Ripwell Reports. Puffergate.

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The famous historian and cyclist, Giles Ripwell, tries to get to the bottom of the latest furore involving Team Sky.

Crikey! It seems that hardly a month has gone by in the last year and a bit where there hasn’t been some kind of scandal surrounding Team Sky, the United Kingdoms of Great Britain’s number one cycling outfit. What with the TUE’s, jiffy bags, testosterone patches, recovery injections, and stolen computers there are now more gates in Sky’s recent history than in the founder of Microsoft’s house during a family get together. All of these episodes have hurt Sky’s reputation but they have managed to carry on regardless and have had a rather successful season. However Puffergate, the newest hoo-ha, might cause Team Sky to discombobulate like your laptop after a Windows update.

But that’s enough of the computer based analogies and time to find out exactly what the devil has happened and what the future may hold for those concerned with what has happened.

Continue reading “Ripwell Reports. Puffergate.”

Tour de of Britain Announcement

I am delighted to announce that the well known cyclist and historian, Giles Ripwell, will be writing for the website and telling tales from within the peloton during the upcoming Tour de of Britain. The ‘Gentleman On Two Wheels’ shared his insights here during the race in 2015 but has since been out of the sport to research a book with Bike Gob Glasgow about … Continue reading Tour de of Britain Announcement

Digger and the Twitter Doperati.

Following any sport closely can be an emotional business for its fans. There can be highs but at times feelings of disappointment and anger will rise out of nowhere as you watch your football team lose a penalty shootout or you see an umpire makes a bad call against your favourite table tennis player. For fans of professional cycling things are slightly different. We get the same emotions but they often come a good time after the action has finished. There’s the disappointment that our favourite riders and their feats we’ve enjoyed have been aided by banned (and legal) substances and anger at the UCI, cycling’s governing body, for their inability to introduce the reforms that could help ensure fairer and safer competition. Although we encounter these feelings time and again we continue to follow the sport because it’s so entertaining. Because of this murky and frustrating history and the regular promises that things will change for the better three groups of cycling fan have emerged.

The largest of these combines are the ‘Optimistic Pessimists’. They still love the sport but watch things with a heavy dose of scepticism. They have been fooled in the past by cheating and don’t want it to happen again. Instead of celebrating an incredible performance the reaction is now “Mmm, not sure about that”. The UCI are still infuriating but in terms of racing things do seem to be changing ever so slightly. A few riders are now willing to speak out against doping instead of being part of the omerta which protects dopers and their feelings are that much of what they see during races seems to be credible. They watch racing in a different way now. As well getting immersed in the tactics and team dynamics, at the back of their minds they are analysing things to work out if what’s happening is believable and clean. It is obvious that doping still goes on at some level but they’re thankful that the eyebrow doesn’t get raised as often as before.

The eyebrows of are the two other sets of fans don’t move at all and they are very much at opposing sides of the “Who is doping and how much of it is going on” debate.

The first lot, the ‘Deniers’, are either gentle souls, who perhaps only follow a few races a year and are just not interested in whether doping happens, or diehards who will always defend their favourite rider or team against allegations of cheating no matter what actual evidence of malpractice is shown to them.

The last bunch of cycling fans are the Deniers sworn adversaries, though they actually make themselves enemies of anyone who doesn’t agree with them. This restless gang of ‘Truthers’ believe that everyone is on the juice and are very vocal about it. Instead of saying “Mmm’ not sure about that” their mantra is “Yep that’s dirty”. They spend plenty of time proselytising and will end up frustrated then angry if you’re not brought round to their way of thinking. Their arguments to back up their beliefs range from sarcastic coughs to elaborately formed concepts which contain ‘secret inside information’. Some say they resemble conspiracy theorists and I’ve even heard people call them a cult. If you use Twitter and follow cycling you will have seen them pop up on your feed from time to time. They are the Doperati and their illustrious leader is @Digger_forum.

Who is Digger?

My introduction to Digger came in 2011. It was the time of the federal investigation into Lance Armstrong which proved to be the prologue for the big mans fall from grace. Floyd Landis was the main witness in the case but was at that time still coming to terms with his own downfall as well being in the process of being investigated for computer hacking. There was also the question of the nearly $1 million raised for the ‘Floyd Fairness Fund’, money that I believed was donated by people being sold a lie. I decided to hit twitter to see what my 20 or so followers made of my opinion by suggesting that Landis perhaps wasn’t the most reliable of witnesses. Not long after I got a reply from someone who, if I remember right, was calling himself Big Tex Is Going To Jail or @Digger_forum for short. I was quite excited because he wasn’t one of my followers. “Wow” I thought, someone must really value my opinion. They’ve taken time to ‘engage’ with me. Dreams of commenting on pro cycling for a living flashed through my mind. Then I actually read the tweet:

“Charming” I thought. I tried to clarify my point but after becoming aware that my new acquaintance was arguing against a point which was different to the one I was trying to make I decided to finish things as it was becoming a waste of time.

As I became more familiar with twitter and started using it to follow professional cycling I set up a new cycling specific account (@JamesRannoch), mainly so my friends wouldn’t get annoyed by me adding pictures of men in Lycra to their timelines. I saw Digger get mentioned now and again and I occasionally dropped in on his profile and followed some of his ‘conversations’. He seemed to have some pretty extreme theories but to me it looked like were built out of suspicions which he was taking as fact. I didn’t disagree with everything he said, he raised and highlighted some important issues, but I held back from engaging with him when I did. It was obvious that there was no point in arguing with him because his mind wouldn’t be swayed by anyone else’s opinion. But the older I got, the grumpier I became and the less I was able to suffer him gladly. His infuriating debating style should have been scarring me away but it was drawing me into his world of accusations and innuendo. I started to become a little obsessed with disproving some of his more ridiculous theories. I felt that it was morally wrong throwing out proclamations about peoples integrity with flimsy evidence and cowardly to do so from behind an anonymous twitter handle. This would be fine if he was just prattling away in the corner of a pub somewhere because we could just nod or tut at the right moments but he was stating, as fact, things which could effect innocent people on public forums. There is also a fair amount of anger and venom whipped up among his followers and that anger and venom has been joined by spit and whatever else and is now getting directed at the condemned riders from the roadsides of the world. I’d had enough and ended up doing something I am not very proud of. I became a twitter troll. I was going to satirise this so called Digger and my shield of anonymity would be @Borer_forum.

First I tried to find out who this faceless keyboard warrior was, to see exactly what I was up against. There are many theories about his identity and background but after extensive research I could only find one reliable description of him and a photo which surfaced online a few years back.

Next I would employ my arguing skills to take apart all his theories. Unfortunately it didn’t take long for him to block me. There would be no late night debates about hidden motors as we smoked cigars. I wouldn’t receive scented jiffy bags containing long agonising letters about the differences between intramuscular and intravenous. I tried wooing him back with poetry…

….but alas, to no avail.

So I was reduced to taking incessant screen-grabs, much like the great man himself, of his more ridiculous tweets and posting them to the Borer account. Very quickly I found that following him so closely wasn’t good for my blood pressure and general happiness so I decided I would write a blog about Digger, put Borer into retirement and enjoy my life again. This has taken a lot longer than I’d hoped for thanks to the Fancy Bears but here’s what I found:

(Some of the screen grabs are straight off his time line so read from the bottom to the top.)

Continue reading “Digger and the Twitter Doperati.”

Tour de Past, Stage 5. 2014, The Cobbled Stage.

  This was one of the most action packed stages of the Tour de France in my memory. Pre-race it was described as a mini Paris-Roubaix and had been talked about as the old “Stage where the Tour won’t be won but could be lost”. It is remembered for the contrasting fortunes of the ‘Big Three’. Alberto Contador, Vincenzo Nibali and Chris Froome were considered … Continue reading Tour de Past, Stage 5. 2014, The Cobbled Stage.

Giles Ripwell from the final stage.

Stage 8. London to London. My recap of the final stage of the Tour de of Britain comes a day late. TEAM wiggins had cause to celebrate after the end as our rider, a certain Mr Owen Doull finished third overall and ended up on, what they call in cycling competitions, ‘The Podium’. And by by jingos! Mr Wiggins-Sir can party! He introduced me to … Continue reading Giles Ripwell from the final stage.

Tour de of Britain. Stage 6.

Stage 6. Stoke-on-Trent to Nottingham. Today we started in Stoke-on-Trent which was built on the burial site of the first King of the Britons, a gentleman called Trent. We went through the Peak District so went over many climbs. The Peak District is often called ‘The heart of Britain’. Mr Bradley Wiggins-Sir told me that his heart is always in Britain and his blood runs … Continue reading Tour de of Britain. Stage 6.

Giles Ripwell from the Tour de of Britain.

Stage 5. Prudhoe to Hartside Fell. Today’s stage was the toughest so far as it had a summit finish atop Hartside Fell in Cumbria. The inclusion of this difficult finish and the absence of a time trial may scupper Mr Wiggins-Sir’s chances of winning the competition this year. He seems sure that Mr Froom and a fellow going by the name of Mr Davey Brailsford-Sir … Continue reading Giles Ripwell from the Tour de of Britain.

Tour of Britain stage 4 report

Stage 4. Edinburgh to Blyth. Today saw us start in Edinburgh, the location of the final of the recent Tour de of the Scotland won by the magnificent Raymondo Barr. The start up the royal mile had to be neutralised as cycling is done in kilometres and nobody would have known how far we would have gone. Then …. blimey! What a corker of a … Continue reading Tour of Britain stage 4 report