Questions after The Oprah Show

Armstrong Oprah

Everyone seems to have a verdict on the Oprah show. Reviewing last night’s TV would be a novelty for this blog so if you want a good take see Bonnie Ford on ESPN for a strong piece that goes from body language to the big picture.

Given we already knew Armstrong was doping, there were not many answers to long standing questions during the show. In fact we got some revelations that only bring more questions. Here are questions for Armstrong, for the sport, its officials, the media and even the riders.

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Dealing With “The Question”

Oprah Winfrey show

Mark Cavendish got frustrated at the Omega Pharma-Quickstep team presentation when journalists repeatedly pressed him over the Lance Armstrong story. Presumably Cavendish wanted to talk about his the ambitions for 2013. But there’s only one show in town: Lance Armstrong.

The story stretches from primetime sofa to the US Department of Justice via the Tour de France and features an international celebrity in the midst of a downfall more public than Felix Baumgartner’s leap.

Given this even a big name like Mark Cavendish is going to be pressed relentlessly for a quote on Lance Armstrong and others will face tricky questions on other topics this year. What should a rider say? What can they say?

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Lance Armstrong’s Road to Redemption

Armstrong Oprah Winfrey

Lance Armstrong to confess to doping? Thanks to USADA there’s already hundreds of pages of evidence. At first the Oprah Winfrey interview looked like a celebrity stunt. Only the story now seems to be going a step further with reports that Armstrong will testify against senior UCI officials, shifting the story away from sofa interview into the saddle of pro cycling.

But the road to redemption will make riding seven Tours look easy. For starters if he wants to reduce his ban, getting it shorter than eight years looks tough and that’s just confronting the textual certainty of the WADA Code. Changing public opinion is altogether different.

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Saturday Shorts

Here’s the Pinocchio, the official mascot of the 2013 world championships. He’s the wooden puppet who dreams of being a boy but he’s also known famous because his nose grows longer when he lies. As Wikipedia puts it “he has also been used as a character who is prone to telling lies and fabricating stories,” and no many are laughing when he’s linked to pro cycling.

But things are not as they seem. Famous as a liar, the puppet is also a symbol of hope in Italy. This and more stories below.

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End of Season Prizes

Tom Boonen won the Flandrien prize for Belgian cyclist of the year, collecting the trophy from the Belgian Prime Minister. The annual award has been split in recent times give domestic prize and an international one, this time scooped by Bradley Wiggins.

If you want to understand how big cycling is in Belgium then note Boonen collected the award from bow-tie toting Elio di Rupo. There are not many awards dinners in the world where the head of government dishes out the prizes. Nor awards where a country’s top politician finds it worthwhile to be seen handing out the prize.

These awards are subjective but for me, often illustrate the best riders of the season better than the arithmetic of a points-based ranking system.

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Paul Kimmage Defence Fund Passes $20,000

Covering the malfunctions of cycling’s governing body is like riding into a headwind. It is tiring, progress is slow and sometimes you’d much rather turn around and go the other way. But the story of the UCI suing Paul Kimmage matters because it’s becoming more than a legal dispute.

With the right defence – aided by new revelations in print – it is possible Kimmage could win case. But sadly the UCI is fast-approaching a point where it will lose no matter what the court verdict is because the case looks selective and vindictive. But there’s still time to fix this.

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Sunday Shorts

Armstrong’s popularity plummets, ranked alonside Michael Bolton tries to offer some metrics on Armstrong’s falling popularity. Clearly retirement meant he became less visible but last week’s revelations have punctured his public image.

Now he’s ranked 2,192 (out of 2,500 celebrities tracked by the Dallas agency) on par with Michael Bolton. As for endorsement value, he once was in there with Brad Pitt, slipped to Steven Spielberg, and now is neck-n-neck with foul-mouthed singer Nicky Minaj. People trust him about as much as they do Paula Abdul.

This might be amusing but there’s a serious point to this as well. If he begins to fall then don’t be surprised to see the media tear strips off him. Just as his rise was chronicled, now there’s a chance his downfall takes place in front of cameras, gossip mags and websites.

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Armstrong: Should Riders Speak Up?

Voigt Media

The news that USADA has sanctioned Lance Armstrong has generated plenty of comment, taking talk of pro cycling from the back pages of newspaper to the front page, to the opinion page and on to TV and beyond. The media, fans, bloggers… it seems everyone has an opinion.

There are strong arguments on both sides, for example those satisfied to see a cheat caught could express their relief, versus those concerned about USADA’s handling of the case raising procedural questions.

But one area of calm is the pro peloton as few riders have said anything in public. Should they?

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Thoughts on the Giro

Giro wallpaper

The organiser of the Giro d’Italia Michele Acquarone has a blog on and his latest piece opens the floor to thoughts on the 2012 edition, the route and the racing. It’s good PR, opening up to the fans and seeking ideas. We’ll see what the response is and in time whether any thoughts are taken aboard by the “Pink Admiral”*

I don’t know if he’s a reader but Acquarone raises some interesting points about the Giro and the nature of racing. To summarise the last 100 years of cycle sport in a sentence we’ve seen races shorten in distance, the epic tests of 400km a day with dawn starts and gravel roads are gone and today pro cycling remains a gruelling test of endurance but it is increasingly defined by television.

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Bringing Le Tour to your TV

You probably haven’t heard of Jean-Maurice Ooghe. But the man in the striped shirt above is responsible for the TV images of the Tour de France and several other races, including the Tour of California.

Whilst the cycling world might be thinking about the upcoming Giro d’Italia, Ooghe is currently doing his own Tour de France ahead of the race in July, visiting all the stage towns en route. Last week he was in the Pyrenees and on Sunday morning he was in Brive, the finish of Stage 18.

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