fear and loathing, lies and hypocrisy (pro cycling’s PR ‘machines’)

By comparison to the 3-letter sports we’re bombarded with on American television, professional cycling’s PR machines aren’t quite so well oiled.  The typical NFL/NBA/MLB/NHL interview canned response sequence to all interviews could be paraphrased as “I did good, but I am part of the team.  We played well today.  I hope we play good next time.  Thankfully, my personal God liked our team better than their team today.”  Cycling doesn’t have the budget (or the league) for mandated PR sessions and classes on how to avoid society’s evil ways.  For that, I’m thankful.  Because if it weren’t for the personal conflicts, language barriers, underhanded remarks and outright lies masked as sponsor endorsements, writing in the offseason would be much harder.

In perusing today’s stories, it took just a few minutes to come across three stories that left me with one reaction – somebody said this thinking cycling fans will actually believe it.

Story 1 – Brailsford’s comments on Ben Swift being added to the Tour Down Under schedule months ahead of his strong-armed signing away from Katusha: “Our understanding was he had become a free agent. It was planning ahead. The information we received is that he’d quit and terminated his contract.”

My only assumption is Brailsford’s “information” was Swift describing his dislike of Russian Vodka and the painful memories of the sting of the venik at the banya.  I’m guessing some release form wasn’t part of the documentation.

Story 2 – The Specialized/Astana sponsorship announcement: Contador stated “This is why I made it a requirement to have Specialized as the team bike for my return to Astana.”  My Spanish is still fair, but since I’m really not part of the media and wasn’t on the conference call, I wasn’t able to provide my own translation.  But, I think the more accurate or behind the scenes translation would be “Specialized gave me a million a year to ride this bike.  If you freakin’ Kazakhs want me to ride on this Bad News Bears squad, you better ride these bikes and tattoo the logo on your forehead if they want you to.”

Pereiro trying to look away...

Specialized President Mike Sinyard added to the hypocrisy. “Winning the Tour has been a dream of ours for many years, but even more important is the opportunity to work with riders like Contador and Vinokourov to help us create the best bikes possible and bring them to riders everywhere.” Mike, you had me at “hello.”  You lost me at Vino.  For the record, I’ve been a fan of the Big S for almost 20 years.  I know it makes business sense, but Vino?

Story 3 – Amore & Vita Team Boss Ivano Fanini justifying the signing of 18-year old Eugenio Bani.  Bani becomes the world’s youngest pro.  However, he was just suspended two weeks ago by the Italian Federation for 21 months for using HcG, which will prevent him from racing in his home country.  “The athlete is the subject of great unjustice, due to the corrupt system that holds cycling today, especially in Italy,” said Fanini “The federation rules do not foresee controls in the younger categories, thereby leaving the field open to meddlers able to freely dope young riders, undisturbed. That is what happened to this athlete, who cannot have doped on his own initiative.  It is unthinkable that an 18-year-old would be able to find a substance like Human chorionic gonadotrophin without the help of persons close to him. The boy is only a puppet in the hands of people that are more experienced in cycling.”

I know I’m getting to be an old man; I am a whole four months older than Lance and Jens.  But in my high school days, young men still wanted to excel at sports.  Some were more than willing to find faster ways to get there.  I believe the cliche “Die Young, Die Big, Dianabol” started around my generation.  Anybody who wanted to find it, could.

Today’s bitter pill is just a warm up…tomorrow, the “analysis” of the Team Sky launch.


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