Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Motors

In 2004 I had a condo in Boulder county, and my downstairs neighbor was some kind of pro roadie, or retired pro roadie, or ex semi pro, or whatever retired-ex-half-neo-pro status half of the cyclists in Boulder claim, but he was pretty unique in that he was combative and accusational about the status of doping in pro cycling.  At the time, it came across as just jealousy - that he was the odd man out and hadn't quite made it.  But over time, much of what he said then has turned out to be true.  In particular, he swore up and down that Armstrong, Hincapie, Hesjedal, and others were doped.  None of that was public at the time.  But as it turned out, he was right.

What in the name of fuck is that on your face?
Poignantly, he also said he knew for a fact that racers were using motors on their bikes.  Again, this was in like 2004.  and at that time this sounded like crazy talk - just a jaded ex-pro that didn't quite make the cut.  The reality, it would seem, is anything but.

The UCI's recent report and crackdown on doping, and in particular motorized doping, takes me back to 2004 when this guy was ranting and raving on the sidewalk in front of our condos about the whole fraud of the thing.  Funny that in the same conversation, he named Hesjedal as a doper.  Which, of course, he was.

In September of last year, that's just 8 months ago, the whole Hesjedal motorized doping thing came to light at the Vuelta (or half light I guess you might say) - and, once again, it looked like Hesjedal was going to finally go down in flames as a cheater.  For whatever reason, that didn't pan out.  And I'm not going to use this blog as a place to debate the conspiracy theory or the physics of motorized doping, nor do I wish to beat the mostly dead horse that is Ryder Hesjedal, but I will link you to the footage and the discussion on the matter and - you know - make your own conclusions.

I'm only about half-interested in whether Hesjedal was using a motor in his bike that day.  I mean, if it's true then I'd like to know that he did it and see him booted for good.  Again, the UCI's recent report is pretty telling, and I don't think they'd be memorializing their policy for banning riders and fining teams for motorized doping unless it was actually a problem.  What I'm more interested in is that, in September 2014, people were really surprised and sort of in disbelief that motors might exist in the pro peloton; but no one was surprised in the least that Hesjedal might be cheating.  No, indeed, if there was one guy who would be doing it - it was Hesjedal.

And yet, here we are 8 months later, the Giro D'Italia is kicking off, Hesjedal's integrity is now only more questionable with the recent legitimization of motorized doping, and Hesjedal is not only in the race - but he's the stated and protected team leader for our U.S. team, Cannondale.  I keep thinking I'm going to wake up and justice will have been served, but no, there he is.  Again, I have no idea if there was actually a motor in his bike or not - but given his dubious history and complete disconnect from reality, it's just hard to wrap ones mind around continuing to let this guy be the face of your team.  Velonews runs about an article per week on Ryder, his commentary on the Giro and the status of the race, etc.  That's normal - he's the team leader - if media coverage is what you provide, then talk to him you must.  But, Jesus, it's just not that plausible.  Why does anyone care what the fuck Ryder has to say?  Give me Joe D. or Ben King or any of the up and comers on the team that are grinding it out, every day, trying to make it clean - and I'll read, and support, and watch the race, and root my ass off - and more important to the future of the sport, I'll buy it.  But Hesjedal, motorized doping or not, is a part of the past that pro cycling would be better off forgetting, because no one is buying that shit any more.

And for certain, no one is buying those sunglasses.
I think an interesting nuance of motorized doping vs normal blood doping is what the effect will be when a rider is finally caught doing it.  With blood doping, the team - and certainly the team sponsors - can cry foul right alongside the rest of the public, and say they had nothing to do with it, and admonish the rider as the sole perpetrator in the destruction of the sport and blah blah blah.  Fuck that guy.  It's HIS blood, after all.  But in motorized doping - where that motor will be seen as a cheating component of the bike itself - the brand name on the bike will suffer.  Not that Cannonade will have actually had anything to do with it - no indeed, I imagine you can install your own motor in the same sort of way you might install a dropper post (though with better cable routing, I presume.)  But impressions will be impressions, and most people won't want to buy a road bike that - when they show up at their local group ride - their buddies give them shit about the motor.  And in a sport that is now largely supported by the major bike brands themselves (Trek Factory Racing, Cannondale-Garmin, Specialized's enormous investment in multiple teams, etc) - it will be the death knell of the sport as a professional endeavor when even the bike brands most invested in the success of it can't save face.

In a timely way, the iniquities of the Patriots and Tom Brady make for a great parallel to all of this.  4 games and $1million, plus they lose some draft picks.  That's a pretty stern punishment, as far as the NFL goes, and it's worth noting I suppose that the Pats are repeat offenders in a very familiar marginal-gains kind of way.  I mean, shit, it's just a little air in the football, right?  How much difference could that really make?  They BLEW OUT the Colts, 45 - 7.  Similarly, that's part of the argument against the existence of motors in cycling's pro ranks - that it would be tough to hide something that really only produces a tiny gain in performance, so why do it?  But, as we've seen in Team Sky's gigantic, motorized, marginal gains Richie Porte Mobile, every little bit counts.  I don't think a motor in a hub that could produce an extra 5 watts for 30 seconds when it counts is insignificant, and if you think pros aren't willing to cheat to get it then review the history of sports in general.

It's like watching a UFO sighting captured on shaky home video.  It's hard to tell, right?  Science and experts discredit the thing outright.


But you know what you saw.

Up, up, up.

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