Archive for the ‘Lance Armstrong’ Tag

The End   Leave a comment

Well, that’s a wrap!

I’m disappointed – very disappointed, but not entirely surprised. I refer to the the release yesterday (2012/10/10) of the USADA’s “Reasoned Decision” and the subsequent confession statements. I guess the USADA did actually have a case – too bad they presented it as a Lance Armstrong witch hunt. It is now apparent that the entire US Postal Service team/organization was involved and likely other factions within the sport. The findings still need to be reviewed and acted upon by the international body, the UCI, but now I am willing to consider it a done deal.

What sealed it for me were the public confessions, announcements by the previously highly-respected George Hincapie and Levi Leipheimer. At this point I really don’t care what Lance did himself. I feel betrayed by that team with which I was so impressed. I feel let down by the sport of professional cycling – I can no longer support it!

I admit I am still curious  about a few thing related to this saga: How Johan Bruyneel will present his defence and how this fallout will affect Lance’s Livestrong brand and work (He has done good work there for the cancer community and I wish him him well). Yes curious, but I won’t be actively following the story.

This is of course not the first time we’ve seen big doping revelations in the sport with the subsequent claims of a new era. Unfortunately it now appears that the new era was not one of just harder and smarter training, improved equipment and tactics, but also an era where the doping cheaters leapt ahead of the detection science. It is sad that there even has to be so much effort put towards the detection system.

I will continue to  write and advocate for cycling – as a means for physical and mental health, for touring and commuting but this will be the last post I will make with regards to professional cycling. No longer will I be spending my mornings in July glued to the coverage of the Tour (nor May’s Vuelta or September’s Giro). Ahh, I will miss them but (and I hate to paint the entire sport and all its participants with the same brush) I can now longer waste my time with a sport in which I don’t have the confidence of completely fair competition.

“This is the end – beautiful friend”

 

 

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Posted October 11, 2012 by Randy Talbot in Cycle Racing

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Livestrong Lance   Leave a comment

Many people have weighed in on the announcement  last week by Lance Armstrong that he will NOT contest the USADA allegations against him – here’s my two cents worth on the topic.

In my heart I want to believe, I need to believe –  I DO believe that he is innocent – but I don’t know –  and you don’t know. If he is innocent only he will know for sure. If he is guilty chances are only a very few others will know. I fully understand him saying “Enough is enough”. What a burden to have to keep defending himself against the same old charges, year after year after year. It has got to be very, very tiring. I note very clearly that his decision (which incidentally he first announced months ago) to not contest the USADA allegations is in no way an admission of guilt!

If he didn’t dope then why was he so successful? I have a rationale that suits me. It comes down to hard work, smart work, dedication and focus – qualities I admire!

My strongest memory of Lance’s golden years was his singular focus on the  the Tour de France. He made that one event, his one goal. He was not interested in going after the other grand tours, the one day classics, world championships etc. Sure he did some of those events in his training and preparations, but the goal of winning the Tour de France remained THE purpose and that focus led to his success. I will remember reports of his elaborate preparation for the Tour,  such as repeatedly riding the very same climbs that would be used in the Tour de France stages, so as  to know every slope and corner of the course. His familiarity with he route gave him “home field advantage” on many of those classic Tour climbs that paid off in well-timed and efficient attacks.

Race tactics undoubtedly played a significant role in his success. Not only his individual tactics and his smart decisions on the road, but his team tactics were meticulous. Those tactics didn’t always make for the most entertaining races, as there was no wasted effort, no challenges on the road unless they’d lead to the ultimate goal: number one on the podium in Paris. Those team tactics were also demonstrated by  being part of a very strong team and using that team brilliantly. How many times did we see Lance’s teammates lead him up the climbs, saving Armstrong’s energy for the final assault, after his team mates had given their all.

Success also came from the extensive preparation and use of scientific tools by Lance and his team. I remember watching reports of his time trial preparations – using wind tunnels to analyze and make minute refinements in the bike, his position upon it and even the clothing he wore. This was no “short-cut” but a lot of intelligent application of science and engineering!

I hypothesize that Lance did have one unique advantage that lead to his great success. The cancer that nearly killed him allowed him to come back stronger than ever – stronger in precisely the ways necessary to become a cycling animal. When the chemo broke his body down, he had an opportunity that few athletes have – to rebuild their body , practically from the ground up, and to do so in a very specialized way. I believe that the rebuilt Lance, through his mind power and training, put energy into those systems (e.g. lungs and leg muscles) necessary for cycling, without wasting energy and weight on superfluous parts. It was as if an evolutionary process to transform man into a Tour-de-France-cycling-machine occurred not over a thousand generations, but in one man’s lifetime and body.

I wonder about the motives of those who have come out against Lance. Some of them I can dismiss as just being a bit unbalanced and not to be taken seriously, but other seemingly respectable people I just don’t know. I don’t understand where they may be coming from, unless the accusations are just a manifestation of some personal conflict between them and Lance. About the only person’s word that could have swung my opinion  on this case would have been George Hincapie. He would have seemed to know Lance very well and to be a very respected and honorable person, with no axe to grind against an old friend. Reportedly he had given incriminating evidence to the USADA but he’s never said anything publicly so we don’t know what Hincapie did or did not say. With Lance choosing not to contest the case we may never know for sure.

And what about the motives and tactics of the USADA? I’ll admit I don’t fully understand their jurisdiction or power. I especially don’t see how they can strip Armstrong of his 7 Tour de France titles. Think what they may, do what they feel they must, but the USADA did not award those titles so they are not theirs to revoke. In any case I don’t think Lance (after undoubtedly very much thought) really cares about the formality of those titles anymore.

I also wonder about how the decision to give up the fight to clear his name, will affects Lance’s cancer-fighting Livestrong activities (or indeed about his long-speculated political ambitions). Hopefully the effect will not be too negative, because whatever his doubters may think about his cycling performance, even they have to admire his leadership in the cancer fight. Perhaps one indication of the effect is a report that I saw saying that donations to the Livestrong campaign are up in the days immediately following the USADA’s deadline and surrounding publicity.

There is more than ample evidence that Lance Armstrong’s success came from hard and smart work. The evidence against him is weak and increasingly dependent upon a conspiracy theory that ranks up there with the most complex of them.  I don’t know for sure what the truth is, but for now I am comfortable with my beliefs. Live Strong Lance!

 

Posted August 27, 2012 by Randy Talbot in Cycle Racing, Tour de France

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Looking back – the 2010 Tour de France   Leave a comment

Well it’s been a week since the end of the 2010 edition of the Tour de France, so I just want to collect and express a few of my  thoughts.

For me this Tour turned out to be a real disappointment.  Normally the Tour is  the sporting highlights of my year. I will get up early and watch part of the live TV broadcast   before heading off to work. Then in the evening I would watch the extended re-broadcast.  I’d be following all of the websites I can and generally I  am obsessed with cycling for 3 weeks. This year looked to be one of the great match-up between arch-rivals Lance Armstrong and Alberto Contador. Aside from these two there seemed to be a number of serious podium contenders that would make it interesting. In the end though, I never really got into this year’s event and I feel empty – like something is missing from my summer.

The Lance-Alberto showdown which was to be the headline story was a big fizzle. Once Lance had his 3-crash bad day and fell out of overall GC contention, this part of the story was all over. I was saddened to see that Lance seemed to lose it spirit after that. I really hoped and expected that he would continue to ride with the big boys after that. It makes me wonder if he really had a chance to win anyway. If he hadn’t crashed would he have had the fitness and strength to keep up with Contador and Schleck? It was nice to see Lance’s big breakaway performance on stage 16. We can only speculate on how much was physical and how much was his spirit. Hopefully he will talk about this some day.

The Alberto-Andy Schleck story was still a good once The two riders were very evenly matched physically, both motivated and I liked that the contest was still being fought up until the second last day. A bit of  interest was provided by the Stage 15 controversy when Contador moved to take advantage of a Schleck problem and thereby steal the Yellow Jersey. I gave Alberto the benefit of the doubt on that one and I was pleased to see that Andy accepted his apology. Still I loved Andy’s initial reaction and comment ” My stomach is full of anger, and I want to take my revenge“. It’s a classic – I’m tempted to get a t-shirt.

I really liked the first week route, with some hills and cobbles. It certainly made things more interesting than just a series of sprint finishes that so often seem to be the story of the pre-mountain stage. Obviously the weather played a factor that week too. It was sad to see the crashes and a few dreams dashed but it was interesting!

A major disappointment for me  was the television coverage in Canada. In years past the cable network OLN Canada has picked up most of the Versus coverage from the US. This year OLN decided to carry only the live morning coverage (filling out their evening coverage with garbage like Operation Repo). As usual the coverage with Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen was excellent. However without the evening broadcast I missed out on the insights and humor of Bobke (Bob Roll). I really wish OLN/Rogers would realize what a gem they have with rights to cover the Tour de France. This lack of TV coverage really took the wind out of my sails, I just really never got into the Tour this year. I hope the Tour organizers will be able to award Canadian coverage rights in 2011 to a network that knows what they have and  how to do it right!

The television commercials are hard to avoid and watching hours a day you tend to see many of the ads over and over again. The OLN ads for their evening shows were bad to start with and particularly annoying when you realized that they were preempting  the good stuff.  However there were a few gems amongst the TV spots. The Alberto and Andy Specialized commercial was one of the best to air during the Tour – it made me laugh every time I saw it (deep fried turkey – ha ha!). I also thought the Nike/Livestrong Lance solo ride commercial was very inspiring. Finally, hats off to Cervelo for their honest, intelligent spots!

The 2011 tour is already shaping up to be interesting , just in terms of the riders that will be coming and going. It already  looks like the Schlecks and Contador will have new teams. We know Armstrong is going into retirement 2.0. Will Leipheimer, Horner and Hincapie follow him? The 2011 tour could be a year for a changing of the guard for American cycling. Canadians were very excited  and proud of the  7th place finish of Ryder Hesjedal from Victoria. It will be interesting to see if that accomplishment earns him a place as a team leader or will he be back to the role of a domestique in the 2011 race once the Garmin team leaders are healthy (assuming they are all still with Garmin).

How many days until the 2011 prologue? I can’t wait!

Tour de France 2010 – Week 2   Leave a comment

Unfortunately, I missed most of the action through the Alps and Pyrenees in the 2010 Tour. After the disappointment of not being able to watch much of the first week due to the OLN network in Canada’s decision to only broadcast the live action (with no evening re-broadcast), I thought  being in the States for the second week would allow me to watch the great Versus coverage morning and night. Unfortunately, the Hyatt Regency hotel in San Francisco where I was staying, did not have Versus on their Channel line-up. The only way I had, to keep up with the action and results was via Twitter (primarily @procyclinglive) and even then I had to ration my usage due to ridiculous data roaming rates.

It seems that the two big events of the week came from the two guys (LA and AC) that we expected to make the headlines in the year’s Tour – although this week’s stories were not as a result of them going head-to-head.

On Stage 15 [and I make the following comments without benefit of having been able to watch the race] there was the controversy of Alberto Contador taking advantage of an Andy Schleck problem to jump ahead up the mountain and gain enough time to take the yellow jersey from Schleck.  I’ve always admired Cycling for the sportsmanship demonstrated by waiting when one of the GC contenders encounters bad luck, such as a flat or getting caught up in someone else’s crash. In this case though Schleck’s chain slipped off. To me that does not sound just like random bad luck. I’d attribute it to less than ideal bike tuning or a rider error. If that is the case then I say that it is fair to take advantage of the situation. The best (strongest, most technically skilled and strategic) rider (and team) should rise to the top. Andy’s team should have had someone right there with him to hand over a bike or pace him back to AC (had it not been for the bad fortune of Frank Schleck in Week 1, this is exactly what might have happened and I expect Contador’s move would not have got the same attention).  I’d also give Contador the benefit of the doubt in this case as it might have been difficult for him to know the nature of Schleck’s trouble while in the heat of the battle.  All that said I am still pulling for Andy Schleck and I hope he pulls off a decisive move on Stage 17’s Col de Tourmalet to win back yellow with a nice cushion to carry him through the time trial.

The second big news of the week was Stage 16. I’d been waiting to see Lance Armstrong recover from his disastrous first week and show that he wasn’t about to roll over and quit even though the podium was out of reach. Lance got away in the breakaway on this stage and stayed away but unfortunately just didn’t have enough left at the end to win (or even seriously contend for) the sprint for the win. Still it was a good effort and what seemed to be smart tactical riding from the legend. A week ago I hoped we would have seen more from Lance in these mountain stages, maybe keeping up with Contador/Schleck (just to prove he could) and perhaps a stage win (which Stage 16 could have been).

I’d been pulling for Team Radio Shack which on paper looked to be one of the strongest in the peleton. Although Armstrong is their leader they seemed to be one of the few teams with three serious podium contenders. I’ve been a bit disappointed that Levi Leipheimer hasn’t been more of a factor since Lance faded away. Although Levi is sitting 7th (and that isn’t bad at all), it would have been nice to see him in the race for a podium place. Kloden has been less of a factor that I expected but probably would have shone more had Lance been in contention.  I am really impressed with Chris Horner – a strong support rider for sure but who’d have expected him to have 25 minutes over Lance! Team Radio Shack has got to be a little  disappointed overall they can still salvage some respect by winning the overall team classification which they currently lead.

So going into the final 3 or 4 days what are we to expect? Well, Thursday’s Stage 17  should be the highlight. If Schleck can breakaway from Contador and gain a few minutes (yes that is a very tall order) he could be in a position to  survive the expected Contador advantage in the time trial. If El Pistolero can stick on Schleck’s wheel all day he should be in yellow in Paris. I’ll be watching intently the next few days knowing that even if the racing doesn’t keep me on the edge of my seat at least I can enjoy the wonderful scenery of the French countryside (love that TV coverage!)

Posted July 21, 2010 by Randy Talbot in Cycle Racing, Cycling, Tour de France

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Tour de France 2010 – Week 1   2 comments

Monday July 12 – Rest day, after 8 stages done.

Like many cycling fans my heart dropped watching the bad luck that befell Lance Armstrong and killed his hopes of winning or even reaching the podium in this his final Tour.  He has had bad luck throughout the first week but the triple whammy on the Station des Rousses – Morzine-Avoriaz stage was sad to see. I have long been an admirer of Lance and deep down I was really pulling for the “old guy” to dig down and pull out his magic again. Even before yesterday’s Stage 8, Lance had probably crashed (or got caught up in others’ misfortunes) more times in the first week of this Tour than in his seven-year run of victories.

When he went down, I like every one watching the TV coverage saw Lance swap his bike and then the shot of the back of his jersey being scraped up. I wondered how that happened. It wasn’t until later that I saw a video taken by a spectator on the other side of the road. From that fixed perspective one is reminded of the speed the riders are traveling at. Then all of a sudden there is one cyclist flying along upside down, on his back. That of course was Lance and it made me sick to watch it and all the more in admiration that he was able to get back to the front of the peleton before eventually succumbing to  the pace and his injuries.

It just goes to show how fascinating and perhaps unfair this sport of cycling can be. A rider can be in the best shape of his life but be in the wrong place at the wrong time and it can all be over in a hurry. I  wonder how the first bit of bad luck can lead a rider to over-think his riding a bit, resulting in split second delays which can lead to subsequent bad situations. I also have to wonder how wounds from one crash can slow down one’s reaction times ever so slightly but again enough to leave a rider in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Even with the Lance factor neutralized it still looks to be a very interesting last couple of weeks. Contador looks strong although maybe not as dominating as we expected – but I was very impressed with his team support.  Andy Schleck looks really capable (even without the support of his injured-out brother Frank). Then of course there is still Levi Leipheimer. He is a very strong rider and if he was on just about any team other than Radio Shack he would have been the leader and GC-contender from day 1. Put the resources of team Radio Shack (arguably one of the top teams in the tour) behind him alone and he could easily reach the podium. This one ain’t over yet!

I also don’t think it is all over for Lance. I’m sure he will live his line and “LiveStrong”. He has stated his intent to finish the tour and to enjoy it. Could he have a stage win or two in him. I can imagine the main contenders not worrying about him for GC and letting him go on a break. Get a couple Radio Shack team mates with him and it could be interesting. Probably not gain-back-12-minutes-back -into-podium-contention interesting but I’m thinking a top-10 finish is not yet out of the question – or how about Lance making a run for the polka-dot jersey???

Yes it will be interesting and I get wait for the action to resume tomorrow!