the sport, the heartache is more than some of us can bear.
Mr. McQuaid, Mr. Verbruggen, you haven’t done enough. Not by a long shot, and if you think that suing Paul Kimmage is the answer, then you, sirs, are unfit for your respective offices.
You’re not kings and shooting the messenger is no longer a viable option. The peasantry has risen up and we will defend him.
We’ve asked you for a clean sport. You can’t seem to manage the task. And now the talk is of starting a new federation, one that understands the stakes of the game, the will of the fans. Stay tuned.
Images: Warner Bros. Pictures, Disney Pictures, Fotoreporter Sirotti
The big news from Cervelo wasn’t exactly earth-shattering, but it was good news nonetheless. The company’s S5 model, their very quick aero road frame is now available in the company’s relatively recent VWD variant. The upshot here is that the S5 should now have a livelier presence on the road. Also, the company debuted any number of new finishes, which if there has been one thing about Cervelo that can get really old it’s that the company can go years without changing a paint scheme. Not only are the new finishes, well, new, but I think they are pretty good looking and some of them even forego the clearcoat that covers almost all of their work, which is another step in the right direction in terms of road feel.
Race-winning bikes are always fun to check out at Interbike and Cervelo didn’t miss the opportunity to show off Ryder Hesjedal’s rig from his recent Giro win. Take a moment, if you would, to look at the incredible amount of seatpost showing on this 56cm frame as well as the 14cm tiller keeping the handlebar in place. I couldn’t help noticing, either that with the Di2 batter in its spot, the seat-tube-mounted water bottle cage is too low to allow the water bottle to be fully inserted. That’s a small oops in an otherwise amazing bike and crazy PRO fit. How anyone can ride that low and still climb remains a mystery to me.
I saw a bunch of new bags at Lezyne (rhymes with design). Given the cost of a decent pair of bibs—let alone the cost of an amazing pair of bibs—I’m unwilling to use a seat bag that features a Velcro strap that wraps around the seatpost. My favorite designs that qualify are from Fi’zi:k and Lezyne and this new design shown on the white bag above uses a clamp that secures to the saddle rails and allows the seat bag to be removed as easily as some bike computers. No rattle, no Velcro.
Also new at Lezyne were a couple of smart phone bags that allow you to protect your smart phone while maximizing the space in your back pocket. In insulating the phone while combining a few pockets with the overall carrier, plus adding a loop of webbing for ultra-quick retrieval, they created one of the most useful and truly new products I saw at the show. Well done.
The Mega Drive light, shown above, foreground, is a 1000 lumens light that will last for 1.5 hrs. At 500 lumens it will go for three hours, while on the 200 lumens setting it will last a whopping seven hours. All for $200. I suspect this light and the many other new lights in Lezyne’s line will be cast in the roles of game changers. We pointed the light at the roof of the convention center while on the 1000 lumens setting; it was bright enough at that distance to reveal that the Sands could use a serious dusting above the 60-foot elevation. I’m just sayin’.
File this one under “Not Dead Yet.” The GF02 is a new bike from BMC. It takes the design concepts used in the carbon fiber gran fondo bike, GF01—such as the whispy, flexing seat stays—and translates them into an aluminum frame. Yep, aluminum. This Red-equipped bike weighed in under 16 lbs. The production bike will be sold with choices of Red, Ultegra Di2, Ultegra or 105 and will bring BMC’s work into a new, more affordable price tier.
Chrome has been the go-to brand for the urban commuter since essentially the brand’s inception. They’ve expanded their offerings over the years into clothing, some urban-oriented technical wear and now they even offer shoes. Everything I saw from them at the show seemed really solid, but the items that most impressed me were their new series of camera bags. The open bag on display here will carry a couple of camera bodies as well as lenses and has a pocket (note where the hand is slipping into the bag) that will fit a 15″ laptop. There are waterproof pockets for your SD cards and given that it zips open like butterfly wings, everything within the bag is easily accessible. I don’t really want to carry that much camera gear while riding a bike (I mean, I seriously don’t want that much camera gear on my body, ever, but if it was, I wouldn’t want to have to ride a bicycle at the same time) but I concede that there are times when nothing else would be as practical. In those instances, this bag looks as well-thought-out as any I’ve ever seen.
A Personal Note
For each of the last 20 years I’ve gone to Interbike with the stated intention of seeing the latest and greatest the bike industry has to offer. When I went to my first show, in Atlantic City back in 1992, it really was just to see the bike stuff. I was eager to see all the stuff the shop I worked for wasn’t carrying. Every time I could get someone to acknowledge me and walk me through their products it was a kind of victory. Heck, back then, I really didn’t even know what questions to ask.
At a certain point in my education I began to understand how to ask the right questions, questions that showed I not only was interested in the product at hand, but understood the challenge of creating a competitive product within that category, which would lead to questions like, “Why did you decide to go with the full zip rather than the 3/4 invisible zip?” It was an opening for someone to talk about who they were as a company.
It took a while but there came a point when I realized that no matter how many of those questions I asked, I really hadn’t built a relationship with any of the staff at those companies. It wasn’t until we allowed the conversation to veer off-topic, into the riding we did, the traveling that’s not for work, where we live or family and heritage. These days, those are the conversations I live for. That’s where the magic happens, where you can really have a laugh. Robot and I spent some time in the Gita booth talking with creative director Jenny Tuttle. Gita is based in Charlotte, North Carolina, which gave us a chance to talk about the South and Southern Vernacular, in particular the obvious difference between saying “y’all” and “all y’all.” And we may have even bonded over the insane usefulness of a statement like, “All y’all are full of shit.” I didn’t know Jenny before that day, but I walked out of their booth convinced she’s my kinda peeps.
When I was young, I used to think that talking family was kind of a copout, like you had run out of more important stuff to talk about. Some years passed between when I understood what talking family meant and when my son was born and with the advent of Facebook, there was a lot of talk of kids at the show. Crazy what kind of fun that is. That said, the most memorable and even most visceral conversation I had at the show was with a group of guys in the Enve booth where the talk of the number of kids inevitably turned to talk of controlling the number of kids. Yes, the big V. And I don’t mean victory. One among us had done it and I can assure you no talk at the show caused anyone to to squirm more or laugh harder than I did that morning.
Working as a full-time writer and editor in cycling for more than 40 years, and having raced and trained with elite athletes in Europe before that, I was always aware of the sport’s netherworld. The place where riders decided to cut corners, imitate their peers, or accede to the desires of their team directors; the place where soigneurs, sports doctors and charlatans made it possible for those riders to use performance-enhancing drugs or methods. None of them, especially the riders, was willing to talk about that netherworld because they feared reprisals from their peers, penalties from the authorities, or loss of respect from the public.
And without true details, other than rumors or circumstantial evidence, it was impossible for journalists to write accurately on that netherworld. Like others, I did write what was possible. Over the past two editions of this column, I’ve mentioned some of the many stories I wrote about doping in cycling at a time when very little was known about the subject outside of Europe, including lengthy pieces I did for The Sunday Times of London.
I’d become that newspaper’s first ever cycling correspondent (and its sister daily, The Times) in the mid-1970s, but only after writing long and persistent query letters to the editors to plead my case. That led to those once-stodgy British publications taking cycling as a serious sport, and I began contributing daily reports from the major events (including road, track and cyclo-cross races), which heightened the editors’ and the readers’ interest in our sport.
Because I developed a good relationship with the newspapers’ sports editors, they put their trust in me to write that first long piece on the Tour de France doping scandal of 1978 (when race leader Michel Pollentier was thrown out of the race after trying to cheat the anti-doping control). That article was among the first in the English language to (slightly) lift the curtain on modern cycling’s doping culture.
As with the decade before that Tour and for five years more after it, I followed the race alone, taking lifts with journalists from Belgium, France and Spain. That experience allowed me to get their different perspectives on cycling and to learn about their general reluctance to say much about doping. From 1984 onward, I traveled in cars whose expenses were paid for by the magazines that I edited: Winning for three years, Inside Cycling for a year and VeloNews for more than two decades.
Through the years, I traveled with a lot of different sportswriters. One was Irish journalist David Walsh who first came to the race in the mid-1980s. We often shared interview opportunities, like with Sean Kelly on the evening of a stage, when the three of us sat on the curb outside Kelly’s hotel, chatting about the race. David was with Irish newspapers at first, and beside his reporting work he wrote books about Kelly (published in 1986) and the other Irish star, Stephen Roche (1988).
While driving Tour stages, we had lively discussions about developments in the race and problems in the sport. Those discussions increasingly turned to doping after David’s pro cyclist friend Paul Kimmage retired from the sport and wrote his book “Rough Ride” about his four years in the European peloton, detailing the widespread use of drugs. Not a cyclist himself, David grew more skeptical about the sport, but that didn’t stop him writing “Inside the Tour de France,” his 1994 book of interviews that included a chapter on Tour rookie Lance Armstrong.
During our Tour discussions, I was often in the minority when David and VN colleague Charles Pelkey were in the car, talking about our suspicions on which riders were or weren’t doping. I liked to give riders the benefit of the doubt, but I always listened to their arguments, and their views inevitably influenced what I’d write—especially after the disastrous “Festina Affair” Tour of 1998. By then, David was a full-time reporter for The Sunday Times covering several sports including cycling. As a result, my lengthy piece on that doping scandal was one of the last I wrote for The Sunday Times after more than 20 years as its cycling correspondent.
Like many other longtime cycling journalists, I’ve been accused of being too close to the athletes and the teams to write with detachment about doping, and as such I’ve been complicit in cycling’s doping problems. That’s a subject I want to address in a future column. For now, I want to add that we always suspected that Tour contenders and champions in the 1990s, including Gianni Bugno, Claudio Chiappucci, Bjarne Riis, Tony Rominger and Jan Ullrich, were using EPO.
But there was never any evidence of that possibility until a trunkload of EPO (and other banned drugs) was discovered by the French police in Festina soigneur Willy Voet’s team station wagon on his way to the Tour in ’98. That opened everyone’s eyes to how cycling’s doping problems had escalated in the EPO era when use of the blood-boosting drug was so prevalent because it was not only very effective but also remained undetectable in lab tests for more than a decade.
I’ll continue my thoughts on doping in my next RKP column, focusing on the years when more truths started to emerge from cycling’s netherworld.
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Image: John Pierce, Photosport International
For all those of you who fell in love with the Castelli San Remo Speedsuit, this is the thermal ‘cross version. It features heavier-weight Roubaix Lycra for cold conditions and though the sleeves are longer, they are cut just to elbow length (just longer than) because Castelli’s research showed most racers were pushing up the sleeves on their long-sleeve skinsuits. Pricing on the custom San Remo Speedsuits is surprisingly good, though the number you buy will influence your final price. I have a covet.
Parlee showed a new frame set in the Enve booth. Long known for truly cutting-edge work in carbon fiber, the new Z0 rivals the very finest work any of the big guys are doing, while offering completely custom geometry. The frame will weigh in the neighborhood of 750 grams, depending on size and while the price hasn’t been announced, it will run upward of $5k.
Internal cable routing for either mechanical or electronic groups is one of the many, choice features of the frame.
The appearance of the new Z0 is as simple as it is elegant. Gone are the abrupt lug transitions of its predecessors. What you see now are the smooth lines of other monocoque frames. And that’s how Bob Parlee describes the frame—monocoque. Yes, it features eight tubes constructed by Enve, but what really brings those elements together in what appears to be an essentially seamless unit is Parlee’s incredible workmanship and skill. In a nod to what other companies have found regarding stiffness, the Z0 will feature a tapered head tube with 1 1/8-inch top and 1 1/4-inch lower bearings. That’s still not as big as most companies, but Parlee said it’s an effort to balance the needs of the all-day rider versus the need for performance. Speaking of the needs of the all-day rider, the z0 will accommodate 28mm tires. Yeah, it’s like that.
Parlee also showed this disc-brake version of the new Z0. They expect it to be a standard option soon. Making the bike all the more attractive was the powder blue with orange paint scheme that recalls the Ford GT40, arguably one of the more iconic cars ever created.
Stages Cycling introduced a new power meter that will go for $699 and is contained entirely within the non-drive-side crank arm. It is both bluetooth and ANT+ compatible so it can talk to any device you’re running, including your iPhone or Android. They’ve inked agreements with most crank arm manufacturers so nearly any crank you might be running is available.
The StageONE power meter has been in development for more than two years and while it might not do everything that an SRM does, the vast majority of us don’t need quite the level of detail that it provides. Honestly, I don’t care if I’m using a power meter that’s off by 10 watts, so long as it’s consistent, nor do I care that much about an imbalance in my leg strength; I have neither the time nor inclination to head to a gym to solve one relatively minor problem. I think the real genius in this is that: A) it adds only 20 grams to the bike’s weight and B) if you’re running the same group on multiple bikes, you can conceivably swap the crank arm from time to time so that you can enjoy wattage data from more than one bike while still enjoying your choice of wheel sets.
I can’t say that anything I saw at Enve was new. I couldn’t help but stop by their booth because of the number of cool bikes they had and I’m eager for a chance to ride some of the new Smart system wheels in carbon clincher. A chance just to look at them is too good to pass up.
Polar has a new wrist unit GPS. Okay, so wrist units strapped to a handlebar are sooo 1990s (they’ll have a handlebar-specifc unit for 2013), but the entry by Polar into the GPS game is pretty interesting. The genius of Polar has never been the units themselves, it was always the software and firmware. The company has always been fixated on helping users analyze their training so they get the most out of each workout. The RC3 GPS includes a full suite of GPS features plus Polar’s Smart Coaching software which provides a viable alternative to products like Training Peaks.
The RC3 GPS bike package includes a heart rate monitor chest strap plus cadence sensor and goes for $369.95. It’s also worth noting that while the usability of Polar units has long been in question (they can be more complicated to operate than a Rubik’s Cube), the RC3 GPS was terrifically easy to operate, with a minimum number of button presses to start a workout.
Also worth noting is that Polar is now selling a bluetooth compatible heart rate monitor chest strap. So for all of you out there who run Strava on your iPhone while it sits in your jersey pocket, this is a way to record heart rate data without a dongle. Not just cool, damn cool.
I got my first look at the Sufferfest videos over at the Minoura booth. Minoura has been making solid trainers for ages; I had one back in the 1990s that I put 1000 miles on in a single winter.
It’s a winter I don’t wish to repeat. However, if I had to, the Sufferfest videos with their funny copy, imperative instructions and first-rate race footage could make an hour go by like 15 minutes, and anyone who has ever spent time on a trainer knows that the world usually works the other way around. It doesn’t hurt that if you buy a Minoura trainer you get a Sufferfest DVD with the unit. I can say that the only way I made it through that aforementioned winter was by watching VHS tapes I had recorded of any/all racing that appeared on TV. The Sufferfest video boils the action down into crafted workouts that are both structured and fun to watch, if not to do.
Which is the point, I suppose.
This would be a detail from a Pegoretti frame. ‘Nuff said.
Giordana and DMT have gone big on neon yellow. For everyone who has associated the color popularized as “Screaming Yellow” by Pearl Izumi as the mark of a new cyclist, get ready to have your assumptions nullified like so many Florida votes. If Giordana has any say in it, you’re going to be seeing a lot more of this seemingly battery-powered color on the road. Whether it’s an offense to your eyes or your aesthetics (or both) having a few more of us out in this color can’t help. We might be seen with more frequency and if your average texting driver gets the idea that free-range cyclists are more common, then they might thumb-LOL their friends a bit less. Which would be good for our survival, huh?
Let’s see, it’s corporate and smacks of the kind of branding tie-in that results in Jack Daniels’ BBQ sauce at chain eateries like T.G.I. Friday’s. But dude, something about this screams summer day and, “Have a Coke and a smile.” Which it did. Make me smile, that is. The folks at Nirve are no dummies. It’s a Coke crate on wheels screaming with the Dopamine bliss of ice cold sugar and caffeine. I don’t just like this bike, I want it, but only if I can get it complete with the banner.
There’s a reason why companies like Trek, Giant and Specialized are working hard to squeeze lines like Focus and Felt out of their dealers. They are offering killer values. The Cayo Evo 6.0 in the foreground retails for a measly $2150 and features the exact frame as its more expensive Cayo Evo counterparts. The drivetrain is Shimano 105 with an FSA crank and Fulcrum wheels. Its big brother, the Cayo Evo 1.0 goes for $4500 and comes equipped with Campy Chorus and Vision wheels.
So let’s start this off with a correction. This is the image I meant to pull for Day 1′s mention of the BMC TMR01, their new aero road frame. I plead thumbnail size.
The fork design is fascinating for the way it hides the brake cable and as an illustration of the lengths that engineers have to go to avoid violating any of the UCI’s ridiculous rules regarding aerodynamics. In a way the brilliance here is less a demonstration of real creativity than an indictment of the terrible way in which the UCI wields power. Yeah, I bet you were thinking that we’d leave criticism of the UCI just for discussions of doping.
I dropped by Hincapie and saw a number of new designs. Fit seems to continue to improve with them (I’ve got a kit from ’12 that I’ve been meaning to review that is the best-fitting from them I’ve ever worn) and thanks to designs like this one, the look is better than ever.
This big news at Campagnolo is the new Athena 11 with triple. While my personal preference these days is to go compact, I have always supported triples and in the case of Campagnolo and their Ergopower levers, found them easy to set up and shift. Yes, they are heavier and result in a wider Q, but they aren’t the wildebeests that some would have you believe. The combination of a triple and an 11-speed 12-29 cassette will let anyone go almost anywhere paved without having to buy a $7000 (or more) bike.
Among a great many cool things I saw at Ritchey was this display of two mountain bikes, both featuring 650B wheels. The industry seems ready to endorse this wheel size en masse. More nimble than 29-inch-wheeled mountain bikes and better rolling than its 26-inch-wheeled counterarts, everyone’s touting 650B as a great compromise. Shown here are Ritchey’s new P-650b (the red, white and blue bike in back) and a mountain bike that Tom built back in the 1977 (think Debbie Boone and Fleetwood Mac). Yep, both feature 650B wheels. I didn’t even have time to get into where Ritchey found the rims and tires back then, but the bike implicitly begs the question.
And if you’ve never had reason to appreciate just how fine Ritchey’s fillet brazing is, here’s the seat cluster from that 560B mountain bike he built in ’77. This is on my list of the top-five prettiest things I saw at Interbike.
The Legend is the new shoe from Giro that you’ve already been seeing on Taylor Phinney’s rather sizable dogs. Whether you dig the lace-up design or not, one of the notable features—perhaps the most notable feature of the new shoe—is the Teijin upper. Teijin is a microfiber material with greater durability and less stretch than traditional leather (meaning you won’t kill your shoes by going for a ride in the rain), but Giro found a way to make the upper from a single, seamless piece of the material. Crazy.
Giro’s designers decided to do a bunch of one-off exercises on the Legend for its launch. This one, a nod to classic hiking boots from companies like Asolo, re-imagines the Legend with the one-piece Teijin upper made to look like tanned leather. I couldn’t not shoot this. It would totally be the shiz for ‘cross racing. Right?
The Reverb is one of Giro’s many helmets aimed at commuters. What makes the Reverb different (and remember that reverb is a first-cousin to echo) is the way its design calls upon the past in a very specific way. It looks like the old LeMond Air Attack helmet even more than my son looks like me. Last year they offered the Reverb in the same Tequila Sunrise finish they offered circa 1992. This year’s palette includes this nod to LeMond’s Team Z helmet that he wore to victory in 1990.
There was a time when Pearl Izumi was my absolute barometer for great cycling clothing. In the 1990s custom team clothing was a step down from what Pearl offered. I raced in my team kit, but I trained in Pearl. Just how it was. And then something happened—okay, I’ll tell you what happened: custom team clothing, from companies like Voler, improved dramatically, and for a period of time Pearl lost their way, releasing boatloads of clothing that was good, but not amazing. There’s been a shakeup at Pearl and one of their brightest and most insightful designers has returned. The line has received a pretty serious overhaul and I saw piece after piece that I’d put up against the best stuff coming out of Capo or Giordana.
The UCI’s dynamic duo – Hein Verbruggen and Pat McQuaid – are at it again. Last year, they sued Floyd Landis. This year, they are going after Paul Kimmage, probably for having the nerve to actually interview Floyd and put their “honesty” and “integrity” into question.
So what’s the deal here? They are going after Kimmage in Swiss courts, but they are not going after the people who actually published the same allegations.
Why Switzerland? Kimmage is Irish and Landis, an American. I don’t think anything they said or published took place in Switzerland. Heck, since McQuaid is Irish, too, why doesn’t he go after Kimmage in an Irish court?
What is the deal with these guys? Do they run to the courts whenever they feel insulted? Why is it that in all of those cases, they seem only to go after about 8000 Swiss francs? If what Landis and Kimmage said about them was so bad, shouldn’t their tarnished reputations be worth more than that?
Finally, why are they going after individuals rather than the newspapers and websites that published those statements in the first place?
Pat McQuaid and the notoriously thin-skinned Hein Verbruggen are no strangers to the Swiss Courts. In addition to the now-petered-out lawsuit against Floyd Landis, Verbruggen and the UCI itself once brought a similar suit against former World Anti-Doping Agency president, Dick Pound.
In reviewing all three cases, some common themes emerge. The suits have generally asked for relatively small amounts in damages – probably enough to cover legal fees – along with a demand that the defendants issue some form of retraction … generally the simple publication of the court’s finding in the event that the plaintiffs prevail. Even so, that won’t be cheap, since the plaintiffs are asking that those retractions be published in the form of full-page advertisements in several of the world’s largest newspapers.
In Kimmage’s case, it appears that the two are going after much more than just the interview with Landis on NYVeloCity.com. Kimmage has been a tireless anti-doping campaigner since he retired from the sport and published “Rough Ride,” a ground-breaking book detailing his years as a domestique in the professional ranks from 1986 to 1989.
Kimmage carried that banner into his career as a journalist, writing for the Sunday Independent and later for the Sunday Times of London, where he teamed up with fellow Irishman, David Walsh, before leaving the paper early this year. Because of our mutual friendship with Walsh, I’ve had the opportunity to speak with Kimmage on a number of occasions and have found him to be, above all, honest, committed and passionate about the sport he loves … and about the people he’s accused of destroying it. He’s among a small cadre of journalists covering the sport that had the guts to say out loud the things others were thinking … and just whispering in off-the-record coversations.
McQuaid and Verbruggen, it appears, would disagree with my assessment.
In looking at the three cases – Pound, Landis and Kimmage – I frankly have to conclude that the current and former presidents of the UCI are engaged in a practice often referred to as a “SLAPP.” The Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation is essentially a suit filed with the intention of keeping critics silent, by targeting a select few of them in a public battle.
The idea is to burden those critics with the costs – in both time and money – of defending against a suit, and sending a message to anyone else that a making a critical public statement may cost someone more than it’s worth … or at least more than they can afford.
Now what got these guys sued? Pound, for example, once said that Verbruggen and the UCI were doing nothing to combat doping. Landis’ allegations that the UCI actively covered up Lance Armstrong’s allegedly positive EPO test from the 2001 Tour de Suisse were repeated by Kimmage, along with other statements about the UCI’s corrupt structure. Kimmage accused McQuaid and Verbruggen of “having knowingly tolerated tests, of being dishonest people, of not having a sense of responsibility, of not applying the same rules to everyone.”
Let’s assume (just for the sake of argument, of course) that what Pound, Landis and Kimmage have said about the UCI, Verbruggen and McQuaid is, in fact, true. Even if they had no case, the filing of a SLAPP suit would take up time and money and send a clear message to others that criticizing the plaintiffs could have dire consequences.
Has it worked? No, not really.
For his part, Pound reached a settlement and issued a “retraction,” that still makes me smile whenever I read it:
“Richard Pound acknowledges the fact that some of his comments reported in the media might have seemed excessive if they were interpreted to mean that the UCI and Hein Verbruggen were doing nothing to combat doping.” (My emphasis added – CP)
As for Landis, Verbruggen acknowledged the other day that the case has gone nowhere since “the problem is we can’t find Landis.” Even if they could find him, what are they going to do to force him into Swiss Courts to face allegations of slander and defamation?
Enforcing a foreign civil judgment against Landis might be problematic as well.
So why Switzerland?
I, too, often wonder about the choice of venue in McQuaid and Verbruggen’s thinking.
It’s doubtful that the two presidents in this case are filing in Swiss courts merely because the laws are in their favor there. There are better places to bring a suit if looking for the most sympathetic courts. Much of Kimmage’s work has appeared in the aforementioned Sunday Times and English law is probably one of the western world’s most plaintiff-friendly in libel and slander cases. If these two were “forum shopping,” Great Britain would have to top the list.
But the choice of Swiss Courts is a sign in my mind that the suit is little more than an elaborate press release and an attempt to send a signal to Kimmage and anyone else with a mind to criticize the way this sport has been run for the last 20 years. The District Court in Vevey, near Aigle, Switzerland, is a pretty logical place to file the case, and it really takes minimal effort and expense for the plaintiffs to pursue it. The UCI is, of course, based in Aigle, both have attorneys already in place through the UCI. While McQuaid is an Irish citizen and Verbruggen is Dutch, both live and work in Switzerland.
The big drawback – at least from a plaintiffs’ perspective – is that Swiss law doesn’t allow for punitive damages. A plaintiff has to show how an alleged defamatory statement affected his reputation and earning power and show proof of actual economic damages, hence the relatively low demands for compensation in all three suits.
Given the low cost and relative convenience of filing in Swiss courts, it could also be a sign that neither Verbruggen nor McQuaid have a whole heck of a lot of confidence that they will prevail. Truth is an affirmative defense in libel and slander cases in most court systems. (Even English courts allow the truth defense, but add a caveat, allowing a plaintiff to claim that the defamatory statement amounts to a “breach of the peace,” even if it’s true.)
Again, it looks like the suit against Kimmage is another salvo in a public relations war, albeit one that could cost the defendant time, money and inconvenience.
But how do the comments of an American cyclist, told to an Irish journalist and published in a British newspaper and American web site become the subject of interest of a Swiss court?
That’s actually an interesting tangent. Under Swiss law a defamatory statement can be cause for both civil and criminal action. It would be harder to press that case in criminal courts since the alleged defamatory statements in this case took place outside of Switzerland. Even if they could bring it in to criminal court, the case would be difficult to prove.
Under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights – to which Switzerland is a signator – citizens are guaranteed “the right to freedom of expression. this right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers.”
The 1999 case of Dalban v. Romania affirmed that the prosecution of journalists would be more difficult than even an ordinary citizen. The case was nicely summed up in the 2007 European Council publication “Freedom of Expression in Europe:”
“The Court ruled that a journalist’s criminal conviction of defamation following the publication of several articles accusing prominent public figures of involvement in fraud constituted a violation of Article 10 of the Convention. It was the duty of the press, while respecting the reputation of others, to impart information and ideas on all matters of public interest, and it was unacceptable that “a journalist should be debarred from expressing critical value judgments unless he or she [could] prove their truth.”
The impugned articles had to do not with the private lives of the prominent figures but with their behaviour and attitudes in discharging their duties. There was no proof that the description of events given in the articles was totally untrue or calculated to fuel a defamation campaign. In relation to the legitimate aim pursued, therefore, convicting the applicant of a criminal offence amounted to disproportionate interference with exercise of the journalist’s freedom of expression.”
Even strictly interpreted, though, Article 10 would not preclude civil action. And the standard for exercising jurisdiction in Swiss civil courts is lower than it would be in criminal court. Even if the defendant lives outside of Switzerland and his statements were made outside of Switzerland, Swiss courts can assert jurisdiction if the statements are shown to have an effect inside Switzerland. Obviously, since Pound, Landis and Kimmage were referring to inaction – or outright corruption – at UCI headquarters in Aigle, that standard is met and the case can go forward.
Choosing the right defendant … or picking on the little guy
It’s worthy of note that the McQuaid/Verbruggen suit didn’t involve a deep-pocket defendant.
Again, much of what Kimmage has written over the years has appeared on the pages of the Sunday Times and much of what he has said about doping and corruption in the sport has been quoted in L’Equipe.
So why weren’t those publications included in the suit? A libel and slander suit can be pursued against anyone who repeats the alleged defamatory statement. Certainly, Rupert Murdoch’s Sunday Times and L’Equipe, owned by Éditions Philippe Amaury (yup, that’s the same family that owns the Amaury Sport Organization, which runs the Tour de France) were guilty of repeating Kimmage’s “libel,” no?
As I mentioned, this suit isn’t aiming high on the damages scale, so bringing in a deep-pocketed defendant probably isn’t strategically wise in this case. If those papers were brought into this thing, they sure-as-hell would show up and they would do so with a gaggle of high-priced lawyers and shoot this thing down like it deserves to be.
No, instead, they zeroed in on an individual. What’s more, an individual defendant who was the victim of a reduction in force at the London paper late last year. We have an outspoken, but now-underemployed, crusader. In this case, he’s the ideal defendant. It was strategically wise (but morally repugnant) to zero in on Kimmage.
It’s also another indication that this suit is being used to harass someone willing to speak out. If the suit had merit, the Sunday Times and L’Equipe would have been named, too.
We are not likely to see this case end up like the other two. Kimmage can’t just vanish like, according Verbruggen at least, Landis managed to do.
We will probably not see a retraction of any kind – even one worded as elegantly as the Pound statement – emerge from the pen of Paul Kimmage.
“Hell will freeze over before I issue either of those gentlemen an apology for anything,” Kimmage told VeloNation’s Shane Stokes.
So Kimmage will be in the position of either ignoring the thing and losing by default – an approach we’ve seen in another high profile case recently – or appearing in that Swiss district court and showing why his statements are, in fact, not defamatory, but true.
If Kimmage takes the latter approach, it isn’t going to be easy. It isn’t going to be cheap. The plaintiffs know that and there are many of us who believe that’s precisely why they did it. My bet is that they have that strategy in mind … but they picked the wrong guy. Kimmage is a fighter. He is not going to go quietly into the night and buckle to that kind of pressure … but he will need help.
You can lend a hand. The folks over at NYVeloCity have created a ChipIn Page for the Paul Kimmage Defense Fund.
Give it some thought.
Do you really want these guys to get away with this crap? Let’s not send Kimmage off on another rough ride, okay?
The Explainer is a weekly feature on Red Kite Prayer. If you have a question related to the sport of cycling, doping or the legal issues faced by cyclists of all stripes, feel free to send it directly to The Explainer at Charles@Pelkey.com. PLEASE NOTE: Understand that reading the information contained here does not mean you have established an attorney-client relationship with attorney Charles Pelkey. Readers of this column should not act upon any information contained therein without first seeking the advice of qualified legal counsel licensed to practice in your jurisdiction.
How I love Interbike. I could count the ways, and would count the ways, except that RKP is now something approaching popular with some of the bike industry and I’ve been busier than a salt shaker at a diner. Though Interbike is ostensibly about product and sales, what that makes this event so terrific are the many people I have the pleasure to work with and the fact that we’re all in Las Vegas to celebrate just how great a sport cycling is. We’re all preaching to the same choir, but no one is complaining.
Yes, that is the Giro d’Italia trophy above. I picked it up and got my picture taken with it. While nothing about its weight (which is somewhere between 1970s Cadillac and Blue Whale) suggests that it is in any way delicate, one cannot simply grab thing like an old suspension coil and hoist it above your head. As I handled it, I felt as if I was rolling out the Dead Sea Scrolls and there was no way I could be too careful.
The queen stage of the 2013 Giro d’Italia (Giro representatives preferred the term “king” stage) was announced in a press conference yesterday and while they talked for entirely too long to introduce a single 150km-stage, the stage is a doozy and will not only be the Giro’s first visit to the famed Col du Galibier, it will also result in a mountain-top finish on that murderous climb. That stage will break people (I can’t wait).
BMC introduced a new aero road frame, the TMR01. It features integrated brakes, internal cable routing and a number of truly aerodynamic features that make it at least appear to be exceedingly fast. Of course, the promotional video of Philippe Gilbert storming down a descent in the Riviera was amazing to watch, for a few reasons, one being he’s as stylish on the bike as George Clooney is at pretty much every moment of his life, another was the road Gilbert was blistering, and the final was the simple fact that I’ve been made a believer of aero road frames and I’m dying to ride this bike.
You’ve probably heard that Specialized is introducing a new road shoe. If you studied pics of Tom Boonen killing it at Flanders or Roubaix this spring, then you might have spied the new model. On display below samples of the new work was this collection of production shoes and prototypes from over the years. So much of Interbike is spit-polished it was nice to get a glimpse inside the work that goes into a sophisticated piece of footwear meant to fit as many riders as possible. No small feat, ahem.
The big news at Specialized (and here’s a good reason why the complete lack of any presence at all by Cannondale and Trek sucks unicorn blood—I can’t say a thing about them, which makes it seem like I wasn’t interested, which isn’t the least bit true) was the new Roubaix SL4. I’ll chase the full details at a later date, but I’m told that this iteration has evolved a bit to make it a somewhat racier bike. This most noticeable change is a shorter head tube to make the thing feel less like an English 3-speed to veteran roadies.
My piece on carbon clinchers this summer opened some interesting communication channels. Some product managers came down from Specialized and we went for a ride on the terrain in question and a couple of guys from Reynolds came up for a visit and ride as well. The note that the Reynolds team struck was both proud and conciliatory. Proud because with 10 years building carbon clinchers, they’ve been at it longer than anyone else. Conciliatory because they understand that the single biggest issue they face is that some riders are on product that really can’t be compared with their latest work. We went through the new Aero series of wheels, wheels I’m hearing compare favorably with Zipp’s Firecrest and Enve’s SES wheels for stability. I’ll be getting on a pair a little later this fall.
It’s Interbike, which means I’m in the showroom for Santa’s workshop. This Fondriest isn’t going to be a top seller, or on anyone’s best new product list. That’s just fine. I took this shot because those polished lugs are freakin’ gorgeous and if you don’t take time at Interbike to geek out, you kinda missed the point.