Tour De France

Wiggins on Marr on TUEs

This morning Sir Bradley Wiggins appeared on The Andrew Marr Show to discuss the leaked TUE (Therapeutic Use Exemption) documents leaked by the hacking group Fancy Bears.

Wiggins has come under increasing pressure over recent days with cycling fans and the media accusing him of legally doping before 3 Grand Tours and in particular before his 2012 Tour de France victory.

So, what do we actually know?

  • It is common knowledge that Wiggins suffers from asthma and a pollen allergy
  • Wiggins has had 6 TUEs.  3 for Salbutamol, Formoterol and Budesonide administered by inhaler from and 3 for Triamcinolone Acetonide administered by intramuscular injection
  • Salbutamol, Formoterol and Budesonide are asthma inhaler drugs
  • Triamcinolone Acetonide is a strong treatment for asthma and allergies
  • Triamcinolone Acetonide has performance enhancing qualities, hence the need for a TUE
  • The TUEs were not specifically requested by Wiggins, or did he ask for those specific drugs.  A specialist saw him, diagnosed him and then applied for the TUE.
  • The TUEs were approved by the UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale) and WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency)
  • Wiggins never mentioned the injections in his autobiography
  • No rules have been broken by Wiggins or Team Sky

What we don’t know and will probably ever know is:

  • Did the Triamcinolone Acetonide give Wiggins an unfair advantage over his rivals or did it just get him back to the level he would be at without his asthma and pollen allergy?
  • Do Team Sky request TUEs for other riders before Grand Tours to give them an advantage?
  • Did the UCI turn down other riders requests for similar drugs but let Wiggins have a TUE because of who he is?

The main point of discussion is Wiggins won the Critérium du Dauphiné in 2012 then had an injection of Triamcinolone Acetonide prior to winning the 2012 Tour de France 3 weeks later.  On Marr Wiggins stated that despite winning the  Dauphiné he was still struggling with his breathing so saw a specialist who then prescribed the injection.

In an effort to understand if this was standard practice at Team Sky did they do this for Chris Froome prior to his Tour de France wins?  The answer is no.  His TUE’s were also leaked by Fancy Bears and he took nothing prior to any of his 3 TdF victories.

As medical records are confidential we will never know if the UCI jut let Wiggins off because of who he was but looking back at the time he wasn’t the massive star that he is now.  Of course he had won gold medals and races but it was the 2012 Tour de France win and subsequent Olympic time trial win in London that catapulted him to his current status.

 

Cycling has a dark, drug addled past and those who follow the sport are fully aware of this. Cycling’s past is the main reason why people are accusing Wiggins and Sky of un-ethical practices with regards to TUEs.

I’ve seen a lot of tweets and articles and they all are black and white.  A lot of the tweeters minds were made up before the TUEs were leaked as they were anti-Sky.  There are many neutrals who are unhappy with all of this, me being one of them, but I place the blame not with Brad, but with the UCI and WADA.

I have been told that if you need the injections that Wiggins took you wouldn’t be able to race.  If this is the case then the application of the TUE should have alerted the UCI and WADA that something dodgy was going on and rejected the application.  This didn’t happen.

I agree that the TUE process and guidance needs to change but that isn’t the fault of any rider.  It is for the governing body, the UCI, to identify problems associated with drugs in cycling and put in place sufficient rules and governance to prevent abuse.

 

If you browse through my blog you will see I’m certainly not a doping apologist, and have been angered by British riders in the past.  I just think that where a guy has followed the rules he doesn’t deserve the treatment that Lance Armstrong got.

Then there is the whole ethics debate but it’s Sunday, I’m going to go for a ride, after all we enjoy cycling don’t we?

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Buttertubs Pass (The Wrong Way)

So why the wrong way?  Well I wanted to do Buttertubs and I hadn’t read 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs yet so we rode part of the 2014 Stage 1 Tour de France route – little did I know that the official 100 Climbs segment is the reverse!  Oh well, just means I’ll have to do it again.

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We started off from Hawes and climbed up the modest 5-6% gradients through Simonside before the ramps got steeper.  As you can see from the above photo it is quite a big hill that we were attempting.

It’s a long old drag for a mile or so then it begins to ramp up quite severely up to the first cattle grid.  The sign says 17% from memory but my Garmin was showing 20% at parts.  There is two steep ramps on the way to the first cattle grid – the first was a struggle but doable, on the second I had to stop.

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As you can see with my hands slumped over the bars I was struggling.  I didn’t even stop at my max HR, I had just ran our of oxygen.  I was on the limit so I admired the view for a couple of minutes and then slogged on.

It was worth it though.  Once you hit the top the descent is pretty good.  A couple of sharp corners and a few long, straight drags to get some good speed up on.

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Overall I was expecting to stop 2-3 times so I was chuffed I only conked out once.  I expected the climb to be harder though, even at my low speeds.  I think climbing the ‘official’ way will be a lot harder so I’ll maybe leave it for a bit before attempting it again.

Here is my Garmin Verb video of the climb and descent – it’s long but if you skip to 33 mins you can see the descent.

I am delighted that I did it though and I would recommend others to tackle it too.  The long, steady climbs like this are hard to find and you feel like a GC contender slogging up them!

Lack of drug testing in other sports lets cycling take the heat…

Cycling is the whipping boy of sport when it comes to doping.  It has one of the most vigorous testing programmes in the world but the sport, as today’s CIRC report highlights, keeps getting tarnished with the reputation of a dirty sport.

I would say that since I started following cycling a few years ago it has come access as quite an honest sport.  There are still skeletons in the closet from years gone by, but Astana aside it seems that every team is striving for a cleaner future.  And on Astana the authorities have moved swiftly to remove their racing licence – could you imagine the Premier League removing West Ham, for example, if they were found guilty of a violation?  No.

Speaking of football, our national sport, it is surprising to discover the lack of drug testing compared to cycling.  I would go so far as to say football is a dishonest sport, even more so when it comes to doping.  There was 1,604 tests in the 2013-14 EPL season shared amongst 654 registered players (based on provisional August 2013 squad list) which equates to 2.5 tests per player per season.

(Edit – The website doesn’t actually specify that is just Premier League teams and give guidance notes to parents and for ladies football so the number of players could be many times higher if it takes into account ladies and youth football)

Cycling on the other hand is much more energetic when it comes to testing.  Just in the Tour de France in 2013, during a 3 week period, there was 1,041 tests shared amongst 219 riders equating to 4.75 tests per rider in just 3 weeks, the cycling season lasts 10 months.

No wonder cycling catches more drug cheats when they test in such large numbers.  The real problems are sports like football who claim there is NO doping culture or problem and they barely test players.  Due to this they only caught 4 players in the 2013-14 season.  In the 3 weeks of the 2013 Tour de France no riders tested positive.

I can’t recall who the 4 players were, I imagine there wasn’t the interest in the media as they probably weren’t ‘big name’ players, and to be honest I’ve struggled to find the names of the players on the internet (spending 5 minutes searching).

Whilst searching for the 4 players who were banned I stumbled across the UK Anti-Doping website who handily provide a list of all UK sportspersons currently serving bans for rule violations.  Upon glancing through the list of banned athletes I was aghast at how many rugby players are serving sanctions – 26 out of 47 (55%) – (19 Union, 7 League).  Of the 47 sanctions only 3 relate to cycling.

In the 2013-14 rugby season there was 1,017 tests, including 481 tests in their ‘Illicit Drugs Programme’ which operates a counselling service (4 positive tests).  With the amounts of banned athletes this amount of testing is woeful and an insult to the fans of rugby.

Maybe the wider non-cycling media should concentrate on the total lack of testing in our other national sports rather than sticking it to cycling yet again.

2014 – My Cycling Year

2014 – My Cycling Year

Well 2014 has been a great cycling year for me, I had a few goals, completed some of them, watched two stages of the Tour de France, one stage of the Tour of Britain and upgraded my bike.

My goals were

  • Cycle 500 miles in a month (only managed 347)
  • Complete the Coast to Coast cycle route (done)
  • Cycle over 2,000 miles in 2014 (only managed 1,135.5 – big fail)
  • Go faster than 50mph (didn’t better 45mph)
  • Complete a ride over 100 miles (Did 102 miles in a oner)
  • Lose some weight cycling (I lost some, but I think I’ve put it back on!)

So I kinda did 3 out of 6.  Not too bad.  I think my biggest effort was the Coast to Coast ride that I did with a couple of mates.  The second day was brutal – easily the hardest thing I have ever done physically.  At times I just wanted to give up but we had no support car so I had to plough on.

Route map and blog for Coast to Coast ride

Cycling 100 miles was a big effort too.  It was a pretty flat course but the lack of feeding stops cost me towards the end of the ride with me badly cramping at 90 miles and struggling over the line.

Selby 3 Swans Sportive 100 mile route blog

The Tour de France coming to Yorkshire was massive.  I had the pleasure of watching Le Tour in France in 2013 but that didn’t compare to watching the biggest sporting event in the world on roads that I ride.  I blogged quite a bit about it (Grand Tour blogs link here).

Starve are doing a cool video thing for your 2014 cycling, here is mine:

Oh, an unexpected bonus was getting the Mrs out on a bike!  We had a few lovely rides and even did the York Skyride together.  Hopefully we’ll be cycling more in 2015.

So for 2015…

I have bought a turbo trainer so that is my first goal in the new year – get using it!  I want to start the summer riding considerably fitter than I did last year so I can try and get the longer rides in and bust 500 miles in a month.  I would also really like to get 2,015 miles in 2015 so the purchase of thermal bib shorts and a good set of lights will help me there.  As soon as this ice goes I plan on getting out on the road.  Apart from that maybe another trip to France is in order to watch Le Tour and there is talk of a cycling holiday in Majorca but we’ll see.

So, my new 2015 cycling goals:

  • Cycle 500 miles in a month
  • Cycle 2,015 miles in a year
  • Beat my 45mph record and try to break 50mph!
  • Lose 2 stone cycling in 2015

Fingers crossed I can accomplish all four this time.

Tete de la course!!!

The Tour De France In Yorkshire – Blog #3

6th April 2014, Stage 2

No cycling today, got tickets to the start of Stage 2 at York Racecourse…

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…and as you can see we had a pretty good view of the riders!!  Above you can see Marcel Kittel, Peter Sagan, Jens Voigt and Byran Coquard.

It was a different take on the race today.  There was plenty of stands to wander around, a few food outlets, nice coffee van and the team presentation stage.  We managed to get round the back of this and take a few pics of some of the riders:

Chris Froome:

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Peter Sagan:

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Marcel Kittel:

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After this we had a quick sneak round the VIP helicopters that they use at Le Tour:

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Then had a little play on the Army stand:

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As all this was happening we got a treat with a Lancaster Bomber and a Spitfire flying past the racecourse to mark the start of the race:

It’s not often you see a Lancaster and this prompted us to find a good place by the course to see the riders roll out.  It was nice for a change to see them all relaxed and enjoying themselves rather than flying along at 60kph:

Bernie Eisel:

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Geraint Thomas:

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Chris Froome:

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Overall it was an amazing morning, despite the 7:30am start, but it was one I won’t forget in a hurry.

Here is the video of the roll out to the start line at the racecourse:

 

 

 

The Tour De France In Yorkshire – Blog #2

5th April 2014, Stage 1

So after much deliberation me and a few mates decided to watch stage 1 from Aysgarth and then Leyburn.  Setting off at 10am we made our way over.  We were all very excited…

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We were pretty lucky to stumble across  a closed road that didn’t have too many people spectating so we got a brew and a sandwich and waited for about an hour in the sun for the riders to turn up.

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Soon enough it was time for the riders to arrive.  Here is YouTube clip of the peloton:

Jens Voigt:

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The peloton:

IMG_0011_2Mark Cavendish:

IMG_0012_2Tony Martin:

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Chris Frome:

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We then headed out on closed roads to Leyburn where we caught a second glimpse of the riders before heading back to Bedale to watch the finish on a big screen TV in a park.

Overall a brilliant day with great friends and an even bigger bonus was the tan lines were topped up – they are razor sharp now, ready for my Coast to Coast training that is coming up over the next few weeks.

The Tour De France In Yorkshire – Blog #1

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It’s that time of year again – the biggest bike race in the world begins in the next few days and it starts in God’s Own County, Yorkshire.

Last year I was fortunate enough to travel to France to watch two stages of the Tour (see my previous blogs here) but this year I have a little less distance to travel as the stages come to York and pass close to my hometown, Northallerton.

Stage one will see us spectating from Aysgarth and then cycling a few miles to pick the race up as it passes through Leyburn, giving us a rare opportunity to see the riders twice.  Stage two is going to be a more touristy affair – picnicking at York Racecourse for the start of the race then heading into the city to watch the action unfold with a few pints.

Hopefully the weather will hold out and the racing be everything I hope it is.  From what I’ve seen in York already Yorkshire is ready to welcome the Tour and put itself on the world map when it comes to hosting the Grand Depart 2014.  Allez Yorkshire.

Tour de France Blog #7 – Photos Of The Caravan – #TourDeJoff

The caravan is a procession of weird and wonderful floats that travels the course in front of the cyclists.  Here are a few photos of some of the floats that passed by us:

The first LCL float – a time trial rider in the Maillot Jaune

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A massive LCL lion

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Mickey Mouse  (for some strange reason)

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Haribo

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Yorkshire!!

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Some horses…

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Cochonou (???)

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A dog

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A car tyre

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A red lion Grrr!

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King of the mountains

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Vittel

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