We respect anything Fabian Cancellara says. He’s the world time trial champion, he’s got an Olympic gold medal, he’s won Paris-Roubaix and Flanders. He’s tough and handsome and has a cool Spartacus nickname.
So when Mr. Cancellara proposes we send Riccardo Ricco to the moon, well, that proposal deserves serious consideration. If the rider union votes for the Swiss champion’s plan and the UCI raised the necessary funds, maybe it’s the Right and Swift thing to do.
Twisted Spoke took the first bold steps for mankind and did a cursory check on feasibility and cost structure. Getting the Cobra off the earth’s surface in a rocket is a tall order but not impossible. NASA and the Russian Space agency are both capable of stuffing Ricco and a bike in a space capsule. There are even private companies who can put the snake into orbit.
The real issue it not the trip but the long term. Inherent in Cancellara’s suggestion is that Riccardo Ricco will not be coming back. This is exile on the surface of the moon, as far away from professional cycling as possible.
Therefore the most significant hurdle is the food and shelter — and breathable air — to keep Ricco alive for the rest of his days. This is when the costs and difficulties begin to pile up. The scenario is far more challenging when long term incarceration is part of the plan. Ricco will need a moon base of some sort. (We assume for humanitarian reasons that Cancellara was not saying Ricco should immediately die on Earth’s satellite.)
The fact is, back in 2005 the administration of then-president Bush suggested a return to the moon. At that time, sportswriter and wise man Gregg Easterbrook reviewed the requirements and the cost estimate. We quote from his story:
“A rudimentary, stripped-down Moon base and supplies might weigh 200 tons. (The winged “orbiter” part of the space shuttle weighs 90 tons unfueled, and it’s cramped with food, oxygen, water, and power sufficient only for about two weeks.) Placing 200 tons on the Moon might require 400 tons of fuel and vehicle in low-Earth orbit, so that’s 600 tons that need to be launched just for the cargo part of the Moon base. Currently, using the space shuttle it costs about $25 million to place a ton into low-Earth orbit. Thus means the bulk weight alone for a Moon base might cost $15 billion to launch.”
Now, Easterbrook based his final cost on fully staffing the base with astronauts, their transit vehicles and thousands of support staff on earth. Obviously, Ricco would be the sole occupant and as far as transit, a simple bike trainer or rollers would be plenty. (At this time, we have no idea if Ricco’s fiancee and young son would wish to join him in this lonely existence almost 240,000 miles from Italy.) In any case, Easterbrook’s rough number for a ten-year moon base: $200 billion.
Wow, you’re saying, that’s a huge pile on money. Yes, Fabian Cancellara is not a numbers guy, not his area of expertise, but he had a vision. Exiling Riccardo Ricco, a doping cancer, on the moon may in fact be the ideal solution. The question isn’t about how or why, it’s about commitment and will-power.
Is the UCI willing to find the $200 billion required to solve a serious doping problem? Is the riders union willing to raise cash for such an enterprise? Does WADA want to send a message to other dopers like Danilo di Luca and Alejandro Valverde that the next offense is a one way ticket off the planet? Talk about deterrents.
Twisted Spoke has no idea how the sports’ governing body would raise such a colossal sum. But a first step would be increasing the taxes on race bikes. Consider that the first down payment and surely more financial savvy people within the UCI will create additional revenue streams.
We say forget the ban on race radios because this is the biggest issue facing professional cycling right now: do we send Ricco to the moon?