Thursday Shorts

Here’s a film about another sport. Only the clip seems all too familiar given the subject matter. There’s no doubt other sports have big problems when it comes to doping but I’ve got mixed views when cyclists start saying “look at other sports!” as it can look like deflection when we need to focus on the problems at home.

Cross-country skiing is similar to cycling in that it is one of the most aerobic sports going and therefore blood doping turns the results upside down as the advantages are so big. As well as the theme of doping, the idea of national heroes being taken down seems familiar too, no?

El Barrio
The UCI’s “WorldTour coordinator” Javier Barrio has given a provocative interview, claiming the “WorldTour has revitalized cycling.” In the English translation Barrio seems to miss the point that whilst teams and riders are spending increasing amounts of time, effort and money focussing on the system, it is like a dog chasing its tail rather than a sporting contest. Teams change tactics thanks to points but it’s not made the racing any better and at the margin it’s made the sport more defensive as teams are incentivised to race-by-numbers rather than throw caution to the wind. Still I think the idea is essential, it just needs reforming.

Take Alberto Contador and his ride in the Vuelta. On the morning of Stage 17 Contador was sitting second overall. Normally this would provide a giant haul of Sporting Value points for Team Saxo-Tinkoff and the team might prefer to defend second position. But thanks to a new UCI rule, someone returning from a doping ban can’t score Sporting Value points for their team so Contador had zero points whether he was second or second last. So he had nothing to lose when he attacked. It’s impossible to say if the result would be different had Contador been able to earn points but it shows the dilemma. Hopefully Barrio and others can work to address the system. As the Irish Peloton blog notes the sport might be engulfed in crises but this is the one thing to fix that’s wholly under the UCI’s own control. Plus if the UCI want to confuse people how about having arguably the sport’s top rider in the second division? Only in pro cycling.

Tour of Rwanda
A quick mention of this race in Africa. I’m fascinated by the dirt roads, the big crowds and the enthusiasm of the participants. The images look impressive. In Europe the sport has to borrow old roads and venerate the cobbles in a bid to evoke history but the Rwandan race doesn’t have to pick out special roads, instead it just finds red roads instead of strade bianche although there are plenty of normal roads that could be anywhere in Europe or the US. Still perhaps it does at times show us a glimpse of what cycling was like 50 or even 100 years ago, a simpler but tougher sport. Enough words, see the images for yourself thanks to one of the sport’s most intrepid photographers Sonoko Tanaka:

Simplex Derailleur Mech

Mr Derailleur
On the subject of old cycling, what about Mike Sweatman and his collection of derailleurs? Bicycling Mag have an interview and gallery. What strikes me is the lack of change over the years. Since the early models we’ve only seen refinements in engineering and progress has been quite linear. Even today’s electronic shifting are still based on a parallelogram bolted onto the bike.

Apologies if some of the spam comments have been getting through onto the blog. Normally they’re blocked by a filter but for some reason The site’s been flooded with messages and a few have washed over the firewall.

24 thoughts on “Thursday Shorts”

  1. Love your blog – these tid-bits are great alongside the indepth stuff.

    You teased us with a comment in a piece a few weeks ago about the “true story” behind Marc Madiot hanging out the car during Pinot’s win in this years tour. You intrigued me, any chance of sharing that soon?

    • thank you, thank you, thank you. Memories flooding back, Suntour, Simplex, Campag, 60s, 70s, 80s, etc, etc, beginning to realise how many derailleurs I have known and fiddled with, 🙂

  2. On the subject of movies, ESPN recently had a great film about Ben Johnson’s run in the Seoul Olympics and drug use in Olympic sports in general and mainly track and field during the eighties.
    You see the same themes in doping everywhere (like taking national heros, “if you don’t take it you can’t make it” and much more.) Here is a trailer:
    and here is the whole film:

  3. I think it was 2 years ago at the xc Tour de Ski the commentator mentioned in passing that one of the Russian skiers had withdrawn from the race because of a high hematocrit test result. After that no more was said, I saw no mention of it on the FIS website and he returned to racing at the next event I believe. Not that we should be deflecting from cycling’s own problems but it does show some sports seem a long way behind.

    • The FIS and IBU both use a haemoglobin test. A nitpick, but it is not a hematocrit test. The limit for women is 160, for men 170 and 175. In both sports there will be a five-day starting prohibition. Furthermore, if the off-score is attention-worthy, there will be a 14-day starting prohibition and a set of additional blood and urine tests.

      Cycling is far from alone as a sport that struggles with doping, but I don’t think one can argue that cross-country skiing is “a long way behind” in anti-doping or that doping in XC skiing is worse or more widespread than in cycling.

  4. I’ve said before that the World Tour system is wholly unnecessary, as it regulates issues such as who is invited to which race, that should be left unregulated. Mr. Barrio’s considerations are a real load of (insert your Sex Pistols quote here). Even the best “points-system” will have its flaws from a certain angle. Superprestige Pernod was just as good as any ranking system, and was harmless in terms of who could race where.

  5. The finnish movie is shown on norwegian tv tomorrow. In the media they are accusing the norwegian domination of the mens XC skiing in the 90s to be based on doping.
    Looking forward to se the entire movie. I would be surprised if they come up with something substantial evidence.

    • “They” being the filmmakers (rather than the Finns) and in the first instance it is a Norwegian chap who is doing the accusing (i.e. who is the source of the filmmakers’ claim).

      It is quite amusing that the mention of the film elicited just the kind of kneejerk myopic comment that perfectly illustrates the point INRNG made about “national heroes”.

  6. I really enjoy this blog…thank you. On the subject of movies, does anyone know where you can find downloadable footage of past races. Youtube is ok…but content is often imconsistent. Thanks!

  7. I’ve got mixed views when cyclists start saying “look at other sports!” as it can look like deflection when we need to focus on the problems at home.

    But these scandals often revolve around the same people. Michele Ferrari, Luis Garcia del Moral, Eufemanio Fuentes: all these names are also mentioned in combination with big football clubs like Juventus and FC Barcelona and e.g. star tennis players.

    In regards to football it is often said that doping can’t turn you into Messi, but as an Ajax-fan I remember the 1996 CL finale all too well: one of the reasons Ajax lost was because of mediocre Juventus-players like DiLivio and Torricelli, who just kept on running and running and running… UEFA and of course (Ma)FIFA, the only sports organization in the world with a reputation worse than the UCI, never took any action against this. I read somewhere that the tennis federation ITF conducted a total of just 21 out of competition controls world wide last year. That’s men and women combined.

  8. I have definitelu heard of epo, blood doping, and M. Ferrari in connection with XC skiing, so no surprise there.

    Thanx for sharing the photos of TdRwanda, now thats cycling!!

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