Team Sky have been fielding doping questions at their press conference. Whistled by some on the way up Ventoux, last night’s TV news in France on TF1 discussed “suspicions” and this morning’s radio bulletins, France Info, relayed a similar topic. The story beat genuine news of positive tests in athletics where some of the biggest names have been caught. It shows how suspicion in cycling appears to trump actual positive samples in athletics.
This aspect was all so predictable, after all the same happened last year with Bradley Wiggins having to confront suspicion with a determined press conference performance and a ghost-written newspaper column. A year later and Team Sky are in the same situation, but not Movistar, Belkin nor Saxo-Tinkoff. Only the mild-mannered Chris Froome offers a more polite critique than Bradley Wiggins. If Froome is doing it clean then Dave Brailsford should have spent the morning boring the socks off the press pack with charts of power data, training schedules and other information and ideally repeating analysis that had been communicated all year to everyone. Instead they’re stuck in the impossible logic trap of trying to prove a negative.
Basically, Sky ready to give all data (blood, training, weight etc) to WADA expert #TdF
— Julien Prétot (@julienpretotRTR) July 15, 2013
That pledge to open up to expert analysis is from this morning’s press conference. It’s a start but for a team famous for planning everything, it’s odd that they didn’t see this coming, how they keep reacting to events. Worse if the media management is odd, it’s a real performance issue because the stress on a rider is huge.
Just What Do We Know?
A big theme for the 2013 Tour is the estimation of power data and comparisons with the past. I’m convinced these data are valuable and help tell the story of what happens on the side of a mountain. But like all numbers they need to be analysed carefully. Just citing wattages or climbing times in isolation is the equivalent of wearing a lab coat, it looks scientific but it’s a cloak. By all means run the numbers but beware of certainty on both sides of the debate because science can be a slow process of analysis.
In my latest piece for 2rHD Magazine, I take a look at performance analysis, estimated wattages and why they’re in fashion this year and wonder what Austrian philosopher Karl Popper can bring to the Tour de France, as well as suggesting why power profiling will be adopted by the UCI in five year’s time (written before Dave Brailsford’s press conference today). It’s available on the Apple iPad and iPhone at http://2rmag.com
Talking of data, can you measure the Tour de France? It’s as big as town of 160,000 people if you measure it by the telecoms data sent. Each day the media, officials and others on the Tour send a volume of data down phone lines and data cables equivalent to a town of about 160,000 people with all its offices, homes and more. Up to 15km of and data cables are laid and rolled-up every day. The most data hungry seem to be the Australians from SBS with Henri Terraud of Orange of telecom provider Orange saying they get a dedicated SDSL line.
Another bandwidth hog is Oleg Tinkov. Many get excited picking fantasy teams or placing bets and from time to time readers email to say thanks for the tip or express anger that my forecasts prove foul. But instead of fantasy teams or $10 bets, imagine owning a team and putting $10 million into it? This is what Tinkov is doing. Next year he’ll be putting in more money to the team so it’ll be Tinkoff-Saxo, assuming the Danish brokerage remains.
As he’s Russian and wealthy many mistake Tinkov for a Kremlin krony but he’s quite the opposite, he has few friends in high and low places and if he struck it lucky during the 1990s, it seems to be by trading hard rather than playing hard.
“Political ambitions? What is this? It is terrible. You do not need this. I shit on politics”
A personality cult is too strong but he’s a known figure in Russia because he’s often giving tips on how to succeed as an entrepreneur and is visibly linked to his business, often starring in the adverts and playing on his millionaire image. His Twitter feed reflects this self-publicist streak. He’s similar in some respects to Richard Branson, the British entrepreneur who went from a record label to all sorts of products and services under the Virgin label, notably several airlines. Branson even wrote the intro for one of Tinkov’s books.
That’s the hotel listing following Stage 12 of the race. Note OPQS and Belkin in Hotel Cheops and the next day they rode together in the crosswinds to rip the race up on the way to St. Amand-Montrond. Coincidence? No, as the Humans Invent podcast revealed in an interview with cult OPQS DS Brian Holm, a plan was hatched between the two teams. It’s luck they were in the same place together. But the idea of rival teams collaborating is what makes cycling such a tactically-sophisticated sport, where fixing outcomes and collaboration is part of the game yet wholly illegal in other sports.
As it happens, few teams are sharing hotels for the two nights around the rest day.
The team has a press conference at 2.00pm this afternoon where we could get news on whether they’ll stay in the sport or if the game is up. Fingers crossed and I’ll update this piece with any news later.
Update: the team is saved with Europcar sponsoring the team for two more years.
It’s been warm and sunny all race but the third week could see clouds gathering in the Alps and the chance of storms. This is not a metaphor, just a weather report.
Here are the standings on the second rest day. Once gain it’s just a table of numbers but it helps put a price on who has done what, for example seeing Sojasun ahead of BMC Racing doesn’t happen every day.