Sunday, February 28, 2010

UPDATED: The Courage to Never Look Back

So Tom Zirbel officially retired. Or at least he tried to convince himself that he's capable of retiring. I really feel for the guy, for he made a statement that reveals the horror that awaits him on a daily basis, as he desperately longs to return to living the life of a pro, all the while knowing at best it will be two long years before he can turn a pedal in anger (Disclaimer: I don't know what TZ is really thinking - this is just a blog post; don't get bent and accuse me of speaking for Tom or misrepresenting anything - I'm only giving my semi-professional opinion). Anyway, Zirbel said:

“Now that I've made the determination that I really could and would walk away from the sport forever, it's liberating. USADA, WADA, and the UCI no longer have power over me. But I will continue to jump through a few hoops (if not neither too high nor on fire) in order to leave the option open for a return in years to come (though I sort of hope I have the courage to begin a completely new career and never look back).”

"...though I sort of hope I have the courage to begin a completely new career and never look back.”

So many people think I am a bastard and should be anally-raped in prison, or that I'm an emotional wreck after losing a wife, never meeting my son and experiencing financial ruin after my doping positive. Sure, I'd like some more emotional support, but God help the pro cyclist kicked out of his sport when he was just entering his prime and about to sign a ProTour contract, forced into a (doping-derived) retirement yet boasting:

“I've come to the realization that I would rather be a David Benke [math school teacher who rushed a gunman on his campus] than a Cancellara. I would rather help the boy I'm mentoring graduate from college and break the cycle of poverty in his family than win a Pro Tour TT. To me, the life I'm choosing from this day on is more challenging and potentially rewarding than the life of training to ride in a straight line really fast for 40 minutes. For whatever reason, I haven't been able to do both so it's time to step back and re-prioritize.”

"...though I sort of hope I have the courage to begin a completely new career and never look back.”

While we were soft-pedaling at the back of the bunch in one of the greatest stage races in Latin America, the now-defunct Vuelta a Chile, the classy Colombian climber Ivan Parra (then riding for Kelme, but pictured below taking a stage in the Giro) told me that (and I paraphrase) "Pro cycling is like a disease or an addiction, a sickness that we cannot cure ourselves of. I am just lucky to be good enough at it to earn a living that provides a comfortable life for my family."

During one of my last races in Italy, the GF Valli Parmensi, I wept as I led the field in a single-file line for dozens of kilometers with only modest help from my teammates (I was working for them, on sort of a suicide mission or something out of Gallipoli - though we'd go on to finish 1-2-3). Our medical prep for the day consisted of the usual EPO, HGH and Synacthen, but we'd also been dosed with some form of pot belge. Of course I was cheating, in the wrong, morally bankrupt and a scoundrel, but like Parra said, the love for the bike and il ciclismo was itself an addiction. I knew full well that my career would be over in a matter of weeks because I'd cheated myself and my sport, and the pain that realization caused in my heart was one-thousand times worse than the burning in my legs that I still felt, even with an Hct of 55. I was a doper. Tom Zirbel says he wasn't, though USADA says he is and Tom didn't contest the two-year ban he received - neither did I. But what's salient is the fact that, doped or not, caught cheating or safe-for-another-day, some riders come to love cycling so much that the fabric of their very souls is stitched into the rich tapestry of the sport. I was one of them. Maybe Tom Zirbel is not. But to "sort of hope" that you "have the courage to...never look back" is to all but admit that you, too, live to ride and ride to live.

Good luck, Tom Zirbel, but take it from me, you're probably going to look back - maybe infrequently, or maybe every goddamn give me a call if you need to talk.

[UPDATED: Please follow through to the comments as there are some very powerful responses from first-time commentators and veteran readers alike. All are welcome.]

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Ugly Side of Sports

A well-respected member of the anti-doping community shared his thoughts on a recent blog post (penned not by him, but rather, by some sociopath writing under a pseudonym) in which the author seemed to suggest that I merited torture and sexual abuse (in the form of a most foul and disgusting nonconsensual  act - so foul I won't repeat it here. I also won't post the URL of the site, so as not to encourage traffic to it.). He called it, "The Ugly Side of Sports."

The Ugly Side of Sports

Cyclist Joe Papp, who recently plead guilty of conspiracy to distribute performance enhancing drugs, has drawn criticism and support for his actions. This blog, however, goes beyond the bounds of civility in a blatant attempt to insight violence against Papp. It’s one of those items where you issue a warning to the reader that what you’re about to read will be offensive.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Armstrong, Papp, McQuaid, Levi, others in As the Toto Turns (includes special beat-down to Michael Ball)

Notoriety is not the same as fame, but neither is it infamy. With that in mind, Pappillon has no qualms reporting that our own Joe Papp finally appears in the world-renown satirical cycling editorial cartoon, "As the Toto Turns," for his cryptic and, at times, confusing, role in the fight for clean sport.

Papp is referenced this week in the strip "UCI Tip Line," where, in the final frame, UCI President Pat McQuaid (an Irish compatriot of Papp's) takes a phone call from an obviously-conflicted Levi Leipheimer:

"UCI tip line. If you see something, say something. Press 1 to pledge a donation. Press 2 if you're Joe Papp. Hang up if you're Michael Ball."

Pappillon has enjoyed Toto since the beginning (see here and here for previous posts, including the famous "Yellow Jersey Gap"), and despite the unfortunate news release that that brought Papp into the strip, we appreciate the chance to laugh and smile and look forward to future Toto appearances.

To see "UCI Tip Line" frame-by-frame, and peruse the entire Toto archive, visit

Meanwhile, we couldn't resist reprinting our favorite Toto:

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Updated: What's the Meaning of This?!

Reading Phil Heckler's article, "Not Rockin’, Pat McCarty jumps to Yahoo team", we learn that:

"Former European-based pro Pat McCarty, who had announced last fall that he would join Rock Racing for the 2010 season, has signed on with the new Yahoo Cycling Team on a provisional basis. McCarty’s primary team now is the Richardson Bike Mart/Matrix team.

McCarty, 28, has raced for U.S. Postal, Discovery, Phonak and Garmin-Slipstream, and raced for Team OUCH last season. He will race with Yahoo for the Redlands Bicycle Classic and the Sea Otter Classic, the team said. The deal was reached Friday..."

OK, so the career trajectory is USPS - Discovery - Phonak - Garmin-Slipstream - Ouch - the Richardson Bike Mart/Matrix team ... ?

No disrespect to Pat McCarty, I just use his career path and current situation as an example - a point of departure for future discussion (of which doping won't play a major role). If McCarty's career path was plotted like a line graph, it would move from left to right on the x-axis, and top to bottom on the y-axis, though with a somewhat variable slope. [Update: other have suggested that USPS to Discover to Phonak to Garmin is lateral or horizontal movement, with the next change to Ouch the first real "drop."]


Does it mean that the rider is shit not living up to expectations? Or did the rider injure himself while racing for one of the big teams, fail to recover, limp himself right out of the first division and back home to the USA? Or did he piss off Lance Armstrong but find an ally in Floyd? Only to later piss-off Floyd?

Based on carer trajectory alone, I'm ringing Ed Hood and suggesting he track down Pat McCarty to find out exactly what happened. Erin Hartwell probably would have chose to hang up the cleats after Rock folded and take a year off to work on that PhD., but maybe Pat McCarty just loves to ride.

Pat - if you're reading this, drop me a line - let's chat. Or at the least let me give you Ed Hood's contact info!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Playing Golf in Heaven

There is something essentially absurd about the pursuit of sporting perfection, because when sport gets too easy it becomes increasingly pointless. One of the most satisfying of sports jokes also happens to be about the tribulations of playing golf in heaven.

One day, St Peter and Jesus decide to play a round, and St Peter, who has bought all the latest equipment, tees off. He hits a lovely drive, straight down the middle of the fairway. Jesus, who is dressed in a miserable smock and playing with some old wooden clubs, hooks his tee-shot and it’s heading out of bounds. But then an angel appears from nowhere and bats the ball back into play with one of its wings. Down swoops the dove of peace, who catches the ball in its beak and flies all the way to the green, dropping it just in time for the Holy Spirit to come up and blow the ball gently into the hole. St Peter turns to Jesus with a sigh. Do you wanna play golf,” he says, or do you wanna fuck around?"
--by David Runciman * The Observer, Sunday 10 January 2010

Elite Athletic Performance - Already Lab-Generated?

A SCOTS sports scientist has caused a storm in the middle of the Winter Olympics by calling for performance enhancing drugs to be legalised.

Professor Andy Miah, Chair in Ethics and Emerging Technologies at the University of the West of Scotland, believes allowing steroid use would mean attention could be focused on managjavascript:void(0)ing the health risks they pose.

He said: “We need to recognise that enhancements are becoming more prevalent and sport will soon need to embrace them more fully.”

But UK Anti-Doping, which ensures sports bodies comply with the World Anti-Doping Code, dismissed his claims, insisting: “Doping is cheating.”

Moral questions should “disappear”

More than 30 athletes were banned from the Vancouver Olympics for breaking anti-doping rules.

Prof Miah, who lectures at the UWS, claims he wants drugs to be permitted so more track and field records can be broken.

He said: “While there may be widespread support for cleansing sport of doping, we should consider why we spend time prohibiting performance enhancement in sports when what we ask athletes to do is break the known limits of human capability.

“This is what elite sports require, so athletes should be permitted the use of whatever means are available to them to optimise the chance of this taking place.”

Writing from Vancouver, where he chaired a drugs debate at the weekend, he called for moral questions to “disappear.”

He said: “Athletes are technological beings.

“Their performances are already lab-generated, with or without doping.

“Some technologies we like and consider valuable, like treadmills or hypoxic chambers.

“Others, we think are fiendish, like steroids.

“However, if only we made steroids legal, that moral judgment would disappear and we could focus on managing the health risks they pose, rather than rushing simply to condemn athletes for using them.

“Overall, we need to recognise that enhancements are becoming more prevalent and sport will soon need to embrace them more fully.”


A spokesman for UK Anti-Doping hit back at Prof Miah’s doping claims.

They said: “We believe doping is cheating and is therefore fundamentally opposed to the spirit of sport.

“We also believe athletes have the right to compete on a level playing field – which is simply not possible where doping is concerned – and we protect their right to do so.”

Rather than introduce drugs to sport, the national agency sportscotland insisted it remains committed to wiping them out.

A spokesman said: “We believe it is crucial to the enjoyment of sport that all individuals participating in Scottish sport also condemn doping to ensure it is eliminated from the sporting environment.”

Full Story, here.

We've Got This One in the Bag!

A recent article at SwimNews, Taking The Doping War Into The Shadows, describes what could be a promising new weapon for the war on doping [Ed: Not to be confused with the War on Terror.]. While some individuals in the cycling community are quick to dismiss the idea of a clean future for the sport – stating there will never be a fool-proof method for the detection of autologous blood doping – recent advances in doping control methodologies may compel them to revisit their pessimistic outlook.

Currently, the standard testing procedure for detecting autologous blood doping is the UCI's biological passport – an electronic record for each rider tracking the results of all doping tests over a period of time, and collating them. The passport (click for a brochure) creates a hematological profile for the rider consisting of the combined results of all previous haematological parameters analyzed in a series. Limitations to this system are clearly evident in the indirect method of testing threshold values, but testing for blood doping may become more direct in the near future, the reason being – plasticizers.

What are plasticizers? 

When athlete stores their blood for future use, they refrigerate it in plastic bags – just like the ones we saw in Dr. Fuentes' clinic. However, these plastic storage bags, just like any other plastic product, contain tiny trace elements – additives to increase the flexibility and low temperature properties of the product. These additives are plasticizers, and they are found in any of the plastic intravenous products used for blood transfusions. But how reliable could a test for plasticizers be?

A previous study by Maxwell et al. investigated the cause of remarkably high levels (200mg/100ml) of plasticizers found in blood for overdose cases. In determining whether test results were real or artefactual, the scientists tested 25 healthy individuals by methods involving only glass and metal. In no case did any of the samples taken show traces of plasticizers, suggesting that the presence of plasticizers in normal healthy individuals should be cautioned. Another study by Gayathri et al. reports that DEHP, or di (2-ethyl hexyl) phthalate, the plasticizer commonly used in PVC blood storage bags, leaks out to approximately 10mg/100ml after 21 days of storage – a significant amount suggesting the feasibility of reliable testing measures. Moreover, reading from a study by Ljunggren reports that DEHP makes up 40% of the weight of plasticized PVC used for manufacturing blood bags and transfusion tubing.

How's that for detectable?

While this method of testing is still in the early stages of development, its effects may be premature to WADA officially adding it to their official list of doping detection methods. While there is currently no approved and legally binding test in place, the threat of a future test applied retrospectively may be enough to deter some athletes from venturing down the dark road of blood doping.

[Editor's Note: The article above was authored by Pappillon contributor, PhDuane.]

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Statement on Today's Events

What happened today has its origins in a very distant time and place, during a part of my life that long ago closed. It’s unfortunate in a way, the timing of this announcement, since it is somewhat out-of-context and not representative of the person who I’ve become. Having escaped a corrupt system in which doping was a practice as accepted and normal as brushing one’s teeth, I strongly believe in clean sport and for several years have been fighting against doping both publicly and in ways that I simply can’t comment on.

At times I wish I could, though. I’d like to help everyone to understand the enormity of the efforts being made to rid sport of drugs, but prudence and good legal sense dictate that I don’t. Nevertheless, this is certainly not an excuse for behavior I previously engaged-in, and so I acknowledged my guilt for past actions and continue to do my part to ensure that young cyclists aren’t led into those situations where they find themselves choosing between a needle or their conscience.

UPDATE 2 (Landis Comments): Regarding Today's News

Unfortunately timed, today's news, but my commitment to clean-sport is & has been genuine. Would like to reveal all to you, but there is ... still much sensitive work to be done. It's imprudent for me to comment in detail now, but I will release a brief statement this evening.

UPDATE: VeloNews provides fair, balanced coverage of today's events, in a story here. Also note, please - my testimony in the Landis Affair was not "against" Floyd Landis. I repeat: I did not testify against Floyd Landis. I testified as to the effects of testosterone on me personally, its perceived value as a recuperative and regenerative agent and the perception within the peloton of low-dose/micro-dosing testosterone.

I didn't claim that Floyd Landis had doped (though ultimately CAS would confirm in appeal that he had, in fact, doped).

UPDATE 2: Apparently Floyd Landis still thinks I had something to do with his being caught for doping at the 2006 Tour de France. The Tweet below has now been taken off Twitter; it's like it never existed. I wonder how many of his 11,000 followers checked in during the 20 minutes it was online.

Shit! Fuck LNDD Fuck USADA Fuck J.Papp Fuck P.McQuaid Fuck T.Tygart and Fuck You!18 minutes ago from mobile web

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

You Can Send Your Own Journalist to Afghanistan!

America's most insightful journalist and guerrilla editorial cartoonist Ted Rall must return to Afghanistan to report to us what is happening on the ground in those places where reporters never venture. This blog has been a supporter of Rall's since Joe Papp discovered his work in the Pittsburgh City Paper, and we desperately want him to be able to return to South-Central Asia - hence this post. You see, whilst he has already arranged for publication of whatever work he produces as a result of the trip, Rall has not been able to secure funding - newspapers can't or won't pay to send him to a war zone. While we suggested he contact the Coca-Cola Company for corporate sponsorship, for now Rall is appealing directly to his readers for support.

It's been a long day already, and this blogger has a phone call to make about a Pinarello Prince, but Pappillon found time to make a contribution to the "Send Ted Rall to Afghanistan and Hope He Comes Back Alive and Able to Write About his Trip"-fund - and we ask you to do the same. In fact, all Pappillon readers who pony up at least $10 for Ted's Trip will be entered into a drawing for a prize to be determined at a later date (though a signed copy of a Rall book - or at least a digital PDF copy - would seem an appropriate offering). Once you've donated, contact us to confirm your entry into the drawing.

In the best traditions of Web 2.0, you can contribute to the STRTAAHHCBAAATWAHT Fund online. What's that? How can you help? 


Below you can read in Ted's own words just what the heck this project is about (and be sure to note the Disclaimer! Holy sh#t!): 

"In November 2001, The Village Voice and KFI Radio in Los Angeles sent me to Afghanistan to cover the U.S. invasion. The work I produced earned accolades from The Nation and The Washington Post, which called my work "the best journalism from Afghanistan by an American reporter." What I saw made me one of the earliest and most vocal opponents of the Afghanistan war. While Democrats called Afghanistan "the good war," I filed an essay from Afghanistan called "How We Lost the Afghan War." It was printed in December 2001.

Now I'd like to go back for an update, and to fill in the gaps by visiting parts of the country where US reporters never go. I have media outlets ready to publish my stories and a publisher for a book about this trip. But magazines and newspapers can't/won't cover travel costs. Because it costs tens of thousands of dollars to travel to a war zone, that's what I'm trying to raise here.

About To Afghanistan and Back and my 2001 trip:
In 2001 I was one of the only independent American reporters at the front lines in Kunduz and Takhar provinces. I was forced to flee after three weeks, when members of the media were targeted and systematically hunted down, robbed and murdered. Of the 45 members of my convoy, three were killed and several others seriously wounded.

As you'd expect, it was a harrowing experience. But it did make for a good story. I compiled the cartoons and columns I filed from the front with a new graphic novella to create the graphic travelogue "To Afghanistan and Back." It appeared in March 2002, becoming the first book of any kind to appear about the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. Four years later, I published a follow-up, "Silk Road to Ruin: Is Central Asia the New Middle East?", a collection of cartoons, photos and essays about and from the former Central Asian republics of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, and Tajikistan.

Despite the hazards, there is no substitute for traveling as an independent reporter. Journalists embedded with the military are insulated from local people and often find themselves writing favorably about the soldiers upon whom they depend for security and personal protection. And they can't go wherever they want. And staff writers for major newspapers and broadcast networks are subject to editing and self-censorship, more often than not downplaying incidents that make the United States look bad.

What I'll Do This Time:
Now that the war in Afghanistan is a hot topic in the American press, I would like to return--to see what has changed and how life is going for Afghans, especially those in the remote provinces in the southwest where Western reporters never venture. I would like to report on the situation in comic and essay form, and compile the results in a book that would be a follow-up to "To Afghanistan and Back." Unfortunately, there aren't any newspapers, magazines or radio stations willing or able to cover the extremely high cost of travel to, from and within the Afghanistan war zone. Among the expenses are internal transportation and housing, security, and bribes to corrupt local officials in order to move about unmolested. I am extremely stingy, but inflation prevails during wartime and many expenses are covered with US$100 notes.

My publisher NBM would be willing to publish the book, but not to cover the travel expenses required to get in and out of Afghanistan. Hopefully, that's where you come in.

I think this is an important project, both for Americans and Afghans. Americans need the unvarnished truth from "Obama's War" but they aren't getting it. The Afghan people need us, the people who pay the army that is occupying their land, to learn their story--what they need, what they don't, and what they want from us.

IN THE EVENT THAT I RECEIVE MORE THAN $25,000 IN BACKING: It would be amazing to get that much, but if backing exceeds $25,000 I will use all extra funds for additional travel within Afghanistan and the region, including Iran and the Central Asian republics. I would file additional reports and an additional travelogue book.

CONTACT: I would be happy to answer and all questions from potential backers. Please email me at

DISCLAIMER: Anyone who travels to Afghanistan independently cannot vouchsafe with 100 percent certainty that he or she will return alive or intact. In the event that I am injured or killed as a result of this project, there is a possibility that I would not be able to perform all the promised work."

Want to learn more about Ted Rall and his work? Well then, MAKE AN ONLINE DONATION TO THE  STRTAAHHCBAAATWAHT FUND!

Daily Distractions 2

Thanks to a Pappillon reader for sharing with us these interesting, unique images. May we point out the eyes in the first image? Wow!

Sport shouldn't just represent people who are lily-white, sweet-natured, and who look good on - a cereal box

Melbourne barrister Paul Hayes thinks WADA might be transforming itself into "Big Brother" with a little too much enthusiasm. The following is excerpted from an interview which appeared in the Australian press.

''Sport shouldn't just represent people who are lily-white, sweet-natured, and who look good on … a cereal box.

''Everyone is entitled to play sport and often sport is a path to redemption for people who have made poor life choices. What we don't like in sport is cheats. But the current WADA code goes beyond protecting the integrity of sport from those seeking an unfair advantage.

''Someone who out of season and out of competition might have to answer a case in criminal law certainly should not be dealt with by WADA unless the conduct is in some way geared towards cheating. What Stokes is alleged to have done has nothing to do with his preparation to play football or had any effect of enhancing his performance and he should not be subjected to the WADA code in these circumstances.

''He should be dealt with by the courts and the courts alone.''

Monday, February 15, 2010

Updated: Warrants Issued for Landis and Baker

By now you know that a French judge issued an international a domestic arrest warrant for U.S. cyclist Floyd Landis and disgraced physician Arnie Baker, in connection with a case of data hacking at the Chatenay-Malabry doping laboratory. If you aren't aware of this, skip down to the text that starts with "PARIS -- A French judge..." 

Updates: 1) warrants are domestic; 2) ESPN's updated coverage is here.

Now then, having read's coverage of this latest development in the Landis Affair, proceed to Twisted Spoke for well-written and engaging commentary on a drama that rivals my own personal epic. Dear Reader, this is one of those moments when someone else has done such a good job covering a subject that I'm happy to direct you there...please don't be disappointed that Pappillon reserves comment on the Landis/Baker arrest warrants. Not only did Matt Walsh take the words right out of our mouth, but those who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones (but you can clean glass in direct sunlight, apparently...). I hope to see the end of this entire sordid affair soon. Ongoing investigations are brutal for everyone involved, but hopefully justice is eventually served and consciences cleared.

PARIS -- A French judge has issued an international arrest warrant for U.S. cyclist Floyd Landis in connection with a case of data hacking at a doping laboratory, France's anti-doping chief said Monday.

Pierre Bordry told The Associated Press that French judge Thomas Cassuto is seeking to question Landis about computer hacking dating back to September 2006 at the Chatenay-Malabry lab. Months earlier, the laboratory near Paris had uncovered abnormally elevated testosterone levels in Landis' samples collected in the run-up to his 2006 Tour de France victory.

Landis was stripped of his title and banned for two years. The American cyclist unsuccessfully challenged the drug test results before an arbitration hearing in California -- claiming that computer files were mishandled and erased.

"Landis used the hacked files for his defense, that's how we discovered the whole scheme," Bordry said. "He wanted to show that the lab made mistakes in the handling of the tests."

The French judge, who is based in the Paris suburb of Nanterre, issued the warrant Jan. 28 because Landis did not respond to a summons in November, Bordry said. The Nanterre prosecutor's office confirmed the warrant had been issued.

"Apparently the judge traced the case back to the beginning," Bordry said. "I can't say I'm happy with this news because I would have preferred there was no Landis case."

Bordry added that Cassuto also issued an international warrant for Arnie Baker, a retired doctor and longtime Landis coach and adviser.

After discovering the hacking, the French lab upgraded security to protect its computer systems. Landis' urine samples were tested at the lab and found to contain elevated testosterone-to-epitestosterone levels, less than a week after he won the Tour de France.

On July 20, 2006, Landis started the 17th stage of the Tour more than 8 minutes behind leader Oscar Pereiro after losing the yellow jersey to the Spaniard the previous day. The American produced an amazing ride during the mountain stage to cut Pereiro's lead to 30 seconds before taking the title.

Landis' samples taken after that stage revealed a testosterone/epitestosterone ratio of 11:1. The limit is 4:1. The Chatenay-Malabry lab is accredited by the International Olympic Committee and World Anti-Doping Agency. It helped develop tests for the endurance-enhancing drug EPO.

Landis returned to competition at the Tour of California last year. He recently competed in a minor race staged in New Zealand.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

UPDATED: Bernhard Kohl - from KOM to Retail

As Hedwig Kröner reports for, Bernhard Kohl, who confessed to doping during a career that saw him reach the final podium in the 2008 Tour de France while boosting with CERA, recently opened a bike shop in Vienna, Austria. Kohl started following me on Twitter just before the opening of Fitstore 24 - Bikepalast Kohl, and if it wasn't for the automatic email notice I received when he listed me, I probably wouldn't be writing about Kohl now. His success in the '08 Tour included winning the KOM competition, but it came at a moment for me when I was still very much not interested in riding my bike (much less following the Tour!) and subsequently didn't have any emotion invested in the Austrian. So I wasn't particularly happy for him, but nor was I crushed when news of the positive test came out.

While I was aware of the involvement of his former manager in the doping scheme, and winced at the harsh treatment dealt Kohl by less sympathetic fans and pundits, it wasn't until I read a forum post where Kohl was mocked for becoming a shopkeeper after having nearly won the Tour de France that I devoted any reading time to the guy. I find the braying of Mark Cavendish and others to be off-putting at times, and don't see how their attempts to ostracize riders who've served doping sanctions but are returning to cycling does anything to encourage other dopers to come forward with information that could fight the system. I also found the personal attacks on Kohl and the disparaging comments about his opening the bike shop to be offensive. After all, the guy simply got caught doing what many riders have done and still do (without testing positive, of course), fessed up, did his time and chose not to return to racing.

Maybe he thought he would have the same difficulty finding a team as Michael Rasmussen, or maybe he worried that he simply wouldn't be competitive enough without some form of blood manipulation. Regardless, Kohl made the gut-wrenching decision not to attempt a comeback. No one who hasn't been there can truly understand the horror one feels when forced to accept the reality that racing - such a major part of most cyclists' lives - will no longer form an active component of their identity. It's atomizing, and a punishment infinitely worse than a two-year ban given to a younger rider who has time to restart his career and carry-on after serving a sanction.

The example set by Floyd Landis last year could change the equation somewhat. To go from Tour de France WINNER to struggling domestic pro being assessed $20 fines for mid-race littering is a helluva step-down. Maybe Kohl is counting his lucky stars that he didn't get back on the bike. [Note: I couldn't find a link to the results sheet that listed Landis's placing and the fine, nor do I remember the event date - if anyone can help out, please leave a comment.] Here is a link to the communique detailing Landis's littering fine.

So, in reading Kohl's response to the following question from the interview with, I couldn't help but smile for the new shopkeeper, while at the same time I lamented the lack of news on a 2010 contract for Landis. Good luck to both men! What do you feel at the thought of the new cycling season?

Kohl: That's a different life. It was beautiful, but now I have new goals. Luckily I have the gift of being able to concentrate on new goals with the utmost dedication. And it gives me great pleasure. If it were not so, today I would probably cry, sit there and I wish to once again allowed to ride on bicycle races. But now I'm satisfied.

I'm glad he can say he's satisfied, and isn't dead like too many others. Read the complete interview with Bernhard Kohl here.

UPDATE: I just saw that Twisted Spoke dedicated some column inches to Mr. Kohl and his bike shop. Great quote:  

"First, we’re happy for Bernhard Kohl in his post EPO life stage as a bike shop owner. He’s moved on, made amends, spoke honestly of his mistakes and most importantly, relocated his soul. Which makes the whole face-in-mirror routine a lot more fun."

And writing like Matt Walsh's makes reading about ex-dopers a lot more fun, too. So give TS a whirl, here.

Friday, February 12, 2010

UPDATED: Daily Distractions

So you're rooting for Quick Step this year, right? UPDATE: Moving on, here is a photo of another D2 submitted by a Pappillon reader:

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Vuelta a Cuba - Results, Reporting, Photos, Memories

My beloved Vuelta a Cuba is underway in the Pearl of the Antilles. Despite this being the fourth year since my last ride into Havana, where Borut Božič beat me for the stage win on the line, it feels like just yesterday that I was racing through that beautiful, tragic country. Four years later, and I can still smell the cane fields, taste the guarapo, feel my skin turning not tan, but brown, under the intense tropical heat...feel my heart breaking...

Looks like is posting results and some reports and photos from the Vuelta. Send them an email and encourage them to keep covering this race, and other events throughout Latin America!

In 2005, professional photographer Chris Milliman documented the Vuelta for Bicycling Magazine. While the actual coverage that appeared in Bicycling was worse than anemic and did no justice to Chris's amazing work, visit the archives of his blog for interesting shots and Chris's musing on his first trip to Castro Country. 

Here is some Spanish-language reporting for my non-English speaking readers...

Continua frágil el liderato de la Vuelta Ciclística a Cuba

Santiago de Cuba, 11 feb (AIN) Tras disputadas dos etapas de la XXXV Vuelta Ciclística a Cuba continúan las pocas diferencias entre los punteros, por lo que el liderato sigue frágil para hoy, fecha en la se espera reacción cubana.

Hasta ahora el venezolano Miguel Ubeto y el colombiano Jaime Castañeda han sido los laureados parciales y este último se ubica en la cima de la general individual, en la que aparece tercero Raúl Granjel como el mejor cubano, detrás del bolivariano Wilmen Bravo.

La extensa fracción de este jueves, de 185 kilómetros entre esta ciudad y la urbe granmense de Manzanillo, pudiera servir  para que los anfitriones se desquiten y rubriquen su primera sonrisa, pero tendrán nuevamente la resistencia de los ciclistas foráneos, protagonistas hasta este miércoles.

El segmento incluye un premio de montaña, categoría C, en Puerto Moya (kilómetro 21) y tres metas volantes en Palma Soriano (45), Contramaestre (78), y Bayamo (125).

Las rayas intermedias más disputadas serán la inicial y la tercera, que además de puntos otorga bonificaciones en tiempo para los tres primeros y pudieran definir a la postre un sitio en el listado individual.
Castañeda reina también en la regularidad, sin embargo cedió ayer la punta de las líneas intermedias para darle paso al universitario Jans Carlos Arias.

El espirituano Yoel Solensal buscará reafirmación como rey de la montaña, al igual que Rafael Arrate, del Centro Técnico Oriental, pero entre los menores de 23 años de edad, y Cuba por colectivos.
En la etapa que se disputará hoy, tradicionalmente calurosa y fatigosa para los ciclistas, se han coronado tres visitantes y dos cubanos en las cinco ediciones anteriores.

La Vuelta Ciclística a Cuba concluirá el venidero día 21, en la capital del país, y actualmente ruedan 129 valientes de los 133 que partieron desde Baracoa el pasado martes.

(Tomado de AIN/ Escrito por Dania Pérez Serrano)

Sunday, February 07, 2010

RIP Franco Ballerini, 1964 - 2010

Former Italian cyclist Franco Ballerini was tragically killed on Sunday after a competitive accident while contesting the 1st Rally Ronde as a co-driver for experienced pilot Alessandro Ciardi. Ballerini suffered serious injuries in the accident before passing away at the Hospital of Pistoia, while no report on Ciardi’s condition has been made available.

A rallying enthusiast, Ballerini had been invited to call pace notes for Ciardi in the Larciano event near Florence. While he was passionate about motorsport, Ballerini’s professional success surrounded the sport of cycling where he was accomplished both on and off the bicycle.

Ballerini turned professional with Magniflex in 1986, the first year in a career that spanned 15 seasons. He spent the entire duration of his career with Italian squads.

Born in Florence, Ballerini’s first professional cycling victory came on home soil at the Tre Valli Varesine in 1987. Wins continued to follow on home soil over coming years, with victories at GP Sanson and GP Città di Camaiore, but it was Ballerini’s third place at Gent-Wevelgem in Belgium in 1990 that signalled things to come from the rider.

After winning Paris-Brussel in later 1990 and finishing third at Giro di Lombardia a year later, Ballerini’s focus moved more towards stage racing. He contested the Tour de France in 1992 and was a member of the GB-MG Maglificio squad that won the team time trial stage four at the following edition.

Three years after his Gent-Wevelgem podium in 1993 Ballerini again showed his potential in the Spring Classics. He fought a close battle in the 267.5 kilometre Paris-Roubaix, finishing second to Frenchman Gilbert Duclos-Lassalle.

Signalling that a breakthrough was near Ballerini was again on the podium at Gent-Wevelgem in 1994, then third at Paris-Roubaix and second at Paris-Brussel. After nipping at the heels of Spring Classic success, 1995 was Ballerini’s year, with the Italian winning Omloop Het Volk then Paris-Roubaix, with Andrei Tchmil finishing behind him on the podium at both races and Johan Museeuw taking third in Roubaix.

He won GP de Wallonie in 1996 and was third at Ronde Van Vlaanderen in 1997. When Ballerini started 1998 with second overall at Tirreno-Adriatico, pundits were expecting big things from him that spring and Ballerini delivered with another Paris-Roubaix title.

After a successful block with Mapei-GB from 1994 to 1998, Ballerini moved to Lampre-Daikin for two years where he scored little in the way of results. Ballerini returned to Mapei-Quickstep in 2001 for one final time, where he rode just four months of the season to symbolically finish his career in Roubaix’s velodrome – the scene of his two greatest successes.

Ballerini’s contribution to Italian cycling throughout his career certainly wasn’t limited to his exploits on the bike. Since retiring from professional cycling in 2001, Ballerini managed Italy’s squadra azzurra (national team) to much success on the international stage.

A year after his retirement from competition, Ballerini oversaw the national squad as Mario Cipollini claimed the International Cycling Union (UCI) World Road Championship race in Zolder, Belgium. Ballerini formed a successful union with Paolo Bettini at the Athens Olympic Games in Greece two years later where he won gold in the men’s road race.

That union with Bettini would continue over the ensuing years, with the Italian cyclist winning the UCI World Road Championship in Sulzburg, Austria in 2006 and again the following year in Stuttgart, Germany. The worlds headed to Varese, Italy the following year where Ballerini led the team to a brilliant one-two, with Alessandro Ballan winning the title from compatriot Damiano Cunego.

Why Not? When in Rome (or Austria) ...

Saturday, February 06, 2010

US domestic Pro cycling - where Pro's don't get Paid

Italian Luca Damiani's debut season with the Kenda team is at risk after he was denied a traveler's visa to enter the United States of America by the US Consulate in Milan, Italy on Tuesday. Damiani was expected to arrive in Stateside this month to begin his road racing season with team Kenda Pro Cycling presented by Gear Grinder.

"Our attorney asked Luca to apply for a B1-B2, since we are not paying him a salary, instead of a P1 Visa that is a corporate...Since he wasn't getting paid he opted to apply for a B1-B2 Visa and now that he's not getting that one he is getting a P1 Visa." - Kenda Pro Cycling Team owner Chad Thompson.

[Question: Shouldn't a team have to pay its riders before being allowed to call itself "Pro?"]

Anyway, read more at about the world of US pro cycling, where "Pro" riders don't get "Paid."

Monday, February 01, 2010

What is a Best Friend? For some it's a Cat. This one is named 'Francis Bacon.'

A cat should be a friend as much as he is a pet - if not more so! One that will never judge you, and will love you forever no matter what.

“He’s an exceptionally healthy cat for his weight!” the veterinarian exclaimed. Weighing just over twenty pounds, this frisky orange striped fur-ball knows exactly when his dinnertime is. His diet consists of a few massive gulps of fresh water, one or two cans of his favorite grilled tuna, a heaping helping of dry cat food, and the occasional treat for dessert. After he annihilates his rations, he plops down to clean every nook and cranny that he can reach on his mammoth self.

'Francis Bacon,' as we call him, loves to get 18 hours of sleep per day.The cold, hard kitchen table, the hot floor vents and nearly everywhere in between are his favorite places to nap. And yet anytime of the day, FB can always go for a good petting. As he rolls over, you catch a glimpse of the fiery orange cummerbund in a sea of soft pearl white fur that is his underbelly - and with his matching white paws and shimmering emerald eyes, you think this magnificent creature is as beautiful as the most brilliant sunset.

Francis Bacon has always been there for me. Not a day has gone by that he wasn’t waiting at the door to greet me. Even though he is a very spoiled house pet, Francis Bacon will always be my best friend."
--Author's name withheld