“You don’t ride the Tour de France on mineral water alone…”Jacques Anquetil (5 time Tour de France champion)

Kelme’s Jesus Manzano has blown the whistle on doping within the European peloton. Critics are dismissing him as a disgruntled ex-pro with an ax to grind with his former employer (the Spanish professional cycling team Kelme), but the explicit detail of his allegations seems too honest and elaborate to discount. Look at this frightening laundry list of drugs ingested by Manzano during his brief (2 year) professional career:

Jesus Manzano collapsed during stage 7 of the 2003 Tour de France due to an injection of a mystery substance the morning of the stage.Actovegin (extract of calves blood which supposedly improves oxygen carrying capacity)
Albumina H. (protein in blood plasma)
Androgel (testosterone)
Aranesp (Darbepoetin alfa = super EPO)
Celestote (corticosteroid)
Eprex (EPO)
Genotorm (growth hormone)
Hemoce (plasma)
Deca durabolin (anabolic steroid)
Humatrope (growth hormone)
IgF1 (insulin growth factor 1)
Neofertinon (hormone to stimulate ovulation and estrogen production)
Neorecormon (hormone that regulates red blood cell production)
Norditropin (growth hormone)
Nuvacten (corticosteroid)
Trigon (asthma drug)
Urbason (corticosteroid)
Ventolin (bronchial dilator)
Oxandrolona (anabolic agent)
Vitamin B12 (essential B vitamin)
Triamcinolona (corticosteroid)
Testoviron (testosterone)
Aspirina (analgesic, anti-inflammatory)
Oxyglobin (artificial haemoglobin intended for anaemic dogs)
Hemopure (artificial haemoglobin)
Ferlixit (iron)
Caffeine (stimulant)
Hemassist (artificial haemoglobin)
Prozac (antidepressant)

Manzano nearly died during the 2003 Tour de France stage to Morzine when an injection he received the morning of the stage was rejected by his body. I remember seeing pictures of him collapsed on the side of the road (see photo above) and the official story line was simply “heat exhaustion”. According to Manzano in the March 24th Cyclingnews.com,

“It was the first mountain stage and in the morning they tested a substance that I had not experimented with. This substance was taken according to your weight. It is injected into a vein and the unique thing that it does is to keep your hematocrit low but raise your haemoglobin.

“In the morning they injected 50 ml of this product into me. Before the start I was in the village, I spoke on the phone with my girlfriend, Marina, and I told her: ‘Prepare yourself, because I know today that I am going to ride well.”

On the day’s first climb, the Cat. 2 Col des Portes (km 50), Manzano and Richard Virenque set off to try and catch the early break with Paolo Bettini, Rolf Aldag, Médéric Clain and Benoît Poilvet. Virenque would not work with Manzano as he had Bettini in front, leaving Manzano to try and close the gap himself. But after three kilometres of climbing, “I started to have sensations of dizziness, with a lot of heat, very cold sweat, contrasts of hot and cold, but above all, a lot of cold. In spite of the July heat, I began to shiver and feel strange. Virenque looked at me and attacked. I went for another half a kilometre and there was a corner. It was so hot that the tar of the asphalt had melted…the only thing I remember was that I was dizzy and I could not longer ride straight, if I crashed, whether they would carry me off, where they would take me.”

Manzano recalled his experiences subsequent to his crash, and said that he was given an injection in the ambulance as well as an electrocardiogram. “I felt strange, as if my tongue had swollen, as if I couldn’t breathe. If they had put a hole in my throat I would have thanked them.”

Manzano believed that whatever he took in the morning before the stage resulted in his near catastrophic dehydration.

Sheer madness. I really want to believe that the majority, hopefully an overwhelming majority, of professional cyclists are clean, but the sport I love is in jeopardy of implosion. What corporation would want to finance a team and have their name dragged through the mud and associated with illegal drug use? I’m sure Kelme is very pleased with this publicity…

Curse of the Rainbow Jersey

Igor Astarloa makes Belgium cry as he solos in for victory in the 2003 Fleche Wallonne. I believe Astarloa is the first Spaniard to win this race and one of the few Spaniards to ever succeed in the northern-Europe Spring Classics.
One of the persistent maxims of professional cycling is that once a rider wins the professional world title, his next season (while wearing the rainbow jersey) will be frought with calamity. Igor Astarloa is the reigning world champion and his season, while devoid of victories, has been remarkably consistent as he hones his form for the season long World Cup and northern Europe’s Spring Classics. Unfortunately, Astarloa dared to suggest that the curse was merely a myth…

March 24, 2004: Cyclingnews.com interview excerpt:
Cyclingnews.com: Another Spanish world champion, Oscar Freire of Rabobank, told me that some people think the rainbow jersey signals bad luck for the one who uses it. What do you think?
Astarloa: No, I don’t believe that. But I still haven’t won a race this season; I ended up second two times and both these times [Paolo] Bettini was first. But, well… I’m not superstitious. I think it was essential to win the world championship and from then on, who knows? But I don’t think it’s bad luck.

March 26, 2004: Cyclingnews.com
Astarloa Injured in Car Accident
World champion Igor Astarloa (Cofidis) has been injured in an automobile accident in Italy. Astarloa, who suffered head trauma but did not lose consciousness, was in the passenger seat when the car he was in was struck by another vehicle. He was released from the hospital in Brescia Wednesday night. Astarloa will miss this weekend’s Critérium International in France, but “if all goes well he’ll be able to do the Tour of Flanders on April 4,” said Cofidis manager Alain Bondue. Sixth in Milan-San Remo, Astarloa counts the World Cup series as one of his primary objectives this season.

The Basque rider, who experienced pain and nausea following the accident, will undergo a follow-up examination in a week and must wear a neck brace in the meantime.

Coincidence or curse? I wish Astarloa all the best for a speedy recovery. I’ve always been intrigued by professional cyclists who have iconoclastic tendencies regarding training philosophies, and after reading the Igor Astarloa feature interview in the March, 2004 Cycle Sport I must admit I have a new hero. From Cycle Sport:

“…the Basque is no fan of scientific preparation. He has never owned a heart rate monitor, for example, designs his own training program, and–in this he is different from most Italian riders–has no personal coach. ‘I never weigh myself, either,’ he adds. ‘And I don’t try and go to bed at the same time every night or anything like that’.

Bravo, Igor. While he is indeed a rare talent in the professional peloton, it is heartening to see that in the world of SRM wattage equipment and Armstrong-esque training programs that detail your riding down to the millisecond and your diet to the last calorie, a much more free-form, organic, holistic approach to professional cycling has reaped results.

Steve Tilford lights it up in the 2001 US National Cyclocross Championships. At the age of 41, Tilford finished an outstanding 5th place in the Elite race against the country's best professionals and elite amateurs.

Steve Tilford-Living Legend

I love perusing the full results of races to see what’s going on beyond merely who finishes on the podium. It’s interesting to note who’s ramping up their fitness and lurking under the radar, always in the front group but not duking it out at the finish, who’s in pitiful shape and struggling to make the time cut, and on the domestic scene it’s always fun to see how the few pros I know personally are doing throughout the season. While looking over the results of this year’s Redlands Classic in California, I couldn’t help but notice that Steve Tilford is still mixing it up with professionals young enough to be his son. At the age of 44 (or maybe 43, but he’ll be 44 some time in 2004) Tilford is poised to finish possibly in the top 25 on GC in this extremely brutal NRC stage race. He’s been a fixture on the US racing circuit for nearly 30 years and provides powerful evidence that athletes can perform at elite levels in endurance oriented sports at an age where conventional wisdom once dictated exceedingly diminished athletic performance. As long as the passion is there, and training remains consistent, national-class (if not world-class) performances are certainly achievable. I was in Baltimore, MD for the 2001 US Cyclocross Championships and personally witnessed a remarkable performance from Tilford. He skipped the masters 40-44 race to race with the big boys in the Elite race and finished an amazing 5th place. He got the hole-shot in the first turn, led a large portion of the 1st lap, and stayed at the front for the remainder of the hour-long race to finish on the podium.

While I’ve never had a smidgen of the success achieved by Tilford, I’ve noticed that at the age of 35 I’m still rather competitive in single day Pro/Am events. As I enter into my masters years I’ve noticed that my recovery is not quite what it used to be so multi-day events wear me down, but on any given day, if I’m fresh and reasonably fit, I can mix it up in the Pro/1/2 ranks. I’m actually riding less, much less, than when I was in my 20s, but I’m training smarter and resting more. I think it’s very cool to partake in a sport where age is not too much of a limiter; where passion and smart training can perpetuate athletic excellence well into your 40s and 50s.