Vinokourov pens award winning cycling essay.

Vino the essay writer.

Why is teaching kids writing skills so important in school? Why don’t we just scrap writing in favor of courses on web programming, social media, biotech and energy recovery strategies for business? That’s where the future jobs are, right?

Writing skills are important because once in a while writing makes all the difference. For example, when you want to write an apology letter that doubles as a skillful counter attack that might alter public opinion.

Alexander Vinokourov did just that yesterday in response to some Liege-Bastogne-Liege fans booing his win and journalists who focused on his dark, doping past instead of extolling his post-suspension victory.

Good, smart writing busts heads and changes the course of rivers. Vino’s opus wasn’t the Magna Carta or the Declaration of Independence or Herman Melville or Gabriel García Márquez but it might have swayed a few readers.

We’re awarding Alexander Vinokourov a first prize for his essay, which we’ve taken the liberty of re-titling: Why I Deserve To Enjoy My Triumphant Victory And Why You Should, Too. Twisted Spoke says it’s a fine effort all around — direct, heart-felt, well-structured, with good use of empathy and skillful handling of the “open letter” format.

A few nuggets from the piece. As Joe Lindsey noted in his Boulder Report, Vino did finally admit to doping. A long overdue admission which gives the cynical reader the motivation to get past the past behavior and focus on Vino’s pressing argument: I paid my dues, I deserve some freaking applause. A smart move by Vino who’s pulling out all stops to get himself into the Tour de France.

He name-checked facebook. Now that was flat out brilliant. There are plenty of aging cycling journalists so sick of doping they’ll never give Vino another chance if he drained his entire body of blood each week. Good writing is knowing your best audience and Vino went after the younger generation that isn’t so stuck back in history. They’re cool, Vino’s hip, and pretty soon he’ll be tweeting like Armstrong about rockin’ Astana night clubs and his fave Kazah style mojito recipe. This is cultivating an audience.

He played the sympathy card in that “look, what else you want me to do?” way. Again, a nice touch. Give people things that they can’t argue against and it builds your case. He cites how many times he’s been tested, reiterates how open he’s been with the press since his return and wonders aloud about the disparity between the hundreds of messages of support versus the media’s knee jerk axe-grinding. In some small way, we felt his pain.

Given his arguments, we had to re-admit the obvious: he’s paid his debt to cycling society, his biological passport is in order, the man has a right to ride. Bonus points: he nails everybody with this Socratic gem — “As if I had to be forbidden of success on my bike to leave everyone with a clear conscience. In which sport are we allowed to be at the start of a competition without the right to win?” Honestly, that’s a fair point, like it or not.

Vinokourov also invoked the L word, love and got emotional. Who isn’t a sucker for that? Another key of persuasive writing — don’t be afraid to wear your heart on your sleeve, cry a little, open your heart. Sure blood doping is illegal but look, Mr. & Mrs Cycling Public, these are real tears.

Vino spoke of his deep love of cycling and even explained his unwillingness to speak of past offenses because, yes, he loved cycling too much to drag its carcass through the mud by keeping the story alive. That’s a clever rhetorical trick that probably even had Jonathan Vaughters getting a little, you know, choked up.

Now we could take points off for lack of metaphor, a pedestrian lead paragraph and a low score on stylistic flourish but good writing is first and foremost about good communication. Vino scored an A+. All joking and general dislike aside, the man made me question the fairness of my grudge.

With his open letter working its powerful mojo, Vino is now writing his next essay: Why I Love France In July And Why I Belong There With My Friend Alberto. So there you have it — Alexander Vinokourov, winner of Liege Bastogne Liege and published author. Not a bad week for the bad boy from Kazakhstan. And why writing skills should be a part of every ProTour rider’s program.

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  • Johnny Masury

    Matt,

    I didn't know where to put this, so I just tacked it on here.

    I would really love if you put Fiorenzo Magni in one of your blogs. He broke his clavicle during the 1956 Giro and kept riding with a rope attached to his handle bars while gripping it with his teeth to ease the pain. He got 2nd. That is the definition of a hard core rider.

    http://davesbikeblog.squarespace.com/storage/Fior

  • joepappillon

    Great analysis, Matt! You gotta promote this post more and get some eyes on it – some of your best work yet!

  • Alex Simon

    Great analysis. I felt the same. I especially felt the pain that would lead to “In which sport are we allowed to be at the start of a competition without the right to win?”
    I don’t think there’s any point in holding a grudge against Vino and yet I still feel that the time to come clean and apologise was immediately after the positive test – not now.
    What really makes me chuckle is how whole of the Astana squad including Alberto and Lance have had to suffer his ‘distinctive’ fashion choices in his absence. All of a sudden, the strip made sense when I saw Vino break away on Sunday.

  • Erik

    I think it would be prudent to review some of Vino’s comments when he was first caught for doping. Among the gems:

    “It’s a mistake. I never doped, that’s not the way I see my profession,” the newspaper quoted him as saying. “I think it’s a mistake in part due to my crash. I have spoken to the team doctors who had a hypothesis that there was an enormous amount of blood in my thighs, which could have led to my positive test.”

    Read the rest of it here: http://www.cyclingnews.com/news/vinokourov-i-never-doped

    It’s one thing to cheat, but his ability to lie over shadows that fact.

    • http://www.atwistedspoke.com walshworld

      Erik, yup, that’s one of the things that annoys me about Vino. It’s a double insult to everyone when a rider makes up these ridiculous excuses. Thanks for reminding us of those statements. Matt

  • Johnny Masury

    Let’s see if the Cobra or the Chicken will follow suit.

    • http://www.atwistedspoke.com walshworld

      Again, you are reading my mind. I've already started a Conra letter. Might become a post, might not.

  • Paul

    my god, he plays the jealousy card again?

    Before Vino get's my simpathy, i would like to see him apologyze to his 'provocateurs' first…

    nice post

  • rdef

    Matt, great piece! But, like you did for Vino, I have to take points off for spelling and grammar. Esp. that last line, "And why writing skills are should be part of every ProTour rider’s program."