Thursday, May 27, 2010

UCI to Investigate Landis Claims: and Local Bike Rides in June

May 27, 2010 
The organization that governs international bicycle racing yesterday announced that they will be opening an inquiry into doping allegations made by Floyd Landis.

In a press release, the International Cycling Union (UCI) confirmed that it requested the respective National Federations to carry out inquiries into the accusations made by Landis against their license-holders, namely Cycling Australia (Matthew White), Royal Belgian Cycling League (Johan Bruyneel), Canadian Cycling Association (Michael Barry) and the French Cycling Federation (John Lelangue).

An inquiry has also already been opened by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) regarding fellow racers of Mr. Landis whom he accused of doping, including Lance Armstrong, George Hincapie, Levi Leipheimer, Jim Ochowicz and David Zabriskie.

In their statement, the UCI said their inquiry "is aimed at establishing, in an objective manner, whether or not events potentially constituting a breach of the Anti-Doping Rules occurred. This does not in any way imply that the UCI considers the allegations made by Mr Landis to have any basis."

The group did not provide any details as to how their investigation would proceed.

Part of Landis' allegation included a claim that the UCI and the World Anti Doping Agency had concealed test results of cyclists in competition. 

A previous statement by the UCI on May 25 said,  "Since 1st January 2004, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) receives a copy of any analysis reports which show an abnormal result. WADA has not reported any abnormal analyses from any of its accredited laboratories that have not been duly dealt with by the UCI. The UCI wishes to reassert the total transparency of its anti-doping testing and categorically rejects any suspicion in relation to the concealment of results from parties involved in this field."

The USADA's CEO Travis T. Tygart also issued a statement saying that they would be looking into the allegations by Landis. But he added, "It is important to re-emphasize USADA’s position that all athletes  are innocent until and unless proven otherwise through the established legal process. Attempts to sensationalize or exploit either the process or the athletes are a disservice to fair play, due process, and to those who love clean sport."

The organization would not comment and further on the investigation, including how it would be conducted. 

And for brighter thoughts on cycling, locally, several big rides are coming up and wanted to be mentioned on the bike blog . 

On Sunday, May 30th, the Major Taylor Bike Club will be taking a group up from New York City to the Conklin Orchards and back, an 87-mile ride.  The start time is at 7:00am from Grand Army Plaxa in Brookluyn, 8:30 am from Fort Lee, NJ at the entrance to the George Washington Bridge (to beat the heat) and supposedly ends at 10:30 am, but I think that end time is for when you reach Conklin. You can get to the Major Taylor Bike Club through Facebook. It's a nice hilly ride after you get through Nyack, and I can promise you the hills coming back will be worse than the hills going.
 

One on June 6th, is the  Bergen County Bicycle Tour which travels through as many as 18 towns such as Paramus, Fair Lawn, Glen Rock, Ridgewood, Midland Park, Waldwick, Franklin Lakes, Mahwah, Ramsey, Allendale, Saddle River, Upper Saddle River, Montvale, Park Ridge, River Vale, Hillsdale, Woodcliff Lake and Ho-Ho-Kus.

The ride features four different categories, one that covers families and children.  Ted Semegran who is an active cycling advocate in New Jersey is helping run the tour this year which is hosted by the Bicycle Touring Club Of North Jersey (BTCNJ).

The ride is co-sponsored by Bergen County Executive Dennis McNerney, Bergen Community College and the New Jersey Bicycle Coalition. Riders can do the 45 mile, 25 mile, 12 or 5 mile rides, with the longest ride starting at 8 am. The entrance fee is $10 and proceeds go to the Adopt-a-Soldier Platoon.


 Also on June 19 Glen Goldstein will be hosting his annual ride to Montauk, with ride distances ranging from 30 miles to 145 miles, and the promise of beer and hot showers when you arrive at the final destination (no mention of a free swim in the ocean though which is the reason most people want to ride to Montauk.)  Children as young as 12 can do the ride, and prices range from $79 to $250, though children under 12 ride for free.  Transportation back to the city is included in the price, and Glen says that volunteers can travel for free, or if you get a friend to drive, you ride free. Sounds like a deal, though not for your poor friend. Prices go up in 10 days, so get moving!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Tour of California Comes to An End: and Landis, the Spoiler


Pic: Mike Rogers, HTC Columbia Team photo


Eight days through the hills and flats of California and what a race it was.

With seven riders away from the peleton by 2:55 minutes at 25 miles to go, and a final climb still coming before the end of the race, the final stage was looking like a ho-hummer. 

The last stage from the Thousand Oaks Shopping Center to Westlake Village/ Agoura Hills was a four-lap circuit race of 21 miles each, which gave the peleton and key riders a certain advantage beyond radio instructions: they could ride the circuit three times and know how long the last few miles will require to overcome the 7-man breakaway nearing the end of the third circuit.

But in the end the final circuit provided the kind of excitement that riders and fans were looking for with a sprint between five champions that was worthy of a Tour de France replay. 

First a second breakaway from the main peleton (after the 7 man break was caught at the beginning of the final lap,) by George Hincapie now of Team BMC, Carlos Barredo of Quick Step, and Ryder Hesjedal of Garmin Transitions left the peleton behind, including race leader Mike Rogers. 

Pic: George Hincapie BMC team photo

Then a break by Dave Zabriskie from the main peleton to catch the leaders at 6.8 miles followed by a jump by Levi Leipheimer at 6.1 miles to go, who passed Zabriskie. Zabriskie followed a few seconds later and they created a second break with Mike Rogers, who followed a few seconds later with a 25 second gap to the lead group.


Finally Rogers, Zabriskie and Leipheimer found themselves in the same middle breakaway, showing Rogers to be a tough rider who would have to really prove himself to take the win. Chris Horner who was also in the second break was in position to take the win from teammate Leipheimer, all with a 45-second gap from the first to the second breakaway at about 2 miles to go.

Good thing Rogers went with the second break: in the end he defended his Stage 7 GC win, and took the overall win for the Amgen Tour of California, with American David Zabriskie of Garmin-Transitions  second overall, and Leipheimer third. For Horner who came in fourth it was is a feather in his cap, and a good indicator for his chances should he make it to the Tour de France this year. 

Ryder Hesjedal took the stage win, followed by Hincapie, Barredo and Horner.  Does this mean that Hesjedal and Rogers, two names we didn't hear much of in last year's TDF will be in attendance in the biggest European race this year? Yes they will.

Most of you know the ToC took place at the same time this year as the Giro being held in Italy. So why a European team would choose the ToC over the Giro is anyone's guess. Less travel time? Easier stages? More likely its the timing--much warmer this year than last year's later ToC which took place in the rainy month of February. Then there's the coordination with the Amaury Sports Organization (ASO) which also runs the Tour de France, who have brought their entire production team over to cover the ToC shown on Versus television this year.

Pic: Canadian Ryder Hesjadel, team photo

My guess is despite his crash in stage 5 (following the public announcement by Landis,) Lance Armstrong of Team RadioShack was not interested in winning the ToC. More likely this was practice for him and his team, to work on their team strategy, their form and to suss out their competition.

Unless someting strange happens (like more drug findings) many of the teams that came to ToC will very likely be at the TDF: Garmin Transitions, HTC-Columbia, Liquigas-Doimo, Quick Step, Rabobank, Saxo Bank, BMC Racing, and Cervelo TestTeam. So what better place to practice than the ToC?

With those teams came their best riders: Armstrong, Hincapie, Mark Cavendish, Andy Schleck, Fabian Cancellara, Tom Boonen, David Zabriskie and three-time defending champion Levi Leipheimer.  This has been a terrific opportunity for domestic teams such as  Jelly Belly, Bissell, Kelly Benefit Stategies, Spidertech Powered by Planet Energy, Team Type 1 and United Healthcare-Maaxis (7 of whose riders are from last year's OUCH-Maaxis) to compete on a European level on American soil.

Pic: Still from Versus (c) televsion, of Lance Armstrong leaving race after crashing in Stage 5

What is perhaps annoying to some viewers of the ToC is the Armstrong-dominance that pervades almost every aspect of the coverage on Versus. Why a one-hour special at the end of the Tour tonight "Lance Armstrong a Look Back," when Armstrong left the race after his crash in Stage 5? Because LA is the biggest draw for any race, be it in the U.S. or overseas. Even at the TDF last year, ASO officials acknowledged off the record that attendance at the TDF was 20 to 30% higher on years that LA was participating.

And now, Floyd Landis, the Spoiler
Pic: Floyd Landis at 2006 Tour de France, before his title was stripped. From the Floyd Landis site. 

As the Tour of California wound up its final day of racing, Floyd Landis has proven to be the spoiler in more than one way. 

Its pure speculation to say that Landis chose the middle of the Amgen Tour of California to make public his emails and pronouncements that he and several highly-ranked riders, among them Lance Armstrong and George Hincapie, indulged in illegal performance enhancers. After all, he started writing those emails some time ago. But the news came out on May 20th in the middle of one of the biggest stage races held in the United States.

What a bummer.

But to make matters worse, he didn't even limit his revelations to himself. He had to drag in other riders who, by the way, have never tested positive or been deprived of a race win for drug use--as Landis was.

What makes the whole scenario so bulls--t is that Landis still has his site up claiming his innocence and sporting all of his Tour de France photos (shown here).  It's called, "Floyd Landis, An American Hero," and on the page, "Athlete's Rights", he goes into extreme detail about how he is innocent of the  Tour de France allegations that he tested positive twice for the barred drug, testosterone.  So what is it Floyd? Guilty or not guilty? Who is this man's PR team? They should be fired immediately.

And Landis isn't just hurting his teammates: he's hurting the whole sport. Okay, okay, wouldn't it be nice if we knew for sure that all the cyclists are clean? Oh sure, that would be nice. Half of you don't believe they are clean. And you won't believe it after they come clean either. 

If you've been following this upset, you'll probably know that Landis' team, the OUCH-Bahati Foundation, was not invited to compete in the ToC.  It all sounds like sour grapes to me.

To top it all off, the seeming pariah shows up at the race yesterday, to the VIP tent of his team--which he alleged paid $40,000. (It was actually $20,000, according to an article on ESPN.com, and no the team could not get their money back when they were not invited to participate.)

Landis showed up and refused to talk to reporters. Wonder why? Maybe because his claims that ex-fellow cyclemates were druggies cannot be substantiated by any official measure, meaning Landis has now engaged in public slander: you can slander someone else publicly only if what you say is true, and right now, any claim he makes about his fellow riders is not substantiated by any official laboratory test. What's more, proving that they did indulge at that time could prove difficult. Yes, many anti-doping controls keep old bags of blood or specimens, but we haven't even come to the possibility that going back to specimens from 2006, 2005 and 2004--the years of Landis' allegations, would actually be legal or yield good results. 

And who is a worse spoiler than Landis? We say the NY Times coverage of cycling. During the entire ToC the Times has provided bare-bones coverage on its umpteenth sports page, on the very bottom or side of the page. Come Landis' big revelations, the Times put the story on the first page of the sports section (whoopee doo). 

Compare that to the Wall St. Journal who broke the Landis story on the Internet (while Times' reporters were presumably asleep) and then dedicated an entire second page of their main news section to the brouhaha the following morning.

Boo NY Times! Now we know all this NYT bike blogging which doesn't even appear in print and lukewarm cycling sports coverage is just pretense to gain a leg up in the New York cyclist market.  (Not to mention that their reporter last year at the TDF rarely went to the front line of the race preferring instead to report from the reporters room, often miles away from the race.)

Never mind that New York and New Jersey are home to one of the most traveled cycling corridors in the United States, from the West Side Greenway, across the George Washington Bridge, and up Route 9W in New Jersey and New York. Cyclists fall under the radar around these parts. 


Just a reminder of who is competing in the Tour de France this July 2010: Germany : Team Milram
Belgium: Quick Step
Omega Pharma  – Lotto
Denmark: Team Saxo Bank
Spain: Caisse d’Epargne, Euskaltel – Euskadi
Footon – Servetto
USA: Team HTC-Columbia
France: AG2R La Mondiale, BBox  Bouygues Telecom
Cofidis, le Crédit en ligne
Française des Jeux
Italy: Lampre – Farnese
Liquigas - Doimo
Kazakhstan: Astana
The Netherlands: Rabobank
6 other teams have been invited by the organisers in order to compete on the 97th Tour de France:
USA: Garmin - Transitions
Team RadioShack
BMC Racing Team
Great Britain: Team Sky
Russia: Katusha Team
Switzerland: Cervélo Test Team










Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Floyd Landis Admits Doping

Floyd Landis, who won the  2006 Tour De France only to find it taken away after positive doping test, has told cycling officials and sponsors through email that he systematically used performance enhancing drugs during his career, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal early this morning.

He also claims in those emails that other riders allegedly participated in doping, including seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong.

Armstrong is competing in the 8-day Tour of California, which started on Sunday, May 16th.

Landis has vehemently denied performance enhancing drug use in the past. Following his fall from grace at  the Tour de France, he mounted a significant campaign which included several websites dedicated to proving his innocence.

Nevertheless, the ruling body of the Tour de France stripped him of his Yellow Jersey based on test results, which allegedly found traces of testosterone.

In his latest series of emails which he sent to officials of USA Cycling, and the International Cycling Union, he provided details of his drug use, from EPO, synthetic blood booster Erythropoietin, to steroids. Landis said he started using testosterone patches, then progressed to blood transfusions, EPO, and a liquid steroid taken orally.

This from the Wall Street Journal who have three of the emails:
In one of the emails, dated April 30 and addressed to Stephen Johnson, the president of USA Cycling, Mr. Landis said that Mr. Armstrong's longtime coach, Johan Bruyneel, introduced Mr. Landis to the use of steroid patches, blood doping and human growth hormone in 2002 and 2003, his first two years on the U.S. Postal Service team. He alleged Mr. Armstrong helped him understand the way the drugs worked. "He and I had lengthy discussions about it on our training rides during which time he also explained to me the evolution of EPO testing and how transfusions were now necessary due to the inconvenience of the new test," Mr. Landis claimed in the email. He claimed he was instructed by Mr. Bruyneel how to use synthetic EPO and steroids and how to carry out blood transfusions that doping officials wouldn't be able to detect. Mr. Bruyneel and Mr. Johnson could not be reached for comment.

In the same email, Mr. Landis wrote that after breaking his hip in 2003, he flew to Girona, Spain—a training hub for American riders—and had two half-liter units of blood extracted from his body in three-week intervals to be used later during the Tour de France. The extraction, Mr. Landis claimed, took place in Mr. Armstrong's apartment, where blood bags belonging to Mr. Armstrong and his then-teammate George Hincapie were kept in a refrigerator in Mr. Armstrong's closet. Mr. Landis said he was asked to check the temperature of the blood daily. According to Mr. Landis, Mr. Armstrong left for a few weeks and asked Mr. Landis to make sure the electricity didn't go off and ruin the blood. George Hincapie, through a spokesman, denied the allegations.... 
In addition to these allegations, Mr. Landis's emails called current anti-doping efforts "a charade," detailed how to use EPO without getting caught and claimed he helped former teammates Levi Leipheimer and Dave Zabriskie take EPO before one Tour of California race. Mr. Leipheimer and Mr. Zabriskie could not be reached for comment. 
Lance Armstrong did not reply to a request for comment for the WSJ article. But in the past he has repeatedly denied any illegal substance use for enhancing his performance.

In last year's Tour de France, Armstrong was more frequently tested than any other rider, and had surprise visits from doping officials in the early hours of the morning, on days when he was sleeping before a race.

Although it is commonplace for officials to request that top riders come in for testing after each stage of the race, they customarily only do so with the top three finishers. Not so for Armstrong, who was brought in for his urine sample even on days he finished with the peleton, so much so that it became a running joke among riders.

It is also no secret that failing riders often turn to what now appears to be the age-old tactic of vowing to "go clean," while also doing everyone else a favor by trying to "clean up" the sport of cycling.

But little seems to be accomplished when the first words of admission are accompanied by finger pointing at other riders. This same technique was used by Greg Lemond when his career came to a sudden end, and he began looking for targets.

Landis has long been perceived as a has been --perhaps a perception that started when he was caught for doping in 2006.  But this perception became ingrained over the past few years since then because he hasn't won any major races. Landis left his sponsor team OUCH-Maxxis in January when it was taken over by United-Healthcare-Maxxis.

Also in January a French court issued an arrest warrant for Landis alleging that he had illegally tried to breach the computer holdings of the company that tested him for doping at the 2006 TDF.  He was being sought to answer questions about the data hacking that occurred at the Châtenay-Malabry antidoping lab, and would have been arrested had he entered French soil.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Mudder's Day and Bike Parking, Ha Ha Ha

It's Bike Month! Yeah, you know already. May always brings the cyclists out in droves, and that was true on May 1st, when family and I proved to be contrarians: we walked the Great Saunter up Manhattan while cyclists of all sizes, ages and abilities whizzed past us.

While the walk is supposed to be 32 miles around the island, none of us were doing that because it was BBB's birthday, and we were going to make a stop off after 10 miles at the Green Leaf cafe on Fort Tryon Park for some b-day fare.

Soooo, it was about 1,000 degrees outside, and I have to say as a pedestrian on a crowded walk, many cyclists acted atrociously. It was "ME first," never "you first" out there. Oh, and the "Frustration" on their faces when they had to slow down to go around us, especially those road bikers in lycra. Yuck, it made me want to hate myself! Never forget, what cars are to us, we are to pedestrians.

Okay on to more important topics.

May 1st it was about 93 degrees at the peak of the day. I had to carry Ana Banana 5.5 miles because she gave up half way. Smart dog.

Then comes today, Mudder's Day. A nippy 50 degrees or less with wind chill. Yikes! What does this mean dear Gods?

It's May, dear weather-conspiracy theorists, that's what happens at this time of year. I remember one year May 1st we had a sleeting rain storm that left all the streets in sheets of ice. Nice.

Back to Mudder's day. Somewhere here is a conjunction. Note the GORGEOUS flowers that must be seen at Fort Tryon Park, which always bloom around this time. Here we have captured them for you as well as a picture of BBB with family. If you can identify the other family members in the pic, you get ten stars. (pictures coming, technology lag).

So Happy Mudder's Day, even to those of you that are mudder's to hairy monsters, new business ideas, your friends, and your significant other, willingly or unwillingly.

Along with announcing May as Bike Month, the League of American Bicyclists has designated May 17th through the 21st Bike to Work Week.

For most of the month, Transportation Alternatives has set up strategic tables for bike commuters along major pathways, such as the Hudson River Greenway, with coffee, bagels and coffee. What a deal! The bicycle advocacy group has also planned several bike to work parties at strategic locations in other boros, making May a happy cycling month indeed.

Too bad I was moving too fast last Friday on my way back from a ride, and headed downtown towards 23rd St., or I certainly would have stopped.

All of you should be riding to work this month--and any month that you can. But many of you will come across this nasty little problem--no secure bike parking, and possibly an office environment that does not encourage cycling.

I am currently working in a building that had no previous experience with offering bike parking until I asked.

I was first told, "NO". Then I was told yes, because it's the law, and told to bring my bike to the service elevator. But the service elevator is closed when I leave work, so how would I leave?

"Okay, bring it to the security office when you get here," said the guard on duty on Friday night. On Saturday I arrived and was told, "NO BIKES!" The guard motioned towards two pipes where I could lock my bike. Ha ha ha.

"Hmm, I am not leaving my baby outside,"I said, and explained the earlier conversation. You can't go into the security office, she said. Okay, so what do I do? I used the main elevators. But if the building manager should see me on the video, boy would I be in trouble!

Come Monday, I come back on my bike. "NO BIKES," said now a third guard at the door. I again explained the situation, and what had taken place. "Yeah, but take the service elevator, he said." I went to the side of the block, and found the service elevator. We rode up to my office floor. The guard called the building manager, who called my office. They came to the back door and had to turn off the alarm system to let me in: but the alarm went off anyway.

What a production! Everyone on the office was staring at me. And here I was, now late, and standing in my sweaty lycra.

Since then it's gotten a lot smoother. On off hours, I use the main elevators, being very careful not to touch the elevator walls. On weekdays, I use the service elevator, and ring the back door bell to let them know I am there. I change in the bathroom and then I am ready for work!

But it's not always so easy. I had to go to another building for a week. It was a Federal building downtown. No bike racks, and how to bring a bike indoors? No signs posted, no nothing, Bike Parking Ha Ha Ha.

Then another time I thought, maybe I will go shopping after work. But where will I park my bike? No retail stores that I know of have indoor bike parking. Bike parking Ha Ha Ha.

But what is the reality of bike parking in New York? Last year the City's Department of Transportation proposed that new indoor bike parking spaces be added for every new building that met certain size minimums, a proposal which was later passed into law by the City Council.

The amendments to the city's zoning requirements require 15 square feet of indoor space for every bicycle, allowing for about 3 % of a building's population (in the case of workers say) who might ride their bike to work.

But those changes only apply to new buildings, enlargements of 50% or more, or conversions of buildings to residential use.  So that means no current buildings undergoing no changes are required to offer secure, indoor bike parking.

Because of the development loophole, the DOT also proposed and passed the Bicycle Access to Office Buildings Law in December 2009. That law requires commercial office buildings to offer bike access if they have a freight elevator, and meet certain size minimums.

The law was clearly the reason that my workplace made adjustments to allow my bike in the building. However, they didn't have to be so nice about it. The law clearly states that a tenant or subtenant need request the bike access, but allows the commercial owner 30 days to respond, and that owner can refuse bike access under certain conditions. In my case, the response was in less than 24 hours and was addressed by the guards on duty.

Some cyclists aren't so lucky. Catherine (whose last name is being witheld to protect her identity) said she asked her office manager if she could bring her bike to work, even sending him an email about the issue.

Her employer owns the small building they work in, and there is space under the indoor stairwell for at least three bikes. But she says her request has not been answered, and it's been well over a month. Since there are no freight elevators in the building, her boss is not required to allow entry for the bicycles.

Ironically, the boss's wife brings her bike to work and parks it at the receptionist's desk.

But let's just say hypothetically our bike parking issues were 50% or even 75% resolved. That leads me to the next point. Transportation Alternatives has insisted in study after study that the single biggest barrier to cyclists traveling to work by bicycle is the lack of bike parking. But I think they need to redesign their questionnaires or whom they are interviewing.

For a seasoned rider like myself, the single biggest obstacle to cycling in the city is DANGER. Now that May is here and I am riding to work, I find drivers the be completely oblivious to me and my safety, roads so gutted and damaged that I am lucky in some places to stay upright, pedestrians that step out in front of me over and over and over again when I have the green light, and roads that have absolutely no safe spaces for cyclists anywhere: that includes, about 99% of the length of Broadway, Fifth Avenue, Madison Avenue, 10th Avenue, 11th Avenue, Park, 3rd Ave., 2nd Ave., 1st Ave., 8th Ave., and even most of 9th Avenue. Even gosh darn West End Ave is a freaking death trap, as is Riverside Drive.

So what in carnation is Transalt talking about? Not one of these avenues is safe, with the exception of a small portion of 9th Ave. where separated green bikeways have been made, a small portion leading off 6th Ave. from 33rd St., and a handful of other disparate and widely disjuncted pathways scattered around the city.

Given that riding in the city is like playing Russian Roulette, I fail to see how the city has become such a cyclist's paradise. Add to paucity of safe road space, we have a police force that refuses to enforce clear bike lanes, and routinely blocks cyclists attempts to file accident reports when they have bike accidents.

So although we have a wonderfully sympathetic mayor in Michael Bloomberg, a very qualified and sympathetic commissioner at the DOT in Jeannette Sadik Kahn, a flowering detente with their previous protagonists at Transportation Alternatives, and a wonderful Hudson River Greenway, we still have extremely dangerous traveling conditions for cyclists on inner city streets.  

So Happy Bike Month, good luck with your bike parking, Ha Ha Ha, and while you are at it, enjoy your game of Russian Roulette on your way to work. 

PS: River Road on the Jersey side has been cleared of all the fallen trees, thanks to the hard work of the Palisades Park Commission.