Catching Up With the Vuelta

09.15.2006 | 4:12 pm

An interesting thing happened when Floyd Landis went from Ultra-Hero to SuperGoat after the 2006 Tour de France:

I stopped caring about pro cycling.

No, it wasn’t an act of defiance, or a boycott, or a statement. I just really stopped caring. I stopped following the races, stopped wondering about who would be transferring to which team, stopped reading about all the doping scandals.

I just lost interest.

Why did I lose interest? I think it has to do with why I also don’t follow pro baseball, football, basketball, or any other sport: I’ve got nothing in common with the players. They’re living in such a different world, with such completely different motivation for doing what they do, that I just don’t relate to them. Which is to say, I used to think that pro cyclists and I had a lot in common — hey, we’re just the same, except you’re 20x faster than I — but it turns out I was wrong.

The Vuelta Thus Far
And so, with my newfound apathy toward the pro side of cycling, I have completely failed to follow the Vuelta. I have a sneaking suspicion I’m not alone in this.

And you know what? That’s just not fair. I shouldn’t take my malaise out on what is, after all, a Grand Tour. Never mind that the most recent winners of all three of the Grand Tours have been implicated in doping scandals (Heras, Basso, Landis), making it so you never really know who won what anymore. It’s still a great race.

So, as a public service to all my readers who have neglected the Vuelta, I have gone back and thoroughly researched this year’s Vuelta. I hereby provide the following recap, so you can be more diligent in following this exciting race to its exciting conclusion:

  • Carlos Sastre started out with the leader’s jersey, then gave it to Thor.
  • Thor held onto it for a couple days, until the race turned uphill. Then Danilo Di Luca got it. Then Thor got a stage win — finally — but didn’t get the leader’s jersey back. Sorry, Thor.
  • Alejandro Valverde won a stage, and some kid from Slovakia who’s evidently Discovery’s great new Grand Tour hope — now that everyone realizes George Hincapie isn’t — but who I have never heard of before now, took the leader jersey.
  • The leader’s jersey is a delightful golden color, which is also known as "yellow."
  • Hey, Vino won stage 8. Awesome.
  • Hey, Vino won stage 9, too. That’s also awesome. You know, now I wish I’d have been paying more attention. I think I could get behind this Vino character. Until I find out he’s doping, anyway.
  • By stage 10, Valverde’s in gold. Gold, baby. Gold. He might’ve been in it before stage 10, but I can’t be sure. He stays in gold until stage 16. That’s a long time in gold.
  • On stage 14, David Millar won a stage, which either proves he can win clean. Or that he’s better at cheating now.
  • On stage 17, Tom Danielson — Discovery’s other Grand Tour hope — won the stage and Vinokourov took the leader’s jersey. Hey, nice work, Vino.
  • On stage 18, Vinokourov extended his lead by a smidgen, and today, everyone stayed put.

So there, now you’re up to speed. I don’t know about you, but I can hardly wait to follow this race more closely for the next several days. Except for during the weekend, during which I won’t have time to post. Apart from that, check back here often for your daily Vuelta update!

Oh, it ends this Sunday? Okay, never mind.


  1. Comment by bradley | 09.15.2006 | 4:46 pm

    I know what you mean about losing interest. The feeling I got when the Floyd scandal started was pretty much the feeling I got at the end of the movie Syriana, one of being deflated and feeling hopeless. It’s hard to care when your hopes are continually dashed.

  2. Comment by Unknown | 09.15.2006 | 6:04 pm

    I work in a bike shop everyday (except for the days when i’m not here) and all i hear are questions about Floyd, Tyler, etc.  It gets old real quick.
    Contrary to what Lance says, it is all about the bike. So, I think everyone should pick their favorite bike brand and just cheer for the bike and not any particular rider.
    My goodness look at how that TCR Advanced blasted up Mount Ventoux!
    Did you see the way the Pinarellos were riding today?

  3. Comment by sans auto | 09.15.2006 | 6:33 pm

    I have also lost interest in pro cycling.  I think it’s more about the scandals, poor research and unprofessional manner of handling things than the doping itself.  I think Floyd’s innocent.  This is just an educated gut feeling, I’m not a huge Floyd fan, but I think he’s innocent.  As a doctoral student in exercise physiology I would like to point out a couple of things.  #1 On the day that Floyd cracked he simply lacked fuel which is easy to replace in 24 hours.  He did not accumulate inhibitory metabolites from an extreme effort like his opponents did.  These leaves Floyd fresher for the next day.  #2  On the final climb of Floyd’s "big day" he averaged about 50-100 fewer watts (power output) on the final climb than he has done in training rides and tour stages in previous years.  #3 Testosterone hasn’t been shown to have overnight effects (recent studies have shown results in 2-3 days, but not overnight)  #4 Floyd’s big day was strategically perfect.  Floyd won big on strategy, not superhuman strength.
      I hope I’m not wrong.  Test results are incriminating (as is the press that shouldn’t have been involved until well after the B sample), but they aren’t 100%.  I think the apothy toward pro cycling after a big scandal is good, it should send a message that we aren’t interested in doped athletes…even if I don’t think he doped.

  4. Comment by BIg Mike In Oz | 09.15.2006 | 6:34 pm

    Man where have you been.  Vinokourov has been attacking everything that got near him like a night club bouncer in a ‘roid rage, except he’s clean right.  Right?  Off the bike, on the bike, no matter, Vino can be relied on to attack.  I here he even attacked his grandmother on the rest day just to keep in practice.
    He’s definitely earned that special yellow (’cause gold’s too heavy to climb in) jersey.  The man’s been animating grand tours with his suicidal attacks for years now.  After 15 consecutive grand tours of incessant attacking – flat stages, mountain stages – he even attacks his own team mates who are higher placed on GC.  Is there no end to his tenacity and stupidity?  Give him a tour victory and send him on his way.

  5. Comment by BotchedExperiment | 09.15.2006 | 6:51 pm

    Likewise. Yes, I am Americentric, but I only payed attention on the first mountain stage and as soon as Tom Danielson went in the tank, I stopped paying attention completely.
    P.S. Please note, I am no longer (no name); I consider this a significant accomplishment as it took me about a total of 5 hours.

  6. Comment by Lofgrans | 09.15.2006 | 8:42 pm

    I am so proud of Vino. I hope he holds it. We (Bob and I) would have loved for him to have a chance in the Tour this year. But due to the Operacion (which later cleared his team, talk about a day late and a dollar short) he was unable to prove himself. We love Vino and have been following him closely, he’s got our support- until he dopes anyway. Maybe I should say until he gets caught for doping.
    I too have lost a little of my enthusiasm for the Pro peleton, but only a very little, most of this is probably due to focusing on Bob’s racing. The sport is just too great, too exciting, too intense. So if I have to take a little scandal with my velonews then hey, at least I have something to read about in the off season. Right?  

  7. Comment by AMG in Texas | 09.15.2006 | 9:00 pm

      I noticed the same apathy towards cycling after the Landis doping results.  It took me off my bike and now I gained the weight that I had lost!!  (thanks to floyd and his unsophisticated botched effort at cheating)  You mean that cycling is continuing???  The Vuelta??  Who cares!!  Their last vuelta winners also turned out to be doping…  I spend $$ on those WCP videos… what a waste.  I was turning my TDF 2006 tivo recordings into dvd’s but now that FL was caught doping… all those files are doing now is cluttering my hard drive.  Did you hear that the 2nd place guy wants to have a big ceremony in Paris when he gets appointed the winner???  What an ego. 
      All this leads me to is the realization that there is more to MY life than watching pro cycling.  Glad you realized that too FC:-)  Keep on pedaling and may all your journeys are downhill with the wind.
    AMG from Texas

  8. Comment by Fat Cyclist | 09.15.2006 | 10:43 pm

    bradley – it’s interesting you mentioned that movie, because i actually wrote the screenplay for Syriana. my original ending, however, ended with a marriage and a big choreographed musical number. i still get angry when i see how the director butchered what was supposed to be a comedy the whole family can enjoy.
    bikemike – to complete your theory, i suggest that riders must wear full face mask helmets, so we can’t tell who’s riding what.
    sans auto - i think floyd might be innocent, too. you probably noticed that i was careful to not say "when floyd was caught doping," but instead said "when floyd went from ultra-hero to supergoat," which is pretty accurate. it almost doesn’t matter anymore to me, though. i no longer feel like i can get excited about any racer, because the likelihood is too great that i’m going to later find out that racer was cheating. Strangely, though, monday’s posting will be about an actual "super goat," something i had not planned on when i wrote today’s post.
    big mike – from my Mar 09 posting: "…every cycling fan — regardless of how strongly they idolize any other cyclist — must stand at the ready to cheer for Vinokourov as he makes one of his crazy, wrong-headed attacks. Most of them make no sense and go nowhere, and that’s why I love him. Here’s how I imagine Vinokourov decides whether to attack at a given moment: “Hey, there’s a guy about 100 feet ahead of me. I wonder if I could catch him. Well, my legs feel pretty good. GO!” 
    botched – congratulations on getting your name to appear. and congrats on baby #2.
    lofgrans – if i were a serious semipro racer like your husband (or were the spouse of a semipro racer), i’d probably still be interested in pro racing, too, because there’d be at least some tangential overlap with my life. however, if i were a clean semipro racer, i might also be really outraged at all the doping, knowing that there are probably people making a better living than i am because they’re willing to cheat. like you, i’m excited for vino. i hope he cleans up, and i hope they find him clean.
    amg – you know, my apathy about pro racers didn’t take me off my bike. if anything, i started riding more. my interest in cycling is just a lot more exclusively local than it used to be.

  9. Comment by Zed | 09.15.2006 | 11:09 pm

    Stage 17 was awesome–but that’s perhaps because I’d been waiting for Tom Danielson to re-emerge from his bad performance in the previous mountain stages.
    P.S. Did anyone notice that Pereiro didn’t qualify for the Spanish World’s team? Who wins the Tour and doesn’t qualify for the World Championship? Someone who got a freebie on a breakaway and then has the Tour fall into his lap, that’s who.

  10. Comment by Cara | 09.17.2006 | 2:50 am

    It isn’t like we can watch the Vuelta, I think I would be more inclined to follow it if it was on normal TV.

  11. Comment by Ramon | 09.19.2006 | 9:41 pm

    If you really think Landis is guilty of doping how do you explain the other clean samples taken during the Tour?  Somehow I don’t believe a single shot of testosterone would result in an extraordinary performance within 24 hours.  Even "if" a single dose would enhance performance that much, logically, why would any athlete knowingly take a performance enhancing substance knowing full well if he won the stage he would be tested?    
    Maybe drugs are a fact of life for professional athletes or alternatively "performance enhancing substances."  Where do we draw the line?  Is that PowerBar or that RedBull performance enhancing?  How about Rocky’s orange juice and raw egg?  At the extreme one could argue that ingesting the raw egg was potentially harmful to his health.  I think that is the argument against taking steroids, they are potentially harmful to one’s health.
    Back to the Vuelta, I only wish there were enough Americans interested in Grand Tour Cycling that we could have TV coverage.  I love watching the tours, Giro, Tour and Vuelta.  For me grand tour cycling is the ultimate sport with triathlon a close second.


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