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.

Last week it emerged that a top cyclist going by the name of Mr Christopher Froomes returned an adverse analytical finding for a drug called Salbutamol during this years Vuelta de a España. It turns out that the fellow ended up winning the championship which is why the whole thing has created such a storm. In fact, this Mr Froomes has made a habit of winning some of the biggest races over the years and is even honing in on the EPO enthusiast Lance Armstrong’s world record of seven Tours des Frances. Not only could Christopher lose this years Vuelta de a España championship but his previously unblemished reputation and worldwide appeal could get utterly crushed.

“Ruddy heck Giles!”. I hear you say. “Could?”. “Should don’t you mean, the chaps a fraud, a cheat. Bang him up and throw away the ruddy key!”. Well as it happens this adverse analytical business means that he gets the chance to prove his innocence before getting handed a ban. The drug found in his system, Salbutamol, is legal, but only up to a certain level. Twice that certain level was found inside the urine of Mr Froomes so he has a big task ahead of him to clear his name.

To find out which way this case might go I thought I should get the views of those inside the peloton. I contacted a certain Herr Tony Martin first as he has been known to be outspoken on the issue of drugs in the past. Unfortunately he just started banging on about the World Cup and I have no interest in football. Most of the other riders I know are away on training camps so I was left with no choice but to give my old friend Bradley Wiggins-Sir a call.

After leaving Team Sky and setting up TEAM wiggins, Mr Wiggins-Sir has left the cycling world and taken up rowing. When I heard about that I thought “How marvelous! There is nothing I enjoy more than going to a regatta, I simply must invite Bradley along”. I used that as an ice-breaker when I phoned but he barked back at me “Not that type of flippin rowing Giles! I do the indoor type Giles!”. After we discussed what this meant the conversation moved to Mr Christopher Froomes. Mr Wiggins-Sir found it highly amusing that he rows nowhere near water and Christopher needs to prove he was severely dehydrated on the day of his adverse what-not. The two have never got on to be honest. Soon Bradley was in full flow. “Ees never going to get a Knighthood now, that will show him. He he he. I tell you what Giles, get this, ees a right pain in the asthma!”. I wondered if that was the same as a triamcinolone injection but the last time I mentioned that he wasn’t too happy.

I thought I would ask Mr Wiggins-Sir about his wife’s recent comments on Christopher. He told me “I’ll let her tell you herself Giles but she out at the post office. She needs to send some rabbits to South Africa in time for Christmas”. “Anyway she’s right, I was pushed under the bus”. I asked Bradley if it was the same bus he got the jiffy bag sent to but he must have been busy as he hung up.

So Mr Christopher Froomes faces perhaps the biggest challenge of his life now. Can he prove that he took a legal dose of Salbutamol on that fateful day and save his career? And what of his team? David Brailsford-Sir already resembles something of a modern day Choppy Warburton and his antics risk the reputation of his riders. Will a guilty Froomes sink the whole team?

Some say the future and credibility of cycling is at stake, but just like a few years ago when the future and credibility of steak was at stake cycling will survive until the next ruddy well scandal.

 

 

 

Giro 100. Cagliari And The Lion King.

Today’s stage finishes in Cagliari on the south coast of Sardinia. The last rider to cross the line there first in a stage of the Giro d’Italia was Alessandro Petacchi in 2007. But as he was found to have high levels of salbutamol in his system later on in the race his results were annulled*. So the last rider to cross the line first in Cagliari and still be the official winner is Mario Cipollini.

It was 1991 and the victory was the 24 year old’s 4th Giro stage win, it was evident that he was hungry and able to win plenty more. Confident as the youngster was though he might not have thought at some point he would be gunning for Alfredo Binda’s record number of stage wins at the Giro. The benchmark of 41 had stood firm since 1933. Learco Guerra came closest to it with 31 stages by the end of the 30’s and Eddy Merckx had “only” managed 24 through the 60’s and 70’s.

But Cipollini had arrived in a different time than Binda, Guerra and Merckx. The era of epic performances in black and white was over, the colour television age had arrived and ‘Super Mario’ knew how to benefit from this time both on and off the bike. Cippo forged himself a flamboyant image and is as well known for the tiger print and muscle skin suits he wore during time trials than he is for his wins. As the years pass he is getting known for wearing less and less as he wastes no opportunity to show off his impressive physique. One of his many nicknames is the “Italian Stallion” and according to his Wikipedia page he is rumoured to be a womaniser. All of this made him incredibly marketable and very rich but he also needed to be winning to keep his legend alive.

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