Friday, 26 June 2009

Time for the teams to come clean. (Yeah, as if...)

Why do teams employ failed dopers?

It seems that Ricco, or 'the little winker' as I like to call him, is coming back. His ban is up next year and he'll be riding for Ceramica Flaminia. Well that at least is his plan and maybe it's Flaminia's plan. Maybe they are after some cheap publicity and to honest there's no publicity cheaper than claiming you're going to sign some toxic waste for the coming season.

But who's the fall guy here? Well it's cycling of course, the sport I love with a passion that has long passed the insane. The sport to which I devote hundreds, maybe thousands of hours a year, coaching, riding, watching, reading about, end even blogging about. So as you can imagine, there is a slight lack of amusement in Onthebanking towers.

Why do teams keep employing failed dope cheats? That's the one question I'd like to know the answer to. Seriously what do they gain from increasing their toxicity rating? Publicity maybe? or maybe it's just a chance to take the piss out of the ordinary fan at the road side? 'Yeah, we know he's a cheat and a doper, but hey, it's our team and there ain't a thing you can do about it'. That sort of attitude really, really pisses me off.

So what's the answer, fan power maybe? Maybe it's time to start using the web to slag off teams that re-employ failed dopers? Maybe boycott their products? Maybe write to the press? Contact race organisers and politely request that teams with toxic riders be kept off the start line, Maybe write to the UCI.... whoops, sorry about that last one, I meant to list things that could be useful.

Of course teams have a right to employ who they like and equally I have a right to slag them off for doing so, it's a free world. But if one of the drivers for continued doping is having a nice 2 year holiday then getting your old job back. That is no deterrent, never has been and never will be, if the UCI or anyone thinks differently they are just, well, they are just jolly silly if you ask me.

So, as there is no likelihood of life time bans and the powers that run our sport seem incapable of organising a piss-up in a brewery, let alone taking any coherent action against dopers maybe the next step is for pissed off fans to do something?

And it's (oval) balls to the UCI.

Now I'm well partial to a little Rugby League, or Footy, as Mr McEwan would call it. Any way, like cycling the 'Footy' has had it's drug run ins and busts, although nothing like as spectacular as ours, but it has given it a good go. Recently Gareth Hock failed a routine test, his drug of choice happened to be Boonens drug of choice. But that's where the similarities end, the footy authorities have said there will be a 2 year ban if the B sample comes back positive.
Now a casual observer could well ask a question here, so now dear casual observer, please feel free to ask the obvious question. Thank you.

Tom is of course allowed to race, well I say allowed to race, only in certain races that is, only it would seem in races that don't have a super high media profile where marketing opportunities could be damaged by having a coked up party boy on the start line.
This of course means work, and well paid work at that, for the army of lawyers that follow cycling's drug stories with a magnifying glass in the hope of drumming up some business, we've yet to let them down and from the looks of things I suggest you steer your kids into the law rather than the bike racing game when future careers are on the table.


Friday, 19 June 2009

Are you Mr Big?

And if you're not do you know where I could find him??

Now I fully accept that the blood passports are going to catch riders who like 'a bit of needle up the arse' so to speak.
But the fact that the first batch of God knows how many hundreds of thousands of tests should only turn up 4 blokes you've never heard of plus one who's only major win was so unexpected a one eyed half dead stick insect could have picked him out of a line up, is a bit, well a bit hard to believe, that's all.

Was I expecting 'Big' names? Well the absence of certain riders does surprise me, it may well surprise you. But then again who's taking the samples and pointing the finger? Yep the UCI, so maybe I shouldn't expect any walking on water, just a little dampening of the collective foot, a little toe in the water of litigation.

Anyway, to be honest I don't give a monkeys who is caught in the future, well OK I do, I mean there are certain names I'd like to see in the frame, but as long as some names are getting crossed of the scum list I'll be averagely happy. Big names, small names, don't care, the fewer tossers in the peloton the better for us all. The more pressure that is excreted on dope cheat scum the better, and be that UCI passports, CONI bans, blue or clear wrist bands, ASO bans, or the IOC doing something (ever the optimist eh?) the better for all of us.

King of the dopes...

Oh,,,,,, and apparently an ex Tour de France KoM has been on the juice, er...... Wasn't Rooks in PDM when they all went home from Le Tour with a nasty 'virus' which was later changed to a 'recovery product, past it's sell by date', which is a far more believable explanation isn't it.....


Thursday, 18 June 2009

Doping is finally beaten, hurrah.

The war on doping is finally won, hurray for the brave lads at the UCI.

After years of tough hand to hand combat the war on doping has finally been won! In a shock announcement yesterday (shock in that it was actually made) the UCI have announced that that the evil of doping has finally been defeated and we can all sleep soundly in our beds tonight.

The forces of evil have been finally booted out of cycling land and we can once again ride our bicycles freely, safe in the knowledge that the rider who has just beaten us in the race has done so because he has UCI approved water in his bottle and nothing else.

Who are you? Who are you?

Now I thought I was a bit of a cycling anorak, I thought I knew just about every pro rider there was. But the UCI have finally beaten me by pulling out of their hat's not just one rider you've never heard of, but a whole bloody peloton full of 'em.

Igor Astarloa - Won the world championships, apparently. His victory was accompanied with much shoulder shrugging and shouts of 'Who?' and 'Yeah, right...'

Pietro Caucchioli - Best result? Er...... 75th in some race or another.

Riccardo Serrano - Rides for Fuji-Servetto! That'll be the same Fuji-Servetto who are talking CAS for not being allowed to ride the Tour this year then. Their arguement is that they are all clean and so should be allowed to ride, next please.

Francesco De Bonis - A member of the Gerolsteiner team that was attempting to beat Festina for having the most doped up riders on their books, sadly the sponsor jumped ship before the final count.

Ruben Lobato Elvira - Once rode with Saunier Duva, Oy, Fuji - that's why you're not riding the bloody Tour! Do you get it now?

So what of all the other riders that like a little hot medicene cabinet action then? Does the UCI honestly expect that anyone in their right mind will actually believe that rounding up a bunch or riders that aren't even good enough to be classed as has beens, will convince us that the War on doping is won?

Still one thing that has happened is the Anne Gripper has come out of the wood work. Anne has been interviewed by CN and tells all about life in the trenches.
Apparently the UCI have been working hard on the passports issue, yep sounds about right to me. Hard to find riders that don't have expensive lawyers of big PR machines in tow. Hard to find riders that no longer ride.

Are you dead?

Who's next? The PĂ©lissier brothers? They sound like likely candidates don't they? They have admitted to doping and they are dead and so can no longer sue the UCI, so ticks in boxes there then!

Still, lets not scoff at the UCI they have done a fine job in ridding our sport of the evil of doping, hopefully world peace and an end to hunger are next on the list, I'll get my gun ready then.


Tuesday, 16 June 2009

The 2009 Tour de France, just like old times (part 2)

Forward into the 1920's with the UCI.

Do you know Graeme Obree ? He was world pursuit champion, held the hour record a couple of times and wrote one of the best books about cycling ever.

Graeme was, indeed still is, famous for 'pushing the envelope' of bike design. He constructed bikes that set world records, on his own, in his garage.
Now back 'in the day' the UCI didn't like this, oh no, building bike frames like Graeme's was somehow against the 'spirit of cycling'. 'The spirit of cycling' was the phrase that the tossers in Switzerland used to defend their banning of Graeme's bikes. The only drawback here is that at no point did they actually specify what this spirit was. No actual definition of this spirit was ever offered and although it was trotted out it seemed to vary from jobsworth to jobsworth.

I can only assume that the spirit they used to hamper and frustrate Graeme at every turn was also the same spirit that allowed the UCI's Hein Verbruggen to go on holiday (to India I recall) as soon as the Festina affair broke. Making your own bike is somehow against the spirit of cycling, whilst systematic doping isn't, or so it would seem.

The irony is that whilst Graeme was and remains a clean rider he was countered at every turn whilst the opening of the Vaseline and the bending over backwards for doping scum was a regular event at UCI HQ.

So what's new I hear you ask, well come on at the back! WHAT'S NEW I HEAR YOU ASK?

Well yesterday whilst we were all waiting for the UCI to produce doped up rabbits from their magic hat they slipped a change to the tech regulations in under the radar.

Basically and to spare you the life sapping task of reading them (good luck if you find them on the UCI's web site - they are well hidden) the upshot is that all bikes used in UCI sanctioned competition, that's everything from World Champs to the Journalists Rainbow Jersey stakes, must be available to the average punter over the counter and that no prototyes can be used in competition.

So that pretty much takes out a fair chunk of what's ridden in the pro peloton, as these often include bikes and components in development for next year or the year after.

Now it has been suggested that this is the UCI's attempt to bugger up the GB track squad and their McLaren F1 designed UKIS bikes, (But more if this later), first...

Well first, how do you test a bike then? Lets say you are Cervelo (you wish right?) and you want to test a new frame or component or a new whatever, you have a team of riders that will put that frame through the toughest test imaginable ie. a professional bike race. Except that now they can't, so why bother designing new bikes? Where do you do you testing? Does the R & D process take four times as long as it will take you longer to collate the test data?

Where does that leave commercial bike development? When Reynolds 753 tubing came out (Whoooo, showing my age there, or not as the case may be.....) were the first bike to have it used in the Pro Peloton or available at Bobs bikes? I dunno for sure, but I suspect the former.

How do companies that have invested millions in R & D progress now? Make a new frame, look at it, stick some wheels on it, ride it to the shops and then go into production on the basis that they carried back a pint of mile and a carrot with no obvious difficulties?

On Track?

So then, this track bike thing? There was, apparently, whinging from National Federations who complained that GB got too much money and put too much into developing fast bikes and the like. A bit like someone saying to Columbia 'No you can't pay the wages of both Cavendish and Bosen-Hagen' or telling Astana that they have to off load a Grande Tour contender as they have too many (although I think that someone may have already had a word with their sponsor....). Sponsors, Governments put money into sport, what are you going to do? Hand some back saying, 'Thanks, but it's a bit too much, if I spend all this it won't be fair'

Lets say, lets just say, the French suddenly got a case full of Euros and starting making invisible bikes that went very fast I don't think that British Cycling would go running to Uncle Pat wringing their hands and crying foul, I really don't.

And if the complaint is that BC are chucking cash at bike frames what next? Seriously, what next? Not just for BC but for any team or nation? BC have the money to employ a full time mind mechanic in the shape of Steve Peters and some other nations don't, so maybe Steve should be restricted to shouting 'jolly good show old chap' from the stands at future international events then?
Are we to see an F1style farce where teams are only allowed to spend a certain amount of money each year? Because lets face it, if's it's a farce you want then cycling is the right place to find one.

Now whilst I'm a little hot under the old collar here (sorry, no seriously I am, you probable have better things to do....), lets just assume for one minute that you stuck Chris Hoy on a bog standard track bike.... what do you think is gonna happen, is he suddenly going to start coming across the line 50 meters behind some bloke no one's ever heard of? I seriously doubt it, I really do.

Actually I've got nothing against a level playing field for bike racing. What I do have something against is the traditional UCI cock-up that unfolds before me here. Sure stick all the GB track team on a steel tube clunker made in Taiwan, stick all the track teams on steel clunkers, I honestly have no problem with that at all, it is after all 'not about the bike' it is and should remain about the athlete and their individual or team effort, about their training, their endeavor, their guts and determination.

Surely the response to one team going well is re-evaluate your preparation and planning, find out where you can improve and then work hard at making that improvement.

So then this UCI that you speak of?

And their new regulations then, well vague and confusing is one way of describing them, still never mind, why bother chasing dopers and trying to rid the sport of drug cheating cheats when you can waste time and resources telling Cervelo & GB that Big Thor and Sir Chris can't have new bikes next year...

'Spirit of cycling' My arse......

The 2009 Tour de France, are you going to be there?

So how many riders will be banned from starting the 2009 Tour de France?
Boonan, Valverde? I expect so, any more? God alone knows. Although it's a pretty sure thing that should anyone be caught with their hand in the medicine cabinet the UCI will piss about and scratch their heads and go off and talk to the lawyers and then sit in a darkened room and hope it goes away. Meanwhile the worlds media will 'lick their lips' (copyright Hugh Porter) and be reporting what the world already knows that as a sport we have the needle well and truly up our collective arses.

As the UCI's lack of any action continues the TdF draws closer and judging on past form we can expect an announcement days before the Tour starts ensuring that there is maximum exposure for doping scum and maximum embarrassment for the sport as a whole and for those sponsors that God bless em, are still riding with us.

Please don't re-read the above and think that I am advocating some kind to code of silence bollocks, I'm not. What amazes me is that the UCI seem to have an uncanny knack of sitting on their hands until the week before the Tour before taking any action. How is it that 51 weeks of inaction seem to be followed by one week of crazy activity at the end of June?

I'm all for naming and shaming, in fact I'm all for naming and dragging through the streets behind a chariot pulled by two horses with diarrhea. But this sort of high quality spectator activity should be available to us all 52 weeks a year not just the week before the tour starts.


Monday, 15 June 2009

Your are the UCI - A popular game for all the family.

There's a series of book in the UK called 'Your are the ref,... you are the umpire...' etc. In which a sporting incident is played out and you have to make the correct call according to the rules of the game.
As yet only Football and Cricket are covered, but with an eye on the expanding cycling market I'm about to launch a cycling based addition to the cannon, It's called 'Your are the UCI', here are a few snippets.

A riders' blood sample has been linked via DNA to blood stored in the fridge at the heart of a well known doping controversy. The rider has been banned from racing on one of cycling's heartlands. In your roll as the sports governing body what do you do?

A) Ban the rider from all cycling for the maximum period allowed.
B) Allow him to continue racing, but ask for all proof with a view to banning him as soon as you can run the results past an approved lab.
C) Allow him to continue racing and winning major events, whilst doing bugger all.

A new method of detecting doping has been introduced, this involves taking blood samples at regular intervals, monitoring a pattern and then targeting suspicious results and banning riders. Do you?

A) Act as soon as you get the results banning riders that have doped
B) Say that action will start next week, sorry, next week, sorry next week, sorry next, sorry next week.......
C) Go on holiday
D) Ban riders that have already been banned or left the sport.
E) B, C and D all at the same time

Fans, race organisers and the media are in uproar about continuing doping in the sport of cycling. Do you?

A) Take a strong lead in the anti doping fight
B) Phone out for a pizza
C) Invite Bernhard Kohl to take over from Anne Gripper on the UCI anti doping committee

The fight against doping is expensive, do you?

A) Enter into agreements with organisations to help fund the anti-doping effort
B) Spend all your money on a nice buffet
C) Call a press conference saying that you are going to spend all you money on a nice buffet
D) Put all your money on a horse in the 3:30 at Kempton and hope it wins

One of the key areas in fighting doping is the education of young cyclists. Do you?

A) Start a global campaign requiring national federations to implement anti-doping education for young riders
B) Appear on CBeebies dressed as a Muppet to promote the campaign
C) Declare the war on doping won and go for an early lunch


Saturday, 13 June 2009

Today I have mostly been sprinting

Well I say sprinting, more like riding slightly quicker than my usual very slow. Anyway I had plenty of time to think whilst doing this and what I thought about was Alain Baxter.
Baxter 'won' a medal at the 2002 Winter Olympics and was the stripped of his medal for failing a drugs test.
The drug in question was an ingredient in an inhaler brought over the counter in the US, he used the same brand in the UK, but didn't check the ingredients and so failed a test.
So far so clear, eh?

Now here's a thing, he's going to give the track a go, with a view to riding the 2012 London Olympics, no seriously, stop laughing at the back. Oh and here's the bit I don't get, if you train as a coach under BC's coaching system and eventually work your way to the dizzy heights of Level 3 you will, apparently, do a module on drugs. And you will look at 4 case studies and use them for a discussion on drug abuse in cycling and sport in general.
Baxter is one of those case studies and whilst you or I may feel a touch or sympathy for his position or not as the case may be, the BC line is apparently made pretty clear on these courses - ATHLETE RESPONSIBILITY. It was his fault and he was rightly stripped of his gong. Now that's a view I agree with so I am slightly puzzled by the fact that there is talk of Baxter pitching up at Manc Velodrome in an effort to take a shot at Gold in 2012. I thought that once you have failed a drugs test that was that as far as Olympic selection goes, maybe I misunderstood something.

Ah well.......


Friday, 12 June 2009

A man can only take so much.

Yesterday I watched the Eurosport coverage of the Dauphine. Now in my time I have heard (as I'm sure we all have) commentators talking a right load of old shite, by yesterday surpassed all previously low expectations. Valverde was 'proving his critics wrong' apparently. How was that then? By going back in time and not taking fecking dope in the first place? or by not emptying his arm into bag number 18, or not sticking said bag in Dr Deaths fridge?
No seriously, please tell me 'cos I'd like to know how someone who has been clearly linked to doping and banned in Italy is proving critics wrong by riding his bike up a fecking great mountain. Eurosport, it's about time you got the P45's out, it really is.

Still, as bernard kohl would say, on a lighter note....

The Tour Series (UK towns and cities only) is turning out to be the best series of crits ever seen on these slightly overcast shores. This week they came to my neck of the road and I trotted of to Blackpool and Southport, for a fun filled standing on the barriers type experience.
As they say the racing was 'full on' and even 'fast and furious', but what has been tickling my trout is the development in team tactics.
The TS title is awarded to teams, and so it's your first 3 riders across the line that score you points and as a result teams are trying all sorts of ways to get points and as we all know 'What do points make? They make Hugh Porter mention the name of your team several times in every sentence and thus cause you sponsor much excitement and wetting of their pants' that's what point make!

As always bringing the racing to the city entices a whole new crowd and it is with this whole new crowd in mind that the event programme translates some popular cycling phrases into 'person in the street English',....

BUNCH: A group of cyclists or cycling administrators. Usage: Why can't that bunch of tossers at the UCI get anything right.

Sitting on: When a rider or administrators drafts behind another rider or group. Usage: Why can't those tossers at the UCI stop sitting on their arse and actually do something useful.

Palmares: A cyclists or administrators CV. Usage: 2009 - The UCI missed an opportunity to crack down on doping. 2008 - The UCI missed an opportunity to crack down on doping. 2007 - The UCI missed an opportunity to crack down on doping. etc.....etc....

More dopes

Yet another of Katusha's finest fails a dope test, and just to stress that they are doing all they can to combat drugs in cycling some of their riders refuse to sign a new anti doping policy.

Still it's a tough life being a pro cyclist, you must be knackered all the time, so spare a thought for poor Ivan Basso who since his little holiday seems to be going a lot slower, bless....

And Kohl? Apparently he's not been beaten to death yet, still there are a lot of pissed of Frenchmen outside his house