US Cycling is under new management and the Giro d’Italia is planning to start in Japan, just the sort of fodder for Lee Rodgers to get his teeth into and give us his Lowdown. In Lee’s eyes the change in the US can only be a good thing, but could the Giro money not be spent in a better way, what about the Giro Rosa?
There’s not been much reason to cheer for USA Cycling in recent years, what with the dubious (I’m being polite here) Steve Johnson having been at the helm since 2006 till early this year but new CEO Derek Bouchard-Hall and his staff have just ushered in something that is very much worth applauding.
For the start of the 2016 racing season, several measures are being brought in that will effectively increase the number of doping tests for amateur racers. The cost will be carried in part by the riders themselves, with a $3 increase on the previous $70 for a one year license. International Elite and Pro License appliqués will have to pay a $50 surcharge, which will be also directed towards anti-doping efforts.
Bouchard-Hall tells a tale of first going into the Cycling USA HQ when he was appointed CEO and seeing images on the walls of the Great American Dopers: they were all there, Leipheimer, Julich, Armstrong, Hincapie.
“Those are symbols of an appalling past and appalling behavior, and even though I can understand it and sympathize with it, those pictures don’t inspire me,” he said to the New York Times. “In fact, it’s the opposite.”
Those all went into the garbage, sorry, ‘hall closet’, but not before someone spoke to the new boss and said by taking them down it might make it look like the organization was trying to bury its past. Bouchard-Hall was having none of it.
Let’s hope these new reforms make inroads into what is a big problem in cycling, amateur doping, and yes, well done USA Cycling.
In other news, The Giro was rumored to be going to Japan for its start in 2017, as reported in Belgian website Sport/Voetbalmagazine, but the article was quickly denied by the Italian organizers. However, the fact that they are talking about it leads me to believe that it will happen soon enough, if only because no Grand Tour has ever started outside Europe – to be the first, that would bring some fanfare.
I’m all for the internationalization of the sport but… Japan? That would mean two extra days, something agreed with by race director Mauro Vegni. “If you take the Giro to Japan, how many extra days of rest would you need? Two? At least. If the UCI doesn’t get onboard with the principle that this is important for cycling in the world, then it’s useless that we sit down in the U.S. or in Japan or in other far-off countries,” he said.
The Japanese love their cycling, something I witnessed in my ten years living there. At the Japan Cup, the Pro Tour riders sell off their kit and even their bikes after the race to the highest bidder, with some fans literally ripping items from the riders back in their frenzied desire to get hold of some merchandise. Whether this still goes on I don’t know, but I know some pros who would walk away with $300 for selling a pair of cycling mitts.
The Belgian report stated that there had been an extra budget set aside to accommodate the trip to Japan, with a $545,000 sweetener set aside for each team to make the 8-10 hour flight there and back more palatable. That is a whole lot of loot that surely could be better spent elsewhere, no? I mean instead of taking the race to Japan where cycling is already going very well and where there is now the Japan Cup and the Saitama Tour de France Criterium that attracts the stars, why not use the money to help the women’s Giro get better prizes? Or to subsidize television programming for that event?
When Marianne Vos won the Giro she received a paltry 555 euros, whereas the men’s winner that year, Nairo Quintana, whistled all the way to the bank with 200,000 euros stuffed in his bulging wallet. Or perhaps more of that money could go on introducing blood testing in UCI Asia events (currently all that is tested is urine), or on getting more amateurs tested worldwide? I wonder what Bouchard-Hall could do with $545,000?
Lee Rodgers is a former professional road racer on the UCI Asia Tour circuit now racing MTB professionally around the world. His day job combines freelance journalism, coaching cyclists, event organizing and consulting work. You can keep up with his daily scribblings over at www.crankpunk.com.