Rest Day Notes

Monday, 15 July 2013

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.

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?
2rHD
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

Data Gathering
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.

Tinkov
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.

Chance Meeting?

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.

Europcar
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.

Weather Forecast
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.

Tour Prizes
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.

Raymond Leddy July 15, 2013 at 1:45 pm

I know this is retro, but retro to another piece you done on 25mm versus 23mm tyre widths. While I understood the science while disagreeing with the application, I’d like to know how many teams are fully shod on 25mm in this tour on the basis you presented? Btw good stuff all the way.

Paul 8v July 15, 2013 at 11:12 pm

I’d be interested in this too, a lot has been said on the benefits but I wonder how many are still on 23s

Brett July 15, 2013 at 1:49 pm

I’ve said it before replying on Twitter. Sky seem very good at planning training and environments for the team. They also seem very good when promoting themselves.

However, when it comes to crisis and confrontation they seem to have a gap and don’t handle it at all well, which in turn, I believe makes them look worse than they are.

hoh July 15, 2013 at 3:11 pm

Took them a Vuelta to sort out TTT. So they are not always ahead of the games.

Read somewhere last year that Sky actually did a presentation for SAO (with training data etc.) explaining why Wiggo was clean. Seems like they are more comfortable talking with other corporate than the public.

As to why so late with the WADA expert analysis thing, could be just bureaucracy delaying the completion of the arrangements.

Mike July 15, 2013 at 6:46 pm

I think Sky have two issues surrounding communication:
1. they are dealing with complex, nuanced scientific information loaded with jargon, which simply doesn’t translate well into journo copy (as a research scientist myself, I know how frustrating it can be to communicate these sorts of arguments to the press)
2. they have alot of valuable intellectual property bound-up in these data which they are understandably not going to give away, which accounts for why they are happier talking to other corps. that can guarantee confidentiality

Dave July 15, 2013 at 1:54 pm

Shades of Yi Shewin

hoh July 15, 2013 at 3:18 pm

What are you implying?

The science of sports blog repeatedly states that nothing comes from performance analysis if you try to decide “X is doping, Y is not”. So it would be useful to bear that in mind.

If Sky is bad at PR, the Chinese probably worse. And luckily or unluckily swimming doesn’t have power measurement.

And kind of sick with people trying to shove dirt on athlete they don’t like using performance based suspicious of doping argument.

Anthony July 16, 2013 at 7:04 am

Unfortunately history makes the greatest argument.

Robin July 16, 2013 at 7:25 am

No, using history to draw flawed conclusions makes for an argument with no support and no objectivity.

Martino July 16, 2013 at 11:08 am

History doesn’t make an argument – at least not a logical one. Chris Froome is either guilty or he isn’t and that is determined by his own actions, not by what other riders did 10 years ago or last year.

You might as well say that because I’ve tossed a coin and it has come up heads the last 3 times, that it is more likely to come up tails the next time. It isn’t. There is 50% chance of heads and 50% tails.

For what it’s worth, I think you have to have a presumption of innocence until there is evidence to the contrary. If you don’t have think that a rider can d, then there’s no point in following cycling. Where would the enjoyment be if your default position is that everyone is a cheat?

As soon as there is evidence – adverse test results, email trails, bank records, blood bags in a fridge in Spain, unbelievable power readings, whatever – then you follow it up. Goodness knows there are enough journalists out there to do this sort of investigation – David Walsh and Paul Kimmage got Lance Armstrong eventually and if the king can be deposed, then any cyclist that doper is catchable.

As for Chris Froome, there is no evidence yet as far as I am aware, so I still believe he is clean. Fingers crossed the situation stays like that.

Duncan July 16, 2013 at 11:16 am

We can get away with using history as a reason to justify increased levels of skepticism and scrutiny, but not to justify a dismissive assumption of guilt (or innocence, if one were inclined … ).

Gerrald July 15, 2013 at 2:10 pm

The Belkin OPQS deal has been detailed in dutch late night tour programme De Avondetappe as well, confirmed by Bram Tankink and Nico Verhoeven.

Gilles July 15, 2013 at 2:38 pm

You can bet that if a French rider were in yellow they and their team would not be being slurred by the press. It’s just anti British racism and we should be used to it by now.

Al July 15, 2013 at 3:29 pm

I disagree. Given the context where most people in recent history who have ridden away from the field so “easily” have been charged for doping and banned, I actually find it hard to be very enthusiastic about such strong performances. If someone doesn’t have that scepticism then a) I’m jealous but, moreover b) i think they’re being naive.

The Inner Ring July 15, 2013 at 3:51 pm

I think there’s always a suspicion of foreigners and a tendency to trust your home nation. But there’s more to it than distrust because of nationality, no? Certainly the reports in the media don’t make much of Froome being British, more a play on cycling’s doping past.

Nick Evans July 15, 2013 at 4:07 pm

I suspect the xenophobic aspect does colour some of the commentary. So British commentators seem more likely to trust Froome, whereas other nations’ commentators are sceptical (and no doubt more sceptical than they would be if one of their own were leading). And the US commentators (on Twitter at least) seem to be taking the view that if a good ol’ boy like Lance had cheated, then these no good furriners *must* be doping too.

Bundle July 15, 2013 at 4:21 pm

I think it’s basically his clinical record, coupled with the way such an exceptional talent had gone almost unnoticed until 2011. Maybe bilharzia had prevented him from showing how good he was, or maybe the way bilharzia was treated turned him into superman. We need to clarify this. Armstrong, Contador, now Froome, all of them great champions who recovered from very serious conditions. It does raise doubts, regardless of nationality.

The Inner Ring July 15, 2013 at 4:37 pm

When Froome joined the UCI’s World Cycling Centre in Aigle in 2006 he underwent a lot of tests, eg Vo2 Max etc. It might help if the numbers were shared. But where does the call for info to be published stop?

Bundle July 15, 2013 at 4:55 pm

If they let me interview Brailsford, Riis, and Unzué (optimally under oath), we would be closer to reasonable satisfaction. ;) I think journalists are not very determined to get the record straight. I mean, really, why all the fuss about watts and nobody’s asking for “therapeutic uses”?

Nick Evans July 15, 2013 at 5:30 pm

Brailsford’s query today goes along those lines: “tell us what it will take to satisfy you”. Let’s see how many of the sceptics respond.

MikeF July 15, 2013 at 10:54 pm

We know about Bilharzia. It’s easily treatable, once it’s diagnosed (although curing is another matter). It’s a serious condition when it is left untreated for years. You’re blowing this up to be something more than it is.

Bundle July 16, 2013 at 10:30 am

I’m not blowing anything up, and it’s surprising that so many in this forum are upset at my saying where there is a big question mark that Sir Dave should be able to live with answering

LM July 16, 2013 at 3:07 am

Froome isn’t British; he’s a Kenyan who has taken citizenship in Monaco.

The Inner Ring July 16, 2013 at 7:38 am

Good luck with that, becoming a citizen of Monaco is notoriously different. You have to live there for 10 years. For now he’s just a resident, presumably for tax purposes.

GluteCramp July 16, 2013 at 8:47 am

Sorry, racism?

Racism? Really?

By whom, exactly? The asian/african journalist cabal?

Doubter July 16, 2013 at 3:56 pm

So, it’s an anti-British plot now?
The similarities of the LA years for Americans continue……it was always the French out to get him, wasn’t it?

Dscaper July 15, 2013 at 2:45 pm

To be fair, Brailsford probably has better things to do than to sit there answering the same questions over and over. What Brailsford cannot prepare for, is the faulty logic of the questions being asked.

For instance, “Lance is a cheat. Lance won the Tour de France. Therefore all winners of the Tour de France are cheats”.

This is a classic Association Fallacy. To give an example:

“John is a con artist. John has black hair. Therefore, all people with black hair are con artists.”

It’s not possible to defend a position against this kind of faulty logic, no matter how many times you repeat it.

Froome is a cyclist – and as @inrng pointed out on Twitter, you need to study epistemology to answer the questions journos are throwing around. I’m sure Froome has got better things to do with his time that study for a doctorate in philosophy. So when you throw these questions at him, you’re only doing yourself harm in the long run – because he won’t always get the answer right, because the question is often wrong.

If you want a solution – then I think Brailsford’s suggestion is a good one. I also think that you’re missing the real target in all of this, and that’s the UCI. It’s the UCI’s job to bring together the teams, the cyclists, the journalists and the scientists, in order for this comedy of logic to come to an end.

And while the journalists fumble around looking for a fight in all the wrong places, cycling suffers. Because it’s no longer about the love of cycling, and what is best for cycling – but the love of the conspiracy and the headline.

Until the media realise this, and the UCI actually changes for the good of cycling, then you will never get the answers that you’re looking for. And that’s a great shame.

Gingerflash July 15, 2013 at 3:02 pm

It’s not really as simple as that. It’s more like “Pantani and Armstrong were doping; they were the fastest of a crazy doping era; you’re faster than them; therefore you might be doping too.”

As for it being “anti-British” racism; a French rider wouldn’t be so scrutinised etc, that’s the same line Armstrong’s fans ran for years.

Gilles July 15, 2013 at 3:10 pm

There is nothing Brailsford can do to keep the doubters happy, so why bother? Just great to watch Contador cracking now he is no longer the same rider.

hoh July 15, 2013 at 3:26 pm

As the argument that Froome is a nice guy and does not bully people can not be used to prove he does not dope.

Curious? July 15, 2013 at 6:21 pm

Sure there is something Brailsford can do; make Froom’s biological passport, training data, and blood/urine test results available. Show the world that Froom’s capacity and ability has been developed over a period of months and years.

They can improve his power:weight ratio for climbing and improve his power:CdA for the TT, but both require more power to make velocity. Limiting a rider’s caloric intake can be counter productive, hence the use of “Spanish beef”. Putting a rider in a aero position can reduce power until they train and adapt.

An athlete’s VO2 max can be improved, threshold power can be improved, weight can be reduced, position can be improved, economy can be trained, but they take time and can be tracked.

Show us the data.

MikeF July 15, 2013 at 11:02 pm

There’s a reason for not releasing the data, and it is quite simple – given that people commenting on cycling forums cherry pick and distort performance data to try to declare their pre-decided opinions, they will do the same for the training data, even if anybody who was an expert said it was consistent with a clean elite athlete.

Team Sky releasing all the data to WADA experts is the best option.

The Inner Ring July 16, 2013 at 1:03 am

WADA has no experts on power analysis. It’s a nice idea but seems to have been cooked up in a rush. Instead a panel of experts is should be available to help but WADA is mainly focused on toxicology, the detection of banned substances and not evaluating power data.

Curious? July 16, 2013 at 1:27 am

The longitudinal data should show steady progressive improvement of VO2, threshold power, economy, weight, and CdA. There is an abundance of experts that can review physiologic data and determine if performance has been achieved with doping.

As I think about it, someone should be tearing down his bike too. Mechanical doping?

Robin July 16, 2013 at 5:37 am

Curious, I think you need to be careful with your assumptions and the conclusions you’re drawing. You say, “There is an abundance of experts that can review physiologic data and determine if performance has been achieved with doping.” That’s true if actual tests of blood and urine show doping products or meet the criteria of WADA for doping. Otherwise, the experts you’re talking about can at most conclude that evidence might suggest doping. Your associating conclusions with performance data that performance data cannot support.

Andrew July 16, 2013 at 9:49 am

Why? Anti Spanish racism?

hoh July 15, 2013 at 3:22 pm

Another logic loop-hole here: Armstrong fans ran the line for years does not make the argument less/more true.

hoh July 15, 2013 at 3:27 pm

My previous to replies should be read in reverse, sorry.

The Inner Ring July 15, 2013 at 3:10 pm

The UCI and the anti-doping effort should be seen as reliable but that’s the point, people don’t trust it, especially given the sport’s past. So we’re left with vigilante acts of calculation and estimation.

I agree with the logical fallacies, it’s why Sky are stuck in the epistemological trap of trying to prove a negative rather than explaining the training, riding, effort and more. The longer they’re asked the same question and the longer they say no, the more things spin in a circle.

channel_zero July 16, 2013 at 7:39 pm

I do not agree that the UCI’s anti-doping efforts should be seen as reliable.

Specifically, are they opening cases for all positives in the system? We know they leave positive results unprocessed. We know they tried to hide Contador’s positive. WADA has long discussed sports federations continued efforts to hide positives.

The bio-passport system does a great job managing doping controversy. It’s sufficiently complicated few examine the process and allows/protects favored athletes.

One Man Grupetto July 15, 2013 at 3:17 pm

I can’t help thinking that this doesn’t partly suit Team Sky though. As long as there is so much emphasis and attention being placed on whether they are doing anything illegally that there is far light being cast on their training, preparation scientific methods etc. If you accept their statements that their performances are clean and above board, then the gap between them and other teams actually seems to be widening. This isn’t necessarily what you’d expect after a few years when at least part of their modus operandi has become known to the peleton as staff members, riders etc have moved onto other teams. For sure, finance must play a large part – you can’t replicate what you can’t afford – but what are other teams doing to not only match what Team Sky are doing but going above and beyond that? I have some doubts over Team Sky, partly because of past teams and riders, but I am not convinced that the other WT teams are asking themselves hard enough questions.

Chris July 15, 2013 at 5:05 pm

Is this the case though, that the gap between Sky and other teams has widened?

This year Sky have looked far from strong, they’ve had 2 days when the team have worked well and delivered Froome for stage wins, yesterday they benefited from Europcar’s work so maybe not the best example. They’ve had 1 day when they were nowhere leaving Froome alone, if Movistar had been more tactically aware then they would have profited. That day the Movistar team were far stronger than Sky. Unless, of course, Sky were faking it

Similarly last week when OPQS, Belkin and Saxo put the others to the sword where were Sky? Froome was alone again near the end of the stage when Saxo took off, when he had support they were unable to bridge the gap and Contador took time off him. Again not strong, there were 3 stronger teams.

Saxo particularly impress me and I’m no fan of Alberto, sadly for them their GC man is not stronger than his strongest team mate where in Sky, in July, Froome is stronger than his. Same for Belkin, good team effort with 2 riders doing very well rather than one leading the race.

One Man Grupetto July 15, 2013 at 5:41 pm

Absolutely fair points and my fault entirely for not saying anywhere in my post about it being about Sky in a totality rather than just in the TdF.

When I look at the team I see not just Froome but with Porte, Uran (and I know he is likely off to OPQS) and Henao they have developed a bunch of very strong GC podium contenders, and get the feeling that others (Boswell, Dombrowski, Kennaugh) are on their way through – not all just for GT GC. (And it’s fair to say that not every single Sky rider has come on). I just don’t get that same sense of development and depth across the board with riders on other teams, partly I guess because the short-term nature of sponsorship and the uncertain nature of the sport. I see it with Movistar and maybe a bit with OPQS. Interesting to see what TST can do with Majka.

Anonymous July 15, 2013 at 6:05 pm

Don’t forget Rabo / Blanco / Belkin, they have a history with a very strong development squad but without that translating into GT success. Maybe with Mollema? The next week will show if he can build on his 2011 Vuelta.

RocksRootsRoad July 15, 2013 at 4:35 pm

Dscaper +1

Matt July 15, 2013 at 2:49 pm

Has anyone seen the shit that comes out of Tinkov? He’s nothing but a racist, homophobic, moron who’s struck it big [lucky?] [[crooked??]] He’s a total asshole.

Dieter July 15, 2013 at 4:02 pm

Yes, he’s unbelievable! His twitter account (twitter.com/olegtinkov) is so bad, it’s almost as though it’s a parody account…

Duncan July 15, 2013 at 6:48 pm

I was pretty shocked to read his twitter feed. When writing in a language that is not one’s mother tongue perhaps some unintentional offence can result, but he seems to want to insult and hurt people with maximum crudeness, all while maintaining an air of arrogance, superiority and couldn’t-care-less himself. He sounds like a very damaged and upset, yet blasé, kid.

Everyone has their background and their experiences and I don’t know his, but surely his words are firmly in the zone of “totally unacceptable behaviour towards another human being”. How do you deal with someone like that? Ignore him? Get together and speak out that people can’t be treated like this?

And I wonder if it is a large sum of money that allows a person to be this way – he can live in a world with many enemies as he assumes he can buy what he wants and needs?

I’ll try to forget his association with the team when any of the riders under his sponsorship make efforts to be admired – his personality is not their fault!

Martijn July 15, 2013 at 7:01 pm

Seems like he’s a good match with Saxo Bank, who founders are well known Randites. In fact, you can get a free copy of Atlas Shrugged courtesy of them: http://www.saxoworld.com/sponsorships/arts-and-literature

warren July 15, 2013 at 3:07 pm

To read about Karl Popper in cycling blog. Excellent surprise. Chapeau !!! Keep up the high quality work.

The Inner Ring July 16, 2013 at 1:02 am

Thanks. But when others provide the critical thought needed, better to quote them rather than try to invent things yourself

Bundle July 15, 2013 at 3:08 pm

You’re right, Inrng, in that it shouldn’t be asked of Sky to be more answerable than other teams. All others should be requested to uphold the same levels of transparency. The problem is that there’s not much transparency, anywhere. Authorizations for Therapeutic Use should be made public, whether it concerns Contador’s cavernoma, or Froome’s schistosomiasis, or anything. Same with blood levels. And not only to WADA or whichever experts who may keep the specifics “classified” for 70 years in a Hutton Inquiry fashion. Brailsford must understand that refusing to share information that he doesn’t really need to keep secret is being the main reason why suspicion doesn’t die out. If he could say: “look, I’m sharing everything, what more could I possibly do?”… but he can’t say it.

hoh July 15, 2013 at 3:42 pm

Most Doubters would still say Sky’s doping even after Brasfield sheared everything. Besides, I don’t think Froome’s power data is a piece of information Sky can dispense with. If they can use it to calculate how far Froome can go, others can as well. And Sky would be put onto strategic back foot.

Of course, Froome is slashing everyone now so it looks like even if they release the data, no-one can do anything. Even if that is true, there’s no-way they can know pre-Tour.

Personally, I’d be content with they shearing everything with WADA.

Bundle July 15, 2013 at 4:00 pm

But it’s precisely the power output that they can keep to themselves. But if Froome, suffering from a chronic parasitical disease that eats his red cells up, is being allowed, by UCI and WADA, some kind of blood therapy (drug, transfusion or dialysis) that is forbidden to others, it would be very serious. If Froome, whose disease is usually treated with a very aggressive chemical (praziquantel) with potentially even lethal side-effects if not treated with corticosteroids, is being allowed the use of these PEDs, it would also be very serious. I sincerely hope it’s not the case, because I love the way Froome rides, and he’s a very likeable chap, but nothing less than making the ATUs public can seriously be considered doing what it takes to dispel doubts.

Anonymous July 15, 2013 at 4:17 pm

praziquantel is a once a YEAR dose. although it probably happens, prescribing info in the states does not recommend (nor does it not recommend) concomitant administration of steroids.
dialysis would accomplish what?

Bundle July 15, 2013 at 4:25 pm

Is dialysis a Prohibited Method?
Yes, Hemodyalisis is prohibited under M1.1, as blood is taken out from the patient (in a closed circuit) and then reintroduced into the circulatory system. An athlete needing this treatment requires a TUE

(source: WADA website)

Anonymous July 15, 2013 at 9:24 pm

don’t know whey i can’t reply below bundle. again, what benefit would hemodailysis provide for froome? it does not add any blood components nor take any away other than waste products not being removed by the kidneys in renal failure. so while it may be prohibited, what value would it add in this case?
i see no evidence of a fistula on froome’s arms and do not see an implanted port on his chest, which would be temporary anyway until a fistula would heal.

Bundle July 16, 2013 at 3:51 am

Again, I’m not saying or suggesting that he’s doing this or that. That’s not the point. The point is that if he has special authorization for some treatments, he should either inform the public or deny it, because leaaving the issue in the dark will not help him.

Robin July 16, 2013 at 5:58 am

Again, what right does the public have to know what medical treatments any cyclist has to undertake? Where are the boundaries for questions? When is it okay for a rider to say, “It’s none of your damned business.” Frankly, when it comes to medical treatments for illness or disease, I think that falls in the “It’s none of the public’s damned business” category. That pretty personal information to an individual. The team and UCI need to know. The public? Not so much.

Robin July 16, 2013 at 5:54 am

I do not believe that the public has the right or the need to know any individuals medical information. This sense of entitlement to whatever information either feeds or satisfies a given fan’s needs or suspicions is getting a bit out of hand.

Bundle July 16, 2013 at 10:19 am

Besides the repeatedly used argument that anyone needing special treatments shouldn’t be considered fit or allowed in such a demanding sport (which I haven’t completely made my mind about), one question has been begging an answer since Armstrong’s first TdF: what if “therapeutic use” was the biggest loophole in the antidoping system?

Jamie July 15, 2013 at 3:08 pm

Hi Inrng, How can you find out the hotels for the teams? We are heading downfor the d’Huez stage and then driving up to Versailles on Saturday. Would quite like to know in advance if any teams are in same hotel as me or if they will be fairly close by. Thanks!

The Inner Ring July 15, 2013 at 3:52 pm

It’s given out to the media but not the public… otherwise everyone would stalk the riders etc

Brian July 15, 2013 at 4:46 pm

With Europcar being also sponsored by the Accor Hotel chain, it’s a good bet that they will be in the local Novotel/Mercure/Ibis.

Ali July 15, 2013 at 3:10 pm

Sky should say nothing, to anyone. Reveal training methods, seriously? I know everyones inquisitive, but it’s a laughable request. Sky should just say test us everyday if you want to. Brailsford’s got an exemplarily record, his Olympic teams have also beaten all their competitors, without any positive tests, ever.
As Whiff said yesterday
– first and third from last year aren’t in the race
– fourth place from last year, Van Den Broek, has abandoned the race
– Contador has not been the same since his doping ban
– Evans and Schleck look past it
– Valverde and Rodriguez have disappointed and not kicked on after their Vuelta performances last year
– Hesjedal and van Garderen might as well have stayed at home
– Mollema, Kreuziger and Ten Dam are promising riders but don’t have the palmares yet to suggest they can challenge Froome
– Quintana is exciting but is still inexperienced

Everyone’s anger and cynicism should be kept for the dopers and the UCI. They dragged cycling into the gutter, not Sky.

The Inner Ring July 15, 2013 at 3:53 pm

Fair enough but it takes blog comments to make this. Where are the team with their message?

Gilles July 15, 2013 at 4:45 pm

They probably even read this but why should they reply? It’s a slippery slope and once you start interacting with the mentallist trolls and conspiracy theorists on the interweb insanity soon follows.

Ali July 15, 2013 at 5:24 pm

I would imagine it’s the same as the Olympic teams. Better equipment, better training, better diet and better analysis. Marginal gains.

Doubter July 16, 2013 at 4:02 pm

Awesome. Sky are riding better bikes.
And they’ve revolutionized training methods.
And they’ve figured out how to eat.
Don’t forget riding the rollers after the stage.

Do they take credit for riding the stage in the months prior to the TdF, too? Cause I remember an hour long LA documentary on that subject.

Ali July 15, 2013 at 5:29 pm

and if we trust like we’ve never trusted before, Froome could be the rider to take cycling into a new era. Only the 2nd to take Ventoux in yellow, that’s pretty special.

Greg July 16, 2013 at 12:56 am

I would agree that small gains lead to big gaps in time on the road. Cautious skepticism is OK, but rampant distrust and demands for complex data that is meaningless to almost everyone outside a laboratory is a doomed tack.

How many people have ridden with a few friends, all with a PowerTap or similar widget? Same road, same speed and possibly similar rider weights but dissimilar watts being produced. There are so many factors involved, and so few people understand the data that a release of information would lead to endless numbers of accusations when people mistake ignorance for expertise.

Razorback July 16, 2013 at 7:07 am

Fully agree… Sky dont have to discloure anything.
Power data dont prove or disprove anything and it will only show what kind of power profile they use and this is intelectual property.
Froome is the most constant stage racer of the past 2,5 years with a steady improvement on the period.
This is a tour with a few strong teams but actually without strong racers: Molema second?? Fugslang? Ten Dam??? I like those guys, but top 10??
If there is to be suspicious I would be much more concerned with the top performance of the Colombians this year or even with Movistar or Belkin performance… they raised the game without a “steady improvements” that people are acusing Froome.
I am not saying Froome is clean, but this discussion is pointless as there is always going to be a #1.
As suggested, we may request dayly tests on Sky, (it might be costly) or improve dopping detaction. But request powerdata + other info is just pointless.
Btw, seems that the midia whats more news and trying to create some… 1. by suggesting doppong 2. hoping for a wrong answer from Froome/Sky 3. to get access to some data that will definetly sell some news.

Alpen July 15, 2013 at 3:12 pm

3 cheers for Europcar!

One Man Grupetto July 15, 2013 at 3:20 pm

Excellent news. And now hopefully we’ll get some decent similar news on the other teams looking for sponsorship…

Al July 15, 2013 at 3:33 pm

hip hip hoorah

Greg July 16, 2013 at 12:43 am

Good to see them showing support for the team and sport. Hip Hip Hooray!

Anonymous July 16, 2013 at 11:01 am

They have now also won the Tour of Turkey now that the previous winner has been caught doping – SUPRISE, SUPRISE

Nimo July 15, 2013 at 3:59 pm

Three things that struck me from the stage and it’s aftermath:

1. Sky, for being sponsored by a media company, is TERRIBLE with the press. They still seem dumbfounded that journalists/the public hit them with loaded questions. You went through this last year, boys. You should know it’s coming by now. It seems like maybe Sky or Fox should send a publicist to Mallorca as part of their sponsorship to train the riders/staff how to answer the inevitable questions. Marginal gains, gents.

2. Why did Quintana take pulls on the front for Froome near the top of Ventoux? Froome looked genuinely knackered there for a bit and Quintana rotating to the front seemed to provide a big recovery boost for him that let him put in that final acceleration to take the stage. If I’m Quintana there, I’m sitting on Froome’s wheel until he looks weak enough to attack then going for the stage win. I understand he was probably trying to maximize his gains on the rest of the field to get himself onto the podium, but losing a few seconds in a podium quest isn’t so bad if you can win atop Ventoux; especially because it looks like Quintana will keep taking time back on everyone besides Froome in the mountains. Simon Gerrans sat on Cancellara’s wheel in Milano-Sanremo 2012. Peter Sagan took pulls for Cancellara at Flanders 2013. Sometimes you have to play negative tactics when it makes sense.

3. I feel like if someone had been able to stay with Froome, people wouldn’t be howling so much about doping but it seems illogical that two or more having the same strength would somehow disprove doping or even make it seem less likely.

Martijn July 15, 2013 at 5:50 pm

Point 2 was answered by Quintana himself: Froome had told him that Contador was losing time and this was his chance to create a nice big gap ahead of the TT.

NiMo July 16, 2013 at 4:09 pm

yeah i saw that later. it made me mad at the time without explanation, but now that its been answered, understandable. does froome speak spanish or quintana english i wonder?

Anonymous July 20, 2013 at 10:53 am

Interesting, I could see Quintana moving to SKy for next year.

Dano July 15, 2013 at 4:01 pm

Europecar have announced they will continue sponsoring until 2015:

http://www.lequipe.fr/Cyclisme-sur-route/Actualites/Europcar-continue/385947

Martijn July 15, 2013 at 6:44 pm

And at the same budget, with Bernaudeau promising more exciting news:
“Marcus Bernhardt, directeur commercial du groupe Europcar, a assuré que l’investissement du sponsor resterait au même niveau et a souhaité le développement de la visibilité internationale, notamment avec une participation au Tour d’Espagne en 2014. Pour assurer le développement de l’équipe, Bernaudeau prépare l’arrivée d’autres partenaires financiers et a promis une annonce «avant la fin de la semaine». «Ce sera extrêmement innovant», prévient-il.”

(“Marcus Bernhardt, commercial director of the Europcar group has assured that the investment of the sponsor will stay at the same level and has indicated that he wants to see international visibility will be developed, specifically with participation in the 2014 Vuelta. To assure the development of the team, Bernaudeau is looking for other partial investors and has promised an announcement ‘before the end of the week’. He warned that “it will be extremely innovative”.)

Not sure what to make of that last part. My French is not that good, maybe there’s a translation of ‘innovant’ which will make it sound less strange.

Greg July 16, 2013 at 12:46 am

Perhaps branching out in terms of the type of company engaged for sponsorship? It is interesting to see the recent influx of electronics brands, although perhaps this is nothing new. Off the top of my head I can think of NetApp, Belkin, Sharp and (previously) Barracuda.

The Inner Ring July 16, 2013 at 8:23 am

The team will be called Europcar but the name “InterRent” will appear on the jerseys, it’s a low cost car rental brand belonging to Europcar.

David July 15, 2013 at 5:05 pm

The sad thing is that all this doping talk about Froome is taking away from the enjoyment of what has been a really exciting race so far.

The funny thing, as pointed out by Ali, is that this race is littered with people who are underperforming (and sadly no Nibali). It is easy riding away from a bunch of underperforming riders if you are on form. I certainly can’t remember ever seeing Contador look so bad. If we look at last year’s top 10:

1. Wiggins (not taking part)
2. Froome (currently in yellow)
3. Nibali (not taking part)
4. Van Den Broeck (crashed out)
5. van Garderen (way off the pace)
6. Zubeldia (currently 37th)
7. Evans (currently 16th)
8. Rolland (currently 30th)
9. Brajkovic (crashed out)
10. Pinot (currently 52nd)

We don’t do much better with 11th-20th. If anything one should be asking why so many of last years top 20 (who all earned UCI points for their GC placing) are doing so badly just 12 months later. Arguably Froome is performing at the same level as last year and Nibali showed similar form in the Giro. The rest on the other hand….

In the Giro a number of riders tested positive for EPO, with some suggesting there was a new test to pick up on micro-dosing. Are the performances we are seeing this July the result of large numbers of big name riders abandoning micro-dosing, leading to reduced performance?

Alpen July 15, 2013 at 5:13 pm

Or you could say last year had a very weak field (true) and this year, Froome is making a stronger field (Contador, Quintana, Valverde until Friday, Rodriguez, Mollema) look even more pedestrian.

DrHeaton July 15, 2013 at 8:45 pm

Its a stronger field, but not one riding that strongly.

Contador was two or three minutes behind his Ventoux time recorded in 2009 and every other ‘contender’ was behind him. I think that there is a large amount of underperforming this year. Is Rodriguez really at his best? Valverde looked decent until Sunday when he cracked, TJVG has been very poor, Evans is clearly suffering from his Giro exertions and the likes of Peraud, Kreuziger and Nieve were never expected to be fighting too high up the GC. Pinot is ill and Rolland is focusing on the polka dot meaning that the only really pure climber competing at the top level is Quintana.

My question would be, if Quintana had paced himself a little better at the start of the climb would he have been able to beat Froome?

Doubter July 16, 2013 at 4:05 pm

Thank goodness Froome is flirting with the fastest times in history up all these mountains…….
Beating known and proven dopers with form unimaginable 2.5 years ago.

DrHeaton July 15, 2013 at 8:48 pm

Oh, I forgot Mollema, he’s actually the only rider who I think is riding as expected. Four minutes down at this stage is good but I think most people would have expected Contador, Rodriguez and maybe Valverde further up between Froome and Mollema.

BC July 15, 2013 at 5:30 pm

Past history tells us all to be skeptical about results – I am probably one of the biggest skeptics !
I do however think SKY and Froome are being given a rough time considering the real problem lies firmly at the door of the UCI. If this mafia like body had carried out its duties in the correct manner over the past twenty years, neither riders or teams would be in the impossible situation of having to try and prove to a suddenly doubting press they are clean – the same press remember, with a few notable exceptions, kept their heads down in the past when it suited them.
SKY have never had a positive, more than can be said for several teams completing in the Tour. I am therefore prepared to give them the benefit of being clean until/if proven otherwise.

Sergio July 15, 2013 at 5:50 pm

As much as I wanted to see a more thrilling Tour, and being forever (?) suspicious of great performances, there is always a chance we can have before our eyes the birth of a truly exceptional athlete. Like Merckx or Coppi or Anquetil, who knows? Maybe Froome is way better than the competition. That is of course hard to believe, given the recent past. But it should be remembered that all these greats, after some time, were as hated as they were celebrated, because they made the sport boring.

Anonymous July 15, 2013 at 8:29 pm

Really? Merckx tested positive at least three times. Anquetil is famous for – “Anyone who thinks this is possible without painkillers is an idiot”.

Philip July 15, 2013 at 6:10 pm

What about those oval rings Froome is riding? No one else in the peloton is riding them. Maybe they really work.

Anonymous July 15, 2013 at 8:11 pm

“What’s more certain is that the use of oval rings lends itself to longer distance linear efforts where steady pacing works. In other words they can be effective on a long and regular climb like you get to a ski station in the Tour de France…So my hypothesis would be that these chainrings are more suitable for the Tour than the Giro and this is why Chris Froome continues to use them whilst Bradley Wiggins has stopped….Note it’s not just Sky, Europcar’s Pierre Rolland is using them and his slow grinding style is suited to this.” – INRNG, May 12, 2013

Just like any equipment, some designs work well for some and don’t work well for others.

Curiously though, both Froome and Quintana are both riding Pinarello’s highly-acclaimed Dogma 65.1 Think 2. I have never believed that equipment wins races, but the reviews on this latest Dogma are “otherworldly.” I still believe it’s the man and not the machine, but it sure doesn’t hurt to have such fine design/mechanics under your legs.

The Inner Ring July 16, 2013 at 12:51 am

Froome and Rolland are using them and note different oval rings are used by some of the Garmin-Sharp riders. The jury’s out on the benefits, they seem to suit some but not others.

Last year Astana’s Kasheckin tried them… but the mechanic fitted them the wrong way so the oval was off by ninety degrees :-)

Tom H July 16, 2013 at 4:00 am

Virtually every independent lab study I’ve read, using trained amateur cyclists, has shown no improvement in performance with elliptical rings (after an appropriate acclimatization period)

Due to the nature of how crank-mounted powermeters work, non-round rings falsely inflate the measurement and make it *seem* more power is output, but it’s a data artifact.
For an explanation with some data, see:
http://bikeblather.blogspot.ca/2013/01/whats-up-with-those-funky-rings.html

Elliptical rings may just be a rider preference, some may prefer the “feel” of it.

roomservicetaco July 15, 2013 at 6:30 pm

Don’t know if this made it onto the Euro broadcast but about half way up Ventoux, a Sky soigneur was shown on TV handing out 3 musettes to the Sky riders. The US commentators said that it was illegal to provide assistance to riders within the last 20k but that Sky would gladly pay the fine and that this move must be part of their “marginal gains” philosophy.

Ironic that this is exactly the m.o. for doping – the reward of winning far outweighs the risk/penalty for getting caught. And, attribute your gains to some impressive sounding methodology rather than calling it cheating.

A team that intentionally breaks the rules in public should not be surprised when people question what they are doing in private.

Duncan July 15, 2013 at 7:00 pm

I also read that it was announced over race radio shortly before they picked up the musettes, that feeding would be allowed at this time (why the exception?). Perhaps that is one of the many conversations Froome was having on the radio?

In any case, if the report of the announcement is true, then they were not trying to break rules to gain a small advantage here.

Anonymous July 15, 2013 at 8:41 pm

I also noticed Froome and company taking on the 3 musettes. Certainly during the last 20K, having additional fuel is a large advantage when others are bonking or already have dashed hopes down the mountain. How much are the fines for this? Watching Froome pull away from him was quite a feat to watch.

I know when I’ve hit-the-wall on a climb and pull out some high-tech goo, that my engine revs a lot higher, and that’s just enough to leave the rest in your rear-view mirror.

Again, money talks.

Robbo July 15, 2013 at 10:34 pm

I think this restriction is often lifted when the weather is particularly warm; perhaps this, combined with a very long stage, high pace for the first 220km, and the finishing climb played into the decision (all speculation). I would think these guys should have been fueled up before hitting the climb, but maybe the high pace limited their abilities to actually eat or drink what they were handed. The body’s response is not immediate, however, and you often hear of guys eating late in the stage in order to get a head start on recovery and the next day.

The Inner Ring July 16, 2013 at 12:52 am

I gather feeding was allowed. Look again and you’ll see Garmin-Sharp staff passing up water too. Odd that a musette was passed up though, normally you’d take a bottle. The act of grabbing a bag, putting it on your shoulder and filling your pockets is fine for taking lots of items but odd for 12km to go.

roomservicetaco July 16, 2013 at 12:14 am

Thanks for the clarification. If true, wouldn’t be the first time that Sherwin and Liggett were wrong in their commentary.

On the other hand, if an exception was made and feeding was allowed, why did no other teams do it (or at least Saxo, Belkin, and Movistar)?

[Same question for Robbo below - if it's customary to allow it, wouldn't all teams have someone handing out bags? I've never seen it on any stage before and this one was listed at only 80F in the valley, presumably even cooler on the slopes of Ventoux.]

roomservicetaco July 16, 2013 at 10:07 pm

Duncan, looks like you were spot on: http://velonews.competitor.com/2013/07/news/jury-president-skys-ventoux-feed-legal-no-time-limit-extension-for-the-alpe_295537

If Sky paid attention to the race radio and took advantage where Saxo and Belkin did not, then kudos to them and that is definitely a “marginal gain” advantage for them.

I will take the blame for believing that Sherwin and Liggett were worth relying on for credible information. Not only did they get this exception wrong, but they also claimed the rule was 20k, whereas the VeloNews article claims it’s 10k in a climbing stage.

Martijn July 15, 2013 at 6:35 pm

So Froome is dominating this year, but so were Merckx and Hinault in their times. This just sometimes happens. Froom rise seems to be remarkably quick, but consider that he rode for small South African teams and so was off the radar of the cycling press, while every 15 year old in Belgium who shows the slightest sign of talent is bombarded to be the new Merkcx/Boonen/Gilbert. Thijs Zonneveld, a former Dutch cyclist who is now a journalist, rode against Froome in Japan in a race when Froom was still riding for a small South African team. Froome was in a solo breakaway, Jacky Durand-style. They chased him with the entire peloton, but could not catch up with him. Zonneveld was so impressed, he asked for Froome’s shirt (There was another reason, and that was that Froome was really odd in that he was the most well mannered cyclist Zonneveld had ever seen. He folded out a napkin on his lap before starting his dinner.)

Another thing I have been thinking about is that maybe the end op the EPO-era will show bigger differences between riders instead of the smaller ones a lot of people expect. Where before everyone could be artificially cranked up to the same high level (think of people like Kohl and Popovich), now the bigger natural differences are showing again and we are not used to that any more.

There’s also this other thing, but I have to admit this is just wild speculation from my side. Great cyclists used to be pretty allround. Not only Merckx; as late as 1988 Sean Kelly managed to win the Vuelta and Gent-Wevelgem in the same year. Then suddenly came this laser like focus on just the Tour de France. Armstrong perfected it, but it started with Indurain. You hardly saw them in other races. We were told this was because cycling had become more professional, but to me it’s somewhat suspicious that this change coincided with the start of the EPO-era. My (I admit, rather wild) hypothesis is that the very high hematocrit levels needed to win the Tour in those days were so unhealthy and laborsome (getting up several times a night to make sure your blood keeps running) that you wanted to have them as briefly as possible. Now that we have left that behind us, we are getting back to the times where just a few cyclists dominate the field year round (not completely though, because it’s definitely true that cycling has become more professional.)

Anonymous July 15, 2013 at 8:25 pm

Are you kidding. Merckx tested positive on at least three drug test. Boonen suspended for recreational drug use.

I hope they are clean now and Froome is the Tiger Woods of cycling, but fool me once shame on you fool me a hundred times……

Martijn July 15, 2013 at 8:47 pm

The general assumption is that before EPO doping in cycling didn’t make that much of a difference. The sport was far from clean though.

I am completely with you on Boonen or, mainly Lefevre. Sky is put under a magnifying glass and a lot of people are asking the perfectly legitimate question whether Bjarne Riis should still be allowed to be a TD. Nobody ever asks any questions about the different incarnations of QuickStep – one of the bigger teams in the classics all through the 90s ans 00s and Lefevre’s role in them. Just check their list of past riders and successes and tell me that that isn’t strange. Lefevre seems to have master some sort of mind control trick where every time a journalist gets close they hear a voice in their head “Nothing is wrong, no problem here.”

Scott July 16, 2013 at 11:50 am

Backing up @Martijn’s point:
There’s a great quote from Andy Hampsten in The Secret Race – he said that, until EPO, a clean rider could beat a doped rider. Despite the performance improvements of the drugs used, there were side effects, and negative effects. He managed to identify the weaknesses of doped riders and exploit them to win.
EPO completely changed the game and clean riders couldn’t compete any more.

Scott July 16, 2013 at 12:00 pm

Although I can’t see the relevance of Boonen’s positive – his suspension was for affecting the dignity of the sport/association with illegal activity, not for performance enhancement.
No-one would bring it up if he’d lost his driving licence for speeding – and I’d view the two offences of recreational drug use and speeding as equally villainous.

That’s not to say that I dismiss questions about Lefevre. For Riis there seem to be enough answers to those types of questions – he should be gone.

cd July 15, 2013 at 7:03 pm

Thoughts:

1) Wouldn’t this nonsense about winning through incremental gains be lost as soon as a rider left Team Sky. Wouldn’t Rogers know what these increments were and bring them to Saxo and help AC? I doubt there’s some non-disclosure agreement.

2) How would releasing Froome’s power data help the other teams at this point. It’s pretty clear he’s putting out significantly more power than anyone else and no amount of teamwork by others is going to overcome that.

3) Castelli is claiming their new kit saves 12 watts. Not helping the Garmin guys that much.

noel July 16, 2013 at 2:16 pm

1. Saxo have upped their game markedly since Rogers joined them
2. by releasing the data, other teams would begin to know what kind of outputs they are planning to run at etc etc and plan strategies to counter it accordingly
3. Garmin are having a pretty decent Tour aren’t they?

framed July 15, 2013 at 7:08 pm

Er, even I have heard Brailsford say before that he is willing to give all his data to an independent panel of experts (but not to competitors) so this is hardly a breaking news revelation. It’s not even new for this Tour, he said to ITV (British broadcasters of the Tour) at least a week ago and broadcast in their rest day programme from last Monday…

The Inner Ring July 16, 2013 at 12:53 am

Interesting that this the news last week didn’t go any further than the one national TV channel.

Dave H July 15, 2013 at 7:13 pm

I have read often in the past week or so that people have a right to be sceptical of cycling performances due to the sport’s past and that is true. What is noticeable, however, is that very few of the armchair dope testers recognise the line between healthy scepticism and drawing a firm negative conclusion.

I have never read or heard any rumour of Froome doping, the basis of every accusation I have heard seems to based on two things:

Firstly he is just too good. If being excellent at cycling is reason for suspicion then what is the point of the sport? Should cyclists be aiming to get as close as possible to some theoretical clean limit but no better lest they be suspected?

Secondly he has improved too much in too short a time. This has a bit more validity but I question whether we can really expect the standard cycling career path to a man from the cycling backwater who only joined a top level team relatively late and suffered from a debilitating illness for a number of years. Sure, an abnormal career trajectory is suspicious but only if doping is the only logical explanation for it.

Froome may be doping but I have seen no compelling evidence yet, just a lot of hot air from people who mistake outright denial for scepticism.

Big Mikey July 16, 2013 at 4:08 pm

No compelling evidence, in light of the fact that he has done a number of climbs in times better than known dopers at their peak?

The evidence is there for those who aren’t blinded by patriotism.

Steve July 16, 2013 at 10:46 pm

Well, the evidence for suspicion is there, especially for the suspicious. I seriously doubt anyone from Britain even sees Froome as a compatriot. He’s a white African if anything, like Kevin Pietersen or Brad Barritt, not a proper Brit like Mo Farah or David Millar.

Duncan July 17, 2013 at 2:16 am

You can make time comparisons and form opinions about them, but they do not present substantial or incontrovertible evidence.

Take the men’s 100m athletics sprint as an example: if you look at the progression in world record time over the last few decades, the sudden leap to Usain Bolt’s 9.58s in 2009 is way outside the general trend. Does this mean he was doping to achieve the result? Consider also that this time is, for this sport and event, light-years ahead of the 9.79 (rescinded) world record set by Ben Johnson in a known doped condition two decades earlier, and we have a similar scenario to the comparisons of today’s cyclists’ times being set against those of known doped cyclists from a decade or two ago.

And the conditions for running 100m records are pretty stable, unlike in cycling where weather, drafting other riders, attacking earlier or later on a climb, energy expended earlier in the stage and on previous stages, are just some of the variables that can dramatically affect the time.

Humans make incremental progressions. And sometimes surprising leaps.

Those that break records could all be doping, and every individual who has not yet been found to be doping could be clean – for those that are clean, how much do we take away from their efforts to voice strong opinions with little evidence?

Martijn July 17, 2013 at 7:54 am

Probably a Jamaican sprinter is not the example you would want to use at this moment… :) I’d go for Bob Beamon’s 1968 long jump record or Sergey Bubka’s 1994 6.14 m. Even if Beamon and Bubka were doping – and in case of Bubka that wouldn’t surprise me at all – their records are too much of an outlier to be able to explain them by that alone, and that’s not even taking in consideration the very technical nature of pole vault.

Tom July 15, 2013 at 7:15 pm

Brailsford lack credibility when it comes to anti-doping.

First he has a zero-tolerance policy for riders and staff. Then he doesn’t for staff. And he hires Sean Yates, Bobby Julich, and Geert Leinders. But he keeps Michael Berry, even after the allegations by Landis, which turn out to be true. And now he reiterates his zero-tolerance policy.

We’re clean. Trust me.

Larry T. July 15, 2013 at 7:30 pm

They say they didn’t know about the doper’s history. Amazing how ignorant they can be UNTIL the yellow jersey is safely on the back of Wiggo in Paris. Once the objective has been completed, suddenly they get the news that all those staff and riders had been (the outrage!) involved in doping – and sack them all! Now they have this new guy, wiping the floor with everyone, no matter the course. SOMETHING just smells fishy about the entire thing…and I doubt the fishy smell can be easily washed off if SKY brings home another Tour win. As LeMond has said, let’s see ALL the data, quit whining about pseudo-scientists and what they think. Otherwise, the smell will just get worse.

cd July 15, 2013 at 7:39 pm

And why didn’t it work year 1 w/ Wiggins? What were the reasons in 2010 that he was awful at the Tour. I keep worrying that failure and the crash in 2011 (wiggo crashed right?) led to greater pressure to win, given how much they were spending.

Anonymous July 15, 2013 at 8:48 pm

Transparency will quiet the crowd, or not.

Sean July 16, 2013 at 2:26 am

That did create a credibility problem, I agree. And he and Froome and the team are probably paying for it a little now.

But I imagine he never lost credibility to a large part of the British audience, which is presumably the most important thing to manage for him and the sponsors.

Tom July 15, 2013 at 7:38 pm

Inrng, have you had a look at Tinkov’s twitter feed? Your brief profile mention of him in today’s Rest Day Notes suggests that he’s a plainspoken man of the people, and draws some comparison between him and Richard Branson… but if you read Tinkov’s Twitter feed (as pointed out by Matt and others in these comments), Tinkov appears to be a disgusting, foul-mouthed, juvenile, arrogant, homophobe… and that’s just for starters. Sample response to someone questioning his wisdom: “I hate fatty boys”, based I guess on his interlocutor’s overweightish Twitter photo.

Not suggesting that he be censored or ignored but it feels weird to read your vaguely admiring words about Tinkov, without an accompanying mention of the fact that he appears to be a vicious and indecent jerk.

Tovarishch July 15, 2013 at 7:58 pm

Unfortunately something of a common trait amongst those, I must call now, my countrymen.

The Inner Ring July 16, 2013 at 1:16 am

He’s gone berserk on Twitter in recent days. I’ve been following him for a year or more and he’s been excited at times but never like this.

Vitus July 16, 2013 at 1:31 am

All this comments here brought me to read his twitter feed at last. Shouldn’t have done that……
What an idiot that is. Unbelievable.
And only because he has money some twats admire him. Any normal person with such tweets would be silently blocked and could only amuse his 10 followers.

Tovarishch July 15, 2013 at 8:04 pm

I am glad that the majority of the posters on this site are extremely level headed regarding the subject of doping. As I have posted elsewhere, there are three possible positions you can adopt:

1) Froome is a doper despite absolutely no evidence or even whispers from the peleton, journalists, current or ex-team members.
2) All those who breach an arbitrary limit (time up Ventoux, inside leg-measurement, theoretical watt/kilo) are dopers.
3) Everyone dopes

I don’t feel comfortable adopting any of those stances and I doubt if anyone who has any pretence at objectivity would do either.

Redeye July 15, 2013 at 8:37 pm

Really sad that the real legacy of the Armstrong era is that successful riders are automatically tainted, possibly more so if English is their first language.

Sky have undoubtedly handled the whole situation badly, but as inrng points out, they’re in a pretty difficult position to prove a negative. One of the problems at the moment is that there’s some pretty diabolical “journalism” going on. Some of what is being said about Froome is libelous and completely baseless, but he can’t do anything about it without the Armstrong comparisons becoming even stronger.

While it’s healthy to question riders cleanliness given the recent past, accusations made without any verified scientific data or a vetted whistleblower’s evidence are nothing more than gossip and should be treated as such. Even if they come from a “journalist” who has uncovered evidence of doping in the past.

Oliver July 15, 2013 at 9:08 pm

–Tests can’t catch cheats — apart from the token small fry, or German media pressure (see Contador) — and the UCI doesn’t really care — we know that, so obviously the fact that Froome cranks out performances at the level of Armstrong or better is alarming to say the least. Think about it. (And no, its not because they eat a lot of vegetables as I read somewhere in the British press…)
–And no its not a PR problem. It might just be that Sky is not releasing data until they can find a way to present things that will hide the truth — hence the “odd for a team sponsored by a media company” delay. Its not odd, its logical: they will stall if they are cheating!
–So here we go again… stuck having to listen to a whole bunch of folks in complete denial: journalists, fans, tv commentators, and also the liars: the athletes themselves, the teams…

And then we’ll find out — surprise!! — that Froome (who could barely finish a grand tour a few short years ago) doped. But only because other less corrupt or less hypocritical institutions will get involved (some sort of judicial investigation perhaps). And then we’ll realize we were all duped just as we were by Armstrong and his journalist cronies. But then, just like for the Armstrong saga, it seems like folks will be ready to go through the whole thing again. And believe whoever is winning the very next year…
History repeats itself in cycling: first as a tragedy, now as a farce. When will it stop?

MikeF July 16, 2013 at 12:16 am

Which Armstrong performance is this then? Do you know which? Or are you taking second hand gossip based on cherry picking results? Do you know the conditions of each performance?

I don’t believe you do.

BC July 15, 2013 at 9:42 pm

An excellent attempt to explain why SKY are so careful with their data. It might not have occurred to you that several years of expensive data capture on rider performance would not be given lightly or openly to other teams for their own use. Brailsford has stated very clearly that he is prepared for the data to be reviewed by WADA. I would consider that a very generous offer, and one that negates this rather weak conspiracy theory.
No one knows the real answer, and wild conspiracy theory is all people seem capable of articulating – the sad legacy left to the sport by the UCI.
As far as I am concerned this years TdF has been an excellent and exciting event, with a leader who seems worthy and clean. Time will tell.

Ablindeye July 15, 2013 at 10:46 pm

Got to say I love the dealing and politics involved in tactics so thanks very much for the “Chance Meeting?” insight and the linked podcast (if anyone else is wondering the Brian Holm interview is around 12:12 onwards on episode 16).

Tom July 16, 2013 at 12:09 am

Inrng, what did you make of Froome dropping his head constantly on the climb? Did he have power data on his computer? I thought at times it looked like careful monitoring, as if he knew the numbers he could turn out and wound it up to them, but perhaps it’s just his riding style.

Noel July 16, 2013 at 12:58 am

I think he was talking on his radio when he dropped his head

The Inner Ring July 16, 2013 at 12:59 am

He often does this, in fact he’s looking down so far it’s like he’s staring at his bottom bracket more than the powermeter.

Christian July 16, 2013 at 2:35 am

My wife (God bless her she’s gotten into cycling) saw this too and asked me the same question, why does Froome look down so much. I had to make something up to make her believe I knew what I was talking about. The best I could do was to tell her that he was looking at his rear derailleur to see what gear he was and to know how much more room he had to shift up or down in the rear chain ring.

My wife, calling my bluff, speculated that he was trying to keep his mind off the pain ahead by not looking at the hill. I like her speculation better than mine.

Any other possibilities?

DNF July 16, 2013 at 3:49 am

I would say that when one is at the limit of his power/suffering, the body takes strange postures.

And Froome looking down is one of those many tics/twitches of the body.

We all have different styles, twitches when suffering, going at the limit, climbing, etc. Froome’s head down is just that, IMO.

Anonymous July 16, 2013 at 4:11 pm

Christian

I like your response.

The old “please let there be one more gear” syndrome.

Ronin July 16, 2013 at 7:21 pm

During extreme efforts, I find it easier to breath with my head down.

The Inner Ring July 16, 2013 at 1:06 am

Thanks for all the comments and interaction.

One overall observation: few believe in the anti-doping tests. It’s a lot better this year with the UCI and French agency AFLD doing targeted testing on many riders. But judging by a range of responses, from French radio phone-ins to the comments above, almost nobody expects these tests to catch anyone.

Phil D July 16, 2013 at 5:26 am

I think one of the reasons people are so big on Froome doping (besides of course the history of TDF winners doping) is that he is blowing away his competition. But lets think about that. Froome, who has been tabbed as the #1 TDF rider all year, who could have possibly won last year, placed 2nd and 4th in the Vuelta, is the reigning Olympic Bronze Medalist in the time trial, is a whopping 4 minutes and change up on…………Bauke Mollema. And yes, I know Mollema placed 3rd in the Giro a few years ago. But did anyone really expect Mollema to be in contention? Besides his mom and dad of course. Alberto hasn’t been the same since he got popped, Cadel placed well at the Giro, but looked old as hell in the last week, and has the Giro in his legs, and Teejay, bleh. Valverde got unlucky, and then looked like crap, and Movistar was riding for him not Quintano. No Samu, no Nibbles. Honestly, as great as the parcours for this tour are, the competition is not great. Chris Froome is head and shoulders above the rest. I mean, I really, really like Ten Dam, but there is no way he should be in the top 5 with one week to go.

DrHeaton July 16, 2013 at 10:08 am

I totally agree, rework the current GC giving everyone other than Mollema 3 minutes and you probably get something that most people were expecting. If it had been:

Froome
Contador @ 1’30”
Rodriguez @ 1’45”
Valverde @ 2’00”
Mollema @ 4’30”

Then I don’t think people would be throwing around so many accusations. The question should be, why are the other riders not riding at their ‘normal’ level? What has changed in the past few years that means Contador is no longer a world beater?

Anonymous July 16, 2013 at 4:16 pm

If Contador is “clean” he should still be as good as any other “clean” rider. I am not a Contador fan and I am surprised by his and others’ performances. I can’t help but think they are clean and expected everyone to be. I have always wondered about therapeutic usage wavers – LeMonde,Armstrong, Contador. Hmmmm

Anonymous July 16, 2013 at 11:03 am

I have to agree with that, all respect to Froome but the competition for the GC is not exactly strong. Much has been played of Valverde’ s misfortune, but seriously he would not be a challenger in the high mountains. Much like Bertie has never been the same since his Butcher was rumbled. Evans too old. Schleck’s a whole bag of issues. Rodriguez ??? and others like Ryder H are just not in the running. Now we have another boring TT to enhance Froome’s lead beyond doubt.

How about a 2 week TDF in future, the third week is a waste of time.

Anonymous July 16, 2013 at 1:52 pm

The Bertie who won last year’s Vuelta?…

Anonymous July 17, 2013 at 12:03 am

Spaniard wins Spanish Tour, go figure!

noel July 16, 2013 at 2:41 pm

also look back at the last 5o yrs… some Tours were won by nearly 30minutes, and a lot by between 10 and 20 minutes. I think EPO actually levelled the playing field to an extent that we now all think a 30 sec gap is normal – over 3,500 kms??.

NiMo July 16, 2013 at 10:48 pm

I think the only possible explanation for Froome’s dominance is the assistance of a performance enhancing…

GHOST SHARK

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y48HGKeHS_I

Anthony July 19, 2013 at 5:47 am

Looking forward to your article with Popper cited. I responded with a tweet a week ago mentioning Popper and Lakatos in relation to these pseudo-scientists.

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