Monday, September 26, 2016

What's all this about "manginal gains?"

Just in case you haven't been following the sport of professional cycling (and really, who could blame you if you haven't?), recently a Russian hacking outfit by the name of "Fancy Bear" (not to be confused with "Bear Fancy," a magazine geared towards those who appreciate hirsute men) released a bunch of information about Team Sky.  Specifically, it seems their biggest riders, Bradley (or "Stanley" if you prefer) Wiggins and Chris Froome, have been receiving various suspiciously convenient TUEs (special dispensation to used banned substances) over the years, and Wiggins in particular comes out of this looking quite bad:


Those who grew tired of Team Sky's 'marginal gains' mantra will have read with a certain degree of irony as leaks from the Fancy Bears cyber-hacking group spread over the internet. Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome, two of the most successful riders in recent years, were revealed as recipients of Therapeutic Use Exemptions (TUEs), and while they did not break any rules, the leak posed several important questions for Team Sky.

Basically, Wiggins, an ostensible asthmatic (like much of the pro peloton conveniently and hilariously claims to be), has said he never took any injections apart from vaccinations:

Well before Fancy Bears' disclosure Wiggins had gone on record in his 2012 Autobiography 'My Time' stating that his only ever injections were for "my vaccinations" and "drips." More important for Team Sky was the fact that it had said that it would pull any rider from a race if he was suffering from allergies, rather than apply for a TUE. That was in 2013, when Dr. Steve Peters had told David Walsh, "We agreed as a team that if a rider, suffering from asthma, got into trouble with pollen we would pull him out of the race rather than apply for a therapeutic use exemption on his behalf."

When in reality he was getting corticoid steroid shots right before the Grand Tours:

The timing of the application for the second set of TUEs has also raised eyebrows within the cycling community, with two leading experts and one of Wiggins' previous team doctors, Prentice Steffen, questioning the necessity of needing the steroid in the build-up to major races. The TUEs were applied for and administered by Team Sky just days before Wiggins' Grand Tour challenges at the Tour in 2011, 2012 and the Giro d'Italia in 2013. He went on to win the Tour in 2012, but crashed out of the 2011 Tour and abandoned in Italy.

Nice.

Further to this, Bradley Wiggins took to the airwaves this past weekend to explain to the BBC that somehow he received no undue benefits from taking a powerful performance enhancer on the eve of a three-week Grand Tour he then went on to win:

This is the furrowed brow and pointy index finger of a man in the midst of spinning a massive lie:


("Would you excuse me for a moment?  It would appear that my trousers have caught fire.")

And this is the current state of pro cycling drug excuses:

"When you win the race three weeks out from the Tour de France, as I did, you're the favourite for the Tour.

"(And) you have the medical team and coaches checking everything's OK - 'Bradley, you're on track here, you're the favourite to win this race, now we need to make sure the next three weeks... is there anything we can help with at the moment?'

"(I say) 'Well, I'm still struggling with this breathing, I know it didn't look like it but is there anything else you can do just to make sure that I don't, this doesn't become an issue into a three-week race at the height of the season?'

"And, in turn, I took that medical advice (to take triamcinolone)."

So in other words, Wiggins and his team worked out a way to game the system in order to keep his performance consistent over the course of a three-week bicycle race, which is pretty much the equivalent of this:

"OK, Bradley, you're on track to remaining very rich for a long time.  Is there anything we can help you with at the moment?"

"Well, I'm still having to pay taxes.  Is there a way the amount of money in my bank account could stay the same come tax time?"

And, in turn, I took their advice to open a shell corporation on the Caribbean island of Nevis.

Sure, technically speaking neither of these things may be 100% illegal, but they're certainly deceitful and underhanded.  Plus, he even evokes the old "level playing field" explanation while simultaneously denying the injections enhanced his performance:

When asked about the possible performance enhancing qualities of triamcinolone, Wiggins avoided giving a direct answer, instead pointing out the abuse of the drug by Millar and Rasmussen, who have criticised his use of the drug via a TUE in recent days.

“They were abusing that drug in that era,” Wiggins claimed. “[They were taking] more of it, and abusing it, and – and this was to cure a medical condition. And the governing body, the World Anti Doping Agency, everyone said this wasn’t about trying to find a way to gain an unfair advantage, this was about putting myself back on a level playing field in order to compete at the highest level.”

The "level playing field" analogy really needs to be retired at this point.  The whole point of bike racing is that it's not a level playing field.  You've got mountains, bumpy roads, and a whole bunch of asthmatics with completely different abilities.  If you're a wheezy suck-ass with a penchant for Fred Perry shirts and you've got to "level the playing field" with someone who climbs better than you by taking a known performance enhancer then you may need to confront the fact that you're a cheater--which obviously he knows because he's only admitting to it now that the editors of "Bear Fancy" have called him on it.

So let's take a moment to consider the real victims here--no, not the fans, you'd have to be an idiot to be a fan of pro cycling in 2016.  No, the real victims are the cycling journalists.  Imagine having to cover the exploits of these riders year after year and craft these heroic narratives for them, and on top of that to have to write excitedly about the debut of some new plastic bike or new component as though it were the key to their performance.  It must be like writing for "Catholic Digest" and having to pretend the whole religion isn't a front for child molestation.

Anyway, given that there's absolutely nothing inspirational, life-affirming or even remotely plausible to be gleaned from pro cycling (or indeed any sport), I'm now only following cycling-as-political-statement:


Five hundred nuns from the Buddhist sect known as the Drukpa Order, on Saturday complete a 4,000-km (2,485 mile) bicycle trek from Nepal's Kathmandu to the northern city of Leh in India to raise awareness about human trafficking in the remote region.

"When we were doing relief work in Nepal after the earthquakes last year, we heard how girls from poor families were being sold because their parents could not afford to keep them anymore," 22-year-old nun Jigme Konchok Lhamo told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

"We wanted to do something to change this attitude that girls are less than boys and that it's okay to sell them," she said, adding that the bicycle trek shows "women have power and strength like men."

Firstly, that's an amazing picture, and let's look at it again:


They look like they should be portaging R2-D2:


Secondly, just imagine how much more powerful their statement would have been had they had access to state-of-the-art gravel bikes like the ones shown recently at Interbike:



I have to admit didn't really watch this because if I hear the phrase "gravel bike" one more time I'm gonna puke.  We should just start calling bikes with decent tire clearance and braze-ons "bikes" and those skinny-tired things that the dopers ride should simply be retired.

Anyway, in addition to gravel bike mania, it seems that the automatic transmission has finally come to bicycles:


The ProShift from Baron Controls will auto-shift any electronic drivetrain on the market, whether connecting to it with a wire or Bluetooth.

Horrified, I went to their website to learn more, and if your first thought upon seeing a system that shifts for you is "It's gotta be for triathletes" then of course you are correct:



The only group of people in the world who seem more averse to riding bicycles than triathletes are people who freak out over Citi Bike at community board meetings.

In case you were wondering, this thing costs $799.  I mean, if you hate shifting so much, just buy a cheap fixie off Bikesdirect and pocket the rest.

And of course we're not done sticking gratuitous electronic devices on stuff that doesn't need them, either.  Smart helmets, smart locks, and now, thanks to these little sensors, every single component and accessory has the ability to tell you that you suck:


The collected data is quite extensive, capturing not just how the rider pedals but even how much time they spend rocking the bike side to side:


It will also tell you how many cats you'll have and how long it will take your neighbors to find your body when you die alone.

The exception of course are pro cyclists, who live lives of glamor (until their inevitable fall from grace) and who get to sit next to movie stars:
You have to feel bad for Uma Thurman, who was no doubt rather unnerved to be seated next to a creature who is more hair product than man:


(NSFW, probably.)

Though I suppose it could have been worse:


That's the stuff of nightmares.

60 comments:

Buffalo Bill said...

Marginally on the top step?

Anonymous said...

Pode.

Kraig said...

Silver surfer

Serial Retrogrouch said...

following the lead... dang

Ted K. said...

178. Whatever else may be the case, it is certain that technology is creating for human beings a new physical and social environment radically different from the spectrum of environments to which natural selection has adapted the human race physically and psychologically. If man is not adjusted to this new environment by being artificially re-engineered, then he will be adapted to it through a long and painful process of natural selection. The former is far more likely than the latter.

N/A said...

Mangina in the title, Bear talk, this whole post is NSFW!

Anonymous said...

Uh oh. You pointed to the truth about a popular religion. A plague of locusts are preparing to descend upon The Bronx at this very moment.

Anonymous said...

Tenner!

N/A said...

Jawas are gravel ready, by the way. R2D2's pressure was too high, which is why he was unable to get gnar across the desert. This was before fat tires were invented for droids.

Anonymous said...

You seem to have developed an itchy trigger finger for pointing out cheats after being duped for years by your "friend" Lance. Funny that this hack is coming from the country that runs a government sponsored athlete doping program. I'm sure there is no coincidence there.

Seattle lone wolf said...

BB-8 is the fat bike of droids.

Unknown said...

The graphics and typography of the "expanded sensor network" appears to have been developed in 1972.

Seems they have been working on the idea for 45 years.

They need to shorten their lead time.

dop said...

Manginal Gains? Those would be gains related to one's mangina. I think RuPaul refers to this as, '"All tucked in".

BikeSnobNYC said...

Anonymous 1:19pm,

Hey, what can I say: I started this blog as a fan of only one sport, which was cycling. I am now a fan of absolutely no sports, including cycling. It took some inside perspective to get there.

By the way, isn't impugning the source of the hack the same as how people (me included) impugned Floyd Landis?

Should be pretty obvious to everybody at this point that every government sponsors an athlete doping program in one way or another, whether directly or by proxy.

--Wildcat Rock Machine

Anonymous said...

All earlier replies are the work of obvious dopers (including BSNYC). And test those Nepalese nuns too

N/A said...

No dopers here, it's not Wednesday yet.

NunPun said...

Why are you all riding to India? Nun of your business

God Fearing Evangelical Athiest said...

You and Bill Mahr should get a room

tashi delek said...

"They look like they should be portaging R2-D2"

When looking for people to make fun off, picking ones on the other side of the earth from you is likely safe. But perhaps you should think twice before making fun of people who:

1. Are not bothering you.
2. The only people they are bothering are human traffickers.
3. They are bad ass enough to bicycle 2,485 miles across desolate mountains.
4. There are 500 of them

(Great post today, BTW.)

BikeSnobNYC said...

tashi delek,

I kinda hoped my awe and respect would be taken as read.

--Wildcat Etc.

Victor Kaminski said...

vsk said ...

In the twenny-nothings...


vsk

N/A said...

When looking for people to make fun of: everybody is fair game.

Victor Kaminski said...

vsk said ...

Make pro cycling great again.


Make them all do it on Cambio Corsa shifting bikes.


vsk

Pist Off said...

I don't think Snob meant the Jawa remark as a funny, just as some respect for how harsh the conditions are for the 500 nuns. They certainly have my respect and admiration.

82medici said...

tashi delek,

I doubt that many human traffickers are seriously disturbed by a bunch of nuns riding their bikes thru the mountains, regardless of how bad-ass they (the nuns) may seem.

Matt said...

I think all Grand Tours should be ridden on identical fatbikes weighing a MINIMUM 40lbs with no suspension. That would give them a reason to dope. And they all should get the identical dope. And due to the weight differences of the diff size frames, the smaller frames would get weight added so they all weigh exactly the same. I'd watch that race! An entire peleton on fatbikes...what a sound THAT would make zipping by on the pavement (at 14mph)!

bad boy of the north said...

I guess they where all nun-plussed.thank you,thank you.i'm appearing nightly.

McFly said...

Is it me or is it sensitive up in hur?

McFly said...

I just want a TUE for the Wednesday Weed.

JLRB said...

"(I say) 'Well, I'm still struggling with this breathing, I know it didn't look like it but is there anything else you can do just to make sure that I don't, this doesn't become an issue into a three-week race at the height of the season?'


The breathing, and oh yea, the pedaling - definitely could use some help with that, so is there something else you can do? What's that? Your cousin is an electrical engineer designing small motors to assist bicyclists? PERFECT!

Serial Retrogrouch said...

...firstly, I could not agree more with your assertion that we should call these road worthy bicycles 'bicycles' and either get rid of the plastic crap between pros' crotches, or call them what they are, 'plastic crotch rockets'

...B, some vindictive commenters today! sheesh. Nuns are not off limits after you throw an entire religion under the bus

...penultimately, glad this blog is not turning into a discussion group on climate change and urban energy efficiency

...penultimately B, great post!

The Real Norwall said...

Post at 11A friday was from an imposter.

Don't be so quick too poo-poo pros getting TUEs for asthma. If you were spending as much time training and racing as a high performing pro bike racer you would also acquire some of their characteristics: a tan, high caloric intake, low body fat% and probably asthma. It comes with the job. I wouldn't want to race with the excess baggage of a 27.4g inhaler if it wasn't absolutely necessary.

Ironic about the nuns - becoming traffic to oppose trafficking.

leroy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
leroy said...

My dog assures me he has never abused drugs.

He and they have treated each other kindly.

Although, on occasion, he has woken up with a TUE and wearing a lampshade.

Now that I think of it, if you need a TUE, you may as well also get the dog lampshade.

Can't be too careful.

Lieutenant Oblivious said...

DOP, I believe that "Manginal Gains" is code for an "Innie" becoming and "Outie." Think George Costanza after the cold swimming pool shrinkage subsided.

Serial Retrogrouche, Isn't your "Penultimately B" really "Ultimately?"

BamaPhred said...

Applying for a TUE, I can't keep up without it.

Grump said...

I wonder if Mr. Armstrong is laughing about this?

potbellyjoe said...

I see the nuns ride single-file to hide their numbers...

As an owner of an electronic drivetrain, is it that you've already shown your willingness to spend of the superfluous that would further entice you to this auto-shifting mechanism?

Didn't they already have the auto-shift bike with the loose spokes and weights that move the cassette in a way to make the gears change? Billy Mays is not dead, he's just reincarnated at Interbike.

Dave - Everywhere said...

Bikeslob - I understand that the Vatican is the only country that is not doing its athletes.

dop said...

I just like saying Mangina.

1904 Cadardi said...

Don't fret Snob. Everyone is allowed a dysfunctional relationship, if yours is with pro-cycling, that's okay. Sure it keeps coming home drunk, running up credit card bills and lying to you, but it'll change. Really, it will. It loves you, and pro-cycling promises it won't ever lie or cheat or steal again.

David G said...

Doping: IOKIYNR (It's OK if you're not Russian)

But my dilemma of the day is whether to click on WRM's child molestation YouTube link.

Anonymous said...

Jawas are badass mofos who roll for dope shit in a desert full of assholes and larval darths. Respect.

janinedm said...

Sports I believe in: dressage, figure skating, synchronized swimming, gymnastics, and ping pong. The rest are full of dopers and wife punchers.

Anonymous said...

Sir Brad's doping revelation doesn't surprise me. Now can we look at how ASO designed a conveniently flat TdF course perfect for him right before the London Olympics? Think SKY broadcasting wouldn't have sent a dozen million Euros their way under the table for this to happen?

wats7 said...

Wildcat. By not watching the gravel video you missed the fact that Masi build a retro road bike with downtube shifters and dick brakes. How retro is that?

1904 Cadardi said...

janinedm,

Trainers dope the horses, figure skating is not a sport because it is judged subjectively by the French, synchronized swimming is also not a sport (except as performed by Harry Shearer and Martin Short) and gymnasts dope like drug fiends on a three day bender.

I just finished this documentary on ping pong. Now THAT is an awesome sport.

JGF said...

Anabolic steroids, like androgens, can enhance performance.

I don't think catabolic steroids, like corticosteroids, are very performance enhancing. They remove muscle mass. You sure you haven' t confused the two?

Bogusboy said...

Excellent! All-time classic.

Anonymous said...

Indeed. I think the Ruskis are asking 'how do you spell hypocrisy?'

Nunsensical said...

I always liked that old tv show The Flying Nun, I think she had a bike too.

Unknown said...

I sense a theme for an upcoming post: "What pro cyclist would you most like to have dinner with?" Mine would be Jens Voigt, especially now that he has retired and has to spend time with all his many children. Instead of "Shut up, legs!" it would be "Shut up, kids!". #life #family, indeed.

dop said...

JGF-

I wondered about that, too. The ani-inflammatory steroids used for asthma are catabolic rather than anabolic. They decrease muscle mass. They've been on the bad list for years (remember Lance's saddle sores?), so maybe there's another effect.

Old timer said...

Huh? What?

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Freddy Murcks said...

Not to state the obvious, but try-athletes would probably be well advised to focus less on automatic shi(f)ting and more on learning to actually ride their bikes. Although that would reduce the number of tri crash videos, so maybe they should just continue as is.

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dop said...

If you get decapitated while wearing an eco helmut, can they recycle your head? Or just throw it in the compost heap?