Dauphin in French means dolpin but also runner-up so it’s fitting that Tour de France and Team Sky Number Two Chris Froome gets to dance with a dolphin in waters near Curaçao.
It’s all part of the end-of-season festivities on the Caribbean Dutch colony which conclude with two races The Amstel beer brand gets to promote a race and the holiday resort gets lots of publicity with happy-looking cyclists enjoying themselves in sunny weather. Technically the races are illegal for the pros. UCI rules say they can’t compete in unsanctioned competitions but nobody cares, it’s the rule that is at fault more than the riders.
From riders in beachwear to compressionwear firm Skins. The company that makes recovery clothing is now looking to squeeze the governing body for $2 million and if you don’t believe me, here’s the letter to the UCI from their lawyer.
I’m not sure where this will go, they say they invested in cycling after 2008 under the impression that it had been “fundamentally reformed” but surely they didn’t do their homework or, in corporate-speak, due diligence. A cursory glance at L’Equipe or cyclingnews.com would have told them about the ongoing problems. At the height of his powers Armstrong used his wealth to set lawyers on critics and this feels the same, the way the legal action is announced for public consumption feels like some viral marketing stunt. Still, if it goes to court we’ll see what happens and await the evidence. If they win others could seek redress too, claiming they too had suffered scandals that sapped sales? One to watch.
As ever the lawyers often end up the real winners. There’s been talk from “experts” that the USADA decision should be tested at the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Put aside the experts mention make a living from presenting appeals for a moment and the subject is complex but too boring for a full post. In short USADA did push its decision hard under the framework of the WADA and UCI rules. Take the statute of limitations which normally means you can’t go back more than eight years. Only USADA has set a precedent saying it could go back beyond this with the case of an athlete who was eventually caught for EPO but denied it the first time he was caught.
In some ways taking the Armstrong case to the CAS wouldn’t be a bad thing, to make sure the verdict is encased in legal concrete so it cannot pollute the sport any more. But the mere idea of it being appealed any further will have many expressing frustration. And the chances of appeal look even lower as yesterday WADA said it would not do this.
Armstrong Effigy Burned
One thing that’s too late too appeal is yesterday’s fire. Residents of a British town set fire to a giant effigy of Armstrong as part of annual celebrations. Every year they find a celebrity to humiliate and this year it was Armstrong’s turn.
If the fire had trouble starting yesterday the Brits could have used some of printed works of Doctor Edward Coyle as these might not have much other use today. Coyle spent time writing sports science articles about Lance Armstrong and his main hypothesis is that increased muscle efficiency helped Lance Armstrong on to winning more Tour de France titles but now we know otherwise. The list of articles that borrowed this idea is now amusing. Perhaps there were gains in muscle efficiency but it’s a cautionary tale that scientists often bring hypotheses rather than certainty.
In Vino Veritas?
Talking of embarrassing paperwork, the Italian media have emails suggesting Alexander Vinokourov bought the 2010 edition of Liège-Bastogne-Liège from Alexander Kolobnev, the two were away and Vinokourov allegedly paid money to Kolobnev to ensure he was allowed to win the sprint. The story has been aired before seems to getting heated again. A reminder from the rulebook that this is not allowed:
1.2.081 Riders shall sportingly defend their own chances. Any collusion or behaviour likely to falsify or go against the interests of the competition shall be forbidden.
Only we know this often happens in a race. We might see a team chasing a breakaway for no apparent reason or when riders sprint for the line there’s some funny business. It’s so ingrained into the sport that when Vinokourov won the Olympic road race within minutes Twitter was speculating on the amount he paid Rigoberto Uran rather than observing Uran’s poor sprint. Only the difference this time is that there are emails to back up the allegations from 2010 so there’s less speculation.
Unlike other sports, fixing the result of a bike can be tolerated if only because the deals are done at the last moment. You have to be in the winning breakaway before you talk money and unlike a football or handball game, you cannot buy a race before the start.
But what if the story wasn’t really a deal done over a classic in 2010 but instead that the judicial authorities seem to have access to Vinokourov’s email inbox and are leaking it to the media? Also note Vinokourov gets the headlines whilst few are asking about Kolobnev, the apparent seller. Once again it’s proof that the investigation in into clients of Michele Ferrari is wide ranging and contains plenty more than a deposition or two from riders.
It’s all more trouble for Vinokourov and the UCI, days after Astana passed the UCI’s ethical test for a Pro Team licence. And you wonder how Kolobnev is tolerated at Katusha if this proves true. The team has spent millions but got very few results, at least until this year. Here he was, selling the biggest win of the Russian team… and worse, selling it to arch rivals from Kazakhstan.
When does the cycling year begin?
If you’re in the cycle trade then September sees the new products come out, in other words the 2013 range of cycles is on sale already. If you look at the pro calendar then the Tour Down Under is the start and it’s under 80 days away now. But for many pro cyclists this week marks the start of the year as they resume training after the off-season.
Want to start a pro team?
We can follow teams and sadly their demise is often well-chronicled but the work done to get a team started is something we rarely get to see because the project only goes public once everything is in place. With this in mind the interview with Brian Smith done by the VC Don Logan podcast is great audio. Smith talks candidly about the work involved in setting up the Cervélo Test Team and later the Endura team, offering his thoughts on one of this season’s revelations Jon Tiernan-Locke and plenty more.