I’m going to use this seldom-used blog to experiment a bit with different WordPress “themes”, trying to get away from the same look everyone else has and move to something a bit more newspaper-like and appropriate for blogs that get a lot of updates (like the “diary” site). I’m working on getting the header image to change right now, with little success! –Mike–
Ray Keener, one of the more-thoughtful and intelligent members of the bicycle biz, wrote a piece for Bicycle Retailer that, in a nutshell, says that Lance was not good, and potentially bad, for cycling. You can read his piece here; my response is below. –Mike–
Ray: You’re a reasonable guy and I generally agree with most things you write. But in this case it appears that you decided first that Lance was bad (or at best neutral) for the industry and then searched for facts to support that belief.
For example the choice of using 2009 for *any* forward-looking comparison is suspect. 2009 was a disaster for our industry but not because of Lance or doping scandals. It was a disaster for the world economy. Maybe Boulder got by unscathed but Silicon Valley sure didn’t. And if instead of 2009 you use either 2008 or 2010 you get a very different story. How different? About 20% different!
Participation figures are more discouraging, showing a downward trend in raw numbers of “participants” but these figures as well are suspect at least as far as our part of the industry is concerned. The majority of “participants” are not cyclists; anyone who has simply ridden around the block is considered a “participant.” If we were to measure miles ridden and participation in Centuries Gran Fondos and the various benenfit rides would the story be the same? I don’t think so.
Further you ignore the wane & wan of the typical product cycle and its impact on your numbers. The mountain bike had peaked and was on a decline and I don’t think many feel Lance had much to do with the fortunes & misfortunes of that part of the market. For what it’s worth my take on Lance’s value and sales in our stores are that it was significant for the first three years and after that was a benefit spread pretty wide among road bikes in general rather than specifically Trek.
There comes a point of saturation; the message to “Buy a Trek because that’s what Lance rides” is susceptible to so many people and then they’ve bought their bikes and you get a backlash effect of “everyone’s got a Trek I want something different.” Other brands found ways to capitalize on this including different value propositions (lower pricing for a given set of components and tell people “Our bike is just as good maybe better and costs less because you’re not paying for Lance!”). We felt both of those so please before anyone assumes that a non-Trek dealer couldn’t survive because they didn’t have Lance think again. The manufacturers and IBDs are smarter than that.
But it’s obvious that Trek has received great benefit from their association with Lance and it’s equally obvious that Trek is aware that Lance is not enough. Trek has put much of their profit back into advocacy and works entirely unrelated to Lance that should have a greater effect long-term on getting those “once around the block” folk to view their bike as a serious utilitarian vehicle.
To sum up Trek did not mortgage their future through supporting Lance and it’s entirely possible that without Lance during the 2000-2005 period (industry-wide) sales could have been substantially lower than they were.
Thanks Mike Jacoubowsky Partner Chain Reaction Bicycles (Redwood City & Los Altos California… not the mail-order place in the UK)
This is for my own benefit as much as anything else; a central place to put information relevant to anyone heading to the Tour de France this year. For now it’s just going to be links without organization, all in this one post, without an order.
Everything appears to be in place; Kevin (my son, not the pilot) leave on July 14th and fly SFO-IAD (Dulles Airport in DC)-LYS (Lyon, France), then take a train to Grenoble, where we stay at a hotel very close to the train station. That will be our base for a couple days of riding in the Grenoble Vercors region, before heading to our base in the Alps, a small village near the foot of the Galibier, offering access to all of the mountain stages.
Coming home will be a bit hectic; we leave Grenoble early Sunday morning for Paris, where we’ll drop our luggage off (somewhere?), see the final stage and later that evening take the train to Brussels, from which we’ll leave for home the next morning. A bit convoluted on the return due to crazy air fares at the time I bought the tickets; if I were to book right now, I would have flown into and out of Paris since it’s suddenly become (relatively) reasonable. It will be strange, flying to Europe and missing out entirely on CDG, the infamous Paris airport which seems to have been designed by Escher, but we’ll manage.
Bike-wise we’ll be using our BikeFriday Pocket Rockets, which proved very capable last year in the Pyrenees, and far easier to get through airports and onto trains, since they pack into airline-legal suitcases. –Mike–
The quote below is from an ESPN interview with Floyd Landis, shortly after his confessions/revelations about doping, and my response, below, comes from a cycling newsgroup, rec.bicycles.racing
> Floyd: Performance-enhancing drugs don’t make as big a difference as
> most people would like to think they do. Nevertheless, I used them to
> do what I was able to do, so I guess it really doesn’t matter. At the
> time, it was part of the game, and like I say, I don’t regret it at
Floyd says “it really doesn’t matter” to a lot of things we have questions about. Maybe that’s the point. Floyd, today as yesterday, cares only about what matters to himself. Everything remains situational and personal. There is no bigger picture to these guys, whether it’s Floyd or Tyler or Lance. Even, or perhaps especially so, after their “confessions.” Whomever you had cause to believe before, go on believing. Whomever you did not, there is not reason (yet) to change that view.
We continue our search for the truly repentant, or even simply someone who is at the center of things and has all the “dope” on what went on, including solid forensic evidence.
In the meantime, everybody, including myself, has 3rd-party evidence, actually just stuff people said about what was going on to someone else, that doping went on. In my case it was somebody in a position to know who told me in 2001 that, when Tyler was brought on, long before Lance “reached out” to him (as claimed in the 60 minutes piece), he was the guy who could bring down the house. I had a conversation last week with someone who knows a former member of USPS who thinks this is all crazy because of course it went on and why the fuss? But no forensic evidence, nothing tying him into something that was an important part of his life for some time. One is left wondering how many of these people, in a perverse way, want to maintain their connection to “something bigger than themselves” by trying to keep themselves connected to it with embellished stories. Certainly Floyd has done so.
The “truth” is not enough, and perhaps not even obvious, to these guys. Living with their lies for so long, creating the world in which they wish to be viewed, a perverse ethical construct that allows them to rationalize their decisions, robs them of clear vision. It would likely
take a lobotomy to get past the deviant personality traits that have become such a necessary part of their lives over the years.
[Preamble- Let's get to the truth. Let's figure out who's credible and who may not be. If Lance Armstrong is the biggest fraud in sports history, let the case be made so solidly that all the PR spin in the world can't dig him out. But let's not support shoddy journalism that's based on delivering a story that people want to read and gets sloppy with the details. You could be the biggest Lance fan, or the biggest Lance hater. You could believe that Greg LeMond was the last non-doping winner of the Tour de France. I'm fine with any of that. But emotionally bonding to one view or the other and refusing to look at each piece of information critically, choosing instead of believe something because it fits in with something else they already believe in.
What I've written below shows how the media has hyped up the Tour de Suisse "positive" test from 2002 and what Tyler said about it, without even the slightest fact checking. --Mike--]
Good reading here- So here’s what we know-
#1: There was never a “positive” test to cover up in the first place. It was a “suspicious” test with a reading of between 70-80% (percent of what I’m not sure). To be “positive” it would have had to have been 85%. At that time, the EPO testing was not solid enough to rule out natural means of producing a positive result, thus the high threshold.
#2: There was no “special” meeting, according to Saugy, the person involved who now happens to be the head of the lab in Lausanne. “And it also wasn’t about discussing a particular result or to cover up anything. I explained how the EPO test worked and why there were suspect samples as well as positive ones. This information was part of a lecture that I had been giving in various locations.”
Saugy apparently had many meetings with many teams/riders letting people know what the process was, how the testing worked, etc. Yes, we can ascribe evil motivations to that, but seriously, if your career was on the line based upon some new test, wouldn’t you want to know something about it, especially since there would be some concern regarding false positives? Within this context, it is entirely reasonable that Lance was not concerned about the tests, whether he was doping or not. He had no reason to be concerned. He had a suspicious test that was below the level of a positive, and the process had been explained not just to Lance but other people as well.
It’s entirely possible that Lance was in fact doping at the time, but the test wasn’t conclusive enough to be considered positive. It was still within a range that could have come from someone innocent. Lance, or anybody else in that same situation, clean or not, had nothing to worry about.
Of course, the 60 minutes interview put huge weight on Tyler’s inference that Lance made a positive test go away, and his lack of concern about it showed just how powerful he had become. If you accept that Saugy is telling the truth, you come away not with the idea that Tyler is lying, but that he completely misunderstood. He made assumptions that were reasonable within his own framework, but that’s all. Assumptions that turn out to be false.
So Sunday we got to watch Tyler Hamilton in Act II of the supposedly-repentent cycling sinner’s club, telling us that he, like Floyd, now sees the light and wants to set the story straight, and part of that story is to tell the world that Lance Armstrong cheated his way to his Tour de France victories.
This would all be so much more believable if Tyler and Floyd weren’t circling the drain, after years of professing their innocence despite failing doping controls (in Tyler’s case, twice, although he did admit to the latter event). This would all be so much more believable if there wasn’t lots of $$$ involved… the huge number of $$$ each of these former athletes lost when they were caught and spiraled downward, the huge number of $$$ to potentially gain from book contracts and media access fees.
In the Tyler Hamilton 60 minutes interview, you couldn’t escape a feeling that he was making some of it up as he went along, with long pauses and lots of blinking. To be fair, he was that way with easy questions too, but it causes me to wonder if the guy cannot distinguish between the fantasy world he lived in for years and the real world.
If there’s a real bombshell that’s going to bring down Lance, it’s the Tour de Suisse angle, the supposedly-failed EPO test that was covered up by the UCI. That would be huge, if there’s credible evidence it happened. But there were issues with that as well, as we were shown evidence of a “suspicious” test result, not failed. And the money trail, the $125,000 donation to encourage the UCI to cover things up? You’ve got to be kidding; that might be a down payment but certainly doesn’t come close to what it would (or should?) take to buy off something like that.
And finally, there was the “white lunchbag” story. Tyler telling us how he lost his virginity to EPO via one of those “white lunchbags” the team doctors and trainers assigned to their best athletes, with EPO and/or HGH inside. This was a big thing for Tyler, a recognition that he’d arrived. And then later in the broadcast he talks about “reaching out” to Lance for… EPO. In a way that made it sound like Lance really helped him out; as if if hadn’t already gotten onto the EPO train previously. But he had. The “white lunchbag”, remember?
Personally, I don’t think it’s possible to compete at the highest levels in cycling, against people who are doping, without assistance. That’s the polite way of saying it. Assistance. We all need help from time to time, right? So we’ll make doping no more evil than someone down on their luck taking food stamps or a tax credit. But at some level it’s not. What is that level? Back in the day, we had a clear distinction between the supposed purity of college sports vs the evil commercialism of the professional world. I think I bought into that; I never assumed that all was clean & nice on the professional side, and maybe that’s why doping in cycling hasn’t bothered me as much as it should. But that’s not an argument with legs to stand on, because with the professionals in football, baseball, soccer, cycling etc leading the way, the amateurs have been encouraged to step up their game. Doping is clearly rampant in amateur sports, even at the high school level.
If there had been a distinction between professional and amateur sports and any sort of purity or honest competition, I think it was lost when the Olympics allowed professionals to compete. That, for me, was probably the “Dave Stoller” moment. “Everybody cheats. I just didn’t know.” –Mike–
It’s not so easy maintaining multiple blogs; obviously, most of my effort goes into the successor to the long-running “almost daily diary.” For that blog, I pay a few $$$ to engage high-quality spam filters (which saves a lot of time), and make sure it gets updated several times/week. So the question becomes, should this blog exist?
It does have one cool thing going for it- the Twitter feeds from the various cycling personalities at the bottom of this page. For that alone this will remain, and I’ll probably post by TdF trip reports here as well (although likely duplicated in the main blog).
Meantime, the relevant details for this year’s trip are-
Fly to Lyon on July 14th, arriving Friday July 15th (yes, we’ll miss Bastille Day). Take the train to Grenoble where we’ll spend the first couple of nights, and explore the Vercors roads (truly specatcular cliff-hugging roads carved straight into the rock) before heading on to spend 6 nights in a hotel near LaGrave, an ideal location for most of the Alps stages. The morning of the time trial we move back to Grenoble again, then the next morning take a train into Paris for the finale, and late that night take another train into Brussels, from which we leave the next morning.
Lots more riding this time than prior years; the plan is to spend a lot less time on logistics and a lot more time on the road! Bike Fridays again (like last year). –Mike–
Thanks to Eric for sending me this link on race radio at the Tour de France. Not what you would expect to see… somebody actually did study the difference between races with & without race radio. And with a different outcome than many would think.
I’m not certain 1991-1996 vs 2001-2005 TdF stages are otherwise-equal; you’re comparing pre-Lance to Lance days, and regardless of what you think of Lance himself, Bruyneel brought a different style of racing to the Peloton, that of everyone dying for the King. At least it’s my perception, possibly wrong, that pre-Lance it was more likely your GC guy didn’t have the entire team at his disposal, but rather you’d have your separate sprinters & breakaway guys… something not possible with a classic Lance/Bruyneel team.
Read & discuss. Interested to hear what others think.
Sorry, this blog has become a poor step-child of the main one at Chain Reaction! But with the racing season really getting underway with Milan San Remo in just a few hours, it’s time to get back to work. For starters, we need to go over the Contador doping issue. First he’s suspended, then let off the hook by his own government’s cycling federation, and now the UCI, the overall governing board for professional cycling world-wide, appears ready to appeal the local federation’s dismissal and reinstate the suspension. Things should be getting interesting very shortly!
One thing in Contador’s favor is the recent testing of 28 athletes returning from China, 22 of whom tested positive for Clenbuterol, the same drug Contador was busted for. The significance here is that it’s highly unlikely those athletes were actually doping but had, in fact, eaten contaminated beef.