Roche for president

May 3, 2012

Stephen Roche gave an interview with cyclingnews that elicited strong responses. Many people dismissed them out of hand, in a way that really pisses me off. I know it would be easy to join the masses on this one, but as you may have seen on Twitter, I won’t.

You don’t have to agree or disagree with him 100% or even 1%, but why not discuss the issues? While I often disagree with Jonathan Vaughters, at least he had the decency to respond in a proper manner.

Many people were quick to point out “there are more important things to worry about in cycling”, a reference to doping. So what?

  1. Does this mean that if you have several problems, you are not to talk about anything else until you have solved problem #1? Who in their right mind operates like that?
  2. If there is a “much bigger problem”, what have the people criticizing Roche done about that then? I presume they didn’t want to spend time on Roche’s points because they were too busy dealing with “problem #1”, but I see little evidence of that in most cases (some exceptions notwithstanding).
  3. The fact that most people refer to “much bigger problems” instead of saying “doping” already shows they are not dealing with it; if they cannot even properly name the problem, they’re still in denial.

This actually perfectly dovetails into an issue I have spoken out on frequently in the past few months. ALMOST NOBODY is talking about doping, so it’s disingenuous to say you can’t talk about other ways to improve cycling because you’re so busy discussing doping. My two main points:

  1. Why is nobody talking about how well or how poorly the biological passport is working? Why do these riders have the time to comment on Roche’s thoughts, but not on the fact that there hasn’t been a biological passport case in so long? If that is such an important issue, why not use your 140 characters to speak out on that instead of commenting on something that you think is not important?
  2. How many teams still have an active anti-doping program themselves? Look into that question and you’ll be shocked by the answer. Several teams have quietly stopped their independent anti-doping programs, sometimes without any type of announcement. No doubt, if you press them on it they will waffle about how the bio pass is now at a stage where you don’t need your own program anymore, but who believes that? Press them further on why they think the bio pass works so well, and you’ll likely get some version of “hey, did you see what Stephen Roche said?”

Aren’t some of the people who say Roche should focus on “the big issues” the same as those who droned on about race radios for the entire season last year? Pot, meet kettle.

I’ll discuss the actual points Roche made in a later blog. And I have a follow-up on the Frei blog coming up. To get them delivered automatically, just sign up here.

23 Responses to “Roche for president”

  1. Flammecast Says:

    what was really disappointing to see was the PR exercise Vaughters ran via his riders over the past few days on what Roche had to say. Considering how PR Managed they are on the ‘big issues’ and how they are told not to answer questions etc.

    You begin to wonder, really wonder, who really wants change in our sport.

  2. Roche raised many valid points. For all the expert critics out there, try looking beyond your own nose.

  3. Bob Says:

    wow!! this is your best post so far! I really agreed and enjoy this, even more than the cav bashing…. something makes me nauseous when I read negative comments about what Roche said, but you have spoken for me


  4. Greg Furry Says:

    It seems like Roche is applying the broken window theory to cycling. I am not sure I agree with some of the issues he has but I can see where he is coming from.

    • Funny, I was thinking about the broken window theory as well, although I’m not as much of a fan of that anymore after reading Freakonomics. That said, since Roe v. Wade probably won’t affect doping in cycling, maybe fixing broken windows will.

  5. Jean-Marie Says:

    What is the URL to the Cycling News interview? It’s not easy to find on their site…

  6. Pave Says:

    In this spirit of this post, can people say what they think the “valid points” are and why they are valid so we can discuss it?

    I’m wondering if I’ve seen a different report on what he said, because when Roche stated that riders should be back on their bike riding down the road before they realize they broke something, that seemed pretty invalid. Would you want your friend, family, or child to be forced back onto a bike that may be about to structurally fail when they may have a major injury? It’s horrifying that Chris Horner was put on a bike last July after his terrible crash. On this point alone I can understand how riders wanted to dismiss everything Roche said. Again, I put this out not to close the argument but to begin the discussion here that Mr. Vroomen was hoping to elicit.

    • MT Says:

      I didn’t read Roche’s comment on “getting back on the bike” in the same way you did. Sure, it’s easy to be horrified by the way he made his point, but the point he was trying to make was that when riders crash they aren’t too worried about getting back into the mix. They know they can catch a draft with the Team cars and get towed back, with little fear of penalty.

      Sports in general include a bit of luck, and to suggest that we should try to remove this aspect of sport (as Vaughters did in his response to Roche) is silly, and considering Vaughters’ position as AIGCP president it effects his credibility (if I was a member of the UCI I would probably not have much time for him). People get injured, tires go flat, chains break, stuff happens, it’s up to the competitors to persevere within the rules.

      So, if this means, when you get caught up in a crash that you hop back on your bike as quickly as you can and take stock of your damages while on your way, then that’s what you have to do. If you are severely injured then you will know, even before you get on the bike.

  7. Mack Says:

    Roche is responsible for part of the backlash for framing the issues with absurd statements.

    “You should be getting back on as fast as possible and then realise your shoulder is broken.”

    “You can see their Christmas present from their wives hanging round their neck, but nobody’s getting any value out of it,” Roche said. “If you don’t stop it now, they’ll have no jerseys on shortly.”

    Also, the zipped jersey issue is absurd on it’s own and the fact that he considers it important lends me to question the others. In twenty years of following the sport I’ve never heard one fan complain of jerseys being unzipped.

    That said, I agree that dismissing the drafting and radio issues out of hand because of they aren’t as important as doping is rediculous.

  8. Andrew Says:

    Although Roche may have made some valid points, the ridiculous inclusion of his beef with unzipped jerseys hurt his credibility. It’s hard to trust a man with such poor judgement. The necklace commentary was completely ignorant.

    Here’s a question: why does pro cycling need the CCP? Are they relevant? I don’t know what they do.

  9. Felipe Says:

    My thoughts exactly. Great post. Sharp as usual.

  10. Nurse Says:

    I’m one of the people who disagreed almost 100% with Roche’s comments, especially the one about injured riders getting back on their bikes after a fall instead of waiting for a medical assessment. Like Pave who posted above, I was absolutely horrified when Chris Horner continued riding in that condition after his fall, and after 20 years as a nurse, I can’t emphasise enough how dangerous that was.

    No offence to you, but I also think you’re mistaken when you say that people who think “there are more important things to worry about in cycling” are all referring to doping. For me doping would actually be no. 5 (or lower) on my list of things to worry about in cycling. First is definitely rider safety (eg Tour de Korea), followed in no particular order by disappearing teams (eg HTC), races struggling to continue (in Spain in particular), and inept management by the governing body. And to qualify my comment of “or lower”, how about a disciplinary procedure that can only be viewed at best as inefficient, or at worst, as a joke? (Obviously I know that doping has damaged the image of cycling and helped to cause some of the above.)

    Personally I don’t think that you should focus all your attention on one problem and ignore the others, but if I were to make a list of the top 100 problems with cycling, I’m pretty sure unzipped jerseys wouldn’t be on it.

    Cosmetic surgery isn’t a big help in life-threatening illnesses.

  11. Chris Says:

    When people – as here – criticise Roche’s jersey comments, they demonstrate exactly your point, GV. They generally boil down to ‘I don’t care about unzipped jerseys, so nobody else does either.’

    Use some imagination and engage! What do the sponsors think? Obviously they are the ones who want ‘some value’. If they don’t like it then it’s more origami for cycling: teams & races will continue to fold.

    I’ve never spoken to a sponsor & know nothing of how it works, but it’s not that hard to engage just a little bit!

    • Pave Says:

      Chris, I think your point is a good one that not everybody thinks the same thing, but the zipper issue seems like it can be a little more cut and dry so that we don’t have to use our imaginations (after all, as you point out, everybody’s imagination would be different). I guess the discussion should/could be: are sponsors complaining about unzipped jerseys? If yes, those involved should provide proof that they’re complaining; if they don’t care, those involved should provide proof they don’t care.

      That issue doesn’t move me either way, I was more concerned about the rider safety issue, personally.

      • Chris Says:

        I agree – I was personally, as you say, unmoved by the zipper comments. But tried to understand them.

        And safety … yes indeed. I hated the video of Horner at the end of his dazed ride.

  12. CLH Says:

    What takes more public attention and sponsor dollars away from cycling: the image of the peloton as a bunch of sartorially-challenged, bare-chested borderline anorexics (whose sponsor logos are still visible from overhead shots), or the image of the peloton as a bunch of rolling pharmaceutical test monkeys?

    i agree rider safety should come first and foremost, and in an era when even the most violent sport in the world (professional American football) is finally beginning to acknowledge the life-altering consequences of concussions and spinal injuries, it’s an embarrassment for cycling to be so primitive.

  13. Andrew Langshaw Says:

    Once again Gerard your perspective is spot on.

    One additional point is that Roche’s comments appeared on (to state the obvious I know). The very that reported an interview with you recently, and you felt the need to clarify/expand upon/correct what was reported right here on your blog. So it is entirely possible that cyclingnews may well have skewed what Roche actually said and pulled some juicy headline grabbing quotes out of their intended context.


  14. Gyrator Says:

    Thanks Gerard, look forward to your input on “Rochegate”

  15. larryatcycleitalia Says:

    Ya gotta love Roche….the old “when I was young we walked to school in the snow and it was uphill BOTH ways!” angle. I read his statements with tongue-in-cheek, but someone needs to agitate for improvements and challenge the powers who want no more for cycling than to hold onto their powers (and money) while letting the sport rot from the inside out. When the best sponsor a team like Greenedge can come up with is an outfit with what sounds like a grim history of environmental carelessness and greed, what does that say about pro cycling?

  16. trounder Says:

    My reading of the article leads to the following:

    Roche’s comments were related to rule making and a weak defense against the notion that the CCP recommends rules for rules’ sake. Perhaps he cites these issues because they get at his more personal concern that he thinks the sport is losing what many fans call panache.

    I think the sport of professional road bicycle racing has several problems that we can debate as more or less pressing. But the “valid” problems with the sport all relate to a single overriding issue; and that is “relevance” in an increasingly fractured media / entertainment landscape. Perhaps this perspective is what was missing in the CN article or Roche’s statements.

    Since the definition of professional corresponds to financial incentive, the most critical concern that should guide rule-making, race calendars, and governance is sustainable economics. Everything should be debated within that frame of reference. I’m preaching to the choir here, I’m sure.

    One last point: doping/cheating will never be “fixed”, so the issue is simply maintaining funding to support the necessary vigilance and integrity within the sanctioning/governing bodies.

    Everything else is window dressing to keep the sport relevant to the audience, sponsors, media, and advertising.

  17. From the article (thanks for the link!): “At crashes, riders fall and spend five minutes on the ground straightening up their shirt and tie and making sure everything is okay before getting back on the bike again,” he says. “You should be getting back on as fast as possible and then realise your shoulder is broken.”

    If nothing else, you’ve got to admire the rugged sentiment captured in that last sentence.

    Thanks for the link to the article and for bringing up good discussion points in this blog post. In many ways, the article raises similar questions being asked by some American football players in the wake of Seau’s death and Warner’s controversial comments (the controversy swirling around him seems very similar to the controversy swirling around Roche)…

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