Nicky Orr writes, I've just written a cheque - the first of many, I hope - to BRAVEHEART CYCLING FUND for £98.
This is the profit to date from T-shirt and poster sales.
I know this isn't a lot of money in the grand scheme. I am really pleased though, and grateful to everyone who has bought a momento.
We've sold 41 Tees so far, unbelievable! And how wonderful to see them in action in Georgia. Chechu magnets indeed.
Our aim is always to support Chechu. I know that he has responded really well to the fans in Georgia, who have flown the Asturian flag, or worn a T-shirt. He told me last night he's enjoyed seeing the flag, and he rewards each fan with his time, and often a kiss or two! He is Spanish, after all.
We are grateful to all our friends, who have travelled many miles in support of Chechu in his final US race. There are many such fans all over the world, and I know that we will all continue to support Chechu as he races in this final season.
As I write this, I realise that the website is now two years old. In terms of Chechu's career, we are such newcomers. Loyal fans have stood at the roadside, mostly in Europe, cheering him on since his amateur days with Banesto.
CHECHURUBIERA.INFO has widened this fan-base, providing a gathering place for a huge fan community across the world. I like to think that our visitors trust us, they know that we tell Chechu's story simply and with integrity. Because that's what Chechu inspires. As we've got to know him, we understand that he is a man of integrity above all else.
Chechu is contemplating his future after cycling. If he chooses to start again in engineering in an existing company, we wish him success. Of course. But what a waste.
Chechu Rubiera is a quality brand, and for a while yet, it has real value. Chechu and his amazing family should profit from it. Perhaps by creating his own engineering company, or by allowing him to choose the very best job in cycling where his reputation is second to none.
As the Tour of Valencia finishes, and it seems to have been an exciting sporting spectacle, Chechu's next scheduled race is Tirreno-Adriatico in ten days time.
But there's a chance that he and Discovery Channel won't be there, along with other Pro-Tour teams. To follow the saga of UCI versus the grand tour organisers, get a cup of tea (or maybe something stronger), and read with incredulity on cyclingnews.com. It's a mighty combat, worthy of Discovery Civilisation, with politics and history, over-developed egos and lost causes.
At stake is the future ... of professional road cycling.
Chechu's hopeful for agreement amongst the teams, a united stand to force a resolution. Let's hope he's right. Because if I were a commercial sponsor, pledging millions of euros (or dollars), I would be aghast at the lack of professionalism, the grand-standing and the waste of energy of all the main protagonists. I would take my money, and give it to ... I don't know, probably Oxfam. At the moment, there are plenty people more deserving, more credible.
Poor George Hincapie. Christine told me tonight that she had been hoping to meet him and his family again at Paris-Roubaix. She said, He's a great guy with real humility. He looks so sad in the photos from California. And I have to feel sorry today for Jan Ullrich, who has announced that he won't ride again professionally. Did he dope? I don't know what to believe anymore. I've read it all and the only thing I'm sure of is that it's best not to add any more gratuitous comment. It doesn't feel right though, that the fantastic career of Lance's greatest rival should end in this way.
Chechu's racing tomorrow. In Valencia. I had a notion a couple of days back to fly out and catch up with him. £31.99 one way. But I've signed a flight pledge and I think that's a pretty important thing to stick to.
What's happening to ThePaceline? We like it, of course, and we like its editor, Chris Brewer. Without him and his support, our website would be months behind in development.
And as a source of information for fans, it's pretty good. Not long ago, you would be hard pushed to find day-to-day mention of non-American cyclists. That's all changed.
However, in an attempt to get visitors to interact (a good thing which we applaud), it's gone a bit trashy. I shuddered when their recent competition to identify nine (or was it twelve?), pairs of legs belonging to members of the team lunged onto the screen. What an ugly sight, and how humiliating. And are these legs a great advert for sport, all deformed and battered?
Of course, Chechu's legs weren't there so I let it pass with a jokey email to Chris. He hasn't replied. The competition has disappeared.
But there's more. They asked Chechu about his underwear on paceline.tv! What? I don't think that's necessary information. There are some things that we simply don't need to know.
Of course, I'm missing the point. Paceline.tv asked Chechu the usual, tired questions, his favourite film, best moment of his cycling life ...
He's been with the team for six years, they should show a bit more respect. Would they ask Lance about his pants? Hmm. They shouldn't ask cyclist this question.
We've done it ourselves, in the beginning. We asked what we thought were obvious fan questions. But we discovered quickly that Chechu has a lot more to give. He has opinions on politics and social issues, he's involved in his community. He knows what's happening in the world, it's not just cycling for him. Even in a second language, he's funny and mischievious.
I think all Discovery fans would like to know this.
When a group of workers is being unfairly persecuted, denegrated in the media and denied due legal process, you’d be right to protest. You might sign a petition or email your politicians. You might take to the streets. I’ve done it all. For poverty. For devolution. For cancer. And I could do it for cyclists right now.
But cycling’s just a sport, isn’t it? An entertainment. OK, it enriches our lives but is it a luxury or a necessity? As this annus horribilis ends, I would argue for necessity.
The current mess in pro-cycling offers an important opportunity for our heroes. In a single voice, they can say STOP, we will not be used any more.
A union, one which is proudly political, radical and just a bit angry, could advocate for them in the media and in the law courts of Europe. It can champion the spirit and values of this unique sporting endeavour.
Talk to anybody about cycling, they know that all cyclists are drug users and cheats. For most people, that’s where the thought process ends. But I worry about the idiots who absorb such information and use it to feed their prejudices. To them, cyclists have no rights on the road, so they pass without care. Then they cut in front. They open their car doors without checking. They deny cyclists an appropriate position on the road, forcing them into the gutter.
I’m pleased to read Chechu Rubiera’s comments this week on the website. He is standing up for colleagues caught in the vacuum of Operación Puerto. Isn’t that his job as a cyclist member on the ProTour Council and a member of the Riders’ Council? Isn’t that what these organisations are for?
Maybe the riders already have their champion.
If you are celebrating today, we wish you all a very happy and peaceful Thanksgiving Day.
As a non-American, a special day for giving thanks has largely passed me by. In Britain, we count our blessings, and I have a lot to be grateful for. If good health, a beautiful family and great friends weren’t enough, I have freedoms and privileges not always enjoyed by others.
Today, I’m thinking about friends, especially Rebecca. She has made this website possible, her first contact has created wonderful friendships across the world. Rebecca turns supporting Chechu Rubiera into a passion and I love my friend for this.
Today is also a day for trust. I’ve worn my yellow wristband every day since June 2004. My trust in Lance Armstrong’s survival and the meaning of LiveStrong has never wavered. Like giving up that second biscuit, it’s a way of life now. Carpe diem.
We received an email from my husband’s road club on Sunday. A fellow member fell yesterday on the Saturday club run, she broke her collarbone and sustained the usual road abrasions. That makes about a dozen this season for the club, including my husband who fell during a criterium in the Spring.
The cyclists’ mind-set, especially their attitude towards injury, is a curious and bizarre thing. We watch as the professionals seem to dismiss injuries, like road burn (ouch!) and even broken bones. More often than not, they get back on their bike to finish the race.
Even when Chechu got sick during the Tour, he continued to Paris, coming home each day with the autobus.
Because tomorrow, it might be better. Inspiring and yet curious.
So Andreu took EPO. I’m not sure I care any more. Do we need another admission, another allegation? Everyone in cycling is to blame for this mess. Drug taking is endemic in cycling, everyone knew, nobody did anything. Please let the UCI draw a line under 2006 and start again. They have to get it right next year, they’ll not get a better chance.
If you watch cycling on Eurosport, you’ll know all about David Duffield. He provides us with a unique insight to the sport, blethering on for hours without a break. The Agreeable World of the Addiscombe Cycling Club pays homage to this cycling legend, with some fond commentary of their own. Such as …
“How many times have we shouted at the screen when David is hunting out obscure facts from the 1950s :
“Dave , the break! “
“Dave , look , Pantani has blown!”
“Dave, fer chrisakes tell us what is going on.”
Only for David to tell us that “Aah , something is going on here….” which we guessed might have been the case already.” Check it out, especially the Duffieldisms. It’ll remind you why you love cycling.
After the Giro and the Tour, and now one week into the Vuelta, we’ve had plenty of time to examine the 2006 season. There have been ups and downs! For me, seeing Chechu race has been fantastic. And the Giro was bellissimo, perfect or not.
On the other side of the coin, the absence of Lance in the Tour, doping scandals, and the Race2Replace have been matters of concern this summer.
Some of our upsets have not been surprising. Of course, everybody knew Lance would retire, and Discovery would have to try new strategies. With the changes would come opportunities, but also some failures. That’s scary, but it’s also good. It’s growth.
Some upsetting events have left fans struggling to understand. The doping scandal has been huge and shocking, affecting all levels of professional cycling. Certainly the doping affairs have been out of our reach. We can’t erase the harm, no matter how strongly we support our favorite cyclists. Doping has caused pain to organizations and to athletes, but has victimized fans as well.
But Race2Replace is another story. A promotional for Discovery Channel Team, it must have been conceived as a pastime for fans, and a way to back American riders on an American-sponsored team. Now in the Vuelta, we’re seeing the comparative usefulness of Janez Brajkovic—not mentioned in Race2Replace, and Tom Danielson - to the Race manor born. It’s time to comment.
I never felt good about a program designed to lift one Discovery Channel athlete above the others. George Hincapie is a great rider, but is he better than Chechu or Popo? Tom Danielson is promising, but hasn’t - and may never- achieve as much as Paolo Savoldelli. And most importantly, Lance was Lance. He can’t be replaced or imitated. There will never be another Lance Armstrong!
Race2Replace has been divisive monkey business. It has tried to induce fans to choose one rider as the “new leader” of Discovery Channel, not giving others equal time to show their skill, in the form of webisodes or other media. It has ignored impressive accomplishments of Paolo, Leif Hoste, and other riders. It has constantly set Americans above riders from other countries.
How have Discovery Channel riders felt about being pitted against each other? I’ve hoped that they either didn’t notice, or kept their minds on the races and not worried about a silly organizational promotion.
But this has been a difficult season. Morale has suffered. Now in September, the team has a long list of riders who have signed with other teams for next year. How many of them have felt insulted or dishonored by a program that tried to “vote them off the island”?
In professional cycling, riders come from all over the world, and from all backgrounds. They meet together, and with great athleticism and teamwork they race. Each race is different, because each time the team is different. Each team is different because throughout the season different parameters are required.
Discovery Channel Team combines eight or nine elite athletes from a list of 27 to race everything from the Vuelta Andalucia to the Giro di Lombardia. Why not embrace each rider’s contributions all season rather than make arbitrary decisions about which rider fits best into the commercial mold?
Thousands of people around the world cheer for the Discovery Channel team because of Lance Armstrong and his cancer story, writes Nicky Orr.
Fans of Chechu Rubiera often tell us their own story of survivorship, loss or an ongoing battle with cancer.
Both Rebecca and I have our cancer stories too. Mine is one of loss, Rebecca's survivorship. Individually, we both raise funds for cancer charities, Cancer Research UK, Marie Curie Cancer Care and Lance Armstrong Foundation.
Of the fans who tell us about their challenges with the disease, their enthusiasm for life shines through. Their generosity and determination to find a cure, not just for themselves and their loved ones, is special. They continue to support LiveStrong by wearing their yellow bands, and spreading the message. They donate and raise funds by walking, running or having breakfast parties. And of course, cycling.
Facing mortality must be the ultimate reality check. I wonder if that's why the doping debate this summer is, for me, ultimately meaningless.
The war of words between UCI and WADA, the so-called revelations from Spain, suspensions and sackings, it's all unreal. Let's get angry, by all means, but about important things such poverty, disease, and violence, and ignorant politicians.
Chechu tells us that he supports Unicef and Ayuda en Accion. Both charities assist children to live with and escape from poverty and disaster across the world, offering relief, healthcare and eduation.
If you want to know about shock and awe, take a look at Unicef's website. I found out that 50% of Iraq's population is under 18, many have lived through two wars already. Life expectancy is 59, compared to 78 in the US. In the US, the mortality rate for under-5s is 33 per thousand (it's 2 in Spain, 4 in UK)? School attendance is 92%, compared to 100% in Spain and the UK. So what's happening to the other 8%?
By coincidence, Unicef have recently received the 2006 Prince of Asturias Award for Concord.
The citation noted that Unicef’s contribution to “improving the health and living conditions of millions of children worldwide, focusing especially on the needs of the most impoverished areas of the world, such as the African continent, where wars, famine, AIDS and the dearth of education, amongst other serious problems, are the biggest hindrances to child development.”
The Prince of Asturias Award for Concord is “bestowed upon the person, persons or institution whose work has made an exemplary and outstanding contribution to mutual understanding and peaceful coexistence amongst men, to the struggle against injustice, poverty, disease or ignorance, to the defence of freedom, or whose work has widened the horizons of knowledge or has been outstanding in protecting and preserving mankind’s heritage".
Other winners of the 2006 awards include the Bill and Melinda Gates, Foundation National Geographic, Pedro Almodovar, Mary Robinson, the Spanish National basketball team, Juan Ignacio Cirac and Paul Auster.
The presentation ceremony will take place October 20 in Oviedo, capital of the Principality of Asturias, presided over by the heir to the throne of Spain, HRH Prince of Asturias, D. Felipe de Borbón y Grecia in the presence of the King and Queen of Spain.
You have to feel sorry for Tom Danielson. The frisson of expectation has weighed upon him since he joined Discovery Channel last year. This burden has to be greater now, following the team’s performance at the Tour.
Worst of all, his country needs him to shine, to show the world that athletes from the US, especially cyclists, are not all drugs cheats.
As Discovery fans, we certainly want Danielson to succeed. We know he’s a quality climber, he’s a good time-trialist. But a great cyclist? The jury is out on that one, I suspect.
We learn about Tom Danielson through the media, and that’s where his problem lies. Take his most recent comments about the Vuelta. Despite knowing that he was going to be team leader for this race since January, despite living in Spain, he didn’t reconnoitre the route.
“I haven’t been able to scout the stages - it’s all very far away from where I live in Girona, the route doesn’t even go close to my house at all. Johan knows the route very well and knows the climbs. For me it will be like a rally car driver with the passenger navigating. He basically tells me when to brake and accelerate and I hope to be able to do what he says in the race.”
Our problem is that Lance has told us what it takes to be a great grand tour winner. You need an acute instinct and meticulous preparation, as well as physical strength. And you need the loyalty of your team.
So he rode the hardest climbs again and again and again. He knew every turn, where it came on climb, and how much power was needed. He was rewarded, not just with seven wins, but with a team who would have walked on fire for him. His victory also belonged to them.
Our fingers are crossed that Tom Danielson demonstrates soon that he deserves the loyalty of this great team too.
On another Lance matter, you may recall in recent weeks that we’ve quoted useful commentary from Cycling Weekly.
This week, they’ve descended into the tabloid mire by running the story about Lance and a showbiz pal. Whilst I applaud any opportunity to show a photo of Lance looking lean and fit, the story isn’t credible and isn’t worthy of this excellent cycling magazine.
My husband and I went to an astonishing movie last week. At the Edinburgh Film Festival, we were lucky enough to attend the world premiere of The Flying Scotsman, a biopic of Scottish cyclist, Graeme Obree.
Back in 1993, Graeme Obree came out of nowhere to smash the world one-hour cycling record (remember Lance Armstrong was pondering an attempt on this record a couple of years ago). Obree also wore world champion stripes twice in the mid-1990s.
Never mind wind tunnels or multi-million dollar technology, Graeme Obree did it all on a bike of his own design, nicknamed Old Faithful. It was a revolutionary, ultra-lightweight frame, hand-made out of bits of scrap metal. Needless to say, the authorities didn’t approve.
As a study of courage and suffering, endurance and ingenuity, Obree’s cinema story is remarkable. He is an inspiration. He is haunted by depression, he is bullied as school, he attempts suicide more than once. His relationships are tense and he has a fierce mistrust of authority. His struggle to overcome his own demons is as courageous as his exploits inside the velodrome. This struggle continues today.
Graeme Obree is a hero amongst heroes. His sacrifice, and that of his family, is unimaginable. You are left wondering whether cycling has been a curse to Graeme Obree. Or has it kept him alive?
ou won’t be able to see the film for a while, as far as I know, it hasn’t got a distributor yet. But, if you’re hard enough, get his biography. It pulls no punches. It’s one of the hardest story you’ll ever read about cycling.
There’s an interesting connection between Graeme Obree and Chechu Rubiera. The hour record held in 1993 by Graeme Obree was also held in 1994 by Tony Rominger, who is Chechu’s agent.
We take a look at the issues keeping cycling forums buzzing in Britain this week.
How much is a life worth?
To any sensible person, life has no monetary value, it is beyond money, priceless. Not if you’re cyclist in Wales though. Your life is worth £45 there.
Last week, a driver was fined £180 for three bald tyres on his car. That seems a bit lenient but fair enough. But when you know that he was charged after his car had skidded on black ice and ploughed into a Sunday club run, killing four cyclists and injuring others, it doesn’t seem so fair. One of the cyclists killed was just 14 years old.
The law says it was a tragic accident.
The other story buzzing round UK cycling forums in recent days is the charging of Cycling Touring Club member, Daniel Cadden.
He was cycling fast downhill on a single-lane approach to a roundabout when he was stopped by police who believed that the position he had taken in the centre of his lane was forcing cars to cross the solid white line in the centre of the road illegally in order to overtake.
But rather than stop the cars that had broken the law, the officers decided to charge Daniel with obstructing the highway.
Although he was cycling in accordance with the National Standard for cycle training (issued by HM Government Stationery Office), he was found guilty by a District Judge in Telford Magistrates Court and fined £100 with £200 costs.
These two incidents involving bicycles and cars have a single outcome. The driver wins, the cyclist loses. Again.
Again we’re throwing our arms up in horror. Again there’s a doping scandal in cycling, and another heroic grand tour winner is accused in the media of cheating. Again we’ve made up our minds before the science is in. But I think we are asking the wrong questions.
We should be curious about the organisation of races, not just the cyclists and their teams. For as long as the Tour de France has existed, many cyclists have had to take drugs to get them to the end. Before EPO and growth hormones, it was amphetamines, steroids, painkillers, even alcohol. In the case of the Tour, that’s 103 years of cyclists abusing themselves in the name of sporting spectacle.
The problem starts with the organisation of the races. This year, cyclists at the Tour were racing all day in unbearable heat and towards the end, they endured three difficult Alpine mountain stages in a row. At the Giro, never mind the monster climbs, the scheduling of rest and transfer days compromised cyclists’ recovery. The reason for this is money, namely TV scheduling and sponsorship.
It doesn’t matter that cyclists are athletes, driven by their own ambition to extraordinary physical feats. Like most of us, they are employed to do a job. Yet they can go seven hours without a break. Stages are too long and there are too many teams. Larger teams might slow it all down and spread the workload wider.
The methods used to blood-dope and administer drugs are obscene. Somewhere there's always a doctor involved. They assault athletes by giving them a drug which may promote infertility, heart and mental health problems. It shouldn't just be the cyclist who takes the blame.
We also need to look at ourselves, the fans. TV companies broadcast cycling for us to watch, businesses sponsor cycling for us to buy. We have a control. Don’t watch, don’t buy ... yeah, I didn’t think so either?
So what can we do? Fans must inform ourselves better about the root causes of cheating and know what we are watching. We must demand a balanced debate in the media.
And most of all, we must seek to protect and support the cyclists, our heroes, whom we care so much about.
NEW PERSPECTIVES ON CURRENT EVENTS :
1. An open letter from Navigators Insurance Pro Cycle Team's Ray Cippolini about doping on the Daily Peloton. It's long but the argument is well made.
2. For a historical context, look at Les Woodland's entertaining, Cheating is nothing new in the Tour on CyclingNews.com.
3. Paul Sherwen gives a thoughtful perspective in PezCycling News.
4. There is strong editorial, and a sensible commentary in the latest issue of Cycling Weekly including this feature, calling on the Tour de France to be reduced in size.
"The Tour de France, among other races, was created to sell newspapers and bikes. And after 100 years professional cycling is still about getting your sponsors seen and written about in the media.
One hundred years ago the drama of racing around France captured the public imagination and the survivors of the Tour were considered heroes for riding hundreds of miles in stages that sometimes lasted more than 24 hours.
These days, stages are kept to an average of 200km per day, with the major one-day races occasionally longer. However, in the light of the problems of doping, is it right to ask the riders to race 200km to make cycling exciting?
The answer has to be no, and should spark some serious reflection on racing in the future.
Race organisers claim a major tour has to last three weeks to be financially viable but surely the three weeks of racing can be made more humane so that riders can compete for the yellow jersey without being tempted to take drugs.
Television usually shows the last two hours of a race, so why do they have to be any longer? Why not race for 100km per day, surely it would make the flat stages more exciting? Why have five tough mountains in one stage if all it produces is a process of elimination like this year's Tour de France stage to Pla de Beret in the Pyrenees. That stage started with the legendary Col de Tourmalet and included four other climbs. Why not just race to the summit of the Tourmalet? Surely the best climbers would still emerge and the other riders would not have to ride for a gruelling six hours in the sun.
It could be argued that riders would still take drugs to go faster in the shorter stages but if there was less need to take drugs to win the Tour - and if there were more and better testing - even the most hardened drug-taker might decide it is not worth the risk.
Changing the route of the Tour de France and other historic races would be a major change for the sport, but what other solutions are there? Let's forget tradition and do what is good for the health of riders."
5. In another feature, Cycling Weekly describes how drug taking was endemic in the Tour de France from the beginning. The first rider to speak out was Henri Pélissier in 1920. He openly displayed his pills, and told the press what they were. "We run on dynamite," he said.
Cycling Weekly says, "Still, no one cared. Few were really shocked by Pélissier's revelation. The Tour de France went from strength to strength."
Fausto Coppi was asked on TV if he took drugs. "Only when it is necessary." So when is it necessary? "Almost always," he replied.
And this indictment goes on and on, up to the present day. It's depressing reading, but the argument is the same. The organisers of races must answer to the doping investigators too.
If you've been following our Giro race diary, you'll have noticed our curiosity about Discovery' Channel's Giro team leader, Paolo Savoldelli. We watch the pictures and see him riding solo, close behind Ivan Basso. Unlike Lance Armstrong, he doesn't seem to have other Discovery riders round him, protecting him in the peloton. So we sought some expert opinions and it seems other people have noticed this new game from Discovery.
The official line from Chris Brewer at thePaceline.com is that three or four team members are riding up close to Paolo, with the others more in the middle as back-up. Jason McCartney is sick, so rides at the back. The idea is to let CSC do the work up front, while others conserve their energy. Graham Watson describes Savoldelli in the bosom of his team, here's his picture from stage 14. This just hasn't been evident on the Eurosport coverage so far, especially the mountain stages.
Our contact at the Daily Peloton agreed that, "we might have expected to see more riders than Tom Danielson with Paolo in the latter parts of climb". He suggests that maybe it's a bluff, and Savoldelli is primed to attack on the hard climbs to come. Perhaps Discovery, along with other GC contenders, are hoping that CSC gets complacent.
Journalist (and Chechu fan) Cathy Mehl sums it all up perfectly, "I guess we have to keep in mind that Discovery does not have the leader's jersey and isn't even really close at this point. We're used to seeing them ride in the front with the leader of the race in the middle of them....not just the leader of the team. I guess one gets protected better than the other! We're so used to seeing all of the Discovery's riders on TV with Armstrong that this has been a little shocking that we don't see the riders at all, except in a TT."
I guess we just watch and wait. All will be revealed in the next few days. Forza Chechu! Forza Paolo!
Do you have a view on this issue? Join the debate.
The aim of this page is to produce dynamic debate amongst fans of Chechu Rubiera in response to current events and topical issues.
The editorial opinions on this page are not those of José Luis (Chechu) Rubiera Vigíl or Discovery Channel Pro-Cycle Team.