Is it me, or is this quickly becoming the longest off-season in the history of professional cycling? Maybe it’s that I was so busy at the end of the summer that I missed the Giro d’Lombardia, but it feels to me like a long time since I watched a road race that mattered, and even the Tour Down Under seems an eon away.
Exacerbating the issue is the Arm(strong)ageddon that has subsumed all the positive things happening in the sport like a wild fire in dry scrub. It’s gotten so I don’t even mind the usual off-season dreck about rider X is looking forward to a strong classics campaign, or rider Y is ready to put last season’s disappointment behind him. I am reading those things now with a keen eye on the future. This is how whalers felt about land sightings, I bet.
The first question I have is: Is it just me? Am I the only one feeling this way? Sure, I am watching cross races and distracting myself with my own off-season adventures, but more than any fall/winter I can remember, I am missing pro road racing.
The second question is: When do you think we’ll have this feeling behind us? I am imagining Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne and Het Volk will be big races for me. Will they allay this horrible sense of longing, or will it last all the way to the Giro?
This week’s Group Ride is about moving on. What’s it going to take for you to put this whole mess behind you and get back to talking about the races? Or are you over it already, happy to have the brain space for something other than skinny people on plastic bikes? What are you looking forward to for the 2013 season?
If there’s one thing that we can say with certainty about the UCI and doping, it’s that they have done a dismal job of investigating eyewitness testimony on doping charges. That they never followed up on charges made by eyewitnesses is galling because it makes an end-run on their defense that they lacked the resources to do more. Talking to eyewitnesses requires little more than a phone, though a plane or train ticket is handy.
Their unwillingness to actually investigate allegations by riders is unacceptable the way stripping naked in a restaurant and standing on the table singing Debbie Boone songs is unacceptable. Sure, you may think that Floyd Landis is crazy; you may even agree with Pat McQuaid and think he’s a scumbag. But that doesn’t make what he said untrue. The same goes for Tyler Hamilton, Frankie Andreu, Jorg Jaksche and Jesus Manzano, just to name a few.
Each of these riders gave eyewitness testimony of doping and were then roundly attacked by the UCI. It’s like arresting—and then ignoring—the junkie who is ready to turn over his dealer and his dealer’s dealer. Insert epic “Really?”
And so now Pat McQuaid has announced a confidential hotline for those who wish to “discuss issues or concerns related to doping.”
Hmm … I’m curious about how much nandrolone you have to take to get a full-scale case of bacne. Do you suppose that’s what he’s talking about? In his letter he claims there are riders who reported doping allegations that were not investigated. That’s certainly the case with Andreu, Jaksche and Manzano, who were arguably the highest-profile riders to allege inaction on the part of the UCI for the Armstrong case was blown open by USADA.
McQuaid claims: “I would like to take this opportunity to assure you that the UCI did act on information provided in the past.”
Okay Mr. McQuaid, please tell us what you did, because we’ve not seen a serious investigation on your part into the charges made by the aforementioned riders.
McQuaid goes on to write that amnesty isn’t an option but reduced punishment is an option. Honestly, based on previous behavior, the only intelligent conclusion one can draw from this hotline is that any rider who speaks up will be attacked by the UCI for hurting the sport. And then suspended.
Okay, let’s go over the math here: Make a phone call. Confess your involvement in doping plus whatever you know about the actions of others. Result: You get suspended, ridiculed by the sport’s governing body and the other people involved go un-investigated.
If that’s not a compelling case for the survival of omerta, then I’m a dancing elephant. Jens Voigt’s Army (@jensvoigtsarmy) tweeted that the UCI should staff the hotline with Miss Cleo from the Psychic Friends. This may have been meant as comedy, but I think it’s a terrific suggestion; certainly a psychic has a higher likelihood of finding out the truth than the UCI.
McQuaid says he’ll be meeting personally with all the teams this winter. I’m reminded of the old joke, “Here comes God—look busy.” For McQuaid, we can retell it: Here comes Pat McQuaid—shut up.
Below is the full text of McQuaid’s letter to riders; note that it does not address team staff.
To riders ________
Sent by email only
Aigle, 9 November 2012
I would like to take this opportunity to update you on the latest developments and decisions we have taken in response to the current crisis in our sport.
You will have seen in recent media reports that Philippe Gilbert, Mark Cavendish and Bradley Wiggins among many others have been strong voices in telling the world that today’s cycling is cleaner than ever before. Of course, they are right. You, today’s riders not only participate in the most innovative and effective anti-doping programs in sport but above all you have understood which choice to make for your career and for your sport. The result is that our sport is cleaner.
Actually the UCI has always been a pioneer in the fight against doping, a fact recognized by WADA and the IOC among others. We pride ourselves on the fact that we were the first sport to introduce a whole range of scientific measures as tools in this fight. These include the haematocrit test, the EPO tests, the homologous blood transfusion test and the blood passport, which I do not need to tell you about, as you are in the front line and have been overwhelmingly supportive of these initiatives. We are aware that this extensive anti-doping program causes much inconvenience for you, and we thank you for having accepted the hassle for the greater good of cycling.
Nevertheless, when we read in the USADA dossier that Lance Armstrong and others were able to use doping throughout their careers, we have to admit that the tests provided by the scientific community were simply not adequate enough to combat the problem.
Therefore we must all continue to work to keep improving the culture in cycling through education, prevention and as far as you are concerned by making the one choice that counts. At the end of the day it is you the riders who have the ultimate say about whether our sport is clean.
Naturally, we need to do more to ensure that the UCI is as accessible as possible, and in particular to you the riders, should you wish to discuss issues or concerns relating to doping. That is why, during the coming weeks, also after a small time frame to set up the logistical side, the UCI will be looking into establishing a new open line – a confidential ‘hotline’. We will be sending more information about this once in place. I know that it will take some time to build trust and confidence in this new line of communication, but I am confident that, with the best intentions from both sides, we can build that trust. And by doing so, we will accelerate the change in culture that we need in our sport.
We are aware that some riders have complained publicly that despite having shared knowledge with the UCI, there was an inadequate follow up. I would like to take this opportunity to assure you that the UCI did act on information provided in the past and it will always do so in the future, within the bounds of what is legally feasible.
Clearly the UCI has to work within the rules and in particular in accordance with the World Anti-Doping Code. At this time the rules do not allow general amnesties but the current review of the World Anti- Doping Code may provide different possibilities in the future. The rules do currently allow reduced penalties. We are aware, and doing the utmost to address your proposals/needs in the effort to do the best by our sport.
As far as repairing the reputation of our sport, I would like to add that the UCI has listened to the world’s reaction to the Lance Armstrong affair and it has taken – and will continue to take – decisive steps in response to all matters raised.
To make sure that the UCI and cycling can move forward with the confidence of all parties, we are now establishing a fully Independent Commission to look into the findings of the USADA report and make recommendations to enable the UCI to restore confidence in the sport of cycling. John Coates, the President of the International Council of Arbitration for Sport (ICAS), has agreed to recommend the composition and membership of the Independent Commission. The UCI has already begun contacting the people Mr. Coates has nominated. The names of the panel members will be announced as soon as the Commission is convened. The Commission’s final report and recommendations will be published no later than 1 June 2013 – and you can be confident that the UCI will take whatever actions are deemed necessary to put cycling back on track. We are confident that the Commission will conclude that the UCI has been one of the strongest of all sporting federations in fighting doping in sport for many years.
As part of the effort to eradicate doping from our sport the UCI has made a considerable investment in education and implementation of the True Champion or Cheat program, the ‘no needle policy’, the ethical evaluation as part of teams’ registration and the modules in the Sports Directors training programme. These are all measures to achieve the necessary changes in the culture of our sport.
Finally, while the Independent Commission carries out its work, I feel it is also important that UCI works on restoring the credibility of our sport. I have decided that, during the first quarter of 2013, the UCI will set in motion a wide-ranging consultation exercise involving all cycling’s stakeholders to tackle issues of concern within the sport and work together to build a bright future for cycling.
The UCI will welcome your participation in this consultation, which will also look at how we can continue the process of globalising the sport, encourage wider participation and take measures to make the sport even more interesting for spectators.
This is not the first time cycling has reached a crossroads. Nor is it the first time it has had to engage in the painful process of confronting its past and beginning afresh. It will do so again with renewed vigour. Its stakeholders and fans can be assured that cycling will find a new path forward.
This summer in London, we saw that cycling is one of the world’s most popular sports. Its future will be defined by you the current generation of riders, who have proved that you can compete and win clean. In December, I will be meeting all first and second division teams to address the issues which will ensure a clean, anti-doping culture going forward.
Together, we can maintain cycling’s popularity and ensure its bright future.
Long considered the orphan child of European cycling, Great Britain has finally established itself as a leading international force thanks to the brilliant 1-2 by Brad Wiggins and Chris Froome at this year’s Tour de France, the stunning string of gold and silver medals won by the country’s track and road teams at the London Olympics, and the burgeoning status of the sport within the British media and general public.
Newcomers to cycling tend to think that the recent successes by British cyclists represents a sudden breakthrough, but it’s more as if the sport has come full circle. Britons developed the first modern bicycles (along with chain drive and pneumatic tires), won the world’s first organized bike races in the 19th century, and staged the first six-day track races and road time trials. There was a bleak period for British cycling in the first half of the 20th century, mainly due to a ban on road racing and professional cycling, but the country has since gradually shed its orphan status to re-emerge stronger than ever in this 21st century.
Countless individuals have contributed to Britain’s cycling revival over the past several decades, including all those who won world championships in the second half of the last century: Beryl Burton, Tom Simpson and Graham Webb on the road, and Reg Harris, Cyril Peacock, Hugh Porter and Tony Doyle on the track. And even before this year’s explosion of British victories, the upward path was accelerated in the past 10 years by a slew of British world champions headed by Chris Hoy, Victoria Pendleton and Wiggins on the velodrome, and Nicole Cooke and Mark Cavendish on the road.
While massive publicity was being given this year to Tour winner Wiggins and the home country’s Olympic medalists, three of the men who paved the way for them quietly passed away. Track racer Tommy Godwin died earlier this month two days short of his 92nd birthday; time trialist Ray Booty died from cancer three months ago at age 79; and road racer Brian Haskell died in March at 83.
Godwin, who won bronze medals in the kilometer time trial and 4000-meter team pursuit at the London Olympics of 1948, was honored as an ambassador and torchbearer at the 2012 London Games three months ago. He was working as an electrician when he won his two bronze medals, and he went on to own and run a bike shop for 36 years in Birmingham, England’s second largest city. During that time Godwin became his country’s first paid national coach (he was in charge when Burton and Webb won the women’s and amateur men world road titles in 1967), and he later served as president of the British Cycling Federation.
Last year, in a televised Olympic preview, the nonagenarian rode his 1948 Olympic track bike around the Herne Hill track and showed off the knitted-wool Great Britain team jersey he raced in 64 years ago. Godwin clearly remembered the enthusiasm generated by his bronze-medal rides, telling the BBC: “It was unbelievable. The crowd was fantastic. After we won the race for the bronze medal in the team pursuit, a cycling magazine reported, ‘There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.”
The team pursuit was the one track event that remained from that previous London Olympics, and Godwin was on hand this past August to see the British quartet annihilate the world record with their winning time of 3:51.659—which was just about a minute faster than the time set by Godwin and his British teammates when they took bronze at the 1948 Olympics!
While Godwin’s various positions made him one of the most influential people in the development of British cycling, Booty was a pure amateur cyclist who could have made as big an impact on the world scene as Wiggins had times been different. Instead, Booty did his national service in the army before becoming a chartered electrical engineer, first with Ericsson, then Westinghouse and Rolls Royce—and always riding his old race bike to work until retiring at 60.
Booty came to national prominence in August 1956 when, two years after Roger Bannister became the first athlete to run a four-minute mile, he became the first cyclist to race 100 miles in less than four hours in an out-and-back time trial. The day before his record performance in the classic Bath Road 100, to the west of London, Booty rode his bike the 100 miles from his Nottingham home. He raced the time trial on the same bike, using a fixed gear of 84 inches (50×16), to record a time of 3:58:28 and beat runner-up Stan Brittain, a British international, by almost 12 minutes.
A month later, right after his 24th birthday, Booty used a hub gear to break the point-to-point 100-mile record, taking advantage of favorable winds to set a time of 3:28:40, a record that stood for 34 years.
Booty was also an adept road racer. In 1954, he won the top British one-day event, the hilly Manx International; in 1955, he raced for the GB team at the prestigious, two-week Peace Race in eastern Europe, helping teammate Brittain finish third overall; and in 1958, on wet day in Cardiff, Wales, he rode away from a strong field at the Commonwealth Games road race to take the gold medal by some three minutes.
Brian Haskell was a contemporary of Booty and Brittain, and raced for the same cycling club in Huddersfield, Yorkshire, as Brian Robinson—who went on to become the first Brit to win a stage of the Tour de France. Haskell had similar ability, being a strong climber and stage race specialist. He twice won the Tour of Ireland, he was national hill climb champion multiple times, and he won the King of the Mountains titles at both the Peace Race and Tour of Britain.
Haskell competed as a semi-professional for the Viking Cycles team that dominated domestic racing from 1957 through 1961, and he raced another 30 years as an a amateur, winning national veterans titles in both road racing and time trialing. In 1973, he founded a precision sheet metal contracting firm that grew to employ 35 workers, and he was still working as company chairman until his death eight months ago.
Godwin, Booty and Haskell are not be names as well known as those of Hoy, Wiggins and Froome, but without their lifelong love of cycling, memorable performances and continued inspiration, Britain’s modern heroes may not have even emerged.
Follow me on Twitter: @johnwilcockson
On Friday, I attended an event at Shimano for the introduction of the new Dura-Ace 9000 group. My colleagues and I received an overview of the newest mechanical group from the Osaka behemoth, as well as a look at Shimano’s revised wheels, plus an overview of their new saddles and eyewear. Honestly, I can’t recall the last time I went to a media event held by a single company in which so many new products debuted. It was a bit overwhelming.
Shimano’s Dura-Ace group has been pretty thoroughly overhauled. While the addition of an 11th cog is the most obvious change, the story goes much deeper and the lasting impact of this group won’t be a single cassette cog. Here’s a brief inventory of some of the changes we were walked through: new pivot geometry for the derailleurs to decrease shift force, wider rims for better handling and aerodynamics, new brakes for improved brake force and modulation, a new cleat to offer better engagement while still offering limited float, a 110mm bolt-circle diameter for the crank so that riders can choose from many chainring combinations, vastly improved ergonomics for the control levers, and, yes, that aforementioned 11th cog.
I’m going to need some time to ride this new group before I do a full review, but thinking back on my introductions to the 7700 (9-speed) and 7800 groups, I have to say that 9000 is the group we all expected when 7900 was introduced. Not only is it the sort of quantum improvement over 7900 that 7800 was over 7700, it is also a pretty firm rebuke of 7900, in that so many features of that group lost ground to its predecessor. It’s such an improvement over its predecessors and such a competitive step back into the game that it prevents me from being anything other than agnostic about component groups. Let me clarify that last comment a bit: With 7900, it was easy to reject it as a sub-par group, opening the door for anyone to pick either Campagnolo or SRAM as their preferred components. This new group is so good, the only reasonable response to its introduction is to give it a test ride.
If I were forced to pick a single feature of the new group as emblematic of the whole, I’d have to point to the front derailleur and how the change in parallelogram geometry (plus the use of new cables) has changed the force required to execute the shift from small ring to big. The touch is so light I shift far more frequently that I have been with either 7900 or Campagnolo.
One detail we learned from one of the Shimano tech was that achieving 9000′s improved front shift action depends on cable actuation, that is, the point from which the cable pulls makes a difference in shift performance. As a result, the front derailleur is designed with two possible anchor points for the cable depending on the angle of the cable. The handy-dandy guide shown above helps techs determine just which anchor point to use. We are told that on many bikes either anchor point will work fine, but on those bikes with internal cable routing, on some occasions the cable exits the frame at an odd angle and under those circumstances which anchor point is used will determine how effective the shifting is.
In response to requests from fitters, The 9000-series pedal will offer an optional 4mm-wider pedal spindle to help riders whose feet feature exaggerated pronation. And the new blue cleat allows for +/- 1-degree of heel swing while moving the pivot point to the front of the cleat for a more positive, less sloppy sense of engagement and float.
We took a break in our presentation to attend a groundbreaking ceremony. Shimano is in the process of building three new facilities. There’s a new distribution facility being built in South Carolina, another facility being built in Colorado for Pearl Izumi (which Shimano also owns) and then the new building in Irvine, which will help with distribution and more.
In an unusual and forward-thinking move, Shimano had editors from a few different media outlets submit a frame set ahead of the introduction for Shimano’s techs to build with a new group. I reached out to my friends at Seven Cycles to see if they might be able to help. We’ve been discussing a review of the 622 frame for most of this year; I’ve been slow to get them my measurements for a custom frame. Fortunately for me, they had this particular 622 built for stock for Ride Studio Café, the studio/café operation Seven owns in Lexington, Mass.
It’s conceivable that a custom frame will fit me better than this, but I’m so accustomed to making stock stuff work, I have no complaints with this so far.
The new Dura-Ace crank is unlikely to stop looking freaky any time soon. It reminds me of the early Oakley M-series Heater lens. When I first saw it in the early 1990s, it looked distinctly insect-like. But then it grew on me. I suspect there will come a point when I love this look, but I still don’t see how I’m going to make the transition. The front derailleur looks strange with the arm for the cable anchor sticking up like a mechanical antenna, but that’s part of how the easy shift actuation occurs. A word to the wise, though: Trim that cable short!
Everything you ever thought you knew about precise, quick and quiet rear shifting is incomplete if you aren’t including this derailleur in your calculations. That it shifts as smoothly in the big cogs as it does in the small ones is just another instance of how good Shimano’s engineering can be.
I was not a fan of the 7900 brakes. In my experience, while they offered terrific power, they featured terrible modulation. They were just too grabby. I was a much bigger fan of the 7800 stoppers. The new 9000 units show incredible stopping power while still offering a broad modulation range.
Following lunch and a quick change into Lycra, we dialed in our bikes and then met for a shortish ride.
My Seven Cycles 622 was the subject of a great many ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’, but I need to be honest and say that I experienced some serious lust for the Alchemy that Peloton Tech Editor Ben Edwards was riding.
Our loop took us into Laguna Beach and up some rather steep pitches; one bump measured a whopping 31.5 percent in grade. My bike was equipped with a 34×28 low gear and it was nice to have gears low enough for everything I encountered, especially as I’m still not going super-hard since my crash.
I’ve got about 200 miles on this bike over four days. While I think most media outlets went pretty easy on Dura-Ace 7900, I can assure you that as you encounter reviews of this group and they all positively glow with the sort of effusive praise we reserve for Robert DeNiro thrillers, you won’t need to second-guess. This stuff is that good.
I want to apologize for the two-week absence of “The Explainer” column. I was working on one story that just never really came together, although there is still a chance that it might. I also got mired into the usual responsibilities of my day job and, now that I am catching up, I can devote a little time to addressing questions in my in-box.
Let’s start with what I saw as a bit of good news from a couple of weeks ago.
I enjoyed your original column on the UCI’s lawsuit against Paul Kimmage (See “The Explainer: Why SLAPPing Paul Kimmage won’t work” – Sept. 22) and the follow-up articles. I have to guess that by now you’re a little tired of the subject, but I wonder about Kimmage’s counter-suit.
Actually, Kimmage is not pursuing a counter-suit in this case. He’s aiming higher than that.
Allow me to explain.
The UCI, Hein Verbruggen and Pat McQuaid originally filed a civil suit against Kimmage, following a path they had pursued in two earlier cases against former World Anti-Doping President, Richard Pound and former professional cyclist, Floyd Landis (As you recall, Pound settled the case with a delightfully worded “retraction” and Landis lost his case by means of a default judgment, when he failed to show up for the hearing in Switzerland (See “The Explainer: By order of the court, Hein Verbruggen is (not) full of ….” – Oct. 6, 2012).
Those suits, as well as the one filed against Kimmage, were brought under Switzerland’s Civil Code, alleging that the defendants had committed the tort of defamation. We’ve already walked through the potential penalties, including a relatively small payment to the plaintiffs (8000 Swiss francs to each), a retraction and publication of the court’s findings in major – and not-so-major – news outlets.
Recall that all three cases were based on allegations that the defendants had said that the UCI, McQuaid and Verbruggen were either doing nothing, or intentionally covering up, doping. In the case of Landis and Kimmage, much of that was based on the interview Kimmage did with Landis in November of 2010 (see “Landis/Kimmage: The Transcript” at NYVeloCity.com).
Anyway, once the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency provided the UCI with its “Reasoned Decision” and supported that 200-page document with more than 1000 pages of evidence, the UCI – realizing that discretion is the better part of valor – opted to “seek to suspend (its) legal action against journalist Paul Kimmage.” Of course, it probably didn’t hurt that Kimmage was aching for a fight and that nearly 3000 had donated more than $80,000 to his defense fund. (It’s now up $91,755, by the way.)
Following the advice of that famous philosopher, Kenny Rogers, the plaintiffs essentially figured out that they needed to “know when to fold ‘em; know when to walk away and know when to run.”
Yeah, yeah, the UCI, McQuaid and Verbruggen merely “suspended” their suit, pending the report of the upcoming “Independent Commission,” organized to investigate the UCI’s record during those years. Bottom line, they realized that all of the allegations of UCI inaction or complicity would be argued in open court and they folded.
Not so fast, Hein
Well, despite the plaintiffs’ desire to let sleeping dogs lie, they had apparently forgotten that this dog was a pit-bull and he is, by now, quite awake.
No, Kimmage didn’t take a victory lap when his accusers backed down. Instead he filed request with the Public Prosecutor in Vevey (the same jurisdiction in which the original civil matter was filed) that his office pursue a criminal slander/defamation case against “Hein Verbruggen, Pat McQuaid and unknown persons.”
In a release issued on November 1, Swiss attorney, Cédric Aguet, said he was submitting a 28-page complaint, supported by 55 exhibits, supporting Kimmage’s assertion that “he was dragged through the mud, that he was called a liar in public and accused in public of committing offences against the honour … of the highest officials of the International Cycling Union (UCI).”
Kimmage’s complaint went on to say that he would like to inform “Swiss criminal authorities of the strong suspions, which weigh on at least Hein Verbruggen to have granted, directly or indirectly, the essential assistance which allowed Lance Armstrong to gain significant sums of money in and out of competition while he was doped.”
In other words, Kimmage hit back hard.
Not only is he requesting that the prosecutor pursue a criminal “calumny” action, he’s also raising the specter of criminal liability concerning Verbruggen’s complicity with Armstrong’s actions while he was president of the UCI.
Regarding the slander question, it may be difficult for us to see the specifics, since the submission to the prosecutor is not part of the public record, but it’s clear that Kimmage has skipped over the civil option (and its retraction and small pay-out) and gone straight for the jugular, in the form of requesting a criminal case be opened.
In general terms, the crime of “calumny” – or malicious and injurious defamation – is covered by article 174 of the Swiss Criminal Code, which imposes financial penalties and jail time for the crime of “offending one’s honor deliberately.”
Not having seen the Kimmage submission in its entirety, I would imagine that Kimmage is basing his complaint on the original UCI civil complaint and the numerous interviews in which McQuaid and/or Verbruggen have disparaged him. Indeed, the record is likely to show that the original plaintiffs in the civil suit spent a good deal of time talking smack about Kimmage and his work than he ever did about them and theirs. That could bite them in the ass, too.
What is the penalty for criminal slander?
Criminal defamation is something of an oddity, especially here in the U.S. There is no criminal statute covering that “crime” at the Federal level and only 17 states have such statutes on their books and those are rarely invoked. I can only come up with 10 or so cases over the past 15 years when I do a search.
Criminal sanctions for defamation are much more common in other countries, even though they are being gradually eliminated. In Switzerland, there are about 70 or so such criminal defamation actions brought each year. Under Swiss law, defamation is found to be committed when someone “falsely accuses another party, or creates a negative suspicion against a person of having committed dishonorable conduct or any other fact-specific prejudice.”
Think about that. That’s essentially the charge that the UCI, Verbruggen and McQuaid leveled against Kimmage in the original civil suit. In Swiss Courts, as in the U.S., truth is a defense against a claim of defamation – whether it’s a civil or criminal action. So, Kimmage was ready to show that his original statements were, in fact true, when the UCI withdrew its complaint. However, now that he’s pursuing a criminal case against the UCI, Verbruggen and McQuaid, Kimmage can use much of the same evidence he had planned to use in his defense. He merely needs to show that his original allegations were true and that the UCI knew they were true and that, despite understanding the veracity of his original claims, the three engaged in a campaign to disparage him as a means of covering up their own complicity or inaction. No, it won’t be a slam-dunk for Kimmage, but there is quite a bit of damn good evidence for the court to consider.
Afforded the usual due process protections of Swiss law, if a defendant is found guilty of the offense, he or she can be punished by a penalty of up to two years in prison. It should be noted that due to over-crowding, Swiss law incorporates something known as “day prison fines,” which would allow a first-time offender to pay a fixed monetary figure for each day he is sentenced to in prison, instead of actually serving the days behind bars.
Yeah, so even if Kimmage is ultimately successful in his efforts, it’s not likely we’ll see Hein in prison stripes … but he may feel the pinch in his wallet.
But that’s not really the goal here. Kimmage clearly wants to get the story out. Going to court may move that – and long-term reform of the UCI – in the right direction. The more time these guys spend under the spotlight, the more likely their UCI Management Committee support will erode. It’s already happening. That’s the real goal and it’s far more laudable than even hoping for that moment when we can see the complicit – or inactive – pay a penalty, be it with cash or time to reflect on their role in the decline of the sport we love.
Well, either way, sic ‘em, Paul.
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.
The bike industry has this funny habit of trying to sell me things I’m not sure I need. It is all change, all the time, and the trick of it is that some of the change is good and some of it is just expensive. I think of myself as a discerning consumer, but my parts bin will testify to some imprudent consumption throughout the years. It happens.
This year there are a couple trends that have me puzzling.
The first one is 650b mountain bikes, and let me come right out and say, I own one. In fact, it’s the only mountain bike I own. And it’s a single-speed, which makes it a lot like a unicorn in the mountain bike universe where everyone seems to be on a dual-suspension 29r anymore.
The conventional wisdom on 650b (or 27.5 for those of you who want the world to make sense) is that it combines the best of 26″ wheels, the weight and handling, with the best of 29rs, obstacle clearance and rolling speed. The new (actually old) wheel size is even being raced at World Cup level, so if there is some kool-aid drinking going on, it is not limited to a bunch of engineers in the parking lot of a bike company. This thing is happening.
At Interbike, Ritchey even displayed a 650b bike Tom built for himself, and raced, in the ’70s, perhaps just to confirm things we already knew such as, everything old is new again, AND Tom Ritchey is cooler than you or me.
Well, let me tell you, I have ridden 650b, and I like it. I’m not such a trail shredder that I will attempt to communicate in technical terms why it does what people say it does, but I do like it, and coming from a 26″ bike, I think it makes sense for my limited riding style and general propensity for impracticality.
The other trend, and this one is bigger and I’ll wager more interesting to RKP readers, is disc brakes on road bikes. Everybody’s talking. The big builders are rumbling as though this is going to be their next thing, but there are only a few market entrants at the moment. Volagi makes the Liscio (and soon the Viaje) and Colnago makes the C59 disc. Lynskey just announced one. Canyon showed one at Eurobike. And there are others, but chances are you haven’t seen them on the road yet. All current models are running mechanical discs while we wait for a really good drop bar shifter that will support hydraulics.
This week’s FGR is technical and wonky. Are these two trends worth our time? Do you see the value to 650b trail bikes? Will you go disc on the road? Why? Why not? Have you ridden either one? Share your experience. If the future is now, are you going along for the ride?
Waiting for the parts on the truck. Those last few bits you need to complete the machine. Maybe today will be the day. When is the normal drop off? Why has he not come yet with his scanner and his maudlin indifference? And Jesus wept, what if something is back-ordered and you have to ride the bike you’ve not been working on, because this shiny new thing will surely be ready before you have an aneurism if that truck doesn’t turn the bend and pull up short in front of the house. Is that the rumble of a diesel engine?
Waiting for your friends at the meet up. Watch checking. Convinced they’ve come and gone, or worse, they won’t show. Drinking a coffee you’ll curse when you’re bladder-full just as the pace turns to aggro. Sitting, leaning against your top tube in a parking lot, the civilians coming and going. Feeling like a fish out of water.
Waiting for your legs to come back. Not sure where they went, or even if they’ll be back. Maybe they met a girl and went to another party. Maybe they got hung up on a phone call. Moments full of heaviness and pain, or full of emptiness, a phone ringing and ringing and never being answered.
Waiting for your heart to stop thudding. Over the crest of a climb or just at that point where you can’t sprint any more, the bike wobbly beneath you. Or maybe in those quiet moments after you drop off the back of the rampaging group. Spent. Your friends swirling away up the road. Your vision narrowed, the pulsing high in your throat. To vomit or to cry? Perhaps to gather your breath, drop your shoulders and catch back on…
Waiting for the weather to pass, under a tree maybe or under the awning of a store you’ve never shopped in. Standing there all guilty, like you’re stealing something. Trying to convince yourself just to tough it out, doing the math on lightning strikes, wondering when you’ve ever been this cold.
Waiting for the next big race. To justify all the training you’ve got in your legs, the commitments to family and friends and work stretched to their breaking points as you tilt at a windmill that will never be killed. That they will never understand because they don’t understand anyway, this ghastly, painful, awkward thing you do instead of living a normal life.
Waiting for the next pro season. To inspire you with its breakaways, so many suicide streaks that end in the peloton’s cruel catches. Or make you wish for your own breathlessness as whisper thin climbers battle in slow-motion up an acute angle. The power and purity of that effort to purge all this talk of cheating and scheming and ruining that has turned the off-season into a Greek tragedy. Waiting for everything to get better.
Waiting to ride your bike.
Follow me on Twitter @thebicyclerobot.
Picture © Neil Doshi
The effect of the release of USADA’s “reasoned decision” and the accompanying documents has been rather like a Hollywood special-effects explosion. Debris has been raining down from the sky long after the explosion itself has ceased to reverberate. Some of us continue to wince and duck because we know there’s more in the sky than just blue. With a single download George Hincapie has gone from one of the United States’ most beloved riders, to one of its most vilified. Johan Bruyneel has gone from genius mastermind to evil genius. So many characters from the heyday of American cycling have been thrust into the role of criminal that Tyler Hamilton’s one-time team director Bjarne Riis—an enigmatic figure if ever there was one—has the enviable position of occupying a kind of moral purgatory where people aren’t really sure just how to feel about him.
Reams continue to be written about the USADA case, Travis Tygart and, yes, Lance Armstrong. Some of it, like Charles Pelkey’s recent Explainer, will be reasoned and objective. Some of it, such as Malcolm Gladwell’s piece for Business Insider, will get the conclusion wrong due to a lack of understanding of the facts; simply put, Gladwell doesn’t understand that the public wants a clean sport. Unrestrained doping results in deaths, and deaths are bad for the sponsors. Others, like John Eustice’s piece for TIME, hails from an outlook of such moral ambiguity one would prefer he didn’t speak on behalf of the sport; his attitude is a great example of what got us into this mess. This is no time for more of the same. The biggest surprise came from Competitive Cyclist’s “What’s New” blog, which is the most unapologetically ambivalent piece I’ve been able to find. Unfortunately, cycling fans don’t seem to be willing to entertain negative capability where Armstrong is concerned. As a result, no one I know is ready for nostalgia.
One wonders about the curious silence of Sally “Lance Armstrong is a good man” Jenkins, the Washington Post columnist and Armstrong biographer who has been known to take on a sports icon directly, such as when she wrote, “Joe Paterno was a liar, there’s no doubt about that now.“ And then there’s the astoundingly politician-like flip-flop of Phil Liggett who has been far more effective as a PR agent for Armstrong than Mark Fabiani was. His statement that he finds it “very hard to believe Lance Armstrong did not dope” falls rather short of the more definitive, ‘I believe Lance Armstrong doped’, was nonetheless a shocker for those who watched him on the Four Corners program on Australian television, and re-broadcast by CNN in the U.S.
No matter what faults readers may find with the print media, they cannot compare to the sin committed in the orchestrated slander of Tyler Hamilton and Floyd Landis by Liggett and co-commentator Paul Sherwen. In allowing Armstrong to join them as an investor in an African gold mine, they gave him their short hairs, and the last vestiges of their objectivity.
The outrage about Armstrong is really understandable. His seven wins in the Tour were a Ponzi scheme that even Bernie Madoff would admire. How Armstrong managed to do what he did, why he did it, why others aided him, all of that is easy to process. It’s a word I keep coming back to: coercion. At some level, everyone who succumbed felt pushed by forces outside their own will. What has been harder to understand is how the reception to the Armstrong story changed over time.
In 2001, almost no one wanted to hear any suggestion that Armstrong wasn’t clean. For a long time, David Walsh was treated as if he was running around in a tinfoil hat. Even in 2005, once the allegations were out there more firmly, the cycling world still seemed to have their hands at their ears, collectively yelling “la-la-la-la I can’t hear you.” But by 2009 it was apparent, based on—if nothing else—comments here on RKP, that a great many serious cyclists had come to the conclusion that Armstrong wasn’t clean. It was also apparent by that time that a great many stories had emerged of just what a domineering personality he was. I’ve often wondered just how much peoples’ dislike of Armstrong greased their ability to conclude that he was a doper. Once a villain, then why not all-in?
So while the Friday Group Ride is a few days away, I’d like to pose a few questions to you readers: When did you come to the conclusion that Armstrong was a doped athlete? If the tipping point for you came before the USADA Reasoned Decision, what served as your personal tipping point? Also, if your change of opinion came before the Reasoned Decision, did the release of those documents change anything for you, even if it was only to cause you to hate Armstrong even more? Finally, for those of you who have been outraged by what was detailed in the Reasoned Decision and its supporting documents, why did it anger you in a way the same allegations made previously did not?
Now, having asked all that, I’ll make a final request: This is meant to be a conversation, not an occasion to vent self-righteous spleen. We want to hear from as many readers as possible, so we ask that you try to keep your comments both brief and civil. Thanks.
Image: John Pierce, Photosport International
Just as bike racers sometimes get jaded—they call it over-training—so busy journalists occasionally experience writer’s block. And this autumn, for cycling writers in particular, the repeated need to comment on yet another doping revelation has taken us close to burnout. So when I sat down in front of the computer this past weekend to begin this column, nothing came out. I sat looking at the blank screen for what seemed like hours, but was really just a few minutes. No thoughts. No words. Nothing.
I then did something I can’t remember doing for a very long time: I closed the laptop with zero ideas of what I was going to write about. I then headed over to my daughter Emma’s place to spend most of the day with her and my two-year-old grandson, Jordan. This was a lot more fun than struggling with a column, especially when we decided to head over to the park.
Once there, I pulled Jordan’s little Strider bike out of the trunk while Emma put his very cool white-and-yellow helmet over his blond curls and clicked the strap under his chin. His legs have only recently grown enough to enable him to safely straddle his little balance bike with both feet firmly on the ground, but he doesn’t yet have the confidence to stride the bike under his own power. He told us to walk (or run) behind him and hold the ends of his bars while he was striding—and he still much preferred putting his feet up on the frame and being pushed at a faster clip. That was much more fun!
To encourage him to stride along the concrete path to the playground, Emma told her son that he could put his feet up for a short distance, then he had to stride as far as the next lamppost, and so on. On the way back, she told him that every time he put his feet up was an automatic stop: no more pushing, and he had to start striding again. By the end of our time at the park he was merrily striding along, still with our support and with a happy smile on his face. I’m sure by the next time I visit he’ll be striding under his own steam—and probably coasting down the hills with his feet up!
We didn’t have no-pedals bikes when Emma was little, so it wasn’t until she was five that we bought her a first two-wheeler. And it took endless running up and down the street, holding her saddle, before she got the hang of pedaling, balancing and steering all at the same time. Her laughter acknowledged the freedom of riding alone, knowing that her parents weren’t holding her up anymore. But, inevitably, she wiped out on one of her early test runs, hit her chin on the rough road surface, screamed from the shock of it all, and sobbed through thick tears as we came running to help.
I was lucky to take my first pedal strokes on a no-risks tricycle that my sister and brother had ridden before me. My first bicycle would also be a hand-me-down. While I was waiting to grow into it, an older village friend, tastily named Trevor Cakebread, would take me riding on the crossbar of his adult-sized machine. So I got an early feel of being on two wheels. But that didn’t help me much when my brother let me borrow his little black bike for my first-ever solo ride.
We were on Holmwood Common, a vast area of scrub, trees and grassland behind the village church where commoners once grazed their sheep and cattle in centuries past. From the top of the common, there was a rutted, sandy single-track trail that snaked down the hillside between brambles, ferns and holly trees. I set off from the top and, without having to pedal, I was totally focused on staying upright and keeping on track as I started to go faster and faster. It was a total blast—until the inevitable happened. I couldn’t control the speed of the bucking bike when I had to turn to the left and I careened off the trail into the middle of a bushy holly tree, landing heavily among its sharp, spiky leaves.
The scratches on my arms and legs were a reminder of that first ride until my dad took me up to the top of a local hill and taught me to balance on that battered black bike, freewheeling down the gently sloping road time after time before I could ride it on my own—without falling.
Emma’s early, nasty crash didn’t deter her from doing longer rides. When she was eight, she joined me on England’s then largest fun bike ride, from London to Brighton, with more than 20,000 cyclists of all descriptions. When I asked this past weekend about what she remembered from that hilly 50-mile ride, which takes in the double-digit gradient of Ditchling Beacon before a last drop down to the seaside destination, she offered: “I had one of those ‘I can’t go any more’ moments, right?” She did. But she still valiantly pushed on and made it to the finish before going home by train, sleeping most the way.
Encouraged by that experience, I thought Emma, still only eight, would enjoy a camping trip across the English Channel and along the French coast. When I think of that short vacation, I remember stopping for a snack at the beautiful fishing port of Honfleur, and walking in sunshine along the sandy beach at Deauville—the Normandy town where Ian Fleming set his original James Bond novel, Casino Royale, in 1953. What Emma said she remembers is “rain, a dripping tent, a muddy campground” and “being scared riding down that metal grid ramp from the car ferry.”
I’m now starting to wonder whether, one day, Jordan will have any memories of his first bicycle rides. Given his early start on a Strider bike, he should have an advantage over his mum and grandpa. No landing in holly bushes or crashing on gravel-chip streets for him. I know what I’ll most remember of his initial two-wheel experience is giving me something to write about at a time when our beautiful sport is having some nasty crashes and crises of its own. Thanks, Grandson!
Follow me on Twitter: @johnwilcockson
In what passes for cold weather in the record fall heat of Southern California, I’ve been wearing a couple of pieces from Rapha. Our mornings are still cool, cool enough to require long sleeves if you’re on the bike before 8:00 in the morning. I’m going to volunteer a piece of information I don’t put out there a lot: I’m not a big fan of long-sleeve jerseys. The challenge of the long-sleeve jersey is one of proportion. It seems that rarely are both the hem length and the sleeve length of the jersey correct. I’ve had jerseys that fit my chest, but the arms reached beyond my wrists and the pockets hung as low as those on my jeans. I’ve found other jerseys where the hem was perfect, but the sleeves ended about where my old concert baseball jerseys did—mid-forearm.
Even when those proportions are right, there’s another detail that can ruin a long-sleeve jersey for me—sleeve circumference. Most cyclists I know don’t have big guns, so having sleeves that leave room for biceps that can curl 150 lbs. seems kinda silly. For a lot of cyclists, you just end up with extra material that flaps in the wind. If ever I had a pet peeve, it’s fabric that flaps like a flag left out in a wind storm.
You’ll pardon me if I say I was flat-out shocked when I tried on the both the Long Sleeve Jersey and the Lombardia Jersey and they fit almost perfectly. At my chest they were fitted just enough not to bunch up when I leaned down and put my hands in the drops. The sleeves reached to the end of my wrists and the cuffs are cut on a slight taper so that you don’t end up with exposed skin between the cuffs and your gloves. The hem was expertly cut as well. My preference is for my jerseys to be cut just a bit shorter, but these have a very traditional fit, short enough that there’s no chance of me catching the back of the jersey on the saddle when I go to sit down following a standing effort. And yes, the sleeves were snug enough they didn’t flap. Holy cow; it was a veritable fit trifecta.
The jerseys share a few other features as well; they are cut from a 52/48 Merino wool/polyester blend which means they offer the temperature regulating adaptability of Merino with the fit and finish of polyester. It’s a great match on paper (or in pixels) but honestly, these are only the second or third wool/poly blend that I’ve ever seen that didn’t look like a shortcut straight to the junkyard. The two outer pockets are cut at an angle to give you easy access and they are also a bit wider than the center pocket. A slim pump sleeve shares space with the middle pocket; it’s a great idea, but getting a mini pump and a vest into that space is nearly impossible. There’s a fourth, zippered security pocket for something you can’t afford to lose, like say a house key, or your sanity. The hems sport a silicone gripper and elasticized draw strings to keep the jerseys fitting snug on breezy days.
Where the Long Sleeve Jersey and the Lombardia Jersey differ is in closure. Not that one of them has unresolved issue, mind you. The Long Sleeve Jersey features a locking, full zipper. As simple and straightforward as hamburger. The Lombardia Jersey, because it is meant to evoke the spirit of Giovanni Gerbi, features a button closure on the left shoulder (five buttons) and at the sleeves (three buttons each). Also helping to distinguish the $240 Lombardia from the $220 Long Sleeve is the embroidery on the rear pocket—a brief homage to Gerbi who was known as il Diavolo Rosso (the red devil)—and just below the collar. It’s a choice piece, there’s no doubt. There’s also exactly zero doubt that trying to button or unbutton the shoulder to adjust for temperature changes is utterly impossible, at least while on the fly. The buttons on the sleeves are a bit more doable and if you unbutton all three buttons, you can pull the sleeves up, effectively turning it into a half-sleeve jersey, which is definitely helpful.
I’ve found these jerseys to be terrific with just a base layer from low 50s to the mid 60s. Anything warmer and I pull a Wicked Witch of the West and melt. For colder temperatures, the addition of a vest or windbreaker is all you need. Both garments are best-suited to days where the temperature won’t vary by 20 degrees as we’ve been dealing with here. They are both starlet gorgeous. My wife says she loves how the Moroccan Blue of the Long Sleeve Jersey matches my eyes, but my son saw me in the Lombardia and said, “Ooh, cool shirt!”
It’s worth noting that while the very first Rapha jerseys I saw were well-made, I didn’t care much for the finish of the fabric and I liked the cut and fit even less. These are noticeably better than those first efforts. If these jerseys don’t last people ten years, it won’t be for lack of quality. For those who think $220 is too much to spend on a jersey, there are other good options. This is one of those occasions where the cost of this garment can easily be justified by how long it’s going to last. I’ve examined the embroidery, the seams, the fabric. I could foresee buying a steel frame to match either of these and retiring them both in the same season.