The Week That Was

News & Results

01/31/2012| 0 comments
by Neil Browne
Marianne Vos.
Marianne Vos.

The Week That Was

It was another jam-packed week with the cyclo-cross world championships, delays in the Contador case and of course Twitter.

It was another jam-packed week with the cyclo-cross world championships, delays in the Contador case and of course Twitter.

Sunday was a big day of Belgian racing. The cyclo-cross world championships were held in Koksijde, Belgium. And in both the men's and women's elite division there was utter domination.

Marianne Vos won for the fifth time a cyclo-cross world championship, further demonstrating how powerful a rider she is. However, the kick to the gut to Vos came after the race when UCI spokesman Enrico Carpani asked if she was killing the sport. All I can say is wow - the balls on this guy!

Just because someone is dominant in their sport, that means it's in danger of being ruined? Using that logic the whole Belgian men's team should be banned from cyclo-cross. In an unprecedented display of power Niels Albert took off from the gun and never looked back. His only chasers were the remaining six of his teammates. The whole championships were nothing but a Belgian national team parade in the sand dunes of Koksijde. And from what I've read they were not blamed for ruining the sport due to their domination.

Is the disconnect because Vos has won the world championships five times or that she so outclassed her competition that Carpani thought she would drive away other women from the sport because there's no hope of competing? While I have no insight into the UCI's mouth piece's thinking it definitely rates high on the bonehead scale of what not to say. From UCI President Pat McQuaid's comment regarding how women's cycling doesn't deserve a minimum salary to Carpani's statement, it continues to show how out of step the UCI is in its ability to act and relate to professional women with a professional attitude. How can anyone take them seriously when comments like that are made about their own membership?

Another action that in my opinion calls into question the UCI and Pat McQuaid's leadership is the announcement they are suing Irish journalist Paul Kimmage. Kimmage is a former professional cyclist and author of Rough Ride which chronicles his experiences in the peloton - including doping. Now he is a journalist and has often been a thorn in the side of both the UCI and Lance Armstrong.

In what can only be described as unreasonable, the UCI, McQuaid and former UCI president Hein Verbruggen have filed damages against Kimmage for, get this, being an "annoyance." McQuaid, the UCI, and Verbruggen are each asking for 8,000 Swiss francs. In addition they want Kimmage to place a full page advertisement stating the outcome of the court case.

I, for one, call baloney on this whole filing a case thing. Let's look at the Landis lawsuit that they have claimed to have leveled against him. Oh wait, we can't, because they never did! Speaking to Landis he told me he's never received anything from the UCI and the only times he's heard anything are through the newspaper story or me telling him. He's had zero communication with them.

But, for the sake of the argument, let's say the UCI actually does what they claim they will do. There is no way that Kimmage can lose as he has either expressed facts or expressed an opinion about the quality of work the UCI does. If he claimed that the UCI is a cover for aliens and McQuaid is the Supreme Leader of the Martians, and he beats puppies, then yeah, you can get sued for that.

But here's something that can make you wonder why McQuaid, Verbruggen and the UCI have waited until now to sue. I believe it's because Kimmage doesn't work at a newspaper anymore. At a newspaper there is a legal department ready to back up their staff. However, as a private citizen, he has to hire his own legal defense, and that's an expensive proposition.

Like I said, I think this is all public relations maneuvering, nothing will come of it and the UCI will continue to look like fumbling bureaucrats. Public response was scathing and even David Millar, who has been skewered by the press, commented on Twitter, "BE WARNED: If I find you annoying, I'm going to sue the shit out of you. Especially if you're a journalist. That's how I roll. UCI you rock."

Speaking of Twitter, what's going on with Lance Armstrong? The other week he blindsides a bike tech journalist with an odd attack on Twitter, makes a cryptic tweet about another journalist and then personally attacks Kimmage on the micro-blogging site. Then just the other day he gets into it again with a well-known bike journalist. It's like he thinks no one is watching him make these terrible public relation blunders.

I'm not sure where Armstrong's handlers are, but they need to tell him to step away from the Twitter and enjoy a Michelob Ultra out on the veranda. Oh, also he should stop using the "Juan Pelota" twitter handle - it just looks silly. Look who also had an alter ego - Garth Brooks! Eventually even he stopped using that as it turned out to be a complete failure. Don't be like Garth.

And what week wouldn't be complete without another delay from the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) regarding the Alberto Contador decision. This continual delay has become the punchline in every joke about what is wrong with the sport. This time CAS swears that they will have a ruling by next week! I've heard that song and dance before, so I'm beyond believing when they may or may not reveal their ruling, but I do continue to feel confident that Contador will escape any kind of ban. My reason? While it will look bad for about 36 hours that Contador escaped any type of punishment, the long term slap to the face if he really is banned and his 2010 Tour de France title taken away, is another Tour de France has to be stripped from the record books. That will scare away potential sponsors and further ruin the sport's reputation.

While this sounds very dire, there is a bright spot in this. Change continues to happen to clean up the sport. Journalists and bloggers continue to hold the UCI's feet to the fire and keep them honest. The fans are still out in force, regardless of any gaffs the ruling organization may make. Look at this past weekend's cyclo-cross world championships. There were 60,000 people lining the course in Koksijde, Belgium. So I'm taking a glass half full approach and staying positive about the upcoming season - otherwise what's the point?

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