Archive | November, 2005

Pro Cycing News – '06 Georgia Route, Simoni to Cali, Dave Zabriskie is Wolverine

30 Nov

Looking to defend its ‘World’s Least Contiguous Stage Race” title, the Tour de Georgia announced it’s 2006 race course today. The route forms a rough northbound stepladder from Macon to Tennessee, staggering East/West like a drunken redneck all the way. Details and the biggest photo I could find here. It’s all the same to Gibo Simoni, though, as he’ll be too busy doing Giro prep to care. But in February, the lastest victim of the Saunier Duval contract-a-thon will poke his head out in the Tour of California. I’d say he’s “going-going back-back to Cali,” but I can’t say if he’s ever been before. It is, however, classic Gibo to get the year going with a week-long foreign stage race.

Continuing the “Where’s Igor?” news thread, Velochimp believes the ’03 World Champ is still unsigned, and cites an ’06 Liquigas roster as evidence. ProCycling has since updated its page, but has published no corection of it’s earlier report that Astarloa would be in celeste next year. Meanwhile, the current world champ, Tom Boonen, who looks be on Quick.Step ’til he retires, recieved the Velo d’Or prize for year’s best rider today. From Eurosport:

“If I have won this Vélo D’Or, it can also explain to some riders who have programmed their season around the month of July, that there is life outside the Tour,” said the Quick Step rider.

So, who was that poorly-worded remark directed at? Lance is retired, Basso crushed the Tour of Denmark this year, and Ullrich is gunning for the Tour of Germany the next. Vino won Liege, Cadel Evans took a stage in Germany while Liepheimer won the overall, and Floyd Landis was a conteder at Georgia, winning the long time trial. Maybe he’s taking a shot at Rasmussen? Whatever. Anyway, what do Wolverine and former maillot jaune Dave Zabriskie have in common? MGD!

Pro Cycling News – Ag2r Officially ProTour, Astarloa to Liquigas (again?), Pound Accuses Hockey

29 Nov

As the old saying goes, you know it’s gonna be a s&!††¥ day when the lead story is Ag2r becomes 20th ProTour team. Actually, I just made that saying up. But it surely is a harbinger of doom when the big story was a fait accompli last month, right? Because now there’s a total of a 5 French teams in the ProTour, despite the fact that French teams suck, yeah? Well, actually, no. Turns out the French teams don’t suck that hard. As the final ’05 Team Rankings Show, the Italian squads are far worse (if you put any faith in ProTour scoring system, which is a whole other can of worms entirely). And, though many scoffed at the idea of the UCI leaving a 19-team ProTour, there are those who think the ProTour would benefit greatly from a downsizing. Of course, this could all be deck chairs on the Titanic, because fewer and fewer teams are going to bother with a ProTour license if it doesn’t give them a free pass to the Grand Tours.

One guy whose Grand Tour Ticket seems freakin’ punched already is Igor Astarloa. People have been blabbing about his return for months. Problem is, they’ve got no clue where he’s going to go. I know, I thought we’d settled this yesterday, too, but those goons over at ProCycling went and published another story about Astarloa going to Liquigas, after the Tuttobici story that said he wasn’t. My guess is they just dropped the ball, and judging from the frequency with which they update their page, we won’t find out for a week. For something completely different, PezCyclingNews is running a recipe for DIY energy bars. The advantages to making your own bars include being able to satisfy your long-held desire for a pickled banana flavor, and saving some green. Nice to see a wallet-friendly story from Pez, which runs perhaps one too many features on carbon fiber coffee cups (not that it’s a bad thing).

If you do choose to make your own energy foods, beware: it will significantly harm the cromulence of your “tainted sample” doping defense. I bring this up because Dick Pound is on the prowl again. His latest target? Pro Hockey. From the this article in the CP:

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman…told [Pound] the league doesn’t have a problem with players using performance-enhancing substances.

“I told him he does,” Pound told the London Free Press. “You wouldn’t be far wrong if you said a third” are using such substances.

Evidence? Please. He’s Dick Pound, bitch. (ala Dave Chapelle). He is above mere evidence. A weak drug testing program is proof enough of doping. Two random drug tests a year equals 1/3 of the players on drugs. It’s simple math, people.

Bikes vs. The World: Round #4 – Steel 531 vs. Steel Reserve 211

28 Nov

I really don’t know how these two combatants got tangled up. I mean, can you think of two things less related than a well-regarded vintage bike tubing and a smooth finishing, oddly glowing malt beverage? I guess it might be a make-up call for last week’s pathetically obvious battle. Rounds 1 and 2 can be found here and here, respectively. Now let’s get down to seeing which steel is more real.

Category Bike Culture:
Steel 531
Pop Culture:
Steel Reserve 211
Winner
Claim to Fame: For over half a century, the standard for high-end bicycle tubing Premium “high gravity” malt liquor 531; based entirely on longevity
Named For: Allegedly, the percentages of manganese, molybdenum and carbon in the tubing Alchemical symbol for steel, which looks kind of like “211” Draw; the factual soundess of each name is debatable
Craved By: People who think technology peaked in 1935 Hobos, frat boys tired of drinking “Mickey’s Draw; it’s just too close to call
Known For: “A very lively frame without any harshness in the ride quality” “Nice basic flavor, balanced hop bite, adequate aromatics” and 8.1% alcohol by volume 211; 8.1% is at least quantifable
Dirty Little Secret: Replaced by 753 and 853 tubesets some two decades ago Insists that it is a “beer,” despite consensus opinion that it’s a malt liquor 531; most people who buy it seek an outdated product, anyway
Immortalized By: More TdF wins than any other tubeset The Ramones song “Gimme My Steel Reserve” 531; as much as I like the Ramones…
Evil Nemesis: Humidity and salt Alcohol content laws 211; no one is trying to sell malt liquor to Utahns
Environmental Friendliness: Easily recycled, but you might have to pay a few dollars due to the unweildly shape of a bike frame Easily recycled, but generally the bottles are just smashed and/or left in back alleys 531; I guess saving the Earth is worth a buck or two
Manufacturing Process: I’m told it has to be lugged and brazed Slow brewed for at least 28 days Draw; given the effectivness of faster methods, each seems unnecessary
Lasting Contribution to Society: Allowed people to judge the ride quality of a bike without ever riding it None, really 211; encouraging people to buy bikes based on a sticker on the downtube is a net loss to humanity

Wow! Look at all those draws! Seems like these two had more in common than I thought. Really, this one could have gone either way (and after a bottle or two of Steel Reserve, probably would have) but in the end it’s good old Reynolds 531 squeaking out the 4-3 victory over Steel Reserve malt liqour. Who knows what sort of madness will show up here for next week’s installment

Pro Cycling News – Astarloa not to Lampre, Hamilton Upset, Other News

28 Nov

One of the nicer things about having poor Italian and Spanish (and also being asleep when Europe wakes up) is that I don’t get drawn into these “no story” stories. Somewhere, a comments section has a link to a Todociclismo article (Babelfish may prove to be of some assistance to my fellow Anglophones) reporting that Igor Astarloa was headed to Liquigas next season. Well, as Tuttobici and more helpfully, Velochimp report, that’s not true. I’m guessing a lack of independent confirmation kept Cyclingnews and VeloNews from running stories on it. Speaking of Cyclingnews, it seems during their recent recap of the Hamilton case, the UCI leaked some info in violation of both sides’ agreement not to discuss the case. The Hamilton team’s response doesn’t say specifically what information was revealed, but I’m willing to bet someone with way more patience than I could figure it out.

In other doping news, Roberto Heras is apparently refusing to admit he took EPO. I don’t know why this is news, since to hear the riders tell it, no cyclist ever has taken any banned substances. But hey, it fills space, right? Still following that same link (“Sweedish Cylists”), Thomas Lövkvist has been declared Sweeden’s “greatest racing talent”, despite having never won Paris-Roubaix, the Intergiro competition, or even a stage of the Tour de France. There’s also some ‘cross news to report: Sven Nys/Nijs didn’t win a ‘cross race. Yes, yes, I know, hard to believe. But also very true. The win instead went to Nys’ Rabobank teammate Richard Groendaal in a very muddy finish. There’s been some suggestion (scroll down a touch) that this was arranged by team management, like the ’96 Roubaix finish, but I don’t think ‘cross racers do the whole radio thing (especially not with pocketless skinsuits). Here’s a gallery of photos; do you see any earpieces?

Pro Cycling News – More Heras Affair, Grand Tours v. ProTour

26 Nov

Arg. I am so sick of reporting doping news. But I suppose if I didn’t want to do that, then I picked the wrong sport, yeah? Anyway, the first rider to lose his Grand Tour title due to a dope offense requires some attention, right? Here’s a stack of rider reactions (following a brief summary), including Pedro Delgado, the ’88 Tour winner who, with current regulations in place, would have been kicked out of that race for a positive Probenecid test. Despite Heras’ looming legal assaults, the Vuelta director says here that this proves the effectiveness of anti-doping measures, while in this article, the UCI prepares for yet another challenege against its only EPO test. I’m really beginning to wonder if the UCI really has faith in this test, or is just panicked about losing it’s only current EPO countermeasure.

Moving on, Giro Director Angel Zomegnon says he’s no longer concerned with the ruling of the ProTour Council against his split stages, because currently the Giro has no ProTour license. Considering the current animosity between the UCI and the Grand Tours, and the fairly caustic response toward the split-stage from riders, this is a pretty ballsy move by the Italian race director, and certainly an about face from his “this is just a suggestion” stance of 10 days ago. New UCI President Pat McQuaid is relatively unconcerned, expressing implicitly here that it’s fine by him if the Grand Tours and other RCS, ASO and Unipublic events are left out of the ProTour. The quote of the interview:

CN: I think it is fair to say that the ProTour won’t have the same lustre without [the Grand Tours]?

PMcQ: Initially, no. But there is a lot of potential to develop the ProTour and there is a lot of very positive enthusiasm for the ProTour amongst the teams and amongst the riders.

Maybe I’m in the dark here, living 4,000 miles away from all of this, but it sure doesn’t seem to me like anyone (not named “DiLuca”) is especially enamored with the ProTour. But I could be wrong. We’ll see next season, I suppose.

Pro Cycling News – Heras Positive, Hincape Nominated

25 Nov

Yes, so they think it is conclusive this time, and there really is EPO (or evidence of it) in Roberto Heras’ urine sample. Though under normal circumstances, this would mean a two-year ban from UCI competition and a further two years of ProTour non-participation, it probably just means about five more years of legal struggle, what with the sudden uncertainty of the EPO test, and with Heras’ sample in particular. Maybe if the Hamilton case ends unfavorably, Heras will drop legal action to clear his name. What will definitely happen is that Denis Menchov will be declared victor of the ’05 Vuelta, and reluctantly become the first Russian to win that event. Tony Rominger will also retake his claim to winningest Vuelta rider ever, though it feels kinda slimy, as Rominger was a protege of Michele Ferrari, who’s been on trial for supplying dope to riders for the past 3 years. And, of course, the biggest loser here is pro cycling, which gets another high-profile dope case to dirty its image. Actually, scratch that; the biggest loser here is whoever dropped 25,000 EUR on this.

In other doping news, the lead prosecutor in the Raimondas Rumsas case called big Raymond “a coward” but suggested only a light 8-month suspended sentence, saying the real criminal was some Polish doctor whom no one can seem to find. Sweet. Outside Magazine is running a triumphant article this month on how Lance Armstrong is preparing to sue the living daylights out of everyone who’s ever accused him of doping, which I guess is the 21st century way to prove your innocence. But it’s not like I can’t bring up a positive news story every once in a while. George Hincapie, who as far as I know has never been accused of doping (and is rumored to have been a victim of it) is up for Sportsman of the Year. Seeing as Sports Illustrated is an American publication, a victory by Gorgeous George seems unlikely, but I’m sure he’s tickled pink just to be nominated.

Pro Cycling News – Heras' B-Sample is Testing Turkey

24 Nov

The nice thing about having a comments section is you can let other people report on breaking news for you. Like yesterday, when someone dropped the comment on Heras’ inconclusive B sample. 24 hours later, confusion still reigns. Perhaps the clearest explanation comes from ProCycling’s story, though you could search all day and not find anything definitive. Basically, Heras and his attorney have seized this moment to question the test, while the powers-that-be insist everything is normal. My sympathies in this case lie entirely with the scientists, because, as I learned in my AP Bio days, gel electrophoresis can produce results that are devilishly hard to decipher.

The problem here, however, is that this casts further doubt on an already crumbling EPO urine test. You’ve probably all heard about this case, in which a triathlete proved his innocence, despite repeated EPO positives. If charges againt Heras are dropped, not through a clean B sample, but through an inconclusive, who knows what sort of field day the Rumsas trial defense team will have. Even with a trunkload of EPO and other performance enhancing drugs against him, weak sentences in similar cases in Italy bode well for the Lithuanian TT champ and convicted EPO user, who currently makes his living beating the tar out of low-level pros and elite amatuers at Grand Fondos. Still, I suppose it’s better than having him back in the ProTour ranks, where, if he could repeat his 2002 performance, he’d be a heavy favorite for the 2006 TdF title.

Pro Cycling News – Why Independence Matters, Dope News

23 Nov

People often ask me “How exactly does being independent make your cycling page better? Doesn’t it mean you just don’t have any real sponsors?” Well, yes, that is one (somewhat simple-minded) distinction. But here is another: Cyclingnews recently published this review about Zipp’s 303 ‘cross wheelset. I felt it was a pretty even-handed article, overall positive, but still willing to point out shortcomings. But then I noticed this photo of a young man in an Excel Sports Boulder kit, and thought to myself “Wait, isn’t Excel Sports a huge Zipp dealer?” After a live chat (upper right) with an Excel rep, I found out not only that they sell “a large volume” of Zipp wheels, but that Rob Karman, the author of the review, is currently an Excel Sports Boulder employee (scroll down just a tad). So the guy reporting on the quality of these wheels for Cyclingnews, who you’d think would be impartial, actually benefits directly from their sale. Avoiding conflicts of interest like that are what being independent is all about.

Moving along, today is expected to be the moment of truth for Roberto Heras, but the dope news doesn’t stop there. Danilo Hondo is also awaiting a decision soon on his appeal against charges he took Carphedon. Though the German with a Swiss license has dope expert Werner Franke in his corner, his explanation of events (that the positive resulted from a bottle cleaning mishap) leads me to wonder why exactly you’d be rinsing your bidons with banned substances. And just to remind you that using drugs in cycling isn’t all fun and games, there’s more news today (scroll down) on the dope cases of Michele Ferrari and Raimondas Rumsas. Taking place in Italy and France, respectively, countries that at least claim they will send you to prison if you use drugs in sport, these legal proceedings prove that being under suspension for or investigation of sports doping isn’t all getting rich off Lance and winning Gran Fondos (scroll down).

Pro Cycling News – T-Mobile in Alps, Jan to Giro?

22 Nov

Most team training camps in the Alps involve reconnaissance on the big Alpine passes of the Tour. Not so for T-Mobile, who, perhaps realizing that heavy snowfall would foil any cycling plans this time of year, engaged in a military style team-building exercise. Once entirely the domain of overpaid business executives with an unhealthy fixation on The Art of War, these camps were brought into vogue by Bjarne Riis a few years ago, and the results of his CSC team seem to be a rousing endorsement of their effectiveness. Don’t worry, folks, I won’t call this plagiarism (see my rant from earlier this week); T-Mobile’s recieved more than enough flak for stealing things from CSC already this season. Anyway, after watching Ullrich and Kloeden chase Vino down repeatedly in this year’s TdF, I can’t name a single squad more in need of team-building than T-Mobile.

Speaking of Big Jan, apparently he told Kurier, an Austrian newspaper, that he would be doing next year’s Giro, in addition to the Tours of France and Germany. Of course, as I do not speak German, nor live within the circulation range of any Austrian newspapers, I have only this forum post to go off of. But the folks at Cyclingheros are fairly reliable, and Germanophones at that. This leaves Ullrich with a (snicker) very full plate for 2006. If that isn’t funny to you, maybe this photo (there’s another good one here if you scroll down) and this article will help you out. For you history buffs, Jan also raced the Giro as Tour prep in 2001. It didn’t help, as Armstrong still managed to put a fat 6’44” on the hapless Rostockian, and rubbed it in with “The Look”.

Other than that, it’s mostly just tidbits. A high-end part got a long and favorable review from Pez. What a suprise. I can’t decide if it’s suspicious or not that every bit of kit they test gets a great review, seeing as it is, without exception, really high-end stuff. If you were unclear on how Tyler Hamilton got on the UCI’s “suspect list,” Cyclingnews has your back with this feature. Much like Hamilton, Roberto Heras claims here that he will do whatever it takes to clear his name, if that recently opened B-sample comes back positive. And San Francisco itself strikes back against Threshold Sports for saying city politics killed the SF Gran Prix.

Bikes vs. The World: Round #3 – Lance Armstrong vs. Neil Armstrong

21 Nov

Yeah, I know, this one is obvious. If you gave a 7-year-old kid a cycling blog, this is probably the sort of crap he’d come up with. But come on, I can’t keep filling this page with arcane nonsense or no one will want to read it.

Category Bike Culture:
Lance Armstrong
Pop Culture:
Neil Armstrong
Winner
Claim to Fame: First man to win 7 Tours de France First man to walk on the moon Neil; More danger + fewer moonwalkers than TdF winers = more greatness
Overcoming Adversity: Beat post-metastasis testicular cancer Flew 78 Korean War combat missions Draw; both things are known to kill you
Portents of Future Greatness: Won World Title at only 21 Recieved Air Medal and two Gold Stars at only 21 Neal; Lance risked losing, Neil risked his life.
Famous Quote: “F@¢& you, Chiappucci!” “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Neil; for obvious reasons
Dirty Little Secret: Urine samples from 1999 Tour win apparenly show evidence of EPO use Someone else wrote his famous quote, and he misread it (said “for man” instead of “for a man’) Neil; I like his version better, anyway
Hounded By: French journalists jealous of success Conspiracy theorists saying the landing was faked Draw; both persecutors lost their credibilty long ago
Disregard for Self-Preservaton: Ignored swollen testicle until it became too big for him to ride a bike Used Purdue engineering degree to become test pilot Lance; Ignoring cancer is way risker
Presidential Appointments: Two (Presidential Council on Fitness, President’s Cancer Panel) One (presidential commission investigating the Challenger explosion) Lance; more commitees = more greatness, even if Neil was vice-chair of his
Civil Actions: Tons; he’s sued or threatened to sue everyone from journalists to soigneurs to mechanics Just one against a barber who sold his hair clippings without permission Neil; his suit only asked that the hair be returned or the money donated to charity
Lasting Contribution to Society: Emblem of hope for sufferers of debilitating diseases Emblem of humanity’s abilty to achieve the seemingly impossible Draw; both achievements undermined somewhat by drug allegations / Cold War subtext.

What irony that the winningest rider in the history of the Tour de France would turn out to be the first Bike Culture icon to loose a “Bikes vs. The World” event, in a near-blowout 5-2 decision. I suppose the competition was pretty tough, though, with his opponent being one of only 24 people to ever leave Earth’s orbit, and one of only 12 to walk on the moon. Still, Neil had a 41-year head start on Lance, so perhaps the younger Armstrong can add to his palmares a bit over the coming decades.