A Failure of Logic

Jun 3 2010

Fabian CancellaraI take a few days off to relocate myself in meatspace and the biggest story that surfaces is…motorized doping? Didn’t we already do this? A YouTube video is all it takes to sway you zombies?

Didn’t we already decide that whipping the cranks above 90 rpm (I count 19 pedal strokes in the first 10 seconds of Cancellara’s race-winning Roubaix attack—that’s 114 rpm) removed any assist value?

Wasn’t it clear that that seat tube is too narrow, and the wrong material, and shows no signs of the screws required to secure the motor? Or that the cranks and bottom bracket aren’t compatible with the alleged doping mechanism? And does it bother anyone else that the video resolution is too poor to clearly see the KM to go display, let alone what finger Cance uses to shift?

But hey—if you’re convinced, you’re convinced. Don’t let logic get in the way of a perfectly invalid opinion. Like the UCI, actually, whose official response was to say that motorized doping couldn’t be happening because “the risk is simply too big”. Less than a decade removed from young riders dropping like BP’s stock price from pumping their veins too full of blood cells, and the risk of putting an engine in your bike is too big? How did these people get to be in charge of this sport?

Logic also failed at the Tour of Luxemburg yesterday, where, after three minutes and fifty-one seconds of losing to Jimmy Engoulvent, Lance Armstrong declared his season back on track. Yes, crashes, lack of race days, doping investigations, and another 365 days of wear and tear aside, everything’s A-OK at Camp Armstrong. Why? Because Armstrong says so.

Call me unconvinced. Even if Armstrong finishes well at the five-day event, I don’t think the parcours is sufficient for him to make a decent assessment of his fitness for a race as rigorous as the TdF. Take some lackluster fitness and additional pressure for a good result and Armstrong may be forced to cut some corners in what, in past years, has been impeccable Tour prep.

And with some potentially stepped-up enforcement, cutting corners could be pretty costly this time around. Just ask Alejandro Valverde—these things can have a way of catching up with you.

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22 Responses to “A Failure of Logic”

  1. Skippy 3 June 2010 at 10:29 am #

    If you have been around the team mechanics trucks you will notice how they have the habit of building the racers bikes in full view of the “Public,Media & uncle tom cobbley!
    How do you suppose they will “Hide” these motors?

    On rest day in brunieco area caught up with “Pascal” who was bemused about the Publicity and the ragging he caught from the team. Also saw Richie whilst there having ridden with Damiano and Ivan earlier in the day and also visiting Lloydie in St Vigil. Came across “El diablo” also as he wandered around the village after painting the road with his decals.During the wander around the teams i had a chat with a mech. who has worked with “Rabbo,Lotto,Astana & other teams” who also has seen the video and confirmed that there are possibilities there but said the racers were having a good laugh about the whole matter.

    TT day having ridden the course again i was in the VIP area and had a laugh with Pat Mc Quaid about a variety of “news items”. Told him of “the worm” and the “help” stories doing the rounds. None of this was new to him and it is unlikely that any of these “Stories” are likely to cause him loss of sleep!

    Armstrong won the TDF Prologue in Lux some years ago and i am wondering if last night’s par cours was the same as then, also if it was , how the times registered compared? Have you ever heard Lance to express self doubt?

    When you have suffered Cancer, Heart disease or other serious ailments there is usually medications for a considerable period after and if any of these items approved by UCI/WADA regs. give you an advantage then so be it! Could be that people like “Emma” should think before jumping fully aware into “hot water”!

  2. dave 3 June 2010 at 11:17 am #

    I have some top quality tinfoil helmet liners to sell the believers.

  3. LeGimpe 3 June 2010 at 11:28 am #

    I think bringing this to light is good, but I think Cassini went a too far in using Cancellara as an example. While Cancellara probably rides more like a moto than anyone else, the video “evidence” is pretty weak. It’s an interesting method of cheating that, with all this publicity, will now be pretty hard to use at the top levels of the sport.

    Is Cassini turning into Barney Fife? He busted Rasmussen and now he’s looking for a new scalp? He’s probably camping in a bush with binoculars watching Pharm$trong’s tour prep and raiding the dumpsters. Sadly he could probably find the dripping needle and he’d be ignored (like Floyd) because of this bike-motor farce.

  4. Jeroen 3 June 2010 at 1:08 pm #

    Cassani didn’t actually use Cancellara as an example, that part was later added by someone else.

  5. Andrew 3 June 2010 at 1:31 pm #

    Jeroen, your right. I watched the original RAI Sport program where the bike and motor were shown. Also I thought Cassini originally said on RAI television that he had seen Rasmussen returning after an 8 hour training session, and it was said as a compliment to his dedication. It was only a few days later that this was picked up by others and the discrepancy with what Rasmussen claimed (that he was in Mexico) was noticed.

  6. mattio 3 June 2010 at 3:11 pm #

    I couldn’t help but be ammused that part of the ‘evidence’ againce FC was “the world time trial champion goes fast on a bicycle.”

    You and Cozy Beehive have been the only blogs I’ve read that have brought a sensible opinion to this.

    Too many cycling fans are too jaded and too damn willing to believe any suspicion of cheating. It reminds me of the way that anyone who wins a cat 4 race is called a sandbagger. The only winners, apparently, are illegitimate ones.

    That’s unfortunate.

  7. tigweld McGee 3 June 2010 at 6:18 pm #

    FYI: His royal highness LA called Fabian out on the motorized bike 5/19/10, but I think it was a humorous/envious dig at Fabian. Heaven forbid anyone’s star rise as high as LA.

    Motorsports has this particular issue nailed down already. There’s usually a weigh-in and weigh-out for winners. If drivers want to call a competitor out, they request a tear-down. The implications of calling the tear-down are meaningful, (*hours* of checking spec’s while taking the car apart) so the team requesting the tear-down better be right.

    I would weigh-in bikes at the sign-in and weigh-out during dope testing. In cycling, a tear-down would be less than an hour. Weigh it, pull the BB, spin a couple of axles and Bob’s yer Uncle.

    Still, it is equal parts crazy and stupid that the issue is still alive.

  8. Sean 3 June 2010 at 7:49 pm #


    Don’t you claim that “cutting corners” has been part of Armstrong’s impeccable tour prep every year?

    Why would he get caught this time? Surely the dopers are five years ahead of the testers and only the careless are busted?

  9. Bryan O'Neill 3 June 2010 at 9:33 pm #

    Sensationalism is fantastic!

    I do recall Cancellara threatening to “buy a motorbike to do my next time trial on.”

    I also recall Jens Voigt’s admission to training bears to attack his rivals and smoking weed.

  10. Touriste-Routier 4 June 2010 at 8:32 am #

    Thanks Cosmo for pointing out the fact that cranks & BB are not compatible; this is a point I was I was hoping someone would raise.

    Of course if this was a serious “cheating” initiative (a motor is NOT DOPING), then perhaps one could have the appropriate other components fabricated…

    Bjarne: “Hello Specialized, we need a custom BB for our classics bikes”, the spindle needs to have a transmission interface.”

    Mike Sinyard: “No problem, it is not like the UCI ever inspects our bikes. We’ll add this as a feature to our Shiv models as well; the triathletes will love it”.

    Upon reflecting on your photo, it clearly was the forces of the motor that snapped Cancellara’s chain last year, because the world’s best time trialist couldn’t possibly be stronger than anyone else.

    Some people are just motivated to keep the negative headlines about cycling going.

  11. Ron 4 June 2010 at 9:53 am #


    First time poster. I think the technology exists for a svelte motor. Its the application that misses the point. Both Boardman and Musseuw are coming out now saying they have knowledge of such bikes in the peloton in past years. Perhaps Cassani isn’t the nut we thought out he’d be. The truth is out there…

    Thanks for the link to my story.

    @ Cozy Beehive

  12. Julius 4 June 2010 at 10:11 am #

    Um …. “gearbox”? It allows one to convert one rotating speed to another? Not that I want to further foment this allegation.

  13. Skippy 4 June 2010 at 12:08 pm #



  14. ken 4 June 2010 at 12:17 pm #

    I must say I am a true fan of your commentary and “How the race was won”. But, in all fairness you seem to be guilty of what your preach to other journalists. You seem to never miss a chance to slam or accuse LA of doping/ cheating or diverting attention when someone proclaims an “Out-Landis(landish) accusation…pun intended.

    I am not saying I that I know for a fact he is clean, but I am saying that no one knows for 100% he is not. Unless he has been caught then he should not be reported on the way that you do.

    As you said in one of my favorite post when you slammed o so many jouralist of reporting there opinions and not the facts….

    “in addition to showing you how the race was won today, I am going to be showing a few professionals how they ought to be doing there job”.

    (your link taken from your great post regarding journalist not doing there job in the Vino win at Liege Bastogne Leige 2010)

    In closing, keep up the great work and site and please raise the bar so others can follow, and we will keep following you!


  15. kkhart 4 June 2010 at 2:34 pm #

    Am I the only one who finds the term “motorized doping” peculiar & faintly ridicules? Like what, they are injecting tiny machines? Like the Borg perhaps?

    Anyhow, if you are crazy and determined to see secret messages in the film you will.

  16. Touriste-Routier 4 June 2010 at 3:52 pm #

    I hate when the term doping is used for anything other than drugs. I have commented on this elsewhere. Doping = cheating, but not all cheating is doping.

    Perhaps it would be motorized doping if the motor was implanted in the rider; cue the theme song from the “Six Million Dollar Man”.

  17. rainbow 4 June 2010 at 9:55 pm #

    What a lot of b.s. over the impossible improbable and unbelevable. Mechanically it’s doable(gearing is pretty suss ) but it’s the power that’s where it falls down, I went to the electrical engineering section and after the finger pointing laughter, chortling of my nic. name , the crew confirmed my areas of contention, storage, delivery and control and mass. The reality is as far apart as Morgan Hill and Boston, riding left too.
    I can’t see Mike Synard allowing any fool opportunity to destroy his international recognised brand, he dropped Quickstep due one riders white powder participation ( how he stomach’s Vinokourov on his flagship, is a mystery to me and others that know him personally)
    To quote from another famous podcast from y”our fair city” Cosmo, that’s “BoooooOOOOOGGGGGuuussssssssssss”

  18. cosmo 5 June 2010 at 3:33 pm #

    @Ron: Thanks for posting! While I think Boardman and Museeuw have said that they know the technology exists, but not that they actually think people are using it. I agree that the tech could be adapted to race bikes, but I think the extensiveness of the modification required might still make it cost-prohibitive.

    @Sean: I think I may be a bit unclear on my feelings on Lance. By cutting corners I don’t mean doping, I mean doping in a way that gets you caught. Lance has never been caught under the rules, and I think I’ve been pretty good about not straight-up calling him a doper.

    I think it’s pretty improbable that someone could throttle so many dopers, work with so many—shall we say “questionable”—coaches, and have so many former teammates get caught up in dope positives and be clean, but I won’t pretend like his doping is an obvious and undeniable fact. It’s the same line I took on Vino’ back in the ’07 TdF—as I see it, the odds are against a clean performance.

    @Ken: building on my previous reply, I don’t think I go out of my way to ignore Armstrong’s racing to slam him for other things. I will always be critical of the way he responds to allegations, but if he’d finished 5th on a serious alpine climbing stage, instead of a 4 minute prologue, I wouldn’t think it’s ridiculous to say his training is back on track.

    As far as discussing the Texan’s on-course performance goes, I’ve frequently mocked his lack of savvy in the one-days, been more or less complimentary of his performance while racing back in ’05, and showed some admiration for his work last year as well. If anything, the reason why I don’t talk about his racing that much is that, outside the Tour, he doesn’t really do anything—it’s all for fitness, never for glory.

    Also, I think it’s quite relevant to point out that being behind schedule on TdF prep was at least a contributing factor in the eventual end of Jan Ullrich’s career—certainly given appropriate time to prepare, I’d ensure that my dope doc had at least a basic understanding of cryptography.

    But, all that said, thank you for speaking up on this point. It’s always tough to self-assess, and I’ll try to keep a closer eye on being more balanced in the future.

    @Touriste-Routier: Good point about so-called “motor doping”. No one in baseball refers to corked bats or pine tar as “equipment doping”.

  19. brufus 5 June 2010 at 5:04 pm #

    @rainbow. i read boardman claimed that with it was possible to get 1kW from a AAA battery. baaaahaaaahhaahahhah. 1.5V X 667 A! i should be able to start my car with it. it truly is so stupid [we’re] speechless.

  20. cthulhu 6 June 2010 at 6:34 am #


  21. rainbow 6 June 2010 at 9:44 pm #

    Has anyone mentioned torque yet?? Something I left off, electric motors don’t really do torque in the loads required at this size armature, and it’s very problematic of this whole argument too much torque no one really knowing what they’re saying.

  22. pro cycling 6 September 2011 at 8:27 pm #

    it’s a pitty for A Failure of Logic.

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