Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Aix-les-Bains Dauphine Libere 2005
Christophe Moreau, Levi Leipheimer, George Hincapie (in yellow), Oscar Pereiro and Alberto Contador lead the peloton out of Aix-les-Bains at the start of stage 1 of the 2005 Dauphiné Libéré

Despite appearances, we have not gone into hibernation.  The "special report" we mentioned last month was put on the backburner for a couple of weeks and then the scope of the report grew.  It's coming, and things will heat up.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Note:  If you have been unable to access Daniel Baal's inflammatory Le Figaro article, it indeed appears that it was rather quickly removed from Le Figaro's web site.

On the subject of Roberto Heras's "non-negative" EPO "A" sample from the Vuelta, we will wait until the results of the November 21 counter-analysis before commenting.

In the meantime, within a few days we expect to wrap up work on a "special report" you may find of interest.

Thanks for checking in.

Sunday, October 30, 2005


Playing with fire

ASO accuses Armstrong,
Baal targets Hincapie and entire Discovery Channel Tour team

We could sense it coming.  With the media and world of cycling gathered on Thursday in Paris for the annual presentation of the next edition of the Tour de France, race organizer A.S.O. (Amaury Sport Organization) announced in its mission statement that "On the 24th of July we turned the page on a long, very long chapter in the history of the Tour de France. And one month later, current events made it clear to us that it was just as well that this was so."

The comments, simultaneously reproduced on the "U.S." version of its 2006 Tour de France web page, clearly referred to Lance Armstrong and French sports daily L'Equipe's August 23 allegations of doping.

A.S.O. president Patrice Clerc lectured the audience on the need to do more to fight doping.

Tour de France director, Jean-Marie Leblanc, in comments to the AP, said "(Armstrong) was not irreproachable in '99. EPO is a doping product. So this tempers and dilutes his performances and his credibility as a champion."

A.S.O. thus announced to the world that it accepts without hesitation the allegations, based on unconfirmable analysis of urine samples dating back to 1999, even as a UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale)-appointed former anti-doping official has only begun investigating them.

By Thursday evening, and with the damage already done, ASO's Leblanc and future race director Christian Prudhomme were back in a "We're just organizers, not doping experts" mode on L'Equipe TV.  So when they had the world watching earlier in the day, and when they apparently felt it necessary to play politics in their ongoing dispute with the UCI over the direction of the ProTour, ASO was giving lessons on the anti-doping fight, with the recently-elected UCI president Pat McQuaid and Discovery Channel team manager Johan Bruyneel sitting in the audience feeling they'd been targeted.  Then, when their audience was limited to French viewers of L'Equipe TV, they're "just organizers."

Basing your mission statement on allegations made by a hostile sports daily is dubious at best.  The relationship between ASO and L'Equipe, a sports event organizer and a monopolistic sports news daily in the same corporate family, raises questions to begin with.  Though historically the Tour de France owes much to that relationship, to the years long ago that L'Equipe lost money while organizing the race itself, ASO is playing with fire by yielding to L'Equipe's ongoing pressure to condemn Armstrong.

Daniel Baal, former president of the FFC (French cycling federation) and until 2003 expected to replace Leblanc as Tour director, in an inflammatory article in Le Figaro on Friday wrote, "Today, what do we know of the 2005 Tour and the six (at least!) previous editions?  That they were won by a cheater.  Thus they have no value."  Baal has taken it upon himself to extend the questionable 1999 allegations through 2005.  He also had to be referring to Armstrong's teammate George Hincapie when he said "A rider (once) known as a sprinter, well taken care of medically, can thus win a queen stage of the Pyrenees, before being particularly strong in a time trial."  He further seemed to accuse the entire Discovery Channel Tour team when he wrote "A team in difficulty on a minor climb in the Vosges, on a stage not considered important, thus without optimization of the 'preparation,' then finds itself ruling several days later escorting its leader in a major Alpine stage."  Baal somehow now considers an off day by a team as irrefutable evidence of doping.  If you're not so good today after a tough first week, including a brutal all-out effort to win the team time trial, then you have a strong day after the rest day , then you must be doping?  (Note:  Baal is without question very knowledgeable with regard to race organization and work at the federation level but we were unable to find any evidence of his having ever competed in a pro stage race himself.)

Not naming names does not automatically protect you from a libel suit.  It is obvious who Baal is talking about.

Such barely veiled accusations without proof and without respect for due process, from current and former French cycling officials who further focus exclusively on Lance Armstrong and his team, are troubling.  They also reflect, perhaps not coincidentally,  L'Equipe's ongoing "journalism".

On L'Equipe TV, future Tour director Christian Prudhomme said, "For me, again the fundamental problem is one of image.  We must get rid of suspicion, that's the most important thing."  The comment perhaps betrays his background in television and perhaps in part ASO's motives to the extent that suspicion hurts profits, but we certainly hope he doesn't really feel that image is the most important thing here.

Leblanc, Prudhomme and Baal are without question passionate about cycling.  Clerc, who ran the Roland Garros (French Open) tennis tournament for many years before replacing Jean-Claude Killy at ASO in 2000, has a long, successful career in sports events management.  They are leaders and should speak about doping because it is an important topic in sports today. They should especially speak of solutions to the problem.  What they should stop doing is lobbing inflammatory comments, based on L'Equipe's questionable journalism, about Lance Armstrong and Discovery Channel, a new sponsor in this sport.  Leaders don't play with fire, they put out fires.

When you play with fire, there is no telling who might get burned.

2006 Tour de France map
Click map for 2006 Tour route

Jean-Marie Leblanc and Christian Prudhomme on L Equipe TV Jean-Marie Leblanc and Christian Prudhomme appeared on L'Equipe TV Thursday evening.

L'Equipe TV web site (French)

Jean-Marie Leblanc and Christian Prudhomme on L Equipe TV Leblanc:  "We're just organizers, not doping experts."

Christian Prudhomme on L Equipe TV Prudhomme, on L'Equipe TV:  "For me, again the fundamental problem is one of image.  We must get rid of suspicion, that's the most important thing."

Daniel Baal, former Director of Cycling for ASO Daniel Baal, former Director of Cycling at ASO and former president of the FFC
(photo P. Geyer)

Daniel Baal's Le Figaro article

Alejandro Valverde, L Equipe TV Leblanc said on L'Equipe TV that he looks to young riders such as Alejandro Valverde (pictured) and Damiano Cunego to show what they can do in the next Tour.

UCI president Pat McQuaid on L Equipe TV UCI president Pat McQuaid on L'Equipe TV, interviewed at Thursday's Tour presentation.  On Friday, McQuaid suspended ProTour talks with ASO, deeming such talks pointless at this time given ASO's attitude the day before.

photos © 2005 Pete Geyer

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Breaking:  L'Equipe TV is reporting, before this morning's 2006 Tour route presentation in Paris, that there will be no Team Time Trial in the 2006 Tour de France.  If confirmed, this would be good news for the little climbers in the peloton.  More after the official presentation...

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

The Tour du Faso begins today.  The 11-stage event, West Africa's primary bike race, runs through November 6.

Teams competing come from Burkina Faso, Angola, Benin-Togo, Cameroon, Gabon, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger, Senegal, France, Belgium, Japan and Switzerland.

The Tour du Faso is organized by Amaury Sport Organization (A.S.O.) alongside the Burkina Cycling Federation.

Jean-Marie Leblanc, Tour de France

Inside the Tour de France
Route Presentation:
A Preview

Tomorrow is the 2006 Tour de France Route Presentation in Paris.  What can we expect?  Who's going to be at the presentation?  Did someone spill the beans about the 2006 route?  Anything novel about the route?

click here for the story

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Deal brings UCI cycling broadcasts to the U.S.

Good news for cycling fans in the U.S.  The UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale) yesterday announced an agreement with the World Championship Sports Network (WCSN) for the U.S. broadcast of UCI cycling events.  The 3-year deal involves offering these broadcasts on demand, pay-per-view, on American cable networks and the internet with live streaming audio and video coverage.

It should be pointed out, however, that the deal only includes events that the UCI itself controls, such as the cycling road and track world championships and mountain bike and cyclo-cross UCI World Cups.  It has nothing to do with races organized by ASO (Tour de France, Paris-Roubaix, etc.), RCS (Giro d'Italia, Tour of Lombardy) or Unipublic (Vuelta).

UCI Press Release

WCSN Press Release

Click to visit WCSN home page
Click logo to visit WCSN home page

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Stijn Devolder (Discovery Channel) and fans
At Paris-Tours, Discovery Channel's Stijn Devolder signs autographs for
two Livestrong band-sporting French girls; the girls came prepared
with Discovery Channel caps and rider cards.
Team mechanic Chris Van Roosbroeck (right) looks on while
directeur sportif Dirk Demol (rear) does an interview.

While French girls seek autographs from their favorite pro cyclists, L'Equipe and its advertisers seek to sell to the feminine market; L'Equipe Féminine magazine was launched on Saturday as a supplement to L'Equipe.  The price of the day's newspaper was increased by $1.  (which coincidentally is what the yellow Livestrong bands sell for to raise money for cancer research.)  So it wasn't a free supplement.  If you wanted L'Equipe's pre-Tour of Lombardy (or rugby or soccer) coverage, you had to also pay for L'Equipe Féminine.  L'Equipe probably hauled in an extra few hundred thousand dollars on Saturday from newspaper sales alone.  Monopolies (L'Equipe is the only sports daily in France) can get away with this.  As for how serious L'Equipe is about the feminine sports market, the next issue of L'Equipe Féminine won't be out until Spring, 2006....

Enjoy that big end-of-year party, L'Equipe.  It's on us, the readers.

L Equipe Feminine

Meanwhile, because there was no mention at all in L'Equipe of French cyclist Dimitri Champion's record-setting ride in Sunday's Chrono des Herbiers, "Espoirs" category, we'll repeat it here (we mentioned it in our live ticker Sunday).  Great ride, Dimitri, don't take the L'Equipe snub personally.

Dimitri Champion (2004 GP des Nations)
Dimitri Champion

Hour Record holder Ondrej Sosenka won the elite men's event, France's Edwige Pitel won the elite women's event and France's Sébastien Ivars won the junior's event.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Note:  No one else seems to have a live ticker for today's race, so we are going to try and do our own.  (Key word being "try"!)  We pick up the action mid-course of the men's elite race.  See below.

Guide to live race coverage on the internet/web
Chrono des Herbiers 2005 - Bert Roesems Bert Roesems won in 2004
(photo from 2003 GP des Nations)

The Chrono des Herbiers will become the Chrono des Nations in 2006 as Tour de France organizer A.S.O. becomes a partner in this event.  (The Grand Prix des Nations, longtime a reference in big time trials but attracting fewer and fewer big names in recent years as riders ended their seasons early, has been discontinued.)

Three-time World Time Trial Champion Michael Rogers (Quick Step) is competing today, as are Fabian Cancellara, Hour Record holder Ondrej Sosenka and future Discovery Channel rider Vladimir Gusev.  For a full start list, click the link at above right.

photo © 2005 Pete Geyer

Chrono des Herbiers 2005
France, Individual Time Trial
48km (elite men's distance)
October 16, 2005

Official site (French)

Start list (men's elite/espoirs)

History/past winners

Profile and map

Live web radio coverage (French, featuring Daniel Mangeas, voice of the Tour de France!)
(This broadcast is expected to run all afternoon, Europe time, until 17:00 or 18:00 CET (until 11am or 12pm U.S. EST)

Live Ticker

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Live coverage breaking news:  Looks like there will be live web radio (in French only) for tomorrow's Chrono des Herbiers time trial in France.

There are juniors, espoirs, women's and elite men's categories.  Among the men competing:  Three-time World Time Trial Champion Michael Rogers , Fabian Cancellara, Hour Record holder Ondrej Sosenka , future Discovery Channel rider Vladimir Gusev , and Ben Day.  With the loss of the Grand Prix des Nations this year, the Chrono des Herbiers is one of the few big time trial-only events left.  In 2006 the race will become the Chrono des Nations with ASO (organizer of the Tour de France and the defunct GP des Nations) partnering in the organization of the event.

Chrono des Herbiers Official Site

We'll post more information and links for the Chrono des Herbiers tomorrow.

Below is a guide to live internet/web coverage of Tour of Lombardy 2005.

Note:  The pro cycling season may be ending but we'll be putting up a lot of new content here soon.

Guide to live race coverage on the internet/web
Tour of Lombardy 2005


The Tour of Lombardy marks the end of the pro road race season in Europe.

Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Caffita) of Italy is defending champion.  Other big names today include: Gilberto Simoni, Paolo Bettini, Cadel Evans, Mirko Celestino, Kim Kirchen, Alejandro Valverde, Francisco Mancebo, Davide Rebellin, Danilo Di Luca.  It should be a good one.

Americans racing:  Saul Raisin, Chris Horner, Christian Vandevelde

photo © 2003 Pete Geyer

2005 Tour of Lombardy, Italy, 246km
October 15, ProTour
(Giro di Lombardia)
(Tour de Lombardie)
"Race of the falling leaves"

Live video coverage:


Live audio coverage:

Eurosport (English)
(24-hour audio feed streaming)
(15:45 CET (9:45am U.S. EST))
(times subject to change)
(requires Windows Media Player or equivalent)
(may not work with Firefox browser)

Check schedule

Live tickers:


Daily Peloton

Official site
(Google-translated from Italian)

Briefly:  In an editorial yesterday, L'Equipe editors Claude Droussent and Michel Dalloni confirmed that the L'Equipe journalists placed under investigation are Dominique Issartel and Damien Ressiot (see Thursday's entry below for more info).  The Le Point journalists are Jean-Michel Decugis, Christophe Labbe, and Olivia Recassens.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

L Equipe headquarters
L'Equipe headquarters
photo © 2005 www.cyclingfans.com

Two journalists from French sports daily L'Equipe were formally placed under investigation yesterday by a judge looking for a source of leaks related to the case of alleged dope trafficking by members of the Cofidis team and staff.  (Ed.: Some Cofidis personnel were dismissed from the team not long after the scandal came to light in 2004.)  Three journalists from French news weekly Le Point were also placed under investigation today.  (source:  FFC (French).  See Links at left.)

The names of the journalists were not communicated.  However, we know that a magistrate accompanied by police on the same case seized documents belonging to L'Equipe's Dominique Issartel and Damien Ressiot in early 2005.  (Ressiot is also L'Equipe's investigative reporter behind the newspaper's August 23 allegations of doping against Lance Armstrong.  Armstrong has denied the allegations and cycling's governing body, the UCI, has appointed a former anti-doping official in the Netherlands to investigate the matter, including who leaked confidential information.)

Being placed under investigation does not necessarily suggest wrongdoing on the part of the journalists.  More likely in this case, the judge wants to pressure them to reveal who was behind the leaks.

As yet, there has been no reaction from L'Equipe, though L'Equipe TV today has acknowledged that two of its journalists were placed under investigation.

David Millar, Cofidis, 2004 Dauphine Libere
Scotland's David Millar on Mont Ventoux, 2004 Dauphine Libere
Millar would soon be sacked by Cofidis after admitting to doping.
He was suspended from the sport for two years.
photo © 2004 Pete Geyer

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