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Wednesday
Jul172013

Profiling

The dictionary definition of Profiling:

The act or process of extrapolating information about a person based on known traits or tendenciesThe act of suspecting or targeting a person on the basis of observed characteristics or behavior.

There is a word there that I had to look up in the thesaurus: Extrapolating. It means, inferring, generalizing, deducing, and to draw conclusions, which pretty much sums up the whole crux of profiling.

Chris Froome was favorite going into the Tour de France, the press and the rest of the media all agreed he was the man to beat. So what happens when he lives up to everyone’s expectations? These same journalists are now questioning his performance, and it is not just journalists, but every amateur armchair analyst in the world.

He blew everyone away last Sunday on Mont Monteux, but barely had time to get from the finishing line, change his shirt, and get to the podium, before Twitter and all the Internet chat rooms were ablaze with cries of “Doper.”  I heard that one site crashed within minutes of the stage finish, they had so many people online.

This is profiling, pure and simple. Like saying, “Here is a black man, he might be a criminal.” Or, “Here is someone who looks like an Arab, he might be a terrorist.” People are saying, “Here is a professional cyclist, and he is going faster than everyone else, he might be on dope.”

I can understand being skeptical after all that has happened in the sport of pro cycling, but if a person is so skeptical that he goes on line to question a rider’s performance, just because he blew away the completion. Why is that person even watching the Tour de France? If one doesn’t believe what they are seeing, they might as well watch Professional Wrestling.

Chris Froome did not suddenly appear out of nowhere. He has been on form all season, which is why he earned the title of “Favorite” going into the Tour. He won the Tour of Oman, was second to Vincenzo Nibali in the Tirreno – Adriatico. He won the Criterium International, the Tour de Romandie, and the Criterium du Douphine, all multiple stage races. I suspect many of the armchair experts never followed those races, but have just come on board for the TDF. And I’ll bet most have never raced a bike, or have a clue what it takes.

Throughout history there have been cyclists who have stood head and shoulders above the rest. Fausto Coppi, Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx. Why do some soccer teams, and football and baseball teams do better than others? It is the organization, the managers, and the coaches. Who gets fired when things go bad? Team Sky have the money and they can buy the best athletes, managers, and coaches, simple as that.

Team Sky have gone out of their way to be transparent in their organization, they fired a bunch of people who were suspect of previous dealings with dope. I believe pro cycling has an opportunity to get itself really clean like never before.

I am now reading that the Professional Cyclists Association (CPA) is telling the media to leave Chris Froome alone. So his fellow riders in the Tour de France are satisfied he is not doping. That is good enough for me, I can enjoy the rest of the Tour.

With everyone across the board saying they are clean, it would take one hell of a conspiracy if everyone was still doping as before. Anyone who has worked in an office knows that all people do is talk about stuff they were supposed to keep secret. If a team were doping, a mechanic or laundry boy somewhere would be sure to spill the beans to the press.

 

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References (1)

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  • Response
    Before Anquetil, Fausto Coppi, the first superstar of cycling, when asked whether riders took drugs to survive and win, replied, “Yes, and those who claim otherwise, it’s not worth talking to them about cycling.”

Reader Comments (22)

Dave,

I am a big fan of your blog, but I have to part company with you on this one. I have been following the tour (and professional cycling) since the mid-1980s. I have raced bikes, off and on, for thirty years. What I've learned is that if it looks too good to be true, it usually is. And class shows early and remains constant.

First lesson comes to mind when I see Froome nearly beat the world time trial champion on his own turf, and then turn around a few days later and look fresh as a daisy after 240 kilometers as he spins away from the world's best climbers on Mt. Ventoux, I've seen this before: Bjarne Riis in 1996; Lance Armstrong in 1999.

Ok, but what if he is simply better than everybody else, like, as you say, a Coppi, Merckx or Anquetil.

Ahhhh, Lesson Two.

By 21, Coppi had won the Giro; Merckx had 29 victories, including Milan-San Remo; Anquetil had won the Grand Prix Des Nations three times. There was no question these were giants from the very start. (Even lesser stars _ Lemond, Kelly, Roche, Fignon _ all showed champion class by their early 20s.)

Froome?

In his first four professional seasons, he had a total of two wins. He finished 81st in the Tour (2008); 35th in the Giro (2009); and was DQ from the Giro in 2010. Not until 2011, at 26, did he show a hint of tour winning talent.

I would like to believe a rider with years of mediocre results can suddenly find the right combination of desire and training to become a world beater. I so want to believe it that I've served myself up as field fodder over and over again for three decades, starting each season with the mistaken belief that this will finally be the one where I shine.

You know what I've found? The same guys who kicked my tail at 30 are kicking it at 60. The guys who were national champions when I started are national champions for their age groups now.

In all the time I have followed and practiced the sport, I can think of no rider who came from so far back to become so thoroughly dominate.

You've followed the sport much longer than I. Point me to a comparable example. I want to believe. I truly do.

July 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterChris Hepp

Unfortunately, the state of this sport is exactly this. I love riding my bike, and I love watching the TDF - but mostly now as a scenic travelogue, which Phil and Paul do so well. When I see Froome start spinning those pedals the way he did, dusting the amazing young Quintana Rojas, I think, "Ugh." Chris Hepp lays out what I feel as well. Dave, I remember your post from way back about a very young Anquetil blowing away the British champ at the Grand Prix Des Nations; I agree with Chris Hepp that champions usually begin as prodigies in a way that Lance, Floyd, Contador and others have not, but the way Merckx, Hinault and Lemond did.
The fact that Froome dominated Mont Ventoux and comes back a few days later to win the uphill TT has me deeply suspicious.

July 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEd

I too disagree with you, Dave.

I'm not saying that Froome IS doping. I'm just saying that the sport (as an organization) has been dirty for decades, and they have probably been complicit in the doping over the years (somewhat like MLB has).

There are new performance enhancers that are being developed all the time, and testing is far behind the discovery of new drugs that give a rider an edge.

So, there are many ways that a rider, a team or the whole organization can work around the testing and the rules to make sure that the 'poster boy of the moment' puts on a good show.

Again, none of this means that Froome is actually doping. I just keep thinking that they've done it before, again and again. They'll do it again.

In a previous post, you mentioned how you believe that Sky (and Wiggins, at the time) was trying to keep their team clean. I thought you were probably being a bit gullible then. I think you're doing the same now.

Remember, there was another rider who had been tested hundreds of times and 'never failed a test'. We all know how that one ended up.

We all want to believe, but I watch the TdF knowing that any or all of them are probably riding under the influence of performance enhancers. Froome included.

July 18, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJohann

There is nothing sinister about Froome’s lack of results in his early years, five years ago at age 23 he was living and racing in South Africa, hardly a hot bed of world cycling. Just as British cyclists of the 1950s could not compete at a world level in races like the TDF, it was not that they were physically incapable, it was just they never had the opportunity to compete at that level.

It was not until a few British and Irish cyclists went to live in countries like France and Belgium and trained and raced on equal terms, did they show some success. This paved the way for others that eventually lead to the success that British cycling is enjoying today.

Sadly that success is being tarnished by speculation based on nothing but what has happened in the past. Greg Lemond and the rest of the entire cycling establishment accept that Froome is clean, as do the rest of his fellow professionals. I will side with those people who are closer to what is happening than I am.

The problem today is the Internet and in particular Twitter creates public opinion based on little or no hard evidence. It creates a mob mentality where other people are then afraid to go against the popular belief for fear of being wrong. I have no such fear, because if I am proved wrong in the future, I will simply say “I was wrong,” and my life will go on.

I hate injustice, and I feel an injustice is being done to Chris Froome, and to a certain extent Bradley Wiggins for his performance last year. I don’t see much support so far, I would be interested to know what the general consensus is in the UK.
Dave

July 18, 2013 | Registered CommenterDave Moulton

Yes we all want to believe. But let's admit it, once the reputation of a sport is seriously tarnished, it takes a long time to heal. Met a group of golfers after their outing at a friend's house this week and they asked if I or my sons were golf fans. Answer: No but they do triathlons, wrestle, cross country running, and bike racing.

Their response: Which doper do you favor will win the TdF this year?

The public has lost collective faith and trust in Congress, banks, HMOs, big business, media, the criminal justice system, ... and the list keeps growing.

July 18, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJack

Jack,
I think you have just hit the nail on the head; people have lost faith in everything. Unless people regain faith in something, we are all completely fucked, and I am glad my life is in the final quarter.
Dave

July 18, 2013 | Registered CommenterDave Moulton

Profiling? A tough issue under the best of circumstances. Jack's comment is spot on - it will take a long, long time before this sport sheds the dirty mantel of drugged performance. Call me ignorant but I was stunned to learn that over 500 drug tests failed to detect a cheater. Gosh, I wonder if a future Tour would involve jailing the riders a month before the event, letting them out under a police escort to their bicycles a few moments before the day's race began, and tossing them back in a sealed "box" at the end of each day. Drug tests not required.

July 18, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJames Thurber

I am going to have to defend Froome and Sky here.

Firstly, Froome didn't come out of nowhere, once he started racing in Europe his performances gradually improved. 2010 was a fluke because unknown to him, he picked up Bilharzia on a visit to Africa and it took sometime to it to be diagnosed and treated. Once he recovered, it was obvious he could climb and time trial with the best. In the Vuelta of 2011 and 2012 Tour, it was obvious that he could climb better than Wiggins and was held back to provide support for Wiggins. He can also time trial, coming 2nd to Wiggins both times in the 2012 Tour, and bronze medal in the Olympic time trial in 2012.

His 2013 performances shows what he can do if let off the leash.

Secondly, Sky are an extension of the British Cycling Project, which dates back to Chris Boardman's 1992 Olympic gold and continued with Olympic successes of 2000-2012. If you think Froome and Sky are doping then you must also include the likes of Sir Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendleton in that net, amongst many others. There is really too much at stake for them to dope, it would undermine everything they have ever done. If they doped, it would have had to been much bigger than Lance ever did, and last a hell of a lot longer, all going undetected and unreported. I think this VERY unlikely.

July 18, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterYoav

Just a tidbit from a mathematician. Mathematically speaking, extrapolate is when you make a prediction beyond the range of the data; like if a certain statistic was 100 in 2008, 195 in 2010, 310 in 2012, you might extrapolate that the value could be about 400 in 2014.

(INterpolate is when you go between existing data, like if you didn't have a measurement for 2011, but interpolate between 2010 and 2012 to guess it might have been 250)

July 18, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRubeRad

The chances that Froome is clean is incredibly small. People are defending Froome in the same manner and using similar logic like the people that defended Lance. Lance proved that people would risk everything to win. Lance also proved that a sophisticated doping program is very difficult to detect. Claiming that Froome is clean, is like claiming that a talented cyclist can beat a doped talented cyclist, but we know that that statement is not true.

Froome performance is not normal, and unfortunately time will show it what it is: a farce.

July 18, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJorge

Until Mont Ventoux, I would have been a believer. Now, I'm sadly slipping into sceptic mode. (mood?). The budgets of these teams, and the probability that the system is being 'skirted', IMO, is very high. Looks like I'll have to find a new vantage point; that of seeing the spectacle of mass riders, and the skill it entails; plus the renowned scenery, as sketched by someone earlier.
I'd still watch it to see things like Cav going THROUGH a roundabout rather than over it, in his catch-up a few days ago. Sad, but that's about all to be got out of it now.

July 19, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPaul

@Dave: "but if a person is so skeptical that he goes on line to question a rider’s performance, just because he blew away the completion. Why is that person even watching the Tour de France?" I agree. That's why I don't watch it. You think that just because Lance was finally caught that all of a sudden things changed so much nobody dopes? Hah! I wish. I cannot understand how a "clean" rider can fairly consistently post as good or even better times than the top riders that have been caught cheating recently. I could understand winning a stage, but a constistent top placement?

July 19, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMicheal Blue

Maybe I am missing something here? Lance was doing the same thing Froome is winning and riding away from the competition. Oh NO. Lance dope NEVER! To me Contador who was suspended for dope is not the same rider now. Schleck? I don't think that the stigma of dope will EVER leave pro cycling or for that matter any pro sport. While MONEY AND GREED is the motivation. Athletes will do what EVER it takes to win. SPONSORS only care about selling there products and making money. Personal pride is what we rode and raced for, HUH DAVE! Show the rest that with HARD WORK and a strong will you can be the best. Money I never even thought about it. DRUGS what drugs? only the continentals do that sort of thing

July 19, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Crump

Dave, You asked about the general consensus in the UK and it's overwhelmingly positive, particularly after last year when Froome appeared to be a better climber than the ultimate winner (Wiggins). Before the race started the betting companies had Froome at evens or even worse, which seemed farcical for an event where anything could happen. The media here have been full of praise for him and especially his demeanure during interviews where is is calm, quiet and very humble. There's no arrogance which is normally associated with big winners, in any sport, and we find this a refreshing and pleasant change.
It will be worth scanning newspapers like the Times, Independent, Telegraph and Guardian in the coming days and weeks for some thoughtful analysis.
Regards.

July 19, 2013 | Unregistered Commenter@weybridgegibbo

Weybridge Have to agree with you on this one Froome seems like a nice lad, Lance was a real horses arse, BUT who knows for sure. Dope tests should show results but per Lance again showed they can be beat. My son who races in the USA says NOW even amateur riders are doping to win and become pros! By the way talk about Froome and Wiggo how about PORTE and FROOME Porte seems to do all the work and he even rode away from Contador and gang to help out Froome.

July 19, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterjohn crump

Dave,

I thought I would add my $0.02.

One point not mentioned here is that Team Sky (as one of two teams) have taken the lead in what I believe will turn out to be the next phase in turning this sport around: they have reporters "embedded" with the team in the team-bus, with absolutely full access to every member of the team at any time for the duration of the tour. No part of the team, and no area of their operation, is off limits at any time.

I applaud this. I think all teams will be forced to follow suit.

Whether Froome is clean or not? No idea, but what I do know is that the old heroes you set as examples: Fausto Coppi, Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx.... they were doped beyond anything ever administered in this day and age, at least if we leave race-horses out of the picture.

Jan

July 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJan

PROFILING ME! NAW never do that. COLUMBIA now what is THAT country famous for? Coffee,DRUGS leather,DRUGS mountains,Drugs, Quintana DRUGS? ME PROFILE? Contador NO drugs?. Makes one think doesn't it? Wonder if Quintana wears a HOODIE! Next years TDF should be "very interesting" as the LAFF IN chap would say!

July 20, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJohn GRUMP

I'm a disappointed cycling fan from way back. What I always ask myself is what do dopers tell their wives, kids, friends ?

July 21, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAnthony C.

Hi Dave,

I agree with you entirely, and personally believe Froome and Sky are riding clean. But it's Mont Ventoux, not Mont Monteux.

All the best, Oli

July 21, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterOli

Re amateur cyclists doping, check out this article from a recent Toronto Globe & Mail edition. Pretty sad.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/sports/why-do-some-amateur-cyclists-resort-to-doping/article13329812/

July 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJW

PRETTY SAD DAM SAD, I still think that MONEY is the culprit in all this. If athletes can make more by doing better they will do what ever it takes. The days of competing for personal satisfaction of a job well done, are over. Take the EASY way to win if drugs will do that then that's what they do. In the days that Dave and I rode and raced you trained hard, rode hard, Many times I would finish a race and knew from what my body was telling me that I had done my best, HARD WORK not drugs is what we used. NOT ANYMORE!

July 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Crump

Some people have short memories... Remember MOTO-MAN??? He was the guy who muled dope around for LA on his motorcycle. Followed the tour all around Europe etc. Remember he also has strong ties to Team SKY as well. Lots of photos on his FB of him and Team SKY management on rides together, laughing etc. Pictures of him wearing Team Issue jerseys and swag behing the ropes of the paddock at the tour...

Froome appears to be as nice a person as ever was made but nice people use dope too.

There is the old saying that "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence". Well the claim is now turned around...the claim is that the tour winner is not doping. Unfortunately the evidence in these cases is very hard to come by and a persons word as well as being the "most tested athlete in history" has been shown to be worthless.

So really the only way for us to tell if a chap is dirty is to examine the performance together with other evidence such as the speed of the peleton.

The speed is still way off the historical chart and therefore those at the eschelon are dirty-birdies. If anyone has some extraordinary evidence that proves otherwise I would like to see it.

July 31, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterkevin Halls

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