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How the Race was Ripped-Off

31 Mar

I think I may have surprised some people by not flying into an Internet rage yesterday when VeloNews launched a familiar-looking video feature with a not entirely unique name.

htrww title card

In happier times.

My magnanimous response not withstanding, I should clarify that I’m not psyched about the development. Indeed, there was a time when I would have let fly the dogs of Internet War over such a slight—and that time was two years ago. I lived in Boston, had my own apartment, could pedal office-to-doorstep in about 20 minutes, got paid enough to buy decent computer hardware, and could reliably turn out sharply-edited video recaps of European bike races 24-48 hours after they wrapped up.

But it’s not 2010 anymore. I got word of the VeloNews post this morning where I spend most of my mornings these days—in a car, on an Interstate, trying not to think about how much longer I have to drive, or the fact that pretty soon, I’d have to turn around and head back the other way. It’s not a routine I’m particularly fond of, but as things stand, it’s the life I wake up to every morning. Suffice it to say, it isn’t getting any videos made.

And that’s the important thing, here—there are tactically focused race-recap videos in production again. They might not be as nifty as mine, but they’re covering races that happened in the past two weeks—I haven’t done anything in the past two years.

While it may well be that biting the style, name, and idea of someone else’s work without so much as a hat-tip is a dick thing to do (you certainly wouldn’t get any argument form me on that point), it is far more of a dick move to pitch a fit because someone else decided they wanted to revive or reuse something cool that you created, but for whatever reason, aren’t pursuing to the fullest.

In fact, one of the most maddening aspects of doing How the Race Was Won came about 12-24 hours after posting each new video, when some minion of the ASO would invariably file a takedown request with YouTube because he or she felt like my reusing two minutes of one six-hour stage of a 21-day race without kissing their pinky ring was somehow doing them wrong.

In an ideal world, there’s no doubt in my mind that I could do (and have done) a sharper, funnier HTRWW than currently exists. But the fact is that right now, I can’t. And as irascible as I tend to be, I just can’t justify venting any of that rage toward people who can. The best I can hope for is that sometime in the future, I’ll get the chance to remind everyone else exactly how it’s supposed to be done.

VeloNews Dead Link Article Finder

1 Dec

Enter a dead Velonews URL:

What, you thought I was just blowing hot air? For all its *ahem* foibles, is one of the oldest and richest cycling resources on the Internet. The Wayback Machine has snapshots dating from late 1997, and the current incarnation of the site contains at least a few stories that are over a decade old.

However, the interceding years have not been kind to this article collection—buyouts, a series of redesigns, and staff cutbacks have created an accumulated dead-link problem that’s made accessing old content almost impossible. It’s not that the books are missing—it’s just that someone’s burned the card catalogue.

Because Cyclocosm likely has more dead links heading back to the Journal of Competitive Cycling than any other single website, I decided I might as well cook up a solution. When you encounter the dreaded “Not Found” page, just copy the bad Velonews URL, come to this page, and then paste it into the text box above. You should be magically transported to the content you wanted to find.

I know of a few things that won’t work—including most of the third-party video player content, so “What Game Playremains lost to the ages it’s back! it’s down again!—but if you come across anything else that doesn’t work or find something other than what you were looking for, let me know about it. There’s a chance I could track it down manually, and the info will help me improve this solution / build a better one in the future.

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.


On "Cyclocross" Clinchers

16 Oct

Inflate to min 60psiIf you’ve been following the Cyclocosm Tumblr at all, you’ve probably seen a few interesting parts failures over the past few weeks. But today’s post is less about a specific failure and more about a broken philosophy: the idea that any clincher with knobs on it is somehow race-appropriate componentry for cyclocross.

It’s Not All Bad, I Guess

I should be specific here: most cyclocross-branded clinchers work well enough—so long as you have no plans to actually race. And in and of itself, that’s not a bad thing. For decades, a loud and long-bearded contingent of Internet cycling personalities has bemoaned the popularity of race-inspired equipment that is ill-suited to the needs of the casual cyclist.

For rough pavement or all-weather commuting, fire roads, and light trail use, a fatter, slightly knobby tire road tire running a 60+ psi is a great choice, and even the least sophsticated CX-branded rubber is a quantum leap beyond the 800g Cheng Shin monstrosities that spread like an STI in shops and box stores alike during the hybrid boom of the 1990s.

Racing on a Crummy Clincher

In terms of actual cyclocross racing—with high-speed cornering on mixed terrain, there are a lot of clinchers out there that simply aren’t competitive. Sure, if you’re willing to endure a masochistic enough pressure, you can hack your way through a race, and maybe even feel like you’re going pretty fast.

But if you’re really tight-roping the ragged edge of traction, hard tires don’t hold on washy, off-camber bends. Hard tires spin out as you try to apply power at the slightest suggestion of mud or loose terrain. And most importantly, hard tires don’t conform to obstacles, subjecting your body, your bike, and your most fickle components (derailleurs, spokes, seatposts clamps, headset bolts) to hammer blow after hammer blow.

There was a time when I thought this lack of suspension could be overcome by vigilant mechanical work and pure physical toughness. But after a few seasons, it’s become clear that the jarring and abuse is a secondary issue. The facts are that you can’t steer or apply power using tire that’s actively careening off the very surface obstacles that make cyclocross awesome.

Go Ahead. Lower the Pressure. See What Happens.

The obvious solution to these problems is to lower your tire pressure, but it’s a bitterly double-edged sword. With every psi you drop, your odds of catching a pinch flat increase, and the bumpier the course gets, and the more you have to gain from compliant, lower-pressure tires, the less safe it is to go for the low-psi advantage.

In my experience (at a not-particularly-nimble 165lbs) 40psi is about as low as you can go with a reasonable expectation of not flatting—and at that pressure, you’re giving away speed. You can still be competitive against tubulars on anything that’s not too muddy/bouncy, but be mentally and physically prepared to close a lot of gaps—rattling ass-in-the-air over washboard hardpack while your rivals pedal away is a psychological disadvantage that gets worse with every lap.

If We Have to Name Names

That said, cheaper and less experienced riders are more or less stuck with the clincher—even $2,600 race-branded machines ship with them. In a perfect world, I’d have bought every clincher I could get my hands on, and I’d let you know which ones suck and which ones rule. Alas, my masochism has limits—having found a handful of tires that don’t work, and a single one that does, I’m disinclined to further study.

My clincher of choice—for 100% of race conditions—is the Michelin Mud2. It has fantastic traction in almost anything, and supple (if somewhat fragile) sidewalls that make it feel tubular-awesome starting around 34psi (if you’re willing to risk a pinch). Sure, it’s a little knobby for hard-packed terrain, but rolling resistance caused by tread pattern (as opposed to say, pressure) is almost meaningless. Unless your ‘cross races are decided by paved, downhill coasting sections, it’s not something I’d bother worrying about.

As far as bad ‘cross tires go, it’s really hard to pick any one offender. There’s the Maxxis Raze that I managed to roll in the SS race of last year’s Ice Weasels. There’s the Vittoria XG that measured 2.5mm narrower than listed and slid six inches sideways every time I tired to pedal it through downhill corners at Green Mountain. And of course, there’s the old “tubeless-ready” Hutchinson Bulldogs that were actually pretty nice, except that their beads broke every other time I tried to mount them.

As always, your mileage may vary. Feel free to comment if you’ve had a good or bad experience with a particular clincher—and be specific about how you’ve used it. I’ve heard good things about a one or two other models, but as I said earlier, there are so many bad tires, and my experiences with them have been so awful, that I really don’t have the stomach for looking anymore.

Suggestions and Practical Advice

If you’re looking for a rule of thumb on what’s awful and what’s not, minimum recommended pressure has been a pretty good indicator for me. Numbers well outside the realm of what’s reasonable for CX—50 on the Raze and 60 on the Vittoria—have always turned out poorly. I’d long considered pressure indications were the result of much legal hang-wringing, but my experience seems to be suggesting that the Mud2 really has been engineered to effectively hold the rim and the dirt all the way down to its 29psi lower limit.

So it seems to me that a great solution this problem would be a little more truth in advertising—namely, not presenting tires with a 60psi minimum recommended inflation as cyclocross race equipment. I understand the marketing imperative of covering the CX niche, but let’s be honest: there are a whole lot more people out there commuting and pleasure riding on 23mm tires who’d be having a whole lot more fun and a lot fewer flats on my Vittoria XGs. Don’t insult consumers and batter your brand by pretending anything knobby is a CX tire because you feel like it needs to exist.

Industry publications could also help the alleviate some of the problem by keeping reader expectations a little more reasonable. While I’ve never been the biggest fan of Matt Pacochia, I give him credit for prefacing this article on CX clinchers by saying (essentially) “tubulars are better” (and also for only including three models, all of which I assume to be race-viable). The cycling press could still maintain its uncomfortably cozy relationship with manufacturers by ranking tires that don’t cut it in actual CX racing under a separate set of criteria to keep the scores inflated (so to speak).

Has The 2011 Tour de France Really Been More Dangerous?

10 Jul

As Stage 9 brought in another handful of dramatic tumbles and sent out another handful of top names, the most compelling storyline at this year’s Tour de France continues to be the crashes. Everything from the weather, to “muppets” to too many bikes has been blamed, but I can’t help but wonder if this year has actually been any more dangerous than the others.

After all, so much attention has gone to crashes this year because so many GC riders have been taken out. But is there really an increase in overall riders down? It’s rare that more than a passing nod is given to a tumble that takes out a few domestiques, but as far as overall safety is concerned, I think one rider’s abandon is as good (or bad) as any other’s.

So I’ve compiled some data for all the Tours de France since 1997 ( doesn’t go back any further), looking at the percentage of riders who’ve gone home after nine stages. Obviously, it’s not a comprehensive study—early climbs and drug scandals have also played a role in thinning the pack, and not all crashes result in abandons—but I think it’s a decent ballpark metric.



Stage 9 Finishers

% Attrition





























































Avg Attrition: 8.13%*
Avg Attrition w/198: 11.11%*
Avg Attrition w/180: 5.67%
Std Dv: 3.10%*
+1 Std Dv: 11.23%*
(higher rates in red)
-1 Std Dv: 5.04%* (lower rates in green)

The numbers say some interesting things. The first is larger fields definitely increase the number of abandons—the rate of attrition by the 9th stage in a 198-rider field is almost a full standard deviation above the average since 1997, while 180-rider fields fall almost a full standard deviation below it.

As much as I’d like to see as many teams as possible contesting the sport’s biggest prize, it might just make for a better race if a few more people stayed home. Perhaps the 8-rider-teams solution floated by Craig Lewis might be a good way to get as many sponsors involved in the Tour while maximizing rider safety.

The second big takeaway is that this years race hasn’t been as brutal as you might expect in terms of sending riders home. Through nine stages, 2011 is just a touch above the 15-year-average, and well below what you’d expect for such a full field. Certainly the GC contenders have been overrepresented in the early departures, but that higher visibility doesn’t necessarily reflect a more destructive event.

The third thing that stands out to me is that—and I readily confess to falling back on the TREND(); function here—there is a slight trend toward lower attrition rates over the past 15 years (through nine stages, not correcting for field size*):
Rider attrition rate through stage 9 1997-2011

While I wouldn’t say that the ASO has ever been a tremendous advocate for rider safety, I believe this trend reflects the increasing level of sanity they’ve applied to routing each year’s Grand Boucle. Continuing in a direction that began with the end of split stages, organizers have promoted shorter routes as a way to stave off doping, while extending the “safe” zones at the end of flat stages to preserve the campaigns of GC riders caught behind crashes.

The end result of these changes has been—statistically speaking, anyway—a less destructive race, and 2011, for all the carnage we’ve seen out on the roads thus far, has been yet another step in that trend. It’s certainly felt like a more dangerous race, and viewer reactions (mine included) have helped foster that sense. But looking at the numbers, it’s pretty clear that reaction is not reflective of a greater number of crashes, but more a result of a greater public awareness of and affection for the athletes involved.

This post initially misreported the number of starters at the 2007 Tour as 198. Dossards 1-9 were omitted that year, making for only 189 starters, despite dossard 219 being the highest awarded. Numbers and figures marked (*) have been corrected from their initially reported values; the conclusions of the post remain largely unchanged.

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?

Shattering the Media Complacency

19 Jan

Trek Sign in Waterloo, WIAh—what a day. Floyd Landis retires, and immediately thereafter, a boatload of not-entirely-unfamiliar looking allegations against Lance Armstrong drop.

Looks like the real sporting press scooped their cycling-specific counterparts once again on today’s headlines (with one exception), but at least we’ve got BikeRadar, hard at work bringing us “Profile: Ben Coates“. My journo slang’s a bit rusty, but I’m pretty sure the term for that is a “wet kiss”.

A lot of people got a good, hearty kick out of CycleSport’s repriting of an email from TEAM LEoPARD/Trek that attempted to “guide” the media on styling the team’s name. But it shouldn’t take more than the first few lines of that Coates piece to realize that the Trek representative who sent that was dead serious—some companies’ influence extends well beyond ad income.

Big manufacturers are an all-too-frequent destination for a disturbing percentage of the staff at certain American cycling publications—and even I’ll admit to hesitating a bit before showing spine in the face of a future employer. I suppose you might consider the whims of advertisers something of a litmus test, with a publication’s editorial integrity being inversely proportional to their willingness to accept such requests.

Anyway—the latest Armstrong allegations. After much heralding, “the SI
article” is finally out in full, though the most ravenous Lance-hunters are going to be disappointed. In fact, it’s the USOC, Don Catlin, and a decidedly soft approach to dope test enforcement who come out looking the worst.

That said, there are a lot of new spins on pre-tread stories and sources about Armstrong’s alleged PED use. Mike Anderson, for example, who settled with Armstrong over undelivered funding for a bike shop and/or drugs in Girona, talks about cooking up elaborate ruses to trick unannounced testers.

Richard Virenque at the micStephen Swart and Landis, who’ve each talked about Armstrong and doping in the past, add new and interesting allegations. While they make pre-cancer Armstrong seem like a longer-term doper and a less-good rider (many others later vanquished by the Texan were apparently tooling on him with roughly equivalent hematocrit levels in the mid-90s), they don’t exactly hammer in any coffin nails.

In fact, when one takes them in concert with the prior testimony of Emma O’Reilly, Swart’s latest allegations are downright incongruous. If Armstrong was racing at a hematocrit in the mid-50s in 1995 (roughly in line with the Festina Team’s self-imposed and somewhat ridiculed limit), I find it very hard to believe Armstrong would let himself slide down to a mere 41 three years later. For that matter, given EPO’s near-legendary efficacy, I can’t imagine he’d be at all concerned about catching back up.

Similarly, those seeking the Texan’s scalp will find no smoking guns in a report that two of Armstrong’s on the 1990 US Junior Team claim they were given drugs by coaches. Unless I’m mistaken, this refers to the case brought by Greg Strock and Erich Kaiter. While their trial was covered by Velonews back in 2006, the magazine apparently never followed up—the only other appearance of Strock’s name on the VN website is in results from the 2009 Tour of Elk Grove.

That leaves us with three—(or is it four?)—new, disturbing, but still not damning tidbits. One: that Popovych and Team RadioShack (though not necessarily Lance Armstrong) were in contact and under the advisement of Dr. Michele Ferrari, at least as recently as 2009. This is well after Armstrong claims to have cut ties with the not-so-good doctor for, you know, appearances—because the Texan maintains the Italian wasn’t ever helping him dope.

Two: Armstrong at least had obtained “access” to HemAssist, an artificial oxygen carrier similar that reported to have been in Michael Rasmussen’s shoebox in 2002. While FDA trials ended in 1998, enough was around for studies in 2002 and 2004.

Three (and perhaps most alarming of all): the lab of Don Catlin, a pioneer in the scientific fight against doping, appears to have made some serious clerical errors in the handling of samples belonging to Armstrong between 1990 and 2000.

While none of the roughly 24 tests taken in that window drew a doping sanction, the records of five have simply vanished. Of the remainder, three tests were recorded as initially having T:E ratios well outside the legal range, though somewhat improbably, two of them failed to return positive results in a confirmation test; the “father of drug testing in sport” has yet to say anything about the third.

I suppose we’ll all know more about this tomorrow when the magazine actually hits newsstands The full article is now live. And there may be further developments, as I’m told some elements of the story threatened to bring too much heat for Sports Illustrated‘s editor to take, and might have to find their way to the public through a different route.

They Say The Season Starts This Week

13 Jan

TdU bannerUnless the spike in high-priority, all-caps emails on “LANCE ARMSRTONG’S FINAL RACE OUTSIDE THE US” have mislead me, a bunch of clowns in Switzerland who haven’t shoveled my driveway four times in the past two weeks seem to think the season is getting underway again.

Then again, I should count myself lucky that over-zealous and under-coordinated PR is worst of my concerns—I could end up having to pay $13,000 for their approval to write blog posts about how much they suck.

While I appreciate the contributions Australians have made to cycling—especially to race support requests—is a mid-January race really appropriate repayment? A FauxTour event in a month where storylines have historically been limited to doping and Jan Ullrich’s waistline comes across with all the sincerity of Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Excellence.

With the UCI’s calendar already shipping the ProTour peloton off to Canada for a week, you’d think a mid-season jaunt to Australia would provide no greater challenge. Certainly the conditions of Aussie “winters” aren’t going to pose any obstacle, and might even be a welcome reprise from the mid-July heat.

I’m sure there’s no argument about the mid-January date from one Lance Armstrong, though, whose waning and increasingly embarrassing presence at bike races is the only reason PR flacks are stuffing my inbox in the first place.

Lance ArmstrongHis 38-year-old legs will no doubt appreciate the pace of a rusty peloton, and the beaming Australian summer will provide a brilliant backdrop for what is essentially a promotional appearance—because, as he’s long maintained, flying a private jet halfway around the world furthers the fight against cancer.

While the racing may yet prove strenuous for Armstrong, the media coverage certainly hasn’t. With stories breaking on a tiny fib about compensation, some potential retroactive testing, and the fact that he’s a lousy spokesman, the Texan fielded softballs about his legacy and whether or not he plans to win.

Even the task of simply recording responses seemed to much for the TdU press pool. When Armstrong was asked why it seemed like cyclists doped so much, an AP reporter (in addition to botching the seven-time Tour winner’s age) phrased his lede to suggest that the Texan believes drug testing itself compels riders to dope. The Sydney Morning Herald, taking the the exact same Armstrong quote, inferred he meant that riders dope because the sport is so hard.

While I award Armstrong no points for clarity, his actual meaning—that cycling’s stringent anti-doping efforts catch more dopers than other sports’ flimsy protocols—seemed easy enough to suss out from the other side of the planet. 2011 will clearly be a banner year for cycling coverage in the mainstream press.

Forget Doping—Cycling's Media Problems Are Worse

30 Nov

Floyd Landis signs autographsIt’s strange, really—crafting a race strategy and timing that perfect attack doesn’t seem so different from devising a policy for dealing with the media and scheduling your tidbits to the press for maximum impact. And yet, cyclists and those involved in cycling seem to have a near-bottomless penchant for screwing it up.

Take Floyd Landis and his latest set of Postal doping allegations. Sure, they were European television interviews and mostly just expansions on previous statements, but come on, dude—Thanksgiving break? When the few people paying any attention to the news will have to make it past irresistible Black Friday newsoids to read your stuff? Why even bother?

The only explanation I can see is that ARD and France2 were booked solid two weeks ago when the US Press was bubbling with news of Novitzky’s Euro Trip, complete with all sorts of juicy, idiomatic quotes. At least Floyd can take some satisfaction that by timing his announcement at the start of the holiday shopping season, he’s forced Team RadioShack to put their single least popular t-shirt on sale. That’s hitting ’em in the wallet, all right.

Still, I suppose even Landis could give UCI president Pat McQuaid a primmer on media relations. Here we have one of the most epic whistleblowers in the history of the sport, and of course, McQuaid is threatening to sue him. Nothing says “I’m not protecting certain riders” like suing people who make accusations against them.

Pat McQuaid and Sean KellyEven in citing the “big names that have been found positive over the years”, McQuaid points an implicit finger at himself: Contador, Rasmussen, and even Landis weren’t deposed until well after the end of a certain Texan’s dominance.

In fact, the first Grand Tour title decided by a drug positive disqualification*—the ’05 Vuelta—was also the first held after Armstrong Retirement 1.0. Some might call that suspiciously close timing, especially considering how effectively Grand Tour winners have been busted since.

No, the proper way to respond this time around is to employ a little close reading. Landis’ allegations against the UCI could very easily be taken as a “well, everybody knew there were protected riders” sort of statement, worthy of a Pope Apology along the lines of “we’re sorry Floyd feels that way”.

After all, current intel seems to suggest that the UCI will take little damage, if any, from the Armstrong investigation, and given the time frame of Landis’ allegations, any blame will be easy enough to shovel onto McQuaid’s predecessor, Hein Verbruggen.

Then again, it might be a little much to expect decent media performance from a man who violated a sporting boycott cited as one of the most effective measures against apartheid (and still claims not to regret it), declared that every nation West of the Rhine and south of the Channel is culturally part of the “mafia”, and straight-up denied to the German press (yesterday’s comments notwithstanding) that Michael Rasmussen had committed a doping offense.

Maybe We Should Test For Accountability

4 Oct

Pat McQuaidWhat is it about this sport that cultivates such an aversion to accountability? It must be drafting or something.

Let’s start with the UCI, who flatly denied a Contador positive to ARD after they were aware of it, and before the story broke. Ignore the fact that most third-graders know to spit back “neither-confirm-nor-deny” boilerplate to questions like that—it’s the frickin’ German media.

While they do seem to have a painfully self-conscious obsession with doping, they’re not exactly known for fishing expeditions. Contador’s positive tests occurred months ago, the UCI had already notified WADA, bringing dozens, if not hundreds of potential leaks into the loop. Did the UCI consider it conincedence that a doping specialist reporter called them to ask about Contador’s positive test?

Then there was the advice to Contador to keep quiet over the positive tests. Nothing says “we’re attempting to cover this up” like sequestering news from reporters, sponsors, team managers, etc. Now you’ve got Contador on record as saying he expects a “quick resolution“, rumors flying over slashed suspension terms, heaps of reporting on a double standard so obvious it would embarrass George Wallace, and—oh yeah—all this kicked up days before the UCI’s biggest week of racing.

In fact, the only thing transparent out of the UCI in recent weeks was their limp-wristed attempt to deflect attention and criticism onto the Spanish cycling federation. Words cannot convey how much better the sport and its governing body would look if the UCI had simply told Contador to come forward back in August, and confirmed—or at least not denied—the positive tests.

Alberto ContadorAnd then there’s Contador. Apparently, the B-sample clearance I’d been hoping for hasn’t come through. That makes a positive test. Contador should feel welcome to appeal to his heart’s content—it’s his right after all—but I don’t think there’s any reasonable expectation he won’t get sanctioned.

If Contador really did test positive from tainted meat, he should lose the TdF title for it. Yes, it’s not really fair—but then again, neither was Andy’s chain, Beloki’s crash, Hinault’s knees, Merckx’s liver or any other of a myriad of other hard-luck stories that potentially cost racers victory at the Tour de France.

At an absolute level, athletes have complete control over the food that goes into their bodies, and consuming anything other than the most rigorously vetted food at the biggest bike race in the world is as fool-hardy as taking risks on melted pavement, punching big gears through growing joint pain, or riding too close to a hostile crowd.

And frankly, if Contador’s case is handled like previous contamination positives, I think he should accept it and be satisfied. More than a few additional questions have been raised by this case, and with some labs apparently keeping an eye peeled for as-of-yet-circumstantial signs of doping, there’s no need for the Spaniard to start playing the retroactive testing card; at any rate, we know from experience that retro-positives are fairly easy to deny.

At the end of the day, what’s important is that people respect the rules cycling has established to deal with drug testing. They aren’t perfect—you’d be hard-pressed to find codified regulations that are—but they’ve come a tremendously long way in the past decade.

Tap-dancing around the media and normal procedure to try and control the impact of positive tests, or expecting special treatment because you happend to win a few Tours de France both undermines the effectiveness of the systems, and obscures the areas where it’s in need of further refinement.