Darth Vader wins again!

May 29, 2018 § 3 Comments

When Chris Froome dashed away for a little 80 km solo breakaway and “pulled a Landis” to ride himself into the pink jersey at the Giro, it seemed a bit much, even for the severely disabled #fakesport of professional cycling.

I mean, a guy who is currently in the death throes of a doping investigation that will certainly find him guilty of cheating, suddenly vaulting himself atop the Tour of Italy, from whence he will be de-throned once his doping positive is upheld … doesn’t anyone see how this will play out?

Of course they do, but like an alcoholic who knows exactly which gutter he’s going to wind up in when he takes the first drink, pro cycling can’t help itself. So Darth Froome will not only win and then be stripped of his Giro crown, but he will also win the Turdy France and have that jersey torn off his back as well. This will inspire generations of parents to say to their children, “Don’t you fucking dare start bike racing.”

So that at least is a benefit.

After being stripped of his jerseys and publicly humiliated, some second-place schmo who didn’t dope as well for as long will be awarded Froome’s victories and say, “I’d rather not have won it this way,” when what he means is “I’m sure glad that Darth got busted and not me,” followed by “Where’s my check?”

Cynicism is the new optimism

Darth isn’t to be blamed for vacuuming up the spoils and sashaying onto the next grand tour. This salbutamol thing is vexing, to be sure, but it goes with the territory, and better to win a couple of tours and have them taken away than to stay home and not ever win them at all. And who knows? Tyler’s vanishing twin theory may actually be proven true this time, exonerating Darth fully.

Darth’s ride on Stage 19 in this Giro was summed up by Sean Kelly  in one word: “Unbelievable.” It’s the most that he could have said without being sued for defamation.

But Froome, laughing all the way to Milan, made no bones about the fact that pro cycling fans are the stupidest humans alive. Refusing to share his power data, which would have shown how his Stage 19 performance really occurred, Darth instead said that “It was interesting to see yesterday I made up most of my time on the descents by the looks of it.”

Ah, yes, of course. He beat the world’s best time trialists and climbers on a mountainous stage at the end of the Giro by going downhill faster than anyone else. Who needs to see actual power data to confirm that? Not Froome, the maniacal marginal-gains data wonk, that’s for sure. “No, I’m not looking at the computer, I’m riding as hard as I can.”

Yes, old school, Eddy Merckx style, exactly what Team Vader is best known for.

Fortunately, Froome and Brailsford’s Trumpian “offense always” approach is already lined up and spit-polished for the Tour. According to Froome,  “I’m certainly planning to go there and give it everything.”

And by everything, I’m sure he means, uh, everything.



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Beat the rap

February 23, 2018 § 6 Comments

Have you been accused (unfairly!) of cheating? Learn from Chris Froome how to prove you’re innocent!

  1. Deny doing anything wrong. “I haven’t done anything wrong!”
  2. Promise to investigate. “We will get to the bottom of this!”
  3. Express shock. “I have no idea how this happened!”
  4. Delegate to your flak. “We will show through laboratory testing that Chris’s kidneys weren’t working properly that day he won the queen stage and the overall of a grand tour.”
  5. Show empathy. “I understand how this is upsetting to people.”
  6. Appreciate support. “I am so thankful that the other racers have been supportive.”
  7. Spend money. “I’ve hired Killum, Lyan & Cheate to represent me in this matter.”
  8. Talk about due process. “We must respect the system and the process.”
  9. Focus on training. “I’ve done 5,000 km last month and feel great.”
  10. Repeat 1-9 endlessly.

Feel free to add your own …



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Tom Petty wouldn’t, either

February 5, 2018 § 3 Comments

Chris Froome’s dope-em-up continues to whip the tifosi into an ever finer souffle, with silly pronouncements following ridiculous demands and culminating in today’s CyclingNews fanboy plea, “Froome should suspend himself for the good of the sport.”

I would like to direct your attention to a popular song written by the recently-departed Tom Petty: “I Won’t Back Down,” and imagine that it is being sung by “Puffer” Froome. Because he’s not backing down.

The gist of the CyclingNews fanboy piece is that Froome has a moral obligation to suspend himself for the good of the sport. Fanboy Whittle, author of this deep piece, urges Puffer to suspend himself so that he can be “on the right side of history,” presumably because 300 years from now when people are looking at the pivotal moments that decided the course of human events, all eyes will be turned on how Puffer behaved at this moment, like Sir Neville Chamberlain and “peace in our time,” or something like that. Heady stuff, that underpants-bicycling fake sport thing.

The Whittler concludes by making clear what the stakes are should Puffer not do the right thing: “If Froome competes and wins a Grand Tour only to be later sanctioned, then he and his team will forever be seen under the same dark cloud as those that came before them.”

Wow. I think if I were Chris Froome reading that I would dash out to the nearest UCI firing squad, pin myself against a wall, and take my medicine.

Just kidding, no I wouldn’t.

If I were Chris Froome I’d be doing what Chris Froome is already doing: Training like a MoFo and getting ready to win the Giro and his fifth Tour. “Being under the same dark cloud as those that came before them?” I think Fanboy Whittle means “doping,” and here’s why his entire argument is a floofy frumpum of whompynoddle.

Let’s start with rules and due process. Froome hasn’t suspended himself because he hasn’t committed a doping infraction, yet. Who set up the rules allowing Froome to use up to 1,000 mL of Salbutamol despite knowing that it is a proven doping agent, and has been used as such for over twenty years? Why, that would be the UCI.

Who set up the rules saying that testing positive for too much salbutamol didn’t require an automatic suspension? Why, that would be the UCI.

And now we’re supposed to believe that a guy who makes 4.5 million euros a year riding his bicycle is going to toss into the can the very protections created by the organizing body that is now going to have to give him due process? And his reason for that would be what, exactly?

Fanboy Whittle says it’s ethics and morals and the good of the sport and the stakeholders, a stinking smorgasbord of sweet-sounding piffle if ever there was one.

“Ethics and morals”? Most people would say that following rules put in place to give an athlete the chance to prove his innocence is both ethical and moral, and, as everyone knows but glosses over, legal as well. (Oh. Yeah. Right.) Froome may be guilty but he still gets to put on his case; stripping him of those rights or demanding that he forego them is the very antithesis of ethical and moral.

“The good of the sport”? What does that even mean? That Froome somehow sees cycling as a noble and divine endeavor whose integrity all good cyclists have a sworn duty to defend? The sport of professional European cycling has proven itself at every turn to be a mean, exploitative, drug-ridden, mafia-like cult that puts a few at the pinnacle, grinds up the rest and tosses them on the trash heap. Pro cycling was and is a doper shitshow, and even if there were something pure and beautiful about it, why would anyone expect Froome to know or care? He rides for Team Skye and David Brailsford. His job is to win races without getting busted, not to honor some silly ideal.

“The stakeholders”? Who in the world could this possibly be, except for the owners of the Giro and the Tour? These are the very two entities, especially the Tour, who have done so much to keep pro cycling a provincial, corrupt, balkanized fake-sport, preventing its growth, keeping the cost of entry out of reach, and ensuring that the racers are impoverished and desperate from year to year. Froome is supposed to care about them?

Whittle does make mention of the fans but wisely doesn’t go too far in their defense because everyone who follows pro cycling even casually and doesn’t know that the pro peloton dopes is an imbecile. Fanboy Whittle needs to reflect that he is writing thinly disguised ad copy for a sport where they just busted fourteen racers for EPO in a single race, more than a decade after the EPO era supposedly ended.

Consider his options: Give away a few million euros, lose the chance to race, and by sitting out admit to what everyone is saying anyway–that he’s a cheat. Or, stay in the game, collect a few more million euros, win the big races, run the risk that he’s retroactively stripped, and have people say what they are saying anyway–that he’s a cheat.

Contador faced this same choice and said “Thank you, I’ll take your money and my chances.” He lost the titles but kept the cash.

Froome will, too.



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About Cycling in the South Bay: This the all-things-cycling blog about cycling in the South Bay and cycling in Los Angeles, maintained and authored by me, Seth Davidson, Torrance-based bicycle lawyer, bike racer, and personal injury attorney.

Dummy talk

January 26, 2018 Comments Off on Dummy talk

Chris Froome delivered an early Christmas gift during the off season when he tested positive for way-too-much salbutamol, giving bloggers, cyclists stuck on Zwift in the basement for the winter, and fanboy journalists tons of fodder to get through the lull in the pro road racing season. Unfortunately, many foolish things were said, and more unfortunately, all of this dummy talk recorded in print.

David Lapparient, president of the UCI: “This is bad for the image of cycling.” Is it? How? Cycling’s image is and has been and will always be doping, with Lance as the always-relevant cheater, hopscotching from race to race, delivering air-light pronouncements and analysis on the fake sport he fakishly ruined.

Javier Guillén, director of the Vuelta: “It’s concerning. We can’t take any part in it, either in favour or against, obviously.” Uh … this guy is about to get banned and have his Vuelta title stripped, doing immense damage to your race, and you can’t take sides?

Alberto Contador, former banned doper: “You can’t have cases drag on and on, it has to be dealt with quickly.” What does this even mean? You have due process or you don’t. What’s the mechanism for “quickly” having Froomester do a lab-replication to show he wasn’t doping, and/or for “quickly” getting a CAS appeal heard? In what language is “appeal” a synonym for “quickly”?

Owain Doull, Team Sky rider: “I was at the team camp in December and it was pretty much business as usual.” Probably not the best quote when asked how your team is dealing with accusations of doping, cover-ups, secret packet drug deliveries, missing laptops with medical records, and you know, very bad stuff.

Movement for Credibility in Cycling: “This is the reason why MPCC and its Board of Directors, without making any assumption towards the final decision, asks Team Sky to suspend [Chris Froome] on a voluntary basis.” First, the name of your group, guys. There is no credibility in cycling and never has been. Second, asking Team Sky to forego its due process protections for shitsngiggles? Third, asking Team Dope to voluntarily kill its cash cow? Goodness. Stuuuuuu-pid.

Tom Dumoulin, rival and 2017 Giro winner: “What can I say now about the Froome case? I cannot say anything because I don’t know the details. I only know that he’s positive … ” What can you say? You can say you think he’s most likely a dopey doper who dopes. For starters.

Dave Brailsford, director for Team Dope: “I have the utmost confidence that Chris followed the medical guidance in managing his asthma symptoms, staying within the permissible dose for Salbutamol.” Did he not notice that the positive test was for double the permissible dose? Total dummy talk.

Geraint Thomas, Team Dope rider: “It’s another thing against the team but I do trust that he wouldn’t have gone out of his way to cheat.” So he would cheat if it were really easy, but wouldn’t go out of his way to do it? Nice.

Patrick Lefevere, QuickStep team manager: “I’m sad. First of all, I’m sad.” Yes, it’s so sad when a doper dopes and gets caught. I’d argue that it’s not sad. It’s predictable and it’s part of the freak show. Sad? Sad is when some tenement burns down. Sad is Sandy Hook. This isn’t sad, it’s the entertainment business.

Gianni Bugno, ex-pro and convicted drug trafficker: “Froome is innocent until proven guilty and so it’s right he can race.” Yet another example of knuckleheads conflating criminal guilt with civil proceedings, in this case a private arbitration process.

Dick Pound, former WADA president: “If you’re over the threshold by 100 per cent, that needs some explanation.” No, it doesn’t. It needs a ban.

Chris Froome, confused bicycle racer: “I know what those limits are, and I’ve never gone over those limits.” Earth to Chris: Yes, you have. That’s what this is all about. You have gone over limits by 100 percent. Dummy talk …

Wout Poels, Team Dope rider: “Every once in a while we get a small update and behind the scenes, Chris and his lawyers are working hard to solve the problem.” I like the way it’s posed as a problem to be solved, like a quadratic equation. No suggestion that they are feverishly working to find way to get a cheater off the hook.

Mathieu van der Poel, ‘Cross rider: “A suspension, that’s what I think. For me it’s a positive test. If the limit is 1,000 and he’s up to 2,000, then there’s not much discussion needed. That’s a positive test.” Okay, someone finally said something that made sense.

Katie Compton, ‘Cross rider: “It doesn’t make sense that you could have that much in your system and still be able to pedal that hard. I don’t know. I feel like something else is going on.” I wonder what that could possibly be? Maybe time to get O.J. on the case?

Brent Copeland, Bahrain-Merida team manager: “You’re riding through different climatic conditions all the time and unfortunately they do suffer from asthma and a lot of riders do use this substance to help them out.” Yes, they do use it to help them out, and Chris helped himself too much. Ergo, busted.

Lance Armstrong, Face of Pro Cycling: “Cycling is the sporting world’s doormat. I have to say that I take a lot of blame for that.” Still one of the dumbest people to open his mouth in front of a microphone, and still everyone’s go-to quote machine for all things cycling. Name another sport whose banned villains are the most relevant voices in the game.

Greg Lemond, Tour winner: “If this is what he claims, then it’s simple, he broke the rules and should be punished accordingly.” Oops! Something intelligent sneaked into this post!

Christian Prudhomme, director of the Tour: “We want the situation to be cleared up, to get out of the darkness and ambiguity.” Darkness? Are we in a cave? Ambiguity? He tested double the limit. Sheesh. What Prudhomme means is the ambiguity of whether he’s going to have a winner in 2018 or a winner in 2018 who gets stripped in 2019.

Chris Froome, unhappy asthmatic: “This is quite a horrible situation if I’m honest. We’re working as hard as we can to get to the bottom of this.” Kind of like Prudhomme’s dark cave, this is very simple. You took too much and got caught. And “get to the bottom” implies some nefarious scheme that Inspector Lestrade and Holmes are working hard to solve. Nope.

Tom van Damme, UCI Road Commission President: “It is unfortunate that a problem in the gray zone is now being enlarged, unfortunately we have to follow the rules of WADA.” Unfortunate that you have due process? It would so much easier if you could just do what? Shoot him?

Romain Bardet, AG2R La Mondiale rider: “I don’t see how Froome can race as if nothing is going on.” He has four million reasons to keep racing, actually. Every year.

Brian Cookson, ousted UCI president: “I mistakenly thought that the matter must have been resolved.” In this case, “resolved” means that it was swept under the table. Cookson said this knowing that Froome had tested positive, he just didn’t know it was about to be found out. Wannnnnker.

Julie Harringon, British Cycling CEO: “The issue in this case is that the process was leaked.” No, Julie, the issue is that Froome was doping.

Mauro Vegni, director of the Giro: “Everything is in the hands of the UCI.” No, it isn’t. It’s in the hands of Froome’s legal team, the UCI, and ultimately the Court of Arbitration for Sport.



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The truth behind Chris Froome’s doping

December 16, 2017 § 2 Comments

Chris Froome tested positive for elevated levels of the drug Salbutamol, more than twice the amount allowed by the UCI. There has been a flurry of articles about it, so I won’t rehash them.

Most cycling fans have only the vaguest idea of what this is really all about, other than perhaps an understanding that it involves an asthma drug. After that, understanding drops off sharply. This confusion is not accidental. The use of Salbutamol by pro cyclists and Froome’s abuse of it have been carefully groomed to confuse the public and to allow athletes to gain incredible performance advantages by exploiting a simple doping loophole.

On a personal level, Froome’s doping is meaningless to me. All successful cyclists in the World Tour dope, in my opinion. The wattages recorded during the heyday of Armstrong’s EPO use have remained the same or increased, indicating that cyclists are as juiced as they ever were. Clean riders like Phil Gaimon have short, unexceptional World Tour careers. That’s how it is.

But on an intellectual level it’s disappointing that there is so much misdirection, and that it has successfully misled so many otherwise smart and informed people. This is my attempt to clear it up.

Let’s start with the basics. Pro road cycling is an endurance sport. This means that improved delivery of oxygen to the muscles makes you go faster. And although drugs like EPO and techniques like autologous blood transfusions are proven methods for getting more oxygen to your muscles, by far and away the cheapest, easiest, tried-and-true, bread-and-butter method is to lose weight without losing muscle.

In other words, most doping for endurance cyclists boils down to weight loss and retention of muscle or, ideally, weight loss and increasing musculature–but not too much. The “not too much” part is important. Cycling strength is measured in watts generated per kilogram of body weight, and there is a point of diminishing return with added muscle mass, where it increases your weight more than its concomitant ability to do the work you want it to, e.g. push you uphill. This is why stage racers are small, and one-day road racers at the pro level are, for the most part, not a whole lot larger.

To repeat, performance, and therefore doping, hinge mainly on weight loss without losing muscle. Leaving out doping methods like EPO, stimulants like speed, drugs that numb you to pain, and the huge variety of other cocktails that can alter your performance, two of the greatest workhorses of doping revolve around weight loss that doesn’t also strip away muscle, and repair of damaged tissue.

Let’s start with maintaining muscle mass. Cyclists tear down muscle when they ride, and they use anabolic steroids to quickly repair those damaged muscles after hard races or workouts. This maintains, and can even increase muscle mass because it allows the cyclist to do another hard effort thanks to the quick repair, when a non-doped competitor has to do an easy day or several easy days. Better yet, it lets the doper keep the gas on during a stage race when the clean rider is on the ropes trying to recover from the day before.

But cyclists also maintain muscle mass by using a class of drugs known as β-agonist receptors. These drugs allow you to lose weight without losing muscle mass. Salbutamol is one such drug, and it is the drug that Chris Froome tested positive for at twice the allowed limit.

This is where the misdirection kicks in, because Froome reminds us that he is an asthmatic (more about that later, I believe he most certainly isn’t), and Salbutamol is a treatment for asthma. As a treatment for asthma, Salbutamol doesn’t have any demonstrable performance enhancing effects. This is why the UCI allows anyone to use it without a TUE.

But if it’s so harmless, why is there a limit to how much you can ingest? Glad you asked. There’s a limit because Salbutamol, when injected or taken in a tablet form in sufficiently high doses, allows you to lose weight and not also lose muscle mass. This is crucial throughout a stage racer’s year of competition, including during competition. You might think that a stage racer is eating everything in sight trying to keep up with the caloric demands of the event, but you’d be wrong. Their diets are tightly calibrated to ensure that they have enough to replace what’s been used, and enough to get them through the next day’s stage. In fact, many stage racers will enter a grand tour one or two pounds overweight, and will count on the racing plus controlled use of β-agonist receptors to shred out the excess fat while keeping the muscle. Clenbuterol, just one such drug, is what brought down Alberto Contador in the 2010 Tour de France.

If you have any doubt at all that this is what Chris Froome has been doing, take a look first at this photo of his legs from 2013. Then compare it with 2017. In four short years he has put on a visible amount of muscle and lost weight. Not a lot of muscle, and not a lot of weight. Just a marginal gain … and not coincidentally one that has gone hand-in-glove with his very public announcement of a lifelong asthma condition that requires constant use of Salbutamol.

Again, to sum up:

  1. Road racers go faster when they lose weight and maintain muscle.
  2. Salbutamol in large doses lets you lose weight and maintain muscle, and is legal in small doses.
  3. Chris Froome has suddenly tested positive for a large dose of Salbutamol.
  4. Chris Froome claims he uses Salbutamol because he’s an asthmatic.

Did you catch that? No. 4 is entirely compatible with No. 2, it just sounds somehow like a denial that he was doping.

The misdirection is quite effective because it takes our eyes off the performance enhancing effects of Salbutamol when taken intravenously or orally, and focuses instead on its legitimate and non-performance-enhancing effect as an inhalant for asthmatics. And by the way, we’re reminded, Chris Froome has always been an asthmatic; suffered terribly all his life from it, in fact.

Before we pick up on the hard-to-swallow story about Froome’s asthma, though, let’s remember that large doses of Salbutamol help you lose weight and keep muscle and therefore go faster. And Chris was very lean and very muscly and very fast on the day he tested positive. In old Perry Mason shows that would have been called a “smoking gun.”

However, we’re asked to ignore the smoking gun and look in a different place, the world of asthma, where Salbutamol has no performance enhancing effects because it is inhaled. We are asked to forget that Chris Froome is an endurance athlete, that endurance athletes go faster with weight loss and retained muscle, and that Salbutamol is very effective at doing just that. It’s as if we found the smoking gun in the defendant’s hand and were asked to consider not that he had murdered someone with it, but that he was a lifelong collector of guns, and we’re not allowed to point out that the truth of the latter statement doesn’t in any way negate the truth of the former.

In other words, the fact that Salbutamol as an inhalant can alleviate asthma does not controvert the fact that it also enhances weight loss and muscle retention in large doses when injected or taken orally. In fact, it does both, and the fact that Chris Froome’s Salbutamol level was double the allowed amount should prove to any reasonable person that he was injecting it or taking it orally in order to benefit from its performance-enhancing qualities of weight loss and muscle retention.

Yet we’re asked not to be reasonable, but to be stupid, so let’s play along and assume that the issue really is whether or not Chris Froome is an asthmatic. Is he?

In his public statement regarding the positive test for excessive Salbutamol, Froome said, “It is well known that I have asthma and I know exactly what the rules are. I use an inhaler to manage my symptoms (always within the permissible limits) and I know for sure that I will be tested every day I wear the race leader’s jersey.”

What is well known is that he has claimed to have asthma only recently, and has only recently claimed to have been an acute sufferer since childhood. The principal reason to disbelieve Froome’s self-serving medical diagnosis is that his lifelong condition was a closely kept secret until 2014, when Froome very publicly took a puff from an inhaler in front of the podium at the Dauphine. Froome used the ensuing media scrutiny to explain that he was a lifelong sufferer of asthma and that Salbutamol was legal, after which Team Sky dutifully confirmed that he had been using an inhaler since he was a teenager. One wonders how David Brailsford knew about Chris’s childhood in Kenya.

Yet there’s not a single mention of this terrible affliction, one which would have had incredible implications for an aspiring cyclist, in his autobiography, whereas he has made a lot of media hay over his infection with the parasitic disease bilharzia, which he claims hampered his progress for years. Prior to that Froome was never seen using the inhaler he now takes with him everywhere he goes. Is it plausible that he would be a severe, lifelong asthmatic fighting for a career in the pro ranks and that it would be a secret?

Three years ago, writer Felix Lowe completely skewered Froome’s late discovery of asthma, pointing out that Froome never mentioned asthma in his book, though he “talks ad nauseam about his propensity to pick up a cold; but not once did he think of mentioning that these colds could come down to asthma – something that would arguably make it even more of ‘a journey unlike any other in the history of cycling’ that the back-page spiel [of Froome’s book] claims his to be.”

Lowe also points out that after a full year of being embedded with Team Sky, muckraking cycling journalist David Walsh never mentioned, discovered, or noticed Froome’s asthma. Keep in mind that Walsh is one of the protagonists who brought down Armstrong for doping.

So what does this all mean? In short, it means that in 2014 Froome and Team Sky hit upon a very clever way to take the Salbutamol doping issue off the table: Do it publicly, then defend it to the hilt as a legal, non-banned, crucial inhalant for a very sick athlete. This forced the skeptics to train their guns on Salbutamol’s performance enhancing effects as an inhalant (there are none), and dragged everyone into the “Is Chris an asthmatic?” debate, while artfully sidestepping the only issue that matters: Salbutamol is easily obtained, legal, easily abused, has a very short half life so is hard to detect, is defensible when you’re busted for it, and helps you lose weight and retain muscle mass and win grand tours.

Case closed.



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TUE for Tuesday

December 15, 2017 Comments Off on TUE for Tuesday

I read the sad news about Chrissy Frump’s adverse analytical finding which wasn’t a positive or a failed drug test and didn’t involve him breaking any rules but was more of a misunderstanding that requires further clarification to determine the complex, myriad factors that led to a non-doping violation positive potentially resulting in the loss of a grand tour title because of its non-dopingness.

Chrissy and Team Mystery Package will get to the bottom of it and have retained O.J. to help them find the killers, with Bone-Idle Wiggins on retainer in case there is a witch hunt.

In the meantime I did a lot of research about asthma and pro cyclists, which is another way of saying I typed in “cyclists asthma” and read the first three propaganda pieces churned out by Cycling News, which quickly interviewed a pro cyclist team doc (we’ll get the straight dope from him!) who explained that every pro cyclist is or should be an asthmatic and that the banned drugs wouldn’t help anyone perform anyway, certainly not by improving their breathing in an aerobic sport like … stage racing.

Anyway, after reading about how horrible cycling is for the lungs and that it is a gateway to asthma, I reflected on the past weekend’s upgrade race at our local parking lot crit, CBR. And now that I think about it, there were asthmatics everywhere. I don’t think you would see more pulmonary disease on an emphysema ward or in a West Virginia coal mine.

My own race, a Cat 2/3 upgrade event where people with nowhere to go in the sport of cycling beyond Suck Land pay money to get beaten again as they seek points rarer than the hammer that made the Ark of the Covenant, I realized that my inability to upgrade was a result of my lifelong asthma.

Unlike a lot of asthmas-come-lately, I had asthma from as early as junior high school. I remember wheezing and gasping horribly every time Mrs. Morcom handed out the Friday algebra test, and no amount of second-hand marijuana smoke inhaled in the bathrooms seemed to cure it. My asthma was crippling and led to an “F” which I had to make up in summer school in order graduate, which in turn led to even more asthmatic suffering that even more second-hand pot smoke (force inhaled) failed to cure.

It wasn’t until I began Serious Cycling at age eighteen that my asthma went away, but it was subcutaneous asthma, where it worked its invidious clogging of my lungs invisibly. To outsiders I appeared fit and quick and successful in a few shabby races and able to ride hundreds of miles a week, but inside I was a ruined asthmatic mess. Sometimes my asthma was so bad that when we hit a steep hill the only way I could get away from the pulmonary pain was by pedaling faster for an hour or two.

Anyway, as an older competitor it is clear that my asthma has prevented me from winning more races. Just the other day when Dave Holland was beating me in a time trial, I was on the verge of beating him but for the seven or eight asthmatic breaths that took almost a minute out of my finishing time. And in the hill climb, when everyone rode away from me, I would have beaten them had it not been for my asthma.

This played out again on Sunday at the upgrade race, where I was on the verge of winning except for my subcutaneous asthma. My only consolation is that everyone else in the race had asthma too, or if they didn’t, they would one day. In the meantime I’ll just send off my TUE for salbutamol with a sprinkle of EPO, HGH, and some Kayle Sauce, and keep my fingers crossed.



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