A rebuttal to Steve Tilford’s hatchet job on Vaughters.

//A rebuttal to Steve Tilford’s hatchet job on Vaughters.

A rebuttal to Steve Tilford’s hatchet job on Vaughters.


Vaughters -- Tilford said what?


Twisted Spoke doesn’t usually weigh in on what other bloggers have to say. However, we’re making an exception today because two of the most well-read bloggers have taken hard, negative shots at Garmin-Sharp boss Jonathan Vaughters for his doping admission piece in the New York Times.

We’re talking about former Cervelo co-founder (and former Garmin sponsor) Gerard Vroomen and mountain biker slash blogger Steve Tilford. We’ll respond to Vroomen tomorrow but first Mr. Tilford.

Wow, this guy is a “crabby patty” to use the Sponge Bob cartoon descriptor. He lashes into Vaughters and we think he went too far, judges too harshly and missed some obvious and critical points.

First, Tilford starts his blog post by quibbling about numbers. He thinks the performance bump for doping is greater than the 2% Vaughters stated and that riding 20,000 miles for 10 years just to be fit enough to ride the Tour de France is also inaccurate.

Our take: so what? You want 3-4%, great, you want more or less mileage, pick a number. Both Tilford (and Vroomen) make the mistake of thinking Vaughters wrote his story for a highly knowledgable cycling audience like themselves. He didn’t. That wasn’t remotely his intention.

He’s writing for a general audience, a much wider group that isn’t focused or interested in numerical specifics. He’s trying to explain to the big world outside cycling his own personal experience with doping and why in more general terms we have to be vigilant and aggressive in our anti-doping efforts so young riders don’t have to face the decision to dope or not. Vaughters isn’t writing a policy paper for cycling wonks.

Next up Tilford gets annoyed and crabby about whether the sport of cycling is or isn’t cleaner now. He disagrees with Vaughters that “the sport is clean enough to win races clean.” Well, I disagree with his disagreement. This season Ryder Hesjedal wins the Giro d’Italia and Bradley Wiggins wins the Tour de France. Last year a Garmin domestique wins Paris-Roubaix. I could cite more support but do I really need more than that? There’s no question smart riders can still manipulate their biological passports but if Tilford truly believes the passport is a “joke” then Hesjedal and Wiggins never make the podium.

Tilford also seems really angry that Jonathan Vaughters got a second chance. To quote the howling Tilford: “he has this platform and big voice because, according to him, he ‘made the wrong decision.'” Wow, that’s quite a bitter indictment.

I believe people deserve second chances. Human beings make mistakes, “nice” people, bad people, criminals, even bloggers. Every religion is based on forgiveness and most people are generally positive — we all have weakness, most of us try to improve and we’re willing to give others a second chance and the benefit of the doubt.

Tilford argues that Vaughters would never be running a big ProTour team like Garmin if he hadn’t first doped his way to some high profile results and success. Yup, fame opens doors, always has, always will. Disillusioned and sick of the doping practices, Vaughters quit the sport and started a real estate company in Colorado. A few years later he starts a small development team funded in large part by his real estate money. Nobody handed Vaughters a team nor did he ask for one: he built his own. He began pretty far down the ladder and with young riders because he wanted to change the doping dynamic.

That brings us to our final point of difference with Tilford. Not only does he believe that Vaughters is both influential and running Garmin because he got big results doping, he thinks Vaughters is doing a poor job with his second chance. “So now he gets a 2nd chance. For me, he’s not doing so well with it so far, in my opinion,” was how Tilford put it.

That opinion strikes me as so profoundly stupid and wrongheaded I have steam shooting out my ears. Name one person in the last five years who has done more to promote clean cycling than Vaughters? Name one person who runs a cleaner team with a stronger anti-doping statement than Vaughters? Name anybody that has tried harder to implement more testing, better testing, with more oversight? Name anybody who has created a more inspirational — and successful — environment for riders who want to win at the highest level and ride clean? And by that I mean somebody with the power and position and respect to actually steer the sport in a better direction?

We will agree with Tilford on one point — Riccardo Ricco didn’t dope because he wanted “a level playing field.” Ricco is a seriously disturbed and deranged guy with way more problems that the desperate need to win races by any means necessary. I side with Vaughters in his belief that the majority of riders simply want a fair shot at winning races without resorting to doping.

Jonathan Vaughters is one of the few visionaries in the sport of professional cycling. In our opinion, he’s done more to try to rescue cycling for the dark doping years and the corruption and incompetence of the UCI than anyone else. You can also throw is the facts that he’s articulate, funny and a swell dresser.

It’s not something I generally do but I have to call bullshit on Steve Tilford.




By |2019-02-03T16:07:14-08:00August 17th, 2012|Uncategorized|42 Comments

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  1. Shawn August 17, 2012 at 12:00 pm - Reply

    Amen! And there is nothing wrong with challenging other bloggers, especially the myopic ones.

    • walshworld August 17, 2012 at 2:56 pm - Reply

      Thanks Shawn. Next up, Mr Vroomen. Best, Matt

  2. IWearSpandex August 17, 2012 at 1:20 pm - Reply

    Well said! I can’t believe anyone could read the NYT article from Vaughter’s and not get that his main point was about the culture of doping and trying to eliminate that choice for riders. Even I got that.

    Great point about second chances as well. I think most riders deserve and receive a second chance.

    • walshworld August 17, 2012 at 2:57 pm - Reply

      Thanks Brian, just got a long response from Tilford and I get the sense even he wishes he had moderated things a bit. Or, maybe not. Matt

  3. Snowcatcher August 17, 2012 at 1:59 pm - Reply

    Another resounding Amen. Thank you for this.

    • walshworld August 17, 2012 at 2:58 pm - Reply

      You’re welcome — and thanks for writing in. Matt

  4. gnu_mutant August 17, 2012 at 2:08 pm - Reply

    My guess is Steve is bitter because of how his sport changed in the early nineties when doping came across the Atlantic to North American racing and XC MTB racing in particular. That I can understand.

    But I don’t understand why he needs to be so harsh on JV. In my book JV is right up there with David MIllar as reformed and committed to fixing the sport. This opinion is based on lots of public evidence. Shame of Steve for not doing a bit of research.

    • walshworld August 17, 2012 at 3:00 pm - Reply

      Mutant, I think that’s a fair guess and I don’t blame him for that bitterness. I do think he took a super puritanical approach and I’m not much on people who only see black and white. The world of humans just isn’t that simple or easy to slice. We have to live with a lot of grey and decide what that means. Matt

  5. Steve Tilford August 17, 2012 at 2:45 pm - Reply

    Guys-Steve here. Jonathan and I had a little chat via comments on at my website and I explained why I was being so “harsh”.

    For one, on the numbers. It might of seemed trivial, but it is important. I don’t have the knowledge to know whether Jonathan is being sincere or spin doctoring to the public. So I looked at objective subjects, subjects that I have personal knowledge and experience in to see if it passed the BS scale. So, I called him out on his numbers. He answered back that could be up to a 12% increase in power, not 2%. And he lowered his miles from 20,000 to 13,000. Those are huge differences. It is a disservice to everything that Jonathan is trying to accomplish, when he spews numbers that minimize the advantage that taking drugs in cycling gives.

    I’ll stick with my assessment that Jonathan wouldn’t be doing what he is if he wouldn’t have ridden the Tour with Lance and doped.

    Last, what makes you “have steam shooting out of your ears.” Why I don’t give Jonathan’s 2nd attempt a passing grade. It’s mainly because of the riders he hires or contacts to hire.

    Let’s start with the obvious, Thomas Dekker. Give me one good reason that he should get a 2nd chance. He was caught for doping nearly 10 years after Jonathan said the sport was super polluted. He isn’t of the old guard. He knew it was not excepted and knew the consequences. But, the consequences aren’t what they appear to be because the “clean team”, Jonathan’s team, gave him a 2nd chance. What about all the other guys that never get a first chance because of shits like Thomas Dekker.

    And others. How about Trent Lowe. For that matter, Ryder. Why would he another hire a rider off a team that was run by Johan Bruyneel when he personally experienced what Johan expected from his riders. If you’re attempting to run a clean program, why? There are tons of other riders out there without the past.

    And why negotiate with Alberto Contador when he is suspended? How bad an example does that give to anyone that is in the sport? An extremely bad example.

    I check the accuracy of simple facts, and that failed, so that made me
    question the accuracy and
    observations in general, so it made the whole op-ed questionable.

    I do applaud much of what Jonathan is currently doing publicly, and
    behind the scenes, in the sport. But the mission statement he made to the New York
    Times was nothing but self preservation.

    • walshworld August 17, 2012 at 3:20 pm - Reply

      Hi Steve, I appreciate you taking the time to write a reply and give some additional explanations. The one thing I’d respond to is taking on riders like Dekker. I think JV believes he can take talented riders who have made bad choices and give them a second chance, a chance everybody deserves. He doesn’t take everybody and has some pretty strict guidelines and has said no to a number of riders after he got a closer look at their passport numbers.

      I also think he puts some stock in people who actually say sorry, I fucked up, I apologize and deeply regret what I did. That would be people like Millar — who never misses an opportunity including moments after his Tour stage win — to remind people he is an ex-doper. For me, Dekker actually falls in the same category. He hit rock bottom and came clean, was candid about his mistakes, and he paid his price. JV let him stew for a year, then dumped him in the Chipotle development squad to eat shit for a season and prove to him he was clean and committed.

      Dekker could have signed with another team and his desire to ride with the cleanest team in the peloton says a lot. He has suffered and continues to suffer for his mistakes but he’s working his way back up and doing it right. I applaud that and applaud JV giving him another change. Trent Lowe? We know what happened to him — JV cut him and popular DS Matt White for the ill-advised trip to a doctor with a questionable doping past. That was a strong statement and even crabby pants Gerard Vroomen gave that a thumbs up for integrity.

      You mention Ryder Hesjedal and hiring from a Bruyneel squad — as you know, it can be tough to find anybody in pro cycling that wasn’t on some team or coached by some person with some black marks. Again, I think JV is highly selective — this is a tight squad — and he brings in people who will submit to his rules and they’re the most stringent in the sport. That gets me back to second chances and I believe JV has done a great job of deciding who really deserves them.

      It’s a fair question to ask why Vaughters was pursuing Contador. I believe cycling is changing for the better and it is cleaner and that any Garmin deal with AC would be presented as look, you’re talented enough to win clean and I will show you how and you’ll have the squad with the absolute best teamwork behind you.

      I think it’s dangerous to harsh on one of the few people who is actually making this a better, cleaner, more visionary sport every day. Steve, lets get back to attacking the real problem — lying, hack UCI president Pat McQuaid. Best, Matt

    • jv August 17, 2012 at 4:46 pm - Reply


      Read my response again. I never recant the 2% in the context it was given, nor do I recant the 20,000 miles figure, just the 10 yrs. Read it, again, Steve, if it stumped you this much. Also: never negotiated with Contador since 2009. Ryder? Really? because Ryder was a neo-pro on Postal, he’s automatically condemned? I should have given the chance to some talentless, pedal clipping moron, because Ryder rode for what was his only option to turn pro into the big leagues? Let me clue you in: I choose guys because they are talented. If you want to start digging into who doped and who didn’t in the last decade, you’ll never figure it out. Some guys will get away with it and no one will know. Some won’t. So, talent+desire to race clean now+honesty to me about their past=bingo.

      You need to start checking your facts, Steve. I could go on and on and on.

      But I’ll leave you with this: You might want to ask Floyd about his old boss. See if that leads to your doorstep?

      If you want to start drawing lines, we can all play that game. Serves no one. Either people have the resolve to clean it up going forward or not. End of.

      • walshworld August 19, 2012 at 5:53 pm

        Well played JV! As per usual. Look forward to chatting in Colorado. Best of luck to Tommy D! Matt

    • MMR August 18, 2012 at 5:12 pm - Reply

      Yet another blogger with a narrow mind who can write whatever they want. One of the great joys of the Internet is watching someone marginalized themselves, while others, including JV, look for for deeper understanding in issues. One of the greatest measures of intellect is the ability to evolve ones opinion when presented new information. Maybe Mr. Tilford can show this in the future.

      • walshworld August 19, 2012 at 5:56 pm

        MMR< you nailed it with the word evolve. That is intelligence, learning, openness, ability to listen and notice the world changing. Tilford sounds like an angry man and taking shots at one of the few visionaries in the sport seems not just dumb but distructive. Matt

    • COMO CYCO August 21, 2012 at 1:17 pm - Reply

      My God, Tilford – you truly are dumber than you write. Hang on – you’re right – Ryder must be damaged goods for life…
      Speaking of self-preservation, please crawl back to the chicken-scratching “blog” you keep and avoid straying into waters that are clearly too deep for your intellect.

  6. MadPat August 17, 2012 at 2:49 pm - Reply

    well said, good case of “not see the forest for the trees”

    • walshworld August 17, 2012 at 3:21 pm - Reply

      So many damn trees, MadPat. And they’re right besides the road ready to confuse. Matt

  7. Rufus Motherfucker August 17, 2012 at 7:01 pm - Reply

    You are high as a fucking kite if you think just because riders are on Garmin that they are performing “clean.”

    Vaughters and his ego needs to leave the sport, along with ALL of the old guard – including many riders still riding and winning today.

    • walshworld August 19, 2012 at 5:54 pm - Reply

      Rufus, are you on crack? JV is one of the few people saving this sport from drugs and McQuaid. Matt

  8. Fred August 19, 2012 at 5:09 am - Reply

    Yep – easy to throw rocks from bridges, but it seems to me that JV really has put his ass on the line and in the real line of fire, not like some little cult blog down some singletrack trail somewhere. Who gives a shit if JV rode 15k or 20k miles a year? He and Millar have been quietly leading the charge for years now to change the pervasive culture of doping in procycling. Let’s not lose sight of what’s really important going on here.

    • walshworld August 19, 2012 at 5:58 pm - Reply

      Fred, you are a big picture guy, a true sign of intelligence. JV is one of the few keeping this sport from sinking into a Pat McQuaid induced death. Matt

  9. Herpaderp team time trial August 19, 2012 at 4:58 pm - Reply

    JV doped for holy reasons, blessings be upon him…lolz

  10. VCScribe August 20, 2012 at 7:09 am - Reply

    Vaughters is a poster boy for the hypocrisy in pro cycling; it only appears cleaner because the admitted cheaters like Vaughters, Millar, etc., mouth platitudes about “level playing fields” and “being forced to dope.” He needs to resign, and Tilford’s criticism, inarticulate as it might have been, was completely warranted. Vaughters creates a”clean” team and then promptly fills its ranks with dopers.

    • walshworld August 20, 2012 at 9:11 pm - Reply

      VC, thanks for dropping a note. I drove from all day from Durango to telluride then to montrose. It’s late, I’m exhausted, the margaritas were strong and to get to your comment, you’re wrong and it may be too late for remedial learning. Sorry, Matt

  11. […] I left at an article titled, A rebuttal to Steve Tilford’s hatchet job on Vaughters, at the atwistedpspoke.com that – Let me clue you in: I choose guys because they are talented. If you want to start […]

  12. COMO CYCO August 21, 2012 at 11:34 am - Reply

    Did Tilford really believe that JV was the self-proclaimed cycling Messiah, here to deliver us from the evils of doping in cycling? He vilifies JV for not doing well with Garmin….for JV’s confession being too self-serving. And now, in his most recent post, Tilford accuses him of spending too much time on the internet.
    Sure, I wish JV would have come clean a little sooner – if only to lend support to several other individuals who were speaking up and getting shredded for it. But it’s Vaughter’s story to tell – and he has the right to tell it however he wants. And regarding being “self-serving” and spending an “unfathomable” amount of time on the internet, the last time I checked, it was Steve Tilford who has a blog dedicated to his own self-aggrandizement, poorly written as it is.
    Regardless of the way in which he has done it, JV has pushed the sport of cycling in front of the mirror and forced it to ask what it wants to be in the future…..all the while taking a team of kids funded initially out of his own pocket, and growing it into a squad that can win at any level, cleanly and respectfully. And although Mr. Tilford is likely far too busy to spend time reading blogs and commentaries (as he most certainly does not have such “unfathomable” amounts of time on his hands), I still have a question for him:
    What has he done for the sport, lately?

    • walshworld August 21, 2012 at 6:44 pm - Reply

      Como, thanks for jumping in. It’s been interesting to see the backlash. I suspect Tilford wishes he could take a few things back but is too proud to do so. We need Vaughters in the sport because there are few people trying to save it. Matt

  13. LB August 21, 2012 at 5:21 pm - Reply

    Doping it NOT a mistake.. it is a calculated and poor moral choice. Getting caught is the mistake… I am so sick and tired of people saying that dopers “made a mistake”.

    • walshworld August 21, 2012 at 6:49 pm - Reply

      LB,again, I’d make a clear distinction between those who were caught up in something pervasive and hard (for the majority of us) to say no to but who eventually came clean and those who just hope they can beat the system better the second time. Read Vaughter’s response to Tilford on the TS post because I think he explains his thinking well I do belive this is a situation where you give certain riders second chances. I think the black or white good or evil knife slice ignores the fact that we are all human and make mistakes. Matt

  14. Dark Lord August 24, 2012 at 7:37 am - Reply

    The laughable thing about Vaughters coming out now, is that there is an 8 Year Statue of Limitations under the WADA code to prosecute anyone suspected of cheating, Vaughters last raced in 2003. Kinda’ funny how he didn’t write that NY Times article LAST YEAR or the year before. Self-serving????? You decide.

    • walshworld August 28, 2012 at 9:19 am - Reply

      Dark, Vaughters is many things and one of them is highly intelligent. Everybody wants to manage their doping admissions as best they can. I weigh the plus and minus and I don’t think there’s any question JV and Garmin are leading the anti-doping charge. So I can excuse any self-serving moves like the timing of the NY Times piece. Matt

  15. Belivelo August 27, 2012 at 7:11 pm - Reply

    A little bit of an assumption that Hesjedal and Wiggans are clean? I have read reports that the numbers Wiggans put up in the tour suggest manipulation? Who knows for sure? Every rider says he is clean.

    • walshworld August 28, 2012 at 9:17 am - Reply

      I admit to being a firm supporter of Vaughters and Garmin and believe that Wiggins is 100% clean. Sadly, everybody is a suspect but I’ll say no on Wiggins and Hesjedal. Matt

  16. […] and one cyclist, Steve Tilford, calls b.s. But he has made similar claims before, and the rebuttal was […]

  17. Will October 18, 2012 at 9:37 pm - Reply

    Do you race ? Doping is prevalent all the way down to local crits and even more prevalent in the older generation “masters” riders who can get Test and HGH from quack doctors AND with insurance money. Jonathon Vaughters is a pompous, know-it-all asswipe. “PED’s provide 2% bump to performance.” Aha ha ha. Try 20-25%. Guys are still attacking on 17% grades at 22kph after 100k and 3 cols? It’s not possible, I don’t care how genetically “gifted” one is. It’s not just EPO, it’s a cocktail party..it’s the scientific combination of a bevy of PED’s that produce the super racer. As has been posted, the guy w/ the most money (thus the best drugs) wins. The peleton is still not clean. Racers and Dr’s will always find a way to stay one step ahead of the system. Don’t know Tilford, raced w/ him before, read his blog a few times..yeah he’s cranky, testy, but he’s refreshingly honest, and not afraid to be self depricating.
    “Jonathan Vaughters is one of the few visionaries in the sport of professional cycling. In our opinion, he’s done more to try to rescue cycling for the dark doping years and the corruption and incompetence of the UCI than anyone else. You can also throw is the facts that he’s articulate, funny and a swell dresser.”

  18. RightofGenghis February 10, 2015 at 10:46 am - Reply

    I’m sorry, but your “counter examples” of Hesjedal and Wiggins are both former dopers, both of whom are still ridiculously secretive about their pasts as well as their present. What’s with the trips to Tenerife in mid season? What’s with the non-denial denials?

    The whole point of doping is that there are long-lasting physical effects that remain with the athlete long after the active doping has ended. Vaughters doped and profited both on and off the bike as a result. That he’s now running a team that’s populated with former dopers is, at best, mixed blessing.

    • walshworld February 10, 2015 at 5:46 pm - Reply

      Find me a modern team including Sky that didn’t employ ex-dopers. When that generation is done, then we can talk black and white. Matt

  19. […] was a little more bugged with The Twisted Spoke wrote  “A Rebuttal to Steve Tilford hatchet job on Vaughter.”   I don’t think I did “a hatchet” job on Vaughers.  I think I wrote exactly […]

  20. Truth in advers October 7, 2015 at 10:00 am - Reply

    Was going to subscribe to this blog, as it seemed to provide some decent product testing. Yet when I see this article defending JV I can’t help but think that the author is too far in the pockets certain people and I would question his ability to be objective.

    Defending JV is laughable at best. If JV truly wanted to “do the right thing” his doping admission wouldn’t have been held off until the expiration of the statute of limitations protected him from reprisal, or sanction. He also wouldn’t have tried to minimize the gains he received (2%…please), or use the “everyone was doing it” excuse.

    To assert that JV’s doped performances for an entire career in cycling didn’t open the doors for him to have the cushy DS job at Garmin/ Cannondale is absurd. Of course it did. He benefitted throughout his entire career from doping and continues to benefit to this day. Remember when he stated that if any rider on his team were ever popped for doping he’d immediately step down…How’d that work out? He backtracked from that promise immediately, because he wants the $$ to keep rolling into his bank account. Dopers, dope and liars, lie.

    JV has zero credibility. Supporting him is a black mark on your credibility.

    • walshworld October 10, 2015 at 5:43 pm - Reply

      Thanks Truth. I’ll happily take the black mark from anyone who sees the world in black and white. It’s a colorless, very narrow, far less human and forgiving world and one I wouldn’t want to live in. Enjoy your righteousness. Matt

  21. Greg Meyer April 21, 2019 at 11:11 am - Reply

    I just saw this. You were wrong about Wiggins. Maybe you have already admitted that.

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