Matthew Beaudin – VeloNews.com http://velonews.competitor.com Competitive Cycling News, Race Results and Bike Reviews Mon, 29 Aug 2016 01:52:01 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://velonews.competitor.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/cropped-Velonews_favicon-2-32x32.png Matthew Beaudin – VeloNews.com http://velonews.competitor.com 32 32 The trailblazer: UnitedHealthcare director Rachael Heal http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/02/news/trailblazer-unitedhealthcare-director-rachael-heal_361727 Thu, 26 Feb 2015 18:16:56 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=361727 Heal brings a new perspective to the team as a woman but focuses on her job, saying "bike racers are bike racers"

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Editor’s note: This article was originally published in the January 2015 issue of Velo magazine, the Personalities Issue.

Her story is like that of the others who sit behind the wheel in the race caravan. Raced pro for five years in Europe, four in the U.S., then moved into the director’s seat in the team car, first at Colavita, then Optum, telling racers what to do, and where to be. She’s just like everyone else running a team in the middle of the floating chaos of a bike race.

She’s just like everyone, except that she happens to be a woman. Yet nothing seems different for her in this male-dominated sport; the fact that she’s the only female director of a men’s team seems to vanish once the race is on. She doesn’t notice, she just gets down to business, and does her job. The others? Well, they notice the 41-year-old from England.

“For other people, it’s quite a novelty. Sometimes the photo moto will take a picture of me, because they aren’t used to seeing a woman in the sport. But in my previous career before cycling, I was an engineer, so I’m pretty used to being in a male-dominated atmosphere. It’s never really bothered me,” Heal said.

“Sometimes I feel a little stress, because if I screw up, I think I will be blamed because I’m a woman. In the back of my mind, I know I can’t screw up, otherwise I’ll have 200 riders yelling at me,” she said. “And they wouldn’t say, ‘It’s a new director, don’t worry about it.’ They’d say, ‘It’s a woman.’”

She hasn’t screwed up. She makes a joke about how people say women can’t drive. She can drive. She worked Milano-Sanremo, becoming the first woman to direct a men’s team at a WorldTour event (Robin Morton directed professional men’s teams from 1983-1991 -Ed.). She also worked the USA Pro Challenge and the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah. She can drive, alright, because to be behind the wheel of a car during a professional bike race feels exponentially more dangerous than riding a bicycle in the same professional bike race. There are often races within races between directors and teams. Numbers on team cars are supposed to tell directors where to be, but none of these people likes to be told where to be.

“I haven’t crashed, I haven’t pushed any riders off the road, I haven’t been left behind,” Heal said. When she was at the Tour de France last summer, some of the directors told her about a race earlier in the year, in which a Lotto-Belisol director tried to drive her off his bumper. “The driver of that car was doing everything they could to drop me because they thought it would be funny. But I just sat on his bumper the whole time, knowing that I didn’t want to get dropped, which likely earned me his respect,” she said.

Respect. It’s a word tossed around the peloton all the time. Which rider gets the right wheel, which rider can command a race, who can drive a car, who can direct a team. It’s something that’s earned through experience and performance. Sometimes people assume Heal is a soigneur. They find out they’re wrong, and apologize. It’s not perfect, but it is progress.

“A handful of people from other teams will introduce themselves to her and ask her if she’s one of the soigneurs, and she’s polite about it,” said UHC’s general manager Mike Tamayo. “In the team cars, she’s one of us and she gets the respect from other managers. I remind her to throw a curveball every now and again to remind everyone who she is. We’re definitely proud to have her, and the guys really like her, too, because she provides a totally different perspective on racing. It’s nice to have a fresh set of eyes.”

For her part, Heal doesn’t feel that she sees anything differently than her male counterparts. And the only real difference around the racers is that they put a towel around their waists if she’s around.

“Bike racers are bike racers,” she said. “You have different experiences, and men’s races are a little different than women’s, but with experience, you still know how things are happening and I don’t think particularly there is a difference between the two. Sometimes I’m a bit more compassionate, because I’m a lady, but really you have to treat every rider differently. Men and women respond differently to everything and from there, you can’t just treat every rider the same. Some people respond well to screaming, while others need some encouraging, so I have to find that balance.”

The sport is full of demands, regardless of gender, age, or color. Cycling is both big, in the collections of people it holds, and small, in the way they all come together on race day. There are traditions, both good and bad. And there are biases and stereotypes, as with any sport.

Heal will remain in the minority. She will not try to run a team as a man would. She takes a different view. “I just try to be me. Mike [Tamayo] might try to do something some way, and it’s not realistic of me to think that I can do that same thing because that won’t be me,” she said. “So if I go out and act like me, then it’s a lot easier.”

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Notes From the Scrum: The thing you love can kill you http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/01/news/road/notes-scrum-thing-love-can-kill_358177 Wed, 14 Jan 2015 13:19:09 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=358177 Matthew Beaudin's terrifying story of being struck by a car, escaping uninjured, but coming face-to-face with cycling's inherent danger

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As the car’s front bumper hit my rear wheel, the sound of it wasn’t heard but absorbed. The front wheel popped out, and the tire ripped off as the violence of energy went from car to bike and human being. I came down on a naked fork going roughly 25 miles per hour.

And so this is how it happens. This is how you die.

My brain is on fire and the slivers of seconds are bending and stretching. I look over my left shoulder and see the car passing above. The time is long still, and the pitch of a terrified nervous system mutes the rest of the world into nothing. My right hip and calf help bring me to a slow, grinding stop on the side of Monarch Road outside of Boulder, Colorado.

I rest my head on the asphalt and close my eyes. Awareness is smoke, there and gone.

***

“WHAT THE F—K! REALLY?” my friend Kevin is yelling. I’ve never heard him yell.

I see feet coming toward me and hear a woman screaming. I do not move because I am either afraid or unable; there is no distinction in my body between them.

“I HIT YOU I HIT YOU,” she is screaming, running closer. Her eyes are leaking, and she covers her mouth with her hands. She gasps for air as the panic wrings her lungs out.

I ask if someone can get her to sit down. I stood up not 30 seconds later, able to walk and think.

Kevin says I laid there in a fetal position, a broken and bent bike next to me, for five to 10 minutes. Life stops and slows down and speeds up in the same seconds at the raging confluence of fear, panic, and gratitude.

People are everywhere, and the traffic of presence is jammed in my head. Cars stopped; a deputy from the sheriff’s office arrived; a firefighter was pressing my wrist and along my vertebrae; I watched the road rash on my lower right leg, at first blush the only real injury, begin to weep. The general consensus was that I was on some nine-lives stuff, flanked by angels, lucky beyond reason. I never even heard the car before it hit me. The driver wrote her speed down on the police report as “35?”

We were all thankful and happy under the circumstances; I had been obliterated from behind at a decent clip speed and was standing up, talking. We were happy as we could be, given the fact that I could be dead.

Until the Colorado Highway Patrol showed up.

Walking toward me as I sat on the side of the road shivering under a heavy coat, one of them asked, without any precursor, if we were riding two across. If we were riding in the middle of the road.

Imagine for a moment what agenda it must take to approach a man, who has just seen his very short 32 years roll before him on old movie film, a question like that.

No, and no. Maybe if we were two across in the middle of the road, someone would have seen me and not ran into me square from behind. And even if I was, I have a right to be on the road — as a rider, driver, runner — and not be struck from behind, ever.

I was given a ticket for something amounting to failing to move over when being overtaken. I asked the officer to tell me why it was he though I was riding in the middle of the road. He responded that he wasn’t going to explain himself. That I could hire a re-creationist if I wanted. That he wasn’t going to explain himself, again. And for a second time that I could hire a re-creationist if I wanted.

In the clarity of hindsight, I wish I would have said, flatly, “No, I don’t want to. I want you to do the right thing, not be a cyclist-hating cop; that’s what I really want.” Imagine being cited for failing to move over while driving on an empty two-lane country road after being hit from behind. Would that ever happen? Why is a human being on a bike, with nothing but fabric and Styrofoam between him and the cars and the road, seemingly less protected by the law than the driver of an F-350?

The ticket was for $24. It is meaningless in the galaxy of points on driving records and dollars. And yet it is profoundly upsetting. The driver, who was profoundly apologetic and upset, was given a much stiffer ticket.

It was a bullshit day all around. And for the second time in several months, VeloNews’ technical editor Caley Fretz came and picked a battered version of myself up and drove me home.

***

After I stopped skidding and as I lay on the pavement with the side of my head on the ground, I noticed an incredible stillness. The calm of a stop after the velocity of a crash is remarkable; everything has happened, then a deep nothing.

I am still here. I can move my toes and fingers. I am not dead. I am fine.

That was December 2. I’ve ridden some since then. I hear the cars behind me and try not to think about them as sharks below, but fear is a constant light rain, rusting out belief and trust. I only allowed myself to think about the magnitude of what happened recently, and it was more a reckoning than self-discourse.

You can die riding your bike on a sunny afternoon on a lonely, arrow-straight road just outside of town. The thing you love can kill you. And it still might.

But you don’t stop, because you aren’t dead or defeated. And one day the sound of cars won’t feel how it does now, and existence on the road will go back to the buzzing symphony of hubs clicking and voices floating.

But until then, it sounds like madness. I’m just trying not to hear it.

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Women’s movement: The slow march toward equality http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/01/news/womens-movement-slow-march-toward-equality_357484 Fri, 09 Jan 2015 13:34:56 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=357484 Women's cycling struggles to compete in a male-dominated marketplace. But that may be changing

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Editor’s note: This article was originally published in the January 2015 issue of Velo magazine.

It is midday in Paris, in the bleaching sunlight of July. It makes everything bone pale.

The Tour de France is ending in hours, and up from the Champs-Élysées will drift a cloud of noise; through the cuts in the cobbles tiny rivers of beer and champagne will run.

There will be hundreds of reporters stuffed into the corrals at the finish and they will jump over the fencing and onto the world’s great boulevard in order to record the same quotes that everyone else will record. They will dive right into the river of carbon and color and shining racers slick with sweat.

But right now, Marianne Vos has just won a bike race — the inaugural La Course by Le Tour event — on the very same street, and there are, maybe, five reporters waiting on an empty boulevard. Vos stops right in front of them, and hardly anyone is there to see her in her white jersey with rainbow stripes on the Champs.

It’s a moment that crystallizes the current state of women’s cycling — filled with potential, largely unrealized. But why?

“I always get a chuckle when the media criticize the UCI or other organizations for lack of support for women’s sport,” UCI president Brian Cookson told VeloNews, several months later. “Look at any edition of the Guardian, you’ll struggle most days to find any mention of women’s sport. The media has to change. I think there has been a recent change in public perception across the world for women’s sport, I think people are more interested in women’s sport of all kind. We at the UCI are doing our part and we want the media to step up and do their own part.”

VeloNews doesn’t have access to the web traffic of individual stories on other sites, but on that day, two very similar stories were written; one was about the men’s race and another was about the women’s.

About 16,000 people clicked on the story about the men, detailing Marcel Kittel’s victory. Roughly 9,500 people clicked on the story about Vos and La Course. At La Flèche Wallonne, 11,500 people opened up a story about Alejandro Valverde’s victory, whereas 3,000 wanted to read about Pauline Ferrand-Prévot’s underdog victory.

The question remains: why do so few care about women’s racing, in comparison to men’s racing? Why do people make jokes about tears at the finish line, when there are plenty of tears at men’s finish lines as well?

And what can be done about it, really?

Less money, more problems

At a recent development camp in the United States, a potential professional racer was told she could expect to make more money as a middling employee at a fast food restaurant. She did not choose to leave her job to race. It’s no wonder.

The basement pay for a male rider in the WorldTour is 35,000 euros (about $44,000), though most earn much more than that, even very average domestiques. On the women’s side, since there is no minimum, it’s not uncommon to hear about women racing for airline tickets, team kits, and a few bikes. Prize money? Yeah, right.

One of the more business-minded team managers in the sport is Garmin-Sharp’s Jonathan Vaughters. The newly minted MBA holder and longtime manager said, simply, it all comes down to numbers — figures like page views and viewership that then mandate the all-important number: sponsorship dollars.

There are fewer women’s teams, fewer women’s races, than on the men’s side.

The argument, of course, is that with more media attention would come more sponsorship, and more attention. The other argument, of course, is that the media attention will come once demand calls for it. Today, more than ever, media outlets are short on resources, and while many in the cycling media community are supportive of women’s racing, decisions must be made, based on a cost-benefit analysis, daily.

“People are trying to figure out which came first, the chicken or the egg, with women’s racing,” Vaughters said. “I’ve tried to sell sponsorship of a women’s team. It is very, very difficult.”

The wage issue is one that’s at the forefront, but wouldn’t be a panacea. In fact, such a move could result in the house of cards tumbling right away, reducing the teams and cutting the amount of players in an already-thin sport.

Cookson has called for a minimum salary rule to be established, but says that passing a rule would do more harm than anything if the sport cannot support itself.

“We should pass a rule that should be established for professional women’s cyclists. We can pass that tomorrow, but that wouldn’t mean that 500 women make that salary tomorrow; it would mean that most of the teams would re-register and a lot of women would lose their positions,” Cookson said. “What we’ve got to do is invest in the economy of women’s cycling by getting more sponsors in, getting more opportunity, TV coverage, public interest, media interest, and then at that point, we will be able to change those rules and everyone will benefit.”

Cookson thinks such improvements can be made in two to three years. “But it’s not just a matter of changing the rules,” he said. “A lot must happen before.”

Cycling, on any level, is expensive. Imagine a minimum wage is set at 30,000 euros for each rider, but sponsors are only in for 100,000 for smaller women’s teams.

“OK, now I can afford two riders and a director, and a little bit of gas money? You need to sell a million or thereabouts. And the numbers, the marketing metrics do not correlate with that level of spending at this point,” Vaughters said. “So you say ‘How do we change that?’”

In 2010, Vaughters inherited a women’s team when his Garmin squad merged with Cervélo’s men’s and women’s teams. That women’s team was shuttered — along with the U23 squad — amid budget issues in 2011. So it isn’t as if he doesn’t understand the economics in play.

“We needed to figure out some quick ways to make sure if [sponsors] had trouble paying, that we were going to be able to stay afloat as an organization,” he said. “Do I like that decision? No. It was absolutely horrible. But lo and behold … we lost close to $800,000 in that changeover of ownership.”

The jettisoned riders were placed on different teams, and their contracts paid in full.

Another huge monetary concern is the vast gap in prize money. Look at the 2013 Omloop Het Nieuwsblad as an example. Australian Tiffany Cromwell won the women’s event, and took home 270 euros; Luca Paolini won the men’s version and took home 65,000. At the Giro in the same year, the men’s purse for winning was 90,000 euros. The women’s? Four hundred and fifty.

Women in the sport now seem to be fighting the same battles women outside of sport fought decades ago. Unjustly, there’s a fine line that has to be walked, or else “they” risk the perception of complaining.

Evelyn Stevens (Specialized-lululemon) sees the sport from the inside out every day as a rider. She also sees it in a business sense; Stevens left a lucrative career on Wall Street to be a professional cyclist.

Earlier this season, Stevens inquired about the discrepancy in prize money at the world road championships in the team time trial (which her Specialized-lululemon team won), but was worried she was depicted as complaining.

But what if she had complained? Wouldn’t that be just? Larger men’s races are increasingly providing companion women’s events, yet how often is it read that women were “given” an event? Didn’t they earn it, same as the men?

“This is not a hobby. This is a livelihood. I don’t know why for men, it’s not a hobby, it’s a livelihood,” Stevens said. “I don’t want money because it’s charity; I want to be paid because I’m generating profit. We have to take ownership for what we do. I hate when I hear someone say, ‘If you race the same distances, you can get paid.’ It’s like, well, ‘We don’t set the courses.’”

Stevens added that she’s grateful for the opportunity, but that if the sport didn’t progress from where it is now, she’d be disappointed. “It’s a great state that it’s in,” she said. “But there’s room for improvement.”

Media Influence

Nicola Cranmer walks the aisles of the bookstore, pulling cycling magazines off the shelf. She counts the number of photos of women racing in each. Sometimes there are two, or five … or zero.

“Obviously it’s a male-dominated sport. Behind the scenes, these men have mothers, wives, a daughter … I still don’t get why it’s not of interest,” said Cranmer, the owner and general manager of Twenty16. Cranmer has been involved in the management of women’s cycling for the past 10 years. She said the perception of the scene might be that it’s on the upswing, but she also points out how difficult it is, still, to make it work.

“The addition of the women’s races, La Course, the Vuelta is having a stage, with the races here in the U.S. including more women’s stages — that’s great,” Cranmer said. She noted the potential for sponsors, the momentum at hand. But at this point, that’s all it seems to be — a feeling that things are getting bigger and better while not much has changed in a tangible sense.

“I am in the trenches, I am constantly looking for sponsorship. I’ve tried all kinds of angles,” she said. “And it’s not getting any easier. It’s still extremely challenging. There’s not a significant change from where I’m standing, as far as bringing in more sponsors. But I do feel like there is momentum.”

One thing she points to, as a potential lifeline, is media coverage. “They don’t know where to look,” Cranmer said of cycling fans and media consumers. “There isn’t the character building, or rivalry.” She cited a lack of narrative development due to a lack of coverage. “It’s there. The stories are there. It’s like a tree falling in the woods. People are just not exposed to it.”

Stevens feels the same way, and points to television coverage as a beacon. “To me, the biggest thing is, can we get on TV? Can we get more articles about us? Is there a way to actually follow our sport?”

Across the cycling world, it’s hard for those outside of Europe to see the sport live, and that goes for major men’s events as well, such as Paris-Roubaix. Trying to find televised women’s races online while sipping a coffee in North America? That’s a needle in a haystack. “You have to be willing to really navigate to figure out how to follow it. I think that’s going to be a very essential part of the success of women’s cycling,” Stevens said.

Deepening the talent pool

If the media can, in fact, make more people care about women’s racing, it can have a deeper effect than yet realized: More interest in the sport would likely deepen the talent pool, and create a more compelling sport.

“That would help,” Cranmer said of increased coverage. “That helps for women’s exposure, when young girls around the house identify a role model and say, ‘I want to be like that.’”

Vaughters also said a higher profile leads to bigger events, which leads to more women choosing to go down the road of racing. Of course that’s not easy; this magazine article won’t do it, and neither will 100 stories on VeloNews.com. Helpful? Sure. But it’s the New York Times and NBC Sports that Vaughters says can truly buoy the sport.

“Then the audience rating will come up,” Vaughters said. “And then that makes my job as a team manager much easier … we say, ‘Here are the numbers.’”

Critics of women’s racing claim it’s less exciting than the men’s races. That may be true, in some instances, but that also may be a reflection of the systemic shortcomings in terms of development.

“The speeds are a little lower,” Vaughters said. “As more women get drawn into the sport, the level of racing becomes higher, then the racing becomes more exciting.”

There’s a chasm between the top 10 women in the sport and everyone else. In men’s racing, “the difference between first and 100th is very little,” Vaughters said. “With women’s racing, the depth isn’t quite there.” Would that problem solve itself with a deeper buy-in from the industry, fans, and sponsors?

“Fundamentally, women’s downhill skiing, as an example, is every bit as exciting as men’s downhill skiing. But that’s because the depth in those events is incredible,” Vaughters said. “We’ve just got to get to a point where there’s more young girls excited about entering pro cycling,” he said.

Easy does it

The only sure way to leave cycling as a millionaire would be to come in with at least two million. The sport is never going to be the cash machine of the NFL. Nothing happens fast, either. But maybe it shouldn’t.

Why not demand ASO put on a version of the women’s Tour de France mirroring the men’s? Because it would likely collapse, if propped up too quickly.

“I don’t think it’s as easy as saying that there needs to be a women’s Tour, and you just tack it onto the men’s race. It’s a huge, huge logistical effort,” Cookson said, suggesting there could perhaps be women’s races on the rest days instead.

“I don’t think that saying every WorldTour event should have a women’s race or every men’s team should have a women’s team [is prudent]. I don’t think that’s how it works. I think people would do a bad job,” Cookson said. “I think there are races and teams where it works for them, but others where it doesn’t. I think the main focus should be to make women’s cycling stronger, rather than making it a weaker copy of the men’s field.”

There is a tide of talking points now, and Stevens noted that the fact that this particular story was being written was progress. Cookson has established a commission for women’s racing. Cranmer will go on looking for funding and adapting her model to make things work, focusing on education and development, if need be. La Course is a one-day event, the start of something bigger, it would seem.

“We’ve all got a part to play,” Cookson said. “We can’t change the sport overnight.”

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Top 14 stories of 2014: Shades of gray http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/12/news/road/top-14-stories-2014-shades-gray_354842 Mon, 29 Dec 2014 13:00:24 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=354842 Some who confessed to doping have been accepted back into the sport, others have not. What's the difference?

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Editor’s note: To close out the year, we are counting down the top 14 stories of 2014. VeloNews and Velo magazine’s editorial staff voted this piece, from the November 2014 issue of Velo, as our second-favorite piece of the year.

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.

A gap in likability?

Social neuroscience is the biological study of behavioral underpinnings, things such as perception and social interaction. Psychologists, neuroscientists, and anthropologists work together to weave a tapestry of how and why people believe what they believe, and feel what they feel, based on neurological systems and interactions that occur upon a shifting plane.

A discussion is a series of data inputs. Judgments tick by, quickly — what’s important, what is not. Social perception, the study of how people form impressions and make inferences about others, is heavily based on attribution, an innate ability to understand a person’s actions in a given context.

It helps to explain why people feel the way they do about a given topic, a given athlete, good or bad. It helps to explain how they feel about a doper.

“Basically, it’s how we form impressions of and make judgments about others. [Social] perception is about the assumptions we make about others and these assumptions are influenced by the roles and social norms we expect of people,” said Kristin Keim, a former bike racer who holds a doctorate in clinical psychology and a master’s degree in sport psychology.

There isn’t a definitive metric for likability, or why some athletes fare better than others in the perception of the public. But it isn’t any different from why one politician recovers from an image crisis, while another never gets past the doubtful echoes in the courtrooms of public opinion. Sometimes it’s black, sometimes it’s white, but more often, when it comes to those who have broken the public trust, opinions are scattered across a sliding scale of gray.

Compared to most, Armstrong is seen as a darker part of the EPO culture, at least for now. He’s lost sponsorships and his spot at the table of the foundation he started. Inherently polarizing and now tucked away from the sport, today he’s in a much different role than Vande Velde or Hincapie; those who were once in his shadow are now in the foreground in cycling, at least on a commercial level. At least for now.

But why? Was it the act of cheating and lying — the same act that so many committed — or is it because Armstrong’s vociferous cover-up was worse than the crime itself?

“I ask myself that all the time, but obviously those guys are on a much simpler level,” Armstrong said. “They’re friendlier guys, not controversial. They aren’t controversial today with their comments, and they haven’t been controversial for 20 years. For every question, they gave a vanilla answer; I came in and answered with f—king hot sauce and salt. That led to people picking a side.”

For a long time, an adoring fan base chose Armstrong’s side; he partnered with Trek, which helped marginalize his national nemesis and one of his chief skeptics, Greg LeMond. Now, LeMond is the one on TV, commentating for Eurosport.

Armstrong denied much longer than the rest. During the summer of 2012, he, too, was given the opportunity to tell USADA what he knew, and what he’d done; he turned it down. When the music stopped, Armstrong was, by his own choice, the last man standing.

At this point, sitting in the DIA terminal, there is a sense that Armstrong understands how he could have done better to salve his image problem before it actually happened.

“I still could have been a patron in the peloton and been milder with my interactions, and I have deep, deep regrets about [that], for sure,” he said. “And that could be a simple conversation that was totally blown out of context with Christophe Bassons. It could be a press conference where you’re just, ‘You know what, f—k Paul Kimmage. I’m just gonna take him on.’ I mean, I didn’t need to do that. You can still be a strong character in a sport without that shit,” Armstrong said.

If we assume Armstrong is at one end of the likability continuum, at least for now, then someone like Vande Velde sits at the other; he’s a commentator on the sport and does little to inspire outrage. Vaughters, who also admitted to using PEDs in his career and who went on to found the Garmin squad on a clean ethos, is still involved heavily. Since his admission of doping in the summer of 2012 in a New York Times op-ed, Vaughters thinks his treatment has been fair.

“I feel like I’ve been treated fine,” Vaughters said on a bright Colorado day during the USA Pro Challenge. “There are people that would say, ‘Well, he shouldn’t be the director of a team.’ I think the majority of people, by far, have been really supportive and said ‘thanks’ for helping organize various efforts to actually dismantle a system that shouldn’t have existed.

“People are sort of upset over the situation and they’re looking for any target. That’s dismissive of what the overall real situation was. And that’s also very dismissive and almost an incorrect way of looking at how that overall situation needed to be dismantled. I see hundreds of people working in cycling, still racing, whatever else, that have never been involved in a doping case, and [they] doped,” Vaughters continued. “And nobody says a peep about them. Fair enough. Some people took a huge hit; some people took a small hit; some people took no hit. And that’s not completely fair, but that’s life.”

There isn’t a clear road map of how admitted PED-users, still occupying a place in the sport, should be treated. Like Vaughters, Hincapie manages a team. He doesn’t believe there is an issue with his continued involvement in cycling, notably with young riders.

“I can appreciate that some people have the viewpoint that I shouldn’t be involved with a development team. Many of those critics were never at the top echelon of the sport, racing at that level, and do not have the understanding of those of us that were,” Hincapie wrote to Velo in an e-mail this August for another story, when asked if he belongs at the head of a development team. “Critics like to simplify the argument to doping, but that has nothing to do with learning how to read a race, understanding positioning … At the end of the day, I’m not here to sway anyone’s opinion. I’m just trying to provide a positive atmosphere and structure for these young guys to excel in a sport I still love, which is, thankfully, a lot different than when I came into it.”

Not everyone agrees. One Velo reader, William Spence, felt compelled to email a note, with his view on Hincapie’s role: “The fact that he cannot see why his contact with developmental cycling should be limited or banned is somewhat frightening. This is like the corner drug dealer giving our children guidance on college selection. We have to stop blaming Lance Armstrong for the moral failures of those around him and start seeing all of those involved with the Armstrong era of drug use as equally guilty of bringing the sport of cycling to its knees.”

Leipheimer was axed by Omega Pharma unceremoniously in 2012, but still hosts his immensely popular gran fondo. He also races in events, and, sometimes, wins. When he posted his winning ride from this summer’s Crusher in the Tushar on Strava — pro cyclocross racer Jamey Driscoll (Raleigh-Clement) finished second — a young rider, Reese Levine, succinctly encapsulated the debate in the ride’s comments section.

“Levi, I was that 13-year-old kid who grew up watching you race in the Tour de France, and because I started riding in 2006, I looked up to you more than someone like Armstrong,” Levine wrote. “When you admitted to doping in 2012, I won’t say I was particularly surprised, and I don’t blame you personally for participating in the culture of your time. I don’t doubt that you raced clean in the last couple years of your career, and I believe that the top level is much cleaner than it used to be.

“However, I am a little disappointed to see that instead of quietly and gracefully retiring, you continue to race. And not only are you still racing, but you are also beating riders who took the high road and raced clean their entire careers, riders like Jamey Driscoll who deserved the win today a lot more than you did. I’m not naive enough to think that a single Strava comment is going to stop you from racing, which you have every right to continue doing. But I would ask that you step back for a moment and think about how it looks to up-and-coming riders when they see self-confessed dopers still racing and still beating clean cyclists who are the role models that cycling really needs.”

The conversation continued, with a variety of viewpoints expressed, and some professional riders weighing in; commenters quarreled over the long-term benefits of PEDs and if Leipheimer should be considered the winner or not, among other things. Driscoll, who finished second, appreciated Levine’s comment, and clearly did not appreciate being beaten by Leipheimer.

Leipheimer chimed in, too. He agreed with Levine that it wouldn’t make sense to race at high-level national events, but noted that the Crusher was a timed, mass-participation event — essentially, a gran fondo.

“It’s an event unlike the races that [Driscoll], for example, gets paid to do,” Leipheimer wrote on Strava. “I met and spoke to a lot of people today that were happy to talk about the day, their experience, and even my past in this sport. I was able to talk to people about what happened in the sport and my choices, which I hope provides some context for them. I wouldn’t be able to have these conversations if I stayed at home and rode by myself.”

Leipheimer said he and the others who admitted to PED use in their careers all got extreme treatment, both good and bad.

“Each one of us in that group has had the same exact amount of negative reactions and positive reactions — in the extreme, both ways,” Leipheimer said. “Maybe in reality there is a difference, but it all depends on who you’re looking at … 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. I’m more in my community, doing things here, like local mountain bike races.”

Leipheimer told Velo in September his face-to-face interactions with people are positive, but that it’s the virtual comments that are more biting. “In real life, it’s so much different than what people leave in comments,” Leipheimer said.

Asked if the public is in a better spot now to accept the sport and the way it was, and the decisions that were made, he wasn’t sure. “I don’t know. For us, we lived it for so long,” he said. “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 disappoint- ed. I feel bad that I let so many people down, and I always will. Hopefully with time, the perspective of the sport [will change] — 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.”

The trajectories of their lives, after the confessions, are clearly mixed: Vande Velde has a microphone; Danielson runs a cycling camp and still rides professionally; Armstrong is in his own strata, both in terms of public outrage and support; Zabriskie has been a ghost, comparatively.

When Zabriskie walked away from pro cycling last year, he did so quietly, though he completed the Race Across America and the Leadville 100 this summer. Unlike the case with Leipheimer’s racing, there was minimal, if any, backlash toward Zabriskie’s participation. Asked if he had reconciled with the way he ended his career, Zabriskie seemed ambivalent.

“I didn’t wanna be there, really,” Zabriskie said, of the Tour de France. “And then, it’s still a bit transitional. I’ve been home with the family. That’s nice … I don’t know. I’m not sure, still. It’s still something I go over every day, to myself. There’s so many ways to look at it. Every day I think you can look at it this way, look at it that way … I don’t know.”

Then, he added, “I’m sorry for everything.”

The image game

As the USA Pro Challenge peloton pedaled around Colorado Springs, on a circuit through the Garden of the Gods, a roadside spectator repeatedly leaned into the road and screamed at Danielson that he was a doper, and that he sucked.

Danielson rode closer and flipped him off. The moment was volleyed around the Internet; it crystalized the gifts and curses of a sport that is struggling in a gray sky when culture demands black and white. This is a sport that’s contested on open roads with fans close enough to be heard — and loudly. This is the fans’ way of protest, and it’s a right that’s exercised frequently. When Alejandro Valverde won La Flèche Wallonne earlier this season, some fans audibly groaned as he crossed the finish line; given the sport’s history, the door to disappointment in cycling is always cracked open. Though he served a suspension, Valverde, unlike Danielson, never admitted to doping, and has never apologized for anything related to the matter.

“Professional athletes get heckled, day in and day out … I wasn’t telling [Danielson] his momma was fat or anything,” said Colorado pro mountain biker Kalan Beisel, who harangued the rider in Colorado Springs. “I just called him a doper and told him he sucks. It was really simple … I don’t think it’s harsh at all. Personally, I think he shouldn’t be racing in the peloton.”

Harsh? Yes. Middle ground is scarce. The way things are seen and the way things are? They’re often miles apart.

Craig Randall, director of social and digital strategy for Verde Brand Communications, in Boulder, Colorado, said image perception starts at a basic level. Where does the rider live? What can he do to push cycling along? Advocacy and broader appeal, Randall said, serve as good starting points.

“All of those factors, I think, help really change the perception of a rider’s history,” Randall said. “Now they’re using the notoriety that their name carries to create something entirely new and more universal. So the people who may potentially join your ride or your charity event, they’re not people who read VeloNews. They’re people who have a bike in the garage and don’t really ride it, but now they’re seeing why you used your name or your platform to inspire someone to pick up cycling.”

For as much backlash as some riders take, this is a climate that’s perhaps more ripe for redemption than in years past; as more and more riders admit to doping, the sin itself appears less damning than the culture that cultivated it.

“I think one of the factors that goes into that is how media has really changed,” Randall said. Traditional media remains the gatekeeper, or authoritative voice, he said, but social media channels have given riders the opportunity to tell their own stories, and create more of a personal brand than before.

“They have the ability to constantly be telling a story that’s their own, and not waiting for VeloNews or Cyclingnews. They can completely own the bias and the message and they’re telling it a lot, especially if they’re smart. It behooves a rider to really own a social media or an influencer status, apart from just being a member of a team, or just racing,” he said.

As far as why some people manage better than others after falls from grace, Randall chalked it up to inherent bias.

“I think there’s always going to be the [fact that] someone is more likable than another person. That’s true of anything in life,” he said. “The other aspect that factors in greatly: Is that rider making a step toward promoting the sport to non-cyclists, or promoting the sport in a way that benefits someone else? It’s pretty easy to compare one rider that’s cowering and wasn’t very likable to begin with, to his likable alternative who’s doing something positive.”

Though there is a perception that pro cycling has changed for the better, in terms of the use of PEDs among riders, one part of that drug-fueled culture remains: a long-standing trend toward silence, or omertà.

For this story specifically, of the riders mentioned, Armstrong, Vaughters, and Leipheimer agreed to speak on record. Others — Vande Velde, Hincapie, and Danielson — did not reply. The lid that held in so many secrets may have been blown off, but the attempt to control the narrative, it appears, lives on.

Up the road

It’s hard to say anyone aside from those who chose to use PEDs is responsible for the state of affairs now. Travis Tygart, the USADA CEO who pinned down Armstrong, connected a constellation of ex-teammates and ensnared the Texan in a mesh of affidavits and admissions.

If there was collateral damage in the Armstrong investigation, maybe it was those who never achieved the soaring results of the former seven-time Tour winner but, regardless, went down with “doper” stamped on their resumes in heavy red ink — riders like Canadian Michael Barry. That’s not how Tygart sees it, but he isn’t black and white in his vision, either.

“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,” he told Velo.

Asked if he felt responsible for the predicament some riders now find themselves in, Tygart’s short answer was no.

“Nothing we did was aimed at hurting anybody,” Tygart said. “It was the decisions they made to violate the rules and use performance-enhancing drugs [that put them where they are]. 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. I mean, look, this country is all about second chances, and they did the right thing with coming forward when given the opportunity and being truthful, and I certainly hope that they’re forgiven for the bad decisions of their past.”

Two years after the Reasoned Decision, the situation varies from rider to rider. Fairness has become a malleable concept, in both application and definition. It’s as fussy as perception itself.

There was a time when Armstrong was torn down across all media platforms; the decision had been made that his sporting crimes were enormous and that he was a dark villain. If a national magazine like Esquire is now checking in on his exile, while Outside features him changing a flat tire on its website, it’s clear perceptions have changed yet again — or they are, at the very least, shifting.

As the airport traffic blurred by, no one stopped to say a word to the former champ, though they may have not known it was him. He had a connection to make; there wasn’t a Gulfstream waiting to take him home. He had lawsuits to manage, and his future was an unknown.

Next year, Vande Velde could well be back on your TV during the Tour. Leipheimer may look to defend his title at the Crusher. Hincapie’s name will still appear on the jerseys of young riders. Zabriskie will likely continue entering unsanctioned events. Danielson could well win Utah for a third consecutive year.

In pro cycling, things change, yet things also stay the same. Right and wrong continue to intermingle, and intersect. Truth and fiction are no more well defined than truth and consequences. How these riders will ultimately be received, or should be received, is as subjective as reality itself. In the court of public opinion, everyone gets a vote.

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Top 14 stories of 2014: For love or for data? http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/12/news/road/top-14-stories-2014-love-data_355027 Wed, 24 Dec 2014 14:00:08 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=355027 Modern cycling leans heavily on calculations of power and drag and data. Is the sport becoming less romantic?

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Top 14 stories of 2014: The love story http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/12/news/road/top-14-stories-2014-love-story_355037 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 Fri, 12 Dec 2014 20:15:09 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=355886 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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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 Thu, 11 Dec 2014 01:15:21 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=355670 Michele Ferrari struck back at the Padua doping investigation leaks Wednesday afternoon, assailing the information printed by La Gazzetta

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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 Tue, 09 Dec 2014 18:26:07 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=355506 U.S. government demands additional evidence in the Armstrong case as lawyers from both sides continue to squabble and maneuver

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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 Thu, 04 Dec 2014 18:07:41 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=354974 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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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 Wed, 26 Nov 2014 15:58:23 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=354368 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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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 Tue, 25 Nov 2014 19:31:14 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=354304 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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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 Tue, 25 Nov 2014 13:54:08 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=353863 "Spartacus" would like to see the UCI hold two records, representing the old and new bike regulations

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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 Tue, 25 Nov 2014 00:23:15 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=354130 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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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 Thu, 20 Nov 2014 17:59:23 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=353689 American Evelyn Stevens talks off-season, a new team, and next year after a successful 2014

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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 Thu, 06 Nov 2014 15:14:06 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=352193 The UnitedHealthcare rider is racing La Ruta to raise the profile of rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune diseases

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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 Wed, 05 Nov 2014 13:45:41 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=351975 Velo's Matthew Beaudin takes a tumble, takes a free ride, takes a beer ... and makes a huge mistake

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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 Tue, 04 Nov 2014 23:15:36 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=352067 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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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 Tue, 04 Nov 2014 18:46:25 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=352038 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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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 Mon, 03 Nov 2014 13:32:11 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=351797 UCI president Brian Cookson says "there would be some flexibility" when it comes to restructuring the sport's grand tours

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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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