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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Friday, April 20, 2018

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2018 Tour de France | 2018 Giro d'Italia

We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office. - Aesop

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Lance Armstrong settles $100 million lawsuit for $5 million

Here's the Associated Press report:

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Lance Armstrong reached a $5 million settlement with the federal government in a whistleblower lawsuit that could have sought $100 million in damages from the cyclist who was stripped of his record seven Tour de France victories after admitting he used performance-enhancing drugs throughout much of his career.

The deal announced Thursday came as the two sides prepared for a trial that was scheduled to start May 7 in Washington. Armstrong’s former U.S. Postal Service teammate Floyd Landis filed the original lawsuit in 2010 and is eligible for up to 25 percent of the settlement along with attorney fees paid by Armstrong.

Seeking millions it spent sponsoring Armstrong’s powerhouse teams, the government joined the lawsuit against Armstrong in 2013 after his televised confession to Oprah Winfrey to using steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs and methods. Armstrong had already retired, but the confession shattered the legacy of one of the most popular sports figures in the world.

Lance Armstrong

Armstrong at the 2010 Tour of Flanders. I hope this is the last time we post any news about him.

In a statement to The Associated Press, Armstrong said he’s happy to have “made peace with the Postal Service.”

“While I believe that their lawsuit against me was meritless and unfair, and while I am spending a lot of money to resolve it, I have since 2013 tried to take full responsibility for my mistakes and inappropriate conduct, and make amends wherever possible,” he said. “I rode my heart out for the Postal cycling team, and was always especially proud to wear the red, white and blue eagle on my chest when competing in the Tour de France. Those memories are very real and mean a lot to me.”

The settlement clears the 46-year-old Armstrong of the most damaging legal issues still facing the cyclist since his downfall. He had already taken huge hits financially, losing all his major sponsors and being forced to pay more than $20 million in damages and settlements in a series of lawsuits. The government’s lawsuit would have been the biggest by far.

“No one is above the law,” said Chad Readler, acting assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “This settlement demonstrates that those who cheat the government will be held accountable.”

Landis attorney Paul Scott said the settlement, while far less than the potential damages, still holds Armstrong accountable for cheating. “It’s not enough to go on Oprah and say sorry,” Scott said. “Our objective was to hold him responsible financially in a very real way and this deal accomplishes that objective.”

Armstrong is still believed to be worth millions based on a vast investment portfolio and homes in Austin, Texas, and Aspen, Colorado. He also owns a pair of bicycle shops in Austin and WeDu, an endurance events company. He also hosts a regular podcast in which he interviews other sports figures and celebrities and has provided running commentary on the Tour de France.

Armstrong had built a world-wide following during his career winning races and fighting cancer.

His personal story of recovering from testicular cancer that had spread to his brain, while forcefully denying persistent rumors of doping, had built his Lance Armstrong Foundation cancer charity into a $500 million global brand and turned him into a celebrity. The foundation, which removed him from its board and renamed itself Livestrong, has seen donations and revenue plummet since Armstrong’s confession.

Armstrong’s team was already under the Postal Service sponsorship when he won his first Tour de France in 1999. The media frenzy that followed pushed the agency to sign the team for another five years. Armstrong and his teams dominated cycling’s marquee event, winning every year from 1999-2005.

Armstrong’s cheating was finally uncovered in 2012 when the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, armed with sworn testimony from Landis and other former teammates, moved to strip Armstrong of his titles.

One of Armstrong’s fiercest critics was frustrated by the settlement. Betsy Andreu, whose husband Frankie was a former Armstrong teammate, was the first to testify under oath about his performance-enhancing drug use in a 2005 civil lawsuit.

“It’s utterly shocking that the government settled for so little,” Andreu said.

Andreu and her husband were close with Armstrong when the men were teammates before Andreu retired in 2000. Armstrong later strenuously denied Betsy’s claims of drug use and tried to publicly discredit her, which succeeded for years. She wanted the case to go to trial.

“I would have liked to have been questioned under oath. That’s my goal. And whether or not the jury would have convicted him would have been a different story, but it would have been nice to have my say under oath. He tried to destroy me.,” Andreu said.

You can read the entire story here.

BMC owner Andy Rihs dies

Here's the report from the Reuters news agency:

ZURICH (Reuters) - Andreas “Andy” Rihs, a Swiss billionaire whose success with the world’s largest hearing aid company Sonova financed his passion for professional bicycle racing and soccer, has died at the age of 75.

Rihs, who died on Wednesday and had been suffering from cancer, was in the early 2000s the face of Switzerland’s Phonak Cycling Team, named after his hearing aid brand.

He was also owner of Swiss bicycle maker BMC, which has a professional team, and Bern’s Young Boys soccer team.

With Phonak, Rihs experienced pro cycling’s highs and lows, when top U.S. rider Floyd Landis won the 2006 Tour de France before testing positive for a banned substance. Another Phonak rider, American Tyler Hamilton, was stripped of his 2004 Olympic gold medal as a drug cheat.

“As a passionate cyclist, I am bitterly disappointed that the sport of cycling apparently has become a synonym for doping,” Rihs said in 2006 when he disbanded the Phonak team.

Still, Rihs, a hobby rider who himself climbed France’s famed 1,912 meter Mont Ventoux, stuck to the sport, giving millions of francs to build an 8,000-square-metre velodrome in Switzerland that caters to Swiss Olympic athletes.

Australian Cadel Evans won the 2011 Tour de France riding for Rihs’ BMC team, a victory that still stands.

You can read the entire Reuters report here.

And BMC sent me this news about Rihs' passing:

19 April, 2018, Santa Rosa, California (USA): It is with great sadness that BMC Racing Team announces the death of owner Andy Rihs. Andy Rihs died after a patient and valiantly endured illness at the age of 75 on Wednesday, 18 April in the Susenberg clinic in Zurich, Switzerland in the presence of his family.

Eddy  Merckx & Sandy Rihs

Eddy Merckx with Andy Rihs at the 2012 Tour Down Under. Sirotti photo.

Andy was not only an owner and main sponsor of BMC Racing Team, but also a friend who enjoyed life and loved sharing that joy. With him, an exemplary visionary, an avid sports fan, a passionate cyclist, and a great supporter of sport has left us. His generosity, his sense of humor, and his infectious laugh have shaped the man that has been by our side since the beginning of BMC Racing Team. Our grief is indescribable, but we will carry on his values.

Not least thanks to the great commitment from Andy, BMC Racing Team has been able to develop so well in both a sporting and economical sense. Andy has served as an inspiration to us all.

BMC Racing Team extends its sincere condolences to Andy's family and friends at this time. We will keep Andy in everlasting memory and forever be grateful for his friendship and support.

Tour of the Alps stage four team reports

Winner Luis Leon Sanchez's Astana team posted this report:

What could be better than another beautiful victory in the race? Today, Luis Leon Sanchez brought to Astana Team the third victory at this Tour of the Alps, taking a nice solo win on the streets of Austrian city of Lienz.

- Today everything went super. We had a very strong team and it was a key of our success. The guys did a fantastic job, controlling the race and following all the attacks. Firstly, it was Davide Villella in the break, and later we had Miguel Angel Lopez, Pello Bilbao and Nikita Stalnov, who were very attentive to all moves of the rivals. Yesterday we did a good race as well, but something went wrong in the end despite a huge help of my teammates, especially, Miguel Angel. Today, in the final I knew I have to attack to win the stage. I did it for a few times, on the downhill and later inside the last two kilometers. The second time it worked well, and I could get a small gap, enough to win. I am happy with this victory since it gives me motivation and confirms I am in the right place for the Giro. Also, the whole team is strong and ready for the Giro d’Italia, - said super happy Luis Leon Sanchez.

Luis Leon Sanchez

Luis Leon Sanchez takes a solo win.

It was another warm day at the Tour of the Alps with a fast start in Klausen. For some time nobody could break away, but after the first climb, finally, a group of 9 riders went away with Astana’s Davide Villella inside this break.

Villella did a good and brave race and was able to stay in front until almost the bottom of the final climb of the day Bannberg. There were several attacks from the group of GC favorites, Astana Team had Pello Bilbao and Nikita Stalnov among the attackers.

Anyway, to the top of the last climb all GC favorites came together. A few riders, including Luis Leon Sanchez, tried to escape on the descent, but the winning move came from Sanchez, who attacked with 2 km to go to win this stage.

George Bennett finished second, while the Dutch rider Koen Bouwman did third. Astana’s leader Miguel Angel Lopez finished 7th and Pello Bilbao was 9th.

The French rider Thibaut Pinot still leads the general classification with only one stage to go. Miguel Angel Lopez holds his 3rd place, 15 seconds behind the leader. Luis Leon Sanchez is 6th in the overall (+1.06), while Jan Hirt is 10th (+1.55).

Stage 5 of the race will be held tomorrow: 164,2 km from Rattenberg to Innsbruck. A part of the stage will be held on the circuit of the 2018 Road World Championships.

LottoNL-Jumbo posted this Tour of the Alps news:

George Bennett and Koen Bouwman have both ended the fourth stage of the Tour of the Alps with a podium finish. Bennett was second, Bouwman third. Team LottoNL-Jumbo's duo attacked several times in the last twenty kilometres and secured a top ranking.

During the chaotic stage under warm conditions, there were many attacks from the group with favourites. Both Bennett and Bouwman tried to break away several times. For a short while, Bouwman seemed to be gone for good, but he was picked up just before the summit of the last climb.

That turned out to be part of the plan. “I did not want to waste all my energy on that climb, and I rode away from that group at my own pace. On the steep stretch I waited, because I knew that Aru was coming. Back in the group we rode to the finish, I had a good chance of winning. It was a pity that it didn’t end in a sprint for the win. Eventually I won the sprint for third place. Becoming second and third gives us confidence for the Giro."

George Bennett was also seen in the front several times. In the last kilometre he tried to compete with Sanchez, who ultimately won the stage. Bennett didn’t manage to ride for the win, but he wasn’t caught by the thinned peloton either. Sepp Kuss, for example, abandoned the race today.

“It was a really nice stage”, Bennett said. “You always want to win, but when you don’t, you have to remain positive. Two days ago I was pretty worried about how I was doing. But now I think I’m starting to feel a little bit better. It was really cool that Koen did so well. It’s a big result for him too. He’s working hard and it’s paying off.”

“If I feel good tomorrow, I will attack again. If I don’t, I’ll follow. We’re riding this race with a 'no stress' approach”, the New Zealander concluded.

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