Riders on a Storm

Hamilton races to victory in Liege-Bastogne-Liege

Tyler Hamilton’s win in La Doyenne in 2003 was one of the highlights in what was generally a fantastic season. A great Spring campaign, a great Giro, a great Tour, a great Fall; unpredictable races, and closely-fought battles littered the events. But, with the luxury of 20-20 hindsight and a quick cross-reference of results listings to doping scandals, it’s safe to assume that season landed smack in the middle of an era of jet-fueled racing that rivals the 1990’s in their indulgence.

It’s a tough time to be a cyclist. Death, doping scandals, corruption in the organizing bodies of the sport. We test our athletes more than any other sport, but the tests are flawed and incomplete, and rumors persist that teams and riders pay off not just the labs to surpress positive tests, but also the UCI. Hamilton’s confession on 60 Minutes this week is the latest in an unsettling chain of events that keep peeling back more layers of the onion. I was a big fan of Tyler’s and part of me even believed in his innocence. He seemed like a genuinely nice guy – much too nice a guy to get involved in cheating. But there he was on television, talking openly about the magnitude of drugs-taking within the USPS team.

On the other hand, I’ve never been a fan of Armstrong’s. I find him to be arrogent, controlling, manipulative. His Tour wins were too formulaic; in sharp contrast to his fight with cancer, his racing showed no element of humanism. I have taken it for granted that his wins came with considerable assistance from a carefully planned and executed doping regimen. But these beliefs were woven together by a thread of doubt, and the possibility always existed that his were clean wins.

Hearing Hamilton talk of the seemingly nonchalant attitude towards doping at USPS and, in particular, by Armstrong, is surprising not in the content of the message, but in how hard the message hit. I expected the words. I had read them. I have even written many of them myself. But there was always a tangible element of speculation about them. For me, that element is now gone, and it feels strange to say the least.

Even as someone who generally accepts that doping is commonplace in the peloton, it hurts me every time another allegation of doping comes out. It takes me days to recover from it. But even if the worst happens, if Professional Cycling as we know it today falls apart, cycling will continue. Because cycling is more than watching others race bikes. It’s about racing or riding the bike yourself. It’s about overcoming your own limitations. It’s about the rider and the machine working together. It’s about cleaning, caring for, thinking about your bike. It’s about taking photos of it so you can look at it when you’re away.

Cycling rides through a storm today, but we will always have the bike. We will always have la Vie Velominatus.


Related Posts

155 Replies to “Riders on a Storm”

  1. @minion @Marcus
    Chaps, we need to call a truce about now, before our American cousins start to think that maybe Livestrong.com ain’t so weird and repulsive, relatively speaking, as they’d thought.

  2. Oi, soz mates!! Look what I did ‘ere! Didn’t mean to derail the thread! Or did I?

    Us Americans, always mucking with everything. God this thread reminds me why I love this site so… serious introspection combined with funny funny shit.

  3. @mcsqueak
    I hope, Mate, you are not accusing any Antipodeans of “serious introspection”. We would take very strong exception – umbrage, even – were you to do so. You might find pages on Livestrong devoted to “serious introspection”, but you won’t find any of us down here participating in that sort of carry on.

  4. @G’phant
    True. We feel the insults more keenly because of how similar Kuwis and Aussies are. FWIW my SWMBO is Australian, so there may be, just a tiny bit, of, ell, venting going on here on my part, with all the Australian cricket, Aussie rules and Australian beer (Cascade) I end up taking part in. All is meant in jest, though I do take nearly any opportunity I get to get a shot in.

  5. @G’phant

    Ah no worries, I would never accuse y’all of that. I was more thinking of the Americans around here – always providing insights at 110% to make up for everyone else.

  6. @minion
    Cascade? You mean you married a Tasmanian?!?

    As for the term Antipodeans, it really shits me. Every point on earth has a fucking antipodeal point – on the exact opposite point of the globe. So one country cannot be the Antipodes to both Americans and British. The blanket application of this term to Australians and New Zealanders pisses me off.

  7. @Marcus
    Are you OK, Mate? You’re pretty fired up today. Do you need a hug? Or some serious introspection? Or a Cascade?

  8. @Frank
    Your quote: “What I feel awful about – AWFUL – is people struggling with cancer who hold his story as a beacon of hope. And the fact of the matter is, he did fucking survive cancer. It was in his brain. And he beat it. That’s the amazing story and his riding didn’t have anything to do with it. But the patients won’t see it that way and that breaks my heart.”

    Well written, but ironic that serious drugs beat Lance’s cancer. And serious drugs may have assisted with his many wins.

  9. @Marcus
    Heck there’s nowhere to hide around here is there. I like cascade because it’s tasty not VB the stout’s ok my girlfriend’s from hobart and I die a little every time I drink one.

  10. Dan O:
    Your quote: “What I feel awful about – AWFUL – is people struggling with cancer who hold his story as a beacon of hope. And the fact of the matter is, he did fucking survive cancer. It was in his brain. And he beat it. That’s the amazing story and his riding didn’t have anything to do with it. But the patients won’t see it that way and that breaks my heart.”
    Well written, but ironic that serious drugs beat Lance’s cancer. And serious drugs may have assisted with his many wins.

    Actually, if you read his book you will see that it was the bike that kept him going, kept his focus, kept his joy for life.

    Saying the bike had nothing to do with his recovery is like saying that a support network is not an important part of post treatment recovery. Drugs alone do not cure, they are a part of the whole package.

    We as Velominati should understand this more than any others. Like him or hate him (i’m on the fence atm with this), the bike DID help in his recovery from cancer, as it helps us every day to tear off the cloak of cubicalness on our daily rides, to rid us of the humdrum that is work, that interrupts the period between rides.

  11. Minion:
    I like cascade

    You should be drinking James Boags. Much nicer taste. @JiPM, I am sure that this will get that funny taste out of your mouth as well after your not so tasty post from Laughstrong.com

  12. Just back on topic for a sec (much as I love to rev up a Kiwi, and incidentally we do have weasels in Oz but they’ve learnt how to walk on their hind legs, drive Mercs and sell real estate)..has anyone pushed the conspiracy theory about Clenbutador’s brain clot being a result of the gear he was on? At that time, he had been in the clutches of Manolo Sainz and the Liberty Seguros/Wurth for a few years, having been racing from a pretty early age…

  13. I SHOULD BE DRINKING NEW ZEALAND BEER (thanks for your concern though!)

    Do weasels have white feet? There’s a running joke about real estate agents with white shoes. Could be an evolutionary trait.

  14. @Marcus
    Sounds like you’ve lived in London mate, that used to really make me grit my teeth being referred to that way as well. But, when you balance out all the good bits, especially the cash the UK government is paying to subsidise the nice little lifestyle of our own little 3 x Grand Tour stage winner Gerro, I can live with it.

    Sounds like you’re just grumpy from riding in the dark on these wet cold Melbourne mornings..

  15. @Minion
    Yes, but only those found up North (Gold Coast variety)…hehe

    I was going to mention possums but had a thought you Kiwi’s had monster sized ones, or so I was told. Ahhh, it’s all gone a bit hillbilly..

  16. @pakrat
    Interesting list. Soler? Now there’s a juice monkey if ever there was one. No results at all since a test for CERA was developed.
    And don’t get me started on COTHO surviving cancer because of a bike or any special personal qualities. People in desperate situations cling to any beacon of hope. And if that gets them through, then that is great. But my layman’s understanding is that it comes down to the quality of your treatment and pure luck.
    What I have always wondered is: How would Lance have turned out without cancer?? An ocassional TdF top 10 finisher 7kg above what should be a winning weight? And no
    fanatical followers?
    Please don’t take this as a heartless outlook on cancer. It is anything but!

  17. @frank

    Methinks you doth protest too much. Come on Frank, I wasn’t personally attacking you. All I said was you’ve said some strong words about riders doping, and I wasn’t personally used to you leaping off the page all flaming and brandishing emotion. You have – and I’m not mistaking your comments reflecting dislike of Contador because he’s a jerk, for comments about doping specifically. Observation, not criticism; your emotion expressed in writing isn’t a negative. I also understand your and the Keepers overall views… I was, in the last comment, and am in general, just ruminating on how interesting it is to see everybody examining how they feel, which is really sort of amazing, to see the process of change and introspection, growth, happening on paper. So to speak. You are doing it too; you said it yourself – I’ll paraphrase – that you have recently realized your frustration/anger about the doping is because of… etc. That sentence covered the two things I was simply observing: Frustration/anger – er, strong emotion? Which you possibly let color SOME of your writing? (not a bad thing at all, that’s one thing that’s great around here, people let themselves show) Check. Recent realizations about what that may really have been about for you; pretty interesting awareness? Check.

    Sorry I’m still back in the serious stuff, I’m trying to catch up. Have a cookie.

  18. @Bianchi Denti
    Since u r being a bit if a smartarse let me join u. Pre-cancer Armstrong was a tour stage winner, multiple classics winner (San sebastian and Flèche) and a world champ. He was no slouc

  19. @Mikeweb
    This is turning into a complete farce. I would have some sympathy for the guy if it wasn’t his team calling for the extension. In my mind there are only two reasons why you would seek an extension in a case like this a)They need more time to examine information by the other side that has only been been provided recently and out with any set time frame (and if that was the issue here, any request for an extension would be preface with a protest about the lateness of that information or a move to have it made inadmissible) or b) his case sucks. If he is not prepared to turn up before the tour, he shouldn’t race in it.
    My own thoughts on doping in general are that it is cheating and there is no excuse for it. I do however believe that there is no point in looking backward and pointing fingers – the fact is that unless the status of each and every competitor in a race could be determined, we will never know who gained an improper advantage of whom.
    As for LA, whilst he might be an arrogant prick and be responsible for some web based oddness, he gets the benefit of my doubt until he is proven guilty.

  20. @Chris
    Farce is too gentle a word Chris. Doping yourself then getting busted is one thing, but Clenbutador’s actions are just sh1tting all over the peloton and us the fans.
    Despite the Spanish President making a statement (political threat and order, really) that he thought AC was innocent, the whiny little guy has been busted, cold. He’s not arguing that he didn’t dope, he’s using the dog ate my homework excuse. That Chinese Radio Hack rider who also got done for Clenbuterol and received two years must wish he had powerful mates like AC.
    This goes back to Operacion Puerto and the fact that the good doctor stated many ‘patients’ were not cyclists, but were in fact La Liga players from Real Madrid and Barcelona, as well as a certain tennis star (Rafa..?).
    Clenbutador should do the honorable thing and cop his right wack, but then I guess he’s been doing it a long time and doesn’t care how much he f@cks up the sport of cycling…

  21. @SupermanSam
    Don’t get me wrong I’m not trying to defend the guy and I’m not a fan but regardless of the whether or not he thinks he has a legitimate case for his positive test, the way in which this has been handled by the UCI and the CAS is doing more damage than the original offence. In my mind he should not be allowed to race until he has been cleared or served a ban you cannot have people riding on a positive result pending an appeal but at the same time, deciding which it should be should not take over a year.

  22. @il ciclista medio

    Interestingly, my in-law’s, who are all from a beautiful little Japanese village in Northern Japan, use “Oiii” the same way we do here in Oz/NZ/UK etc. Just a little more of a prolonged “ii” sound at the end but still used to get someone’s attention. Don’t think it has any ye olde English background over that way?

    No, the origins of the Japanese “Oiiiii” is not English. It originated when Godzilla traipsed all over that place and freaked them all out.

  23. @SupermanSam, @Chris
    Yeah, farce to say the least. Deplorable. Back to the governing bodies. How can they let this happen? Incredible.

    It will be interesting to watch ASO in the coming weeks; they prevented Boonen from starting the Tour because of damage to their image after his partying got a little rowdy. They tried it again and lost the court case against Quick Step because they couldn’t prevent someone from doing their job.

    Here’s hoping they keep him out; but I don’t have very high hopes.

  24. pakrat:
    Back to the doping…..just stumbled on this little gem at The Science of Sport.

    These are the highest recorded VAMs ever in the TDF. Thought it was pretty interesting knowing what we know now about who has been doping. If you want know how you stack up against these guys on your favorite climb, take the altitude gain (in meters of course) multiply by 60 and divide by the number of minutes it takes to complete the climb (altitude gain X 60/time = VAM).

    I went ahead and tried to find approximate weights for the riders listed when they did those climbs. This is what I came up with:

    Contador 62kg
    Riis 68kg
    Leblanc 62 kg
    Armstrong 75 kg
    Ullrich 73 kg
    Soler 70 kg
    Indurain 80 kg

    I don’t know enough about stats or sports science to determine any outliers or who’s producing what watts per kilogram. Maybe I could figure it out with more googling, but I don’t care enough too. Seems like Riis and Contador are too high on the chart for their weights, however.

  25. @frank
    This shouldn’t need to be down to the ASO, as cycling’s governing body the UCI should be the organisation to say whether someone should or shouldn’t be cycling. That’s the whole point of governing bodies (although going by the current palaver at FIFA…)
    And before anyone points back to my previous post where I talk about being innocent until proven otherwise, suspending Clenbutador until his hearing is more akin to holding someone on remand until they come to trial.

  26. @Chris
    Agreed completely – but the governing bodies have already proven themselves to be as effective as a hipster stopping a fixie without a brake, so the last line of defense is ASO. But, of course, while I cheered for Boonen when he won his last case to be allowed to start, I’m afraid that now set the precedent to allow Bertie. Bugger that.

  27. @Pakrat
    The more research I do, the more I find that it is basically impossible to make any assumptions about physical capability based on a single climb with so many variables. We don’t know how much the bikes weighed, the strength of any tail or head winds, the intensity of the riding before those climbs, rolling resistance of tires on pavement, or even how much water weight the riders lost by the time they got to those climbs. Tons of variables that can all make for fractions of a percent difference in calculated power output. Science of sport notes that Contador’s power output was 440watts on the high end and well under 400 on the low end. That makes the difference between the number of w/kg you can probably only produce by doping, and an attainable level.

    Records are, by definition, outliers. Quirks. Did most of those riders break the bounds of human possibility? Probably. But not definitely.

  28. @frank

    Yes, that was my thought also in so far as what the ASO will do. My guess is that Prudhomme will be tearing McQuaid and assorted yes-men at CAS new ones in the next few days. Will Saxo be dis-invited from the TdF? Will Bertie then get all whiney and threaten to retire again? Personally, part of me almost hopes that he’s allowed in and that Frandy kicks his ass on the Cols and that he’s popped for another positive to boot.

    This positive that’s still in arbitration is from LAST YEAR’S TdF for f&*k’s sake!!! The testing system is broken. The arbitration system is broken. The UCI has lost all legitimacy as an organization with any impartiality or a shred of ethics.

    Someone needs to distribute see-thru ketchup packets to the tifosi to use to pave his way up the mountain top finish tomorrow.

  29. @frank
    don’t get me started on talentless fuckers riding brakeless bikes! If you thought it was a problem trying to stop a fixie with no brake try watching your eight year old daughter get flattened by a brakeless (brainless?) bmxist trying to stop his bike by jamming his unlaced sneaker into his wheel.

  30. BTW, the only reason we’re even discussing this is because Bertie actually found it necessary to use a freaking diet drug during his spring training before he made his blood bank deposit for use in July. How idiotic is that? Here’s a guy whose only full time job is to basically ride his bike. No 40+ hour work week as a desk jockey, cashier, etc. A team and assorted servants to take care of his every need. Yet for some reason he found it necessary to take a diet drug instead of say, oh I don’t know, RIDING his bicycle MORE or being more CAREFUL of what he EATS???

    This is the exact same reason that Flandis got popped. He wasn’t stupid enough to use T during the Tour, he was an idiot to think that somehow the substance would magically disappear in the blood bag when he was using it during training and employing the Vampire method.

  31. @Seth!
    Brilliant. Just when it’s all getting depressing what with Tyler and George and the whole ‘We need more time to think about the beef situation’ news, someone finds that perfect antidote – Jens!. Thanks. Am looking forward to seeing the other interviews in the series – though I cannot imagine they’ll be as engaging as Jens!’ one.

  32. @Marcus
    Marcus, you’re right. I am being a smartarse, and Armstrong was no slouch pre-cancer. Just trying to start a conversation. That’s what makes this forum so great.

  33. @Xponti

    For sure the bike assisted with his recovery and will to live – no doubt about that. However, without chemo and other scary ass drugs, just riding a bike isn’t going to cure your cancer – especially with the serious illness Lance was facing.

  34. @Dan O
    Didn’t say that JUST riding was going to, only that it was a part of his will to beat cancer. You can drug people up as much as you like but if they don’t think they have anything to live for, then they won’t. If there is something there to fight for and something driving them to beat cancer, then that is a help. The body is still a mystery and the brain even more so.

    All I am saying is that his determination to beat cancer AND to get back on the bike HELPED him to beat cancer, not WAS the REASON he beat cancer.

  35. frank :

    No, the origins of the Japanese “Oiiiii” is not English. It originated when Godzilla traipsed all over that place and freaked them all out.

    It was Mothra; Gojira hit Tokyo and I understand it was more like “faaark me” than “oiii, here comes that big beastie”

  36. @il ciclista medio
    Oooooh. Thanks for the clarification.

    Just saw this; interesting details:

    Saugy, who was the lab’s scientific director at the time, told Swiss newspaper Neue Züricher Zeitung that he remembered four “suspect” samples from the 2001 Tour de Suisse but did not know whether they belonged to Armstrong.

    And, regarding the meeting with Pharmy:

    However, Saugy said that the meeting did not take place at the Swiss lab – as stated by Hamilton in the 60 Minutes TV show – but during a trip made to collect blood samples. “And it also wasn’t about discussing a particular result or to cover up anything. I explained how the EPO test worked and why there were suspect samples as well as positive ones. This information was part of a lecture that I had been giving in various locations.”

  37. A few last words on LA or COTHO. I don’t know him and I’m not a personal friend of Armstrong. That is a very short list. I have raced on and off for over 20 years in Texas and I have been in races that Armstrong participated in during the period of the late 80s. (A former life when I was 155 lbs of pure fucking steel, piss and vinegar). I can tell you he was the strongest rider I have ever seen in Texas including several others that have gone on to be European professionals. He was also a stupid, abrasive, arrogant, chubby teenager that should have won every race he entered. He would almost always go straight off the front from the bell and try to shame the rest of the pack with his huge motor. I’ve seen him lap the field in circuit races and I’ve seen him lose to much lesser riders because of his lack of tactical sense. I’m fairly certain that Richardson Bike Mart was not supplying him with PEDs at that time and he was a fucking beast.

    I can tell you that based on what I know of him that he is a difficult person to work for. Again, arrogant and abrasive with very high expectations. I know people who have had personal and/or professional relationships with LA that would agree with Frank’s assessment of his personality.

    However, I know for a fact that Livestrong is a purely altruistic pursuit for him. He does NOT benefit from it financially and his demeanor towards the survivors and volunteers is a complete contrast to his other professional relationships. To say Livestrong is a “cash cow” or some sort of fodder to mask his persona is total bullchit. Look at the financial statements that are a matter of public record.

    You’re entitled to your opinion of COTHO, but to piss on Livestrong is completely fucking ridiculous. It is what it says it is and it does what it says it does.

    Now back to my present life…2 hours of towing 185 lbs up and down these ATEX hills. Still a lot of piss and vinegar. Not much steel.

  38. Tibbaustin:
    I can tell you that based on what I know of him that he is a difficult person to work for.

    Well yeah, look at how he would yell at Alfonso to get off of his bike and back to work at the office during last year’s TdF “The Shack” commercials. I assume those were real, yes?

    In all seriousness, thanks for the ‘local’ insights. My personal take on doping, in regards to Armstrong (and other riders who have been suspected dopers but have gone on to crush their opponents) isn’t that doping is what made them great, it’s that they were already at the top of their game and doping provided just one more little advantage. I think riders like Armstrong or Alberto could still do amazing things, even without doping – but if they did indeed dope, were just looking for any little advantage they could get, because in professional racing, a difference of seconds or meters matters can matter a lot.

  39. @mcsqueak

    Damn, learn to proof read already.

    That last sentence should be “… because in professional racing, a difference of seconds or meters can matter a lot.”

  40. I’m of the mindset that cyclingnews et. al. could cease publishing headlines about Ricco. I realize ignoring the problem won’t make it go away but why bother giving this shitbag attention-shore any press? And to call him a “controversial” rider is a bit of an understatement. Why not just make the headline “Fuckwaffle Rider, Ricco, to Sign with some other straw-grasping continental team”.

  41. @Marko

    In fact, they could just start using one headline for all these types of “news”: “Fuckknuckle publicity whore finds desparate suitor. Ignore this article.”

  42. Hamilton officially has had his gold medal taken away from 2004.  Thankfully it went to Veino, who we all know was squeeky clean in 2004.   That’s the only problem with revoking these medals years later.  Hamilton admits it, has his medal taken away.  Others who are not above doubt admit nothing and inherit medals.  Something definitely wrong there.

  43. @Oli

    @Buck Rogers It actually went to Ekimov, but the irony probably still applies…

    Oops!  Mixing my “Russian/Kazakh” riders up there!  Thanks for the clarification!  And you rode/ride track???  Man, the only time I have ever ridden on a track was the two finishing laps that I did in Roubaix this June and, let me tell you, that scared the HELL out of me!  Pure respect for all of you track riders out there!

  44. The Wellington Velodrome is rougher than any pussy cobbles that Paris-Roubaix race can throw up!

  45. @Oli Yeah, I have heard that the banking at the Roubaix velodrome is pretty tame in comparison to a lot of tracks.  But I actually have no idea as it is the only track that I have ever been on and it was scary enough for me!  I would love to live near a track and take some lessons in the future, though.

  46. @Buck Rogers The worst grazes I ever had from a bike crash – including high-speed MTB crashes, road crashes from 70kph descents and various other ways I used to attempt to maim myself – are from when my front tubular exploded as I was slowly rolling around the banking of our track after a scratch race.  I went down like a sack of shit, and smeared my side (arm, hands, shoulder, hip, buttock, thigh, calf and ankle) the whole way to the bottom. I ruined my shorts, my jersey, my gloves, my handlebar tape and so much skin I couldn’t even bandage the whole lot up – for what seemed like weeks I’d wake up in the mornings with the sheets semi-permanently stuck to me in large patches in several different uncomfortable places…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.