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Ciclirati On The Move

Ciclirati is on the move! Please come check out our new website at

We’re looking to expand and improve, looking to start doing more interviews with athletes your interested in, expert advice on training and nutrition with audio, video and other features.

The new site has all the previous content moved over and look for bigger things and better stories coming up this week!


Faulty Presumption and Cycling’s Cynical Climate.

For the record, I do not have any great personal connection with Tom Zirbel.  If he had an entourage and I was part of it, it would purely be for comedy relief purposes – the juxtaposition of me next to a guy who could rest his arm on top of my head.  From the e-mails and unpublished comments I’ve received regarding my defense of him and his plight, just like presumptions of his he-must-be-doping guilt, presuming is the wrong approach.

I will admit to becoming mentally invested in the story.  I have had a lot of contact with a number of those who know him best.  One of Tom’s last media interviews was last Sunday on the Kim West Cycling Radio Show out of Des Moines.  Before you go Google and rush to listen to pick apart every word and condemn him further, relax and try to think with an open mind.  I don’t have any Matthew McConaughey “A Time to Kill” or Matt Damon “Rainmaker” legal epiphany type arguments, but try to think back to a more innocent, pre-Festina time.  If you’re in the right frame of mind to listen, click here.  Given the comments he is making, his candor, his outlook and above all, his remarkable openness regarding the situation – do you want to lump him in with the serpent-smiling face of  “yeah, I was doped but I climbed like Pantani” Ricco?

While you’re still in this open frame of mind, cast away a number of other presumptions.  The list could be really long, but I’ll leave it to the following:

– Don’t presume to know Tom Zirbel.  You don’t personally know his motivations and ethics.  You don’t know that he about quit the sport in despair earlier last year over one of his Bissell teammates being caught.  You don’t know the encouragement he gives to kids and time to the fans.  You don’t know the teammates who have been around him and understand him better than us bystanders do.  You don’t the story of his life or his character.  Most people want to believe in every other part of life, character counts.

– Don’t presume to know Tom is a “seasoned pro” and has an education regarding nutritional supplements.  If you listen to the interview – he’s not a vitamin and supplement type guy.  He was dehydrated; he could’ve picked up nutrition bar X because he was hungry or water bottle Z because he thought it was his.  He wasn’t raised in the European doping culture.  He wasn’t on big budget for the last 9-10 years or part of some development program. He was the guy that 5 years ago would show up to race in a t-shirt.  He was the guy who couldn’t run marathons anymore so he picked up a bike.

– Don’t presume that if somebody is a pro bike racer, they must read everything written about the sport.  Just like celebrities avoid reading the tabloids, if everything written about you and your sport was negative, would you read about it?  I hope Tom or any other pro avoids most of what’s written, especially message boards where people pass personal, often times vicious judgment with no foundation other than what they’ve read.  That is, of course, if the people on boards aren’t just arguing with each other for argument’s sake.

– Don’t presume because you befriended somebody who was a former professional doper who is now “reborn”, that everybody who rides a bike dopes.  No – your new friend doped.  He was likely part of a culture that doped or in it for a significant amount of time.  Or he was so driven to succeed that his life didn’t have enough meaning off the bike to balance it.  Just like I don’t know why your buddy doped, I don’t presume to know his motivations, what tipped him over the edge or why so many reformed dopers take the approach of condemning everybody else instead of attempting to change the sport.

– Don’t presume every supplement is clean.  People quickly shove the “tainted supplement” argument aside.  However, estimates range from 10-25% of all supplements are tainted or have unlisted ingredients.  Just for fun, go to the NSF site ( and look for your favorite supplement brand to see if it’s on the list for being Certified for Sport…only 21 companies are on the list.   I can think of many an endurance-specific brand that aren’t.  It’s a nightmare of an unregulated industry.

– Don’t presume anybody who is interviewed or writes on the subject is an expert.  I know I don’t have a PhD in Organic Chemistry or Medical Laboratory Science.  I’m guessing most of you don’t either.  Ironically, Zirbel is probably closer to it than 99% of us since his undergraduate degree is in chemistry was pursuing graduate studies when the peleton tugged him away.  Regardless, time to call somebody on the carpet, if for nothing else a complete lack of professionalism.  In a January 6th story on PEZ Cycling News, Paul Coats, PhD was interviewed.  When listing the reasons why Tom would have an elevated DHEA level, one of his reasons was “He is a dumb-ass: applying Occam’s razor principle (ie. the simplest explanation or strategy tends to be the best one) this seems the most likely.”  First, who with a PhD says that in a media interview?  Second, you don’t apply “Occam’s Razor principle”, you apply Occam’s Razor (I am educated in Philosophy, but that was last comment was just snide and nitpicky on my part).  Third, I will freely admit I don’t know Paul Coats, but I’m guessing his knowledge of the human body and chemistry far exceeds mine hundreds of times over.  However, Google Paul Coats.  Examine what fields he is a researcher in and what his specialties are.  Let me save you the time…”Dr Paul Coats is an active researcher within the cardiovascular (Integrated Mammalian Biology) group within SIPBS. His research focus is vascular physiology (health) and pathophysiology (disease).

The study of both large and small blood vessels is core to the research directed by Dr Paul Coats.

General research areas are:

  • Pressure-dependent autoregulation in small resistance arteries
    • The role of the vascular adventitia in modulating vascular tone
    • Modulation of acute vascular tone by reactive oxygen species
    • Myogenic autoregulation of blood flow in stroke
    • Myogenic autoregulation of blood flow in ischaemic vascular disease
  • Pressure-dependent vascular remodelling in small resistance arteries
    • Hypertensive and hypotensive remodelling of the arterial wall
  • Vascular adaptation to changes in environmental stimuli (pressure and flow)
    • In-vitro culture of intact pressurised/ perfused blood vessels
  • Effect of vascular injury on vessel structure and function”

Ironically, if you click under his “Publications” tab, it goes to a page saying nothing but “test.”

(From the Strathclyde Institute of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences website)

Does it sound like Paul Coats is probably a really educated, intelligent guy? Yep.  Does it sound like Paul Coats has dedicated his life studies to becoming an expert on doping and/or these type of reactions and/or specific body chemistries related to this case.  Not really.

– Don’t presume the system is perfect.  Tom came up clean both 8 days before and 3 days after this positive test.  That’s fact.  No residual metabolites 3 days later.  To deny the potential effects of his dehydration on test results and the political nature of this system is to be blind to the obvious.  Anybody who is an expert will fight to the death to retain their reputation as an expert.  In this case, the experts would have such an imbalance of resources, there isn’t any way this could be a fair fight.  While I’m happy that cycling has made great strides through the biological passport and more advanced testing, the presumption of guilt and having the same 2-year penalty for popping a cold pill as RBC-enhanced CERA-doped blood is ludicrous.

Obviously, if you’ve listened to the interview, you fully expect (as Tom conceded) that there will likely be some news regarding his B-sample probably being positive this week.  It seems he may have others in his corner within the establishment, given they took additional steps of testing outside the original lab.  I’m sure those who have already condemned Tom already have their posts ready to say “I told you so.”  He’s not railing against Darth USADA, he’s not proclaiming the evils of the system.  He’s just a guy who likes to race his bike.  Somebody you would probably like to know.  Somebody if you did, you might not presume as quickly again.


Ciclirati donating to Doctors Without Borders – Haiti efforts

While I don’t have a large budget (ok, no budget), I do believe in giving what you can.  I encourage everybody to do as I have personally today to text, pledge, and give to supporting the relief efforts from organizations such as UNICEF, Doctors Without Borders and other worthy charities.

For the months of January, February and March – Ciclirati will donate $7 of each of the Really Limited Edition T-shirt sales to Doctors Without Borders.  

No spin, no story – just trying to find a way to give more.  If you were going to buy the shirt before, know that a majority of the profits will be going to this worthy cause.  If you only have $20, please give to one of these charities first and pick up a shirt later.

To order, just click on the icon on the right hand side of the page or click here


ciclirati’s biggest and best of 2009

Ciclirati’s Biggest and Best 2009 Awards of all things two-wheeled have a couple typical categories, but tend toward memorable moments.  With very little pomp and circumstance, the awards go to:

Best Way to Fly – Jens Voigt’s Specialized Shiv TT setup.  Big fan of Jens, his panache, and the ‘little known facts’ lists.  I know that wind tunnel tests show that the height of the rider is less important than the width, but damn.

Biggest Surprise – Cuddles win at the Worlds.  I know I take too much pleasure in kicking this man when he’s down, but he seemed destined to never win a Big One.  Happy to see his “Don’t Step on My Dog” shirts to know he’s got some humor in there…somewhere.

Best Team – Cervelo Test Team. They brought a manufacturer’s team back to the pro peleton.  They chose their riders and personalities very smartly.  Along the way, a Green Jersey, stage wins in all the Grand Tours (including Haussler’s purest victory celebration of the year) and a unique connection to the fans.  Also responsible for the biggest bonehead move in stopping Serge Pauwels stage win, but you can’t win them all.

Best Examples of Cycling Superhuman Toughness – Pedro Horillo and Jens Voight.  Horrific crashes that can only be qualified as ‘near death experiences.’  I live in a less-than-cyclecentric area and get tired of defending how challenging the sport is.  “This NFL player broke his arm and came back with a cast next week.” Really? Jens hit the pavement in less than Under Armour at over 50 mph and bounced face first. He was all but ready to race in a week. Pedro fell off a cliff and broke and punctured everything.  He’s deciding whether or not to come back, but he’s a philosopher.  Educated, even.

Best Person in the Sport You Should Know More About  – Rebecca Rusch.  2009 (and 3x) MTB 24-hour solo world champion, 2009 Leadville champion, USAC Ultra Endurance Series Champion and a Super D victory at Crankworks just for fun.  The “Queen of Pain” has a palmares in cycling endurance and adventure racing that makes mere mortals cringe.  Incredibly nice person to boot.

Biggest Petty Grudge for the next decade – My already seething dislike of Team Sky and Brad Wiggins.  Their methods of getting riders, their handling of the dealings with Garmin, their declaration of being a super team based solely on budget.   Unfortunately, I liked a lot of the rest of their roster.  Boasson Hagen is ready to break through big and now gets to get throttled back.  Hopefully, Wiggo’s fashion sense doesn’t rub off on anybody.

Biggest Disappointment – Big George not getting his day in Yellow.  The classiest man in the sport denied because Garmin was jealous of Columbia’s success. Yes, there were tactical anomalies, green jersey battle, etc.. But Garmin’s own riders knew they were following orders they didn’t want to.  George still handled it as gracefully as anybody could.  Paris-Roubaix 2010 or Bust.

Biggest “What just happened?” – Denis Menchov’s inability to consistently keep the rubber side down.  For an automaton, you would think they’d improve his internal gyroscope.
Biggest “What just happened?” part deux – Bob Stapleton’s declaration that Armstrong is “passing the mantle” to Cavendish.  Sure, they’re buds and did a couple Lance-Channel videos.  Maybe Bob got nervous since this originated from a CNN interview – mainstream media can be scary. Maybe he ran out of different ways to work Cav’s name into a sentence without trying to redefine it as a new word.  Cav’s a star, he gives credit to his team, but there are a few other names sitting on equal footing.  Not to mention the Columbia Express is missing a key engineer and the last engine will be getting a late start.

Best French Hope – Julien Absalon.  Nope, much to the Badger’s chagrin, there is go Great French Hope that will capture the maillot jaune in Paris anytime soon.   However, Absalon reigns supreme on XC dirt, winning five of the last ten World Cup XC titles, including a dominant 2009 where he put together a 4-win streak.  He has also won four World Championship titles along the way, although two years removed from his last.

Biggest Unheralded Victory – Armstrong’s Leadville victory.  He had some ‘teammates.’  But, it was a mountain bike race, he had to keep pace and he rode the last half solo.  He crushed it.  Mix in a spring and fall Mellow Johnny’s Classic and he might just revive mountain biking.  The sport deserves it.

For those that won, congratulations.  Unfortunately, there doesn’t come a lot (or any) of notoriety, but I can send a t-shirt and coffee cup if you want…I mean, people need rags to clean bikes with and everybody could use another coffee cup.  For those wanting to win next year, start campaigning now!

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