Sunday, August 12, 2007


A few reflections on developments in professional cycling since the Tour de France 2007 concluded - Post 1

LIGHT AT THE END OF THE DOPING TUNNEL? Believe it or not, the revelations of a few dopers in this year’s Tour de France (Alexandre Vinokourov, Cristian Moreni, Iban Mayo) went a long way to drain doping of its viability even for the stealthiest of cyclists. It’s become harder and harder to dope under the radar (Michael Rasmussen left the TdF "guilty by avoidance" of pre-race anti-doping tests). Doping’s also become unacceptable to more and more cyclists and teams. High profile doping exposures have toppled some once-thought great riders (Ivan Basso, Tyler Hamilton, Jan Ullrich). I won’t be surprised if a few more recognizable riders are implicated and banned. In the long run, cycling is cleaning up its act in a strong move toward integrity. Let's see some American-oriented professional sports do the same (MLB, NFL, etc.)!

DISCOVERY CHANNEL TEAM SUNSETS. Can you believe that the team that Lance Armstrong built, that won the Tour de France 9 of the past 10 years, that won the Tour de France this year and placed two riders on the podium in Paris, will call it quits at the end of this season? Tailwind sports had U.S. Postal Service as its main sponsor until four years ago, when Discovery Channel picked up the $45 million + per year tab. Discovery Channel announced in February that it is ending its sponsorship and team leaders have been unsuccessful in finding a new American or international sponsor. Can this be chalked up to a year's worth of ugly revelations of doping among top pro cyclists? I think so. So, the only American-based team in the elite Pro Tour cycling circuit is gone. Sigh! So, 27 of the world’s best cyclists, including a number of Americans, will be looking for jobs come October...or sooner.

HELLO, SLIPSTREAM! The good news is that another American-based team is on the horizon. Former top-notch cyclist Jonathan Vaughters, a Tour de France veteran, has been coaching and building Team Slipstream to European-level respect. He’s signed American Tour de France veterans David Zabriskie and Christian VandeVelde, along with Scotsman David Millar. Other internationally-respected riders are lining up. Importantly, Team Slipstream has established model anti-doping procedures and ethical guidelines that will likely become a model for all of professional cycling--something that is critical for the future of competitive cycling. Team Slipstream may eventually fill the void left by Discovery Channel in ProTour competition. We may even see Slipstream at next year’s Tour de France!

VUELTA a ESPANA, ANYONE? Anyone up for one more cycling epic this year? The Vuelta a Espana (Tour of Spain) begins September 1st. The triple crown of road cycling includes the Giro d'Italia (Tour of Italy), the Tour de France, and the Vuelta a Espana. All are three-week epics that include the elements of bike racing we witnessed in the Tour de France—grueling time trials, breathtaking breakaways, epic climbs, harrowing bunch sprints, terrible crashes, incredible beauty, and great fans. All are ultimate tests for the complete cyclist, pushing the limits of human capability. Unfortunately, the Giro and Vuelta are somewhat less of an international field; they tend to feature and favor sons of their own respective nations

HOW TO TUNE IN TO THE VUELTA. Also unfortunately, the tours of Italy and Spain are not available on American TV. But the Vuelta a Espana can be followed with online TV ( and by live minute-by-minute updates on or I don't think I'll blog the Vuelta daily, but I hope to offer a few updates and highlights, particularly if an American is among the contenders (okay, that's my bias).

CAN THEY STILL WIN ALL THREE? Historically, the greatest winners of the Tour de France also raced--and won--the tours of Italy and Spain, riders like Bernard Hinault and Jacque Anqetil. But not recently. As the demands of today’s racing have increased (speed averages, degrees of difficulty), the toll of riding all three epics prevents most top riders from attempting all three. Lance Armstrong never attempted to win the tours of Spain or Italy, focusing, instead, only on the crown jewel of cycling. I wonder if Alberto Contador, a son of Spain and this year’s Tour de France winner, will try to ride and win the Vuelta? Find out more about the Vuelta here or check back here on tdf-bikehiker for links to the Vuelta a Espana.

SEPTEMBER: MY OWN RETURN TO BIKING. Personally, I just hope to be back on a bike in September. All summer, I have been jealous even of kids on banana-seat bikes in our neighborhood. But an MRI on September 5 will determine whether or not my torso torture chamber--er, brace (helping to keep me still while 17 fractures suffered in really bad MTB accident in June)--comes off and I am cleared to move toward physical re-conditioning. I have a goal of riding the Hilly Hundred in October, so that will just give me about a month to tune up. The Hilly is not a race, of course, but it is 100 miles of plenty of heart-pumping climbs around southern Indiana. It's a fun ride over two days and manageable by most half-serious cyclists. Get in on it at

Wednesday, August 1, 2007


WHAT WE'D LIKE TO FORGET. If you followed it closely or even sporadically, I'm sure you've got your own ideas or memories of this year's Tour de France. None of us can forget the downers: Patrick Sinkewitz, Alexandre Vinokourov, Cristian Moreni...and now Iban Mayo testing positive for doping and Michael Rasmussen being kicked out by his team for what appears to be lying about his pre-race whereabouts to avoid drug testing. Also, the Astana and Cofidis teams exiting the Tour because of their guilty teammates. Unfortunately, these scandals will hang over the 2007 Tour de France forever.

UNFORGETTABLE MOMENTS. But I'm going to name what are, for me, the Top Ten Moments of this edition of the Tour de France. It won't include the downers or the feats accomplished by the apparent dopers. I'll expand more on these as I have time:

1. The Prologue in London. A beautiful day on a grand stage before 2 million Britons. London was a grand village departe. In the photo, Scottsman David Millar rides past Big Ben. They've got to do this again...soon!

2. Alberto Contador putting Michael Rasmussen to the test with repeated attacks in the Alps and Pyrenees. The 24-year old Spaniard emerged as the dominant climber among the contenders...and had enough in the ITT to seal the overall victory.

3. Fabian Cancellara (in photo) winning Stage 2 in the Yellow Jersey, blasting past the sprinters to beat them at their game. Not only did Cancellara win the Prologue and Stage 2, he carried the Yellow Jersey into the Alp mountains before yielding it. After that, he worked hard for his CSC.

4. Robbie McEwen coming back from a crash in Stage 1 to beat the sprinters to the line. The old Aussie still has it in him to hang with the young guns, at least when he's healthy. His injuries from his crash in Stage 1 took their toll, but he would not abandon the race.

5. Levi Leipheimer's incredible Individual Time Trial in the penultimate Stage 19. He saved the best for last and sealed his place on the podium in Paris. Leipheimer proved a lot to naysayers and underestimaters this year.

6. German rookie Linus Gerdemann winning the first stage in the Alps. It was the ride of his young life. Let's hope we see more mountain gallops (back to back) by this outspoken anti-doper.

7. Daniele Bennati's two stage wins. The Italian won the first one as the only sprinter in a breakaway. He won Stage 20 on the Champs-Elysees surrounded by the best sprinters in the world on the biggest cycling stage in the world.

8. Discovery Channel's teamwork and Johann Bruyneel's strategies throughout the weeks. After a dismal showing last year, the Disco boys made their own post-Lance impression on the Tour. May they find a good, new sponsor and keep fueling American cycling hopes.

9. Tom Boonen and QuickStep's dominance in the sprint finishes. The best, hands down. You were surprised if Boonen or one of his boys didn't win a sprint at the line.

10. Robbie Hunter, Mauricio Soler, and South Africa's Team Barloworld for their effort and accomplishments as a wild card team. I hope they're back next year.