Twisted Spoke

My twisted take on the world of pro bike racing.

Posts Tagged ‘UCI

USA Cycling bans radios. Is TV next?

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No music in peloton!

Turn that radio off!

Following the lead of the UCI, USA Cycling voted to ban all radios at US national races. You know what that means –no music at all during races. No punk and electronic tunes to warm up to on the trainer before the time trial. No country western to cool down with at the end of a hard day of racing.

No rock ‘n’ roll to get the team pumped up before blasting out of the team bus. Nothing. No show-tunes, hip hop, classical, be-bop jazz, zilch. No radios period. No talk radio, stock quotes, rabble rousing political diatribes on  the airwaves. No NPR, baby, no crazy latino music going a million miles an hour.

We’re running radio silent from here on out. Why? Because the submarine captain says so, that’s why. Too many cycling fans are complaining that their cycling heroes were so engrossed in their music that they never looked up, waved, signed an autograph and said hello. That kind of behavior is finito, a victim of tifosi backlash.

Put yourself in their fan shoes — they stand on the side of the road waiting for the magic five seconds when you whip by and you’re so oblivious listening to Iron Maiden or 2Pac oldies or Taylor Swift that you can’t be bothered to make eye contact.

The ban covers AM and FM, all short-wave, satellite radio, wifi and 3G radio transmissions. Just forget listening to music until the race is over and the massage table is set up. And no singing to yourself in the gruppetto– no humming, either. Every radio infraction will result in the loss of UCI points. You sing, you lose.

The radio ban is just the first step in a peloton-wide media diet. Next up, the TV ban. Study after study shows conclusively that TV is lowering the collective IQ of bike racers. Cycling journalists are fed up with dull riders who give boring quotes that make writing exciting stories impossible. (We know you just rode 160k but that’s no excuse.)

The UCI already has a Reading For Pro Riders program on the drawing board. No more laying on the couch recovering with moronic reality TV. The UCI-supplied Kindles will come preloaded with 25 classics — from Moby Dick to Lolita and the Lance Armstrong books.

You think Twisted Spoke is pulling your pedaling legs? Think again. First the biological passport, next the educational passport. The UCI plans to establish a baseline IQ for all riders in order to track and measure any changes in intellect. The whereabouts program will award points to riders who are found at any library, bookstore or any literary cafes. Riders caught doping or watching TV will undergo re-education in more ways than one. Two years and a very extensive reading list.

Riders will soon be required to give blood, urine and submit to a pop quiz.


Written by walshworld

February 3, 2010 at 9:46 am

The UCI “Italian” clause. Out with Di Luca, back in with Ricco.

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Riccardo Danilo di Ricco Luca.

Oh, it’s there alright.

Buried in the UCI regulations is a clause only a few cycling historians know exists. It’s doubtful that even president Patrick McQuaid has heard of it. It’s not necessarily a secret, simply an obscure three line item that’s never brought to light.  It goes by the innocuous Article: 378.7B-11 and states there must always be “one flashy egotistical Italian in the peloton at all times.”

Monday allowed us to see the inner wisdom of the UCI and the adherence to the spirit of 378.7B-11. Italian Danilo di Luca suspended just as Italian Riccardo Ricco returns from suspension. Life in balance, wheels turning without effort. The flashy self-absorbed climber finishes his 20 months of banishment just as the flashy egotistical blowhard Di Luca goes into forced hibernation. In and out, whimper and bang.

There’s an inherent poetry and the chronological symmetry almost makes Ricco and Di Luca brothers. The Cobra and the Killer. The obscure UCI article is a fundamentalist throwback to the wink-wink days of doping and was written as a gift to the loyal Italian tifosi. Somewhere in Heaven the Pirate smiles.

There must always be a hero to cheer, a reckless, dashing and hot-blooded Italian that attacks at a moments notice. A rider who speaks of honor and character and writes his own legends. In the modern era, that means riders like Pantani, Cipollini, Bartoli and our two current CERA injectors, Ricco and Danilo di Doping.

There is much smart thinking behind this UCI article. Despite our distaste for Di Luca’s colossal hypocrisy and the mundane quality of his lies, we’ll miss the feisty rider. There’s no denying his talent and his passion for racing and he impressed us with his never-say-die efforts to beat Denis Menchov in the 2009 Giro. The man rode himself inside out and left; he left his blood on the road to Rome. And by golly, he looked stylish doing it, like he had a blow dryer and gel in his jersey pocket.

The same can be said for Ricco the rocket. Cycling fans appreciate men who don’t ride like accountants, endless re-calculating the odds but never acting. No Hamlets in the peloton! Ricco’s insane attacks in the mountains of the 208 Tour de France thrilled everyone. Even if you questioned the legality of his power output, you had to give the Cobra his due on pure, exhilarating spirit.

Every Italian knows that spectacle is part of biking racing — it’s Roman gladiators, tigers, blood and a Fellini-esque orgy of podium girls and circus show freaks in lycra. Kinda sorta. Cycling requires an out-sized personality with Latin panache.

Having a  flashy egotistical bike racer to cheer on is an Italian  birthright along, along with superior Tuscan red wine, good leather shoes, hand rolled pasta and women is tight dresses. Take away all those things and what do you have? Belgium, that’s what. Another cycle-mad country but with nowhere near the same sex appeal.

We here at Twisted Spoke support the vision behind UCI Article 378.7B-11. See you in a few years Danilo, three cheers for Ricco. Italy welcomes you back to the races.

Written by walshworld

February 2, 2010 at 8:28 am

Lampre’s temp license. Paperwork versus paninis.

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Paperwork has no place in sport!

This is just one of those “Italian” things, right?

That’s what we assume after reading that the UCI has given the Lampre-Farnese Vini team a temp license. Like, what, they only race on Fridays and Wednesdays, from 10 to 2:30? Imagine Alessandro Petacchi as a temp? How many words a minute does he type? That Cunego guy — can he work a cash register?

The two month “get-your-crap-together” license was issued after warning Lampre about “serious administrative non-compliance” issues. Which does sound like classic Italian skip-the-details approach.

You can almost see Lampre manager Giuseppe Saronni throwing up his hands — “What, Mr. McQuaid, we had that nice cappuccino together, I introduced you to my beautiful mistress and we toured my friends’ Tuscan winery. What more do you need?”

Paperwork, the damn paperwork is killing Giuseppe, every year the paperwork. What about lunch and sexy women and shopping for stylish clothing in Milan? What happened to handshakes and honor and who are all these lawyers that keep calling incessantly? It’s an affront to his dignity.No man does triplicate.

As cycling becomes a global sport and the UCI tries to elevate the professionalism of the teams involved, the old Italian ways die hard. It must kill a man like Giuseppe Saronni. First, the Americans come in with their killjoy business approach to winning races. Then that damned Dane Bjarne Riis says those time honored training methods are stone age. Now team Sky comes in with their food scientists claiming that paninis aren’t good race snacks and that buckets of pasta aren’t the best way to recover. Next, they’ll want to replace the podium girls with effeminent men in tight slacks.

You ask Giuseppe and he’ll tell you: the sport is going to hell in a hand-basket. The doping tests, the whereabouts checks, the biological passport — how’s a rider supposed to “prep” for races? Danilo di Luca banned, Rebellin gone, where are the heroes? And all the UCI cares about is paperwork. In his day, men were men and lawyers just dealt with keeping the cost of the mistress hidden.

Now, all is lost. Only the noisy Kazaks seem to understand the rituals of the sport. What do they care about paperwork? They want to drink and sing and glory in victory and hand out bribes and pound their cycling shoes on the table. Okay, they’re uncouth but at least they’re not progressive. Giuseppe, Twisted Spoke feels your administrative-induced pain.

The sport pedals on. The paninis are gone and the paperwork is long overdue.

Written by walshworld

January 25, 2010 at 10:47 am

Valverde’s dog to testify before Court of Arbitration in Sport.

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Piti speaks at last.

On Wednesday the CAS will grill Valverde’s former Kelme team-mate Jesús Manzano about Valverde’s alleged doping. But the real fireworks will happen when they put Valverde’s dog Piti on the stand.

The Alsatian has been at the center of the Spaniard’s doping allegations ever since bags of blood coded Valv. piti were seized in Operacion Puerto. Until now legal maneuvering has prevented the authorities from putting the dog under oath.

A spokesman for the UCI and WADA hopes testimony from Piti will implicate Valverde. “Nobody knows more about Valverde and Puerto than Piti. He takes the dog everywhere. Piti is definitely the key,” said an informed source.

Antonio Sánchez Sabater, Valverde’s representative, questioned the hard-ball tactics of the CAS tribunal. “They’re pressuring the dog and I find this highly irregular. Valverde walks and feeds Piti but the animal is not involved on a sporting level,” said Sabater.

However, CONI prosecutor Ettore Torri Vuelta pulled no punches on the Spanish rider: “Valverde is a doper. Even the intention to use the contents of the blood bag is against the code laid down by WADA. And Piti has seen everything.”

Legal experts were divided on what useful testimony, if any, a dog could provide. “Dogs have no capacity for language the way humans do, so I see very little to be gained,” said Aldo Bottocelli, a prominent attorney. “Barking is not evidence in any judiciary sense.”

But Valverde may still be in hot water when Piti is questioned. According to renowned animal behaviorist Claude de Chien, “Alsatians are the third most intelligent dog after the border collie and poodle. You ask a simple, direct question, they understand. Do not underestimate this dog. The raise of a paw, an affirmative bark and you have your answers.”

Perhaps Operacion Puerto will not go out with a whimper but a bark.

Written by walshworld

January 13, 2010 at 9:05 am

Jesus to testify against Valverde. Savior makes visit to CAS.

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Jesus rides to CAS court.


Jesus. Has there ever been a better name for a whistle-blower? His is the savior of cycling but alas he has been ignored, pilloried and laughed at.

Jesus Marzano, the former Kelme rider, has been called as a witness in Alejandro Valverde’s hearing at the Court of Arbitration in Sport (CAS).

Yes, he is going to the mountain to speak again. After over three years, perhaps someone in the legal profession will do more than just listen.

Our man Jesus was a teammate of Valverde on the Kelme Costa Blanca squad between 2002 to 2003. He has detailed the extensive doping practices within the team on numerous occasions.

Jesus, our savior.


“I remember an evening after one of the Vuelta stages in 2002,” said Jesus. “Valverde came to dinner with a testosterone plaster on. After an hour he ripped it off, otherwise he would have tested positive.”

His testimony lead to the Operacion Puerto investigation but while Valverde was allegedly implicated no punishments were handed out. The Spanish authorities closed the Puerto case several weeks ago to the general shock and disappointment of the entire cycling world.

Back in 2007 Jesus Marzano told the German magazine Stern that Valverde “took the same stuff that they gave me.” For his part, Valverde has denied the allegations but is in for a long legal battle with two upcoming cases before CAS.

The first is Valverde’s attempt to toss out the ban the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) hit him with last May, which prevented him from racing in Italy for two years. This stopped Valverde from riding the 2009 Tour de France, as one stage dipped into Italy.

Then, in a second hearing in mid March, the UCI and WADA go on the offensive, attacking the Spanish cycling federation’s decision not to discipline the rider. Should Valverde lose that case, a global two year ban is expected.

But our thoughts go back to Jesus Marzano. If you’ve followed his story for these last few years, you have seen his picture before. It’s the same one the media always uses. It’s the face of a sad, even forlorn young man with big ears and bushy eye brows. He has suffered in the same way all whistle-blowers have: losing his connection with a sport he loves, ostracized by the code of silence, ridiculed and slandered.

If anyone deserves better treatment in this tangled and ugly mess, it is Marzano. Twisted Spoke would like to see Jesus smile and find some measure of peace.

(Amazing top photo courtesy of Scott Davidson. His portfolio is at right about here.)

Written by walshworld

January 9, 2010 at 2:22 pm

Rock Racing denied Pro Conti license, Placebo Galicia approved.

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Babe, we lost our Pro Conti appeal.

“If I had a heart, I’d cry”

The home page of Michael Ball’s Rock & Republic jeans begins with that bold declaration, followed by another slick statement of youth and stylish anarchy, “go big or go home.”

The UCI just double nixed Ball and his Rock Racing team for a Pro Continental License so both statements apply. Somewhere a skinny Asian model in one of Ball’s black mini-dresses is crying.

Floyd Landis and Gilberto Simoni won’t be too pleased to hear the news, either. Both were on the verge on signing with Rock Racing, the only hold-up, a valid Pro Conti license. Simoni has a fall back offer with Lampre but Landis doesn’t. Ouch in more ways than one.

Michael Bell is now between a rock and a hard place. And that’s a sad thing because the sport needs Michael Ball more than it needs another dull Italian team, especially one sponsored by a toy manufacturer. A team coming off the embarrassing suspension of its top rider Davide Rebellin for doping. Fashion models may do drugs but that’s part of their job and they don’t race bikes, right?

Cycling needs Ball’s flamboyance, his rock n roll mentality, his brash pontification and sexy girls. Just ask Giro impresario Angelo Zomegnan about creating spectacle and passion. You can bet Crazy Z wants Rock Racing at his race. He puts on a show, Cirque de Soleil on wheels.

Sure, Ball tends to play loose with the payroll but that’s the fashion world, baby. It’s a rolling party and everybody gets what they need in the end plus a closet of designer jeans and free passes to every disco on the globe.

Meanwhile, the strange Basque outfit, Placebo Galicia,  was approved for their license. Last year, the UCI used this squad to test the difference in fan reaction between a real pro cycling team and a fake one with no active ingredients. Having previously announced the test was over, the inclusion of the Placebo team was a major surprise.

Twisted Spoke is listening to Michael Ball’s favorite music by Band of Skulls and thinking about the final line we saw on the Rock & Republic web site: “Nothing is held back.” Yeah, except a license to race.

Written by walshworld

January 8, 2010 at 9:38 am

CONI recommends three-year ban for Di Luca. The evil conspiracy continues.

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The bad news: no kisses for three years.

On this holiday season we thank Danilo di Luca. He is the gift that just keeps giving.

Since testing positive twice for the EPO variant CERA in this year’s Giro, Di Luca has been an entertaining subject.

He’s outraged, he’s defiant, he’s baffled and confused. The dashing, handsome and flamboyant Di Luca gives press conferences, running his hands through his stylish hair as he attempts to explain the inexplicable.

How could this have happened? He has proclaimed his innocence far and wide like Stefan Schumacher, Mikel Astarloza and Davide Rebellin. Somebody else was the guilty party. They’d tampered with his samples, they’d ignored the testing protocols — always the mysterious “they,” the vindictive “them,” the secretive and malicious “somebody” that had singled out di Luca for reasons unknown and sought to destroy him.

Sounds like Di Luca has been watching the whole box set of the X-files. This kind of far fetched story-telling is usually reserved for Hollywood. But then, Di Luca is a huge star in Italy and somebody is trying to kill the self-styled “Killer.”

Happy holidays everyone, Danilo di Luca has the microphone again. When hard science is against you, there’s no point in defending yourself with factual arguments. It’s time to go, megaphone please, Beyond Logic. Di Luca trotted out the time honored “conspiracy theory” once again.

“The UCI knows what it wants. In cycling, it’s always first the hammer, then an apology,” said Di Luca. “It always happens to me before Worlds – and this time the course was tailored for me.” Yes, it’s that big, bad UCI and their mean-spirited dope tests at fault.

The strength and weakness of the conspiracy theory is perfect in cycling. You can’t prove or disprove it. You can keep repeating the theory forever because having no basis in fact, lawyers and scientists can’t argue against it.  And being accepted as truth by Di Luca’s fans, it becomes its own separate reality. The tifosi are immune to rational argument in the same way you’d never convince a hard core Barry Bonds fan that he’d abused the secret sauce.

“I am certain that I will race the next Giro d’Italia,” Di Luca said in August. “I’m ready to wager. I have not taken anything, and there is a possibility, without a doubt, that I will be acquitted.” It’s a natural fit, isn’t it — conspiracy theories and gambling?

The odds don’t look so hot for Di Luca since the UCI isn’t much on farcical theory. The Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) is recommending a three-year ban. They tacked on the extra 12 months to the standard two-year years “for aggravating circumstances.” Which means they think the Italian rider is a jerk and a habitual offender — taking into account his previous suspension in the ‘Oil for Drugs’ doping scandal.

We’re looking at The Killer On Ice. Three years and done. In the meantime, enjoy the comedy. It’s Christmas and Di Luca is in a giving mood.

Written by walshworld

December 17, 2009 at 9:12 am