Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Stationary Bike Blues

Hammering on the pro form stationary bike for hundreds of miles does not have the same ambiance as the open road, in fact sitting prone generates some of the most vivid memories of past rides, my mood has never been more dire.  I am fighting a losing battle with the most ruthless state this side of the Siberian gulag, I made several trivial miscalculations which may prove fatal.  I had the stupid propensity to follow advice of people who were supposed to be experienced in these horrible social welfare programs.  I am almost looking forward to the final decision in order to be done with all of these invasive personal questions that the state seems to want to disseminate to all and sundry. Honestly, if you wanted to paint a portrait of my abnormal personality traits, or my inherent dishonesty, you need look no further than this blog where finally the blinders have come off.

I don't have one red cent to my name or a bicycle to ride or a job or any fingers.  People have to cut up my food or I would starve to death.  I can't fasten my seat belt or open car doors.  I can't write with a pen.  My hands suffer from chronic pain twenty four hours a day.  I live with people who drink all day and argue all night about getting a divorce.  I play solitaire on the computer all night because I can't sleep.  I can't wipe my own ass.

Today is my birthday, I feel like I want to puke.  I want to get out of these ugly suburbs and back to the wide open spaces.  These giant size homes with puny backyards gives me claustrophobia.  I could never understand how status is based on material possessions or what neighborhood you reside in.

I can't believe how I could have screwed everything up so bad.  I just wanted to be a good old boy with a steady job.  Wealth never interested me very much.  Can a person continue to live for long without hope?

I watched a whole boatload of old Tour films, bored without pleasure, to pass the time, something I thought would never happen.  I want some finality, I am tired of being monitored everywhere I go like some caged beast.  I want some faceless bastard to make a decision since they seem to be searching everywhere for a pretext to fornicate me.

Funny, when I was a normal person I didn't have two nickles in my pocket, but I survived years of environmental onslaughts without a qualm.  People would classify this behavior as insane, but the streets are full of sick crazy people.  Now, I need a shelter to survive or I will die?   I think if forced back on the streets that I will survive more environmental onslaughts, but my longevity may not be of long duration.  Without a bicycle I may not last a month.

But as everyone knows nature punishes her freaks brutally.  I am looking forward to the challenge even though it is impossible to be victorious.

I am sure there are a great number of people who are sickened by the tone of my recent posts, but perhaps I want some detached mental health practitioner to do a clinical study of the aftermath of traumatic injuries, and who is better to document suffering better than a complete moron such as myself?

Monday, March 9, 2015

Black Days

The content of this blog has deteriorated.  This blog was focused on how dope increased athletic performance in cycling.  I never intended to focus on any other topic.  But since my frostbite accident, my blog has been more of a journal of my personal spiral into madness than a forum for historical antecedents of doping during the "steroid era." However, I have made small subtle references to a bicycle anti-doping agenda in an attempt to remain on topic.

The worse thing that could happen to a dysfunctional moron such as myself is to have an accident. The only form of transportation I had was a bicycle or my feet, and the reason I bought a bicycle in the first place was so I could stop walking twenty miles a day.  Injured, without the ability to ride my bicycle, I nearly starved to death.  Currently, my poor bicycle is sitting in a garage with a rusty chain, I cannot ride the poor old thing, although I love and need that bicycle very much!  My hands are healing, the weather is improving, the primal urge is screaming, I need to go for a bicycle ride!

I can't even wipe my own ass.  If I wanted to off myself, I could do so very easily by riding down a large hill, and bang! collide with some rich ass hole's car.  Knowing my luck, I would fuck that up too. I would probably awaken to the disapproving frown of some trauma surgeon.  "All the king's horses and all the king's men could never put Humpty Dumpty together again."  But knowing my luck, some surgeon wizard would put velovortmax back together again, much to my chagrin and endless suffering.

People in a surge of generosity gave me a large number of personal items, which in the end I will be forced to abandon, like my old bicycle.  Parting with a bicycle you love is like parting with a woman you love, the memories never die, good or bad.  A thought worthless bicycle thieves should keep in mind, people love and need their bicycles!  Bicycle thieves should be pilloried in the public square for depriving people of their precious bicycles, a suitable punishment for human filth.

I want to walk away.  I need a bicycle to survive.  Men walk away from their women and die.  I walk away from my bicycle and die?

Read the Old Curiosity Shop.  When Nell and her grandfather wander the streets all day in some old sooty industrial town, they decide to bed down in a stair well of a doorway on the cold rough cobblestones.  A furnace tender comes to the rescue, he tells Nell and her grandfather about the bad things creeps do to young helpless girls at night in industrial towns.  Charles Dickens was a master of painting stark canvases of his day, the industrial revolution was a tough time, there was little compassion for human life.  People tangled their limbs in the machinery, surgeons were busy with the most primitive tools.  Injured people were left stranded to fend for themselves without any form of assistance.  Modern life, the information age, has an abundance of material possessions, fat bloated people, but disabled people are still left to fend for themselves without assistance.  People still live outdoors and are caught in windstorms, their frozen body parts are amputated.  People still die of hunger, people go blind from lack of nutrition, people cannot afford medical care, there is very little if any improvement from Charles Dickens' day...

I am the brunt of insidious jokes, people want to use me as a cheap Halloween prop.  They wish to employ me to terrify children because my hands look like something out of a cheap horror show. 

I thought I was an enterprising sort of guy, always living on the edge, pushing my luck, daring fate. Then Mother Nature exacted her revenge, and She is waiting cold and unfeeling for my return to finish me off.  To Mother Nature human life has no value.

I have a date with destiny.  I was convinced that I would die on a bicycle ride, but the fates seem to have something more gruesome in store for me.  I am suffering from mental derangement.  A jaded social worker would love my anguish and attempt to intensify my angst.

I have fallen on black days, the Sun refuses to shine in my vacant world.

An Outside View

I awoke from an enchanting dream where
A vast labyrinth barred my path,
Strewn with broken pillars, cornices, casements.

A large white balcony stretched over a yawning precipice
Embossed in pure marble!
But this idyllic view was besmirched
By an encircling dank moat.

Hopelessly lost in a perpetual maze of stupid ironies!
A diminutive candle, if you don't mind, PLEASE!

Oh Muse! Where is your guiding beacon?
Somewhere beyond these obstacles lies a solution to the Myth!
Are not all things discernible with the aid of a flickering candle?

Mixed with a sweet lyrical strain of a cherub's faultless innocence
Came a far distant rumble.
Under a sight of an infantry gun,
Or reports from a darkening sky filled with anvil clouds?

A moth flies precariously around the open tallow flame.
Agape! A spectral vision, nowhere to implore?
But yet the light quivers!

Another Boring Tangent

Muse! When I begged you for inspiration you cruelly deceived me! I asked only for an audience, but my lyre was met with deaf ears.  My tongue is silenced; a rotting corpse. But my head is inundated with the stinking excrement of our time. I have tried various methods to exclude unpleasant sensory impressions; songs, poetry, rudeness, all to no avail!  And my critics have crucified me with exile!

Terry D. Holfeltz
Salt Lake City, Utah

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Gabapentin Causes Post Traumatic Dementia?

I never expected to go through post traumatic depression from a nasty bilateral four finger frostbite amputation I experienced recently.  I applied for assistance from the government and was told to drop dead twice.  I can't pay the medical co-pay for my prescriptions. I think I will fly a sign, help a homeless bum pay for his medical, food, and shelter costs.  I wonder how long it would take before some deranged cop tried to arrest me for creating a nuisance.  Would the inmate population treat a finger less person with more respect than the police?  But being so vulnerable, perhaps I would be robbed of my nefarious gains by a fellow street person and would require the assistance of the police before I was arrested.  Are crippled people targets for thieves?  When I run out of medication do I go through delirium tremens, and will this require further hospitalization?  Will they control my hallucinations with a good dose of thorazine?  Do the police assassinate deranged visionary cripples who create a disturbance from sudden medication withdrawal, people who shout at cars and waive their stumps about in a frenzy while baring their teeth like rabid dogs?  If rabid dogs are removed to protect society why not remove indigent unemployable cripples who are nothing more than stinking parasites who siphon money from productive taxpayers?  The city could employ squads of angry citizens who would round up undesirable bums much like animal control rounds up stray animals. They put down animals, why not bums?  In ancient history when I was a productive person, (not to be labeled a hypocrite), I would have favored a platform that called for the extermination of bums.  Now that I am disabled, I am ready to volunteer as an example to others. Civic duty requires worthless people to step aside to create prosperity for others, as there are a finite number of resources...

There was a nasty social worker who asked me some of the stupidest questions when I was in the hospital.  Why do social workers exist and do they serve any useful purpose in this world?

Family took me to a local bicycle shop, maybe out of some sort of sadistic prompting.  When I saw all of the new beautiful bicycles that I could never afford I almost cried.  The salesman treated me like a piece of crap.  Salesmen are only interested in generating sales of high end bicycles, I understand that sort of morbid reasoning.  People are insisting that with some bicycle engineering modifications that I may be able to ride again on a road bike.  I doubt that this will ever be possible because the muscle functionality in my hands have not returned to the extent that I can apply enough pressure to the break handles even to work hydraulic breaks.  There may be some future improvement, time will tell, but if not, there is always an ugly cruiser that does not require a hand break. Wandering around the shop I even found a copy of Tyler Hamilton's book The Secret Race. Seeing that book made me feel violently ill from noxious disgust. Tyler Hamilton was a doper extremist and my favorite target.  Tyler Hamilton was so gifted as a rider that it was difficult to understand his bipolar depression.  But athletic gifts do not absolutely preclude mental instability.

They gave me something called gabapentin to kill phantom pain.  I hate all medications illegal or prescribed.  The side effects of gabapentin constitute a virtual syndrome of symptoms, including a lethal mix of depression and dementia.  Maybe I should call a doctor.  Some strange physical sensations seem to persist in my hands.  I attempt to describe these sensations to the bored outpatient clinic workers who tell me that these sensations are not uncommon.  They doubled my dosage of gabapentin, maybe I am taking too much. I am having weird memory lapses.  I should call a doctor. These sensations in my hands are not normal.

Wired in a hospital bed while in perfect health is a strange experience.  I kept trying to convince the staff that there was nothing wrong with me and perhaps the bed could be more usefully filled by someone who was really ill.  The hospital staff assured me that there was plenty of space. Being in a burn center, I saw faces of children fried from burn accidents, beautiful innocent little children scarred for life.  How could a compassionate loving God allow innocent children to go through the trauma of being burned?  How could a loving God allow frostbite?  Have me burned for being a blasphemer, heretic, and infidel.  I welcome death.  Death would be preferable to these horrors.

They could have amputated my thumbs, but then again there is voice recognition technology.  There is really no excuse, failure to adapt to modern day technology is not a systemic failure, it is an individualistic failure.  I see families who sit around the kitchen table for hours with their noses buried in their cell phones, oblivious of each other and the surrounding environment.  The new normal.  I had no desire for a cell phone and was happy.  The rustic life I loved has been taken away. I am bored cooped up in a house all day. I want to heal and then to vanish into thin air.  Demented thinking takes on many colorful hues, like an expanding soap bubble.

My surgeon, Dr. Amalia Cochran, has a blog herself, Life in the Wild West, the musings of a burn surgeon. I could not refrain from reading some of it.  She was complaining that at an academic conference some of her male colleagues commented that her attire lacked professionalism.  I wanted to be a organizational sociologist once, I even read, Men and Women of the Corporation.  Have we as a society yet to emerge from the stone age in male/female professional relations and is there still a gender specific double standard?  I hope that people are beyond such mundane concerns as to what constitutes proper attire in a professional setting, there are more pressing concerns, all this nonsense seems so trivial...

Demented reasoning again?  But, you know, a woman commented, without fingers how do you jerk off?  I did not expect an existential question of such probity.  How do you respond to such a question without being gender specific?  If I respond that I need to hire a prostitute does that make me sexist? Should I fall upon my knees and beg the first woman I see?  Would she have me arrested for perversion?  Since I have no wife and am not gay, do I risk offending anyone and does anyone care about being offended anymore?

This is 2015, not the stone age.  We regard ourselves as very sophisticated people, at least we enlightened ones do.  The unwashed are the same old dullards, unable to grasp the concept of equality for all regardless of circumstance.  Thus utopia is foiled once again, nipped in the bud by the same old prejudicial nonsense, the inability to share power between the sexes on a level playing field.

Anyone care for another gabapentin?


I was looking at the neurotransmitter Gamma-Amino Butyric Acid (GABA) out of scientific interest.  GABA is a inhibitory neurotransmitter found in the central and peripheral nervous systems.  GABA seems to slow the firing rate of excitatory amino acid dependent neurons.  GABA has been touted as a natural tranquilizer and has been given to patients with anxiety disorders under the hypothesis that increased platelet levels of GABA has a sedative effect.  However, oral administration of GABA may not pass the blood brain barrier, therefore, GABA taken orally may be nothing more than a high priced placebo.

Okay, everyone knows my opinion of supplements.  Body builders seem to think that GABA increases levels of human growth hormone (HGH) and muscle mass....seriously?  GABA is being taken as a performance enhancing drug?

Mode of action of gabapentin from the Physicians Desk Reference:
  • GABA analogue; has not been established. Binds with high-affinity to the α2-delta subunit of voltage-activated Ca2+ channels. Analgesic Effects: Prevents allodynia and hyperalgesia (animals).

One of my doctors said that gabapentin blocks GABA receptors.  A very generic explanation as no doubt there are a whole constellation of GABA receptors.  Nevertheless, there is no doubt that gabapentin crosses the blood brain barrier, the drug is prescribed for seizure disorders.  Seizures are postulated to be caused by scar tissue from injury near the corpus callosum, or the area of the brain that contains neurons that connect the hemispheres of the brain.

In the good old days scientists experimented upon themselves with unknown drugs and they recorded their own physiological reactions.  Nowadays crazed researchers use laboratory rats under stringent ethical rules to establish medical efficacy of drugs.  Then there are cumbersome human trials and voluminous recorded medical data sets.

Good enough, but consider this, how does a rat express his/her cognitive mind set without language?  If a rat sits all day in the corner of his/her cage with a languorous demeanor does this indicate a depressed state of mind?  May an inference be made as to the state of mind of a research animal from a downcast expression?  Perhaps.  But the complexity of human reactions do not generally generalize between species, people can mask depression or anxiety with cheerful expressions, therefore human verbal descriptions of changes in psychological health are required to determine how side effects of drugs can be adequately described, measured, or predicted.  Radical invasive measures are forbidden.  Living human tissue samples from the brain cannot be extracted for research purposes except in extreme cases of radical surgery where large tracts of damage exist, but even so neurons that survive in vitro work beyond the ken of human understanding.

I would willingly contribute slices of my limbic system to expand knowledge of affective disorders like the intrepid researchers of old, but that would be considered unethical as long as I am alive.  Better would be to dedicate my corpse to science, medical students could spend all day carving up my cadaver marveling at all the abnormalities.

But damn it! gabapentin does not block dead GABA receptors, does it?  [Indeed: calcium channels are dependent upon stimulation of receptors to perforate the double membranes of the vesicles that are contained within the presynaptic neuron.  The perforated membranes then release neurotransmitter into the synaptic cleft. So I am uncertain as to what sort of GABA receptor blockade my doctor was referring to.]  And my GABA receptors can't report to me what is happening, damn it!

Another scientific break through squandered by limitations of the human brain! 

Friday, February 13, 2015

Frostbite Killed Velo Vortmax

For the few readers who have endured my madness over the years, I have suffered through a personal disaster befitting a person of my insignificant stature. Caught outdoors in a down slope windstorm with gusts of eighty miles an hour, my fingers froze, died on the vine, and all four digits on each hand were amputated at the University of Utah burn center by two very capable surgeons, Dr. Amalia Cochran and Dr. Kate Smiley.  I am typing this missive with my thumbs, which proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am capable of doing something of value, and that I have not been rendered completely useless. This is an important lesson for people who have an interest in defining cripples as able bodied human beings, in an attempt to deny benefits to said persons, in the interest of saving money for the state.

I have for many years been an advocate for cyclists who in many instances claimed innocence in the face of overwhelming evidence against them.  In reviewing the arguments I made against what I considered a corrupt system, I feel ashamed at some of my logic, which reads like fantastically overblown, stupid bullshit.  But, perhaps, not in every instance was I mistaken in my assumptions.

I had a premonition of disaster, one fine day I was asleep thinking of a large wind storm that I survived years ago, wondering if such a storm would happen again.  Now, in the aftermath, I feel sick at heart, like a prisoner trapped in a cell helplessly staring through the bars wondering whether I will survive a hideous ordeal.  There were only two things I loved in this world: riding my bicycle and maintaining my state of self independence free from debt or obligation to others.  Sadly, there was so much amputated from my fingers that I may never be able to ride my road bike again.  It is unfortunate that disasters in life have a tendency to deprive a person of the few things in this world that generate a sense of happiness and well being.  Nothing tops the sensation one feels when descending down a ten percent switchback on a good road bike where you are in complete control and confident that nothing will go wrong.  Then, suddenly you realize that those days have past forever.  Then, one fine day you look out the window of an automobile, and see a local team out on a training ride, the tears flow like rain, and you realize that there is no one to communicate your thoughts to. Precious cycling memories most people scoff at.

Through my misery I have to laugh at the thought that so many people thought it necessary to save my life.  I wandered the streets of Salt Lake City in a frenzy trying to fend off the inevitable like a madman.  People gazed at my dead fingers aghast in horror, some mentioned the consequences of gangrene.  Finally the wife of a doctor who is a specialist in infectious diseases, Polly, insisted that I ride in her car to a free clinic, where Dr. Tanya Williams instantly faxed photographs of my hands to the University of Utah burn center, where two surgeons, Dr. Amalia Cochran and Dr. Kate Smiley, suggested an immediate admission into the hospital. During the tramp of madness my weight had dropped from one hundred and fifty to one hundred and twenty seven pounds.

I spent three weeks in an intensive care unit.  The hospital bill would add another trillion to the national debt.  I will never be able to pay for the fine care I received.  I have been reduced to the status of a circus cripple with eight fingers amputated, disabled for life, sickened to death, dependent on others, and uncertain of the future.  I want to run to some mountain hide away and vanish forever like some old beaten dog.

People sneered at some of my stupid conclusions, but all I wanted to do was to generate some discussion about the abysmal levels of dope that seems to be necessary to ride at the highest level in our sport.  The malady did not start with Lance Armstrong or end with Lance Armstrong.  People need to realize that if you require men to ride bicycles over successive mountain passes in a single stage that may extend for over a hundred brutal miles, that these extreme conditions raced at top speed might provide the riders an incentive to use performance enhancing drugs.  To think otherwise requires a thought process that is not based in reality.  Riders will continue to take risks as long as the riders agree that the certainty of never being caught exists, that the methods of the doctors defeat the methods employed by the labs, or that the possibility exists that the governing bodies are willing to look the other way.  Indeed, everybody thinks they are bullet proof until they fuck up and make a stupid miscalculation.  There is no excuse for these types of stupid miscalculations, and when you face the consequences, you have no one but yourself to blame.

Ask me, I am a living example of a stupid miscalculation. I knew better and still fucked up. I have no one but myself to blame.  I was an experienced outdoors man.  I made a foolish blunder and was caught unprepared.  Without modern medicine and surgery I would be dead.

I will recover.  I used to haunt a library all day reading books, forever in search of that quintessential writing style.  I was despised by some people who frequented that library, and I am sure that they are rejoicing at my absence. I may be back, still adorned in rags, sans my fingers, to destroy your serenity.  So enjoy my hiatus while you can.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Tour is Won on the Alpe: Book Review

The Tour is Won on the Alpe, Jean Paul Vespini, David V. Herlihy (Translator), Velo Press, 2008.

The Tour is Won on the Alpe is the quintessential reference book, required reading for any cycling fanatic.  No matter what context, your favorite Tour, your favorite rider, controversies, doping, everything is there in well written, short concise summaries.

L' Alpe d' Huez, also known as the Wall of L' Oisans, or the Dutch Mountain, is the queen of Tour de France climbs.

What are the key elements that make this such a sacred cycling ritual?  For starters, it's the geography.  The 14 kilometer (8.7 mile) climb is truly hellish as the elevation rises from 800 meters (2,625 feet) at Bourg d' Oisans to 1,860 meters (6,102 feet) at the summit.  The grade averages 8 percent, a rise of about 50 meters (164 feet) from one hairpin to the next.  The brutal slope becomes especially taxing after the bridge at Romanche, where some sections reach a 14 percent grade before the hamlet of La Garde.  For the uninitiated, it's a voyage into the depths of hell. P.xiv.
The switchbacks of L' Alpe d' Huez are numbered backward from number 21 at the base of the climb to number 1 near the summit.  The turns list a past stage winner's name, the elevation, and the nearest distance to an emergency telephone; a fact that is the constant brunt of rider mirth.

The first climb up L' Alpe d' Huez was run in 1952 and was won by Fausto Coppi, "Campionissimo," who donned the yellow jersey at the summit, which he would retain all the way to Paris.  The 1952 Tour de France was raced during a heat wave of 40+ degree Celsius temperatures, when people all over Europe were dying from heat exposure.  To slow the pace and deter breakaways, the Tour organizers accused the riders of brandishing their bicycle pumps.  A cartoon depicted the event with Phoebus wilting the riders while they rode, while hammer man (the symbol of injury) and the witch with green teeth (the symbol of bad luck) looked on appalled.

Then until the 1976 Tour de France, L' Alpe d' Huez was forgotten.  The stage was added almost as an afterthought after a planned stage was dropped from the Tour route due to a dispute between a developer and city government officials.  The stage was won by Joop Zoetemelk who nipped Lucien van Impe at the line, winning by a three second margin.  Henceforward, the Alpe would become enshrined as a permanent fixture of the Tour de France forever, attracting over the years millions of delirious fans, who fight for prime viewing areas, and who cheer on their favorite heroes in a bedlam environment that defies description.

Jacques Goddet Goes Crazy

Everybody thought that the 1977 Tour de France would be the year of the resurgence of Eddy Merckx, who had won five Tour de France titles, and who was looking forward to a record number six.  However, during a rest day, after eating contaminated celery root, Eddy Merckx was visibly suffering from food poisoning, puking his guts out all over the road.  Everyone thought that Eddy Merckx would abandon at any moment.  Instead, on L' Alpe d' Huez, Eddy Merckx would regain his incredible fluid pedal stroke, and would boast at the summit that he had climbed the Wall of L'Oisans at a faster pace than Hennie Kuiper, who won the stage!  There were no objections to this assertion by Eddy Merckx; in fact, people gazed at the greatest cyclist of all time in admiration after he had managed another amazing feat of athletic prowess.

But other than the amazing feats of Eddy Merckx the rest of the 1977 Tour de France was raced at what Jacques Goddet considered a snail's pace.  Jacques Goddet claimed that the fanatics were dying of boredom because there were few, if any, breakaways during the race.  In an L' Equipe editiorial Jacques Goddet called for "A plea for a new Tour."

Goddet suggested new attractions, a 100 kilometer (62 mile) team time trial and a motorcycle paced event, along with increased incentives, such as a greatly enhanced prize for "competitiveness" and stiffer penalties, such as annulling all stage specific prizes if the average speed fell below a set minimum.  P.26; italics added.

Jacques Goddet's suggestion bordered on lunacy.  There were a huge number of big name cyclists who had tested positive for the drug stimul, an amphetamine based cocktail in 1977, including Bernard Thevenet, Eddy Merckx, and Freddy Maertens.   The riders were furious, insisting that they were racing under inhuman conditions, and that they were being denied even rudimentary medications they needed to treat their racing injuries.

Prior to the Tour, on the eve of the Giro in Milan, Eddy Merckx had called the racers to an impromptu meeting in which they demanded that the lists of banned substances be revised to distinguish medicines that cause little or no harm from those that are truly dangerous.  The former were to be tolerated and the latter "rigorously forbidden."  P.27.

Marc Jeuniau, a Belgian journalist and Merckx's longtime confidant, called for fewer mountaintop finishes in order to decrease the racers' incentive to use drugs.  "Whatever happened to all those promises to humanize the Tour?  Instead, the organizers have increased the number of mountaintop finishes.  They've shamelessly eliminated the transitional stages and have even hauled the racers from the end of the Alps straight to the foothills of the Pyrenees.  It is difficult, even inconceivable, to be a professional cyclist in 1977 and not resort to taking stimulants." P.27

But, in spite of racer pleas for a more rational selection of banned substances, more transitional stages, and rest stages to help the riders recover: here is Jacques Goddet, demanding that the riders ride above a set minimum time or be penalized.  This idiotic logic of increasing the Tour speed would be fully realized in future Tours de France when the tempo set by the riders exceeded what could be reasonably considered physiologically impossible without dope.  The Tour organizers preferred to turn a blind eye to what was happening because the later Tours of the steroid era featured long breakaways that were reeled in at the last moment by the sprinter teams, with the aid of race radio, well orchestrated by the directeur sportif, who timed these exploits with a stopwatch; very exciting, people were wide awake marveling at these spectacles.  And who can forget the look Lance Armstrong gave Jan Ullrich on L' Alpe d' Huez when Lance Armstrong sprinted up the Dutch Mountain at supersonic speed dropping the hapless German like a hot rock?  People were jumping up and down in an excited frenzy over these exploits with admiring expressions of wonder too.  Oui?  But then again there were people who wondered how every year the average speed of the Tour increased, or how Marco Pantani rode so much faster than Bernard Hinault up L' Alpe d' Huez.  Everyone suspected doping: there were too many positive tests during the steroid era from too many top riders, but nobody dropped dead on the hairpin turns of L' Alpe d' Huez like Tommy Simpson did on Mont Ventoux.  So what if your blood was a thick as mud, as long as you did not die on the course, nobody cared enough to intervene.

Dope, Deception, and Detection

There are plentiful examples of doping referenced in The Tour is Won on the Alpe.  In 1978 Michel Pollentier won the stage up L' Alpe d' Huez and the yellow jersey, but he tried to fool the doping control by hiding a bladder of clean urine under his armpit and extending a tube down his back ending behind his penis. The doping doctor on duty caught him because he insisted that Michel Pollentier pull down his pants and lift up his jersey.  Plus the tube seemed to be plugged up with something so Michel Pollentier could not provide any substitute urine anyway.  Michel Pollentier was stripped of his yellow jersey, relegated to the back of the peloton for the stage, penalized ten minutes in the general classification, and fined $5,000 Swiss francs for this fraud. Michel Pollentier claimed that he used an anti-asthmatic drug during the Tour, and he was afraid if found out, of being expelled from the race.  This episode leads to two important lessons.  (1) The need for a therapeutic use exemption for legitimate medical concerns, as was suggested by Eddy Merckx, and eventually implemented by the UCI, and (2) that the penalties for doping devolved from a reasonable and rational level into a draconian, arbitrary, irrational monstrosity.  Relegated to the back of the pack, penalized ten minutes in the general classification, fined, are a far cry from two year suspensions for a first doping offense, four years for a second offense, the death penalty for a third offense, endless litigation, and expense.  These barbaric arbitration "awards" benefit, whom?  Certainly not the athlete.  The UCI should return to the days where an infraction leads to a reasonable punishment.  That way cycling could dispense with the legal circus and dispense with outside actors who have no business passing judgment on anyone.  Of course, repeat offenders were suspended for up to a year, even in 1978.  Nevertheless, the draconian suspensions deter no one, because if that was the case, after the treatment Floyd Landis received, Alberto Contador would have never been stripped of his title for using clenbuterol.  But on the other hand, after the Festina Affair in 1998, Richard Virenque would have never have been allowed to exploit a loophole in the UCI regulations to start the 1999 Tour, in spite of the objections of Jean-Marie LeBlanc.  So where does the happy medium lie, in hypocrisy, persona non grata?

1989 Tour de France: Greg LeMond Versus Laurent Fignon: L' Alpe d' Huez

There were many great battles on L' Alpe d' Huez, but perhaps none more significant than the battle that emerged between Greg LeMond and Laurent Fignon during the 1989 Tour de France.  Simply put Greg LeMond started to self destruct on the climb giving Laurent Fignon an opportunity to bury him.

7 kilometers from the top, LeMond, began to falter, his shoulders rocking back and forth.  It was a sign that Cyrille Guimard, Fignon's directeur sportif recognized: LeMond was out of gas.  He threaded his car through the sea of crazed fans and pulled up to Fignon.  "You've got to go. Now!"  Fignon, his face wreathed in sweat, looked over, "I can't do it," he said, "I can't." P.94

Guimard dropped back and waited.  The three (LeMond, Fignon, Delgado) climbed as a group.  And then, at turn 6, just before the hamlet of Huez and only four kilometers (2.4miles) from the summit, Guimard once again pushed his car through the crowds.  "Attack!" LeMond is cooked.  It's now or never!"  Now Fignon made his move, throwing all his aggression and hopes into a painful effort.  He had 53 seconds to make up in order to retake the yellow jersey.  At turn 3, 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) from the finish, he had already taken back 52 seconds. P.95.

Suddenly, wrote Philippe Bouvet in L' Equipe, LeMond sat back down in the saddle.  He reached for his shift lever, he wavered.  The narrow corridor that the fans had yielded was not wide enough; LeMond was all over the place.  For 500 meters, it was terrible: the yellow jersey was drowning in a sea of spectators.  No car or motorcycle could follow him carefully enough to keep the crowd from closing in on him. P.95

Laurent Fignon took over the yellow jersey from LeMond on L' Alpe d' Huez and wore it all the way to Paris, where in the final stage time trial he lost the race by 8 seconds.  LeMond had used aerodynamic tri bars, disc wheels, aerodynamic helmet, while Laurent Fignon used a standard safety bicycle.  Why would Cyrille Guimard allow this discrepancy to happen, aerodynamics verses a standard bicycle?  The reason, according to Jean-Paul Vespini, is because Cyrille Guimard thought that Laurent Fignon had squandered his chances on the turns of L' Alpe d' Huez, so Laurent Fignon did not deserve to win the Tour de France!

The Decline of Greg LeMond

Francesco Conconi predicted that the newly emerging Miguel Indurain would dominate the Tour de France in two years during the 1989 Tour de France.  How insightful!  Greg LeMond had a penchant to win the Tour at the last second like Zorro!  But one insight I gleaned from Jean-Paul Vespini's book that never occurred to me before is the fact that Greg LeMond resembled Jan Ullrich, the off season slackness, the lack of preparation and work ethic, and the crash course of training to get into Tour de France race shape.  Plus Greg LeMond was always a fragile, psychologically unstable man, who was never sure of himself in the face of stress.  Greg LeMond also never learned that the top of the cycling world is very short lived, the young men are always waiting to depose the old men, like Greg LeMond and Laurent Fignon did to Bernard Hinault.  Greg LeMond always complained that his misfortunes limited his number of his Tour victories, that he could of outdistanced even Eddy Merckx, without the curse of the witch with green teeth!  But Fignon and Hinault suffered injuries that made them miss Tour de France races in their primes, so Greg LeMond's excuses are superficial at best.  Let us just say that father time caught up with Greg LeMond.  His era, though great, had passed, and it wasn't merely a matter of EPO, but perhaps more importantly, a matter of mitochondrial myopathy.  The fact that Greg LeMond was forever bitter about his bad luck, and the fact that he tried to transfer his bitterness into accusatory expedients of others' behavior is inexcusable and shows that Greg LeMond, even though he was a great cyclist, is not a great person to emulate.

Update:  This review is unusually truncated.  I wrote down pages of notes that I thought were pertinent; but as I have done in some posts, I may add the notes to future discussions.  The book begins with Fausto Coppi and ends with the 2006 Tour de France.  The 2006 L' Alpe d' Huez stage was won by Frank Schleck, and the 2006 Tour de France was won by Floyd Landis, who tested positive for synthetic testosterone in a highly suspicious test result. Floyd Landis was stripped of his title, and was banned from cycling for two and one half years.  If the circumstances were more reasonable, Floyd Landis would have lost his title anyway, if he would have been retroactively penalized ten minutes in the general classification and relegated to the back of the peloton for his doping offense.  There would have been no need for USADA, or Travis Tygart, no need to revoke his racing license, no need for Floyd Landis to spend two million dollars in litigation fees, no need for USADA to spend millions in litigation costs, no need for the American Arbitration Association, the Court of Arbitration of Sport, no need to lampoon Floyd Landis in the press or to smear his character.  Some people might say, "Ah, come on man, don't do the crime, if you can't do the time, don't do it," or some other trite cliche.  I don't agree because people are not infallible, science is not perfect, and people have tendencies to make mistakes.  Eliminate the mistakes and I will adopt your philosophy that the best way to avoid punishment is to avoid engaging in behavior that requires punishment.  But guess what gang, police arrest the wrong people, witnesses identify the wrong people, people languish in prisons who are innocent!  Re-examination of cold case DNA have cleared many a man sentenced to death; the facts were in error!  The judgement was in error!  The witnesses were in error!  The police were in error!  And I insist that LNDD was in error!  USADA was in error!  The Court of Arbitration of Sport was in error!  And I insist that Floyd Landis was punished in error!

Marco Pantani, the fastest time up L' Alpe d' Huez ever.  His record could not be beat even by Lance Armstrong in a time trial up the Alpe.  With all the reforms the record may stand forever.    If the Alpe is your stage, The Tour is Won on the Alpe is the book for you!