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An Open Letter to The Internet about That Guy

9 Nov

That Guy

That Guy, way back when he was news
/ by Ciclismoaldia, pd

Dear Internet,

Let’s all stop talking about That Guy.

While the phrase “that guy” has a coloquial meaning (and That Guy has most certainly gone out of his way to be “that guy”) I’m actually referring to a specific person, here. A former cyclist. You know the one I’m talking about, probably because Cyclingnews ran an article about him yesterday. That Guy is a polarizing figure, and once that article was published, the Twitters (self included), and a few notable blogs rose up, with disappointing predictability and fervor, to take the bait.

Regardless of your opinion on That Guy, that was the wrong response.

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Plateau de Beille Times, 2002 to Present

18 Jul

PdB-sign from Google MapsThe past 48 hours have been a painfully ironic reminder of why I think this sort of comparison is silly. Forget weather, race situation, GC consideration and day-of tactics—unsourced historical records, ambiguous starts and finishes, and conflicting reports are enough hassle on their own.

But with decent footage of every ascent to Plateau de Beille, including two by a yellow-clad Tommy Voeckler, and with the second big mountain-top finish of the year bringing another unexpected result, the opening to take an incisive look at the times is just too tempting.

The “start” at Plateau de Beille is kind of a hard thing to nail down. While the finishes on each of the videos I used looked the same, the heads-up KM-to-go displays varied pretty widely. Even Phil and Paul were inconsistent between years, citing both a sharp left-hand bend in the town of Les Cabannes and a 16km to go KOM banner as official climb starts—of course, as Ted King will tell you, trust the roadside banners at your own peril.

There also seems to be some dispute about the length of the thing. VS coverage seemed to suggest 15k, Strava says 15.2km, The Sport Scientists say 15.8km, and honestly, with the switchbacks, they all might be right. Considering how much climbing there seems to be within Les Cabannes itself—and the fact that there are hundreds of kilometers of racing beforehand—the ambiguity is understandable.

But if we want to maintain some semblance of precision in all this, we have to draw a line somewhere. If were Emperor of Bike Racing, I would declare this intersection the start, since it seems to mark a transition between village roads an unmistakeable, Euro-style climbing. But alas, that quaint sign is almost impossible to pick out behind the fans, on video filmed from the back of a motorbike, and this prominent 150m sign next to a caravans advertisement a few hundred meters earlier will have to suffice. Screenshots for the incredulous:


Rabobank leads up Plateau de Beille in 2007

Leopard-Trek leads the 2011 peloton into Plateau de Beille

Postal in 2002 on Plateau de Beille

You’ll note that there are only four years represented here. Unfortunately, I can’t find uncut video of Pantani’s apparently record-setting ascent from 1998. It’s a great watch if you do get the chance, with Ullrich sprinting back on au bloc after a puncture in Les Cabannes, before Pantani storms away in the drops, but the performance would have required some correction factor anyway, since the ’98 course is reported to have finished at a lower elevation than later ascents.

Armstrong wins Plateau de Beille in 2002

Armstrong wins Plateau de Beille in 2004

Contador wins Plateau de Beille in 2007

Vanendert wins Plateau de Beille in 2011

Because I set my own line for the start, I also had to pin down my own elevation and length numbers. Ideally, I’d be able to head out there and ride it on a sunny day with a barometric altimeter, holding a path roughly equidistant between the center line and shoulder. Sadly, that’s not an option for me, so I’ll have to trust that Strava user Alex Palmer didn’t do too much Paper Boy on his way up. Here’s the “official” segment I’ll be using, from the aforementioned sign to the final curve of the ski-area turnaround: 15.6km, 1214m, 7.8%.

So, numbers-wise, what does that give us? Here are the PdB Stage Winner and “Tommy Voeckler group” (he finished alone in ’04) figures, ordered fastest-to-slowest, measured against the best performance (excluding Pantani for reasons noted above):

 

Time Back

VAM

%Diff VAM

Inferred W/Kg
Winner 2007

0:00:00

1,654

0

5.95
Winner 2004

0:01:20

1,605

-2.94

5.77
Winner 2002

0:01:44

1,591

-3.79

5.72
Winner 2011

0:02:05

1,579

-4.52

5.68
Voeckler 2011

0:02:52

1,553

-6.11

5.58
Voeckler 2004

0:06:02

1,454

-12.05

5.23

The first thing I notice is that, compared to Luz Ardiden, the difference between this year’s times and historical performances isn’t nearly as sharp, especially if you’re looking at Armstrong (’02, ’04). Of course, considering the GC situation in ’03, its no stretch to imagine that the ’03 Luz climb represented a removal of all the stops, both in terms of tactics and in terms of biochemical enhancement. Still, while the gaps weren’t as large, a significant, across-the-board decline for the 2011 numbers remained.

The second thing that catches my eye is Voeckler’s improvement between 2004 and last Saturday (he did race PdB in ’07, but having no GC position to consider, finished 42 minutes down in the autobus). I’d noted that on Thursday, the winner was as far behind Armstrong’s time as Voeckler used to be, but now that we’ve got some direct comparisons, you can see that his presence at the head of affairs isn’t merely the top end of the field slowing down.

There’s always the spectre of doping, I guess, but one likes to think that a rider who revels in his aggressive, opportunistic style wouldn’t feel compelled to dose up in pursuit of a title he doesn’t think he can win. Voeckler is slimmer—he’s lost some of the round-faced, cherubic appeal he had in 2004, he won a very hilly “classic” last fall, and was a presence on the bergs this spring. He’s also got team support, something Brioche la Boulangere just couldn’t offer. In ’04, Voeckler had also been dropped at least once before even arriving the foot of Plateau de Beille, suggesting he might have been having a rougher day—or suffering from a more intense pace.

Which brings me to one last note—the speeds leading up to the foot of Plateau de Beille on Saturday were uncharacteristically slow, and the peloton experienced minimal breakup over the previous climbs. That’s a pretty sharp contrast to 2004, when a group of just 22 (including 7 Posties) crested the penultimate climb, or to 2007, when Contador brought home the 200km, 3-climb stage in 22.5 mph. That’s all the more noteworthy when you consider that Saturday’s stage was over 30km shorter than the previous two ascents.

A Tale of Two Luz Ardidens – 2003 and 2011

15 Jul

Luz Ardiden Sign by Steve Selwood cc-nc-saSince you all loved it so much when I compared Tours de France earlier this week (and since you all took such care to read the admonitions about my data) I’ve decided to try it again for yesterday’s Luz Ardiden stage finish. While I normally have a dim view toward comparing climbing times between races, the contrasts between the ascents of this climb in 2003 and 2011 were too sharp not to look into.

So I obtained digital copies of WCP’s ostensibly unedited DVD from 2003’s Stage 15, and a screencap of yesterday’s live, commercial-free finale on VS, and rolled them each back to a recognizable start point—the moment each heads of state group exits the Pont Napoleon. Since it’s where the riders removed their helmets back in 2003, I think it’s a solid choice for the official climb start.

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Why The Haters Hate

29 May

Let’s imagine for a second that 10/2 never happens. Armstrong—the twitchy, track-suited, wannabe frat boy captured in the video below—never gets cancer. The sniffle he has here is just a cold. He goes on to have a good career, wins some classics, buys some cars, and retires, either after catching a dope positive, or getting away scot-free—it’s up to you.

Had that been the case, you wouldn’t be reading this. The bike racing and riding public in America would be a mere shadow of its current self, and millions of cancer sufferers would still view their disease as a crippling, unrecoverable plague. If, through some luck, you did still follow cycling, you’d probably consider yourself an Armstrong fan; he’d be a lone, underachieving American hero in your obscure, European sport.

Objectively speaking, there’s no way to say that the end result of the cancer, the stepped-up “preparation”, the work with Ferrari, the personality cult, and the Livestrong brand were bad things—for the sport or for the world. So why, then, is there such a groundswell in the cycling community to see Armstrong fall? Why do the haters hate?

I don’t claim to have the same motivations as everyone, but the fact is I don’t really care that Armstrong cheated. I don’t have a problem with him being a complex character, at once guilty and an inspiration. On occasion, I even think he did a pretty good job racing the bike.

But what I find a constant source of consternation and embarrassment, is that despite all the Tour wins, and millions of dollars for cancer, and other accomplishments, under it all, Armstrong still comports himself as the gel-haired bro-caricature captured in this video.

The legal battles, the past-prime comeback, nobodies on Twitter, the heckler battling, the Chair You’re Sitting In, the increasingly transparent denials, trying to “win” assembling a legal team the way he tries to “win” collecting art—for a man who should have nothing to prove, Armstrong’s inability to gracefully accept even the tiniest of slights and compulsion to continually pad his legacy is pathetic.

Had Armstrong been a lesser rider, it could be overlooked—we all have flaws. But he isn’t a lesser rider. He is the public face of cycling, and has a far larger pull than the sport itself ever will. By all accounts, Armstrong dominated almost a decade of unsustainable rule-breaking, and as the pre-eminent rider of that era, the onus is on him to simply admit what the rest of the world already knows.

The sad part is that because Lance has so fortified himself in the myth of his performance, the consequences of a confession now will likely be harsh. His legacy will be tarnished. Cancer research may suffer. He might even go to jail. And that’s not entirely fair. But celebrity is a double-edged sword, and for the hundreds of millions he’s raised on his reputation, he owes the world the courtesy of owning up to his transgressions.

So until that moment comes, I’m viewing the Fall of Fortress Armstrong with a certain satisfaction. Not with any particular malice toward the man, or for the heady glee of watching a tyrant hang, but as an audience member at an Elizabethan play. Armstrong is our tragic hero, and his fatal flaw is the monomaniacal focus that had until now served him so well. Unable to account for it, he’ll continue stacking denial upon denial, until the whole house of cards tumbles in a familiar, inescapable denoument.

A Curious List

14 May

Browsing L'Equipe by inkyIs there anything that triggers an “OMG LEAK” response more effectively than a clandestine list? Nixon’s enemies, law firm layoffs, and of course, financial information.

But the UCI’s Index of Suspicion leaked a few days ago is especially curious because all we have is metadata—scores that the UCI has made up ostensibly based on actual measurements. But L’Equipe’s intrepid journalists failed both in nailing down the specific criteria used by the UCI, or the data that were fed into these criteria to arrive at a given doping suspicion index score.

Strangely, we do have a fairly extensive set of data on what an index score of 4 might look like —and we have Lance Armstrong to thank for it. There are some hopeful assumptions in this assessment (namely, that the UCI even has an objective set of criteria, and that Lance’s ’09 data informed his ’10 score), but it’s still the best (only?) set of actual numbers we have.

And to my layman’s eyes, 4 doesn’t seem like such a bad spot to put Armstrong’s numbers. They are not especially high, but do show a stubborn consistency—perhaps even the “too normal” values that prompted the bio passport experts to propose hiding values from riders for a few months. There was also the mid-Tour hematocrit increase, much-trumpeted by amateur Internet hematologists as evidence of a transfusion.

But in many other ways, the list makes the UCI (and some teams and national governing bodies) look bad. There’s the obvious criticisms: how could this list get out in the first place, and why weren’t the highest-rated riders the most heavily tested? But more damning is efficacy of enforcement. If Popovych was the most suspicious rider at the 2010 Tour, and he’s been tied up in at least one investigation since then, how is he still riding?

As someone pointed out on Twitter (my apologies for losing the link), Alessandro Ballan has been suspended twice for investigations, is now pretty solidly linked to several transfusions, but still only rated a 5 on the UCI’s list. As more-successful-than-not Ballan likely had money to burn on medical assistance, I’m inclined the chalk this up to the skills of a good doctor, though it could just as easily be cast as a judgement on the ineffectiveness of the bio passport system.

The riders, who seemed to react the most negatively and immediately to the list, will likely be the least affected in the end. Cycling may indeed be all politics, but for the vast majority of riders—those that block the wind, carry bottles, and mark breaks—the difference between a suspicion level of zero and four, in data over a year old, will have far less impact than a reliable record of performance and a few big names willing to vouch for you .

The higher levels of suspicion—a total of 20 riders ranked 7 and above—are populated almost exclusively by almost-there contenders, and super-domestiques with a few major wins to their credit. While I wouldn’t be surprised if a few of the older names had trouble landing a job in the future, the continued re-emergence of convicted dopers is a pretty straightforward indication that suspicion will never trump results.

So as pretty much everyone else has already pointed out, the damage from this list will fall most heavily on its creator, the UCI—just in time for them to decide that nah, one of the most historically effective national anti-doping agencies shouldn’t be allowed to operate independent testing at the Tour of California after all.

A Brief Study of Economics

3 May

Alessandro Ballan by Cindy TrossaertAh, finally—the mail server is down at work, freeing me to check in for a bit.

You’d think taking a pay cut to drive two hours a day at $4.05/gallon would find me doing something more productive than wrestling one of the more infuriating pieces of software I’ve ever used into submission. But the Panglossian infallibility of market economics being what it is, I remain certain my time could not be better spent doing anything else.

Nor could Johan Bruyneel’s, for that matter, as he heads off with to the Giro d’Italia with a fat wad of RadioShack’s money and the strongest team since Disney brought us The Big Green. In all honestly, if they called themselves “rag-tag”, it would rouse righteous indignation in Keystone Cop precincts from Bari to Bergamo—that is, assuming the continued presence of Yaroslav Popovych hasn’t done so already.

One has to wonder if this is what RadioShack executives had in mind when they ponied up for the final inflation of the Armstrong Bubble. Do they gaze enviously toward the Garmin megaplex in Olathe, Kansas, and see a company that can’t get its name out of press no matter what the results sheets say? In implosion, in victory, and above all, in intrigue, drama, and speculation, the mutton chops are ever-present.

Yes, it seems only when handily outfoxed and overpowered by a continental squad at a smaller event—as they were by Team Type 1 at the Tour of Turkey—has Garmin managed to keep out of the headlines. Press that selective makes it seem like having a name on a WorldTour jersey might just be worth $90 million dollars after all.

I suppose it all comes down to how you value the “straight to the headlines” exposure that comes from doping—with BMC’s Alessandro Ballan being the latest example. While they didn’t seem thrilled with it at the time, I can’t imagine Festina is suffering from a lasting affiliation with the events of July 1998; indeed, they still market heavily on their affiliation with the sport.

Perhaps a little criminality is a good thing—could what finally created a sales niche for Delorean return a similar reward for BMC?

The Enigma of Damiano Cunego

24 Feb

Damiano CunegoYesterday in Sardinia, Damiano Cunego took his first win in 527 days. While it may only be February, it’s still a noteworthy victory, coming over Peter Sagan, who—thanks in part to the extra-dessert-worthy efforts of his teammates—is confirming some of the form he showed at the top one-week stage races last season.

But a 500-day gap is a dishearteningly long time for a rider with Cunego’s expectations to wait for a win. It’s not that he hasn’t been slugging it out with the elites—he had some notable digs in the 2010 Tour—but for a guy who won a Giro at age 22, “among the best” is widely considered an underwhelming achievement. He’s had to defend his riding far more than any other winner of a Grand Tour and four classics, I can tell you that.

So maybe that’s why there are so many different explanations—at times, conflicting explanations—for his “sub-par” performances. His occasional spats with teammates have been well-documented: first the blow-up with Simoni at the 2004 Giro—tension from which was still palpable during a meeting at Interbike seven months later. I’d always been inclined to pin that tiff on Gibo, given his propensity to whine and the in-race support of Cunego by their Saeco teammates.

But Alessandro Ballan—who won the 2008 World Title with a major assist from a second-placed Cunego—didn’t have great things to say about the Little Prince after jumping ship from Lampre to BMC in 2010. Guiseppe Martinelli, who “discovered” Cunego describes the Italian—somewhat more politically—as “introspective”. The fact that the three-time Lombardy winner also has a big fence and closed-circuit security cameras at his house would certainly back up that appraisal.

Cunego (somewhat unsurprisingly), claims things are the other way around with Ballan, and self-effacingly criticizes his own reduced work ethic for losing the very top-end of his abilities. But I suspect—and Cunego might not deny—that his perceived decline stems from something a bit more substantive. After all, when Cunego was seemingly at the peak of his abilities, much attention was given to his supposedly natural high hematocrit.

As his performances have tailed off, Cunego has made some very interesting comments to the press, some of which seemed to carry the veiled suggestion that there are ways he could be riding better:

“My principle is this: To do what I can in the way that I should. With a conscience. The people who know you, understand you, appreciate you, esteem you, and respect you. There is a finishing order on the day, which this time has penalized me, and there is a finishing order in life, where everyone must protect himself. I am not the only one to do what I can the way I should. Therefore I keep doing it. And already I know there are certain classifications, that must be rewritten, to finished competitions, and this remains painful to me.”

Damiano Cunego Drinks a SodaWhile Cunego hasn’t lived entirely outside the realm of suspicion since downgrading from “unbeatable” to merely “great”, the connections between him and a few unsavory characters are tenuous, and unlike some other suspected riders, who vacillate between loud proclamations and gruff no-comments, he’s remained quietly vocal in his own defense.

I think the example of Danilo DiLuca shows what a rider in Cunego’s mold can do with a little push from clever chemistry. And while Cunego’s work in 2004 might have been more graceful than The Killer’s later efforts, it was carried out in a similarly emphatic fashion. Not that I consider myself a Lemondian (one who believes that doping can be sussed out entirely through performance) but Cunego’s wins since that amazing Giro certainly seem to have leaned more on canny racing and an explosive sprint.

So for all his problems, I think I might just be ok with 500-day gaps between wins. Frankly, I’d like to see more top names collect a small handful of classy, smart, hopefully clean wins—especially after so many with a similarly-sudden appearance names rose to wild, unprecedented success before tumbling down in digrace.

At the very least, the drought between victories has made Cunego a veritable steal in the Podium Cafe Virtual Directeur Sportif Competition that gets underway tomorrow.

Seven Years After Pantani

14 Feb

Marco Pantani Memorial

“I always said that doping was generalized and you could say even democratic up to the time when they developed a test for EPO, then it became elitist. You needed cutting-edge methods to get around the tests from that point on—methods that often only the big riders and teams could access or afford.

      —Filippo Simeoni

[photo by mcalamelli]

The anniversary of Marco Pantani’s death might seem like a strange moment to talk about the progress cycling has made in the fight against doping. After all, the last man to win both the Tour and the Giro in a single year died from an overdose of one of cycling’s oldest performance enhancers. But the post-transfusion hospitalization of Riccardo Ricco just last week, brings out some important contrasts between conditions in Pantani’s heyday and cycling’s current state of affairs.

Pantani, like most of the best riders of his era, never tested positive. But unlike other big names, he left—or spent less effort covering up—an impressive trail of evidence: a then-legal 54% hematocrit value at the ’94 Giro. A whopping 60% after a crash at Milan-Turin the next year. In 1999, he became the first major post-Festina race ejection, being booted for a high hematocrit on Giro d’Italia’s penultimate stage, while leading the GC by more than five-and-half-minutes.

Most of the writing on the Italian following his death suggests that these values were indicative—or even low—for the blood thicknesses he raced at for most of his career. And yet, for all the insistance on the UCI’s part that the 50% limit was merely a “health test”, Pantani never suffered any physical problems due to his abuse of EPO (other than, one could argue, a crippling, clinical depression that lead directly to his death). The same (minus the depression) goes for Riis, Virenque and host of other trailblazers in the use of blood boosting drugs.

It’s not that EPO abuse is without risk—certainly the mystery heart attacks are well-documented—but for the most part, sudden, doping-induced medical emergencies among active pro cyclists were a rarity between 1994 and 2006. Off the top of my head, only one example comes to mind, and it was apparently unrelated to the blood-boosting drug itself.

With the advent of the EPO test in 2001, many people—Michael Ashenden, for example—think a good number of the pros switched over to blood transfusions. A cynical minority seem to believe—based largely on the statements of Thomas Frei—that EPO tests are ineffective, but the very fact that Ricco had chosen to favor transfusions over injections suggests otherwise. No reason to switch off of a successful doping regimen unless you believe it will no longer be effective.

Riccardo RiccoIndeed, what happened to Riccardo Ricco last week is an extremely rare occurrence in cycling—at least since the 1960s. He might not be quite as big a rider Simeoni is referring to in his quotation above, but certainly with Ricco’s results before his first suspension—and his fingers-in-the-nose victories since—his bankroll would have been more than sufficient to safely finance better living through chemistry at nearly any point in the past.

This startling difference in short-term outcome—podium vs. hospital bed—between the illicit ventures of Pantani and Ricco speaks volumes as to how things have changed in the interceding decade. But the general reaction to their respective falls from grace is a sharper contrast still. The report from a nascent Cyclingnews.com on Pantani’s ’99 expulsion suggests a general sadness, combined with just a hint of conspiracy theory. The most telling part might be the embarrassing lengths Hein Verbruggen goes to to avoid suggesting doping.

Certainly a contrast to the reactions Ricco received to either of his dope-related suspensions. Granted, Ricco didn’t exactly endear himself to anyone, but the blowback from last week’s medical emergency was hardly sympathetic, hedged, or ambiguous. One can only hope things end up better for Ricco than they did for rider he had always hoped to emulate.

Ball's in Your Court, McQuaid

31 Jan

NY Velocity has published a tremendous, unedited, transcript of Paul Kimmage’s interview with Floyd Landis. There’s a ton of information in there—stuff from Floyd accusing Oscar Pereiro of calling the kettle black to more details on that whole “blood down the drain” story—but what really struck me was this exchange:

Kimmage: How many of the decisions you made after that were coloured by this experience you’ve had with the UCI and their relationship with Lance? How big a factor was that in the decision you made to dope?

Landis: That’s all of it.

The real takeaway here should be that when the UCI arbitrarily decides to break one of its own rules—even one unrelated to doping—it invites riders to break the others. Pat McQuaid can talk about personal responsibility until the the cows come home, but the distance between not tapping into a bank guarantee and a rider re-injecting a liter of blood is a bit thinner than the sport’s governing body seems to realize.

McQuaid might do well to have a sitdown with Kimmage sometime in the near future. Perhaps the UCI President can be goaded into such an interview by the knowledge that, Lance Armstrong took the precisely opposite approach.

2011: A Record Year for Drama?

27 Jan

Contador InterviewDid I not mention a little something about there being plenty of room for forthcoming drama at the head of my last post? Good gravy, it’s been a busy week—and it’s only Thursday.

Leadoff: Alberto Contador gets a one-year suspension from the Spanish Federation, or RFEC for those of us who don’t like typing. The RFEC hasn’t announced it yet and won’t make it official until 9 February, Contador’s not talking about it until the 28th, though it’ll all be shuffleboard on the Lusitania if the ban ends upbackdated until last July.

If you’d think this might cause some conflict amongst late-season race organizers you’re clearly not Vuelta organizer Javier Gullien:

“We’d love it if Contador could race the Vuelta.”

Outside organizers, near universal-dissatisfying with the announcement has spun off all sorts of substories; lack of monetary clawback, impotent dissastifaction from the UCI (not that they’ve done anything about it in the areas they do control), calls for a Clenburterol threshold, and even messages of support.

Personally I don’t have much to say on it other than that, when I said I’d hoped the B-sample would come back clean (or conversely, massively and incontrovertibly positive), this was what I was trying to avoid. People seem to think positive tests are bad for the sport; the same logic would also say that indicting CEOs is bad for the economy.

No, the real damage is done when the sport can’t properly enforce its own rules. In the past, the standard for a one-year suspension via the Frogman Defense has been impressively high [pdf]; even if the REFC has no appreciation for stare decisis in the Contador case, they could at least pretend that it’s not a negotiation.

The impact of such an absurdly arbitrary judicial process is compounded because chaotic and whimsical decision-making elicits a reaction piece from pretty much everyone. I get the sense that all parties involved think they’ve put this to bed without losing too much face; it’s obvious to everyone else that they created a story that will never die.

Speaking of unending storylines, a certain seven-time Tour de France winner hasn’t been his usual media-savvy self lately. Armstrong recently took his ball and went home after a relatively tame question about a tweet, and two of the most prominent members of his inner circle couldn’t manage a compelling answer for why Armstrong teammate Yaroslav Popovych hadn’t been suspended while he’s an active target of a doping investigation. Hardly the work of a group that’s “not worried” or planning to bow out in style.

Trent LoweIf the Contador suspension sticks, and if Armstrong ends up getting indicted before (or even during) July, how thoroughly must the ASO be regretting last week’s snub of Carlos Sastre? He is, after all, the last Tour champ standing, and ironically enough, the only active Tour winner whose team was not invited to the race.

Of course, you could have it worse than the ASO—you could be Trent Lowe. To all the other young cyclists out there, a word of advice: don’t get into a public dispute with Jon Vaughters, and if you do, don’t bring a knife to that particular gunfight. We all laugh at Fabiani, but Foghorn has a fairly impressive set of palmares—what you’d expect as part of the the gold standard for legal teams in all of sports.

While I like Vaughters, it’s best to remember that there are shark teeth behind those sideburns. The very existence of Garmin-Cervelo—a (hopefully) clean and very American team in a European and still-dope-riddled sport—is a tribute to the man’s business savvy. But along with this comes a tremendously limited tolerance for inefficiency; while there are plenty of former Vaughter inefficiencies out there, most know better than to mix it up with the Turtleneck.

So if this January indicates nothing else, 2011 is going to be a banner year for Toto.