My generation must continue to tell young riders not to cheat
LUXEMBOURG -- As the Tour de France field worked its way through Wednesday's hot and long Stage 10, it just blew me away to hear news of yet another cycling suspension.
While at our training camp here in Luxembourg, my CSC teammates and I heard that T-Mobile rider Patrik Sinkewitz tested positive for elevated levels of testosterone. I don't know all of the details, but this is a very unfortunate thing. Here again is a young rider (Sinkewitz is 26) who is not from the so-called "bad generation" of cyclists, making poor choices. It goes to show you cycling is still in a bad spot.
Wednesday marked the second-longest stage of the Tour, and it was also the hottest so far. It makes for long days on the wheels and it's never easy. On stages like this -- stages that are up and down and windy and single file -- you stay on the wheel as much as possible. This is when you'll see teammates come to your aid and keep you out of the wind and move up when you have to.
It's all about the fan!
The most important thing for riders is to drink and eat enough. That might seem easy, right? But it's very difficult to eat in high heat -- since your body is using so much energy to cool down, you don't feel hungry and you have to force yourself to eat. You're also simultaneously losing liquid through sweat, so riders will have to drink at least two bottles an hour, if not more, just to stay even.
After the race, you get a massage, eat and go straight to bed. Not many riders are going to cafes or picking up newspapers. Yes, the sport can be a little boring! Eat, sleep, ride bike.
But we cyclists do have our little tricks to stay cool. Many European hotels do not have air conditioning, so some of us bring little fans with us during the Tour. You have to hope you're rooming with a guy who likes fans as much as you. Most Americans were born and raised with air conditioning; many European cyclists were not. So, some of your roomies might not like the fan for fear of getting sick. I don't think there's any scientific proof of getting sick from a fan, but some think it affects them. But I say the fan is your friend.
(Earlier in my career, I once apologized to a teammate for bringing so much stuff on a trip and I was told a famous story about how Greg LeMond used to bring his own portable air conditioner to races. I never saw it myself, but it sounded like a great idea!)
A lot of riders also bring their own pillows. As you can tell, we really concentrate on comfort! But a pillow is a personal thing. So, you'll see us carrying suitcases and bags of pillows. Other tricks to relaxation: You'll see a lot of riders carrying PSPs, iPods, Game Boys and heaters for our shoes. You see these heaters more during the cold spring classic races, when there's a lot of rain, rather than the Tour. The heat dries them out.
No matter the method, on days like Wednesday, it's all about the recovery.
-- Bobby Julich
We were talking about it today -- why would a rider do such a thing when testing has only gotten better? It shows that the intelligence level in the peloton is pretty low. I am not a doctor, but it would seem to be a big risk for little gain.
I guess the doping issue is never going to completely go away. In our society, there are always going to be people who are going to take the risk no matter what the consequences.
My generation of riders, and the generation before, made plenty of mistakes. So, all of these recent efforts -- better testing, outside sources testing for each team, signing a pact with the international union before the Tour -- are for the new generation. If these young riders make the same mistakes, we've wasted our time with all of these programs.
I can see how it's difficult for young riders to believe they can ride clean when all of these positive tests are popping up. Some riders feel a lot of pressure to perform well for their teams, especially after a big disappointment in a race. My message to them: Deal with it. Disappointment is a part of cycling. I've dealt with disappointment many times in my career, but doping can't be a crutch for riders. You can't think you can use some magic sprinkle dust to fall back on.
Some young riders hear rumors that "everyone's doing it." I don't believe those rumors. I talk to young riders to let them know that this is not true, to let them know that they shouldn't use that as a way to justify a path to cheating. I don't care who it is -- if young riders see anyone at their age or anyone close to them on their teams cheating, they need to say something. Those riders will be indirectly saving their futures. If they stay quiet, they're going to be in the same mess that we're in now. They can't let ego, panic and pressure cloud the big picture for them.
More motivation for riders to stay clean is sponsorships. With some teams' sponsorships set to run out or up for renewal, companies could reconsider their investment in cycling. Here's one kid in Sinkewitz, and I'll call him a kid, who may have a whole network of team sponsors rethinking their investments. I am glad I am 36 instead of 26 because there could be hundreds of riders without contracts if this keeps up. There's not really a sport left after that.
So, again, why would someone like Sinkewitz who is young and talented take such a risk? We have to take this mentality away from him and others and motivate them to be clean. I hope these young riders never have to deal with this again once the sport cleans up. I think we have a lot more work ahead of us. We have to get the point across. That is what we're fighting for.
Bobby Julich, a member of Team CSC, will be providing a diary for ESPN.com throughout the Tour de France. The American has been a professional cyclist since 1992. He finished third overall in the 1998 Tour de France and won the Paris-Nice race in 2005.