USADA has handed down an eight-year suspension for Tyler Hamilton. The Rock Racing rider tested positive in February tested positive for testosterone or its precursors in February. When the announcement for the non-negative result was announced, Hamilton declined the B sample test and immediately admitted he had taken the steroid DHEA as an alternative to prescription antidepressants in an effort to combat depression.
Hamilton retired immediately. As noted by USADA’s CEO Travis Tygart, Hamilton’s eight-year penalty is effectively a lifetime ban for the 38-year old cyclist.
For his part, Hamilton said he was disappointed by the ban, “The eight-year suspension is unfortunate and disheartening. At this time, however, my focus remains on my mother, my family, battling my depression and getting better. This has been an extremely difficult and trying period, but I am determined to get through it.”
The length of the ban is irrelevant to all but those closest to him. Even if the planets had aligned to dismiss consideration for the principle of strict liability, he would likely still have received a ban of two years. Did Hamilton really think he would have had the legs of Joop Zoetemelk or even Kent Bostick at 40?
“Although we believe the sanction is exceptionally harsh and completely disproportional to the transgression, Tyler has chosen to focus on getting better instead of fighting a pointless battle against the anti-doping regime,” said Chris Manderson, Hamilton’s counsel.
Hindsight is blah, blah, blah. If we set aside the anger we felt when we heard he tested positive—the first time—and apply honesty to our recollections of Hamilton’s career, most of us will recall the jubilation and shock we felt when we heard that an American had won the Gold Medal in the ITT at the 2004 Summer Olympics. When we learned it was Hamilton, surprise was added to our jubilation.
Hamilton gave the United States its first victory in a Monument—Liege-Bastogne-Liege. Who can forget his performance in the 2003 Tour de France following his broken collarbone, not to mention his epic breakaway through the Pyrenees on his way to winning stage 16 in Bayonne? And what of his second place and stage win at the 2002 Giro d’Italia, despite a broken shoulder?
Should we excuse his doping? No. The wheels of justice have turned and by at least one objective measure things are as they should be. Should we turn our backs on his earlier results? Depends on your point of view. Most cycling fans will admit that at his best, Hamilton was surrounded by other riders who were engaged in similar levels of doping and so he was most probably playing on a relatively level field. And if that sounds like a tacit acceptance of his doping on some level, then consider this: Even after throwing out his results you are left with a guy who rode through broken bones and molars ground to expose nerves. In the annals of hard men, those stories earned him a permanent seat at the bar.
Hamilton’s end as a rider is sad and ignominious. But given what we know of the time in which he competed on the international stage, he did achieve memorable results. The inspiration we felt to see his courage is worth remembering.
Image courtesy of John Pierce, Photosport International.
It seems that every year the Giro organizers come under fire for some aspect of race logistics. Last year, it was the crazy and lengthy transfers and a climb that required swapping out cassettes for something larger than a 25. This year, riders found the narrow roads with tight turns objectionable enough to protest. And then Fabian Cancellara called the stage 12 time trial a cyclotourist event and left the race for a few days rest before an appointment with the Tour de Suisse.
Some of the criticism is understandable. Following a murderous six hours in the saddle the last thing anyone needs is to be cooped up in the back of a station wagon moving through stop-and-go traffic. Dinner after 10:00 is perhaps okay if you’ve had a siesta and planned your evening (and the next morning) accordingly. Similarly, roads narrower than some minds are an understandable cause for the peloton’s concern. It’s one thing to expect guys on a group ride to single up for a tight turn, but at the Giro? For crying out loud it is a bike race—guys will ride seven abreast on a two-meter-wide strip of tarmac and just pray that they don’t crash.
Can a climb be too steep for a Grand Tour? Only if you can’t get traction to ride up it. Does every road need to be paved like a new boulevard in a subdivision? Not if you like drama. Can a time trial be too long or too hard? Isn’t this bike racing?
If this perspective seems a little extreme, consider the logical endpoint for restricting the climbing and road quality. Any criteria used to judge a climb as too steep are subjective and ever more subjective criteria can be applied. If 20 percent is too steep, then 19 percent can be too steep as well. If a poorly paved road is too rough, then a patched road can be too rough. At some point you end up rejecting everything that isn’t the Daytona tri-oval.
Stage 12’s mountainous time trial was one of the most exciting stages I’ve seen in a Grand Tour in the last five years. The course was breathtakingly gorgeous and over roads any cyclist would kill to ride on as a closed course. Shouldn’t the course of a Grand Tour take in roads that are at once challenging, thrilling and precarious? Certainly we don’t wish harm to come to the riders (e.g. Pedro Horillo), but roller races aren’t nearly as fun to watch.
Because it took the competitors out of their comfort zone—a traditional flat time trial—the outcome couldn’t be guessed. Commentators and fans were divided on DiLuca’s chances for victory and the final outcome was satisfying because it yielded a victor we know to be a contender for the overall.
The tragedy is that Cancellara’s departure deprived the tifosi of what would have been an interesting performance. Even though he was unlikely to win, he could still have turned in a great performance given his descending ability; consider that a pure climber didn’t take the day. And while Cancellara is one of our favorite riders here at BKW, leaving a Grand Tour because the time trial doesn’t suit your specific abilities isn’t exactly PRO. We love our champions more when they play their hand even when holding a pair of deuces.
The Giro organizers may need a better rider advocate to help them judge certain technical aspects such as when a road or turn is too narrow for the peloton to negotiate at full cry, but they deserve a righteous toast for taking the opportunity to make the longest time trial run in a Grand Tour in 12 years a mountainous and technically challenging trial to reveal a truly complete rider.
Chances are your very first bike tool was a 4, 5 and 6mm Park Y-Allen wrench. It was mine, purchased the same day as my Silca floor pump, both of which I still have. I spent slightly less than $40, which seemed an extravagance given that neither item could be ridden. As a relatively new cyclist I had a lot to learn about what constituted necessary.
The bikes most of us ride have changed a lot in the last 10 years, let alone the last 20 years. Some of these changes—better-made clothing, improved hood and saddle shapes and more sophisticated shifting systems—have made incremental changes to our riding experience, but other changes—namely carbon fiber—has changed the cost of bikes and the care required to maintain them immeasurably.
As evidence, I offer exhibit A: the Effetto Mariposa Giustaforza bicycle torque wrench. It wasn’t that long ago that a $185 tool was strictly the domain of bike shops. My truing stand didn’t break three figures. But with the number of riders riding carbon fiber frames, seatposts and (most especially) handlebars, far too many user-errors have been called defective products.
I recently did a little checking and realized that every product I’ve come in contact with in the last year came with torque ratings. For this, I’m glad. However, I also found myself profoundly frustrated; most of the torque wrenches out there don’t offer particularly detailed readings in the range bicycle parts require. Tighten a bolt to 6.2Nm? On some wrenches it can be difficult to tell the difference between 6 and 8Nm. While the Effetto Mariposa Giustaforza may not offer decimal-point gradation, the scale is far easier to read than most of its competitors’ wrenches. Dial in the desired torque and tighten until the head of the wrench twists sideway with a loud click, indication the desire torque has been reached.
With its 17-bit tool selection, the only bolt on a bike I haven’t been able to tighten with this thing is the 10mm bolt on the Campy Ultra-Torque crankset. I’ve found myself under-adjusting the torque at times just to make sure I bring up the torque gradually.
The shame of this product is that its price tag is so much higher than the average cost of normal home bike tools that many riders may balk at investing this much in a torque wrench. The reality is that every rider who has a carbon fiber frame, fork, seatpost, stem or handlebar (which is virtually every rider who owns a bike equipped with Dura-Ace, Record, Ultegra or Chorus) needs to purchase one of these, even if they aren’t prone to doing much maintenance on their own. Save a floor pump, I can’t think of another tool more necessary for today’s bikes than this thing.
Our bikes are becoming more complicated, fragile and high performance. It’s an inevitable nexus in our quest for speed. The good news is that we still have the ability to ride bikes just as good as the pros are on; that simply isn’t the case in most other sports. In the case of cycling and some of the UCI Continental teams in Europe, many of us are on bikes better than they are racing.
While it’s PRO to have a trick bike, what’s even more PRO is having a tool that will allow you to do no wrong. That it’s small enough to travel in checked luggage is just icing on the cake. Given what many of us have spent on our bikes, the cost of this tool is a small investment in peace of mind.
I’ve spent the day thinking about the last time I got excited about a cycling glove. I’m still thinking. It may be that I’ve never found a reason to be excited by a cycling glove. Sure, there have been gloves that I tried on in a shop or at Interbike and thought, “Man, these things are the bomb.” Then I wear them for two weeks and I start finding weaknesses.
That I came to wear the Assos Summer Gloves was nearly accidental. I requested a loan of some Assos clothing for a photo shoot for a project I was working on. In handling them for the photo shoot I noticed their unmistakable quality; they’re from Assos, so it was no real surprise, but they made an impression.
So one morning I decided to try them on. With their simple and striking black and white appearance the style is pure PRO. The closureless fit was surprising not only because it worked and kept the look clean, but because it improved the gloves’ comfort, as in, “Why didn’t someone think of this sooner?” On the palm side the gloves’ great stroke of brilliance is its great flexibility and thin but sufficient padding. Glove padding is a lot like butterscotch on a sundae; it can make a good sundae better, but overdone it will obscure every other detail.
The fit is form following, which is to say it is neither loose nor snug. The absorbent Terry cloth is perfectly positioned for a quick wipe. They are easy to pull on and curl around bar and lever hood as naturally as your hand.
But recommending an expensive pair of gloves is a risky proposition. Given that a pair of Summer Gloves runs north of $50, they need to be more comfortable than Ricardo Montalban’s “rich Corinthian leather” to justify the price.
A glove is not a jersey or pair of shorts. The lessons one learns in producing those garments are not necessarily applicable, at least not the way an approach to fitting a jersey can be applied to fitting a jacket. If ever there was an opportunity to find a chink in the Assos armor, a glove would be an understandable weakness.
If you are unsurprised that BKW would give a positive review to the Assos Summer Gloves, I hope you’ll understand when I tell you I wasn’t planning to review them. That I’m doing so is because I was so completely impressed. These aren’t just great gloves, they are easily the best summer-weight gloves I’ve ever worn and score a perfect 10 on appearance, function, fit and comfort. I expect they’ll hold up well based on my inspection.
Simply put: the Assos Summer Gloves are the Assos of summer gloves.