Sunday, July 26, 2009

Alberto Contador Wins the 2009 Tour de France

The 2009 Tour de France is over. Alberto Contador has won. Andy Schleck was second. Lance Armstrong was third. Nothing else matters.

No matter what you think, two Tour de France champions on the same team leads to disaster. Greg LeMond and Bernard Hinault were teammates. Hinault won a Tour and LeMond won a Tour. Greg LeMond claims that he could have won both Tours. The amimosity between Greg LeMond and Bernard Hinault are the stuff of legend. Those who refuse to learn from historical precedent are doomed to folly. Thus Team Astana during the 2009 Tour de France.

Nevertheless, could Lance Armstrong ever beat Alberto Contador in a Tour de France on the same team? Probably not, given the age disparities. Lance Armstrong is thirty eight, Alberto Contador is twenty six. Nevertheless, the Team Astana experiment with two Tour de France winners is over. Lance Armstrong and Johan Bruyneel are off to Team Nabisco for the 2010 Tour de France. Alberto Contador is expected to stay with a newly reformulated Team Astana, consisting of mainly Spanish support riders.

Then shall we see who is the best rider, Alberto Contador or Lance Armstrong? Shall we see if the rider is more important or if total team strategy, effort, and strength is more important? What is most important the strongest rider or the strongest team?

Good questions that will be pondered next year perhaps. But for now Alberto Contador can bask in his glory as Tour winner. Lance Armstrong made the podium, in third place, at thirty eight years of age. 2009 was a vintage year for the Tour de France.

Sour Grapes

There are those who think that Lance Armstrong is the sort of man who demands total obeisance from his teammates. They cite Roberto Heras, Floyd Landis, George Hincapie, loyal lieutenants who sacrificed their legs so that Lance Armstrong could chalk up seven successive Tour de France wins. Some people think that Lance Armstrong expected Alberto Contador to work as a team domestic to ensure that Lance Armstrong would win an eighth Tour de France.

At the start of the 2009 Tour de France a pissing contest emerged over who would be alpha dog of Team Astana. Lance Armstrong had the best time at 0:00 behind Fabian Cancallara after the Team Time Trial. But, Alberto Contador was not far behind Lance Armstrong and the mountain stages were to come where the true classification would be sorted out.

Stage 17 decided the 2009 Tour de France when Alberto Contador attacked Andy and Frank Schleck. Unfortunately, for Team Astana, both Andreaus Kloden and Lance Armstrong were dropped. This attack by Alberto Contador was a questionable tactic if the goal of Team Astana was to place three riders on the final podium. If Alberto Contador would have shown more restraint, it is arguable that both Lance Armstrong and Andreaus Kloden could have made the final podium.

Nevertheless, the Stage 17 attack did establish Alberto Contador as the alpha dog of Team Astana, and Lance Armstrong did recognize this fact. Lance Armstrong did work for Alberto Contador by forcing Bradely Wiggins to eat wind and pull. The main goal of Stage 17 was to drop Bradely Wiggins from contention, even Andy and Frank Schleck admitted this fact.

But Alberto Contador barely acknowledged the role of Lance Armstrong in helping him win the 2009 Tour de France. In fact, Alberto Contador stated several times that he could have won the Tour without any help from Lance Armstrong.

Meanwhile, Lance Armstrong was saying he did not mind being a team player. "I have seven Tour de France wins, I am proud of Alberto Contador."

But some people will always question the sincerity of Lance Armstrong, no matter what.

After the Stage 17 attack Alberto Contador established himself as the unquestioned 2009 Tour de France champion. The time gaps on General Classification between Alberto Contador and his main rivals continued to widen. Alberto Contador should be very proud of his achievement.

Until the doping tests result in a positive for PEDs?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Garmin Slipstream is a Disgrace

Garmin Slipstream is a disgraceful team. After doing no work at all for the entire race, Garmin Slipstream came to the front of the peloton on Stage 14 to reel in American rider Geroge Hincapie. This treachery deprived Hincapie of assuming the race lead and wearing the yellow jersey.

Pathetic. At the conclusion of the stage a visibly angry Hincapie blamed Team Astana for coming to the front of the stage to work when the responsibility of reeling in the break should have been Nocentini's AG2R team. This is true, but as Phil Liggit mentioned on Versus, Astana probably tried to slow down the pace to allow George Hincapie to take the race lead, but things did not work out. There was a danger in allowing Hincapie to gain a large amount of time on a break, he can climb. Astana probably wanted to keep the break manageable. The motives of Garmin Slipstream does not seem so mundane though. Garmin Slipstream could argue that they worked to protect Bradely Wiggins. Nothing more. This argument seems to hold no weight among professional cycling fans, however. Sinister rumors are circulating; Jonathan Vaughters and Bob Stapleton have bad blood. Jonathan Vaughters and George Hincapie have unsettled scores from the United States Postal Professional Cycling Team days when both were domestics for Lance Armstrong during the 1999 Tour de France. In any case George Hincapie is correct when he stated that the race tactics of Garmin Slipstream were beyond belief.

Versus has spent a great deal of time promoting Garmin Slipstream during this Tour, interviewing Jonathan Vaughters on a great number of topics. This must stop, now.

Jonathan Vaughters and Matt White should learn how to organize a team. Men work, idiots ride just inside of the time limit. On the Category 1 Col Villette-Le-Chable, Saxo Bank rider Fabian Cancellara set such a quick pace on the front for his general classification rider Andy Schleck, hammering uphill out of the saddle until he blew up. That is how you work for your team. Bradely Wiggens sat protected behind Cancellara doing nothing. Wiggens' Garmin Slipstream teammates were no where in sight. Jonathan Vaughters should show his team the tape of Fabian Cancellara working for his team as a training guide on how to do things right.

Astana knows how to run a team. Astana runs a train on the front of the group working when the Saxo Bank riders go out the back. Alberto Contador is a protected rider in the pure sense of the word, not an isolated pathetic figure like Wiggins. Where is former reformed Saint David Millar, why is not David Millar setting a leg breaking tempo up the Col like Fabian Cancellara?

If anything, the pure narcissist of Astana is Ablerto Contador who refuses to follow orders and who is so intent on proving to the world that he is so much better than Lance Armstrong that he takes unnecessary risks. Today, on Stage 17, we have a perfect example of this. On the last Cat 1 Col Alberto Contador decided to sprint out of the saddle to attack Frank and Andy Schleck. This move created problems for his own Astana teammates Lance Armstrong and A. Kloden who were both dropped. A blunder as both Armstrong and Kloden were high on the general classification and this created an opportunity for Andy Schleck and his brother Frank to move up on general classification.

However, Lance Armstrong worked to protect Alberto Contador from Bradely Wiggins who could not match the Contador attack, like a loyal teammate is supposed to do. Armstrong was glued to Wiggins wheel waiting for an opportunity to attack. At a severe grade Armstrong sprinted around Wiggins and dropped him like a rock after forcing Wiggins to ride into the wind and pull Armstrong.

Not only did Lance Armstrong drop Bradely Wiggins but on the decent he caught his teammate Kloden. Lance Armstrong tried to pace Kloden to the line. Perfect racing tactics from a team oriented man who is working for the interests of the team, not of the rider, himself. Something Alberto Contador and Garmin Slipstream should use as a training guide.

Enjoy the Tour everyone!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Pat McQuaid; Assume Some Responsibility

The 2009 Tour de France has had some unexpected turns but nothing seemed more fitting than watching Tom Boonen hit the deck after touching wheels on wet pavement during Stage 6. Boonen was probably thinking of free basing another huge rock of crack cocaine and firing up the pipe, not about racing his bike. Indeed. Tom Boonen, got an unexpected reprieve from the Court of Arbitration of Sport after testing positive for recreational cocaine use. Apparently there is no prohibition of cocaine use by riders out-of-competition. Therefore neither the ASO or the UCI has any legal basis to exclude this miscreant from the Tour de France. This is very good news for people who make a profession out of stealing bicycles to sell to a Mexican drug cartels for crack cocaine. Once your bicycle is traded for cocaine, the group sets are stripped and sold on Craigs' list or E-Bay and the frames are chopped into bits and sold as scrap metal. Tom Boonen is probably the cycling hero of these thieves. Some fans of Tom Boonen probably think there is nothing better in life than depriving people who rely upon cycling as their primary form of transportation and recreation, people who don't own cars, of their bicycles, for drugs.

The UCI and Results Management

This raises issues that should have been resolved long ago about the results management of rider behavior and who should be responsible for punishment of offenses. In my opinion the UCI has abdicated this responsibility in favor of WADA and the Court of Arbitration of Sport.

When a rider submits a sample for testing, once the urine or blood is collected it becomes the property of the UCI. Therefore, the management of the sample becomes the responsibility of the UCI, not WADA or the AFLD. In theory, the UCI could refuse to allow any WADA accredited lab to do any testing on a UCI licensed rider.

The UCI could refuse to accept any extra legal judgements of UCI licensed riders as was done to Floyd Landis. Floyd Landis was licensed in the United States and was suspended by USA cycling upon the decision of the Court of Arbitration of Sport. The AFLD also forced Floyd Landis to sign an agreement to suspend racing in France for two years. The AFLD action probably had no legal basis for this suspension.

In theory, the UCI could exclude the Court of Arbitration of Sport and any or all related International Olympic Committee entities from participating in UCI licensed rider results management. The basis for this exclusion would be related to the property issue. The UCI could argue that since they are the legal owners of the samples that arbitration of rider results could occur outside of IOC jurisdiction.

Pierre Bordry Shoots His Mouth

The USA Today reported that Pierre Bordry has accused the UCI of lax testing for the 2009 Tour de France. Apparently Pierre Bordry thinks that when the AFLD was responsible for the testing during the 2008 Tour de France that rider testing was more thorough. Pat McQuaid denied Bordry's accusations as unfounded.

Quaint. In my opinion Pat Mcquaid should have been more forceful in his statement. First, the UCI has responsibility for the results management of the 2009 Tour de France. Second, the laboratory samples of Lance Armstrong are being tested 24/7 for all known substances and deviations in biological parameters. Lance Armstrong has provided the largest quantity of longitudinal biological passport data ever collected on one man in the history of the world. So, it is logical to conclude that if some variation exists that suggests performance enhancing drug use we will find it. Third, we are relying upon a WADA accredited laboratory at Chatenay-Malabry, known as one of the most unreliable and lax testing intuitions in the world. Perhaps it would be more prudent if Mr. Pierre Bordry would spend his time and money on monitoring the accreditation audits and reviewing the training and competence of the laboratory personnel of LNDD rather than accusing the UCI of lax testing schedules for UCI licensed riders. Fourth, providing that there is any urine and blood left after the rigorous testing of Lance Armstrong during and presumably after the Tour de France, there is still a matter of retroactive testing to be done after developing future tests to detect experimental drug combinations or to refine testing procedures of performance enhancing compounds that currently have no tests; before the statute of limitations run out. Eight years is plenty of time.

Watch the Tour

Pat McQuaid should give this advice to Pierre Bordry. Shut up and watch the Tour de France! Mark Cavendish and Thor Hushvold are in a battle royal for the sprint jersey. Alberto Contador and Lance Armstrong are fighting each other for the race lead. This race may not be decided until Mont Ventoux! Wonderful!

Like the Giro d' Italia there may be no Tour de France PED positive tests, perish the thought.

Enjoy the Tour everyone!