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?
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.
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?
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 …
CH: (Grins) I’m STILL gonna do what it takes to win.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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.
May 26, 2013 § 57 Comments
Newsflash: Lance Armstrong has been stripped of…pretty much everything.
Tour titles? 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…
- Family man.
- World class athlete.
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.
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.
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?
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.