Featured Features

Le Tour One Day Ahead – Part 2

Helen RussellLe Tour One Day Ahead, which aimed to raise £1m for Cure Leukaemia, was an epic charity ride that took place over the summer covering the full 3,344km Tour de France 2015 route. Former-GB triathlete Helen Russell (Gold medallist – 2011 ITU World Sprint Duathlon) was amongst the plucky few who took part and here, in the second of a three-part series, she shares her experience with Cyclo…


At breakfast the team were introduced to our guest cyclist for the next two days – Lance Armstrong. Most of us, including myself, had met him before at our training camp in Aspen and it was good to see him again. As we arrived at the stage start we were met by a melee of press and fans.


I was worried about what speed Lance would set but he was very kind and set a reasonable pace out of Muret to our lunch stop where once again we were met with the world’s media. I found the afternoon harder as there were three categorised climbs and as we eventually rode into the town of Rodez, where there was a final kick of a 400meter rise at a 9.6% gradient.


The following day started again with a press entourage for company and an immediate Category 4 climb of the Cote de Ponte de Salars and the Col de Vernhette. We were joined by the women’s team Donnons des Elle who are also cycling the whole of the TdF route to raise the profile of women’s cycling and advocate for a women’s Tour de France.


Helen RussellThis was one of my favourite moments of the Le Tour One Day Ahead so far as it was a real honour to cycle with them and share experiences of, and visions for, women’s cycling. Another highlight of the day was in the afternoon where a young boy in an Astana team jersey joined our peloton and was welcomed at the front by Lance where he gave his all to stay with our group. Lance pretended to be really blowing hard and struggling to stay with the boy and it was such a cute moment.


It seems that most stages this year have a nasty end and this day’s finish was up a 3kilometre lung-busting climb at an average of 10%! After battling through the press to get onto the team bus we said our goodbyes to Lance who gave a moving farewell speech and wished us luck for the rest of the challenge…


Of course Lance is a controversial figure but his presence on Le Tour One Day Ahead undoubtedly raised the profile of our challenge with media reports being broadcast worldwide. This attention has translated into more money for the charity Cure Leukaemia, which is what is important. At the end of the day this challenge isn’t about cycling it’s about raising money to fund research nurses and clinical trials. Some of the patients we met at the Centre for Clinical Excellence knew very little about Lance Armstrong, but what they did know was that more money was needed to fund the pioneering work of the Centre. I was actually surprised at the positive response Lance received along the route with the vast majority of people cheering and applauding him as we passed.


Le Tour One Day AheadAfter the excitement of the last two days, stages 15 and 16 were more peaceful and almost mirror-images of each other in terms of their profile. Stage 15 through the Rhone Valley had two large descents whilst stage 16 was a day of long and steady climbing into Gap, the gateway into the Alps. The final descent of the day was down the Col de Mense, where in 2003 Lance Armstrong had to cut across a field after Joseba Beloki came off and Armstrong was forced off the road! Luckily I managed to stay upright all the way down the descent into Gap and am enjoying my rest day, before tackling four brutal days of climbing in the Alps.


Part Three of Helen’s Le Tour One Day Ahead feature will be published on Cyclo soon – follow us on Twitter for all the latest news, plus feature and review alerts. You can read Part One of her report here. Helen’s efforts in Le Tour One Day were supported by SportsCover Direct.


Further details of Le Tour One Day Ahead at and, most importantly, you can help add to Helen’s incredible fundraising total for Cure Leukaemia by donating at JustGiving.

Photo Credits: David Walsh and Joolze Dymond




Armstrong Responds to Circ Report

lance_armstrongLance Armstrong has responded to the publication of the Cycling Independent Reform Commission (Circ) Report with an official statement:


I am grateful to CIRC for seeking the truth and allowing me to assist in that search. I am deeply sorry for many things I have done. However, it is my hope that revealing the truth will lead to a bright, dope-free future for the sport I love, and will allow all young riders emerging from small towns throughout the world in years to come to chase their dreams without having to face the lose-lose choices that so many of my friends, teammates and opponents faced. I hope that all riders who competed and doped can feel free to come forward and help the tonic of truth heal this great sport.


Armstrong’s attorney, Elliot Peters, continued:


Lance Armstrong cooperated fully with CIRC. He met in person for two full days with CIRC senior investigators, including Peter Nicholson and Ulrich Haas, answered every question they asked without any restrictions, agreed to meet again if they wanted, and provided all documents requested to which he had access. Lance’s sole interest in doing so was to facilitate the emergence of the truth about cycling. While Lance has borne the brunt of anti-doping enforcement efforts and attendant negative publicity (and consequences), the truth is that the sport he encountered in Europe in the 1990s was a cesspool where doctors, coaches and riders participated daily in doping and covering up doping. Young riders on elite teams competing in Europe faced a simple choice: dope and lie about it or accept that you could not compete clean. We applaud CIRC for taking a courageous and unvarnished look at the truth. In the rush to vilify Lance, many of the other equally culpable participants have been allowed to escape scrutiny, much less sanction, and many of the anti-doping ‘enforcers’ have chosen to grandstand at Lance’s expense rather than truly search for the truth.


The report, which heavily criticised the sport’s leadership during the 1990s and 2000s in its 227-pages, specifically highlighted the preferential treatment Armstrong had been afforded when it came to selectively ignoring the problem of doping.


Read the full Circ Report here.


Cycling Independent Reform Commission Report

UCIThe landmark Cycling Independent Reform Commission (Circ) Report has heavily criticised the sport’s leadership during the 1990s and 2000s in its 227-page report. Whilst it broadly cleared the International Cycling Union bosses of ‘outright corruption’ it pulls no punches when it comes to highlighting a damning range of failings including the effective turning of a blind eye to all but the most serious of doping offences. The report, compiled at a cost of over £2m by chairman Dr Dick Marty and two vice-chairs – Professor Ulrich Haas and Peter Nicholson – specifically highlights preferential treatment of Lance Armstrong.


Other findings, the result of interviews with over 170 people including riders and anti-doping experts, included the fact that the use of ‘weight-loss drugs, experimental medicine and powerful painkillers’ is widespread, that doping in amateur cycling remains ‘endemic’ and that other, non-drug related, forms of cheating relating to equipment is still on the rise.


The current UCI president Brian Cookson, who took office in 2013 largely on a clean-sweep and zero-tolerance ticket, responded to the report by saying, ‘It is clear that in the past the UCI suffered severely from a lack of good governance with individuals taking crucial decisions alone. Many (of these decisions) undermined anti-doping efforts; put the UCI in an extraordinary position of proximity to certain riders; and wasted a lot of its time and resources in open conflict with organisations such as the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) and US Anti-Doping Agency (Usada).’


The full Cycling Independent Reform Commission Report can be read here.


Wheel Pioneer Steve Hed Dies

steve_hed_cycloSteve Hed, the early pioneer of carbon fiber and aerodynamics in wheel design, has died at the age of 59. He was at the vanguard of wheel design, developing carbon fiber disc wheels and carbon fiber tri-spoke wheels and patenting the ‘toroidal’ rim design that still remains popular today.


It was his attention to detail when it came to wheel performance in wind that brought Hed to the attention of many pro riders including Lance Armstrong who consulted with him for many years and helped raise the profile of the nascent company. Armstrong tweeted on the news: ‘Shocked and saddened to learn of the passing of Steve Hed. I loved him dearly as did everyone who ever met him. We’ll all miss him.’


He clashed frequently with his many competitors – his innovations and strong-headed opinions often feeling at odds with the general trends – but his reliability as a designer and success as an independent businessman meant he was always greatly admired.


Chad Moore, Mavic’s director of marketing, comments: ‘Calling Steve Hed an icon in cycling innovation would be an understatement. He consistently set benchmarks that drove all of us to build better products. We will miss his passion and his presence and send our best wishes and deepest condolences to his family, friends and fans.’


Image © HED Cycling.

Books Reviews

Gironimo! Riding the Very Terrible 1914 Tour of Italy

Gironimo!Tim Moore is a writer not afraid to take on a challenge. Over a decade ago he rode the route of the Tour de France for his book French Revolutions and now, feeling his achievements somewhat undermined by the exploits of Lance Armstrong, he has taken on the less tarnished (discuss) Giro d’Italia in Gironimo! That may sound tough enough by most standards but Moore goes one further recreating, of sorts, the notorious 1914 edition to give the book its full title Gironimo! Riding the Very Terrible 1914 Tour of Italy. This was a race defined by almost unimaginable weather (‘a cocktail of fog, rain, mud and bone-chilling cold’), 400km stages and the fact that of the 81 riders who set off from Milan 90% failed to make it back. Want more from Moore? He does the whole thing on a hundred year old bike with wooden wheels, no gears and brake blocks carved by hand from corks…


Moore’s style is one of gentle humour and knowing self-mockery – think, perhaps, Bill Bryson on two wheels. But he also serves up an excellent history of cycling both as a social movement and sport (1869 claimed the first cycle-related death, did you know?) and doesn’t hold back the forthright views: ‘I don’t hate Lance Armstrong because he was a drugs cheat, but because he’s just so thoroughly unpleasant.’


His achievement in completing the route is commendable, even if he did take 32 days to complete what the 1914 riders did in eight, and the humour in the face of adversity (frequently closed restaurants) is always heart-warming. As history in the retelling Gironimo! works perfectly and is likely to lead reader off towards a dozen other books – French Revolution should be amongst them. Who knows, maybe even a handful of readers will be tempted to set out on their own recreation; so long as more than 10% make it back.


If Moore’s looking for his next book idea maybe he should recreate the Froome-claiming Stage 5 of this year’s Tour de France. ‘Very Terrible’ indeed…


Gironimo! Riding the Very Terrible 1914 Tour of Italy by Tim Moore is published by Yellow Jersey (ISBN-10: 0224092073). It is available in both paperback and Kindle format from


Lance Armstrong Accuses Hein Verbruggen

lance_armstrongLance Armstrong has told the Daily Mail newspaper that former UCI (International Cycling Union) president Hein Verbruggen not only knew about his doping but helped to cover his tracks. The Texan – who was stripped of his numerous titles including seven Tour de France wins after finally confessing to a lifetime of cheating – told the newspaper’s Sportsmail section that Verbruggen aided him in avoiding a ban back in 1999 by agreeing to lay the blame for a positive test on a prescription for a steroid cream to treat saddle sores which was then backdated.


Armstrong’s latest salvo naturally contradicts Verbruggen’s version of events who continues to deny any wrongdoing – in a letter to the UCI earlier this month which marked the end of his tenure as ‘honorary president’ he wrote: ‘I have never acted inappropriately and my conscience is absolutely clean… With the benefit of hindsight, however, I admit that I could have done some things differently, but I do not accept that my integrity is in doubt.’


Armstrong, of course, is trying to fight his way out of a corner and clearly holds no elegance to the former heads of the sport’s governing body despite the prospect of being part of a ‘truth and reconciliation’ process initiated by incoming president Brian Cookson – cooperation holds the potential of his lifetime ban being reduced to as little as eight years. But speaking to Sportsmail he said emphatically, ‘I’m not going to lie to protect these guys. I hate them. They threw me under the bus. I’m done with them.’



Lance Armstrong wants to be ‘Honest’

Lance Armstrong Speaking to the BBC’s Tim Franks on World Service radio Lance Armstrong has said that he wishes to be ‘100% transparency and honesty’ in any future inquiry into cycling’s doping scandals. The expressed desire is likely to be music to the ears of new UCI president Brian Cookson who was elected largely on his platform for anti-doping reform and who is seeking to meet with the disgraced Texan who was stripped of his seven Tour de France wins after he finally confessed to chat show host Oprah Winfrey to years of cheating.


But Armstrong – who is facing financial ruin amidst a growing number of legal actions associated with his lies – also told Franks that there should be consistent treatment for those who flouted the rules. ‘If everyone gets the death penalty, then I’ll take the death penalty,’ he said during the 20-minute interview, adding, ‘If everyone gets a free pass, I’m happy to take a free pass. If everyone gets six months, then I’ll take my six months…’


Tim Franks’ interview with Lance Armstrong can be heard on the BBC World Service’s Newshour today (Monday, November 11) at 1.06pm and 2.06pm GMT and on catch-up services thereafter.



Lance Armstrong Settles with Sunday Times

sunday_timesIt has been announced that Lance Armstrong, the seven-times-not-winner of the Tour de France, has agreed a financial settlement with the Sunday Times after the paper sued the disgraced Texan for £1m. The legal action came about after the Sunday Times were forced to pay Armstrong £300,000 to settle a libel case in 2004 when they accused him of cheating, something that even he now admits is entirely accurate. The paper’s chief sports writer, David Walsh, was one of the first journalists to (publically) raise the question of Armstrong’s credibly after his 1999 Tour de France win.


After Armstrong’s public – and highly staged-managed – confession on the Oprah Winfrey Show last year, the Sunday Times wrote to Armstrong’s lawyers, calling the original proceedings ‘baseless and fraudulent’ – The Sunday Times now say it has reached a ‘mutually acceptable final resolution’.


See the Cyclo feature Lance Armstrong: In Other Words here.