27 October 2012

Winner 1999-2005 none #TDF

Earlier this year I looked at what would happen if Lance Armstrong were removed as winner of the Tour de France from 1999 - 2005. I used a zero tolerance approach for any rider associated with drug taking through their career, including as a result of the Lance Armstrong case if there seemed to be team wide offenses in a team they were in.

As I pointed out at the time all of those who came second had been  either part of the Festina team from 1998, named in Operation Puerto, or part of the 2007 Astana Team. There was nobody totally above suspicion on the second step of any of Armstrong's podiums. Beloki from 2002 had been cleared and Klöden in 2004 did not fail any tests. But then as we know as it has been often quoted by the UCI and others neither had Armstrong.

The decision of the UCI yesterday to not upgrade anyone in any of Armstrong's stripped titles would seem to suggest that they also don't want any further tainting from the past to affect the future. Much as Team Sky have since taken a relook at their zero tolerance programme in removing Bobby Julich from their set up, the decision seems to be a new perspective on things.

Although the continuation of suing Paul Kimmage who has been acknowledged by UCI President Pat McQuaid as a constant whistle blower in the sport seems contrary to this decision on Friday. But one American is calling for McQuaid to quit; now the only American winner of rewritten Tour history* , 3 time victor, Greg LeMond. He has written on Facebook:
"I have never seen such an abuse of power in cycling's history. Resign, Pat, if you love cycling. Resign even if you hate the sport.
"I want to tell the world of cycling to please join me in telling Pat McQuaid to resign.

"The sport does not need Pat McQuaid or Hein Verbruggen - if this sport is going to change it is now. Not next year, not down the road, now! Now or never!
"People that really care about cycling have the power to change cycling." 

He is joined in that call by Tyler Hamilton who is one of  those who has come clean to his doping in Armstrong's teams.

Update McQuaid and Verbruggen had called off their plans to sue Kimmage.

* As well as Armstrong, Floyd Landis was stripped of his win in 2006.

24 October 2012

Parcours for the 2013 Tour de France

Today in Paris the route of the 2013 Tour de France has been announced. It is the 100th Edition of the TOur It starts with a 3 stages on Corsica on 29 June to 1 July and ends with a night time finish on the Champs-Élysées on the 21 July


 The Champion Bradley Wiggins as I posted earlier will not be going flat out for a defence of his title. There are four, tough mountain top finishes and only 65km of individual time trials compared to 101km this year means it will suit his Sky team mate Chris Froome better. Wiggins may be looking to add a Giro title just before the Grand Depart, but he will be riding in support of Froome around the roads of France come July. Although he joked that he would have to grow some sideburns before the start to take over that role.

On the subject of Armstrong the man who last wore the Maillot Jaune said he doubted that the American would ever confess. But Mark Cavendish looking forward to a chance to go for Green once more called on Armstrong to confess saying:

''I think [he should confess], definitely.
''But he is a stubborn man and I don't think he is ever going to confess, he has too much to lose.'' 

Cavendish wants Armstrong to follow in the steps of his Great Britain team-mate David Millar and his former HTC director Rolf Aldag who have admitted to doping. '

"It's not fair on me having to answer these questions. If you've done something, confess.
''That anyone can damage the sport I love right now, it's frustrating.
"I've worked with David Millar. This guy's remorseful. He's repented. The team I grew up with, HTC, one of the directors (Aldag) – these guys care about the sport. They ruin their reputation to move the sport on, but other people care more about themselves.''

22 October 2012

A Texan gets out of the shower after a bad dream

These never happened
The UCI today has said it has accepted the findings of the USADA report and has stripped Lance Armstrong of all results since 1 August 1998, therefore he has not won a single Tour de France, meaning that Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx,  Bernhard Hinault and Miguel Indurain are the most successful riders in Le Tour with five wins apiece.

Pat McQuaid the UCI President said that Armstrong "has no place in cycling" in handing out a life time ban as well as the removal of his palmarès since August 2008. The decision on placings from 1999 to 2005 will be decided in a meeting on Friday of the UCI.

However, despite agreeing with the USADA findings, which mentioned that the UCI had helped to cover up a failed test by Armstrong in the 2001 Tour of Switzerland, McQuaid said that the defamation case against journalist and former Irish professional cyclist Paul Kimmage would carry on.

One side issue of all those results being removed from history is that Mark Cavendish, the most successful current professional, is now the 4th most successful stage winner in the Tour de France. The new Omega Pharma-Quickstep rider would need 3 more to pass André Leduzq, six to surpass Hinault and 12 to overtake Merckx.

Meanwhile in a shower in Texas

19 October 2012

End of a successful partnership

Yesterday's news that Mark Cavendish was moving to Omega Pharma Quickstep, led me and other cycling fans straight away to search for news of Bernie Eisel. For the past six seasons since 2007 the two have been inextricably linked Eisel being often the last man to lead out the most successful sprinter in Tour de France history on one of the greatest winners of all time.

But the news today comes that the lead out man who moved with Cav from the defunct HTC-Highroad squad at teh end of last season isn't moving with the man he has assisted not just in the lead out but also over the tough mountains he has to cross in order the earn the points jersey at the end of a Grand Tour.

The Austrian said:

"I'm delighted to have extended my contract. Although I haven't had a win this season, I've had a really enjoyable first year with the team and have been able to contribute to some historic performances.

"I've loved taking on a senior role in the squad. Having the chance to advise the younger guys is something I've really enjoyed doing, and want to continue doing that over the next three years.

"The fact that Mark Cavendish is leaving us made this one of the toughest decisions of my life, and I wouldn’t have stayed if I hadn't felt absolutely at home here.

"Mark and I have ridden together since 2007 and he was my only room mate during most of that time. I haven't just looked after him on the bike, I also regard him as a brother, so it will be strange competing against him in the future."

14 October 2012

Cave wins Women's World Ironman

In Hawaii this year the women had for the first time their own start in the World Ironman Triathlon championships, that is a 2.4 mile (3.86km) swim, 112 mile (180.25km) cycle and full 26 mile 385 yard (42.2km) marathon to end. Unlike in the Olympic distance drafting is not allowed.

So overnight the results came through in the women's race three triathletes Amanda Stevens (USA) 55:09, Meredith Kessler (USA) 55:56 and Gina Crawford (NZL) 55:59 emerged first from the water. But hot on their heels were GBs Leanda Cave 56:03 and Mary Beth Ellis (USA) 56:06 with 2010 World Champion Caroline Steffen (SWI) 90 seconds further back.

On the cycle though Steffen caught Cave and Ellis who had dropped Stevens who had kept with them for a while. But then the Swiss racer got carded for drafting and had to serve a 4 minute penalty. But she caught the other two once more only for Cave to suffer at the hands of the officials getting a card herself,but couldn't catch them on the lap after serving her penalty on the way into transition 2. But Ellie herself was carded as she headed into that transition. So it was all level on the penalties by the time they exited the transition to go on the run.

Steffen ended the cycle in 5:06:49 ahead of Ellis 5:08:06. By the time Ellis had served her penalty she came out along side Cave who arrived at T2 in 5:12:06. Meanwhile behind them a penalty free Mirinda Carfae (AUS) came in in 5:14:19. On the run Carfae was going fast closing on Steffen and caught Cave and Ellis. She managed to drop Ellis but was not able to get past the Brit but her chase actually spurred Cave on. She started to pull away from Carfae and close on Steffen herself.

With just three miles to go Cave finally took the lead of the race then pulled away from the Swiss competitor. She ran a 3:03:13 marathon to end as World Triathlon champion in 9:15:54 ahead of Steffen 9:16:58 and Carfae 9:21:41.

So in a year of great British sporting achievements we have another women winning a world title. She may not even get a mention in BBC's Sports Personality of the Year, despite such an impressive performance.

She's Big In Japan

It was four years before Sara Gomer won Northern Californian Open in 1988 that Alphaville has the hit Big in Japan. Yet tonight the 1984 hit and British women's tennis are linked together. Looking back that win was also the year I went to University.

The reason being that in Osaka Heather Watson, who was born a further 4 years after Gomer's success, broke another British tennis long wait, to secure a WTA title by winning 7-5 5-7 7-6 (7-4)  against Kai-Chen Chang of Taipei in the final.

The Guernsey player didn't have to worry about being the first British woman since Jo Durie in 1990 to reach a WTA final, she was merely the first since Laura Robson 3 weeks ago. She now has to go back out on court with Kimiko Date-Krumm, who actually started playing aged 18 on the WTA tour the year after that Gomer win, to secure a doubles title to go with her singles success.

The great year for British Tennis continues and we yet have to wait for Andy Murray to come on court in Shanghai going for this third Shanghai Masters title in a row. He's not due on court before 9am BST (4pm Shanghai time).

So in honour of Watson who is big in Japan today time to travel back to my teenage years.

13 October 2012

Britons in both ATP and WTA final

It has been a long time since we had British women getting into WTA finals on the main tour. Before the Laura Robson did so in the Guangzhou Open three weeks ago it had not happened since 1990. The men with John Lloyd, Jeremy Bates, Tim Henman and Greg Rusedski had more success at ATP level in that period before Andy Murray came along and broke the men's longer Slam title duck earlier this year.

However, this weekend has to be the first time in a long while that British men and women will both be competing in a singles final in the main tour events on the same day.

Robson who, for the first time in a WTA event,was seeded 8th got beaten in the quarter finals of the Japan Open in Osaka but Heather Watson will seek a little British revenge when she faces Robson's unseeded opponent Chang Kai-chen of Taipei in the final tomorrow.

While for the men there is no national rivalry for supremacy like Robson and Watson are currently experiencing there is one man who is battling the best in the world week in week out. He is looking to win his third successive Shanghai Masters title tomorrow after once again beating Roger Federer in today's semi-final. But Andy Murray will have to beat Novak Djokovic in tomorrows final. Djokovic may lead their head to head series 8-7 but the last meeting of the two was that US Open final that has given Andy the confidence to strive to be world number one by the end of next year.

But it wasn't just in the singles that success has happened this week. In Japan Heather along with her partner and Japanese legend Kimiko Date-Krumm are through to the final of the women's doubles. While in Shanghai Colin Fleming and Ross Hutchings just missed out on a place in the men's doubles final 10-8 in the champion's tiebreak to India's Rohan Bopanna and Mahesh Bhupathi.

11 October 2012

Hincapie - it was not possible to compete [drug free]

George Hincapie retired from cycling in August after completing his 17th start in the Tour de France. Then he was given the honour of leading the race unto the Champs-Élysées.

Yesterday he became the latest witness to come forward in the case against Lance Armstrong. He said:

"Because of my love for the sport, the contributions I feel I have made to it, and the amount the sport of cycling has given to me over the years, it is extremely difficult to acknowledge that during a part of my career I used banned substances."

He was served with a six month ban from September 2012 and stripped of his results from 31 May 2004 and 31 July 2006. He said that he had stopped using banned substances 6 years ago. But he was part of Armstrongs team at the time that he said "Given the widespread use of performance-enhancing drugs by cyclists at the top of the profession, it was not possible to compete without them." This was referring to the period he was one of the loyal lieutenants to Armstrong in the US Postal Team.

He did have something positive to say yesterday when he talked about the present of the sport.

"Thankfully, the use of performance enhancing drugs is no longer embedded in the culture of our sport, and younger riders are not faced with the same choice we had."

But the addition of Hincapie's testimony made all the more strange that he was still racing only this summer as a cyclist who had never tested positive during his 19 year career, yet now clearly was part of the team that USADA is calling a team-run doping conspiracy.