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2018 vs 2008

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2018 vs 2008

30 Jul 2018 13:28

I've spent the morning watching highlights of the Tour from 10 years ago, one of the most interesting and competitive Tours I can remember. Sastre's win was remarkable for the turn-around - he looked out of contention, pulled out a load of time on Alpe d'Huez, and then did the time trial of his life. But above all else, it was great watching all the little attacks in the mountain stages, CSC having three riders at the front without ever dominating Sky-style, and some extraordinary individual performances.

Of course at the time this was meant to be another "renewal" tour after the dramas with Landis, Vino and Rasmussen (amongst others) in the previous two Tours and the fallout of Puerto. The reality is it ended up being the CERA Tour, particularly with Gerolsteiner and Saulnier Duval. But it was the last Tour where doping became part of the story within the Tour itself - most of the other big scandals that have happened since have been retrospective, taking place outside of the races themselves rather than during them.

A lot has happened since. We've had the rapid fall from grace of the Schlecks, Contador getting caught, Lance and USPS finally being brought down, the rise of Sagan, and obviously the dominance of Sky - 10 years ago, no one could have predicted that the Tours in the 2010s would be dominated by three riders who had never even threatened the top 50.

I've not followed cycling as extensively as some of you over the last 10 years so I'm interested to know your thoughts

- Is cycling today dirtier than it was 10 years ago?

- What have been the biggest changes?

- Can grand tour cycling ever be as competitive again as it was in 2008 without there being another massive scandal? Or was it just a unique set of circumstances that were unrelated, which could happen again?

- Are we going to be looking back in 2028 on a sport that has changed a lot less between 2018 and 2028 than it had between 2008 and 2018?
Bwlch y Groes
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Re: 2018 vs 2008

30 Jul 2018 13:54

Bwlch y Groes wrote:- Is cycling today dirtier than it was 10 years ago?

Yes
- What have been the biggest changes?

Lance Armstrong came back and, only partially separately, Pierre Bordry was fired and AFLD were removed from their position as testers at the Tour.
- Can grand tour cycling ever be as competitive again as it was in 2008 without there being another massive scandal? Or was it just a unique set of circumstances that were unrelated, which could happen again?

Yes it can, it can certainly be as competitive as it was, but for it to fit in line with 2008, it would probably require another massive scandal. At present, for it to be as competitive without such a scandal hitting the sport, then it would need other teams to be able to match Sky for budget and prevent a Paris-Saint-Germain level imbalance in the recruitment; there were a few extra factors in 2008 that enabled things to not be quite as strangled as 2018 even though CSC had comfortably the strongest team in the race.
- In 2008, wildcard teams were actually fairly strong. This was due to a combination of factors, not least that it was before the financial crisis killed many provincial Spanish and Italian races and so those teams could make a solid living with good riders just doing the national calendar; to add to this convicted dopers were often placed on an unofficial quarantine where no ProTour team would pick them up for at least a year after suspension ended, so as to see what their level was upon their return. This ended in late 2008 with Liquigas' hiring of Basso, on the argument that he only intended to dope, and was put through the ringer in 2009 when Vino dictated the terms of his comeback to Astana even going above the head of the Hog.
- Although CSC had the strongest team in the race, all three of their leaders (Andy, Frank and Carlos) had a significant deficit in the TT department, so had to make their gains in the climbs. They rather got in one another's way as a result (Carlos unable to attack on Hautacam because Fränk was up the road, and on Bonette because Fränk was in the yellow jersey and when Carlos asked if he could attack Fränk said no) rather than being in an all-for-one-no-matter-how-strong situation like USPS for Armstrong or Sky for Froome in recent years (less so this year for obvious reasons) where they could pay off the likes of Savoldelli and Heras with leadership at other races that Armstrong wasn't interested in; in today's cycling with the biopassport, such one-race-a-year super-peaking is much harder to reasonably achieve and given all three of CSC's main riders had yet to win a big one, they weren't as likely to be good boy scouts and sit in line, so it required a good dose of man management skills from Bjarne and some strong road skills from Kurt-Asle Arvesen and Jens Voigt to keep the team as one.
- There were gaps opened up by the parcours early on, so people's roles in the race were established early, and therefore there were more stagehunters and there was more interest in the secondary classifications because of time losses created by the stage 1 puncheur finish, stage 4 ITT and stage 6 medium mountain climb; we didn't have an entire week of teams riding to protect an aim that was more than likely unfeasible anyway
- because of that week 1 ITT, it wasn't in fact the race's strongest team but one of the weaker GC teams that got the maillot jaune after the first set of mountains, making the race less controlled in week 2. Had it been a TTT in Cholet, or there was only the one ITT, CSC get the maillot jaune on Hautacam and, with the help of Columbia in the flat stages, control the lead for the rest of the race.
- the best GT racer of that current time, Alberto Contador, was unable to start because Astana had been blocked from entering due to the Vino/Kash positives the previous year, leading to fewer obvious favourites. Similarly, a number of big guns from the prior era were either shadows of their previous selves or unable to enter because of scandals or teams not being invited (this was when ASO were at loggerheads with the UCI and the Tour was run on the "historical calendar" with the original ProTour agreement teams, not the current ones) so there were far fewer names with established history.
- while CSC had the strongest team there, they also had 0 previous GT winners on the team (though obviously Andy had podiumed the Giro and Sastre had 10 GT top 10s including 3 podiums before that, and had been 3rd and 4th in the last two Tours), and with only one former winner (Pereiro) and 2 other previous GT winners (Menchov and Cunego) on the startlist, there was nobody in the position to even attempt to be a patrón in the way Hinault or Armstrong might have been, or to throw their weight around as the dominant force the way Sky have been known to at times.
- Are we going to be looking back in 2028 on a sport that has changed a lot less between 2018 and 2028 than it had between 2008 and 2018?

I hope not, and I hope 2028 is a lot more like 2008 than 2018. 2008 was, and I say this with a straight face, the best year for anti-doping in cycling in living memory.
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30 Jul 2018 15:19

Why did Armstrong coming back change so much?
Veni, Vidi, Kirby

I came, I saw, I was dead wrong as per usual
User avatar Red Rick
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Re:

30 Jul 2018 16:17

Red Rick wrote:Why did Armstrong coming back change so much?

In 2006-2008 there was a real movement to change cycling, with MPCC, a lot of cheaters caught. It was as if they had waited until Armstrong's retirement to clean up the mess. Patrick Lefevre said something along the lines: "Don't bother too much about the past, but make cycling clean in the future."

With the return of Armstrong the clock was turned back. UCI took control again and all of a sudden there were hardly any positives anymore during the Tour. We pretty much knew everything about Armstrong by then, even if he wasn't convicted yet, so welcoming him back was a slap in the face of the people who had been trying to change cycling in the previous three years. Since then it has become hard to take the controls in the Tour serious.
La fatica in montagna per me è poesia (Fatigue in the mountains is poetry to me) - Marco Pantani
Van een ezel kunt ge geen koerspaard maken (You can't turn a donkey into a race horse) - Patrick Lefevere
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Re: Re:

30 Jul 2018 16:20

Pantani_lives wrote:In 2006-2008 there was a real movement to change cycling, with MPCC, a lot of cheaters caught. It was as if they had waited until Armstrong's retirement to clean up the mess.
Puerto and the Telekom confessions drove German and Spanish money out of the sport, the teams got scared and agreed to pay for the passport.
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Re: 2018 vs 2008

30 Jul 2018 16:33

also in 2008 a team won 2 GT (but with 1 rider) Astana won Giro and Vuelta with Contador

the Giro getting a last minute call while he was at the beach. and Astana did a 1-2 on the Vuelta podium
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Re: 2018 vs 2008

30 Jul 2018 17:49

Libertine Seguros wrote:
Bwlch y Groes wrote:- Is cycling today dirtier than it was 10 years ago?

Yes


Woah

Riders who served bans/had results DQ-ed/tested positive

Giro 7 out of the first 10

Tour 7 out of first 10 as finished

Vuelta 4 out of the first 10

Riders who committed offences during/after the race in question

Giro 6/10

Tour 5/10

Vuelta 2/10

Or alternatively 15/25 riders who finished top 10 in 2008 in GTs were caught doping at some point of their careers

It was pretty dirty then, but how dirty compared to now can only be answered sometime in 2026.
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30 Jul 2018 18:05

I'm sure LS is well aware of those statistics. They don't invalidate their argument one bit (which their previous post didn't really go into, but it's been elaborated on elsewhere).
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Re: 2018 vs 2008

30 Jul 2018 18:24

roundabout wrote:
Libertine Seguros wrote:
Bwlch y Groes wrote:- Is cycling today dirtier than it was 10 years ago?

Yes

Woah


It's way too simplistic a question, leaving us to wonder what the answer really means.

To me, corruption in the sport is worse than 2008--so that's a 'yes'--but 2007 and 2008 were special years in the cleanup of the sport. Looking more specifically at the drugs, my impression is that use is more contained and/or less effective--aka less rocket fuel. That doesn't exactly make a 'no' though, PED restrictions are at least as much about intent as effectiveness.

I guess that's an overall yes, dirtier, even though the level of athletic performance is a bit more credible.
Teddy Boom
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Re: 2018 vs 2008

30 Jul 2018 19:32

Teddy Boom wrote:
roundabout wrote:
Libertine Seguros wrote:
Bwlch y Groes wrote:- Is cycling today dirtier than it was 10 years ago?

Yes

Woah


It's way too simplistic a question, leaving us to wonder what the answer really means.

To me, corruption in the sport is worse than 2008--so that's a 'yes'--but 2007 and 2008 were special years in the cleanup of the sport. Looking more specifically at the drugs, my impression is that use is more contained and/or less effective--aka less rocket fuel. That doesn't exactly make a 'no' though, PED restrictions are at least as much about intent as effectiveness.

I guess that's an overall yes, dirtier, even though the level of athletic performance is a bit more credible.


Apologies, I meant in terms of doping specifically
Bwlch y Groes
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Re: 2018 vs 2008

30 Jul 2018 20:33

Bwlch y Groes wrote:
Bwlch y Groes wrote:- Is cycling today dirtier than it was 10 years ago?

Apologies, I meant in terms of doping specifically


But what aspect of doping? Are we speculating about what percentage of the peleton are doing autologous blood transfusions in 2008 vs. 2018? What percentage are microdosing EPO? What percentage are abusing TUEs with intent of gaining a performance advantage? Pain killers? Injection vitamins (what's up with no needle policies nowadays?)?

To me, the riders and teams are going to do what they do. The much more important question is whether the sport has any interest at all in enforcing their own rules. 2008 is the only time ever that enforcing the rules appeared to be a priority.
Teddy Boom
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01 Aug 2018 05:04

I'm pretty interested in this question too.

From an observational point of view, the big change over this period is weight loss. Or maybe better phrased as 'weight variability.' i.e. riders can lose or put on weight with (seemingly) greater control than before, and in the former case, without sacrificing power, recovery etc.

And this new development has seen riders transform more easily between different disciplines within road cycling (i.e. Thomas moving from cobbled classics to GC).

I find it hard to believe that doping isn't involved in this, but in the same breath, I don't really have a concrete sense of how or what is doing the work. It's a bit like: I actually didn't know much about epo in the 90's, but I still couldn't comprehend how someone like LA could transform from classics rider to GC rider.
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Re:

01 Aug 2018 11:57

The Hegelian wrote:I'm pretty interested in this question too.

From an observational point of view, the big change over this period is weight loss. Or maybe better phrased as 'weight variability.' i.e. riders can lose or put on weight with (seemingly) greater control than before, and in the former case, without sacrificing power, recovery etc.

And this new development has seen riders transform more easily between different disciplines within road cycling (i.e. Thomas moving from cobbled classics to GC).

I find it hard to believe that doping isn't involved in this, but in the same breath, I don't really have a concrete sense of how or what is doing the work. It's a bit like: I actually didn't know much about epo in the 90's, but I still couldn't comprehend how someone like LA could transform from classics rider to GC rider.


Same - it's all very confusing to me. When I asked "Is cycling today dirtier than it was 10 years ago?", I mean the whole package, because I don't know much about what's going on today. Is it literally that the authorities aren't chasing down EPO, CERA and the like as they were 10 years ago? Or are there new drugs? Surely it can't all be TUEs for salbutamol
Bwlch y Groes
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01 Aug 2018 12:48

Let's not forget that we haven't had a top rider speak at large about their doping methods since... Kohl? Frei, if he counts? That's 8-10 years. We're in the middle of a long dark age as far as doping is concerned. That said, it seems obvious that weight-loss drugs have come to the fore this decade, but it seems likely that blood doping still plays an important or even the most important role, even if the deciding factor at highest level nowadays is what you do on top of that. But we lack so much information and we only have extremely patchy evidence - even more than used to be normal, I mean.

My subjective impression is that cycling has been getting dirtier since 2011 or thereabouts, and that right now the situation (in terms of number of riders doping, team involvement, performance boost obtained with PEDs and willingness of the authorities to combat doping) is comparable to what it was around Puerto.
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Re:

01 Aug 2018 17:46

hrotha wrote:Let's not forget that we haven't had a top rider speak at large about their doping methods since... Kohl? Frei, if he counts? That's 8-10 years. We're in the middle of a long dark age as far as doping is concerned. That said, it seems obvious that weight-loss drugs have come to the fore this decade, but it seems likely that blood doping still plays an important or even the most important role, even if the deciding factor at highest level nowadays is what you do on top of that. But we lack so much information and we only have extremely patchy evidence - even more than used to be normal, I mean.

My subjective impression is that cycling has been getting dirtier since 2011 or thereabouts, and that right now the situation (in terms of number of riders doping, team involvement, performance boost obtained with PEDs and willingness of the authorities to combat doping) is comparable to what it was around Puerto.

It does feel like a pre-Festina period when EPO was massive but nobody really knew about it. Unfortunately, it seems that EPO was a widely shared secret in the 90s while whatever it is used now seems to be a privilege of few (most notably Sky). At the same time, I'm surprised when I see people like Porte or Landa that have been through the British treatment and seem to have learnt little or nothing about what was going on, as if even Sky riders actually had no info about what they are going through. If it was really about oval chainrings, washing machines, or even old-school EPO and transfusions I don't see how it is possible that the same techniques cannot be replicated elsewhere.

What I want to say is that maybe there hasn't been a top rider speaking publicly, but it seems to be the case that top riders don't speak among themselves.
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Re: Re:

01 Aug 2018 17:57

fmk_RoI wrote:
Pantani_lives wrote:In 2006-2008 there was a real movement to change cycling, with MPCC, a lot of cheaters caught. It was as if they had waited until Armstrong's retirement to clean up the mess.
Puerto and the Telekom confessions drove German and Spanish money out of the sport, the teams got scared and agreed to pay for the passport.

That's, I believe, another problem. British - like Americans in the Armstrong period- seem to take as personal attacks against their Countries whatever goes on against Sky. On the other hand, Germans, Italians and Spanish seems to be more prompt to criticize and possibly punish their teams.
I've been living in the UK for a while and I can't help but notice the strong aversion to criticism towards what they perceive as a national symbol. They seem to be ready to defend at any cost Mo Farah, the Sky team, the English (I know UK != England) football team during World Cup etc...
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01 Aug 2018 18:39

- Is cycling today dirtier than it was 10 years ago?
Yes
- What have been the biggest changes?
Doping combining old and new, traditional and modern. Old omerta and new omerta.
Corporate control, media management. A dash of HyperNormalisation. "Everybody knew that what they were seeing was not real, but everybody had to play along because nobody could imagine any alternative. "
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Re: Re:

01 Aug 2018 19:00

I very much subscribe to the idea that anybody making their living from their physicality--actors in Hollywood, athletes of all description, even cops and security guards--are doping in a big way. People, especially people with the personality/motivation that lends them to being professional athletes, are going to seek whatever edge they can find. The real issue is what are sports organizations going to do about it.

Sports organizations seem to be very cyclical about it. Each sport, and often a country/sport combination, hits a scandal, and they care a lot for a little while, and then it gets forgotten about for a few years.

franic wrote:It does feel like a pre-Festina period when EPO was massive but nobody really knew about it.


I wasn't around in the Festina era, but.. Well, this seems to be talking about the raw-performance impact of the drugs. In the pre-Festina period the riders were on "jet fuel", the threshold power levels being put out were spectacular. From the raw-performance side of things we aren't close to that era.

franic wrote:Unfortunately, it seems that EPO was a widely shared secret in the 90s while whatever it is used now seems to be a privilege of few (most notably Sky). At the same time, I'm surprised when I see people like Porte or Landa that have been through the British treatment and seem to have learnt little or nothing about what was going on, as if even Sky riders actually had no info about what they are going through. If it was really about oval chainrings, washing machines, or even old-school EPO and transfusions I don't see how it is possible that the same techniques cannot be replicated elsewhere.


It's fascinating! To me, Landa wasn't effected by the Sky treatment at all. He didn't improve drastically, and he didn't get worse either. Porte went through the Sky miracle transformation, and has been able to keep some of the benefit, but certainly not all.

franic wrote:What I want to say is that maybe there hasn't been a top rider speaking publicly, but it seems to be the case that top riders don't speak among themselves.


If it is truly just Sky with the magic formula, could you make the argument that even the riders don't know what's being done?

Overall again..
I think testing in cycling--specifically the bio-passport--is controlling the raw performance to a degree that's more credible than 2005 (or 2007) and earlier. In that sense we are actually in the clean era. At the same time, hidden bans that athletes cover up with faked injuries show that we are in an extremely corrupt era, where the governing bodies have very little interest in objective reality.
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Re: 2018 vs 2008

01 Aug 2018 19:13

Bwlch y Groes wrote:- Is cycling today dirtier than it was 10 years ago?

It's dirty in a different way. I don't think top riders are necessarily taking more drugs/drugs that give them a bigger advantage (just different drugs in some cases), but the chances of being caught now (where caught=ban) if you're a team leader with big resources seem basically zero. On the other hand Jens Voight pulling on the front and dropping climbers on mountain stages is no more or less credible than Luke Rowe doing the same.

Bwlch y Groes wrote:- What have been the biggest changes?


The weight thing. Not only does it mean that party animals with good genes like Jalabert, Vandenbroucke, Ullrich, (or in 2008 terms say, Thomas Dekker) are now completely out of the running, it means we can blatantly see with our own eyes that some riders don't look like healthy but trim adult males any more, and certainly not like guys who can top 10 flat time trials.

Bwlch y Groes wrote:- Can grand tour cycling ever be as competitive again as it was in 2008 without there being another massive scandal? Or was it just a unique set of circumstances that were unrelated, which could happen again?


Team Sky could be ended with or without a doping scandal and racing could become much more open. On the other hand, some other rich guy who likes cycling could turn up (Sky's annual budget is half what Liverpool just paid (in transfer fees, not even wages) for a new goalkeeper for example) - buying results in cycling is fairly cheap.
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01 Aug 2018 19:49

I would say the sport is as dirty as it was then. I'm not entirely sure it's possible that it can actually be dirtier. The question is what is the new drug being used. The difference is that it's obvious that you have to have a lot of money to be able to get a hold of it.

I agree that it appears Landa was not subjected to the Sky treatment, however I wonder if they believed that a) Landa wouldn't stick around very long, and b) know he's very likely to say exactly what he thinks to the press and if knew what was going on would be at some point more than willing to talk and tell everyone exactly what that team is doing.
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