Paul Andrews

Posts Tagged ‘Tour de France’

This Day in Doping: Lance, Vaughters, Does doping matter? and football players

In This Day In Doping on February 8, 2010 at 2:32 pm

Jonathan Vaughters made a careless comment about Lance Armstrong, who tweeted revenge. We like to see Lance mad because it makes him a better cyclist. Perhaps he will stick Vaughters’ comment on his top tube. Every time his head starts to sag a bit from fatigue, he will read it there and all hell will break loose. If he does go to glory in the Tour de France 2010, Lance will have Jonathan in part to thank.

But some perspective is in order.

Lance and Vaughters are former teammates, so there’s that history. Then, a couple of years ago, a Vaughters IM about potential doping in the Tour wound up in a lawsuit involving Lance and got widely circulated.

In cycling circles, the word is that so little love is lost between Lance and Vaughters you couldn’t find it with the Hubble Telescope.

Even so, Vaughters shows he has lost little of his cycling form, at least when it comes to backpedaling … a bit, anyway.

To be continued, to be sure. Does it really, in the overall scheme of things, when the universe is shrinking and expanding … does it really matter if cyclists cheat? Judging from hit counts, cycling is way more drug-drenched than, say, pro football. Which we all knew, right? I mean, why would football players, starting in middle school, ever take steroids or whatever? What would there be in it for them? Anyone up for gene doping?


This Day in Doping: Joe Papp on Cozy Beehive

In This Day In Doping on January 12, 2010 at 2:20 am

Over at Cozy Beehive, former pro cyclist Joe Papp unveils the secrets pros use to defeat anti-doping controls. It’s a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the cycling world’s subterfuge.

One point I’d like to see Joe or someone else close to pro cycling address: Just how much looking the other way goes on. I’ve discussed this before, that even if Tour officials found Contador or Lance doping, would they take action? The consequences to the sport would be beyond devastating. Better to just look the other way and beat up on the smaller guys in an attempt to 1) show you’re doing SOMEthing about doping and 2) present an illusion of cleaning up the sport.

We remain convinced that doping is a political and financial, not physical or athletic, issue, and must be dealt with on those terms.

How it used to be, ye youthful brethren of the spoken wheel…

In Bicycle Racing on January 3, 2010 at 10:45 am

The recent passing of Bernie Hoffacker, founder of Palo Alto Bicycles, rekindled a lot of memories from our roadie days back in the ’70s.

When the Euro revolution was just starting to sink in, Hoffacker’s Palo Alto Bicycles and Ric and Jon Hjertberg’s Wheelsmith a couple blocks away made Palo Alto one of the coolest places on earth. Palo Alto Bicycles had the classiest mail order catalog anywhere, helping to fuel the bike boom of the ’70s, and its posters of Tour legends and local wheel-building icon Jobst Brandt riding the Swiss Alps still hang in my basement.

Where PA Bikes and Wheelsmith really rocked was during the Tour de France. You have to remember, there was no TV coverage or even mention of the Tour on newscasts. Local newspapers ran nothing, not even results.

The only way to track Tour progress was to swing by Palo Alto Bicycles or Wheelsmith for results, usually posted on a small piece of paper tacked to a bulletin board or wall. And then we’d debate about who was going to win and fantasize what it would be like to be following the peloton through the mountains.

We asked Ric, who runs Wheel Fanatyk in Seattle these days, to refresh our memory on how Wheelsmith got the results.

“Tour results, in the early days, came from the Manchester Guardian we copped at Mac’s Smoke Shop,” Ric noted. “You needed to wait until opening because they only got 3 copies. We rushed it to our store, clipped the results, and posted them. Dozens of riders would come by over the day, or call, to learn the standings.”

By today’s standards, it sounds positively Stone Age.

“Whew,” Ric acknowledged. “Was it really that primitive? Well, actually, it was!”

We never thought we’d get live coverage of the Tour each day, or be able to chatter on our keyboards via blogs and the Internet. (Thank you, Jacques, Greg and Lance!) We were happy just for the names of the stage winners and Top 10 overalls, with respective times. Thanks to Palo Alto Bicycles for feeding the mind, inspiring the soul and supplying the kit over the years. And yes Ric, we miss those days hanging out at Wheelsmith. Computers weren’t the only great things that sprang from garage shops in Silicon Valley!

This Day in Doping: So many syringes, so little time

In Bicycle Racing, This Day In Doping on November 2, 2009 at 1:26 am

Doping scandals aplenty, Velo News reports. They’re taking another look at 2008 Giro d’Italia samples for CERA, undetectable previously but now testable. The same may happen for the 2009 Giro and Tour as testing catches up with ever newer, previously undetectable substances.

“The report also outlined a new blood doping practice which evaded current testing protocol which monitor blood parameters. About 200ml of blood is extracted, mixed with an anti-coagulant, and re-injected. The practice does not alter blood values and is all but undetectable, the report said.”

And the UCI, whose efficacy anti-doping authorities continue to question, emerges with another black eye:

“Earlier efforts to back-test Giro samples for CERA were squashed by the UCI, but now Italian officials in Padua have taken up the case.”

The Chicken is back! Michael Rasmussen, who was on track to win the 2007 Tour de France before his team suspended him for deceiving it re his whereabouts before the race began, has picked up a new team following his two-year ban.

Rasmussen’s case bears some investigation, because he essentially beat the doping system. He never actually tested positive. He was put on ice simply out of suspicion of cheating.

Which means the system must be pretty easily beatable, because they suspected Rasmussen well before the Tour began and one would assume must have tested him rigorously during the race. So what went wrong? How could this happen? They’re so convinced he doped that they barred him, but nothing in their vast array of testing procedures could prove it?

Euskaltel-Euskadi on the comeback trail from doping scandals? Can they stay clean? And with this kind of money involved, will they get reported if they aren’t clean?

“As part of continued 1 million euro commitment to the team’s total 6.5 million euro budget, the government has included a clause in the sponsorship contract that would end the deal if more doping cases pop up. Reports in Basque Country media also point to an early exodus of title sponsor Euskaltel – the regional telephone operator – if there’s another doping case.”

Floyd Landis got caught and paid the price. Now he’s saying “politics” will keep him from ever competing in the Tour again.

Here’s an idea: Floyd and the Chicken and Tyler Hamilton and Bernhard Kohl and Vinokourov and a bunch of other banned cyclists get together and form a Tour team sponsored by BigPharma companies that make methadone. They could call it Team LiveClean.

World Champion Cadel Evans now wants to finally win the Tour, a prime motivator for his move from Silence to BMC Racing. We wish him luck. Cadel is one of the few pros who proactively says he does not dope. We trust he’s telling the truth and admire him for taking a stand. We also like him because he’s a former mountain biking champion. (So is Rasmussen, but we don’t admire him because, as with a lot of big names in cycling, there’s too much evidence he’s a cheat, even though he never actually got caught.)

This Day in Doping: Did Lance, Alberto & Astana get preferential treatment?

In Bicycle Racing, This Day In Doping on October 8, 2009 at 12:38 am

Team Astana, including stars Lance Armstrong and Alberto Contador, got preferential treatment when it came to drug testing, two leading French newspapers have reported (linked by

This is part of an ongoing snit between the UCI, the international cycling governing body, and French anti-doping authorities over the rigorousness of dope testing during the Tour de France. The UCI undoubtedly considers the irregularities, including the infamous 45-minute delay at one point during the Tour, as trivial. If the AFLD is correct in its allegations, however, it raises serious questions as to the diligence of UCI procedures.

It’s hard to know — particularly based on a reading of press reports rather than original documentation — whose side to take, other than the truth’s, which will always remain in question. As we’ve said before, doping at this point is not an athletic issue or even a political issue. It’s a financial issue. Say they found doping on Team Astana and Lance and Bert got kicked off the Tour. Where would that leave the Big Money — TV and commercial sponsors — that makes the Tour possible? This is the main reason why the worst penalty a steroid-soaked baseball star can expect is an asterisk next to his records.

So cycling governance just muddles along, engaging in petty feuding and self-righteous posturing, while the doping continues.

Bert’s and Lance’s main transgression here may be that they’re not French. I mean, where was the AFLD (or equivalent) when Hinault and Fignon were ripping up the Tour?

BikeSnobNYC takes a swing at the doping scene as well, with his usual amusing speculation (every time Lance is tested he tweets? really? or does he tweet only when he knows full well that supposed irregularities will get reported?) thrown in for comic relief. Worth a read as always.

Meanwhile, doping is migrating its way down into the amateur ranks as well, and even the excuses are the same.

And back in Italy, yet another suspension.

This Day in Doping: “Pure Tour” no more?

In Bicycle Racing, This Day In Doping on August 2, 2009 at 2:24 am

About that “Pure Tour” of 2009? It’s getting closer to dirty. Spaniard Mikel Astarioza’s breakaway seemed unreal on the 16th stage. Now it seems it wasn’t unreal, just unclean. The UCI has suspended Astarioza for testing positive for EPO in June. It was before the Tour began, so technically we still have a clean Tour. Or not…it seems to us here at Bike Intelligencer that a doped rider sullies the race no matter when he actually did the deed. After all, Michael Rasmussen had the 2007 Tour won and still managed to smear the race by being kicked off his team on suspicions (never proven) of doping.

Rasmussen by the way is claiming he’s been blacklisted, which the UCI says is not true.

Riccardo Ricco is appealing his two-year suspension. “The rules almost don’t exist in cycling,” he says, somewhat opaquely. He’s not denying doping but trying to get out on a technicality. I guess public sympathy isn’t the goal here.

BikePure: “We acknowledge that it is the air of secrecy behind such testing whose results are rarely disclosed that has the rumor mongers shouting. Openness is the future…” Right on.

Daily Roundup: Bleet the heat, banned cyclists, NoTubes lawsuit, Lance boosts Tour TV and more

In Bicycling, Daily Roundup, Mountain Biking on July 29, 2009 at 12:35 pm

It’s hot, may reach 101 degrees in Seattle, making it the hottest day ever … recorded … in history. Right now we’re at 94, I’m about to head out on my second ride of the day. Will keep ya posted! Tweet tweet

By the way, when you blog and Twitter the same item, I’m calling that a Bleet, right? So to make things clear, I will bleet the heat!

First Colorado, now Iowa seeks to ban cyclists from using roads…to echo Bike Rumor, W-T-F ??

Bicycle Retailer: Judge grants stay in NoTubes lawsuit…but it looks to me like NoTubes won this one. More power to ’em. Specialized has strong-armed too many small outfits in the bike biz, nice to have the tables turned on them.

Lance’s chances boost France’s glances: TV coverage of the Tour de France brought in nearly double the viewership this year from last. Lance brought ’em in, but you have to congratulate the Versus team, from commentators to camera people on down. The Tour often was dull, but the coverage never was.

Worldchanging: Let’s complete the Burke-Gilman Trail already!

This Day in Doping: Chief downplays ‘clean Tour’

In Bicycle Racing, This Day In Doping on July 28, 2009 at 11:40 am has a great update on the “clean Tour” of 2009, but as Prudhomme notes, it’s too early to declare victory. For one thing, detection techniques that today find nothing will tomorrow improve. People are looking askance at Contador, a little guy who somehow nonetheless can time trial with the best. But something about Contador strikes me as being honest. And since no one challenged him except Andy Schleck, whom I also feel is clean, then maybe this indeed was a dopeless Tour.

Time will tell. Well, time and the lab…

Armstrong Courting Schleck(s) for Radio Shack Team?

In Bicycle Racing on July 28, 2009 at 6:49 am

It was a small gesture, barely noticed. But when Lance Armstrong placed his left hand on Andy Schleck’s right shoulder and congratulated him “warmly” on the podium in Paris, it may have sent a signal about his machinations for the Tour de France in 2010.

The bad blood between Lance and Alberto Contador means the two already have established an intense rivalry for the 2010 season. But being realistic, Lance has little chance of beating The Pistol on his own. There’s a question whether anyone can beat Contador … anyone except Andy Schleck.

But for a couple of bad breaks and one missed opportunity, Andy and Alberto would have been separated by seconds rather than minutes as the Tour headed to its final decisive week. With a slimmer margin separating the two on Ventoux, there’s a question whether Andy would have held back in hopes of reeling his brother Frank toward the front. And if he hadn’t held back, maybe A.C. would not have been able to hang on as he did.

You never know.

Andy lost crucial time in two early misfortunes. He missed the late “Lance” break on stage 3, losing 41 seconds. And the Team Time Trial on Stage 4 hurt him as well, costing another 40 seconds. At the end of Stage 4 he was down by more than a minute and a half, a discouraging hole from which to dig out of.

Andy also could not hang with Alberto during the latter’s predictable breakaway on Verbier in Stage 15. Nor could Andy and Frank, working together, shake Contador during their stirring attacks on Columbiere in Stage 17.

Still, Andy was the one guy who looked like he could crack Contador in the 2009 Tour. Lance undoubtedly noticed.

Whether it would be in the Schlecks’ interest to hook up with Lance is an issue fraught with backstory intrigue. There are lots of pros, lots of cons. On the pro side, if Andy could get assurances that once he asserted himself, Lance would really work for him, it might be Andy’s best hope. Lance has shown himself time and again to be not just a powerhouse of a rider (still, at nearly 38), but a master strategist.

Some of the mistakes Andy made — I would call his hanging back for Frank a mistake, even if he had no chance at raising his overall placement — and his apparent lack of form early in the race, when he could not hang on Contador’s wheel, would not be repeated under Lance. No one knows how to prepare for a Tour better than the King.

Lance could also coach Andy in time-trialing, a past weakness but one Andy is overcoming.

The big “con” here is that Andy would have to stand in Lance’s shadow much of the Tour. That’s just the way things are. Andy has more ego and pride than he appears to have, as exemplified by his closing TV interview with Versus. He admitted he was disappointed to finish 2nd. A hundred and sixty other riders would have killed to be where he was. But it was a clear testament to Andy’s ambitiousness.

There are inevitable contractual issues for Andy and brother Frank (assuming the two would stay on the same team), and political considerations as well. But a Lance-Andy alliance for 2010 (Team Radio Schlack!) would set up the most potent rivalry against Contador, and wow, the media and cycling worlds would just go crazy.

This Day in Doping: Rasmussen ‘rejected,’ 2008 Tour revisited, A scientific analysis analyzed

In Bicycle Racing, This Day In Doping on July 26, 2009 at 2:08 pm UCI opposes letting Michael Rasmussen, the 2007 Tour “winner” who was kicked off his team as he was poised to take the yellow jersey to Paris (for lying about his whereabouts earlier in the season), return to competition because he hasn’t paid his share of anti-doping costs. Although Rasmussen was certainly a cheat, he was never actually caught doping (amazingly). And still hasn’t been “detected.” Further support of the argument that cycling cannot adequately police cycling.

France’s anti-doping agency, which has had a spat or two with the UCI over thoroughness of testing, says it will re-analyze 2008 samples from the Tour. About 15 riders will be affected, although they are not yet being named. (Thanks to for the link.)

The Science of Sport: Can scientific analysis tell if Contador juiced? A detailed look at the VO2 max issue in relation to Contador’s time trial win. Fascinating even though ultimately too many variables (especially wind direction and velocity) impede an accurate consideration:

There are people (experts in the sport) who believe that the upper limit of performance should lie around 5.6 to 5.8 W/kg on a longer climb. This is well below what is being calculated for the current Tour, particularly the Verbier. However, if the wind speed is not controlled, then the calculated power output may well fall below that “ceiling”. The point is, we just don’t know what the wind is doing and so the margins are currently too large. Therefore, you cannot use isolated performances, lacking control over variables, to infer doping.

Thanks to for the link.