Gazzetta dello Sport. The new UCI.

 

Gazzetta.

 

We’ll get to the Gazzetta in a momento but first, some background. Andrew Hood at Velonews wrote his fine analysis piece on whether people could believe Chris Horner’s win in the Vuelta a Espana.

He wrote a variation on that theme when Nibali won the Giro d’Italia in convincing fashion and we all know how the media treatment poor Chris Froome got when he won the Tour de France.

Hood’s start and end point was that in a post-USADA world, for better or worse, all performances will be questioned and that there’s a gap between perception and reality. The gap being that those in the sport know its perhaps never been cleaner, the culture has shifted but casual fans still assume most riders are doping.

Well, the sport is in a huge transition phase from dark to light and it’s not always pretty. What’s interesting to us is that the journalist backlash on riders is just another sign that the UCI has failed to go a good job with doping.

By that we mean that journalists don’t want to get burned and embarrassed again by doping lies but don’t trust the governing body to keep the sport clean so they have to take on the role of police, investigator and post stage-interrogator.

That’s fine and dandy and legitimate. Everybody knows that many journalists dropped the ball on Armstrong, swept away by the myth and intimidated by the Texan’s ruthless use of his power.

But the whole “prove to us you’re not doping” routine shows a certain desperation. It’s like a nervous parent confronting their overweight teen and saying “please tell me you didn’t get a 64oz Coke and a candy bar after school.” During the Tour de France, the frustration of the press and Sky’s David Brailsford were in a way identical: we can’t go on like this, how do we stop going on like this?

The UCI’s failure to take a harder line on doping has naturally led to others doing the job that they have abdicated. The media now does the UCI job– hiring their own experts and analysts to scrutinize the performances of Nibali, Froome and Horner. They fish through hotel dumpsters and run their own crude whereabouts program, following riders around like private detectives.

Essentially, the Gazzetto dello Sport is playing UCI. They’re doing their tests, measuring performances, and policing riders by demanding to see riders power data. You could even argue that funded on a zero budget compared to the UCI, they’re working harder to control the doping issue that the governing body. Which is kinda crazy considering that the Gazzetta often takes a sensationalist approach. Too much passion, not enough Pulitzer.

Again, that’s not such a bad thing. At least somebody cares enough about the sport to make an attempt. But it’s just another reminder that the UCI under McQuaid is incapable of restoring trust in cycling or even telling a better doping PR story to the outside world. (The embattled McQuaid is too busy these days trying to bend election rules and even backdate them so he can win another term even though the Irish and Swiss federations refused to nominate him.) In a leadership vacuum, the Gazzetta frames the doping story instead of the UCI; the media decide who is clean or suspicious.

We feel sorry for Froome, Nibali and Horner that they have to race under those conditions and have their victories diminished by rumor and innuendo. We feel sorry for cycling fans who have to follow a sport run by cynical and incompetent hacks.

If McQuaid hadn’t failed on doping, the Gazzetta dello Sport wouldn’t have to take over the role.

 

 

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  • http://www.pbjbusinessconsulting.com/ Brian Stephens

    I was looking forward to your take on the post win doping questions. I went back and read Andrew Hood’s take on both Nibali and Horner.

    Having seen Wiggins and Froome win the Tour, I felt like they won cleanly, mostly because I could see the difference from pelotons of years past, but also because I saw their performances and believed that things worked in their favor (team strength, tactics, good luck, etc). Having not seen Nibali win the Giro and Horner win the Vuelta, I have no frame of reference for those overall performances. However, Horner’s ride seems to be the most extraordinary because of his age.

    I want to believe Horner rode clean, I really do. But I’m left to wonder, all thanks to Armstrong and Oprah.

    • http://www.atwistedspoke.com walshworld

      I believe in Horner winning the Vuelta clean. all 100 things that had to happen for him to win, happened. I agree it was the most extraordinary ride of the year and if he accomplished that clean, it should be celebrated as such. But we know that’s not possible in this climate of doubt. Matt

  • cappuccinoexpress

    The “Gazzetta” is becoming ridicolous. They don’t give a toss about write things as they are. They only want to sell newspapers, so they write what people want.
    Here in Italy 90% of who follow cycling want to see Nibali win, so journalists throw mug on everyone who is not Nibali (for now, see Ricco’s case).
    So, don’t feel sorry for Nibali, he’s the only one who can win a gt clean for “gazzetta”
    With Pantani it is/was the same thing. I remember an article of few months ago, after the report of tour 98…the main point was “they can’t take away the tour Pantani”.

    The “shocknews” is always the priority.People want this, they write this.

    This is why I follow your blog, you write what you think, not what people want to read.

    • http://www.atwistedspoke.com walshworld

      Thanks Cap, I try to bring a unique perspective from outside the cycling media. Although since I’ve written over a dozen stories for Cycle Sport magazine, I find it harder and harder to maintain that perspective. The closer you get to the riders, the harder to keep your distance. It was easier when I didn’t have kind of a friendly relationship with particular riders. Over time that can warp things or rather soften what I might write. Gazzetta is sensationalist but then I think of it as unabashedly Italian — passion and drama matter more than facts. Matt

  • Dave Moulton

    Doesn’t anyone consider that just maybe because the sport is
    now cleaner than ever, it is the reason someone like Chris Horner was able to
    win the Vuelta. I believe Horner won because he was the freshest. He was able
    to recover from his surgery earlier in the year, then train to peak form at the
    start of the Vuelta.

    Nibali never found the form he had in the Giro, it is hard
    for an athlete to peak for two Grand Tours in the same year. Valverde and
    Rodriguez were definitely tired, they had just ridden the Tour de France. The
    Vuelta is the hardest of all the Grand Tours, it is all about climbing, and Horner
    is a superb climber. Horner lost almost a minute and a half in the Time Trial,
    and had it not been for that, Nibali would not have even been in contention. There
    were enough mountain stages after the TT for Horner to fight his way back.

    Finally, Horner’s age. It is true we lose power and speed as
    we age, but our ability to suffer and endure pain increases. Cycling is and
    endurance sport and the Vuelta is an extreme endurance event. A 64 year old
    woman just swam 110 miles from Cuba to Florida, I doubt a 20 something year old
    could do that, or would even consider it.

    • http://www.atwistedspoke.com walshworld

      Dave, thanks and godammit!!! I had just decided that tomorrow’s post was that Horner’s victory was proof of clean cycling and you beat me to it. Yes, I totally agree that his result does show that there is less doping in the grand tours. I also totally buy that everything aligned perfectly for Horner to win: ideal course, fresh legs when others were still weary on the tour and giro, etc etc. Chris is a master strategist and his team was all in. I couldn’t be happier for the guy. Thanks for writing in and I enjoyed reading your No Problem post this evening. And by golly, I am still gonna write that post tomorrow anyway. Best, Matt