Sunday, May 30, 2010

Dopage and the Giro d'Welli



The recent extraordinary Landis accusations have cast a massive pall over the pro cycling world, and has led to much heated discussion in bike shops and on cycling forums all over the world. Having been on the receiving end of some pious abuse for my stance I thought I'd use my pulpit to propound my take on the issue.



It's no secret that I am a Lance Armstrong fan (I famously won a packet of chocolate biscuits from local legend Antosh when I picked Lance's stunning comeback from cancer 1999 Tour win), so accordingly whenever another slur is cast Armstrong's way I find myself instantly being harangued by vehement anti-Lancers who take umbrage at any hint of a pro-Lance statement I might make.

I can only compare this to the social mores that surround other such emotive issues as politics, money or religion, in that some people believe in Gods, some in rapacious capitalism and some even believe in a National Government(?!), yet generally our views are regarded as personal opinions and respected as such - why is the doping issue regarded by some as a chance to revile contrary views and to attempt to force others to adopt their views?



Like any of us who believe in Important Things, we of course are convinced we believe the good and right things, and we'll usually dogmatically stick to that belief until the bitter end. In the same way that people still believe that God is real or that John Key is a nice man and good for New Zealand I choose to believe that Lance Armstrong doesn't dope.



In effect, I've decided to believe in him until the evidence is irrefutable, in my mind tossing out (but not ignoring) the gossip and suit/countersuit stuff that no one has yet proven to any court, and believing that a person not yet convicted is innocent still, or else we might as well live with witch trials and lynch mobs.



Despite the condescending sneers and belittling remarks of the people who deride my viewpoint, it's not naivety or a lack of understanding of the issues on my part - it's actually an innocent until proven guilty ethos I hold which is as deliberate as any Faith. An ethos that just so happens to encompass my opinion of Armstrong. I may well be proved wrong in my faith one day but I can live with that, having been wrong once before.

In the same way that I don't like religion or politics being shoved down my throat, I don't think anyone has the right to tell me what to believe in this issue, and I'll continue to believe in Lance and Zabriskie, Hincapie, Barry and all the others smeared by the Mennonite Marauder until such time as they have been proven to be guilty. The Woman's Weekly gossip and innuendo doesn't interest me one jot...



Another odd double-sided aspect to the whole issue of "le dopage" is the way people will accept some convicted dopers back wholeheartedly (think Millar or Basso) whereas others seem to struggle for acceptance (Vinokourov or Ricco spring to mind) - I can't help but observe that many of the people who hold these contradictory views are the same that will damn as yet unconvicted riders; I think here of all the Ullrich fans who held him up to me as a paragon of cleanliness in the face of dirty old Armstrong. That didn't quite pan out as they envisaged...



I don't want there to be any misunderstanding though, I don't like the way drug use skews results and steals them from other more worthy athletes, and I most definitely want the dopers to be caught and punished. But I don't like the rabid hysteria, slander and speculation that goes with the hunt for them, especially as it is often generated by people who seem to hold others to standards they would never hold themselves to.

I would be very disappointed if the axe fell on Armstrong, but I know I could handle it so long as he has been found guilty by law and properly sanctioned. Until then I will continue to remember his exploits on the bike and not the rumours and slurs...

I know that if I was being accused of a heinous crime I would like to trust that the court hearing would tell the story with a presumption of innocence, rather than listening to an angry mob already convinced of my guilt.


The Gavia.

I have greatly enjoyed the 2010 Giro d'Italia - usually a great Tour, this year has been a particularly spectacular and absorbing one. Through my reading and conversing I couldn't help but notice a palpable air of fatalism when Vino held the Maglia Rosa...



...yet there seems to be widespread delight at the redemption ride of Basso, who as I write this seems assured of winning his second Giro on completion of tonight's Time Trial in Fair Verona, where we lay our scene...



I guess this all shows that at the end of the day it all comes down to liking who we like and not liking who we don't like; isn't that ability to form our own opinions and make our own decisions the very expression of Free Will that raises us above the Beasts?



Of course the Giro isn't the only race going on in the world, the Tour de L'Aude - effectively the women's Tour de France - was held recently and my man Paul "Warrant Officer" Larkin was there as mechanic for the Valdarno team of current World Champion Tatiana Guderzo, as well as my mate Bridie O'Donnell.

Paul sent me some cool pics...


Brooke Miller (sprints), Emma Pooley (Maillot Jaune), Emma Johanson (best young rider) and Marianne Vos (points).


Guderzo's custom Pinarello, built by WO Larkin.


Subtle World Champion branding...

Of course the whole world doesn't revolve around bike racing; how can it when it revolves around me? I have shared hints about the New Regime but not really delved into it too deeply in the fear that no one in their right mind wants to hear about the two or three loads of laundry I have to deal with every day, the endless cleaning or the pressing need to feed not only myself but the four other people in Team Brooke-White.

As well as coping with my domestic drudgery I continue to attempt to fit in the occasional repair and as many bike rides as is possible. The very first day I picked up the reins from Jacq was the day after my return from the Tour of NZ. I was thinking it was going to be a doddle of a day - with Bo at school I just had to do the weekly shop then I would have the rest of the day to work then hopefully go for a ride. Of course Bodhi woke with a temperature and I had to keep him home! The shopping would have to wait, but the repairs had a deadline so I rugged Bo up and settled him on the couch of the workshop with a dvd to watch while I worked...



The very best thing so far about the NR is the extra time I can spend with Bodhi and his brothers. One afternoon I took Bodhi and his mate Henry up to Karori Park for a ride. I wanted to show off my mad jumping skills but they just wanted to do laps...



Bodhi shows great potential as a rouleur, dealing with the stiff breeze with great aplomb.



Harry and I got out for a neat ride one stunning late summer evening. We trekked from home down through Wakefield Park, then up a steep firebreak onto Mt Albert.



We grovelled our way up Mt Albert road...





And chilled out at the summit...



...before rolling down through all the dog-walkers towards the zoo and on to Karitane, where yet again my hucking desires were to be thwarted by Harry's insistence that I instead take photos of him jumping.



We then had a wicked blast down Sutherland Road into Lyall Bay, then we rolled around the waterfront to Oriental Bay and home enjoying the balmy evening.





As my boys seem to want to do their own thing a lot these days I tend to do most of my riding with my buddy Alex - while we haven't been on the trails much since the onset of the rainy season we did get out between squalls for one quick Parkvale-Cemetery Trail run last weekend with Matt.



But over the last couple of months while the trails were still dry and the air was still relatively warm we did manage to get out for several other rides on local trails, including a couple of great new ones on the scene.

Not really sure why we choose to on days like this but Alex and I chose another gale force northerly day to ride north up onto Skyline, although the uphill grunt was more than adequately rewarded with a superb downhill run south towards Karori.



On one occasion we checked out the new North Face trail on Makara Peak, the great fun intermediate level way of descending towards the carpark from the summit while avoiding Ridgeline.


Looking up to the summit from the entrance to NF.


Alex exits NF...

...before hitting up Ridgeline Extension.



My Commen├žal takes the opportunity for a quick rest in the sun at the RE picnic table.


Another new trail on the Wellington map is the new Polhill Gully one known as Transient, that is a big part of the plan to ensure the ability to ride from town to Makara Peak and on to Johnsonville entirely off road. Alex and I rode up then down this sweet dual-use singletrack, marvelling at the superb construction of this very cool trail that seems to flow as well uphill as down!



There were rides down Sifty...



...and on the nice and rapidly developing Miramar trail network...



...as well as many other memorable but sadly not documented mountainbike rides, both solo and with friends. My only regret is that I still haven't been out to check out the Wainuiomata trails, but the sad and tragic WOF related Death of the Sex Wagon has put a massive crimp in my mobility which means I haven't made it there as yet. Soon, I hope...


Sex Wagon RIP

On the random social tip, one sultry evening I attended my irregular meeting of the Vinyl Sluts at the palatial Havana Boating Club.



Naturally, this is preceded by the always enjoyable task of sifting through my largish collection of thrashed old records, searching for a selection of songs or albums to fit whatever the theme of the night is.





Even with the four day hangover that ensued I made sure me and my Bianchi took full advantage of some of the rare wind-free days that Wellington surprises us with from time to time...


Atop Mt Victoria.


Shelly Bay, outside the Chocolate Fish Cafe.


Karaka Bay.

On another more recent occasion I had a real float day on a ride out to Eastbourne and around the Bays. Not one breath of wind, courteous traffic and good legs made for a ride to remember...

I rode out on the Hutt Road, stopping to check out the view from Petone Wharf and making sure I took several more unnecessary pictures of my bicycle along with the obligatory self-pic.











I then continued on my way around the Eastern Bays...



Once in Days Bay I detoured briefly up Kereru Road...



...and along Tui Road onto my old street Moana Road, where I passed my childhood home.



Before rolling back down the first road I ever rode a bicycle on, over forty years ago.



I headed towards Eastbourne...



...zipping along Muritai Road as far as the Pencarrow gate.



Stopping there to check out the new Wahine Memorial.







I then turned and began the trip back to town, riding along the car-free waterfront promenade. The rain loomed but seemed reluctant to fall.



I ambled through my late father's Fields of Glory, also known as the Eastbourne Rugby and Cricket Field.



The harbour was like glass...



The TT back along the Hutt Road was followed by riding around the Bays. Of course no lap of the Bays would be complete without slaloming at mad speeds through the strolling sunseekers of Oriental Parade, although I hardly hit any of them.



Even with the stopping and starting for photos and intervening intervals, my legs held up until I hit the Pass of Branda, so I cruised the rest of the way home in that delicious haze of pain and tiredness that only a long, hard bicycle ride will give.

Mookie was wondering where her midday meal was, as the 3 1/2 hour ride had pushed her lunch back an hour or so.



The week just gone was pretty much a nightmare weather-wise. Constant freezing rain driven by winds hurriedly emigrating from Antarctica made for less than salubrious riding conditions. Still, after completing the chores and among the flurries of driving rain, I managed to squeeze in a mid-week blat around the Bays. The rain that had been falling earlier that morning sat heavy in the clouds, but even though I dressed for anything nothing wet happened.





The Hutt Valley was completely missing as the wind slowly got up and the clouds rolled in...



I rolled home on damp roads...



...but parked up still totally dry. As soon as I climbed off though the rain began to fall, artfully drenching my bike.





So I sat down and began to divest myself of my winter riding clobber, pondering as I did the irony of my sock choice...



Until next time, thanks for reading.

4 comments:

sifter said...

A very nice read bro. That Eastbourne ride looked fantastic. I'm sure Mooky would have understood...

Dave Livesey said...

Awesome read but NOOOOO!!!! The Sex wagon is dead? Say it ain't so?!

Rob Croft said...

Hey Olly
Just wanted to say how much I enjoy reading your blog, you maybe dont remember you looked after my bikes the odd time, but reading these updates makes me want to move back to Welly as soon as I can, the trails sound like they are getting better and better!!. Keep up the good work !!
Rob Croft

Bridie O'Donnell said...

Ciao Oli,
well said re 'dopage' - we're always going to accept excuses, apologies and rides to redemption from those we like.
When Vino was boo-ed vehemently on the podium at Leige, I asked my buddy the SRAM Europe guy "how come we hate Vino more than Basso/Millar?" and he said "because of the way he handled it."
Man, this bike riding gig is tough! You have to train hard, race hard AND be a good guy/girl! Madonne!
Love your pics around the bays,
ciao
Bridie