Crossing the Line: When Freds Go Bad

(Marty Wiggins, via a reader.)

Further to yesterday's post, a reader asked the following:

Quilled and Lugged said...

"Swallow GBR" indeed - sounds like what WRM is going to be doing with his brief jerkies.
Want to make a prediction about the Olympic Road Race to redeem yourself, Snob?

July 23, 2012 3:42 PM

Why, I would indeed.  My prediction for the Olympic road race (that's bicycle road race, I assume) is that it will be won by Dmitriy Fofonov, who was clearly holding back during the Tour so that he'd peak for London:

(They don't call him "The Fofanator" for nothing.)

As for how the race will play out, I expect he will win in a solo breakaway, since Fofonov is best alone.

Speaking of competitive cycling, one event that has some superficial resemblance to actual bike racing is the New York Gran Fondo, and you may have heard by now that the organizers have snagged themselves a couple of dopers:

Two cyclists tested positive for EPO at Gran Fondo New York on May 20, 2012. David Anthony of New York City admitted today to having used the drug to enhance his performance at bike races. The other rider who tested positive is awaiting the result of the B sample. As soon as appropriate, Gran Fondo New York will comment further on the second case.

Sure, the cycling world laughed back in April when the New York Gran Fondo first announced there would be drug testing.  After all, who would cheat with drugs to "win" a massive Fred ride?  But what the organizers surely realized was that Freds are paying for the illusion that they are actually athletes.  These Freds want an excuse to buy new equipment.  They want special matching jerseys.  They want their meager efforts to be timed and quantified.  And they want to know that, just like the pros, they might even have to go pee-pee in a cup:

("Wow, doping control!  I'm just like those people in the Olympics!")

By the way, the illusion was so complete that the New York Gran Fondo even performed out-of-competition testing:

"Of course we were shocked to hear the news on the positive tests, in particular given the use of EPO. EPO is a blood boosting drug that has to be injected and is not a simple over the counter product," says Gran Fondo New York CEO Ulrich Fluhme. "Doping control helps clean riders have fair competition. We believe that we came closer to achieving that by introducing out-of-competition (OOC) and in-competiton (IC) testing. All our OOC tests came back negative as did the vast majority of IC tests. Plus, the announcement of testing before the event kept away notorious cheaters."

It's hard to imagine registering for an event like the New York Gran Fondo only to have doping control show up at your house one day.  As it is, being tested at the actual Gran Fondo must be like having to go through customs to get into Disneyworld, so being visited at home by doping control must be like getting a visit from the Walt Disney Company Secret Service after you book your tickets on Orbitz and being strip-searched by an agent dressed as Mickey Mouse.  However, as absurd as it sounds, clearly the testing did pay off, which is why if you read carefully you can detect the glee bubbling just below the surface of this ostensibly neutral press release.  Now that their event is officially "dope-worthy" they have all kinds of street cred (or "Fred cred").  And if you think it will tarnish the event, think again, for I was just reading an article in the New Yorker about strongman competitions ("The Strongest Man In The World" by Burkhard Bilger) in which I learned the following:

In 1970, when he brought the world weight-lifting championships to Columbus, the event was a bust at first.  "We were at Ohio State University, at Mershon Auditorium, and the first three days--Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday--it was empty.  Maybe a few family members."  Then, on the third day, a scandal broke: eight of the nine top lifters tested positive for steroids.  "Well, that Thursday evening Mershon filled up," Lorimer recalled.  "Friday, Saturday, Sunday--it was filled every day.  Now, what lesson do you think I learned from that?"

In other words, the Five Boro Bike Tour better catch some dopers too or else the New York Gran Fondo is going to completely subsume their event.

But what of the dopers themselves?  So far we know one of them is local rider David Anthony, who is 45 years old and has been on a rocket ride to mediocrity since starting out as a Cat 5 in 2009:

And who ironically rides for a team sponsored by the website that has been howling the loudest for Lance Armstrong's blood, on which you can read his official "statement:"

There is no easy way to say this -- I was using ways to improve my performance that were cheating. This was something that I alone did, and I take responsibility for it. My team, coaches and friends had absolutely no knowledge or participation in this.

Two things happened recently that put into prospective just how off the deep end I was. The first was that I tested positive for EPO at the Gran Fondo. A week and a half after that I broke my leg in three places in a racing accident. For the first time in years, I was completely off the bike. These two things gave me the perspective to examine just how insane I was acting...

So he didn't realize he was "off the deep end" until he tested positive for EPO at a gigantic Fred ride?  What about when he was actually buying the EPO for the gigantic Fred ride?  That to me would indicate rock-bottom.  I'm sure he's also kicking himself right now, since had he simply skipped the Gran Fondo he'd still be racking up those mid-field results at regional stage races.  Clearly he got greedy.  Doping for amateur bike races only to get caught at the New York Gran Fondo is like embezzling from work and then getting nabbed for stealing ballpoint pens out of the supply closet.

But as sad as cheating at your hobby is, it's hardly surprising, since delusion is the hallmark of the amateur bike racer.  Consider this pre-bust interview:

It seems you do a bunch of training and get to a plateau where you are competitive in your field, only to find that when you cat up it’s almost like starting over. There is another notch or two up that you need to get to in order to be competitive at that next level. That is one of the things that is cool about racing – with the category system it is set up so anyone, at almost any level of fitness can participate. But there is always another level to strive for if you want it.

Yes, there's always another level, and the futile pursuit of it is what amateur bike racing is all about.  That's why crappy bike riders actually pay for stuff like this:

Then there are the electronic shifting groups, and the ludicrously-priced plastic frames, and the power meters, and the custom training programs...  Is there a huge difference between an amateur riding a $15,000 race bike, paying coaching fees equal to his rent, and spending inordinate amounts of time "training," and actually taking that next step and using a banned substance?  Not really.  Once you're that far gone it's a pretty small step.  Sure, doping is actually illegal whereas stupid upgrades are not, but once you're that deluded it's probably about as easy as it is for some people to fall into bed with someone who's not their spouse.  The amateur doper is simply committing adultery while the rest of the amateurs are constantly foffing off over porn and telling themselves it's healthy behavior.  In fact, amateur doping is so easy as to be boring, as I found when I read this book:
Actually, I didn't read the book.  Rather, I tried to read it but kept falling asleep.  You'd think reading the confession of an amateur doper might be juicy, but really it's as interesting as reading about someone coveting the new Zipps.  Professional doping stories are juicy because there are lives and careers on the line.  All an amateur is putting on the line is a hobby--and even after he's caught he can still play with his crabon toys and pleasure himself with Strava.

Anyway, all of this is why amateur bike racing feels so much like a bunch of investment bankers partying in a strip club, and why riding around with a 10-foot quill stem with a capacious handlebar bag à la Rivendell never seemed so appealing.

But what if you're not ready to surrender to the world of steel and lugs?  Well, fortunately, if you want to pretend to be an athlete but you can't even ride your bicycle on the most elementary level, there's always triathlon.  Yesterday I mentioned the NeverReach hydration system, and subsequently a reader forwarded me another one of their videos and informed me of their slogan:

( bed!)

Good advice to be sure, but Dmitriy Fofonov would beg to differ.

And who says bike racing has to be expensive, anyway?  Thanks to the "secret website," another reader tells me you can get your crabon dream frame for a measly $1,749.00--though it will make you a falsetto:

We found a bike that'll have you singing in a falsetto. Yes, after exhaustive searching our bike guy found some Opera Super Leonardo framesets. Don't ask how, all you need to know is that this monocoque carbon fiber frameset was designed by Fausto Pinarello and is ready to dominate the race course or your local group ride. Hurry though, we've only got a few.

Yes, thanks to the new Pants-Yabby-Pulverizing (PYP) seatstays, the Opera Super Leonardo will have you sounding like Andy Gibb.

For best results, ride without a saddle.

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