Wednesday, July 24, 2013

1998 was a while ago - do we care? Probably.

It would be nice to have a complete picture of doping in sport - all sports - globally but the truth is that it'll never happen. It's too hard, the data is lost or incomplete. Nevertheless when we have the chance to peek back at the past the temptation is hard to resist... but at the end of the day, should we care?

"Italian Marco Pantani, Germany's Jan Ullrich and American Bobby Julich who were the top three during the 1998 Tour de France were all taking the banned blood booster erythropoetin (EPO), according to reports published by French daily Le Monde." 
News: Cycling Central SBS

The samples in question are old but the test is probably valid. Worth noting that Pantani is not around to defend himself.  

Monday, July 08, 2013

The power of planned chaos - Le Tour 2013 week 1

It's been an interesting - indeed fascinating - week 1. Usually (in recent experience, anyway, as nothing is truly set in stone) Le Tour starts with a prologue that sorts the riders into something like a sprinter-heavy pecking order, followed by a few flat stages where the the sprinters swap the yellow jersey amongst themselves. Instead we got a longish and unexpectedly confused stage 1 that mixed things up a bit more than usual, and a team time trial that threw up some surprises and pushed the GC guys up and down in unexpected ways. The result was that one or 2 GC teams (including BMC) were almost out of the main game already. And then the first mountain stage (stage 8) tipped the bucket on a few more teams - most of them, actually. It looked like Sky had sewn it up already. Or so it seemed.

But in stage 9 the ever-creative Garmin team threw caution to the wind and attacked from the gun, shattering Sky's calm, possibly forever. In hindsight it was predictable. Froome's wilful, ungainly and somewhat brazen attack to grab the golden fleece always seemed premature but given Sky's dominance last year most people just expected it. Of course it will be a Sky 1-2 and of course they can hold off all comers from here. Or not, perhaps.

Two thoughts flashed through my mind as Froome took off: 'he's gone too soon, week 3 is where he should do this, if he still can'; and 'my god this looks bad - he not only rides without any style (not a problem for 2nd placed Richie Porte, though) but he looks crazed, in the worst possible 'extraterrestrial' way. Actually 3 thoughts, as I also feared for the race from here if Sky dominate crushingly like last year. As in boring. I shouldn't have worried, though, as whilst Froome still looks ungainly he can obviously defend as well as attack, and Porte (as well as the rest of the Sky team) proved fallibly human. Thankfully.

Of course Sky were aided in their less than perfect stage 9 by an agressive Movistar team taking no prisoners. If only they had a couple more Columbians to drive home the advantage they worked so hard to gain. Mind you the lack of attacks reinforced the "it's only the first week" voice inside my head and calmed the 'extraterriestrial' thoughts. They look human, and un-doped. Just. And unlike stage 8 the usual GC suspects were able to hang in there, reassuringly.
But what really impressed me was Garmin attacking from the blocks, gloriously oblivious to both Sky and 5 tough mountain climbs to come. Thank you, JV and team for that come-from-behind with a run-up approach.  It made the week passably brilliant.

"We were attacking without thinking about it, it was crazy," Martin told a news conference after the 168.5-km from St Girons."We wanted to make the race exciting. We enjoy bike riding, we wanted to put on a show for people at home." Garmin-Sharp's laid-back attitude is in sharp contrast with Team Sky's clinical approach but on Sunday they had a strategy.

"This stage was a bit of an objective for us since the start in Corsica and even after having lost Christian Vande Velde," Martin said, referring to the crash on stage seven that ruled his team-mate out of the Tour."It was a stage that suited us. With the team we have we can afford to be aggressive."

Martin is a decent climber, just like Danielson and Hesjedal, and they stuck to manager Jonathan Vaughters' plan to "cause chaos" in the race. "Craziest thing about today? We planned it," said Millar.

News: Cycling Central SBS