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Cycling News and Opinions
Unfair and Unbalanced
February, 2010

Back to news and opinion index page for links to archived stories

February 18: Dr. Arnie Baker has categorically denied involvement in hacking the French anti-doping lab's computers (see Feb 15 and 16 postings below). Furthermore, he says he has offered to talk to the French but they haven't responded.

In an email to Velonews he wrote, "I want to make it clear once again. I never hacked into, and never helped or hired or asked anyone to hack into the LNDD (French anti-doping) computer system."

February 16: Since I wrote the story on Floyd Landis and Arnie Baker's French arrest warrant on Monday, the 15th (scroll down), Floyd Landis has responded to Los Angeles Times reporter Diane Pucin. Landis emailed Ms Pucin that no one has served him with a warrant and that he said he did not know what is motivating the French to pursue the hacking charges..

"I can't speak for Arnie, but no attempt has been made to formally contact me," Landis said in an e-mail. "It appears to be another case of fabricated evidence by a French lab who is still upset a United States citizen believed he should have the right to face his accusers and defend himself."

"But certainly I hope it's not lost on anyone that it is a grand admission to having substandard computers at their self-proclaimed 'nation's best lab' ".

I have still found no response from Dr. Baker.

February 15: A French judge has issued an arrest warrant for Floyd Landis and his advisor and coach, Dr. Arnie Baker. The head of the French anti-doping agency (AFLD), Pierre Bodry, earlier said that the arrest warrant was international, but later corrected himself and said that it was a French warrant and that Landis and Baker would only be subject to arrest if they stepped on French soil.

Why, you ask, do the French want to perp-walk Landis? Let's take a trip in the Way-Back Machine to the 2006 Tour de France. A dope test on Landis' samples taken after his epic stage 17 ride, which made his Tour win a near certainty, was positive for very highly elevated levels of testosterone. After Landis mounted a lengthy, expensive but ultimately unsuccessful fight to have the positive dope finding excised, Landis was stripped of his 2006 Tour victory.

The AFLD asserts that during his defense, Landis' team used documents that had been acquired by hacking into the computers of the Chatenay-Malabry lab that had performed the test on Landis' samples. Further, the AFLD claims that the hacking trail leads back to Baker's computer.

The French have been wanting to talk to Landis and Baker for a year, but the pair have felt that they would probably not love Paris in the springtime, so the judge running the case has gone to Defcon 2, elevating the subpoena to an arrest warrant. Bodry did not rule out the possibility of turning the French warrant into an international one.

February 9: Der Jan will remain the 2000 Olympic Road champion. The International Olympic Committee decided that they didn't have sufficient evidence of doping to go After Jan Ullrich's gold medal in the 2000 Olympic Road Race and his silver in the time trial. "The matter is frozen," is how it was described. 1997 Tour winner Ullrich had to withdraw from the 2007 Tour de France just before it started because of allegations that he was involved in the Spanish Operation Puerto scandal.

Team Saxo's big Tour de France hope Andy Schleck had to withdraw from the Challenge Mallorca because of a sore knee. The Luxembourg rider said the knee just needs a bit of rest and he'll be back at it in Spain's Ruta del Sol.

I told the guys at Challenge tires to keep me informed about any notable successes on their rubber. How about a World Championship? Pawel Szczepaniak (say that really fast 3 times) of the Belgian team Baboco-Revor took the U23 cross rainbow jersey last Saturday using Challenge Grifo tires.

There was a story in the UK Guardian about Team Sky's win in the Tour of Qatar team time trial that had the headline "Bradley Wiggins laughs last as Team Sky open with a thunderclap". Bradley Wiggins had said that the team victory was the result of meticulous planning and referred to the team as a "juggernaut". Given all the criticism the team had been receiving for its brass-knuckled recruiting tactics, I'm sure the time trial was viewed by the Team Sky as a sort of vindication. And then stage 2 came along. Team Juggernaut blew the difficult, windy stage, failing to put any of its riders in the top 25. Boasting is a craft, and should be done with care.

February 7: Cycling great and Italian national coach Franco Ballerini died today in an accident during a car rally race. The 2-time Paris-Roubaix winner was racing near Larciano in Tuscany when his car went off the road.

As Italian coach, Ballerini was responsible for picking the Italian teams that went to the Olympics and World championship. At that task he was every bit as successful as he had been as a road racer. He got the Italians to race as a team at the Worlds and presided over Mario Cipollini's triumph in 2002 as well as Paolo Bettini's two consecutive wins in 2006 and 2007 and Alessandro Ballan's 2008 victory. Bettini's 2004 Olympic Gold Medal was also acquired under Ballerini's leadership.

Franco Ballerini was only 45 when he died.

February 4: Regular visitors to this site might notice that BikeRaceInfo has a new sponsor, Challenge Tires. Having Challenge join us is gives me pleasure for several reasons.

First of all, Challenge makes superb, cutting edge tubulars and open tubulars for track, road and cross. I've ridden lots of Challenge tires and I know they make riding a good bike a lot better. Why? Here's a technical discussion of tires that explains why you should ride open tubulars (clincher tires using sew-up technology) instead of regular woven nylon casing tires.

But there is more. When Carol and I started Torelli Imports in the early 1980s a kind Italian gentleman named Max Brauns generously helped and guided us. Sure, he was our trading agent in those early years, but the few pennies he made from the tiny transactions we did didn't come close to paying for all the time and trouble we cost. He helped us because that's the kind of guy he is.

Fast-forward to 1999 and 2000. Clément, the wonderful maker of the tires that had supplied many of the greatest riders in cycling, had been acquired by Pirelli. In the mid-90s Pirelli, breaking the hearts of serious cyclists everywhere, decided to stop their production of Clément tires.

Max Brauns, aided by his son Alex, decided that the technology and skills that had gone into making the most wonderful tires the world had ever known (only someone who has ridden a road race with a pair of Clément Criterium Seta tires will really know what I am writing about) should not be lost.

In 1999 they acquired the Clément factory and brought its machinery and materials up to date without losing the old-world skills and art that made the tires so fine. They renamed the business "Challenge".

In keeping with their sporting heritage, Challenge continues to equip top riders on the road (Footon-Servetto) and cross (Fidea Telenet, Selle Italia-Guerciotti, Velobella, Ridley Factory) around the world with their tires.

It's good to see the good guys do well.

February 1: This isn't the way I wanted to start the month, with another damn doping story, but here it is. Danilo Di Luca has been given a 2-year suspension after coming up positive for EPO-CERA in 2 stages of the 2009 Giro d'Italia. He was also socked with a 280,000 Euro fine.

Di Luca, winner of the 2007 Giro, came in second to Denis Mechov in the 2009 edition by 41 seconds. I'm guessing Di Luca is going to have his second place effaced and Franco Pellizotti is going to move up to second and Carlos Sastre will be awarded third.

Di Luca is no stranger to doping suspensions, having been forced to watch TV for three months in 2007. In 2008 authorities tried to suspend Di Luca for odd hormone levels, but he beat that rap.

After the Italian Olympic Committee handed down the 2-year suspension Di Luca reiterated his innocence and predicted that he would have the penalty reduced upon appeal to the Court for Arbitration for Sport.

I think this is the time for Signor Di Luca to find a new career, say, in quality women's footwear.