It was my pleasure to attend the NorCal Cycle Fest 2009 cocktail party fundraiser that featured Garmin chief Jonathan Vaughters.
First, I’m a huge fan of Vaughters who is without question one of the sharpest, most articulate and forward thinking men in cycling. His Garmin team leads the high speed charge for clean cycling. Which means nobody running around with satchels of syringes and bags of blood.
A few observations from the evening. Vaughters still looks like the climber he used to be only with a snazzy vest, jacket, jeans and boots. The trademark sideburns were in effect. His girlfriend is super cute and charming. He took it easy on the buffet and was in fact the only person to eat the asparagus. Okay, that was the People Magazine part of the evening.
Vaughters gave a 15 minute speech and I didn’t have a recording device but I did have four glasses of wine. This means there are no direct quotes. But probably the the most memorable thing he said was when discussing his efforts to create a new atmosphere for his riders. One that didn’t require doping. If recall serves, he didn’t want them forced into this situation: ” Can I accept mediocrity (as a rider) and can I look my mother in the eye?”
He went on to explain how he convinces riders they can win clean. Yes, there’s maybe a 10% performance gain from EPO but he tells his riders “we can claw that difference back” with better technology, fabrics, training, nutrition and things he wasn’t prepared to reveal since they’re proprietary.
Many of the questions from the audience concerned doping and whether the battle could be won. Vaughters used this as a way to explain the oft-times misunderstood biological passport. The new learning for us was that sure, you can’t always pinpoint or test for a particular doping product but that whatever the illegal additive is, it always changes the same blood values in the profile. You’ll know if a rider is up to something — then you can target. There are many ways to catch a rider who dopes.
Another subject he touched on was not only the intense pressure to dope but also intense pressure from sponsors to sign a particular rider even if he’s questionable. Vaughters admitted that Bernard Kohl and Stefan Schumacher were riders his sponsor pushed hard for based on their own business objective in the German market. It ain’t easy staying clean.
Finally, Twisted Spoke asked which Garmin rider was funnier: Zabriskie or Wiggins. It wasn’t even close for Vaughters who voted for Wiggins. Apparently, Z is big on that “that’s what she said…” joke, which if you have a teen boy, gets old fast.