Archive for December 2009
The Candy Man is back in business.
We smiled when we read the news that Italian rider Gilberto Simoni might be coming back for a final year with some kooky Estonian-Croatian Continental team.
One of the team sponsors is a candy company named Kalev Chocolate. Anyone with a long memory will recall when Simoni tested positive for cocaine in the 2002 Giro d’Italia.
Simoni’s creative excuse at the time was there were cocaine traces in the imported Peruvian candies given to him by his aunt. Nobody believed that yarn–especially the Italian guys with the legal degrees.
Careful with those boxes of assorted candies, Gilberto. Never know what’s inside. Remember, the Kalev company line is, “temptation since 1806.”
Riding a bike will improve your health, take you to beautiful places and if you’re a freakishly gifted endurance athlete, carry you to the top step of the Tour de France podium.
But the bike has many, many uses and this video shows you one of the more intriguing ones: stopping crime in its tracks. A Chinese cyclists takes out two scooter thieves with one, well- aimed shot.
Twisted Spoke wonders if American police in the major crime cities have been trained in this simple yet highly effective containment strategy.
This is probably what Alberto Contador feels like doing to Lance Armstrong after enduring his nasty tongue-lashing yesterday.
Okay, I will admit to being childishly and almost embarrassingly proud of this recognition (full story here.) Way better than when I got the 3rd place ribbon in the high jump in 5th grade. I decided to start this cycling blog ten months ago and write about something I care about. Close to 300 posts later, I almost feel like a working cycling journalist. That’s cool.
Building an audience takes time but it’s happening and I’m genuinely exciting about the new things to come. Covering the Tour of California live and in person. And maybe, just maybe, the big daddy of them all, the 2010 Tour de France. There’s a podcast in the works and video for the Giro.
So much thanks to James Raia of the SFExaminer and thanks to everybody who hunted around the web, found me and kept reading. I always look forward to comments. It’s good to know you’re out there somewhere.
What did Lance Armstrong buy himself for Christmas? An Alberto Contador punching bag.
Maybe it was one of those end of year moves — start 2010 fresh, purge the last Pistelero disses.
In an interview with Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf and the Belgian Nieuwsblad, the Texan dumped all over the “humble and welcoming boy” — as Alberto’s new Astana Manager Giuseppe Martinelli once called him.
According to Lance, the Spaniard “is surrounded by yes-men’ and acts like “the king of Spain.” Things are getting vicious and cartoony at the same time. Hopefully Lance sent a tweet alert to Spain’s president Rodriguez Zapatero — the monarchy is back in Madrid and his name is Alberto.
The “Alberto complex”, a new psychiatric term we’re giving to Armstrong for usage, was discussed at great length. “If you have just won the Tour for the second time and you are the king of Spain, it is normal that all stories are all right. His career has barely begun.”
Armstrong then moved to his most pointed criticism, saying Alberto’s monster ego had caused the exodus of all his teammates. Sometimes also called the Reverse Pied Piper Effect. “Eight of the nine riders who rode the Tour, have gone away. To another team,’ said Lance. “Even his roommate.” Thank God he still has Brother Fran.
Would this have happened to Armstrong? No way, no now, not never. “I would have long since looked in the mirror. I would never let that happen. Never. If I had to change myself to prevent it, then I would do that. If they needed more money, I would do it. I would do anything for them.” Wow, lot of juicy material there — mirror, money, transformation. Okay, next smack-down.
“But Contador is totally different from me. It is very difficult,” said Armstrong. “He knows no better. He is a Spanish guy who is always in the same pueblo (district) resident. He has his friends, family, the street where he grew up, his country, his people. A great athlete like him must employ individuals who support him and have patience with him. But he is surrounded by yes-men.”
Alright, let’s tally Alberto’s flaws: egotistical, delusions of grandeur (King of Spain), dumb, small-town bumpkin, deaf and surrounded by yes-men (si-hombres in Spanish) and engaged in the overthrow of a democratic government (King of Spain thing again.) And he can’t twitter worth crap — we threw that in because we know Lance forgot that one.
Is this the place for cycling theory? What the H-E-Double Toothpicks (that’s “hell” for you non-parents) is Lance Armstrong doing? Why are he and Johan Bruyneel still slamming Contador five months after the tour is over? At 38 years of age, is Lance working himself up in one last motivational angry froth to give himself the training fuel he needs?
Armstrong was shocked to discover in the ’09 Tour de France that his month of mind games had no effect on Contador. He “ain’t easy to destabilize” was the realization. Perhaps Armstrong hopes a mega dose, 12 months off needling, psychological warfare and inflammatory tweets will do the trick. Or perhaps the answer is he simply doesn’t give a crap what the media thinks of all this Alberto bashing.
He wasn’t finished either. Once Lance had verbally slapped the Spanish rider, he took on the Spanish media for their slanted coverage, lack of professionalism and heavy support of the King of Spain. “So many dirty things, unbelievable. Complete bullshit, pieces of slime, fat lies,” said Armstrong.
“I understand that the Spanish media stands up for their hero, but it was so untrue what was printed. Come on, at the end of the day as a journalist, you f**king do proclaim the truth.” These are the kind of quotes cycling writers dream of waking up to. Enough invective for five posts, a feature and the inevitable return fire from Spain. Who needs races?
But there is somebody feeling pretty hurt in all this name calling. Imagine how left out Andy Schleck must feel? He was second in last years’ tour, he’s a serious contender, he’s standing in Armstrong’s way and yet he doesn’t merit even one Lance Diss? Couldn’t Lance at least make fun of him for crashing into that toy car?
The Twisted Spoke take on the Alberto punching bag? Unwise move by Mr. Armstrong. Even Livestrong fans must be wondering why the character assassination keeps going. Worse, we fear Lance has made himself a target for the thousands of crazy, violent Pistelero fans that will line the mountain roads near the Spanish border in the 2010 Tour de France.
The final punch will come in the Pyrenees and it won’t be from Alberto Contador.
Wake up, it’s 2004 again.
Spain is obviously operating on a different cycling calendar then the rest of the world. They have some kind of El Space Time Continuum. Perhaps inspired by the seminal work of Rod Serling of the Twilight Zone, the Spaniards are warping the fabric of time.
Spain is not ready to turn the year over and go to 2010. They are still stuck in 2004 or 2006 depending on their mood. How else to explain the curious backwards effect of time in Spanish cycling? They’ve taken the Back To The Future car, given it a Kelme paint job and launched it back in time.
The latest announcement from Spain on the Operacion Grial doping affair is that they’ve uncovered evidence of doping in team Kelme from 2004. Well, thank goodness, almost seven years later and we’re finally making headway, huh? This isn’t a doping investigation, it’s archeology. Pretty soon the headlines will alert us that they’ve found boxes of amphetamines left over from the 90’s. Maybe some dusty tapas, too.
Now, anyone who followed the Kelme doping trail knows that savior informant and Kelme rider Jesus (what a prophetic name) Marzano detailed all this ages ago to anyone with a police badge or judicial robe.
But Jesus was operating in real time and therefore was unable to communicate with Spanish officials caught in the time warp. His now was their past and their futures were never to meet.
Doping doctor and Peruvian Mastermind Walter Viru had somehow scrambled matter and anti- matter until nothing mattered. Maybe it was another, secret cycling drug, like the blue pill in the Matrix. Everyone in Spain just pretended nothing happened and time erased the evidence.
We are going back, back, back in Spanish time. We though we were stuck in May 2006 still waiting for any meaningful verdicts on Operacion Puerto. Slow motion justice, courts that postpone, arbitration panels that never arbitrate. The cycling world waits for Spain 2006 to make a decision on alleged doper Alejandro Valverde. Not time yet, running behind schedule, don’t bother counting.
Spanish cycling is like Ground Hog Day on a bicycle, endlessly repeating the same stories without any resolution. Deja vu, already seen, time looping, in a holding pattern. Bag of stale blood anyone?
But then again, it’s still 2004 or 2006 (your pick) in Spain. No 2009 world economic collapse for them. They’re happy, they like it back in time.
Alexander Vinokourov. That Vino is caught once again and forever banished.
Bradley Wiggins. That the talented rider learns massive infusions of SKY cash will land him outside the top 10 in the TDF. Sometimes loyalty matters.
George Hincapie. The one of the nicest, stand-up and loyal guys in the peloton gets a win in his beloved Paris Roubaix or the Tour of Flanders.
Typer Farrar. That the battling buddhist teaches Mark Cavendish the meaning of humility by kicking his arse a few times.
Alberto Contador. We wish him a productive 2010 season but also the growing wisdom that there is no I in team. And good luck with the Kazaks — they don’t speak a word of Spanish.
Lance Armstrong. Lance always has our utmost respect. His 3rd in the tour last year was as impressive as any of his wins. Our wish for Lance: a mountain stage win in the tour, beating the young Contador and earning a few days in yellow. P.S. ease up on the tweets.
Jens Voigt. A true soldier and eternally optimist, here’s to Jens winning whatever race he picks out. And get a full face helmet.
Versus & Universal Sports channels. For godsakes, what must we do to get TV coverage of the Giro & Vuelta at a bare minimum? We kneel in prayer that this may change.
Christian Vande Velde. We hold out hope that VV will avoid crashes and tantalize us again in the TDF with a possible podium.
Levi Leipheimer. The first man to welcome Lance back from retirement, we hope he’s ready and in top form when Lance can push himself no harder in the Tour. Levi can win this thing with luck.
Mark Cavendish. That he learns you never have a ghost written autobiography when you’re only 24.
Danilo di Luca. We hope we never hear or see you again. A doper with an inflated and unrepentant ego.
Floyd Landis. May you rediscover the joy to ride at the top level again. The ProTour needs a talented and unique personality like Floyd. France, forgive him.
Joe Parkin. American author of A Dog In A Hat, his hilarious and revealing personal account of racing in Belgian in the 80’s. May your new cycling book be a best-seller.
Alejandro Valverde. Please, go away — for at least two years. You’re as guilty as Di Luca.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport. Find a backbone and no more case postponements.
Nicholai Proskurin of the Kazak Cycling Federation. Shut up.
Cadel Evans. A bold move going to BMC or yet another team with insufficient horsepower to help you back on the podium in the TDF? We’re hoping the first. Enjoy your rainbow.
Andy Schleck. Learn to time trial and make this a real battle with Contador.
Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen. Keep it up guys, don’t go retiring on us just yet.
WADA & UCI. Shake hands, play nice, act like adults.
Inego Cuesta, at age 40, the wise man of the peloton. Enjoy riding your 16th Vuelta. Chapeau.
Jan Ullrich. Just say it, you’ll feel better. Just ask Bjarne Riis.
Robbie McEwen. Rockin’ Robbie is a pain in the arse, the pre-Cav. But he’s irrepressible and an amazing bike handler. Here’s to a solid comeback and at least one grand tour sprint win against the Manxman.
The people behind the CyclePassion calendar. Will you please, please, please invite me to the 2011 photo shoots?
Chris Horner. NO CRASHES. NOT A SINGLE ONE. AND A TDF RIDE.
Angelo Zomegnan, Giro promoter. We thought you were a preposterous, egotistical blowhard — but you grew on us. Nobody else understands the importance of spectacle in a grand tour. May you always be surrounded by luscious podium girls.
Tom Danielson. You proved you were back last year. Here’s hoping for 3 uninterrupted weeks of good health in a grand tour and a top five finish.
Joe Papp. A multi-talented and articulate rider whose career imploded with doping. A fresh start, a new dream, somewhere in the cycling world because deep love for a sport deserves another chance.
Jonathan Vaughters, Garmin’s argyle genius. Love the argyle but this year let’s push the fashion envelope. I’m feeling seersucker.
Frank Vandenbroucke. We hope you truly are resting in peace.
Bob Roll. Bobke is the ONLY cycling commentator on air with a sense of humor. Don’t change a thing, Master B.
Carlos Sastre. Another quiet, hard working rider who gets his pick ax and goes down into the mine everyday. We wish you one last hurrah in a grand tour.
Twisted Spoke. Yes, a shameless wish for yours truly. More blog traffic. A paid writing assignment for a major cycling publication. Press credentials for the 2010 Tour de France.
Happy new year. Ride your bike.
We wrote about American rider Joe Papp a week or so ago. Busted from EPO, career over. Joe is also a thoughtful, classy and intelligent guy who knows pro cycling and the doping culture inside and out.
We asked him for comment on Tom Zirbel’s positive A test for DHEA. Turns out he’d already written a long and informative article about the story — and every word is worth reading because you get both sides of the story.
We won’t cut and past the whole piece but the one thing we took away from Joe Papp’s perspective is what Zirbel is going through. Guilty or not, Tom Zirbel is suffering big time. Sometimes, it’s worth stepping away from the axe grinder and Sunday school lecturing and realize that.
Joe put it this way: “If his B-sample comes back positive or he otherwise fails to clear his name, his world is going to implode, and it won’t be pretty.” Papp has plenty to say about Zibel’s statements and arguments but he also knows first hand what that implosion feels like.
“I can empathize with what Zirbel might feel then, should the B-sample come back positive, as you all know that my own career ended when I was just 31 and was caught doping – which was devastating,” wrote Papp.
“Worse, almost no one could understand that, even though I’d brought it on myself to a large degree by doping shamelessly for five years, the feeling of being ripped from the womb of cycling left me so disoriented and adrift that life temporarily lost all meaning and hope.”
On the matter of Zirbel’s guilt or innocence, Papp went on to offer a personal and compelling story. “By the same token, and in Tom’s defense, the lab very well may have made an error. Just like I didn’t knowingly ingest anything that could have left the metabolites 6α-OH-androstenedione or 6β-OH-androsterone, I had taken five other doping products that an accredited-lab failed to detect. I hope people consider both scenarios while we wait for the official disclosure.”
Twisted Spoke was quick to pass judgement on Zirbel. Sometimes the doping story is so pervasive and never-ending that we get angry and spew invective. The sport is too beautiful for such constant abuse. It takes a rider like Papp to bring the full picture into focus. You can hate the crime and still feel for the man. Then again, maybe we’re just feeling real Buddhist today.
One final word on the Zirbel affair from an expert authority on the subject, Joe Papp. Speaking of another athlete, he said, “I know for a fact that a rider was positive for EPO when he won a US National Criterium Championship – he took a full-strength, non-micro dose within the time frame during which he should have been positive,” wrote Papp.
“In fact, his “A” sample WAS positive, but his “B” was declared negative because the EPO levels were interpreted to fall just below the cut-off for a definitive positive. So the labs can make mistakes. Guilty go free (only to be caught later). Some riders cheat. I hope most do not. But to be in Tom’s shoes right now is to be in hell and I wish him and his family the best regardless of what the truth of the matter is.”
Well and truly said.
Andy Schleck hit a car while on a training ride in Luxembourg. Perhaps out of embarrassment, he neglected to mention the size of the car. Sub-sub-sub compact.
Cycling fans were astonished to hear that the skinny stickman from Saxo Bank slammed into the car going 35 kilometers an hour yet sustained only minor bruises. Now we know why his injuries were so inconsequential.
According to Schleck, the car came off far worse. “There was more damage on the car. His door was a wreck and so was his bumper,” he said. “The passenger window and the front window were smashed too.”
Neither Schleck nor police could explain why the late model, toy orange Camero or Firebird was laying abandoned in the middle of the road. According to crash experts, the impact with Schleck’s Specialized bike also tore off the engine hood, rear tire and rim and back window.
“I couldn’t avoid the crash,” said Schleck. “I didn’t have the speed on but I couldn’t avoid it.”
Schleck will travel to Fuerteventura in January for Saxo Bank’s first team camp of 2010. Let’s hope there aren’t any more toy cars to deal with there. These are the kinds of obstacles that ruin training.
Dope, meaning clueless?
“I didn’t knowingly ingest any DHEA,” said American rider Tom Zirbel after his A sample came back positive from a WADA-accredited lab at the University of Utah. So, the only remaining option is what — unknowingly?
The “unknowingly” option is always a hard one for Twisted Spoke. Top riders scrutinize every facet of their training including a near religious focus on their diet. They weigh their food, they count every calorie and obsess about the benefits of each bite. They’re maniacally careful about what they put in their bodies. Unknowingly is just hard to swallow.
In Zibel’s case, the unknowing excuse is doubly hard to accept. He claims, “I’m ignorant about these things, I didn’t know what DHEA was until I was first notified about my A sample.” These days any rider with half a brain has a basic understanding of what is and isn’t on the banned substance list. A steroid like DHEA is in screaming capital letters that are hard to miss. It’s the same multi-function steroid that ended Tyler Hamilton’s career.
But the most damning unknowing is when Zirbil goes into further detail about hiring an expert to oversee the handling of his B sample. He said, “I have a chemistry back ground so I thought I could check things out as well.” Having a working knowledge of chemistry makes the unknowingly argument even more difficult to believe. The man is a dedicated professional athlete with an interest in chemistry in a sport with a pervasive and public doping problem and he’s never heard of DHEA? That puts quite a strain on credulity.
If this weren’t what seems like the 100th rider in the last 10 years to plead ignorance about a positive doping test result, we could perhaps say, yeah, maybe, somebody in a white lab coat messed up. It happens, everybody makes mistakes. The newspapers are filled with cautionary tales of botched procedures and medical malpractice horror stories.
It would be a tremendous misfortune and gross injustice if Tom Zirbel is innocent. He finished second to Dave Zabriskie twice at the USA time Trial championships. He had a new contract with Garmin-Transitions for the 2010 season. His results are now questioned, contract terminated, career hanging in the balance. There’s lot of undoing in the unknowing.
“I won’t say that it’s out of the realm of possibility that I would walk away from this,” he said. “But I’m pretty irritated about everything. It’s too early to talk about this but if it’s two years I would be pretty bitter. I’m 31 and I have to start thinking about life after cycling anyway.”
Sadly, it seems to Twisted Spoke that Zirbel has unknowingly repeated the same sad, ignominious mistake as many riders before him. We look forward to writing a full retraction and apology to Zirbel should his B sample come back negative.
In the meantime, we’ll just say, welcome to retirement, Tom.
Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme confirmed that Qatar is interested in hosting several tour stages in the near future.
Setting aside the time changes, air travel and many dangers of the Persian Gulf, Twisted Spoke asks, does Qatar have the requisite number of sexy podium girls for a major ProTour event? It’s a desert out there.
Prudhomme himself appeared to address the podium babe issue, telling cyclingnews, “I am not sure if something will work out [as regards that].” The Frenchman is obviously holding his cards close to the vest — a tour start in Qatar is still a long ways off. The podium girl situation could change drastically.
The county hosts the Tour of Qatar, a six stage race held in January and won last year by Belgian Tom Boonen.
However, the tour had only one podium girl from Qatar and after several stages she was rushed to a hospital suffering from exhaustion. Qatar officials admit the lack of high quality podium girls is a stumbling block for hosting an event with as much prestige as the Tour de France.
“We are scouring the cities, towns, even the camel caravans that pass through the desert,” said Sheik Ahmed Al-Zekir. “We will find these sexy girls who spray champagne on our most illustrious guests in lycra.” The sheik also promised there would be no kidnapping of young girls from neighboring gulf states or down-on-their-luck stewardesses from the Midwest hoping to make a quick buck.
Race commentators have noted that the alcohol laws of Qatar are in part to blame for the difficulties. The limited number of public bars and nightclubs in Qatar operate only in expensive hotels and clubs. This puts a damper on the development of the local party girls.
Also still in heated discussion, the podium girl attire. While the Tour de France, Giro and Vuelta lean toward the classic tight, fitted skirt, the arab podium girl is more likely to wear a bulky robe that reveals no leg, bare arms or plunging neckline.
At this point, Prudhomme would only say, “We’ve met. I went over there.” That doesn’t sound like champagne and kisses to us.