Today was the first big test of the 2008 Tour de France, an 18-mile (29.5 km) time trial in Cholet, and there were a few surprises both in the stage winner and the holder of the yellow jersey. Well, the same guy won both with an inspired ride which left heavy favorite Fabian Cancellara in fifth place. It all goes to show the up and down nature of cycling. Last year 'Spartacus' as he is known to his teammates, was winning against the clock and in the front of the whole peloton.
But, this is not about those who didn't deliver, this is about those who did. And, Gerlosteiner's Stefan Schumacher did just that making the post-race trip to the podium for both the stage win and to get the maillot jaune. My guess is his failed bid to win stage one is all but forgotten and it was a bittersweet victory for his team who is losing their title sponser at year's end. Maybe that is a valid reason for sipping champagne tonight at dinner instead of the sponsor's bottled water.
Schumacher wears his teams lowest number which means that he is the designated team leader, but few believe that even though he has won hilly classics like the Amstel Gold Race, he will not be up with leaders in the big mountains. Hey, but that doesn't mean he can't enjoy the yellow jersey while he has it. In fact, not having to worry about defending it in the mountains probably takes a lot of pressure off both Stefan and his team.
The next big test is the stage to Super Besse on Thursday. There are two moderately big climbs one right after the other for the first authentic mountain-top finish of this year's Tour. Schumacher might just be able to climb well enough to hold onto the jersey, though if he does succeed, the Pyrenees loom two days later. What's a rider to do?
In the chase for the overall title, Cadel Evans and Denis Menchov were right there, but all their challengers, Cunego, Valverde, Sastre, were closely grouped about a minute back. That's bad news for those three, but it's good news for us as there will clearly be some fireworks when we reach the mountains.
How about those Garmin-Chipotle boys? Millar and Vandevelde rode exceptionally well to put both of them top ten on the stage and top ten overall. In fact, Millar was a hair's breadth of taking the stage, a second top-three finish for the team in two days.
The other American squad, Team Columbia, put three of its boys in top ten as well with Kim Kirchen, George Hincapie and Thomas Loqvist. The Swede also claimed the white jersey as best young rider while Kirchen wears the green sprinter's jersey. Not a bad day for America if you are keeping score.
I am still rooting for Mark Cavendish to win a stage. Tomorrow is an excellent opportunity before then next sorting out on Thursday. Now that France has both a stage win and held the yellow jersey, maybe they will settle down and quick flying up the road at every opportunity. Not!
The 2008 Tour continues to provide an E-ticket ride through France and today's stage was just another day of thrills and spills on the way to Paris. The thrills were provided by Garmin-Chipotle rider Will Frischkorn and his three breakaway companions who beat the odds and held off the peloton to win. They were undoubtedly aided by a horrific crash with about 20km remaining which split the peloton into three groups and put a huge dent into the overall hopes of several riders.
On the positive side of today's stage, what can you say about the ride of Will Frischkorn? His is his first ever ride in the Tour and many questioned the selection of the 27-year old for the team. If you remember this spring's Milan-San Remo, Will is no stranger to long breakaways in the biggest races in cycling, but to attack initiate an attack and go off the front on day three in your first ever Tour takes some pretty big stones. And the Tour officials agreed, awarding the Boulderite the 'most combatitve' rider award for the stage.
It has been a long road for Will to the Tour. I remember him in 2001 as a 19-year old pro on the short-lived Mercury-Viatel team and then his transfer onto the TIAA-Cref development squad a few years later. Will was still in his early 20's, but he had been a pro for so long, that he was considered one of the team's veterans. In 2005 he almost made the big jump to Europe when he was offered a contract on Team CSC. But, as frequently happens in the pro ranks, his place on the team was given to another rider and Will remained stateside.
Honing his skills, he took a more senior position on the TIAA-Cref team which made a few forays to France in 2005, 2006 and 2007 to contest some races such as Criterium International. The learning curve was incredibly steep, and there were many days when just finishing and not giving up was the most optimal outcome.
On the negative side of today's stage, there were more crashes, the most serious and important occurred just when the peloton was in full flight trying to bring back Will's breakaway. Ricardo Ricco and Denis Menchov both missed the split and lost a bit over a minute to the likes of Valverde and Evans. As we all know, crashes are a part of bike racing, but it still makes it hard to swallow when mishaps shape the outcome. Hopefully, Menchov and Ricco can rebound and maybe this will make the mountain stages a bit more exciting as the two try to take backtime.
But, the day belongs to Will Frischkorn and even though one of his breakaway companions won the stage and another one got the yellow jersey, Will's ride might just be the breakthrough his career needs to ratchet it up into high gear. I hope I don't sound too much like a homer but, for me he was the real winner today.
What do you think about Will's ride?
ps - today France not only got the stage win, but also the yellow jersey. The Frenchies have been all over the front for the past three days trying to restore some French pride to their home race. Unfortunately, it will have to be stages and short stints in yellow as they have absolutely no hope for the overall win.
There are two Tours de France today. While the pros are racing in Brittany, the joes are down in the Pyrenees. Yes, Sunday is the Etape du Tour a day where any rider has the opportunity to ride a stage of the Tour. This year's Etape stage is the day from Pau to Huatacam which included the infamous Col du Tourmalet.
8500 of your closest friends and you will be departing from the town where Bernaise sauce was invented at 7am and heading west for the Pyrenees. The top finisher, usually a top tier French amateur rider, is expected to complete the 106-mile stage in about 5hours and 30 minutes. The pros have an expected completion time of about 4 and 30 minutes.
However, everyone seems to realize the difference between the two events. The French amateur who was first across the line in 2005 remarked that he was very pleased to have won, but he was also expecting that the pros would better his time by at least an hour. They did.
But, like many sporting events. It is not the winning, but the taking part which defines the Etape du Tour. Riders of all shapes, sizes and age participate and except for the top places, it is almost impossible to predict how a cyclist will fare based just by looking at them. That observation applies most appropriately to the seeming hundred of older Frenchmen who come to the start line dressed in jerseys that come almost to their knees, bike shorts which are supposed to be form fitting lycra, but instead, look like baggy athletic shorts and bikes that were manufactured before there was even a Tour de France.
These guys could easily be called "urchins of the road" except for the fact that they pass just about everybody on the climbs and fly by you so fast on the downhills you think you just saw a ghost.
Though most riders seem to be struggling as they ride, it is a mountain stage of the Tour!, the pain, torture and agony(PTA) is soon forgotten and plans for riding next year's event are quickly hatched. Alejandro Valverde may be the king for a day up in Brittany, but he has 8500 kings and queens down in the Pyrenees who feel just as great about their Tour de France as well.
The headline in today's l'Equipe translates to "The Thunder of the Tour" which is a great way to describe all that accompanies the entourage that is the Tour de France. And we are finally underway in Brittany with a very hilly day from Brest to Plumelec. To steal a phrase from Phil Liggett, the course profile looks like a discarded piece of string. When the riders aren't going up, they are going down and they will do that for about 120 miles.
While the focus today is on the sprinters, the race for the yellow jersey is still the main focus. In my Tour preview I opined that Cadel Evans, Denis Menchov, Alejandro Valverde and Damiano Cunego are the favorites. Some like Andy Schleck, but this is his first Tour and at the ripe young age of 23 it might just be a learning year for the Luxembourger on Team CSC-Saxo Bank. There is the possibility that he will contend for the white, best young rider, jersey against the likes of Rabobanks' Robert Gesink who is a year younger than Andy at 22.
Another possibility is that neither Schleck or Gesink will finish the race. Some consider 22 and 23 years old to be too young both physically and mentally to race the Tour. Lance Armstrong first rode the Tour as a 22/23 year-old and was pulled, as planned, after the two mountain stages in the Alps about ten days into the race. The primary reason for pulling a rider isn't about the physical demands. It has more to do with the mental aspect and the strain it puts on a rider's confidence.
A potential Tour winner has to believe that he can someday win the race and to be overwhelmed at a young age could do damage to his psyche. So, young riders, especially those who are tipped to do well in the future are routinely pulled either after the first set of mountains or about ten days in.
The finish today in Plumelec was incredible and hopefully it bodes well for an exciting race. Stefan Schumacher's attack looked to be the winning move, but he picked up a couple of concrete suitcases and Kim Kirchen appeared to have taken everybody by surprise. But, in the end, nobody could match Alejandro Valverde. What is very cool is seeing potential overall contenders Cadel Evans, Kim Kirchen, Frank Schleck and Ricardo Ricco also in the Top 10 for the stage. They all outfoxed the sprinters and stole the show on day one. A great start for the Tour.
There are many exciting aspects of the Tour de France. The team presentations is not one of them. In fact, I chose to watch the whole sordid affair on Eurosport. This of course is interesting in itself. In America, we can barely get bike racing on TV. If it isn't one of the biggest races on the cycling calendar, fuggedaboutit. We get some great races and a big thanks to Versus for standing behind cycling when they could be airing the Bassmasters Classic instead.
It just demonstrates how big bike racing is in Europe that they would put, arguably, the equivalent of cycling's answer to submarine racing on primetime live TV. There is no witty banter like Phil, Paul and Bob provide when presenting the teams at the Amgen Tour of California which is a great night and an incredible celebration of professional cycling that lasts well into the evening and is over way to soon.
No, the presentation of the teams today in Brest was pretty much a snoozer, but it is an integral part of the whole prelude to the start of the Tour. Speaking of the festivities, you have to feel for the riders. These guys are about to embark on the biggest race of the year with careers and team sponsorship on the line and while fighting a humongous case of pre-race jitters, they have to spend the last three days before the start getting poked and prodded, attending the team presentation and making themselves available to journalists...... basically just about everything except riding their bikes.
To be sure, they will get 2500+ action-packed miles of racing in the next few weeks, but when your nerves are at the breaking point, just heading out for a few miles is a great way to calm yourself down. I am guessing that parading around in front a some fans and a few journos at the team presentation doesn't have the same effect.
Let's light this candle and get everybody on their bikes racing down the road in France. Anybody else out there also ready for the dog and pony show to end and for the bike racing to begin?
ps- what does everybody think of the new Garmin-Chipotle racing strip(that's UK-speak for 'racing kit')? Looks a little toned down from the 'total argyle" look. I am not a fan as of yet, but if the boys spend some time off the front it might just grow on me.
The Court for Arbitration in Sport (CAS) has rejected the appeal of Floyd Landis effectively ending the 2006 Tour de France Champion's legal options regarding his two-year suspension for returning a positive test for testosterone at the 20006 Tour de France. There was a glimmer of hope for the Landis camp after the results of the Unites States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) hearing late last year when the panel of arbitrators found that the French testing lab, LNDD, had run the initial T/E screening test improperly.
While the USADA panel found that the subsequent exogenous testosterone test had been run properly, Landis and his defense team argued that since the screening test determines if the exogenous test should be run, it was a case of "fruit of the poisoned tree" and the results of that exogenous test should be ruled invalid.
Unfortunately, the CAS arbitration panel not only didn't accept that defense, the very strong wording of their decision indicates that they were very upset at the way Landis and his defense team mounted their case. In an unprecedented move not only did they find against Floyd, but they also stipulated that Landis pay $100,000 of the USADA's legal costs.
Floyd and his defense team issued a press release indicating that Landis is weighing his options, but it appears that he has none. His two-year suspension ends in January of 2009, but Floyd has stated that if he is found guilty by CAS he would quit cycling. Landis has ridden a few 100-mile MTB endurance races this year, but he was clearly distracted by the CAS hearing and not at his top form. A few weeks ago, Landis was announcing a bike race in Dan Point, California.
How history will view Floyd Landis is yet to be seen. I have to tell you that I was present with Floyd at a number of the events described in his book "Positively False" and everything he describes in the book is as I remember it. No embellishments, not white lies, just the truth, straight up. Even if you believe that he took testosterone, there is no scientific link between that drug and his unbelievable comeback to win the 2006 Tour. Will this be the unfortunate case of getting the death penalty for jaywalking?
A lot of people thought Michael Ball and his Rock Racing team would be a flash in the pan, but as the 2008 cycling season has progressed, the team sponsored by Rock and Republic has proven that they are players in the US domestic cycling scene. And, they are not just leaving their mark on the road; Michael Ball has put his money where his mouth is, donating hundreds of thousands of dollars to various charities and becoming a key sponsor at both the Tour of California and Tour de Georgia and other races throughout the USA.
Ball's latest philanthropic effort is to establish a "Catastrophic Injury Fund" a "charitable entity to raise money for professional and elite amateur cyclists who suffer a catastrophic injury as a result of their participation in the competitive sport of cycling" as described in a team press release. Money from the fund will also be available to pro and elite riders in European racing events such as the Tour de France.
Devastating crashes and cycling go hand in hand and currently there is no safety net in place, said Rock Racing Team Owner Michael Ball in the press release. If these riders get seriously injured, thats it. There is no insurance, no pension and no workmans comp. There is nothing. This is the first time there will be a financial support mechanism in place.
Rock Racing will make a "significant donation" to get the fund rolling then the team will donate 10% of all Rock Racing on-line sales as well as 100% of the proceeds from special fund-branded products which they will introduce later this year. The goal is to raise $20 million over the next two years. Also, Ball challenged other industry types who generate revenue from bike racing to also help in funding the charity.
You can say whatever you want about Michael Ball, he certainly talks the talk, but more importantly, he walks the walk and big time. The UCI has shown, time and time again, that the welfare of the athletes they govern seem to be a secondary concern. Hats off to Ball for taking the bull by the horns and creating something, especially with all the serious crashes we have had this year, which has been needed for a long, long, time.
I am going to go out on a limb and predict that the next development from Ball will be the attempt to establish a rider's union, something else that has been needed for a long time. When the riders finally create a unified voice, they won't be treated like second-class citizens by the UCI. Here's hoping it happens.
It is almost July and that can mean only one thing. It's Tour time. In just over a week, some of the best riders in the world (condolences to Team Astana and Tom Boonen) will be toeing the line in Brest for the biggest show in cycling. It is both a blessing and a curse that Contador, Leipheimer and Boonen will not be there. With the both the favorites for the yellow and green jerseys not participating the race is wide open and it looks like this could be one of the most up and down editions of the Grand Boucle in years.
Personally, I would have like to seen Alberto, Levi and Tom at the start, they deserve to be there. Some may decide to show their support by boycotting the race and I respect that, but I will be there France trying to bring you all the behind-the-scenes insights that I provided last year. Look for my daily blogs and join in the fun by posting your thoughts as well!
One thing that I think is kind of funny in all of this is the position Cadel Evans finds himself. I think he is in a no-win situation. Remember he bookended teammates Contador and Leipheimer on the podium in the closest 1-2-3 finish ever at the Tour. If Evans does win many will say it is because Contador and also Leipheimer were not there. If Evans fails to win, he will be seen as inconsistent and someone who might just not be able to win the big one. Certainly, there will be champagne in Paris if he is victorious, but it will most likely be served warm.
Having said all that, I expect this to be a very exciting Tour. Much like the Giro this year which also suffered from the lack of a patron of the peloton, the Tour will be wide open, not only in terms of the competition, but also because there is no one to ride herd on the pack. Looks for lots of daily attacks and early moves by the favorites in the mountains. The yellow jersey could easily change hands between five or six of the major contenders.
So, clean out your TiVo, say goodbye to your loved ones, hang your bike on the rack in the garage, tell your boss that you will be late for work for the next three weeks and get ready for the total body experience which is the Tour de France. There is only one you know(TIOOYK).
The City of San Francisco is considering a new law which would allow cyclists to treat stop signs as yield signs and stop lights as stop signs if there is no other traffic in an intersection. This proposed law is based on an Idaho statute which has been on the books in the land of potatoes since the early 1980's.
Personally, I think it is an interesting idea. While it makes sense and will obviously benefit cyclists, there is a very real possibility that passing such a law would only widen the gulf between cyclists and motorists. Already motorists feel that cyclists do not respect traffic laws and are basically asking for special privileges. While the law would make it legal I think motorists would be quick to forget that point and just see us as scofflaws.
The real question should be, for cyclists to have their rights respected on the roadway is it more important that we cyclists be treated more like cars or more like a special vehicle which has its own special laws?
My feeling is that for cyclists to get the respect we need to survive, we should have the same laws as cars and basically be treated the same as four-wheeled vehicles. Once we start treating cyclists as special or different vehicles we stand a very real chance of losing access and rights we had as normal vehicles.
Others may argue that we need to have special laws for cyclists because they are not the same as cars. Some say we have a better field of view, are more concentrated on our driving and are able to go places where cars just can't.
How do you all feel about this issue? Should cyclists be treated the same or different as cars?
Unless you live in a cave, you know that 2008 is an Olympic year which means that the US is putting together an Olympic team in a whole hosts of sports. Being an Olympic junkie I sit through lots of TV even before the games begin watching hopefuls try out for the team in their respective sports. This past weekend I watched four hours of gymnastics trials only to learn that at the end of all the hoopla, only two of the six members of the team would be selected based on their scores. The other four athletes would be determined by the two words which strike fear in the heart of all competitors, "coaches selection."
What's up with that? What ever happened to 'you win the trials, you go to the Olympics?'. Heck, in cycling, they aren't even having an Olympic trials. All the selections for the road events are done by coaches selection. Don't get me wrong, there are some pretty good coaches out there and a few are even associated with the Olympics, but I have seen enough backroom politics to have zero faith in the ability for a bunch of people to be able to put their emotions, feelings and ambitions aside to make a fair decision.
A lot of Olympic hopefuls have sacrificed everything to follow their dream. They have little or no money, and have put their careers and education on hold to try and be an Olympian. To leave that decision up to a bunch of coaches with their own agendas is just plain unfair. All Olympic sports should follow the model of USA Track and Field. The formula is simple, finish top-three in the trials and you go. There isn't much wiggle room there. Win and go. Lose and go home.
One of the highlights of the 2006 winter games was when the winner of the men's first ever snow cross skiing event was asked why he switched from half pipe to snow cross, he simply stated, 'no judges'. I am not going to launch into a diatirbe about eliminating "judged" sports from the Olympics, but we can take a huge step in removing one aspect of "judging" by making the Olympic selection totallyobjective. Bring back the trials and make them count. It is the only fair way for all Olympic hopefuls.
Let's face it. Airline travel these days sucks. Big time. The airlines are hanging on by their teeth and things are tenuous at best. But, every once and a while there is a bright spot. So there I was hanging out in the Pittsburgh airport while a friend's plane was three hours late which meant instead of getting to the race at 10pm, we were looking at 1am, at best.
I noticed a hockey player roaming around baggage claim and he ambled over to take a load off his feet. It turned out that Dominic "Dom" Jean was here for a tryout with the Indiana Icecheckers, a professional A(single A - NHL is AAA) hockey team. The 20-year old from north of Thunder Bay, Ontario would be skating his heart out for two days and if he impressed the scouts, he would be asked back to play with the team come September.
Just like aspiring bike racers, Dom had been a fan first, having not missed a Stanley Cup final on TV since 1993 (he was five). Along the way he separated his shoulder, compressed three discs, has numerous facial scars and these days is hobbled by a busted right knee. But, he is a hockey player and they play through pain, sometimes lots of it. If he makes the team, he will get paid somewhere between $200 to $500 a week with the league stars making upwards of $1000 per week.
Of course, the big payoff is a shot at moving to AA (double A) and then to the big show, but like all sports, it is one step at a time. And, just like budding bike racers, Dom is receiving a lot of help from his parents and loved ones. Dom's parents are paying for his tryout, it was $1000 in airfare alone. If he makes the team, he doesn't have to pay them back.
It's tough to be a pro in any sport. There are a lot of parallels regarding the sacrifices, the drive and the support necessary to get paid to do something you love. I am hoping that Dom played through the pain and got his slot on the Icecheckers. Whether it is a stick, ball or two wheels, everybody should get a shot at chasing their dream.
Bob Stapleton, head honcho of Team High Road, announced today that he has signed Columbia Sportswear as a primary sponsor of his wildly successful professional men's and women's cycling teams. The three year deal will put substantial cash as well as outerwear, sportswear, shoes and luggage on both his men's and women's teams with the name changing from High Road to Team Columbia. With many of it's 4000 employees located in both France and Switzerland, Stapleton commented that Columbia saw this as a "cost effective marketing tool to expand their brand in Europe."
The seeds of the deal began back in 2005 when Stapleton approached the Portland-based sportswear company to help sponsor his woman's team. "I wasn't going to start looking for a sponsor until after the Tour," noted the founder of VoiceStream Wireless also a pacific northwest-based company.
The sponsorship begins immediately with the unveiling of the new kit at the Tour de France on July 3rd in Brest. Obviously, the Columbia Sportswear logo will be the most prominent feature with the primary colors being blue, black, yellow and white. "You will still see High Road on there. It is the brand of my company and I have grown fond of seeing it on the jersey," added Stapleton.
The team's racing schedule will not change to reflect the North American sponsor. "There will be no change in direction of the team. They want us to be active on both continents," said the man whose men's and women's teams have won over 70 races so far this season.
Bob also answered questions about the state of the sport and how it affects attracting new sponsors. Probably the hottest topic is the brewing conflict and probably split between the UCI and ASO. "It is very much an open issue. I think you could see two rival circuits for some time; probably not for long. It is a big headache for the teams and it may put athletes at risk. It creates some uncertainty as to what sponsors are buying. I am not excited about the power struggle, but I think we http://community.active.com/blogs/BruceHildenbrand/2008/06/16/columbia-sportswear-follows-the-high-road/High Road can navigate it effectively," noted Stapleton.
As to his role in resolving the conflict, "I am a centrist. It is the biggest benefit I have as an outsider. Some of the issues are personal. Some people just don't get along. I try to be the peacemaker."
I spent this past weekend in flood-ravaged Wisconsin where a week of torrential rains had left much of the southern part of the state underwater. It was time for the annual Horribly Hill Hundred(HHH) and luckily for Midwest cycling fanatics, the roads for the event had somehow escaped Nature's wrath. The HHH is a super-popular organized bike ride which takes in a lot of steep hills just west of Madison. When race registration opens on active.com in February, the event fills its field of 1700 riders in about two hours.
OK, so I went to graduate school at University of Wisconsin-Madison and earned masters degrees in Food Science and Computer Science and served as president of the local racing club, The Two-Tyred Wheelmen, for several years, but imagine my surprise when I opened my ride packet and found my event number was 4 (four). How did I rate such a low start number? Thanks go to the folks at Saris Cycling. You know them as the people who bring you such great products as CycleOps trainers, Power Tap hubs and a whole host of bicycle racks for cars.
As part of the working cycling media, the Saris Cycling Group invited a number of journalists for a weekend of new product launches, bike riding and brat eating(this is Wisconsin after all). For 2009, Saris will have a really cool new line of trainers featuring both fluid and magnetic resistance and even a high end unit which measures power. Also new for 2009 the Power Tap line will be completely wireless with the top end hub featuring ceramic bearings. Power Tap hubs will be compatible with the Garmin 705 GPS unit as both use the ANT wireless transmission protocol now making its way into the public domain.
Checking out the latest products is cool, riding bikes is pretty fun as well which brings us back to the Horribly Hilly Hundred. I usually don't wear an event number when I do organized rides, but when you have number 4 out of a field of 1700, you gotta milk the opportunity so out came the safety pins. Several people wondered if I was a celebrity, which in my mind there is no doubt; others wondered if I had done something special on my bike something which seems to occur to me almost on a daily basis.
All kidding aside, it was great to be back in the Madison area enjoying the roads which originally kindled my interest in cycling and sharing that experience with both old and new friends not to mention those post-race brats. With hills as steep as 19% and many in the 14-17% range, the HHH is aptly named, but hey, I somehow survived. I had to. I had number 4 on my back and single digits carry added responsibilities.
Belgian uber-cyclist Tom Boonen recently tested positive for cocaine. The result came from an out-of-competition test and since cocaine is only considered to be performance enhancing during competition the Belgian Cycling Federation(BCF) won't be pursuing any sanctions against the 2008 Paris-Roubaix winner. More than likely this was a case of recreational drug use, but possession and use of cocaine is illegal in Belgium.
While the BCF will not be imposing any ban on Boonen, there is already some fallout in the cycling community. The Tour of Switzerland, which starts on June 14th, has indicated that it might not invite Boonen, who is targeting the event as preparation for the Tour de France. Speaking of the Tour, race officials decided that the winner of the green, sprinters, jersey last year will not be invited to their race, either. Citing a need to protect the integrity of the Tour, race organizers have decided to exclude the Belgian from their event.
In a sport that has been rocked by a seemingly endless string of doping scandals the finding of recreation drug use among the pro cyclists isn't all the shocking. In 2002, two-time Giro winner Gilberto Simoni also tested positive for cocaine and was tossed out of the Giro. He came back to win the event the following year. Jan Ullrich, the 1997 Tour de France winner, tested positive for the designer drug ecstasy while sidelined with a knee injury in 2002. He was suspended for six months by the German Cycling Federation.
Probably the most famous recreational drug use case took place in the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics when Canadian snowboarder Ross Regabliati was stripped of his gold medal after testing positive for marijuana. His gold medal was reinstated.
Should testing positive for recreational drugs be taken as seriously as performance enhancing drugs(PED)? Is this just a case of 'boys will be boys' or is breaking the law just as serious as taking PEDs. What are your thoughts?
I was out in West Virginia this past weekend announcing the 24 Hours of Big Bear(yes, there are at least two Big Bears, one on each coast). 24 Hour mountain bike races are a lot of fun, especially if you do it as a team of four or five. If you don't want to have any fun, do it as a solo rider and ride all 24 hours all by yourself. Obviously, I am joking because if you are a rider like David "Tinker" Juarez, you enjoy spending 24 hours on your bike and you have proven you enjoy it by winning numerous 24 hour solo races and a handful of National Championships.
It's worth noting that Tinker was the first ever American Olympian in the mountain biking discipline. He represented the USA at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, coincidentally, on the Conyers, Georgia course where Granny Gear Productions, the fine people hosting the event this past weekend in Big Bear, hosted their last 24 hour event three weeks ago. If you haven't already figured it out, Tinker is pretty darn fast on a mountain bike whether it be a 2.5 hour UCI World Cup or one of them 24 hour jobs.
But, this is about the return of Tinker which probably means that he hasn't been riding 24 hour races for a while. A couple of years ago, he started focusing on road biking and set his sights on some endurance events in that neck of the woods, so to speak. He won the Furnace Creek 508 which, not surprisingly, is a non-stop 508-mile race in the deserts of southern California which qualified him to ride the Race Across America (RAAM). Riding across the country, non-stop, definitely qualifies as an endurance event and Tinker acquitted himself well, finishing top-5, a remarkable accomplishment for a rookie.
Again, this is about the return of Tinker so when he lined up at the start for the Suzuki 24 Hours of Big Bear last Saturday there was a huge buzz of excitement in the air. The man from Downey, California was using this race as a tune-up for the upcoming National 24-Hour Championships so no one, including Tinker himself, knew what to expect. But, when the gun went off it was like winding a Swiss watch as Juarez situated himself right at the front after the first lap and didn't look back.
Tinker had some very good competition in Ernesto Merenchin and Steve Schwarz, both whom have won national-caliber 24 hour races and as the hours wore on, Merenchin was never more than about 2-4 minutes behind Juarez. The night laps, hey this is a 24 hour race!, came and went, and Ernesto was still there, but sometime in the 21st hour, the elastic finally snapped and Tinker started to pull away to record yet another victory.
At the finish, the 1996 Olympian called it one of his hardest wins made so not only by the high quality field, but also as result of the technical course made a bit slippery by pouring rains several days before the event. In his usual gracious style, Tinker praised his competitors and thanked the organizers for putting on such a top quality event. The guy is a huge plus for endurance sports. Glad to have you back on a knobby-tired ride!