Astana forms new cycling league after being booted from Pro Tour

February 27, 2015 § 16 Comments

UCI President Brian Cookson announced today that team Astana would be asked to leave the Pro Tour due to irregularities in their application. “I told them they were drinking at the Last Chance Saloon,” said Cookson. “But they went ahead and ordered the drink with the pink umbrella. Oh, well.”

When asked about the procedure, Cookson’s assistant, Marc-Yves Surle Table explained: “We sent them a letter asking them to please not come to our races. It’s a very polite letter, firm but polite. Of course in the letter we vousvoyer.”

“If that doesn’t work,” said Cookson, “we get tough. We send a second letter, full-on tutoyer. We really ask them with incredible firmness, resolve, and indiscriminate use of the informal third person pronoun and its associated verb conjugations. They will see we mean business.”

Hans Castorp, the UCI’s third undersecretary for protocol and official correspondence, explained the next steps. “Sometimes even a letter filled with ‘tu’ doesn’t do the trick. So we start all over again, this time with sietzen followed by dutzen. They pretty much get the message then.”

Alexandre Vinokourov, doper-in-chief of Team Astana, was dismissive. “They can du or tu us all they want. We’re staying in the Last Chance Saloon and we’re gonna drink the fuggin’ place dry. Then we’ll beat up the barkeep, stuff potatoes down the toilet drains, and burn the fuggin’ joint to the ground.”

Vinokourov announced that he also has a “Plan B” in the event that an all-night drunkfest followed by arson at the Last Chance Saloon doesn’t pan out. According to the team’s publicist, Mohammed Emwazi, Team Astana has already formed a breakaway cycling league led by Johan Bruyneel with tanks, troops, armored personnel carriers, and artillery support from the Russian Federation. According to Emwazi, the new league will be based in the Donetsk People’s Republic, in Eastern Ukraine.

“We already have a full roster of teams,” Emwazi said. “The Donetsk Destroyers, the Luhansk Liberators, the Debaltseve Demons, the Mariupol Marauders, and the Crimea Killers.” When it was pointed out that Mariupol was still part of Ukraine, Emwazi said, “Not for long.”

The league’s first major event will be the Breaking Away Tour, which will pass through the most scenic and challenging areas of the fledgling separatist republic. “The Donetsk Airport, for example,” said Emwazi, “is a place rife with memories of sacrifice and heroism. We will probably do a crit around the rubble and then finish it off with a volley of long-range missiles towards Kiev.”



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UCI blocks Armstrong participation in “Tots on Bikes” fundraiser

October 29, 2014 § 31 Comments

Brian Cookson, president of the UCI, announced today that disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong’s planned participation in the annual “Tots on Bikes” fundraiser would not be permitted. “It’s quite simple,” said Cookson. “He cannot ride.”

When reached at his Austin villa, Armstrong was surprised at the ruling. “I wasn’t planning on riding,” he said. “We stand behind our kids and help them balance on a bicycle. It’s a father-and-kid event, not a bike race.”

Cycling in the South Bay reached Mr. Cookson while on holiday in front of the Berlin Reichstag, and spoke with him about Armstrong.

CitSB: Why can’t Lance go to this kiddie event? It seems pretty innocuous.

Cookson: Armstrong has been banned for life, and under the terms of his ban, he cannot do anything that relates to cycling. Nothing. This includes seemingly harmless activities such as standing in the aisle at Wal-Mart and shopping for a bicycle, much less actually coming into contact with young cyclists.

CitSB: It’s a bit of a stretch to call 3-year-old children “cyclists,” don’t you think?

BC: Not at all. These children are the grass roots. Simply being around them will send the message that the UCI tolerates drug cheats.

CitSB: What about all of the other drug cheats who still play prominent roles in the UCI, not to mention the coaching and management of the sport?

BC: Those drug cheats are different. They simply cheated. We must never forget that Lance stole the precious dreams of children, and Betsy.

CitSB: But how can the UCI block his participation in a private charity fundraiser?

BC: It’s quite simple, actually. The Tots on Bikes program receives its event insurance through USA Cycling, and therefore all anti-doping restrictions apply.

CitSB: So there’s going to be drug testing as well?

BC: Of course. You never know when a particularly sneaky infant will transfuse a few blood bags in order to win the “Proper Pedaler” ribbon.

CitSB: Is this really a wise use of the UCI’s resources? Hasn’t Lance suffered enough?

BC: Oh, not at all. We’re currently working on an agreement with the state of Texas, where he currently lives, to sell insurance to the state for one or two of its outdoor events. We believe that this will give us complete jurisdiction to control everything that Mr. Armstrong does for the rest of his life, including when and where he’s allowed to, you know, …

CitSB: Shit?

BC: I didn’t know if I could say that sort of thing in this publication.

CitSB: Right.

BC: We must never forget that Lance stole all of those precious childhood dreams and Betsy. No punishment is severe enough, and we must remain eternally vigilant that he is not allowed to corrupt the morals of our youth again.

CitSB: Like the Iglinsky brothers, who just got caught doping on the watch of ol’ doper Vinokourov?

BC: Exactly. Never again.

CitSB: And Roman Kreuziger, and Jonathan Tiernan-Locke?

BC: Right-o. Never again after them.

CitSB: Do you ever see a time when the lifetime ban might be lifted.

BC: Oh, absolutely.

CitSB: When?

BC: After he’s dead. Possibly.

CitSB: Possibly? How can you continue to ban a dead person?

BC: It’s in the terms of the anti-doping agreement. We can prohibit his corpse from participating in any UCI-authorized event. But I do foresee a time, perhaps in ten thousand years or so, when the ban could be lifted, that’s assuming he comes clean with the Truth and Reconciliation and Dicking Off Committee.

CitSB: How can he come clean? He’ll be dead.

BC: I suppose he should have thought about that before stealing all of those precious childhood dreams.

CitSB: And Betsy.

BC: And Betsy.



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Riders lament cancellation of Tour of Beijing after 2014

September 24, 2014 § 14 Comments

The pro peloton was rocked today with news that the beloved Tour of Beijing will likely end after 2014. “This was one of the best races on the calendar,” said Serge Dumoulin, noted domestique for Continental III-level pro team Buster’s Bunion Buster Orthotic Shoe Implants p/b Carburetor Kleen. “It was an epic race.”

Praise for the race was unanimous. In its first three years, the Tour of Beijing a/k/a Race for the Cinders, was hailed as one of the toughest and most challenging events on the pro calendar. “Sure, the stages were all pretty much short and flat,” said Pepe Contreras of Team Barnacle, “but to pedal even a hundred meters in that stinking, smog-filled shit hole of Beijing, I rate it as my greatest accomplishment ever.”

Team doctors from Trek, Cannondale, Katusha, and Tinkoff-Saxodope all agreed. “This race presented the most incredible challenges of our collective medical careers: how to inhale vast quantities of mercury, lead, cadmium, and airborne clenbuterol without either dying or testing positive. This was our greatest achievement.”

Pierre du Fromage-et-vins-du-Sucre, one of the few riders to complete all three editions, waxed nostalgic. “It’s not often you get to support, through your athletic participation, a nation that not only represses human rights but that also pollutes the globe on a massive scale. I’ll miss that. Plus all the teenagers we had sex with for, like, six bucks.”

Brian Cookson, head of the UCI and uncharacteristically sober at 9:00 AM British time, was more sanguine. “The Tour of Beijing served its purpose, to reach out to the growing population of Chinese sporting enthusiasts and expand awareness of our sport, but let’s be honest here. When has anyone ever gone to China and not gotten fucked? Making money off of the Chinese is harder than taking a full bottle of rye whiskey away from a thirsty Irishman. Not that there’s any other kind.”

Although the Tour of Beijing provided a last-stop Pro Tour race for riders still looking for a win and Andy Schleck, Cookson believes that other opportunities are in the offing. “I was recently contacted by a gentleman, Mr. Abdul Abdullah-Masoud al-Qaeda who would like to unveil a premiere stage race in the northern part of what was, formerly, I believe, known as Iraq. We are still working out the details, and would of course require that none of the riders be decapitated, and I believe they may be flexible on that point as long as everyone wears a bedsheet. With the UCI, rider safety is our paramount concern.”



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UCI rule changes usher in new era

September 21, 2014 § 31 Comments

With the changes to the UCI’s rules for the hour record attempt firmly in place, Jens Voigt stormed to a new mark in the legendary event, setting a fastest-ever pace in the event, a time that was faster than anyone has ever gone before in this distance, except for eight other riders, all of whom went faster, but who, under new rules are now technically slower, making Voigt the fastest ever rider not to have used certain modifications under the old rules that allowed the “superman” position. Voigt’s new status as the fastest ever rider for the hour except for the riders who have actually gone faster created a wave of happiness and hysteria at the UCI, and Cycling in the South Bay was lucky to catch this brief interview with chief Brian Cookson in between lunchtime martinis.

CitSB: You must be really happy about this.

Brian Cookson: Oh indeed, indeed. This rule change is going to see a wave of riders attempting to break the hour record.

CitSB: Can you explain it to the folks back in Peoria? It’s kind of confusing.

BC: Of course. Under the old rules, which were instituted to replaced the former rules before that, and which in turn had been liberalized over the previous rules, a rider couldn’t set an hour record unless he did it under the same technical constraints as Eddy Merckx’s 1972 ride in Mexico City.

CitSB: And why was that so hard?

BC: There just weren’t very many more pairs of wool shorts left anymore. Except for the guys over at Velominati. And reproducing the open-shit sewers of Mexico City in ’72 was a major technical hurdle, not to mention getting old-school pepper-upper combos like Deca, heroin, strychnine, and cocaine.

CitSB: So then what happened?

BC: We changed the rule so that it mirrors the existing rules for the pursuit. If you can use it in the pursuit, you can use it in the hour record.

CitSB: Even those stupid looking smooth helmets that make you look like a speeding penis?

BC: (Slams another martini, rubs self). Especially those.

CitSB: Back to Ma and Pa in Peoria. Jens Voigt has the new hour record, but there are still eight riders who have set UCI-approved hour records faster than him. How can you be the record holder in 9th place?

BC: Again, as with most things in cycling, you have to be steeped in the history and the regulations to appreciate the effort. It is true that the fastest hour records of Boardman and Rominger will never be broken, but those records were set due to technical specifications that allowed them to use bike positions that we will never allow again.

CitSB: Why is that?

BC: The hour record should be pure. It should be man against time.

CitSB: Or woman.

BC: What?

CitSB: Never mind.



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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.

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.


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.

Rough read

September 25, 2012 § 33 Comments

I hate to say it, but “Rough Ride” by Paul Kimmage isn’t a particularly well written book. It’s rough, slogging, workmanlike prose, stuff you have to pound your way through with a fair amount of effort and an even fairer grasp of the subject he’s writing about in order to appreciate.

As a domestique, that makes sense. He was a rough, slogging, workmanlike rider who fetched, carried, chased, and did his labors before falling off the pace and letting the leaders go about their business of winning races and glory. Raised his whole life to race bikes, it’s a bit unfair to expect that he’d be a master storyteller as well.

Some books, though, make their mark not because of the stylish turn of phrase, but because they write about the raw, bleeding chunks of hard-to-digest truth. In 2012, Kimmage’s treatment of doping in the peloton reads like a tame little bedtime tale, but at the time it sent cracks and shudders down into the bedrock foundations of the sport. Kimmage talked about drugs and he admitted to being a doper.

The truth hurts

In Kimmage’s case, the person who mostly got hurt by the truth was him. Icons like Stephen Roche, and compatriots like Pat McQuaid let it be known that they considered him a liar and a loser and a cheat. Kimmage, so the blowback went, took drugs because he didn’t have the ability to compete fairly with legitimate athletes. He was a whiner who learned that the toughest of sports had no room for quitters and cheaters like him. He became a pariah of sorts among the pro peloton, and ultimately the bane of the UCI and Lance.

In his methodical, plodding, workmanlike, dogged, domestique fashion, Kimmage refused to back down from his allegations of drugs and cheating in this dirty and crooked sport. While fanboy rags like Bicycling and VeloNews continued to praise the miracles of the drug cheats, Kimmage, along with David Walsh and a handful of others, relentlessly spoke truth–if not to power, at least to the stooges running the show.

When Floyd Landis burst the dam, Kimmage took the opportunity to hear Landis confirm what had long been suspected by those who followed pro cycling. A conspiracy had existed to cover up positive drug tests; the highest levels of the UCI were complicit; pro cycling was a meat market of drugs, cheats, and lies.

Why I hate cycling causes

I care zip what happens to pro cycling, to the UCI, or to the people/businesses/manufacturers/media who believe it’s their job to promote and publicize a crooked sport without trying to clean it up. The world has so many real problems that matter, and pro cycling is such a niche within a crevice inside a microcosm that the shenanigans of a few weasels is largely meaningless.

Clean up pro cycling? I’d be better served cleaning up my room.

Likewise, Kimmage of all people knew what he was getting into when he chose to continue his career as a cycling journalist. He could have returned to Ireland and done something else…anything else.

Instead, he chose to be the gadfly, to reveal the corruption, and to keep stinging even when the fat and powerful slow-moving hand came swinging his way. That he’s now getting squashed is exactly what anyone could have predicted. You swim in the septic tank, you’re gonna bump into turds.

Why we have an obligation to help him

Kimmage has now been sued by Pat McQuaid and Hein Verbruggen in a vindictive lawsuit designed to punish him for vigorously pursuing the truth. RKP and Charles Pelkey lay out the hideousness of it in brutal detail.

Whether it’s good for cycling or bad for cycling; whether the UCI have cycling’s best interests at heart are or its worst; whether Kimmage is a dope or a great journalist; whether cycling is an important sport or a weird fetish; whether you like Kimmage’s prose or think it sucks…whether any of these things and more, we have a duty to help this guy out for a very simple reason:

No person, for pursuing any truth in any sphere in any degree, should be persecuted for that pursuit without those who believe in freedom of speech coming to his aid.

The lead has been taken by people who believe in cycling (I don’t) and who believe in free speech. Cyclismas, NYVelocity…people who write and think and promote and criticize and agitate about bikes for a living have said that if Kimmage gets the shaft, he won’t get it standing alone.

This isn’t about cycling. It’s about whether or not you’ll defend free speech with the vigor that you claim to respect it.

To me, Kimmage’s fight is worth $25.00 in this first round. If everyone who professes to believe in the free pursuit of truth also thought it was worth twenty-five bucks, Kimmage would be able to buy the entire UCI and every pro team with the proceeds of his defense fund. For those who think a few bucks don’t matter, you’re wrong. Kimmage has been empowered as a result. He’s gone from glumly contemplating a default to actively thinking of a legitimate legal game plan.

Maybe he’ll quit and go home without contesting the suit, but it won’t be for lack of moral or financial support. Maybe he’ll pick up the lance and run it through the nutsacks of Verbruggen and McQuaid, shriveled and hidden though they may be. Maybe he’ll fight and lose, but do justice to free speech in the process. And maybe, just maybe, he’ll fight and win and buy his first celebratory beer with the $5 you donated.

You want a fucking legacy? That’s a legacy.

Chip in here.

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