Wankmeister cycling clinic #20: How to follow the Vuelta!

December 26, 2013 § 6 Comments

Dear Wankmeister:

I’m recently becoming on the cycling fan. With usual German thoroughness I have learned with excellence how to understand the Tour of France and the Giro of Italy. Before I learn to follow the Vuelta, however, could you explain to me what it is?

Curiously,
Neu Gierig

Dear Neu:

It is the largest bicycle race in the world that no one cares about.

Mit Wahrheit,
Wankmeister

Dear Wankmeister:

Sorry to bother you again, but if it’s such a big race, why doesn’t anyone care about it?

Still curious,
Neu Gierig

Dear Neu:

The main reason no one cares is that it’s a bike race, but there are other reasons too, like everyone using more illegal drugs at the Vuelta than the usual quota of illegal drugs at the other grand tours, and all the good riders quitting after a week or so in order to prep for worlds, and the same seven spectators who line the roads, and the fact that it’s in Spain, which most Americans confuse with Mexico and assume there’s a drug cartel on every corner waiting to kidnap them and sell their parts to be made into Al Contador’s beef.

Mehr Wahrheit,
Wankmeister

Dear Wankmeister:

Wow, you sure are an asshole! The Vuelta is the most exciting of all the grand tours! Spain is a friggin’ beautiful country. Great wine and food and perfect weather and bitches. Eff you, Cap’n d-bag! Also, Horner rocks time a million!

Fanboyishly,
Fanny Boy

Dear Fanny:

“The most exciting of all the grand tours” still translates into “as exciting as watching someone diagram sentences.”

Gramatically,
Wankmeister

Dear Wankmeister:

How would you compare the hardest climbs of the Vuelta, like the Angliru, with something like the Stelvio or the Alpe?

Comparatively,
Freddy Fredstone

Dear Freddy:

The main difference is that unlike the Alpe or the Stelvio, no one cares about the Angliru, and not just because it’s hard to pronounce. They don’t care because it’s part of the Vuelta. You could line the Angliru with porn stars and beer kegs and people still wouldn’t care. Wait a minute … I think we’re on to something.

Investingly,
Wankmeister

Professional cycling officially moves past dark history of doping

December 18, 2013 § 23 Comments

At a press conference today, UCI President Brian Cookson revealed that “The first official act of my administration in 2014 will be the announcement that doping in professional cycling has been eliminated once and for all. We have finally moved past the sport’s dark days of doping.”

Putting this into context, Cookson explained that “All of the news focuses on drugs and cheating and doping, and innocent people are harmed by the implications. You have perfectly clean riders being tarred as dopers because of the actions of a few bad apples who did bad-applish kinds of things in the past. Part of the ‘Clean Cycling’ initiative that I’ve begun is to help fans and casual cyclists, as well as amateur racers, understand that doping is no longer happening in our sport. We cannot continue to live in the past, and people are tired of all the bad news. People want good news.”

When asked how he could justify saying that doping had been eliminated, Cookson pointed to the following:

  • The biological passport. “It’s working. We’ve canceled the visas of numerous cheats through this program.”
  • More sophisticated testing. “Athletes know they will get caught, so they no longer have any temptation to cheat.”
  • Public shaming. “People won’t accept doping anymore. If you’re caught doping, you’re publicly humiliated. Shaming works.”

When asked about today’s revelations, in which Mick Rogers was busted for doping during the Tour of Japan, which he won, and in which Jonathan Tiernan-Locke was busted for doping passport violations, Cookson said, “There’s no better person to quote on this matter than Chris Froome, so I will. ‘We need to get on and start talking about the good things in the sport and the great racing that’s getting missed now because we’re harping on about what happened 10 years ago.’

“D’ye get that?” asked an agitated Cookson. “Doping happened ten years ago. Chris said it, I believe, and that settles it. Now, where can I get another drink?”

Book Review: “Hunger” by Sean Kelly

December 3, 2013 § 12 Comments

For all the retro riding, wool jersey wearing, down-tube shifting, Velominati masturbators who think it’s just not real road riding unless you’re banging over cobbles in the rain and sleet and mud while dragging a tire behind you on your third 100-km loop on Flandrian farm roads in January, Sean Kelly’s autobiography will enlighten you: He, Sean Kelly, one of the hardest of the hard men, didn’t particularly like any of that shit.

He did it because he was a professional, and to his way of thinking, a professional did what his employer told him to do.

Coal miner’s daughter

Kelly is a terrible writer. The Kindle version of the book is filled with mistakes, and Kelly writes the same way he once laid bricks. However, the brute force and brute honesty of the book make up for it.

Kelly writes openly about his despicable decision to violate the international athletic ban and join fellow douchebag Pat McQuaid by racing in South Africa during apartheid. To his discredit, he never seems to understand how deplorable his actions were, and worse, his experience in South Africa left him completely unmoved. “Different lifestyles,” was how he summarized a despotic regime that brutalized people based on the color of their skin.

To his credit, he never complained about being banned from the Olympics due to his actions. Kelly admits to knowing the risk, and to uncomplainingly accepting the consequences. This factual, unromantic approach to life is one of the things that made him such a superb racer. He was devoid of illusions, and focused only on the task at hand, which for him was essentially hard, hard work and a shit-ton of it.

No diapers, no thank you

One can look at the Froomes and Frandys of our modern peloton and grimace when comparing their pampered lives to the career of Kelly. He went to France as an amateur, followed instructions, and won races. As a professional he rode for Jean de Gribaldy at Flandria, and was lucky to race under a manager who was years ahead of his time. Gribaldy demanded shorter quality rides as well as a long mid-week rides in a era when it was all about huge mileage. Moreover, he was fanatical about weight and diet.

Under de Gribaldy’s tutelage, Kelly became King Kelly. The book chronicles his successes, but is amazingly humble. Most telling is Kelly’s description of his attitude towards inclement weather and tough riding conditions. He never liked it, but since it was his job, he went out and did his best. The sheer number and volume of races that he did each year was likewise incredible, but he did it because his manager demanded it, not because he was some kind of glutton for punishment.

Drugs, yes, please

Kelly’s book is likewise frank about drugs. He was busted twice for doping, and he never reviled Paul Kimmage — unlike many of his contemporaries — for breaking the code of silence about drugs. “A lot of what he said was true,” says Kelly. As with his Olympic ban, Kelly doesn’t go into too much detail, but he never evades the truth. Kelly was a pro. Pros doped. Complete the syllogism yourself.

You’ll enjoy this book. It’s a complete rejection of the Velominati and their faux hardman ethos. You’ll also appreciate what a hard working professional Sean Kelly really was.

Bookends

October 21, 2013 § 47 Comments

I just finished reading “Tour de Lance” by Bill Strickland and “Breaking the Chain” by Willy Voet. Voet was the soigneur/drug dealer who was busted by French customs officials as he crossed over from Belgium into France with a load of goodies destined for the Festina team a few days prior to the 1998 Tour. The bust and its payload of EPO, among other things, resulted in the exposure of French star Richard Virenque as a doper, and got Festina booted from the Tour.

Strickland is one of the worst hacks in the world of faux cycling journalism, and his hagiography of Armstrong is fully revealed in the title. “Tour de Lance” is one fanboy’s masturbatory fantasy as he follows the team bus and watches Armstrong try, and fail, to win his eighth Tour. For Strickland, the project was a win-win. Either Armstrong stood atop the podium and the book could conclude “greatest athlete ever,” or Armstrong didn’t win, and Strickland could piously intone that Lance was now “more human. More like us.”

Either way, there would be a mountain of used Kleenex to get rid of.

Justice for Lance

With each disgraced doper retiring into comfortable fame, the accusation of Armstrong as “the most evil person to ever live including Hitler and Stalin” becomes sillier to read and more ridiculous to maintain. When Michael Barry begins publishing soporific, sappy little magazine tidbits that exhort us to “never forget the fun of cycling,” I have to choke back down my breakfast. This is the same Michael Barry who doped throughout his career, and we’re now supposed to take anything seriously that he has to say about what’s important in cycling?

Of course the most egregious offenders are George Hincapie and Levi Leipheimer, who run successful businesses and ragingly popular Gran Fondos that are successful due to the fame they achieved as cheats, liars, dopers, and sporting frauds. And when Christian Vandevelde or Dave Zabriskie hang up their cleats, their cheating legacies are mere asterisks, nothing more.

But Lance, of course, is different because he exterminated the hopes of countless 12k dreamers. He personally directed the deaths of millions as a leader in the Khmer Rouge and as a henchman to Idi Amin. Plus, he was really mean to Betsy, so we should pursue him forever, no matter what. If Lance hadn’t lied about drugs, I’d have won the Tour, I know that in my heart.

The real culprits

We all know who the real culprits in the doping saga are. They are the athletes who cheat. They are spectators who uncritically adulate. And they are the media who refuse to act like journalists and instead act like PR shills.

“Breaking the Chain,” written shortly after the Festina scandal, is a short, punchy, brutal look at the rich history of drugs in cycling. When Laurent Fignon piously intoned in his autobiography that in his day doping methods were minuscule, he is contradicted by Voet’s detailed description of the methods, means, and effects that had been around for decades — including the years in which Fignon raced (busted for doping twice, in ’87 and ’89).

Although it only plays a vaguely minor scale to the tune of “Poor, poor, pitiful me,” Voet’s book reveals an old truth. The mules and drug dealers and soigneurs will get hung out to dry long before the stars. At worst, Voet was a bottom feeder and a drug addict himself who worked assiduously to master the black art of obtaining and administering drugs to racers. At best he was a tiny cog in a nasty, evil machine, culpable perhaps, but nothing on the level of the real villains.

And such a real villain is Bill Strickland

If you can get through “Tour de Lance” without alternating bouts of rage, incredulity, revulsion, and despair, you are made of pretty stern stuff. Here’s a guy who writes for Bicycling magazine as its editor at large, writing nine years after the publication of “Breaking the Chain,” and who can’t do anything other than hang around the Trek team bus and insinuate himself into the good graces of the mechanics and Bruyneel and Lance himself in order to uncritically accept every spoon-fed lie that is doled out.

The book isn’t even about Lance, it’s about Strickland and his fanboy fantasy as he revels in being on the inside even at a time when no critical writer could have accepted the plethora of lying denials regarding Armstrong’s doping. To make it even more sick, there is a post-script that mentions Landis’s confessions and accusations regarding drugs on Armstrong’s US Postal team, but even with that Strickland can’t bring himself to do anything more journalistic than jerk himself off one last time as he slobbers about how much more human Lance has become in his failed comeback bid.

And Strickland’s motivations for refusing to acknowledge the truth are just as base as his motivations for writing the fanbook in the first place: He’s simultaneously working on another lickspittle book that hoists up Johan Bruyneel as the greatest race director of all time — “We Might as Well Win,” and it simply wouldn’t do to take the wind out of that sail. After all, we’re talking money here. Bill’s money.

As we all found out, the people who threw Lance under the Postal bus the quickest were the very media whores and corporate rapists who had deflected all criticism and refused to investigate even his most incredible lies. Strickland is now back to his old business, writing puff pieces about the joys of bicycling even as Lance pays for his sins — and pays, and pays, and pays, and even as Lance’s former cronies continue to profit from their ill-gotten gains, gains made possible by people like Strickland.

The juxtaposition of “Breaking the Chain” and “Tour de Lance,” especially when read in sequence, tells you everything you really need to know about how it all happened, why it all happened, and whether it’s happening still. And no matter what the fanboys say, it is.

World’s greatest pro masters racer

October 10, 2013 § 16 Comments

We all know the essential characteristics of the pro masters racer — selfish, delusional, cheap, and self-serving to the extreme. Chris Horner, at age 41 the oldest winner of a Grand Tour, has no contract for next year. He went on twampage to vent his frustration in a charming series of tweets, which you can read here.

After digging around on the Internet, I came up with another series of tweets associated with the same Twitter account. Here they are:

12:09am Whined like a little bitch on the Twitter. #ididthat!

12:11am Never tested posative. #meandlancedidthat!

12:15am Spent years with one of the most corrupt teams in sports history. #ididthat!

12:19am Never new anyone was doping. #ididthat!

12:22am Gave doping testimony to USADA but had name redacted from report. #ididthat!

12:30am Published blood values but refused to answer journo’s questions about USADA report. #ididthat!

1:00am Intentionally chose this stupid sport as a “career” instead of getting an education. #ididthat!

1:01am Complained about it anyway. #ididthat!

1:09am Sacrificed everything I had four racing, which was, uh, nothing. #ididthatwithalltheother12kdreamers!

1:10am Believe that being a pro bike racer makes me special. #isodothat!

1:45am Ate a lot of Big Macs and told people, especially children, their healthy. #istilldothat!

1:48am Wondered why another aging star from the Big Dope era is a terrible investment. #ididthat!

2:59am Had one to many after dinner tonight. #ididthat! #belch

3:01am Broke wifes rule of “Thou shalt not tweet while hammered.” #ididthat! #notgettinanytonite

3:11am Through the phone threw the window because no knew contract offers came after tweet rant. #ididthat!

3:26am Realized that you cant get a new contract by being a whiney little bitch. #ididthat!

3:30am Did a Google search on “How too erase tweets forever.” #ididthat!

3:44am Got majorly bummed when I found out u cant. #fuckiwishihadntdonethat!

3:50am Checked SCNCA.org to see when masters racing starts next year in SoCal. #ididthatanditwasdepressingasshit!

Interview with the new UCI boss, Brian Cookson

September 28, 2013 § 12 Comments

We sat down with UCI president-elect Brian Cookson shortly after he had ousted Paddy McQuaid, the rough-and-tumble, hard drinking, coke-snorting, influence-peddling douchebag who has been the face of professional cycling since 2006.

WM: How does it feel to be elected to a major international sports position like this, yet still come across in most photographs as a homeless man looking for a bath and a shave?

BC: Cycling is ready for a new path, so I’m honored to have been chosen for this post.

WM: The UCI has historically been a facade for one of the most pathetic, irrelevant professional sports in the world. How will you change that?

BC: Cycling needs new leadership to take it on a new path. I say, old chap, d’you mind if I have another one of those? (Points to empty whiskey glass.)

WM: By all means. Waiter! Please bring Mr. Cookson another whiskey! (Waiter quickly refills the glass.) So, what is your plan for cleaning up this filthy, putrid, cheating, lying, freak show of a non-sport, where a 42-year-old cheeseburger addicts can whip the snot out of 150 drug-crazed Spanish professionals in the prime of life?

BC: When I took over British Cycling, it was on an old path. A very, very old path. Ancient, in fact. And so we put it on a new one, a new path. And it’s been quite successful, I might add.

WM: I thought British Cycling was revolutionized by lottery funding and volcano doping? I mean, weren’t you running it like, back in the days when the only people the British beat in bicycle races were the Sudanese?

BC: Yes, well, the $48 billion annual lottery investment helped. And I believe that a new path is needed here at the UCI as well.

WM: Right. What, exactly, is the new path you have in mind?

BC: Obviously, not an old one.

WM: Of course not. I mean, something that will restore integrity to a sport that never had any, right? A way to make cycling appealing to people who aren’t enamored of those pasty Froome-types who can’t steer, who gaze incessantly at the stem, who roll over and die the minute the Tour ends?

BC: Exactly. A new path.

WM: What are its core elements?

BC: Excuse me (signals waiter). Could I have another one of these? (Points to now-empty whiskey glass, waiter refills it.)

WM: Dude, you seem completely drunk.

BC: Where were we?

WM: New path. You were going to take cycling on a new path.

BC: Yes, of course. We must eliminate corruption and cheating and bad things altogether. And to do that we need a new vision to do that in order for it to happen.

WM: Do you have any details?

BC: About what? (Hiccoughs.)

WM: Oh, nothing.

All doped up (and nowhere to go)

September 15, 2013 § 22 Comments

Copied and pasted this awesome interview from Gazetta dello Sport (with the help of Google translate).

Interviewer: How does it feel to be the oldest ever winner of a Grand Tour?

Chris Horner: Old. Very old.

Int: Many say you achieved it through doping.

CH: Fuck them. People want to know what I was on? I was on my bike.

Int: You must admit that age 57 is quite old to be dominating athletes in their 20′s and 30′s in the prime of life.

CH: Yeah, it is. (Chuckles).

Int: And you must admit that having spent the majority of your career during the “Golden Era” of blood manipulation makes your victory more than a little suspect.

CH: Yep. Sure does. But you know what?

Int: What?

CH: I’ve never tested positive. And I’m the second most-tested athlete in the history of sport.

Int: You raced alongside Lance Drugstrong while the team was being run by “Chuckles” Bruyneel, who is now being investigated by the Belgian Cycling Federation for violating the first rule in the charter of that nation’s cycling bylaws.

CH: What rule is that?

Int: Don’t get caught.

CH: Right.

Int: So what do you have to say about the estimated VAM of 2034 and a power-to-weight ratio of 6.83 watts/kg on the climb to the finish at Peña Cabarga?

CH: What’s a VAM?

Int: It stands for “Vaglia Antimorto Muscatini.” In English, it means “Analysis of power and output vectors normalized by the number of completely doped and dropped Italians and Spaniards.”

CH: Never heard of it.

Int: Your power-to-weight ratio at at Peña Cabarga and on the Angliru was roughly equivalent to that of a 2-stroke motorcycle. How is that possible?

CH: Training and proper diet.

Int: But you are famous for eating McDonalds …

CH: Like I said.

Int: Given your age, your close affiliation with Drugstrong, and your dominance in a clearly juiced field, how can the fans have any confidence in this outcome?

CH: The fans are people. And people are stupid.

Int: But you can’t expect to fool them forever, can you?

CH: I don’t have to. There’s an entire industry of cycling publications that are standing in line to trumpet my success. They could give a shit about my drug usage as long as I sell copy and pimp product.

Int: The “fanboys with typewriters”?

CH: No. They use Word now.

Int: This makes you only the third American, behind LeMond and Hampsten, to win a Grand Tour. How does that feel?

CH: Uh, aren’t you forgetting someone?

Int: No.

CH: Lance. Lance won the Tour seven times.

Int: All of those wins were stripped by the World Anti Doping Agency Hypocrisy Council.

CH: Look, Lance won those Tours. He might have been juiced to the gills, but it was an even playing field. Like Hitler.

Int: Excuse me?

CH: Hitler killed millions. But so did Stalin. And Pol Pot. And Idi Amin. See? It was a level playing field. Their records stand.

Int: The next-oldest winner of any Grand Tour was 36, and the oldest victor of the Vuelta was Tony Rominger at 33, during the “anything goes” days of unlimited EPO. You’re almost 300 years older than Tony. How do you explain it?

CH: What is there to explain? I’ve never tested positive.

Int: On today’s stage up the Angliru you were formidable and repelled each of the attacks by Nibali, who won the Giro on more drugs than a horse farm. How do you explain it?

CH: Two words. Marginal gains and volcano doping.

Int: That’s four words.

CH: What do you assholes want? Extreme athletic performances or parking lot crits? Throw me into a 21-day concentration camp with climbs that make the Dolomites look like a pasture and I’m gonna do what it takes to win. Throw me into a CBR crit and …

Int: And?

CH: (Grins) I’m STILL gonna do what it takes to win.

END

The ugliest sport

August 18, 2013 § 30 Comments

I am an ugly rider. I bob up and down. I weave back and forth. I make unpleasant gasping sounds when going hard. My thin arms stick out at odd angles like a praying mantis. I have been called “Twigman,” “Mantis,” “The Human Loom,” and of course plain old “Wanker.”

But you know what? I’m an amateur, and not a particularly good one. My ugly riding style is just one more check-mark in the long list of qualities that define me as a weekend hacker.

What’s more than passing strange, though, is the ugliness of the professionals. Because you know, it didn’t always used to be that way.

The most beautiful sport

If you look at any of the classic cycling videos — A Sunday in Hell, or the 1973 World Championships in Spain — it’s impossible not to be struck with the smoothness of the riders. Of course each one is idiosyncratic; funny motions and unique pedaling styles make each rider as distinct as a thumbprint. But despite each rider’s individual style, the grace and smoothness of the riding is incredible, even over the rough and ragged paving stones to Roubaix.

Then, to see how far we’ve fallen, look at the Tour of 2013.

The winner is perhaps the worst example of ugly cycling to ever appear in the pro peloton. Froome’s ungainly, awkward, uncomfortable, and erratic pedaling make his riding ugly beyond belief, and the hilarious photo essay of “Chris Froome Looking at Stems” only proves the point: The head-droop that causes experienced racers to shout, “Keep your head up, dumbshit!” is emblematic of a man who just won the Tour de France. Yet he’s hardly alone. Jerky, forced, unnatural, uncomfortable riding styles abound. How did the beauty of 1973 become the unbearable ugliness of 2013?

Saddle time

The  biggest difference between then and now is that pro cyclists don’t race their bikes very much. In 1975, the year that Eddy Merckx lost the tour, he entered a staggering 195 races, everything from classics to grand tours to local criteriums. Nor was he the exception, because in those days pro riders made their money at the smaller events. Merckx has said that if he had been paid better, he would have raced less.

Chris Froome’s racing schedule in 2013 was comprised of the Tour of Oman (6 races), Tirreno-Adriatico (7 stages), Criterium Internationale (3 stages), Tour of Romandie (6 races), Criterium du Dauphine (8 races), and the Tour de France (21 races). His total race calendar for the year was a meager 51 races, and when you lop out the time trials and prologues it was even less.

From the perspective of developing good riding skills, the generation of racers who became professionals by racing their bikes rather than by doing specific lab, heart rate, or power-based workouts had countless more racing miles than modern Pro Tour racers. It’s my opinion that the huge number of races over so much different terrain — riders would often do track and cyclocross after the road season ended, in addition to muddy spring classics and summertime tours — made them smoother, more fluid, more skilled, and better riders.

Equipment and training miles

In addition to huge miles in training and racing, Ol’ Backintheday rode equipment that required skills. You had to reach the down tube to shift. You had fewer gears to choose from. Your bike was heavier. Your wheels were slower. Your feet weren’t very firmly bound to your pedals. Your shoe soles were soft.

Professionals had to be able to pedal and operate machinery that was more finicky than today’s push-button, wrist-flicking technology. The best example I can think of that shows how degenerate the pro peloton’s skills generally are is by comparing them with modern track racers, who still have the same bike handling limitations that they had fifty years ago.

The track is narrow and unforgiving. The speeds are high. The equipment tolerates little if any jerky, quirky, ugly riding, especially at the level of world class competition. The result? Elite track racers remain beautiful to watch, their efficient, measured, and controlled movements in complete harmony with the bike.

I’ll always ride ugly. But Chris Frooome and his cohorts could stand for a beauty makeover. It might make me forget about their volcano doping, if only for a little while.

Zabel re-confesses to doping

July 31, 2013 § 16 Comments

Sprint ace Erik Zabel, four-time winner of Milan-San Remo and six-time winner of the Tour de France’s coveted green jersey has re-confessed to multiple doping offenses after samples from the 1998 Tour were re-analyzed, confirming the presence of EPO in his blood.

Zabel previously confessed in 2007 to having used EPO a single time in 1996. Below is a transcript of the press conference held yesterday by Vattenfall, the German race organizer for whom Zabel worked as race consultant until today.

ZDF (German TV broadcaster): So you’re confessing to more extensive drug use than in your previous confession?

Zabel: Yes. I’m re-confessing.

ZDF: So you’re saying you used more drugs than only that one time?

Zabel: That’s correct.

ZDF: How often did you dope?

Zabel: Every single day. I doped in the off season. I doped during the season. I doped even after quitting a race, just to make sure I didn’t fall behind. I doped on my honeymoon. Viagra.

VN (American Cycling Publication): So what you’re saying is that you cheated, with drugs?

Zabel: Absolutely. My entire career. The only time I didn’t use drugs before a race was during a winter training crit in Dortmund, in 2001. My pharmacist had run out of drugs. I fired him, you can be sure.

VN: You didn’t really know you were cheating, though, did you?

Zabel: Of course I did, you numbnuts. That’s why we did it on the down low. We learned as small children in East Germany that cheating was morally wrong and completely unconscionable unless you never got caught, in which case you made millions and got to boink the podium girls. I even married one.

VN: You were forced into doping by the evil East German system, weren’t you?

Zabel: Not at all. Nobody forced me to do anything. I wanted to win and didn’t care what I had to sacrifice. I would have sold my grandparents into slavery or drunk American beer if that’s what it took.

ZDF: American beer?

Zabel: Okay, I’m exaggerating. But you get the point.

CN (Australian online cycling web site): Mr. Zabel, isn’t it true that everyone was doping and you had to use drugs? The system was rigged, wasn’t it? You were just a victim, weren’t you?

Zabel: I suppose you could say it was rigged, but it’s a lie that everyone was doping. My masseuse never doped. Anyway, what did I care? I won MSR. Four fucking times. You know what that feels like?

CN: What?

Zabel: It’s like having a hundred orgasms at once. Times a million billion trillion.

GdS (Italian cycling magazine): But this doping, since everyone did it, it was a level playing field, right?

Zabel: Sure. Just like when a bunch of banks conspire to wreck the economy. Among the cheaters and thieves, we were equal.

GdS: And those who didn’t dope weren’t good enough anyway, were they? You can’t make a race horse out of a donkey, can you? Heh, heh.

Zabel: I’m sure there were many great racers who chose not to dope. You know what we called them? Chumps. Look it up.

GdS: Chumps?

Zabel: Fuckin-A. I made a fortune. My stockbroker invested wisely. For the price of an apology and a couple of press conferences I got a killer house, a smokin’ hot wife, and four MSR wins. The chumps are flipping burgers or writing anonymous hate mail to bikeforums.com. Fuck them. Losers.

L’E (French cycling magazine): In your previous confession you were very tearful and admitted to only using EPO once. Why? Did you fear the omerta?

Zabel: You fuckers crack me up. Quit watching so many Godfather movies. Why would I possibly be scared of a bunch of skinny manorexics?

L’E: Then why did you confess as you did?

Zabel: Because I’m a liar. And a drug addict. What, are you the stupidest person ever born?

L’E: But it was the system that made you an addict, wasn’t it? You were helpless against the force of history, correct?

Zabel: I was an addict because I liked kicking ass on the French on the Champs Elysees. You don’t make it to the top of the East German sports hierarchy without making some choices.

L’E: But of course you regret your partial confession, don’t you? The system wouldn’t have understood if you had made a full confession, correct?

Zabel: Fuck the system. I shed a couple of crocodile tears, ‘fessed up to some minor crap and landed a gig as pro consultant to Vattenfall. What’s not to like?

ZDF: But the new cycling is clean, is it not? Your son Rick would never dope, and he is in a new system, correct?

Zabel: Look, chump, anyone who would send his kid off into the pro peloton and not expect him to be a crazed drug addict is nuts. Rick’s a grown man. When the time comes and they offer to shoot his pecker up with the latest wonder drug, he’ll know what to do.

VN: If you could do it all over again you wouldn’t do it, would you?

Zabel: Okay, you’re the second stupidest person in history. Of course I would. Do drugs, boink podium girls, make millions … what part of “make millions” and “boink podium girls” do you not understand?

CN: Mr. Zabel …

Zabel: STFU. (Answers cell phone). Yeah, okay. Hey guys, gotta go. My Bentley’s out of the shop now. Any more questions, email my agent.

Lance 3.0: Lay down your cudgels, please

May 26, 2013 § 57 Comments

Newsflash: Lance Armstrong has been stripped of…pretty much everything.

Tour titles? Gone.

Reputation? Gone.

Income stream from his cancer foundation? Gone.

Ability to compete in sanctioned athletic events and the attendant income? Gone.

Mansion in Austin? Gone.

Self-respect after not getting hugged by Oprah? Totally gone.

Bonus newsflash: It’s not over yet. The Justice Department has joined Floyd’s whistleblower suit…former sponsors are suing to get their money back…he will be paying for his transgressions for a long, long time.

I don’t know about you…

But I believe in redemption. Not the Shawshank kind — I believe in the kind of redemption that says once you’ve been punished for your transgressions according to rule and/or law, you’re redeemed.

This type of redemption may not mean that you’re a sterling moral character, or even that you admit guilt or feel sorry for what you’ve done. It just means that you broke the rule, got punished, and are now free to move on just like new. Something worthless has been exchanged for something useful and new. Just like a coupon.

When you murder someone, rape someone, abuse a child, defraud the elderly, skim from the company till, or run a red light, your redemption begins when you’ve served your time or paid your fine. Redemption means trading in the old for the new. It means a fresh start.

And in case you were wondering, along with the punishment fitting the crime, redemption is the premise upon which our entire legal system is built.

Redemption gives convicted felons the right to vote, the right to work, the right to have a passport, and the right to fully participate as citizens once they’ve served their time. Redemption doesn’t mean you have to like the sinner or the ex-con. It just means you can’t legally continue punishing and persecuting him.

Lance is no convicted felon. If you don’t think he’s been punished, see above. If you’re still harboring resentment and anger, that’s understandable. But he’s not going anywhere, and I’d suggest that there’s a better way to deal with him than continually bludgeoning him for his transgressions.

It’s an old concept, actually. It’s called forgiveness.

Cranking up the PR machine

Lance has recently begun doing what he does best: Going on the offensive. Whether it’s calling Patrick Brady and chatting with him for an hour or unblocking Lesli Cohen and a bunch of other diehard Lance opponents, it’s clear that he has a plan in place and has begun to execute it.

What’s the plan?

The plan is to get back in front of the sports media and build Lance 3.0. This newest iteration is simple. Lance 3.0 is a…

  1. Survivor.
  2. Family man.
  3. World class athlete.
  4. Friend.

What will Lance 3.0 do? He will sell something. What will he sell? I don’t know. But I do know this: He won’t be setting up a pyramid scheme to defraud Medicare, or a criminal syndicate to assassinate journalists. Most likely, he’s got a plan that will let him earn a living as a speaker/athlete/patient advocate.

Is that so bad? How many other people get out of prison and see their mission in life as one dedicated to helping others? Mind you, I don’t know that that’s his plan, but what does he have left? And why is it contemptible for him to try and rebuild a career that’s been destroyed through his own mistakes?

Ultimately, though, does it really matter what his end game is? No.

What matters is you

A group of local riders were climbing Latigo Canyon Road yesterday, and guess who they met at the top? Barry Bonds.

Remember him?

He’s the guy who was held up as one of the most evil and crooked baseball players of all time, a guy who stole Hank Aaron’s record on the strength of drugs and lies. Today he’s a slim and fit bicycle rider.

When the gang ran into him on Latigo, no one cringed, or cursed him, or called him a scumbag doper. Instead, they mugged for the camera and posted photos on Facebook.

Why?

First, of course, is star power…and we are here in LA. Second, though, is the fact that Barry has paid for what he did, and he didn’t even go on Oprah and confess. We know that he was caught, that he’s been punished, and that now he’s just a dude on a bike who used to hit a lot of home runs. Our lives are too short to keep hating on a guy who’s been punished to the full extent that the system demanded, particularly since all he seems to do now is pedal around, show up at the occasional crit, and generally act like a normal dude.

We’re done with his crime, and so is he. Now we just want to say hello and ride our bikes.

What about Lance?

Lance is different from Barry because the latter earned hundreds of millions of dollars and wisely invested them over the course of a long career. Barry doesn’t have to work.

Lance has five kids, huge ongoing legal bills, and a lot of years left to live. It’s impossible that he’s got anywhere near the pile that Barry is sitting on, or even anything close to it. Unlike Barry, Lance has gotta work. Rather than pulling up the drawbridge and living inside the fort, Lance has got to get out and mingle in order to rebuild.

For people getting out of prison and living in halfway houses, it’s called “You have to get a job.”

Lance showed us that pro cycling is a corrupt freak show. Danilo di Luca confirmed yesterday that it still is. Nibali, Wiggins, Dave Brailsford, Chris Froome, Pat McQuaid, Hein Verbruggen, and USA Cycling reaffirm that anyone who thinks the sport is clean isn’t thinking very hard.

If you hate Lance because he “ruined the sport,” maybe it’s time YOU moved on. The pro sport is rotten. If you follow it and still bury your head in the jocks of its stars, there’s a problem all right, and the problem is with you. If you can watch Nibali repeatedly hit the gas in the snow at the end of the most grueling stage of the most grueling stage race while his competition is rolling over and dying on the slopes, you’re the one who needs to analyze my modification of this old saw: “Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me over and over and over, and I’m a fucking moron who enjoys being fooled.”

As Billy Stone might put it, “And the dopers ruined your life as a Cat 4 masters athlete exactly how?”

Where’s it all going?

Now that Lance 1.0 and 2.0 have been airbrushed out of the history books, what’s wrong with giving 3.0 the same degree of redemption that should be afforded to axe murderers, tax cheats, misdemeanor DUI’s, and kids on grade probation in college? How is our agenda advanced by refusing to lay down arms, and instead insisting that he still be treated like the unrepentant, unpunished cheat that he was a year ago, when he’s repented and been punished?

Does it ennoble us to keep shrieking “Off with his head!” after his head has been offed, stuck on a pike, and paraded around his kids’ schoolyards? I think it does the opposite. It shows us up to be petty, vengeful dorks who actually think that pro cycling is so important it transcends common notions of justice and fair play.

Five years hence, ten years hence, Lance 3.0 will have been fully rebuilt. He’s that smart and a whole lot smarter, he’s that hard working, and he’s that motivated. He’s also got close to four million people on Twitter who want to know what he says and thinks, as well as five kids to feed, clothe, and put through college.

Most importantly, he’s not going anywhere. Do you want to be the wild-eyed crazy standing in the corner screaming, “But he doped! He cheated! He lied! He ruined my Cat 4 masters racing career!” long after he’s been punished and the rest of the world has moved on?

I don’t.

If the UCI and USA Cycling and WADA are done with his case, then I am, too. Keep clubbing at him if you want, but don’t expect me to join in. I’d rather go club some of the baby seals on next Tuesday’s NPR.

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