VeloNews.com » Matthew Beaudin http://velonews.competitor.com Competitive Cycling News, Race Results and Bike Reviews Fri, 19 Dec 2014 16:48:26 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.2 Top 14 stories of 2014: The love story http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/12/news/road/top-14-stories-2014-love-story_355037 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/12/news/road/top-14-stories-2014-love-story_355037#comments Thu, 18 Dec 2014 18:00:33 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=355037

Matthew Beaudin writes about riding on perfect roads with good company and suffering in Northern Italy

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Promises, Promises: Is Brian Cookson on track? http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/12/news/road/promises-promises-brian-cookson-track_355886 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/12/news/road/promises-promises-brian-cookson-track_355886#comments Fri, 12 Dec 2014 20:15:09 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=355886

Brian Cookson was elected president of the UCI in 2013, and he promised to bring significant changes to the sport. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com (File).

In the wake of the UCI's decision not to pull Astana's WorldTour license, a look back on the first year of Brian Cookson's presidency

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Brian Cookson was elected president of the UCI in 2013, and he promised to bring significant changes to the sport. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com (File).

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in the November 2014 issue of Velo magazine.

By the end of Pat McQuaid’s presidency at the UCI, there was a thick malaise hanging over the governance of professional cycling.

Trust was low. The incumbent president had to run on the dubious, perhaps illegal, backing of two countries not his own in order to even stand for a vote.

At 2013 UCI world road championships in Florence, Italy, the UCI Congress could hardly decide if a vote could even take place. It crystalized the dysfunction and favoritism many had long accused the UCI of, notably after the Lance Armstrong scandal.

Enter candidate Brian Cookson.

Cookson called for a vote then and there in Italy, even though he had everything to gain from McQuaid being shot down before a single ballot was cast. Was this — this bold candidate who demanded a vote with everything to lose — the president the sport would get?

One year later, the short answer is: maybe.

The same man who called for a vote in the chambers Machiavelli once haunted has been UCI president for a year now and has seen that life as a leader is slower and more opaque than life as a candidate.

Promises are no longer olive branches for election but rather switches with which the elected are scolded. Cookson presented a roadmap of the things he would do in the election run-up, grand platitudes that, however noble, would prove hard to execute.

Transparency

Firstly, Cookson said he would embrace openness and transparency, a tenet he all but had to push, given the distrust for the past administration’s handling of the EPO generation and its chummy relationship with the sport’s power brokers.

To make a dent in negative perception, Cookson established the CIRC, or the Cycling Independent Reform Commission, a brand of truth and reconciliation commission aimed at offering leniency in exchange for information on PED use and those involved in the prevailing culture of blood-doping’s unabashed days. The three-member panel is independent of the UCI and underneath a different roof, and has pledged a report by January of 2015.

Thus far, it’s hard to measure the effectiveness of the clandestine commission, though it’s known Lance Armstrong spent hours with the group. The UCI is bankrolling the effort to the tune of $3.35 million, so if it doesn’t produce results, it will have been an expensive mistake for Cookson.

Such a measure was true to his call for transparency. But the UCI’s handling of another issue seems at odds with that pillar of Cookson reform; a president who called for openness ended up with a high profile therapeutic-use exemption on his hands that left media and fans jilted.

Sky’s Chris Froome pulled out of Liège-Bastogne-Liège this season citing a chest infection, and a week later won the Tour de Romandie. Froome had a TUE expedited by the UCI’s scientific advisor, Dr. Mario Zorzoli, for the oral corticosteroid prednisone. Zorzoli granted the usage without sending Froome’s medical file to the three-person TUE committee, per the World Anti-Doping Agency code, a French newspaper reported.

In June, at the Critérium du Dauphiné, Froome was photographed with an inhaler in his hand mid-race. He cited a long-running TUE for asthma, downplaying its importance; however, in cycling, when it comes to anything that boosts performance, everything is a big deal.

Cookson has since said the UCI committee should review every request, and that it was only being used in some cases.

“The TUE committee for the UCI was only being used for cases of a complex or potentially controversial nature, but what I’ve said since that came to light is maybe they’re all of a controversial nature and maybe we then need to look at continuous improvements of our processes,” Cookson said.

The TUE issue is one that will not go away anytime soon and is difficult to navigate based on medial privacy. But if Cookson stands for openness, TUE transparency should become a priority. Cookson is working closely with WADA Director General David Howman on this topic; changes to the rules are expected to go into effect in 2015.

Anti-doping reform

In a similar vein, Cookson also pledged to “revolutionize” the UCI’s anti-doping measures. On this front he has been effective.

Beginning January 1, 2015, cycling’s anti-doping cases will be handled by an independent and international tribunal instead of the national federations. The seemingly obvious decision is designed to erase doubts caused by nationalism, such as the instance in which the Spanish federation pardoned Alberto Contador in 2011, or the Czech Republic’s recent clearing of Roman Kreuziger for biological passport irregularities.

It is widely agreed that the biological passport has helped clean up the professional peloton, though the issues of jurisdiction do remain, which the UCI will aim to combat with a sanctioning process that’s international.

“This should ensure consistency and uniform quality in the decisions, significantly reduce the number of cases that go to CAS (Court of Arbitration for Sport) on appeal, and lift the operational burden from the national federations,” Cookson said.

Cookson’s effectiveness regarding other pledges is more difficult to take stock of, at least at this point.

The Brit said he would grow cycling worldwide, develop women’s cycling, embrace the future together, and, finally, overhaul the structure of elite road cycling. Some of those run together.

Marketability and women’s racing

On the marketability aspect, there have been encouraging signs, such as the adoption of on-bike cameras, which provide a magnificent window into the pandemonium and positioning of the professional peloton. In a sport that’s long been stagnant in its presentation to fans, the tight action shots offer a fresh glimpse. Further commercial development details are expected as part of the UCI WorldTour Seminar in December, with a new plan in place by 2017.

Recent efforts to increase the profile of women’s cycling include high-profile events, one brand new: La Course by Le Tour de France, a women’s race upon the Champs-Élysées hours before the men arrive in Paris is back for a second year, and the Strade Bianche will host a women’s event on March 7. The Giro dell’Emilia has also added a women’s race on October 10.

Cookson appointed Tracey Gaudry as the UCI’s first female vice president immediately upon taking office, and there is now at least one woman on 18 of 19 UCI commissions.

“Our progress in women’s cycling goes beyond UCI structures. I’m delighted to say that 2014 will have seen around 80 elite level women’s events — the highest number ever,” Cookson said during his speech to the UCI Congress this fall.

It is true that the new events certainly bring a higher profile to the women’s side of the sport, which is a very small piece of the larger pie. But Cookson and other players, such as Tour organizer A.S.O., will be pressured to do even more.

In keeping with a globalization approach, the UCI awarded the 2017 world championships to Bergen, Norway. Those races will come after worlds in Richmond, Virginia, in 2015, and Doha, Qatar, in 2016.

The 2014 Tour of Beijing — organized by Global Cycling Promotion (GCP), a for-profit branch of the UCI that Cookson acknowledged presented a conflict of interests — was the last iteration of the late-season race, and may signal larger revisions to the calendar, though little about that reform process is known at this point.

Changes to grand tours?

The UCI’s biggest focus is the elite men’s road racing calendar. On that front, there are grumblings from the peloton that not much has changed. Some say the UCI remains an aloof and out-of-touch institution. One team manager characterized Cookson as “clueless” when it comes to the realities of pro racing. A meeting between the UCI, teams, and race organizers that coincided with the Vuelta a España, covering planned reforms of the racing calendar to be introduced by 2017, ended acrimoniously, according to sources.

The UCI supposedly wants to reduce top team sizes to 22 riders per team, and shrink the race calendar to 120 days. Though the Tour de France would remain 21 days, slashing both the Giro d’Italia and the Vuelta to two weeks is under heavy consideration. Another idea to impose a two-tier racing system, with 16 WorldTour teams and eight Pro Continental teams, received heavy resistance from teams and race organizers, who say such a move would kill any team not within the system, as well as stymie the arrival of future sponsors.

“When you have meetings, it’s normal that not everyone is in agreement,” Cookson said. “We’re in the middle of this process, but we’re anxious to do something that is simple to understand by the fans and the media. We want to respect cycling’s heritage, but we also have to look to new horizons. It’s still a work in progress.”

Times at the UCI, they are a changing.

Sources also say Cookson, and his right-hand man, former campaign manager and now UCI director general, Martin Gibbs, are cleaning house, forcing out many former Pat McQuaid-Hein Verbruggen loyalists. Cookson’s decision to shut down GCP, created during the McQuaid era, came only after they botched a deal to extend the Tour of Beijing with Chinese officials, one source said. The same source said the UCI “is not a pleasant place to work,” and accused Cookson and Gibbs of “very good PR, but very little substance.”

At this point, we know this much: the legacy of a leader’s tenure is seldom measured one year after it begins. What the CIRC reveals is yet to be seen, and calendar changes could alter the complexion of pro cycling. Running the sport is akin to racing in it: variable and unexpected. As for how history reviews Cookson, it’s too soon to tell; we’re still off to the races.

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Ferrari hits back regarding leaked report http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/12/news/ferrari-hits-back-regarding-leaked-report_355670 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/12/news/ferrari-hits-back-regarding-leaked-report_355670#comments Thu, 11 Dec 2014 01:15:21 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=355670

Banned Italian coach Michele Ferrari has kept mum about the Padua investigation, but recently lashed out at media reports on his website. Photo: AFP PHOTO | Nico CASAMASSIMA (File).

Michele Ferrari struck back at the Padua doping investigation leaks Wednesday afternoon, assailing the information printed by La Gazzetta

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Banned Italian coach Michele Ferrari has kept mum about the Padua investigation, but recently lashed out at media reports on his website. Photo: AFP PHOTO | Nico CASAMASSIMA (File).

Michele Ferrari struck back at the Padua doping investigation leaks Wednesday afternoon, assailing the information printed by Italian sports daily La Gazzetta dello Sport.

The investigation revolves around Ferrari’s alleged involvement with a passel of professional athletes, which supposedly includes some non-cyclists. The report hasn’t been formally published yet, but Italian daily La Gazzetta dello Sport printed part of the case files relating to the Padua doping investigation Wednesday. The case was closed last week, with 550 pages of evidence making their way to the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) and the UCI.

The information painted a picture of the doctor’s reach into a sport from which he’s currently banned. The files indicate that he worked with cyclists from Alexandre Vinokourov to Roman Kreuziger, from Michele Scarponi to Vincenzo Nibali’s trainer, Paolo Slongo.

“Up until now, I was convinced that the most appropriate location to answer charges was a courtroom, and for this I have never commented on the various media reports that for years published acts that should be secreted, with regards to the mega-investigation being carried on in Padova [Padua],” Ferrari wrote on his website. “The latest press campaign orchestrated by my old pals at La Gazzetta and La Repubblica, defined even by Marco Bonarrigo as ‘out of control journalism,’ forced me to change my behavior, and express some simple considerations.”

And with that, Ferrari rattled off a few of the names he’s supposedly worked with, along with his counter-arguments.

On Kreuziger, who is currently embroiled in a tangle over the biological passport with the UCI, Ferrari wrote:

“Roman, if you have yet to figured it all out, your problems with the Biological Passport are simply the price to pay for having worked with me in 2007, and for later declaring that ‘Ferrari had prescribed me only training programs,’ which is the absolute truth.

“At this point, just tell it all, the Truth: how in 2010 you were privately confronted about two phone calls with myself, in which you asked about, and then declined, the possibility to resume our cooperation …”

On Slongo:

“He would have, according to the investigators, ‘frequent contact with Ferrari:’ yes, of course, every morning, in front of the buffet breakfast at the hotel Parador del Teide, with the topic: ‘Is it better to have eggs with bacon or muesli with yogurt?”‘

On Scarponi:

“SCARPONI: But you’re convinced that I could have won the Giro, or not?
FERRARI: Maybe ‘if you had a bag you would have!’ A joke about his past involvement in Operacion Puerto, nothing more than that. Doping after all has always been a ‘topic of discussion’ in the world (not only in cycling): at dining tables, in the athlete’s rooms, in bar chats, without any of this having any serious meaning.

“‘I did it the first day:’ For the investigators that means a bag of blood; more likely it is something else, given the context.”

On the named athletes:

“Many of them, I simply do not know them: Marco Marcato, Dimitri Kozontchuk, Ivan Rovny, Egor Silin …”

The newspaper printed 38 names linked to the investigation in Italy’s Northeast and supposedly to Ferrari. Italy banned Ferrari from working with licensed athletes in 2002. In 2012, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s investigation of Lance Armstrong led to a global lifetime ban for Ferrari. The Padua investigation began in 2010 and includes incidents dating back to 2008.

The 38 cyclists named in the case files are: Leonardo Bertagnolli, Simone Boifava, Diego Caccia, Enrico Franzoi, Marco Frapporti, Omar Lombardi, Fabrizio Macchi, Marco Marcato, Andrea Masciarelli, Francesco Masciarelli, Simone Masciarelli, Daniele Pietropolli, Morris Possoni, Filippo Pozzato, Alessandro Proni, Michele Scarponi, Francesco Tizza, Giovanni Visconti, Ricardo Pichetta, Andrea Vaccher, Mauricio Ardila, Volodymyr Bileka, Borut Bozic, Maxim Gourov, Vladimir Gusev, Valentin Iglinskiy, Sergei Ivanov, Vladimir Karpets, Aleksander Kolobnev, Dimitri Kozontchuk, Roman Kreuziger, Denis Menchov, Evgeni Petrov, Yaroslav Popovych, José Rojas, Ivan Rovny, Egor Silin, and Alexandre Vinokourov.

Gregor Brown contributed writing and reporting for this story

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DOJ after Ferrari, Weisel emails in Armstrong case http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/12/news/doj-ferrari-weisel-emails-armstrong-case_355506 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/12/news/doj-ferrari-weisel-emails-armstrong-case_355506#comments Tue, 09 Dec 2014 18:26:07 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=355506

Much is at stake for the U.S. government in the case against Lance Armstrong. The ferocious legal wrangling behind the scenes indicates as much. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com (File).

U.S. government demands additional evidence in the Armstrong case as lawyers from both sides continue to squabble and maneuver

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Much is at stake for the U.S. government in the case against Lance Armstrong. The ferocious legal wrangling behind the scenes indicates as much. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com (File).

The Department of Justice leaned hard on Lance Armstrong’s attorneys during the latest round in court, asking for email correspondences between Lance Armstrong and previous associates, such as investment banker and USPS team backer Thom Weisel and former coach Michele Ferrari.

As reported by USA Today, the two sides are now quarreling over what documents are relevant and how best to sift through the correspondences.

The government is seeking communications between Armstrong and 14 specific individuals, which it said Armstrong failed to produce to its satisfaction. The two sides have sparred in court filings and lately in a conference call, illustrating the high stakes of the federal government’s case against the former seven-time Tour de France winner, whose titles were stripped due to PED use.

“Our position — and I repeat it for the record — is we need a set of search terms from the government,” Armstrong attorney Sharif Jacob told the government’s lawyers, according to a transcript. “Why don’t you send them over so we can consider them?”

DOJ lawyer David Finkelstein responded, “That is repetitious, because I just said our search term is Mr. Weisel’s email address. You said, ‘I’m not going to run that unless you limit it further.’ Have I mischaracterized your position?”

That tenor remains common between the parties in the case, who routinely complain about each other. Armstrong’s lawyers, meanwhile, still attest the government, which funded the U.S. Postal Service teams, was not actually damaged by the scandal.

Floyd Landis, a former Armstrong teammate who brought the initial whistleblower suit against Armstrong in 2010 and also admitted to doping for a large amount of his career, stands to benefit from the lawsuit. The government joined Landis’ case in 2013, bringing with it huge legal teams and, in theory, endless resources.

U.S. attorneys have attempted to assail Armstrong’s central defenses, which essentially amount to this: The United States should have known about the doping program at the U.S. Postal Service team, and that in its sponsorship of the program, the government got much more than it paid for.

In federal whistle-blower cases like that of the DOJ vs. Armstrong, the government can seek treble damages, meaning it can go after three times the amount it put into the government sponsorship. The government paid roughly more than $30 million to sponsor the United States Postal Service team and could therefore demand some $90 million.

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UCI withholds Astana WorldTour license — for now http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/12/news/astana-license-still-under-review_354974 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/12/news/astana-license-still-under-review_354974#comments Thu, 04 Dec 2014 18:07:41 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=354974

The UCI announced Thursday that Team Astana's WorldTour license was still under review. Photo: BrakeThrough Media | brakethroughmedia.com (File).

In a Thursday announcement, UCI confirms 16 WorldTour teams, but says that Astana's license is still under review due to doping concerns

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The UCI announced Thursday that Team Astana's WorldTour license was still under review. Photo: BrakeThrough Media | brakethroughmedia.com (File).

Five doping cases this offseason may cost the Astana program hugely, as the team was left off the UCI’s initial list of WorldTour teams, announced Wednesday.

Cycling’s governing body is in the process of confirming the 18 WorldTour teams for next season and beyond. It left both Astana and Europcar off the list and will decide on those two teams by December 10.

The Tour de France-winning Astana squad already had a license for 2015, but the UCI asked its license committee to review the team due to to “serious concerns” stemming from recent doping positives. If the UCI sticks to what may be a precedent-setting case in 2012, it could slap Astana with a probationary license and a warning.

In 2012, Katusha was denied a license due to four PED positives between 2009 and 2012, but that ruling was overturned by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Since Nibali’s Tour win, the team has been in headlines for the wrong reasons. One of his helpers at the Tour, Maxim Iglinskiy failed a test for EPO on August 1. Iglinskiy’s brother, Valentin also failed a test for the drug in the same fortnight. Afterward, three riders for Astana’s third-division feeder team — Ilya Davidenok, Victor Okishev, and Artur Fedosseyev — failed anti-doping tests for steroids.

Nibali has defended the program, drawing a line between the pro team and lower ranks. There is no connection and no problem,” he told VeloNews.

Astana recently announced it would drop the curtains on the Continental team after the third doping positive. That team was already suspended from competition and its manager fired.

“These young guys are crazy if they don’t realize doping has no place in cycling,” Vinokourov told La Gazzetta during a team camp in Italy. “I want this to be a ‘warning shot’ to our federation. The Kazakh federation needs to do more controls.”

All told, four teams are linked to the Kazakh capital and team boss Alexandre Vinokourov: the WorldTour team, the women’s team, and two third-division teams, Astana and Vino4Ever.

The UCI also announced 17 Pro Continental teams for 2015, including U.S. teams UnitedHealthcare and Novo Nordisk; Yellow Fluo (Italy) and Cult Energy (Denmark) are still under review.

Europcar’s license is still under review due to what is reported by Sud Ouest to be a lack of funding, as the team is slated to part with its sponsor at the end of 2015

VeloNews’ Andrew Hood and Gregor Brown contributed to this report.

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Will back pain force Tim Johnson to walk away? http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/11/news/will-back-pain-force-tim-johnson-walk-away_354368 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/11/news/will-back-pain-force-tim-johnson-walk-away_354368#comments Wed, 26 Nov 2014 15:58:23 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=354368

TIm Johnson is battling back pain but looking for a result at nationals. After that, he will think about his future as a racer. Photo: Dan Seaton (File).

At 37, American Tim Johnson has raced a lot of cyclocross. He's now battling back spasms that threaten to end his professional career

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TIm Johnson is battling back pain but looking for a result at nationals. After that, he will think about his future as a racer. Photo: Dan Seaton (File).

All those bumps, lumps, dismounts, and run-ups were bound to take their toll.

Tim Johnson (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com), something like American cyclocross royalty now, has been dousing the pyrotechnics of back spasms since 2007. But this year, the fiery pain has been more consistent, and kept him from his best form. And, flatly, if the injury doesn’t get any better, he may have to hang it up.

“I’ve been in a situation for the past two months where I’ve been dealing with this back problem,” Johnson said earlier this week. “Every year I’d have an episode where my back would spasm like crazy … Can’t move, can’t stand up, can’t walk.”

Through the years, Johnson has been able to manage the issues, caused by two herniated discs and contact between vertebrae. But this season, he hasn’t been able to stay out front of the pain. “It’s gotten worse,” Johnson said, noting that on a Saturday — podiums in Boulder, Madison, and Providence — he’ll have a good ride, then fade away come Sunday on a double-race weekend.

“It’s like someone drew a line horizontally across my lower back. And from there down I always feel that line. … All of the sudden your lower back turns into one solid thing. You lose all the power and mobility,” Johnson said. “It really sucks because sometimes it is the most debilitating thing. Because on the outside you still walk, you still talk … but man, when you’re trying to race and you’re going full gas outta every corner and you don’t have your back … I don’t even have a word for it.”

He’s been to doctors and tried assorted therapies for his kinked back. At this point, Johnson, 37, has just dialed down the level. “What’s going on right now is that I had planned on racing more than I had been. I planned on going to UK for the World Cup this weekend. But since I’m really not in any kind of form to represent the U.S. at the first World Cup off the Euro continent, I had to cancel,” he said.

Instead, Johnson will race in Japan, at the Nobeyama Cyclocross Race in Japan. He will then look to the USA Cycling cyclocross national championships in Austin as a benchmark. “I’m going to try and train for the next week and a half, two weeks, and then do another test. And if I haven’t really improved then I’ll know that things aren’t salvageable much,” he said of the season and, perhaps, beyond. In a month or so, Johnson will make the larger call on his future; will he keep riding, or retire?

If he did walk away, it wouldn’t be so bad, would it? Johnson took third in 1999 at the under-23 race at the UCI world cyclocross championships, and he’s a three-time national champion in the elites. He’s as well-known as any cyclocross rider is stateside.

“Growing up, you have no idea what anything is. Ten years ago, at 27, if I had thought about how long I wanted to ride as a pro, then I would have been totally content getting to this point,” he said. “As much as I’ve learned the ins and outs of the actual sport itself there’s so many other things to learn about life. And hopefully some of these things will apply, you know?”

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Tour of Flanders unveils 2015 route http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/11/news/flanders-unveils-2015-route_354304 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/11/news/flanders-unveils-2015-route_354304#comments Tue, 25 Nov 2014 19:31:14 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=354304

Fabian Cancellara and Peter Sagan clashed in 2013 at the Tour of Flanders. Organizers unveiled the route Tuesday for the 2015 edition. BrakeThrough Media | VeloNews.com

The Tour of Flanders route will look very similar to its 2014 running. What's that mean for Cancellara, Boonen and company?

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Fabian Cancellara and Peter Sagan clashed in 2013 at the Tour of Flanders. Organizers unveiled the route Tuesday for the 2015 edition. BrakeThrough Media | VeloNews.com

The route for the 2015 Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders) was announced on Tuesday. The prevailing theme? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

The closing 150 kilometers will be the same as the 2014 race, which saw the culling of long, flat sections in the final 100 kilometers. The race won’t go longer than 12 kilometers in the final 150 without a cobbled section or climb, making for tense racing in the closing hours. Last year, Fabian Cancellara won a rugged race blasted with wind and peppered with crashes in the final hundred kilometers.

The big Swiss was in a four-man break with Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing), Sep Vanmarcke (Belkin), and Stijn Vandenbergh (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), and none of them seemed eager to fight the final battle. The race may play out similarly this year, with the big riders waiting until late in the day to roll the dice.

De Ronde will again roll out of the dazzling city of Bruges, and hit Oudenaarde for the first time 100km in. Two hills have been added to the 2014 parcours — the Tiegemberg is new to the race and will be the first climb, and Berendries is the eighth crest, and is back after two years’ absence due to road work.

The main attraction will commence at the Koppenberg, which opens the door to the flashpoint of the race. The short, narrow, and steep climb is more about the struggle for position than anything, as a stressed peloton squeezes down and begins to think about selection. From there, it’s 45km to the finish, with the Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg duo again at the likely at center of the winning move. Koppenberg is followed by Steenbeekdries (at 39km), Taaienberg (at 37km), Kruisberg (at 28km), Oude Kwaremont (at 17km), and Paterberg (at 13km). The field will hit the Kwaremont three times and the Paterberg twice.

Flanders is one of the sport’s one-day lions and hosts more than 800,000 spectators along its route. There will be spectator villages on the Oude Kwaremont, Paterberg, Kruisberg, Koppenberg, and at the finishing line in Oudenaarde.

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Cancellara unhappy with new hour record regulations http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/11/news/cancellara-unhappy-with-new-hour-record-regulations_353863 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/11/news/cancellara-unhappy-with-new-hour-record-regulations_353863#comments Tue, 25 Nov 2014 13:54:08 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=353863

Fabian Cancellara wants the UCI to go back in time and employ its old-school hour record rules. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

"Spartacus" would like to see the UCI hold two records, representing the old and new bike regulations

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Fabian Cancellara wants the UCI to go back in time and employ its old-school hour record rules. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

At first blush, it would seem that Fabian Cancellara would be happy with the momentum surrounding the hour record after the UCI changed its rules and, essentially, opened up the boards for a flurry of attempts.

Jens Voigt held the record for a brief period of time as he put on one final show before retiring, and then Matthias Brändle (IAM Cycling) took the mark just 42 days later. It stands at 51.852 kilometers now, to be precise.

Cancellara would stand to benefit from the popularity, and the current record appears to be one that the man they call “Spartacus” could smash up like a box of champagne flutes. Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) has said he wants in, and so has Bradley Wiggins (Sky).

But there is one problem for Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing). He still looks at the longest hour as having two separate classifications. And he thinks all this “stuff” right now is “low level.”

“At the moment when I see all this hour record stuff, it’s just low level. Instead of higher it’s getting lower… but in the end, the UCI set up the rules, and everyone can do it who wants and there’s no limit. When there’s people motivated, they just do it,” he told VeloNews recently.

Last May, the UCI ditched the Merckx-era bike-design rules in favor of a single, unified hour record using equipment regulations borrowed from modern track pursuit bikes. UCI President Brian Cookson said the move would modernize the record.

“Today there is a general consensus that equipment used in competition must be allowed to benefit from technological evolution where pertinent,” Cookson said in a press release. “This kind of evolution is positive for cycling generally and for the hour record in particular. This record will regain its attraction for both the athletes and cycling fans.”

Cancellara, though, doesn’t see it that way. And oddly, the hour record was resurrected in part because of him. When he began to make noise about the record last winter, interest spiked and the UCI was prompted to revise its rules.

“As soon as I was thinking [about it] everything got huge. And that’s what I didn’t want it to [be],” he said. “Without putting effort from my side in I think there would never be a big discussion… Now there’s already two people [who have] had it, the third one will probably come.”

But isn’t all of this a good thing, the recent trend toward the hour record? More attempts, more exposure, more… money?

Maybe for others. But Cancellara, who obsesses over the quality of a win and not just a “win,” wanted it the old way, the Merckx way. On the old school road bike with thin tubes, shallow wheels and drop bars. The Belgian rode 49.431 kilometers on the traditional road bike setup in Mexico City in 1972.

“It’s not possible to compare the hour with a time trial on the road,” Merckx said just after he set the mark. “Here it’s not possible to ease up, to change gears or the rhythm. The hour record demands a total effort, permanent and intense, one that’s not possible to compare to any other. I will never try it again.”

Cancellara saw it as an unfortunate progression of science in a part of the sport that had been largely protected from it. That particular record, reverence and all, had been left largely neglected in the past decade.

“I still see that as another record, with the Merckx-style bike and with the normal TT position, however you want to call it,” Cancellara said. “Now we are in 2014 but we have to run with the times somehow, but I think it’s also nice to not run with the times. Because at the moment the equipment is much faster than even [Tony] Romiger’s time. Also, now with cycling the sport gets cleaner and we still ride faster. It’s also because equipment, scientist stuff, training all this.”

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Horner linked to U.S. Continental team Airgas-Safeway http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/11/news/rumor-mill-horner-airgas-safeway_354130 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/11/news/rumor-mill-horner-airgas-safeway_354130#comments Tue, 25 Nov 2014 00:23:15 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=354130

Chris Horner wearing the leader's jersey at the 2004 Redlands Classic, riding for Webcor Builders. Photo by Casey B. Gibson.

The squad’s principal, Chris Johnson, would not comment on the roster of the team when asked by VeloNews if the team had signed Horner

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Chris Horner wearing the leader's jersey at the 2004 Redlands Classic, riding for Webcor Builders. Photo by Casey B. Gibson.

It is increasingly likely that Chris Horner will go from racing the Tour de France with Lampre-Merida to racing stateside with a small U.S. Continental squad in the span of just one season.

The American, 43, who became the eldest rider to win a grand tour when he won the 2013 Vuelta a España, has been linked with upstart squad Airgas-Safeway, a Continental team focused on young riders that’s based in the U.S.

Last week, in a conversation with VeloNews, the squad’s principal, Chris Johnson, would not comment on the roster of the team when asked directly if the team had signed Horner.

Horner’s agent Baden Cooke recently confirmed Horner had signed with a U.S. team. “Chris has signed with a U.S. team,” Cooke wrote to VeloNews. “It will be announced very soon.”

The director of the Airgas-Safeway team, former American pro Bart Bowen, resides in Bend, Oregon, where Horner also lives. Bowen is four years older than Horner.

Lampre did not extend Horner’s contract after one season with the team. The rumor mill has since gone into overdrive about where Horner could land for next season, but Horner himself has stayed quiet.

All this noise is but another note in Horner’s long song as a professional. After winning the 2013 Vuelta, he was cut by the team that became Trek Factory Racing, then signed with Lampre in January. While training for the 2014 Giro d’Italia he was hit by a car in a tunnel in Italy and left for dead.

Horner, 43, recovered from his injuries — including a punctured lung — in time to ride inside the top 20 in the Tour de France, running on fumes and suffering from a long-running sickness that ultimately mandated a therapeutic use exemption for cortisone. That eventually kept him from defending his Vuelta crown, as Lampre erased him from the start list due to a conflict with the Movement for Credible Cycling rules.

Should Horner ride for Airgas-Safeway, a relatively unknown domestic Continental team, there’s a precedent for such a move. In 2004 Horner signed with the unheralded Webcor squad after winning big in the U.S. in 2003 — he took wins at the Solano Bicycle Classic, Redlands Bicycle Classic, the Tour de Georgia, and the T-Mobile International in San Francisco — while riding for Saturn. He finished that season as the top-ranked rider on USA Cycling’s National Racing Calendar.

In 2004, riding for Webcor, Horner won the Redlands, Pomona Valley, and Sea Otter stage races, and again finished the season as the top-ranked rider on USA Cycling’s National Racing Calendar. Horner finished eighth that year at the UCI road world championships in Verona, Italy.

Horner moved to the ProTour level at the end of the 2004 season, joining Saunier Duval-Prodir in time to race the Giro di Lombardia, where he finished 11th. With Saunier Duval, he raced the Tour de France for the first time in 2005.

Horner did not return a voicemail left Monday afternoon.

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Stevens takes time off, then looks ahead http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/11/news/stevens-takes-time-looks-ahead_353689 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/11/news/stevens-takes-time-looks-ahead_353689#comments Thu, 20 Nov 2014 17:59:23 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=353689

American Evelyn Stevens will take on 2015 with a new team, but she'll still bring familiar sponsors Specialized and lululemon along for the ride. Photo: BrakeThrough Media | brakethroughmedia.com

American Evelyn Stevens talks off-season, a new team, and next year after a successful 2014

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American Evelyn Stevens will take on 2015 with a new team, but she'll still bring familiar sponsors Specialized and lululemon along for the ride. Photo: BrakeThrough Media | brakethroughmedia.com

She finished up the world championships, went to Cape Cod, got engaged, and took three weeks off the bike.

And now, Evelyn Stevens is at it again. She’s in Boulder, Colorado this week getting back up to speed, staying with Connie Carpenter and Davis Phinney. “It’s always a nice time of year,” she said. “I’ve been training for a few weeks already. I go to my first training camp in December.”

That entrance back into the fray, though, comes after a chunk of time off the bike. Which, it turns out, doesn’t make her crazy. “That’s funny,” she said when asked if she gets a bit itchy without riding. “I don’t miss it. I’m also traveling a lot. … It’s really nice not putting on your kit. It’s not having to put your spandex on is what I find [nice]. Being able to do other things. I enjoy it. But you’re ready to ride again.”

While she enjoyed a good season, winning the Boels Rental Ladies Tour, the Parx Philly Classic, and the world team time trial, she had a rough go, too. Stevens separated her shoulder in a crash while training for the TTT at worlds, but that didn’t stop her from winning the team event with Specialized-lululemon, placing third in the individual time trial, and taking 12th in the road race.

“It was definitely a factor,” Stevens said to TeamUSA.org after worlds. “Anytime you hurt something, your body is trying to heal it. But it happened, and there was nothing I could do about it.”

Next year, Stevens will move to the Boels-Dolmans team along with sponsors Specialized and lululemon, but the structure will be different.

“It’s a new team, new management, but so far I’ve been lucky,” Stevens said. “That was really positive. I basically learned all my biking from that team and that program.”

As far as the goals for next year, those are undefined until team camp. At least until she starts talking about the upcoming season, then it much comes down to this: Do well in the big races.

The team time trial remains important, as does the individual effort. The UCI world road championships will be held in Richmond, Virginia, which heightens the pressure for American riders. She mentioned major stage races, and … “I would love to do well in some of the one-day classics, but I’m also content to be a good teammate,” she said. “I have teammates who are awesome.”

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Lucas Euser goes off-road to race La Ruta http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/11/news/lucas-euser-goes-off-road-to-race-la-ruta_352193 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/11/news/lucas-euser-goes-off-road-to-race-la-ruta_352193#comments Thu, 06 Nov 2014 15:14:06 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=352193

Lucas Euser (left) poses with 2009 La Ruta winner Manuel Prado. Euser begins La Ruta with a team on Thursday. Courtesy photo

The UnitedHealthcare rider is racing La Ruta to raise the profile of rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune diseases

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Lucas Euser (left) poses with 2009 La Ruta winner Manuel Prado. Euser begins La Ruta with a team on Thursday. Courtesy photo

You probably know Lucas Euser from his time as a well-rounded rider on UnitedHealthcare. You may know him for that immaculate whip of hair that points toward the sky and always seems to be at the utmost attention.

You do not know him for mountain bike racing through the jungle of Costa Rica, which is exactly what he’s about to be doing.

Starting Thursday, Euser and a team of others are racing La Ruta de los Conquistadores, known as one of the toughest mountain bike races in the sport. The group hopes to raise the profile of rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune ailments.

La Ruta is 193 miles of trouble spread over three days. There are 23,000 feet of elevation gain and five mountain ranges to pass. Temperatures range from the low 40s to 95 degrees. This is not some sort of  “welcome to the off-season” plan that many pros choose. Euser sent VeloNews a note from Costa Rica just before the race shoved off.

VeloNews: First off, how was the road season, looking back? Are you happy with your year?
Lucas Euser: 2014 was a trying year. A strong ride in the Tour of San Luis was followed by a series of illness and crashes, an asthma attack at the Amgen Tour of California, and then my crash with [Taylor] Phinney at [the USA Cycling National Road Championship]. After a 10-week break I came back for [the Tour of] Utah and [the USA Pro Challenge] and was happy with how I rode. The team operated as one and it showed in Colorado.

VN: And the season ends and now you’re a mountain biker? You’re at La Ruta? I thought you guys went into hibernation once the season ended.
LE: Quite the contrary. [In the] off-season we start to tick off the “to-do” list we’ve been keeping in our back pockets. La Ruta was so worn out on that list I felt I better get it done before the opportunity fades away! This summer I met chef Seamus Mullen from New York’s Tertulia restaurant at [the] Aspen Food & Wine Classic.  I was there helping a good friend, Matt Accarino, with his best new chef demo and dragging him around on rides. Seamus brought his bike and joined us. He told me about his history with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and a project he was starting called Auto Immune Movement, or A.I.M. The project was to raise awareness of the rise in autoimmune diseases we are seeing: ADHD, autism, asthma, celiac, lupus, etc. Seamus has a history and emotional connection with Costa Rica and in his efforts to knock RA with diet and exercise, he has been preparing to race La Ruta all year. Dealing with chronic asthma, I told him I was in even before he could ask. And here I am, doing a race I’ve wanted to do since I was a kid!

VN: We’ve talked about exercise-induced asthma in the past. What’s that like for you competing as a high-level athlete? How do you treat it?
LE: I’ve had chronic allergy-induced asthma since infancy. In and out of the hospital with bronchitis, doctors started treating me for asthma when I was three. It’s been a part of my life ever since. I’ve always tried to balance the prescribed medication with a good diet to treat it, but since my asthma attack at stage 5 of the ATOC this year I’ve been on a mission to knock it out once and for all. Amazingly, it was Seamus’s A.I.M. project and La Ruta that inspired me the most. I’ve been exploring all sorts of diet changes and decided to go off all prescription meds in preparation for this race. It’s been scary, but I’ve learned more about myself in the last three months than I have in the last 30 years.

VN: Is it more common than we realize?
LE: Asthma rates are skyrocketing in the U.S. Autoimmune diseases in general are becoming a huge issue. Twenty years ago that wasn’t the case. Now it seems that many more children are struggling with some sort of discomfort and ailment. I’m a firm believer with proper diet and exercise we can reverse these effects. I’m not a doctor or scientist, this is just something I’ve been passionate about my whole life and now I have the knowledge and experience to do something about it.

VN: Looking forward to next year, what are your hopes for yourself?
LE: Becoming a better person is about self-exploration and self-evolution. I like the road I’m traveling. I hope to turn what I’ve learned into success for myself and for others, and I hope to become a stronger cyclist.

Editor’s note: Visit canarykidsmovie.com for some of Euser’s personal inspiration. 

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Notes from the Scrum: ‘I could hear you screaming’ http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/11/news/road/notes-scrum-hear-screaming_351975 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/11/news/road/notes-scrum-hear-screaming_351975#comments Wed, 05 Nov 2014 13:45:41 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=351975

Like a skinned cat. Velo's Matthew Beaudin recalls a crash or two, and the strangers who helped out along the way. Photo: Courtesy of Jim Potter

Velo's Matthew Beaudin takes a tumble, takes a free ride, takes a beer ... and makes a huge mistake

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Like a skinned cat. Velo's Matthew Beaudin recalls a crash or two, and the strangers who helped out along the way. Photo: Courtesy of Jim Potter

So this is how it happens. It happens fast.

Sounds drift. Cars and voices. I can sense them, can feel the crush of the morning and I know I am sitting here awash in it but I cannot hear anything. My head is in my hands and I am curled up into myself on the road. The only noise is the buzzing static of shock; my entire head is in a seashell. The whir of self-assessment goes on.

“I could hear you screaming.”

The last thing I remember is touching the front brake. Whispering on it near the bottom of an on-fire descent as I reeled in a truck. Unseen marbles of gravel. The noise of a rasp and then nothing for brief moment between saddle and road.

My left hip touches first, the angry road surface a prairie fire to Lycra and skin. I am combustible. The left elbow is next to touch down, a rock boring a hole into my arm the size of a shotgun shell. Then the pavement is a hot razor blade over my shoulder blades. It was loud in my ears, that sound of fear and pain and mashing into the road. It was then she says she could hear me screaming.

“I’m OK, mostly,” I say. There are a few people around now, and they want to know if I’m sure. I check my teeth. Always with the teeth. All there. The mental list goes on but by now the sounds are back and I know nothing is as bad as the pain on my road-eaten skin seems.

A man in a white truck, the one I slowed and smashed for, implores that I get in. I’m in no condition to ride, he says. I see my bike go into the back and he notes it’s in good shape, save some crooked shifters. I roll into a ball in the shotgun seat, afraid to bleed on the interior.

“That was some tumble,” he notes. “Really bad.” I am grateful for his company and compassion and the ride to Vecchio’s, the shop in Boulder where I store beer in the crowded fridge. Owner Jim Potter soon hands me one.

He’s seen worse, much worse. Potter fixes my bike and the new mechanic, Brian, who’s likely been in more road crashes than I’ve had breakups, tells me what to do. I’ve never been taken apart by the road like this before. Jim hands me a bizarre looking plastic scrubber, like a toothbrush for skin, and tells me to scrub the road rash. Hard.

A friend just said Vecchio’s is where bullshit goes to die. He’s right. And by now that friend, Velo’s technical editor Caley Fretz, has arrived and asks about the status of the bike, tells me I’ll heal, and drives me home after stopping at the store for Tegaderm. Thanks I say. I really appreciate it. He tells me he knew I was about to crash. That I was descending lately in such a way that lent itself to crashing.

Would have loved a heads up. Have you ever tried to put gauze on your own shoulder blades?

A month later, I am cresting Magnolia Road again for the first time since the incident. It is my most loathed and loved road on the Front Range of Colorado.

My [new] girlfriend is in front of me, descending fast, too fast. I think that I need to catch her and tell her to take this one easy, as she doesn’t know the road. I do not catch her before the first hairpin.

I watch her smoking into the turn from about 20 feet back. Handfuls of brake and most of the speed is gone. But the gravel on the shoulder is a tempest. She crashes onto her left side, and I see it happening over long seconds. May as well have been me falling — two for the price of one. I kneel down next to her and put my hand on her shoulder, fully expecting to be broken up with on the spot.

Two men stop their driving tour of the Boulder foothills and offer to drive her off the mountain. They make room for a bike, and move a dog around to fit her in.

I drive us home and think it’s incredible that more things don’t go wrong when we crash like that. I thank the strangers who pick us up when we fall. Because the vulnerability of a life on the road is one we can never fully understand. We ride and we trust and, above all, we hope. Hope that wheel holds, hope that driver sees us. And when those things run out, we take rides from strangers.

Back at my house in Boulder, I hand her the torture device used to clean out road rash. And, again, I expect to be broken up with, on the spot.

A few days later, we come to the top of Magnolia again, out for our redemption. We both go slower than normal, we both keep the rubber side down. It’s not a lesson that needs to be taught often, except for when it does. I can only hope there’s a nice stranger on the road the next time, a friend, and a beer.

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Rumor police: Where will Chris Horner land? http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/11/news/rumor-police-will-chris-horner-land_352067 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/11/news/rumor-police-will-chris-horner-land_352067#comments Tue, 04 Nov 2014 23:15:36 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=352067

Chris Horner, the only American to win the Vuelta is once again left without a team as rumors swirl about his prospects for 2015. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

Chris Horner is without a team at this point in the off-season, and mum is the word on where he'll land

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Chris Horner, the only American to win the Vuelta is once again left without a team as rumors swirl about his prospects for 2015. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

Where will Chris Horner, the 2013 Vuelta a España champion, land?

For now, mum is the word.

“We are waiting on one team in Europe for a decision. If that does not come to fruition we have some options in the States,” read an email from Horner’s agent and former professional rider, Baden Cooke, sent to VeloNews Tuesday afternoon.

The 2013 Vuelta winner was not re-signed by his former team, Lampre-Merida, this offseason. That was made public on Tuesday, though Horner has been under the radar since he was unable to defend his Vuelta red jersey due to treatment for a bronchial infection, which ran afoul of the team’s commitment to the Movement for Credible Cycling (MPCC).

The move marks an unceremonious ending to his tenure with Lampre. He signed with the Italian team in January but suffered broken ribs and a punctured lung when he was hit by a car on a training ride in April. Horner recovered to compete in the Tour de France where he finished 17th in the overall but battled the aforementioned bronchial infection. Horner, 43, has not returned repeated requests for comment.

One of the rumors swirling was that Horner would move to Jelly Belly.

It would have been a good story — Horner riding for Jelly Belly this season, joining another one of the peloton’s throwbacks in Freddy Rodriguez on the smaller-budget North American team. But that’s all it seems to be — a story. “That’s a good rumor,” Jelly Belly manager Danny Van Haute said to VeloNews. “It’s all it is. Honest. I haven’t been talking to Chris at all. That rumor started last year, too.”

All that said, Van Haute wouldn’t mind talking to Horner.

“I saw the news clip today that he doesn’t have anything going,” Van Haute said. “Would be kinda funny wouldn’t it? I wouldn’t be opposed to it, shit … I got Freddy Rodriguez, and he’s 40 [Rodriguez is 41 -Ed.]. It’s not the age it’s the performance, and [Horner] performs very well. The problem is I don’t have the money. I’m not sure what [Horner] wants. I’m sure he doesn’t want to work for just beans.”

Horner went into last season amid uncertainty as well, as his former team, RadioShack-Leopard, left him off the new-look Trek Factory Racing squad, even in light of his Vuelta win, which many said upped his asking price significantly.

If Horner is worried, he isn’t talking about it publicly. Last year under a similar circumstance, when asked if he was concerned, he simply wrote, “One year, I signed in December.”

“It’s age discrimination,” Cooke said. “I can’t comprehend why his age matters when he is stronger than 95 percent of the peloton.”

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For Alex Howes, 2014 ‘a little confirmation’ http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/11/news/for-alex-howes-2014-a-little-confirmation_352038 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/11/news/for-alex-howes-2014-a-little-confirmation_352038#comments Tue, 04 Nov 2014 18:46:25 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=352038

After a season that included a Tour de France full of "ups and downs," and his first professional win, Alex Howes is ready to start 2015 with an eye to the Ardennes and worlds. Photo: Caley Fretz | VeloNews.com

Garmin-Sharp's Alex Howes talks with VeloNews about the season that was and the season that's yet to be

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After a season that included a Tour de France full of "ups and downs," and his first professional win, Alex Howes is ready to start 2015 with an eye to the Ardennes and worlds. Photo: Caley Fretz | VeloNews.com

On this offseason morning in Boulder, Colorado, Alex Howes, 26, drinks a coffee slow, and talks even slower. It’s quiet now after the season has exhaled, and it’s time for riders to unwind and try to reset before another season of bikes, flights, baggage … in order to do this, Howes decides he’ll run a marathon’s distance pretty much unplanned and unannounced. He also hit the Austin City Limits Festival, and played best man in a friend’s wedding.

Howes took some time to chat with VeloNews about 2014, and the next season.

VeloNews: Tell me about the 2014 season. What’s your assessment?

Alex Howes: There’s highs and lows. Sometimes you get excited, but when you’re in the middle of it, you’re always thinking, ‘What can I do better?’ You always want more, more, more. I would definitely call it a success. I was pretty happy with it.

VN: How about the high point?

AH: It’s gotta be stage 7 in Colorado [Which Howes won, —Ed.]. I mean Colorado was the high point in general. Just being home is nice. Yeah. First pro win, so, that’a a good thing. A little confirmation there.

VN: We saw you at the Tour on and off. What was it like to finish that thing up?

AH: It was a big sense of relief. It’s the Tour. Eveybody has ups and downs, but we had a lot of ups and downs. We lost [Andrew] Talansky there. That kind of screwed up our whole plan. That was the plan. And then to pull off that win with Ramunas [Navardauskas], that was a big deal. A good team effort that day. Just getting through it all with no big injuries or any major crashes.

VN: How about next season. What’s the big goal?

AH: I’m going to start off earlier. If I want to do what I think I can do in the Ardennes, I need to get up, get outta North America before January. So it’ll either be Down Under or Argentina. I’m kind of leaning toward Down Under.

VN: You’ve shown some promise there, in the Ardennes. What do you expect to do?

AH: Honestly I don’t know, but I know I can do better. I haven’t done poorly there. It’s hard to really stand out on Garmin right now, on that Ardennes squad. We’ve got Tom-Jelte Slagter. Dan Martin, he’s pretty good. [Ryder] Hesjedal. So …

VN: Garmin is merging with Cannondale, obviously. Has that affected you at all?

AH: To be honest with you I don’t know. At this point I’m still not totally sure how many of those guys we’ve picked up. I’ve been pretty off the radar as far as communication with anyone goes. But I might have to learn a few words in Italian. We’ll see.

VN: What’s your off-season routine?

AH: That’s the best part about off-season. Is that there is no routine. I’ve traveled quite a bit this off-season, bounced around a bit. Started off in Austin, went to Austin City Limits with Ben King. Came back, lotta wedding preparations for my buddy, got to play the best man role, that was pretty fun … Portland, [then] back home for a little bit, maybe go hunting, go to Mexico, build a house [with More Than Sport, a charity].

VN: Last one. Worlds is in Richmond next year. Is there already some pressure to do well on home turf?

AH: Honestly I’ve always felt pressure to do well at worlds. It’s one of my favorite events of the year and having it on home soil is definitely going to be a big deal. This year I really felt like I, not necessarily underperformed, but the results didn’t match what I was capable of. So you give it another year. Continue to grow a little bit. Maybe I don’t fall down next year, things go a little differently. But we’ll be there, guns blazin’, fists swingin’.

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Will the UCI shorten the Giro and Vuelta? http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/11/news/will-the-uci-shorten-the-vuelta-and-giro_351797 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/11/news/will-the-uci-shorten-the-vuelta-and-giro_351797#comments Mon, 03 Nov 2014 13:32:11 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=351797

Nairo Quintana (Movistar) showers the crowd with bubbly at the 2014 Giro. The Giro and Vuelta may be shortened after calendar reforms. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

UCI president Brian Cookson says "there would be some flexibility" when it comes to restructuring the sport's grand tours

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Nairo Quintana (Movistar) showers the crowd with bubbly at the 2014 Giro. The Giro and Vuelta may be shortened after calendar reforms. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

They are two of the sport’s icons, the beautiful three-week laps around Spain and Italy.

The 1914 Giro d’Italia had four stages longer than 400 kilometers and riders began at midnight the night before the stage was to end. The modern-day Vuelta still looks like slow-motion death on a bicycle; its heritage equal parts heat and elevation.

Outside of the Tour de France, these are the stage-race apples of a GC man’s eye.

And they may be on the chopping block.

Little is concrete — publicly, at least — about the restructuring of the road calendar under the new vanguard at the UCI and cycling’s major stakeholders. Reforms are expected to be announced this winter, possibly effective by 2017. Some, such as Omega Pharma-Quick Step manager Patrick Lefevere, have called for a shortening of the two grand tours.

“Indeed, sometimes you see the best riders avoiding racing against each other, that is regrettable,” Lefevere said to Het Nieuwsblad. “But as the grand tours now are organized, it is not physically feasible for them to race all three … Whoever races them all has 66 days of racing over about 120 days. The solution is to shorten the Vuelta and the Giro to 17 days, or in my opinion, 15 days.”

Champions of the Vuelta and Giro must balk at such a notion. But what of UCI President Brian Cookson? In an interview with VeloNews, he wouldn’t say, exactly.

“We did a review of pro cycling and tried to come up with a solution that works as well as it can and for as many of the diverse interests as it possibly can,” Cookson said. “I think we’re at the stage now where there are too many race days at the top level, there are too many too long events, too many overlaps…”

When asked directly if he could say if either grand tour would be shortened, Cookson wasn’t specific. “I think that there would be some flexibility, but I’m not going to say that I’d want them to be shorter,” he said.

Cookson said he and others are working past an automatic “defense mechanism” that kicks in when it comes to individual events, and that the heritage of the events themselves is being considered when it comes to debating their lengths.

“Everyone says, ‘I’m right and I’m not going to change my position.’ So there is a defensive mechanism that kicks in and we’re still working beyond that issue, but I think that by the WorldTour conference in December that we’ll have a revised and reviewed format,” Cookson said. “Most of what has been leaked is outdated information. We’ve got good working relationships with the teams, but there are always divergent views.”

What about the men who have to race those three-week odysseys, through the heat, rain and, sometimes, snow? Well, there are divergent views there as well.

“I think there is room to tweak, ways to make the race more appealing. Pro cycling is amateurish still. [There] needs to be some reforms,” said BMC Racing’s Peter Stetina. “I think there is room for improvement. There are so many races all over the world — the Giro has such bad weather. The Dolomites should never be raced in May.”

Stetina said October usually sees the best weather for racing, and suggested a Giro in June, the Tour in August and the Vuelta in October. “We wouldn’t have to start training until Christmas time, instead of Thanksgiving,” Stetina said.

Nicolas Roche, who rode for Tinkoff-Saxo last season and will suit up for Sky next year, said the tours shouldn’t be curtailed.

“I disagree with shortening the grand tours, like if you did Paris-Roubaix at 120km, it takes the edge off the race,” he told VeloNews. Roche said he likes the idea of evolution and adaptation of the schedule, but that the big three stage races should remain.

“I’d prefer the idea that these three races are special … keep them as three weeks, two to five days longer than the others … on the sporting side, I don’t see the point to try to shorten them. Particularly in a grand tour, there is something crazy that happens in the third week.”

There is a tide at present for an invigoration, of some sort. Cookson and his crew are addressing the calendar. Team executives like Lefevere are calling for changes. At one point, Tinkoff-Saxo owner Oleg Tinkov offered up an outright purse for the best-placed man among the sport’s GC riders of reference to ride all three grand tours. It’s the off-season, but that doesn’t mean it’s a quiet season in pro cycling.

“We’re making progress and I know that the media loves to make a big deal of these things, calling them disasters or whatever when things don’t get approved or sorted out right away,” Cookson said. “But it’s not really like that. There are a lot of stakeholders and points of view, so the best solutions come from talking those things through, rather than banging the table.”

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Cycling Canada says country did not have ‘organized system’ for doping http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/10/news/cycling-canada-says-country-organized-system-doping_351271 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/10/news/cycling-canada-says-country-organized-system-doping_351271#comments Thu, 30 Oct 2014 20:03:07 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=351271

A new, independent report released by Cycling Canada indicates that there is no systemic culture of PED use in Canada

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A report recently issued by an independent agency working on behalf of Cycling Canada found that there is no overarching doping program in the country, but that the nation should increase its efforts to build a better educational platform to discourage the use of performance-enhancing drugs regardless.

The report, entitled “National Consultation on Doping Activity in the Sport of Cycling,” looked at several areas of sporting ethics, such as the culture of cycling and PEDs, decision making, and testing. Ultimately it found that though there were isolated cases of PED use, those decisions were not part of a national culture of PED use in elite cycling.

“We are pleased to hear that the report confirms that there is no ‘culture of doping’ in Canadian Cycling,” said Greg Mathieu, chief executive officer of Cycling Canada, in a release. “We have been very clear in the past that Cycling Canada does not tolerate any athletes who try to cheat on their way to better performances. … We believe that it is possible to win at Olympic Games, world championships, or any other international or national events without the use of any doping agents.”

The findings come after a high frequency of confessions from riders from North America to using PEDs, via the United States Anti-Doping Agency’s (USADA) “reasoned decision.” The USADA report and investigation centered around Lance Armstrong and his U.S. Postal Service team.

Canadians Ryder Hesjedal, Michael Barry, Seamus McGrath, and Chris Sheppard admitted to using PEDs. In an excerpt from his autobiography, “Yellow Fever,” Dane Michael Rasmussen said he taught Hesjedal, McGrath, and Sheppard how to use EPO before the 2003 world mountain bike championships. Barry admitted to using PEDs in his time on Postal.

“I thought to keep competing and be ‘professional,’  I had to do it. Looking back, of course I know it was wrong — it was stupid and wrong. I had the best results of my career well after I stopped doping. When I was doping, I was trying to show I was professional, to ‘be professional.’ At the time I thought it was just something I had to do. I was wrong,” Hesjedal wrote in an email.

Of the 64 people contacted to give information to the Canadian report, 32 interviews were conducted, largely with riders. Twenty-one people did not respond, seven declined, and four were unreachable. The consultants also note that one “important” subject has recently agreed to an interview; that information shall be released later.

The report does not included names and largely serves as an anecdotal, however thorough, examination. While it isn’t groundbreaking by any means, it does shed light on the prevailing culture of silence. As an example, an “interviewee testified to having been approached by an American teammate who was pushing tramadol, a prohibited substance. This interviewee also witnessed a suspicious situation involving another American teammate. In 2012, the interviewee found a syringe in this person’s shoe. Upon making this discovery, the interviewee confronted the teammate, who admitted to using EPO. As far as the interviewee knows, this athlete never tested positive.”

Interviewees also said suspicious situations should see immediate investigation by anti-doping authorities once reported. “However, the interviewees never reported their concerns to the sporting authorities,” the report reads, also noting it’s “easier” to acquire PEDs in Europe than North America.

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Q&A: USADA CEO Travis Tygart on fighting the doping battle http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/10/news/qa-usada-ceo-travis-tygart-on-fighting-the-doping-battle_350348 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/10/news/qa-usada-ceo-travis-tygart-on-fighting-the-doping-battle_350348#comments Wed, 29 Oct 2014 12:57:44 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=350348

U.S. Anti-Doping CEO Travis Tygart. Photo: AFP PHOTO | JOHN THYS (File).

USADA CEO Travis Tygart speaks to Matthew Beaudin about the doping fight and trying to clean up the sport for good

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U.S. Anti-Doping CEO Travis Tygart. Photo: AFP PHOTO | JOHN THYS (File).

Editor’s note: In the November issue of Velo magazine, senior writer Matthew Beaudin explored the different paths taken by Levi Leipheimer, Christian Vande Velde, Tom Danielson, Dave Zabriskie, George Hincapie, and others after they confessed to using performance-enhancing drugs during their careers. This interview with USADA CEO Travis Tygart appears in part in that story, entitled “Shades of Grey.”

VeloNews: It seems like some of the guys who were involved have gone on to have successful careers in the bike industry, while others maybe not so much, at least for now. Do you think things have played out fairly for those who were involved and gave the affidavits? How do you see it now culturally, as well as professionally?
Travis Tygart: They’re obviously a brave group of riders, to come in and tell the truth. They put their careers at risk by coming in, rather than doing a duck-and-dive — retire and then walk away. Our hope is that they’ve been all embraced, not for the doping that they did, but hopefully they can be embraced for when given the opportunity to come in and take the stand with hopes of doing the right thing — that was to be truthful and to take the stand on a sport that had a deep and justified view on doping to hopefully change that.

VN: Some guys have had good luck, Christian Vande Velde is a broadcaster, and some guys have been quieter and are no longer in the forefront. You certainly did your job, but do you ever feel a bit of a tug for what might have hurt those guys in the long term?
TT: Nothing we did was aimed at hurting anybody. It was the decisions they made to violate the rules and use performance-enhancing drugs. Our hope was always to be realistic about the pressure that they faced and the culture that they lived in and just hold them accountable under the rule, but do it in a way that was fair and appreciated, where they fell on the hierarchy of culpability. Make no mistake, there were true victims out there that didn’t participate in the doping. Maybe they didn’t win or have success, so they left the sport prematurely. Those are the true victims and those are the people we should be talking about more. They were the ones who got more violated.

VN: Do you think the sport is at a better place now for giving second chances than say where it was 10 years ago?
TT: Our hope was a full truth and reconciliation was established immediately upon our recent decision. That was why we were hopeful that Lance was going to come in in June. Having that open disclosure would’ve been huge and a wave of riders would’ve felt empowered enough to spark a dramatic cultural shift. It’s taken a lot longer than we hoped, largely it was out of our control, but you’ve got three of the most powerful people in the history of the sport held accountable for their failure to address the issues. Being [Former UCI President Pat] McQuaid, the [UCI] general secretary, and [UCI] general counsel, and now they’re all gone. They were replaced about a year ago with a completely new leadership team. This new group took office completely looking after clean athletes’ rights. So this review [the Cycling Independent Reform Commission] they’re doing hopefully closes the book on the chapter, but you know, we have to remain vigilant at all levels going forward because this board particularly with its history, has to let go the temptations given how difficult it is and what the benefit of drugs can provide to it. In addition to that culture is an ongoing battle to ensure that clean athletes’ rights are upheld.

VN: It seems that USADA and other organizations have proven themselves as able to catch things when it comes to usage, but how do you predict things for the future? How do you take a longer view and what specifically do you look for?
TT: The heart of it is that it’s an ethical and cultural decision to be made by teams, trainers, sport directors, and athletes, and whether they’re going to participate in these types of conspiracies to defraud with the use of these PEDs. So it starts at the top and certainly USADA alone can’t change the global culture of cycling as a whole, but it really starts with leadership at the top and that the risk reward analysis is structured so that it’s against someone taking that risk. No one in their right mind is going to violate the rules if that means putting things like their relationship with family and friends at risk, simply because they want to win. But because it is so costly, there needs to be incentivizes to not take that risk and the people who play by the rules should be compensated handsomely.

VN: Isn’t the nature of cops and robbers that someone is going to be ahead? Are we even aware about any substances that maybe aren’t even out there yet?
TT: Look, I think what you just said about cops and robbers is unfortunate that you’re even using that analogy to sport, because this is sport. This is what kids grow up dreaming and hoping about. The athletes aren’t criminals, at least they shouldn’t be. The ills of criminal organizations or criminal intent have invaded sport and I’m certainly not ready to buy off on that yet, but I think at the end of the day, for at least the Americans that we’ve dealt with, they are just overly competitive so we’ve just got to create an even playing field that allows them to succeed without having to use doping or other criminal activity in order to be successful.

The Biological Passport is a great tool. Sure it’s not a cure-all, but it’s an important tool for now and it’s not just for blood testing. We’ve been doing urine analysis for several years now, so the ability to retain samples with testing at a later date, use intelligence gathering, and the use of law enforcement is critically important. We have to continue to be vigilant.

The bias should be towards clean sport, where the past, the bias has been towards dirty sport and I think the truth hit the power over since the reasoned decision came out and the truth prevailed.

VN: When fans watch a race like the Tour de France and see a rider succeed, do you feel they can believe someone is racing clean?
TT: I think every athlete deserves the presumption of innocence unless proven otherwise. I think absolutely that sports fans should believe what they see. I mean look, it puts a huge burden on those of us in the trenches, doing our best to protect clean athletes. It puts a big burden on us to ensure that testing is as good as it can be and look, we dream of the day that we remove any doubt because we have a testing system that can not only detect whether or not someone is using something, but also takes a different view by proving that someone is clean. That’s something we’ve talked about and been dreaming about for years. Of course we’re not there yet, but its something that we are working towards.

VN: The reasoned decision was certainly a groundbreaking piece of work and is something that will most likely be around for a very long time. How do you look at that and feel about having your name attached to something that is going to resonate for such a long time?
TT: It is what it is. We simply did our job to protect clean athletes’ rights and however it’s remembered, it’s remembered. The effort isn’t over, we’re still pushing ongoing cases and we’re still hopeful that the review that the UCI is doing is going to continue to push it in the direction we always wanted, which was a restart of a really dirty culture and moving into an environment that promotes a clean one.

While certainly we hear from athletes, coaches, experts, team owners, and others that it’s a totally different sport today then what it was in the recent past, certainly with the Postal Service days. You know, if one athlete’s right to compete is violated, then that’s a problem in our eyes and we’re going to try to continue pushing the culture away so that doesn’t happen.

VN: Do you feel like fairness is a subjective thing at this point when it comes to how those who provided information and confessed to doping themselves are treated?
TT: I think fairness goes to the rules and having a judgment call to see where it’s allowed. Certainly, we could’ve given some of the riders who got six months two years, but in our mind that wasn’t fair or right under the rules. Our hope was that they would come in and participate and be a part of the solution rather than retire and leave the sport behind. We also thought they would not give that same fairness to coaches and team directors who violated the rules.

As you can probably see, the greater good was to completely clean the system out and around here, the term is, “dismantle the system” because the structure of doctors, coaches and team directors had two parts to their salary. Part of their pay was to help riders train and race, but the other part was to help racers use the drugs in order to win. So we saw that if there were people in sport still that hadn’t been caught, they’d most likely continue to do what they’d been doing.

So our decisions were to be fair within the rules, use discretion judiciously and thoughtfully. At the end of the day, there was a process for anybody who didn’t agree with our decisions. The UCI or WADA could’ve appealed, but no one felt the need to do so during the given time period.

VN: At what point will you be able to declare success, or is that something that’s never achievable for an anti-doping agency?
TT: When not a single athlete’s right is violated to compete on a level playing field. That’s the point when we’ve had success and I can tell you that the USADA staff is dedicated day in and day out, weekends, 24/7, hoping to achieve that, if we can.

VN: Well certainly that’s the goal, but is the task itself Sisyphean?
TT: I think that when one clean athlete’s right is upheld and decision to do it the right way is vindicated it’s a success. Not necessarily because of us, but sport and athletes have to appreciate that and some of them certainly do.

This is a tough and ugly fight sometimes and shame on us if sometimes we are tired, dreary, or unwilling to battle that, but it’s probably no different an effort than for athletes who are trying to represent this country and win — the right way. But we care about those athletes and those that represent the integrity of clean sport and everything that good sport can do for society.

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Q&A: Leipheimer on doping — and moving on from the past http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/10/news/qa-leipheimer-on-doping-and-moving-on-from-the-past_350351 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/10/news/qa-leipheimer-on-doping-and-moving-on-from-the-past_350351#comments Tue, 28 Oct 2014 13:04:18 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=350351

Levi Leipheimer, pictured at the 2012 Tour of Utah. Leipheimer spoke with Velo for a magazine story on the perceptions of those who had confessed to using PEDs. Wil Matthews | VeloNews.com

Levi Leipheimer talks to VeloNews about his doping past and his current relationship with cycling

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Levi Leipheimer, pictured at the 2012 Tour of Utah. Leipheimer spoke with Velo for a magazine story on the perceptions of those who had confessed to using PEDs. Wil Matthews | VeloNews.com

Editor’s note: In the November issue of Velo magazine, senior writer Matthew Beaudin explored the different paths taken by Levi Leipheimer, Christian Vande Velde, Tom Danielson, Dave Zabriskie, George Hincapie, and others after they confessed to using performance-enhancing drugs during their careers. This interview appears in part in that story, entitled “Shades of Grey.” The interview has been condensed. 

VeloNews: Things seem to have gone differently for some of those who confessed. How’s the reaction been, and why does it seem to differ from rider to rider?
Levi Leipheimer: Each one of us in that group has had the same exact amount of negative reactions and positive reactions, in the extreme both ways. Maybe in reality there is a difference, but it all depends on who you’re looking at in each person with each case. We’ve all gone separate ways. Christian has gone on to do TV, so it’s very easy for people to relate to him. They see him talking and see that he’s human, so that’s part of his story. George is out there promoting his clothing a lot. You mentioned that you saw him at the race.

I’m more in my community, doing things here, like local mountain bike races … For sure guys like Christian, George, Dave, Tom have all been the target of what the Internet has become, which allows everyone to have a voice and express their opinion. Does that reflect reality; do you get to read everyone’s opinion? No. A lot of people are just more vocal and good at being loud. There’s definitely more negativity than positivity, but real life reactions, one-on-one and face-to-face … it’s been 100 percent positive. Crusher for example, I had so many conversations with people who were stoked to be there, to improve themselves, to have fun.

VN: Are you OK with where things are at? Is it as good as it is going to get with people’s attitudes towards not only you, but everyone involved? Will it ever get better for you and the others? Where does it sit with you?
LL: First off, I’d say that this whole thing has without a doubt made me a better person. It’s made me realize a lot of things. How you treat people, if you’re nice to people, if you respect people and I’ve made the effort to be better at that. I’m not saying I was a complete [expletive] before, but it reinforced that belief and I’m looking at the positive side of it.

Do I want to make excuses for what we did in the past so that people could be compassionate to our troubles? Well in the picture with everything that’s going on in the world, I think that it’s not something to focus on.

It was an unfortunate era in cycling and none of us are proud of what we did, but we did [it] and we can’t change it. It’s part of who I am, my history, and there’s nothing I can do to change it, but I’m doing the best I can to move forward and I’m being the best person I can. Hopefully that’s what matters to everyone in the end. I think 99 percent of people that I meet or hear from are supportive and forgiving and somewhat understand that it wasn’t just black and white, but very gray. We compromised ourselves, but it’s over now, done with.

VN: Do you think people are in a place now to move on or are people still stuck in the past with this sort of thing?
LL: I don’t know. For us, we lived it for so long. We were aware of the whole mess for such a long time, over a decade or more. The public are catching up, so that’s different. It’s a perspective that happened to me a long time ago. I can understand that people are upset because they were under the impression that our sport was clean and we were in a different reality. I completely understand that people were disappointed. I feel bad that I let so many people down, and I always will. Hopefully with time, the perspective of the sport and how much better it is now and how it’s been a process and a struggle. Now that anti-doping has improved, it’s raised a lot of awareness and it’s a focus. And whenever you have a focus on something the awareness increases and it usually gets better.

VN: Has cycling has been a positive or negative, in the end?
LL: Without a doubt it’s a positive thing. It’s just a complicated story and like everything, you can’t be proud of everything in your life. But cycling has been so much to me. It fills something inside of me. When I was 13 years old and started watching the Tour and riding a road bike, I felt a part of me that I had never felt before. It gave me purpose and meaning and nothing else does that. I still go out on my bike … it’s inspiring, it refreshes my soul, it’s therapy. It’s the same thing for me as it is for anybody, it’s just such a big part of my life and there is no way it can be negative to me. I just made some decisions that I’m not proud of.

VN: What’s your response to watching races? When you watch cycling what do you feel?
LL: I’m a fan of the sport, I’ve always watched races, whether I was 13 or 19 dreaming of racing the Tour or racing the Tour, I always watched the sport. I’m a huge fan; I still watch it today. I have this privileged perspective of having been there before, so I still have the sensations when I’m watching. My heart rate goes up when I watch a field sprint, I feel the suffering when they’re going up the mountains. There is absolutely no bitterness toward the sport. Sure I don’t miss the travel, the nonstop stress of performing your best every time, but I miss that feeling suffering up a climb with the five best climbers in the world, I miss that feeling. But I had [it], so I’m happy to move on.

For me now … the community that gave so much to me along the way, literally hundred and hundreds of people … The gran fondo is just about going out doing this epic huge ride and getting young kids and the next generation of kids excited about cycling. I ride a lot with the younger guys around here and just try to pass along knowledge. Knowledge that I didn’t know I had until I started helping people with riding and training and how they view the bike.

VN: They probably appreciate it, too. I mean, I doubt parents are saying, “you better not listen to Levi because he made bad decisions so many years ago.”
LL: Well, I think that it’s important to address both. Parents make mistakes when they’re younger and they don’t want their kids to make those same mistakes, so I don’t want those kids to go into an environment with an overwhelming amount of pressure like I did. When confronted, I told the truth and have gone on the record multiple times talking about what I did. It hasn’t been easy, it draws a lot of scrutiny and criticism. I did my part with USADA, above and beyond any sort of agreement. Everything they’ve asked of me, I’ve done it. I went to Atlanta and sat in a room with experts and scientists and answered their questions so I could make it better.

When I was 13, I didn’t think I needed to take drugs to race in the Tour. Everything was little by little, making the line in the sand, moving it and moving it and it was a long process that brought me to where I am.

VN: A long process back, too. Do you think it’s taken a long time for people to soften up people’s feelings?
LL: I think it’s case by case. If you read a few comments on the Internet, you realize that this isn’t what it’s really like. If you talk to people face-to-face, 99.99 percent of the people have given it some thought and that it’s not black and white. I think with time that other percentage will soften up and understand it.

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Magazine Excerpt: Shades of gray http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/10/magazine/magazine-excerpt-shades-gray_350618 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/10/magazine/magazine-excerpt-shades-gray_350618#comments Tue, 28 Oct 2014 12:22:01 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=350618

Why does public perception of different confessed dopers vary? Matthew Beaudin looks into the inconsistencies of the post-USADA report era.

Some who confessed to doping have been accepted back into the sport, others have not. What's the difference?

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Why does public perception of different confessed dopers vary? Matthew Beaudin looks into the inconsistencies of the post-USADA report era.

Editor’s note: This is an excerpt from the November 2014 issue of Velo magazine.

That guy’s a doper. A cheater. A liar. Can’t stand him.

That guy seems all right. Yeah, he used to dope, but so did everyone else.

The conventional definition of the word “perception” pertains to the inexact and shifting merger of action and reaction that is constantly calibrating itself, given the context. Perception is both impermeable and porous. Judgments are formed unconsciously. We like or loathe, often before we’ve had a chance to think why.

During July, millions of people heard Christian Vande Velde’s voice commentating on the Tour de France for NBC Sports. If confessing to past use of PEDs ever hurt the former rider, he was certainly able to recover.

Also during July, hardly anyone saw Dave Zabriskie or Levi Leipheimer. Perhaps the riders chose to keep it that way, or perhaps they didn’t have such an option as Vande Velde. It’s hard to know.

Zabriskie finished his term with Garmin-Sharp at the end of the 2013 season, and walked away from the sport quietly. At the close of the 2012 season, Leipheimer was sacked by Omega Pharma-Quick Step following his public admission to using PEDs; after several last-ditch efforts to join a team in 2013 came up empty, he has since faded away from the professional side. But he continues to race, and some riders and fans of the sport seethe when he wins a mass-participation event (as he did at the Crusher in the Tushar this July).

Doper.

More than 7,000 people ride Levi’s GranFondo in Santa Rosa, California. It fills up every year.

Good guy.

In August, George Hincapie signed autographs outside the Hincapie Sportswear team bus in Aspen, Colorado, at the start of the USA Pro Challenge. The next day, one of the team’s riders, Robin Carpenter, won the stage into Crested Butte; Hincapie’s name was, once again, thrust into the international spotlight. In addition to the apparel company, Hincapie has his name on a gran fondo, and owns a luxury hotel in the Blue Ridge Mountains that caters to cyclists. Business seems good, if exposure is any indicator.

Eh, everybody did it.

Tom Danielson sat out the Tour de France, won the Tour of Utah, and was lambasted by a fan in Colorado during the USA Pro Challenge, eventually flipping the man off as he pedaled his way through the Garden of the Gods on a hot August afternoon.

Doper.

A few days later in Boulder, more fans waited outside the Garmin bus to cheer for Danielson than for any other rider on the team. “He was the most popular rider to come out of the bus. I’m just pointing that out,” manager Jonathan Vaughters said. Danielson finished second overall in Colorado.

Good guy.

There is a select crop of riders who embody the binary of the sport; they are the past and present in the same person, as the sport carries its past with it up the long climb to redemption.

“I think there is a small group of people, mainly your cat. 3, cat. 2, maybe even cat. 1 type of riders that feel like they had something personally taken away from them as a result of the doping culture that existed in cycling,” Vaughters said. “And, you know, I don’t think there’s anything I’m going to say, or anything anyone else is going to say, that’s going to convince them differently on that. And they’re angry about that. And that’s unfortunate, but at the same point in time, they’re entitled to be angry.”

Meanwhile, amid the wreckage, Lance Armstrong continues his public relations journey, plodding through a perpetual legal snowstorm, and, generally, making his way back toward some form of acceptance.

A recent Esquire magazine cover line wondered how Armstrong was doing “in exile.”

Armstrong was nowhere to be seen in Aspen during the Pro Challenge, though he lives there, and though, in 2009 and 2010, he played a critical role in bringing the event into existence.

Meeting him in the exile of the Denver International Airport on a September day this fall, hat low, shades on, Armstrong seemed just fine. At this point in his story, which is bound to change yet again, he said cycling was still a positive for him.

“I’m in a comfortable position. I mean, I still have a few things to take care of, but I’m comfortable. I’m sitting here waiting for a connection and not flying on a f—king Gulfstream anymore, but that’s okay. Shit happens; it’s all good, man,” he said.

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UCI president: ‘Potential’ for Armstrong redemption http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/10/news/ucis-president-potential-armstrong-redemption_350148 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/10/news/ucis-president-potential-armstrong-redemption_350148#comments Mon, 27 Oct 2014 17:56:38 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=350148

Lance Armstrong met with the CIRC commission earlier in 2014. Now, UCI president Brian Cookson has suggested that may be an avenue for redemption for the American. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com (File).

In part of an interview with VeloNews senior writer Matthew Beaudin, UCI president Brian Cookson discusses Lance Armstrong and redemption

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Lance Armstrong met with the CIRC commission earlier in 2014. Now, UCI president Brian Cookson has suggested that may be an avenue for redemption for the American. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com (File).

Should Lance Armstrong be allowed back into the realm of professional cycling?

That, of course, depends on who one asks. The one-time seven-time Tour de France champion is currently banned for life, after an exhaustive effort by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) dropped reams of affidavits from former teammates, who admitted to their own doping and implicated Armstrong.

UCI President Brian Cookson has a nuanced take on the man who was once the sport’s biggest star and who has given information to the Cycling Independent Reform Commission (CIRC) panel, which is investing the systemic doping culture that existed in professional cycling.

“I think that there is potential for redemption for him and anyone, really. I think it all depends on what [Armstrong] said to the commission and if he was prepared to talk about his or other people’s involvement and whether he’s genuinely contrite and deserving of redemption,” Cookson said. “I think it has to be said that what Lance did, not that he was the only one or only one involved, but it all depends on what Lance said to the commission and what they come up with. … we have to acknowledge and approve of any redemption in the sentence in the sanctions that he got. I think that [USADA CEO] Travis Tygart has been saying the same sort of thing anyway and I don’t think there is any conflict there between USADA, but let’s see what Lance has been saying to the commission.”

The CIRC commission is expected to make its findings known and release a report in January of 2015. The CIRC efforts dovetail with the work already done by USADA. Eight active riders were sanctioned after the anti-doping agency’s “reasoned decision” came down. Of the eight total, six were American riders. Did they pay a higher price than others of their era, many of whom have neither confessed nor been caught? Cookson is measured in his response.

“I think that is a narrow way of looking at it. The American rider [Armstrong] was also the biggest rider in the world, and was also the only one win seven Tours, he was the one who climbed highest and ultimately fell the lowest. If you look around as well, there were people who gave evidence and received reduced sanctions, so that arrangement was worthwhile from their point of view,” he told VeloNews in a lengthy interview.

Cookson said some have paid more than others, given the fact that “Armstrong and U.S. Postal weren’t the only team involved in doping,” he said. The UCI president has also asked the CIRC panel how those involved in past cheating should be dealt with now, in the modern iteration of the sport. For example, Cookson wants to evaluate how those with previous doping issues function on teams now.

“I want to be able to look at that again, in light of what comes out of the independent commission. All of the information that comes out of that will be helpful going forward. We need to have a mechanism that can look at the sport and decide who can stay in the sport and who needs to be thrown out,” Cookson said. “And when we have that mechanism, it needs to be robust and sustainable in court, and I can guarantee that if we excluded someone from their main source of income, that they’ll challenge it. So we need to make sure that what we do is truly defensible.”

Cookson also said the current relationship with USA Cycling is solid. The connection between the American organization and the UCI strained as the sport’s governing body found itself at odds with USADA; USA Cycling attempted to stay in the middle.

“It’s very strong,” Cookson said. “ … I don’t think there are any problems there at the moment. We have a few Americans on our commissions, so all of those people contribute very positively and I think that the USA is a very major part of cycling now and we need places like the USA to help the sport and I’m glad that we have a very good working relationship with them.”

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