April 30, 2014 § 16 Comments
Confessed doper, drug cheat, sporting fraud, mentor to young cyclists, and really nice guy George Hincapie has released his memoir of cycling during the Lance Armstrong heyday, “Confessions of a Clean Racer.” WIth a foreword by Michele Ferrari, excerpts have already detailed explosive revelations about the depth and breadth of non-doping practices within the top echelons of the sport.
Cycling in the South Bay was able to reach Hincapie at his villa in the Hamptons for an exclusive interview.
CitSB: Your new memoir, “Confessions of a Clean Racer,” is sure to destroy a lot of long-held perceptions about the pro peloton.
GH: Well, that was the intent. It’s finally time for someone to come clean about the non-doping practices in the sport.
CitSB: Can you be more specific?
GH: Sure. There were days, and once before Lance’s first Tour win in 1999, even an entire week, in which no one doped.
CitSB: No one?
GH: Not a single rider. Not me, not Lance, not Frankie, Tyler, or even Kevin.
GH: Yes, and by the time I moved on, the team had incorporated an entire system of non-doping, strategically placed around Christmas and New Year’s. It was systematic.
CitSB: How did it go from being a one-off “clean day” to organized, methodical, and systematic non-doping?
GH: It was a process. We started off the way everyone does, thinking we could win by taking a full doping regimen. Subcutaneous EPO. Direct injections into the veins and stomach. Kotex sopped in vodka and wedged up each others’ bottoms. And then we realized that if we were really going to compete at the highest level we’d have to race clean. Not every day, certainly, and for sure not even most of the time, but every now and then we’d have to forego the transfusions, corticosteroids, test patches, even the Kotex.
CitSB: So what started as a way to level the playing field … ?
GH: … became a slippery slope that we all slipped down, especially after a couple of beers and some Vaseline. Before we knew it, we were all riding clean at certain points to be prepared for our ultimate objective, which of course was the Tour.
CitSB: When were you first approached about riding clean?
GH: Well, as a junior I’d seen clean racers, I knew they were there, but we didn’t pay attention to them. They were losers. I remember telling Eddy B when he pointed out a couple of guys with very suspicious results and a complete absence of tracks on their forearms that I’d “never stoop to racing clean.” Those were my exact words. And then as a young pro it became clear that there was a handful of riders, the very best guys, who had clean periods during the season. We had a nickname for them, the “Kleenexes.” Get it? Clean? Kleenex?
CitSB: I get it.
GH: You always kind of wondered, “What would happen if I rode clean a day or two a year? Would it supercharge me that much?” And then when Johan took over, he took me aside and was totally blunt. I remember it like it was yesterday.
CitSB: What did he say?
GH: He told me that I could either lay off the daily visits to Ferrari, the wire transfers, the funny little guy on the moto carrying EPO in his panniers, lay off that stuff once or twice a month or I could find myself a new line of work. “Postal Kleenex don’t wipe snot,” was his motto.
CitSB: What was your initial regimen?
GH: One day a month. I started with weak doses of non-doping.
CitSB: What was the effect? This what every SoCal masters racer really wants to know about racing clean.
GH: At first you couldn’t notice it. But then as you upped the dosage of non-doping, as your body got used to detoxing the pot Belge, the Actovegin, the clen, the random shit that the pharmacist mixed up in his garage and carried around in an empty whiskey bottle, you know, gradually you got stronger, until finally you couldn’t race without a clean day, sometimes even a couple of them in the middle of the race.
CitSB: So the team was actually riding clean for periods of the Tour?
GH: Oh, yeah. It was crazy stuff.
CitSB: Weren’t you afraid of getting caught?
GH: Dog, yes. One time a French TV crew followed our soigneurs after we’d had a clean session and videotaped them dumping all of the non-doping substances in a trash can behind a church. They fished out the garbage bags and it was a cornucopia of clean: kale, organic chicken bones, whole milk, banana peels. Then they showed it on prime time TV and called it “How Postal Goes Bananas on the Big Climbs.”
CitSB: You must have thought the jig was up.
GH: Dog, yes. We were terrified. Another time the UCI sent in testers immediately after we’d had a three-day regimen of non-doping. We were so scared we’d test negative that we were shooting up everything we had, hoping it would hit the bloodstream in time for the testers. Lance is the only one who came up negative, but fortunately he got Dr. Moral to backdate a prescription for rest, vegetables, water, and some bread. And Hein Verbruggen accepted the backdated scrip.
CitSB: Pretty funny, but also scary. Weren’t you worried about the health effects?
GH: Yes and no. We had docs, we trusted them. They seemed convinced that even if we were clean up to 50% of the time our bodies could recover from it with the proper administration of the right potentially lethal doping cocktails.
CitSB: When did you realize that USADA was going to bring down Lance, along with you, Levi, Jonathan, and the rest?
GH: Of course we had all gotten used to Betsy’s tirades; people had been accusing us of non-doping for years. But Lance seemed to have it on lockdown, she was portrayed as this crazy woman with a vendetta, kind of an Internet-troll-meets-National-Enquirer-meets-Joan-Rivers-at-a-Tweeker-party, right? And the media bought it. But then when Floyd admitted to non-doping and the Feds got involved, shit got real. We had to decide whether we were going to keep pretending that we’d never raced clean, or take what was a very sweet deal.
CitSB: And you took the deal.
GH: Obviously. We were all perfectly happy to finger the guy who had brought us all our success and fame if all we had to do keep our jobs and our money was admit to non-doping. I mean, Levi’s laughing all the way to the bank. So am I, by the way. Okay, not laughing. But certainly smiling.
CitSB: So where does this put you in 2014? There are a lot of people who believe that George Hincapie and people like him have no place in the sport today.
GH: I can see their point, but I look at it differently. Cycling gave me everything and I want to give something back. I’ve learned from the bad things I’ve done, I’ve admitted to having raced clean, I’ve been punished, and it’s no coincidence that I run a U-23 development team. Someone who these kids respect has to be able to tell them that times have changed, that it’s no longer acceptable to non-dope, and that when the time comes — and it will come — they’ll have to stand firm against the non-dopers. Because they’re still out there. Not as many as there once were, but it’s a part of the culture, unfortunately.
CitSB: Thanks, George.
GH: You’re welcome.
CitSB: If I mail you one of my cycling jerseys would you sign it for me?
Did you know that you can subscribe to “Cycling in the South Bay”? Your donation will go directly to paying for investigative reports like this one to help fight non-doping in cycling! Plus, everything here is true except for the parts I’ve made up, which is all of it. Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. I’ll be glad you did.
April 22, 2014 § 25 Comments
Andy Schleck returned to the classics with a vengeance, hitting his knee on a pole in the Amstel Gold Race and retiring with more than 100km of racing to go. “I couldn’t have asked for more,” an ebullient Schleck told reporters outside the Trek Factory Team bus.
“It’s getting harder and harder to come up with plausible excuses for my terrible riding,” he said with a smile. “The contusions on my knee are palpable, real. No one can deny these boo-boos. Check it out.” Schleck extended his right knee, which sported a large, 2-inch scrape partially covered by two Band-Aids.
“This hurts!” added Schleck. “Ow!”
Team manager Louis Pasteur was equally pleased with the performance. “You can’t underestimate the power of an actual physical injury for purposes of extending his contract another year or two without him actually having to finish a race. We were on pins and needles during his emotional phase of the last two years, you know, having to convince our sponsors that he was riding poorly because he couldn’t be with his brother, he was ‘feeling poopy,’ etc. But now that we have an actual physical injury, everyone can understand that as a reason for not winning.
“We believe that with this race Andy will be completely back on top of his game of not being on top of his game,” added Pasteur when asked about Schleck’s participation in Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, two races that are regarded as among the most difficult in which to properly place the French accent grave.
“It’s even possible that he will ride neither race, yet still manage to collect his paycheck. This is a dream come true, even in a country like Luxembourg, where it is a basic human right to have everything given to you whether you deserve it or not.
“Our only concern,” added Pasteur, “is his brother Fränk. We were disturbed to see him actually finish Amstel in the top thirty. His 24th placing could lead to expectations that without drugs he can perform well, and more ominously, that after several million dollars’ in contract fees, he is capable of finishing a major race. This would be catastrophic for Andy’s recovery to the pinnacle of not recovering.”
When it was pointed out that the younger Schleck had not finished a major race since 2011, Pasteur agreed. “We all know he has the potential to never again finish a big race. He showed us a glimpse of that quitterish spirit in 2011 and has confirmed it every single year since. With some patience and a bit of luck, 2014 will be another strong year for him in terms of abject failure despite doing everything he was told not to do.”
Shleck was heard to howl “Ouchie!” and “Yowie!” and to ask for another Puffy Luvvy tissue as reporters moved on to another team bus.
Did you know that you can subscribe to “Cycling in the South Bay”? Your donation will go directly to a fund that helps Andy not finish more races! Plus, everything here is true except for the parts I’ve made up, which is all of it. Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. I’ll be glad you did.
April 14, 2014 § 27 Comments
Less than 24 hours after soloing to victory out of an elite group of the world’s best cobblestone specialists, 2014 Paris – Roubaix winner Niki Terpstra (HOL, OmegaPharma – Quickstep) was stripped of his victory by race organizer ASO Sports. At a hastily convened press conference in Paris, ASO president Antoine de Saint-Exupéry issued the following press release, which is reproduced below:
ASO regrets to inform M. Niki Terpstra that he has received a disqualification in the 2014 edition of Paris – Roubaix 2014 because of his unpopularity, or to be more precise, because no one knows exactly who he is. By finishing ahead of MM. Tom Boonen and Fabian Cancellara, M. Terpstra has taken away an important marketing and sales opportunity for global cycling and ASO, which has been poised for several months now to profit handsomely from the victory of either M. Cancellara or M. Boonen at Paris – Roubaix. M. Terpstra will be allowed to race the 2015 edition of the race, but only if he agrees to finish no higher than second. The official winner of the 2014 edition of the race is hereby designated as M. Fabian Cancellara, the third place finisher. This now places M. Cancellara in the ranks of the greatest riders ever, with four Roubaix victories to his name, and promises an incredible showdown in 2015 between him and M. Boonen to see which one will be the first ever rider to win this monument five times in his career.
Terpstra was stunned to learn that he had already been stripped of his victory, and he immediately broke down. “It is true my first name is that of a girl and my last name sounds like a kind of turtle, and it is true that few people know who I am, and worse, that I am Dutch, but I won Paris – Roubaix honestly. How can they take it away just like that?”
Other riders were sympathetic, but understanding of the difficult position in which ASO was placed with Terpstra’s win. Second place finisher John Degengolb agreed that “It’s a shame to strip him of the win, but it’s even more of a shame for a great race like this to be won by a nobody with a girl’s name. Would the NBA tolerate a championship by the Rockets or the Bucks? Of course not. It’s bad business.”
Tom Boonen concurred. “Either I or Fabian should have won today, everyone said so, including me and Fabian, so it’s only fair that Niki got DQ’d. You have to remember that unlike the premier European soccer leagues, in cycling we don’t have refs who can make sure that the fix is in. Niki had the ride of his life, but with Fabian being declared the winner it really sets up a more dynamic spring classics season for 2015.”
CAS appeal possible
Although Terpstra has promised to appeal his disqualification to CAS, a long line of precedent suggests that a successful appeal is unlikely. According to attorney Jean-Jacques Rousseau, “ASO will be able to prove without question that no one has any idea who Terpstra is. He’s less than unknown. He’s a mote of irrelevance in a niche sport within a micro-fissure of anonymity.”
Others are less sure. According to one sports lawyer, Terpstra may have a chance on appeal. “While it’s true that famous races in general must be won by famous racers, there are exceptions such as Van Summeren’s win in 2011, Guesdon’s in 1997, and the forgettable Servais Knaven in 2001. If these non-entitites can have their names engraved at the velodrome in Roubaix, why not Terpstra as well?”
The answer appears to lie in the historic clash between Boonen and Cancellara, according to Rousseau. “If this were a normal year it would perhaps be acceptable to throw a bone to a nobody. But this year is far from normal. We must ensure that the results comport with the marketing opportunities.”
April 10, 2014 § 7 Comments
This year Paris-Roubaix promises to be the one of the best editions in years. Here’s why:
- With the less-than-on-form Tom Boonen failing to effectively challenge Fabian Cancellara at the Tour of Flanders, 2014 marks the first time in over a decade that there is less than a 98% chance that the race will be won by either Tommeke or Fabs. Riders, fans, and pundits alike are thrilled at the 3 – 4% chance of crowning a new winner.
- Following the sunny, pleasant weather of the Ronde, Paris-Roubaix promises to be another beneficiary of the global warming that seems destined to kill off the human race while, instead of hanging the Koch Brothers and Exxon from the nearest yardarm, instead basks in the warmth of a fun bicycle race. Trademark applications have already been submitted to change the race’s nickname to the “Heck of the North.”
- Rainy, chilly weather ruined half the pro peloton’s Belgian campaign with the sniffles and the ouchies after Milan – San Remo, so team managers are doubly pleased at the prospect of picnic weather for Paris – Roubaix, even as the ghosts of Roubaix Past roll in their graves.
- As with MSR and the Ronde, Paris – Roubaix 2014 promises to be another epic “strategic” battle between alcoholic, drug-addled team directors screaming instructions into earpieces while their automatons robotically follow instructions until their legs fail or their bicycles break. A PSA on race radios and how they’ve improved race safety will be given by Johan van Summeren.
- The finishing velodrome will not be renamed “Specialized.”
- American fans have a new, popular, handsome, energetic disappointment to replace the old, battered, brokedown disappointment of George Hincapie, as Taylor Phinney promises to be one of USA’s greatest potential 2nd-place finishers since Big George.
- A handful of up-and-coming French riders promise to bring Gaulish strength back to this legendary French race by threatening to crack the top fifty.
- 2014 Paris – Roubaix has introduced a brief comedy segment called the “Wiggins Hour,” where Mr. Drinkypants himself seeks to be the first TdF – PR winner since Bernard Hinault.
- Sep Vanmarcke believes he’s ready to beat Cancellara in a sprint finish on the velodrome in Roubaix because, unicorns.
April 8, 2014 § 18 Comments
Cycling in the South Bay was privileged to interview several top professionals after Fabian Cancellara split the lead group and won out of a four-up breakaway.
CitSB: How did the race unfold?
Sep Vanmarcke: I was with Cancellara over the Kwaremont and Paterberg, but in the end he destroyed the field and made us look like children. Belgian children. Stupid Belgian children.
CitSB: Any conclusions about the race?
Greg van Avermaet: All in all it was a more tactical race than the last two years, since changing the finish from Meerbeke to Oudenarde. I am very pleased with second place but it was very difficult to beat Cancellara due to him crushing us all like a bunch of bugs on the windscreen of a jet.
CitSB: You must be disappointed with seventh place?
Tom Boonen: Yes, of course, I was just two percent or so off. I believe I had a chance to beat Cancellara, but that was only in the warm-up around the bus.
CitSB: How would you evaluate the race?
Peter Sagan: Evaluate it? I got my ass whipped. You know how they say it in Slovakian? “Your eleventh finger is in the meat grinder.”
CitSB: What was going through your head as you approached the line in a 4-up breakaway with Cancellara?
Stijn Vandenbergh: “I’m totally screwed.” Something like that.
CitSB: You must have felt good about your early breakaway, taking the pressure off Greg for most of the race?
Taylor Phinney: If you think it feels good to have Cancellara annihilate an entire field when you’re one of the riders in the field, you’re a complete fool.
CitSB: What is Team Sky planning to improve on its top Ronde placing of 65th?
David Brailsford: We’ll do some more marginal gains away from the testers next year, that’s for sure. And wait for Cancellara to retire.
CitSB: It’s been 2008 since Italy won a monument. Why do you guys suck so bad?
Filippo Pozzato: I would like to point out that Cancellara comes from the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland.
CitSB: How does a guy with no teammates beat an entire field of 200 riders, including 30 riders from Omega-Pharma-Quickdope riding on their home turf?
Patrick Lefevere: Heads will roll, trust me. We do not race for second place. In fact lately we haven’t even been racing for tenth. Firings and public humiliation will continue until morale improves.
March 16, 2014 § 21 Comments
Richie Porte, the leader for Team Sky at Tirenno-Adriatico, expressed surprise today that his race tactics did not result in a stage win atop the climb to Selvarotonda. “I was on the front for most of the climb,” said Porte, in disbelief. “I was killing those guys.”
Alberto Contador, winner of the day’s stage, couldn’t explain the result either. “You know, Richie was up there on the front of the group, just drilling it really hard into a huge headwind up a very long and challenging climb. It’s hard to understand how he didn’t win.” Contador was seen shortly after the interview high-fiving his teammates on the bus and grinning slyly at his team director.
Overall leader Michal Kwiatkowski, who finished the stage with what analysts believe is an unsurmountable 34-second lead over Porte, was also at a loss to explain the outcome. “Richie was favored to win the race, and on the decisive climbing stage we were all sure he would win, the way he sat very impressively on the front for such a long time into such a bitter headwind with no teammates to help him and all of us in the leader’s group on his wheel like that. But somehow he lost.”
Second-place finisher Nairo Quintana was likewise mystified by Porte’s failure to win the stage and take control of the race despite his clever tactical riding. “We were all telling him, you know, ‘Wow, Richie, you’re killing us, dude,’ and ‘I’m cracking, I can barely hang on,’ and stuff like that, but then somehow just towards the end we all felt better and were able to pass him and put a lot of time on him. It’s weird. He was riding so strong and we were all so, how you say, in the box of hurt?”
Porte concurred with Quintana’s analysis. “It’s fuggin’ weird. Every time I looked back they had these faces that were filled with pain, awful grimaces, you know? And their shoulders were drooping and they were making loud breathing noises. I had ‘em, I had ‘em, I swear. Then, poof! We get about one kilometer out and suddenly everybody takes off and there I was, even though I’d done all the work, I couldn’t go with them. After pulling them up the climb like that you would have thought that they would at least have waited for me,” Porte added with a slight show of frustration. “It’s almost like they were playing me. If we weren’t all such good pals, I don’t know.”
Teammate Bradley “Wiggo” Wiggins was nonetheless upbeat at Porte’s chances on Sunday’s last mountain stage. “He’ll just have to hammer from the gun,” said Wiggo. “Tire ‘em out from the start, maybe take a little breather if he can, and then go right back to the front and drop the hammer on the climb. Ride ‘em off ‘is wheel. That’s the ticket, just like it was a triathlon, full fuggin’ gas from the get-go. They won’t know what hit ‘em, especially at the end when they hit the Muro di Guardiagrele with its 30% ramp.”
After the award ceremony, the top finishers congratulated Porte on his outstanding ride, saying “You were a beast,” and “I hope you don’t hammer us like that tomorrow. We won’t stand a chance!”
Subscribe to the blog! Everything here is true except for the parts I’ve made up, which is all of it. Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. I’ll be glad you did.
December 26, 2013 § 6 Comments
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?
It is the largest bicycle race in the world that no one cares about.
Sorry to bother you again, but if it’s such a big race, why doesn’t anyone care about it?
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.
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!
“The most exciting of all the grand tours” still translates into “as exciting as watching someone diagram sentences.”
How would you compare the hardest climbs of the Vuelta, like the Angliru, with something like the Stelvio or the Alpe?
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.