Monday 31 May 2010

Valverde - They can't even ban him properly!

Do you want the good news or the bad news?

Good news: Alejandro Valverde has finally been handed a worldwide ban to go alongside the ban he received in Italy last May. CAS upheld appeals by the UCI and WADA which essentially contended that the Spanish Cycling Federation should have instituted proceedings against him, instead of just the Italians, and that therefore his ban should be worldwide. As a result of this finding Valverde is suspended from all racing for two years dating from 1st Jan 2010. All of his results since then are annulled, all prize money is to be returned (don't hold your breath!) and the world rankings have been revised putting Cadel Evans in his rightful place at the top.

Bad News: Despite the fact that the Italian ban, which the UCI and WADA were trying to extend, was announced last May, all of Valverdes results between then and 1st Jan will stand. That leaves us with the farcical position that last years Vuelta was won by a banned rider! In other words CAS has said that the ban was justified but he was still racing and that's OK by them.

I suppose the best thing to taken from this is that even though the Italian ban was for two years from May he is now banned there until the end of 2011. Of course it's great news for Evans too and more especially for Slovakia's Simon Spilak (Lampre) who now becomes the winner of the Tour of Romandie.

The full list of his major results from 2010 to be annulled are:

1st, Tour Méditerranéen, now goes to Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) AG2R-La Mondiale
2nd, Paris-Nice, now goes to his teammate Luis-Leon Sanchez (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne
2nd, GP Miguel Indurain, now Michel Kreder (Ned) Garmin-Transitions
2th Overall, Vuelta al País Vasco, now Beñat Intxausti (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi
1st Stage 1 Vuelta al País Vasco, now Christophe Le Mevel (Fra) Française Des Jeux
1st Stage 2 Vuelta al País Vasco, now Óscar Freire (Spa) Rabobank
1st Points Classification, now Samuel Sánchez (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi
8th, La Flèche Wallonne, now Andy Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank
3rd Liège–Bastogne–Liège, now Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto
1st Overall Tour de Romandie, now Simon Spilak (Slo) Lampre-Farnese Vini
1st Stage 5 Tour de Romandie, now Igor Anton Hernandez (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi

Tuesday 25 May 2010

David Hourigan - RIP

I was shocked to hear tonight of the passing of Limericks David Hourigan, winner of the 1992 Manx International. He was 38. His body was found in a hotel in Thailand. Reports suggest he may have been dead for a number of days before staff discovered his body. The circumstances of his death are being investigated.

David was a dominant rider in Ireland in the 80's and 90's. Apart from his Manx win he also represented Ireland many times, including in the Nissan Classic. His career was however marred by a positive test in the 1994 Rás for which he received a three month suspension.

I would like to extend my deepest sympathies to his family and friends. May he rest in peace.

Friday 21 May 2010

Ringside video of Lance post crash in TOC

Great ringside seat video of the aftermath of Lance's crash in the Tour of California and the decision to abandon.

Kimmage and McQuaid on Newstalk re Landis

24 hours later and the Floyd Landis story has moved on somewhat with all kinds of unsubstantiated accusations flying in both directions.

Not unexpectedly Lance and Bruyneel have responded by essentially labelling Landis as crazy. Lance's statement accuses Landis of harassing him along with some bizarre comments about Landis living alone in the woods with no-one to talk to. Bruyneel accuses Landis of using the allegations to blackmail him and the organisers of the Tour Of California. Naturally neither will get into any specifics about the records of the past members of the US Postal team.

There is an interesting debate happening about the timelines in Landis's emails. Lance made comments that the timelines don't fit. The presumption in most articles I've read is that this refers to the section in the emails referring to events in 2002:

"2002: I was instructed on how to use Testosterone patches by Johan Bruyneel during the During the Dauphine Libere in June, after which I flew on a helicopter with Mr Armstrong from the finish, I believe Grenoble, to San Mauritz Switzerland at which point I was personally handed a box of 2.5 mg patches in front of his wife who witnessed the exchange. About a week later, Dr Ferrari performed an extraction of half a liter of blood to be transfused back into me during the Tour de France. Mr Armstrong was not witness to the extraction but he and I had lengthy discussions about it on our training rides during which time he also explained to me the evolution of EPO testing and how transfusions were now necessary due to the
inconvenience of the new test. He also divulged to me at that time that in the first year that the EPO test was used he had been told by Mr Ferrari, who had access to the new test, that he should not use EPO anymore but he did not believe Mr Farrari and continued to use it. He later, while winning the Tour de Swiss, the month before the Tour de France, tested positive for EPO at which point he and Mr Bruyneel flew to the UCI headquarters and made a financial agreement with Mr. Vrubrugen to keep the positive test hidden."

Much has been made of the fact that Lance didn't ride the Tour De Suisse in 2002, let alone win it. However, I don't think Landis actually claims that he did. What Landis says is that Lance told him about events "in the first year that the EPO test was used". The fact is that the UCI introduced urine testing for EPO in 2001, the year Lance did win in Switzerland. This, of course, doesn't mean Landis is telling the truth but it does remove one of the rebuttals Lance is using.

What is also interesting is that the UCI, via Pat McQuaid, is playing the man too. McQuaid appeared on an Irish radio show last night following an interview with Paul Kimmage. As you can imagine Kimmage was pretty no-holds-barred, but McQuaid seemed to be solely concerned with implying that Landis has an ulterior motive and so should not be heeded. He doesn't seem to think that the UCI should at least be checking out the story, preferring to leave that to others.

Now, I might be wrong here, but surely there is, at the very least, a learning opportunity for the UCI here. As was the case when Bernard Kohl started shooting his mouth off, there are lots of insights into the methods and mindsets of dopers being aired. The UCI should be making it clear that they take this seriously and want to glean every last shred of info possible in order to improve future anti-doping efforts. Rather than belittling the whistle blower, regardless of whether they think he's right or not at this stage, they should be reacting in a manner that encourages riders to come clean. Or maybe they know it all already, in which case you would have to wonder why they're not ahead of the game more.

McQuaid also, again, pointed to Lances "clean" record as a factor limiting his ability to do anything. But one of the central planks of the Landis mails, and Kohls statements too, is that he was getting away with it for years. If that is the case then the UCI should be immediately taking steps to review the records of the riders mentioned, retesting samples from previous races if necessary. They may not be able to prove anything to the point of legal certainty but, as we saw in Michelle Smiths case, a stars bubble can be burst in many ways. Or, conversely, it would give Lance the data he needs to put the accusations to bed.

The interviews with Kimmage and McQuaid can be heard here

Thursday 20 May 2010

UCI responds to Landis allegations -updated

In a classic wagon circling response Pat McQuaid is quoted on the BBC website saying:

"What's his agenda? The guy is seeking revenge. It's sad, it's sad for cycling. It's obvious he does hold a grudge. He already made those accusations in the past. I have to question the guy's credibility. There is no proof of what he says. We are speaking about a guy who has been condemned for doping before a court."

So there you have it. Play the man, not the ball and on with the show.


The UCI have a press release up now saying that they'll leave it to the individuals concerned to take the "positions they see fit". Nothing to do with them then!

See it here

Landis opens a can of worms

In an extraordinary about face Floyd Landis has given an interview to the US press admitting to doping and claiming to have written emails to various people/bodies blowing the whistle on several high profile riders, managers and officials and their allegedly dodgy practices. He's also raised big questions about doping procedures and enforcement.

This is going to be a hell of a sh*t storm! He has tried to open so many cans of worms it's not funny. Needless to say Twitter is alive with this!

Among other things he claims:

- he did dope in 2006, but not with what he was caught for!
- US Postal, including Lance, Hincapie, Vaughters and Bruyneel (among others) were up to their necks in it including blood doping, testosterone patches and other methods
- the UCI and Armstrong colluded in covering up a positive test for money
- Phonak not only turned a blind eye but actually paid for his "treatments"

Of course Landis could be said to be a less than reliable witness with more than enough motives for bitterness and revenge but it remains to be seen what evidence he will be able to produce. This brings previously forgotten incidents back to the fore (the famous Vaughters/Andreu IM messages for example). It also focusses a much needed spotlight back on what was going on at US Postal. It can't be a co-incidence that so many of Lances lieutenants from back then have since been caught or admitted doping of one form or another.

It's early days yet and we need to see how this story develops over the next while but there must be some very uncomfortable people in Aigle, Italy and California today!

Will there be a Lance/Bruyneel backlash or will they keep quiet on it? Will Vaughters live up to his avowed Garmin philosophy and come clean on what he knows? Will Cadel get caught up in it via the Lelangue connection to BMC?

To my mind the inevitable witchhunt for offenders shouldn't obscure the need to look at the systemic issues he raises. I've already posted here about my concerns re the Vania Rossi case. Is it time the UCI/WADA were put under scrutiny too?

The story is here and here

Some of Floyds email is here

Tuesday 18 May 2010

The most dangerous ride in the world

Yesterday Shane Stokes tweeted a link to a BBC story about the worlds "most dangerous" road and how mountain biking down it has become the adventure of choice for thousands of travellers every year. I was intrigued and had to know more.

The road in question is the "highway" between La Paz and Coroico in Bolivia. Built by POWs in the 30's it earned it's "Most Dangerous Road in the World" tag due to the average of 200 - 300 deaths per year (yes I did say per year!), mainly due to trucks and buses falling from it's narrow ledges over sheer cliffs. In places the road is little more than a ledge on a cliffside with barely room for one vehicle to pass, let alone two coming in opposite directions. Add to that the blind corners, waterfalls cascading down on to the road and the long unsurfaced stretches and you start to see the point. You may have seen Jeremy Clarkson trying to pass another SUV on it in a hair-raising clip from Top Gear last year. If not you should!

In 1998, New Zealander Alistair Matthew mountain biked down the road describing the adventure as "spectacular". He finished with a "big grin and claw hands from holding the brakes" after the near 12,000 foot vertical drop over 40 miles. From that he founded a company, Gravity, dedicated to guiding thrill-seekers in pursuit of "bragging rights" down the road.

While he is proud of the fact of his record, there are now a raft of similar operations who's emphasis on safety isn't quite as obvious. As a result , as well as the one client Gravity has lost, a further 17 riders have died in the 12 years of mountain biking rides down the road.

I can't really do justice to the experience so I'd recommend you have a look at this video from ABC in the US to get a better picture.

BTW Here's the BBC link.

Giro D'Italia Luge Event 2007

The horrendous weather that the Giro D'Italia has been enduring this week reminded me of this famous finish at Pinerolo in 2007. It only took one Tinkoff rider to slip on the sponsors logo painted on the road and it was like a game of skittles. If you look closely enough you'll even see Nico Roche take a tumble.

Monday 17 May 2010

Fan photos

These are too good not to post. Thanks to Stephen O'Shea for sending them to me.

Lampre sign top descender.

Flanders has new President lined up for after the break up of Belgium.