VeloNews – Rant

Jan 5 2006

Today’s EuroFile report on VeloNews really got me angry. The article in question is here, ostensibly just a little blurb about Valverde wanting to win the ’06 Tour. But by the phrase “pumping excitement back into Spanish racing”, I was already upset. 2004 Milan-San Remo Winner? Spanish. 2004 World Champ? Spanish. 2003 World Champ? Spanish. 2001, 1999, the TT World Champ in 1998? Yes, all Spanish. Back in ’03, it was two Spaniards dueling it out on the Muur de Huy for a win at Fleche-Wallone, with nary a Belgian in sight. Juan-Antonio Flecha, also of Spain, has won a Tour Stage, a World Cup race, podiumed at one Classic and gotten robbed at another, all in the past 3 years. Let’s overlook (for argument’s sake) a recent dope case to say that every single Vuelta since 2000 has been won by a Spanish rider, and that these races as a whole provided far more active racing than any of the other Grand Tours. So what void exactly is this Valverdian excitement being pumped back into?

Oh, of course the author comes around, several paragraphs later, to say that the Iberian nation is “hungry” for its first Tour winner since 1995. Right. Far be it for the self-styled “Journal of Competitive Cycling” to dispel the largely American perception that the Tour is the only cycling prize worth winning, or to note to its readers that since Indurain’s final win, only four countries have produced Tour winners. Perhaps a more accurate representation of Spanish Cycling’s TdF history would be to examine the winners in the past two decades. Since ’86, Spain is the only nation other than the United States to boast more than one Tour winner, and to have more than one Tour title. Espana’s six victories account for over 30% of all TdF’s held during that time. During the same time span, traditional cycling powerhouses France and Belgium are completely absent, and Italy can claim only one winner.

Now, I know that clause that touched all this off probably began as an attempt to keep the opening of a news article from being dull and inane. But I’d take either of those traits over its current condition, which is simply wrong. VeloNews is far and away the most influential and widely-read periodical of pro cycling in America. Is it any wonder, then, the citizens of this nation, who include nearly half the Tour de France winners since 1986, are largely ignorant of the cycling world, if VN is their biggest window into it? You can try to tell me today’s slip-up is an isolated incident, but I’ve got plenty of examples of how it isn’t. Hell, just looking around their page now, I see this piece, which has a typo (“hand’s down”) in the first paragraph and a misquote (The article asserts that T-Mobile believes Ullrich the favorite for the ’06 Tour, with Basso as his main rival. This contradicts directly the source interview here, in which T-Mobile DS Olaf Ludwig lists Basso as the “favorite” to win the Tour de France).

I realize people make mistakes. Certainly, I am no exception. There might even be a typo or two in this very article. But I don’t make my living off this page, and I don’t have editors making theirs keeping me from screwing up. I don’t have gobs of advertisers throwing me dollars because I’m perceived to be the best around, and I certainly don’t have the eyes of nearly every cycling fan in America gazing up to me with faun-like innocence, hoping to glean some new tidbit of information on the distant sport they love so much. I don’t really care that I don’t get that kind of readership, but I care very much that the people who do abuse it like a climber on cobblestones. If VeloNews could just raise their game to become that uber-publication that American cycling fans so desperately want, I wouldn’t be so outraged by their half-assery.

But at this point, I don’t even know who to whine to anymore. Time was, I’d send VN letters to the editor. That worked out real well, if you ignore the superfluous italics (I sure didn’t put those there), condescending tone and piss-poor counter-example (Lemond was not the best young rider at the ’84 Tour; Laurent Fignon, that year’s winner, was. The American only took the maillot blanc because it had been bastardized to “best rookie rider”). At some point, I began emailing the editors directly, but the only response I get now is a childish “Cosmo, go ride your bike”. (I am not the first to take umbrage with their attitude.) So now I’m writing this, which is pretty much just a loud noise in an small and empty room. But if, against all odds, you do care why I think cycling in America languishes like it does, you can bet I have got my finger pointed squarely at Boulder, Colorado.

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