Here's what will happen Wednesday, based on the results of the final game for the USA and England:

So, England has a must-win. There's no way for them to go through without beating Slovenia. USA still has a chance with a draw, if England draw or loses.

AuthorMark McClusky

This morning, the 32 teams for the 2010 World Cup were drawn in to their eight qualifying groups. There's always a lot of talk about a "Group of Death" for the World Cup, so I decided to try and analyze the draw a little mathematically.

I used FIFA's world soccer rankings, as well as Nate Silver's Soccer Power Index at ESPN. For each team, I averaged those two rankings, and then used that as a way to evaluate the groups.

The strongest group, from top to bottom, is group H. The lowest ranked team in the group is Honduras (31.5), and the average ranking for the four teams in the group is 17.5.

Here's the groups, in order of the average ranking of the teams in that group. Lower numbers mean stronger teams:

Average ranking of all teams in group
Group H: 17.5
Group E: 19.625
Group D: 20.25
Group C: 23.25
Group B: 26
Group G: 27
Group A: 29
Group F: 39.5

The Italians are the lowest ranked of the seeded teams, other than the host nation South Africa, but they get the easiest group overall in Group F.

But overall strength isn't the best way to evaluate the Group of Death. The top two teams from each group advance. So, which Groups have the biggest gap between the second and third ranked teams in the group?

Delta between second and third ranked team in group
Group A: 3.5
Group B: 5.5
Group C: 20
Group D: 5.5
Group E: 10
Group F: 18
Group G: 5.5
Group H: 12

A couple things pop out here. The USA was drawn in with England in Group C, but it a clear second ranked team in the group. The US team is ranked 15, and the Slovenia team is the third best in the group, at 35th. You'd hope that the US would be able to advance with that large a gap between second and third. Paraguay also has a big gap in Group F over the third-ranked Slovakia team.

How about another way to look at it? What's the ranking of the third-best team in each group?

Ranking of third-place team in group
Group A: Mexico, 17
Group B: Nigeria, 28
Group C: Slovenia, 35
Group D: Australia, 22
Group E: Denmark, 23
Group F: Slovakia, 42
Group G: Cote d'Ivorie, 12.5
Group H: Switzerland, 24.5

It's the Ivory Coast that's gotten the toughest draw this World Cup, by far. They've got the tenth-best ranking in my crude little system, but are third-best in their group, after Brazil and Portugal. In most other groups, they'd be a favorite to move on, but in Group G, it's going to be tough.

Want to play with the numbers more? Spreadsheet is up on Google Docs. Love to see more slicing and dicing in the comments!

AuthorMark McClusky
CategoriesSports, Wired
5 CommentsPost a comment

1707cover.jpgI'm just tickled that my feature story on Nike+ and the data-driven revolution in athletics is the cover story this month at Wired. I think it's probably the best thing I've ever written -- the product of months of research, thinking, and draft after draft. Here's one of my favorite sections:

The Nike+ sensor consists of just three parts. There's an accelerometer that detects when your foot hits and leaves the ground, calculating that all-important contact time. There's a transmitter that sends the information to a receiver, one that's either clipped onto an iPod nano or built into the second-generation iPod touch. And there's the battery. That's what Nike+ is.

What's more interesting is what Nike+ isn't. There's no GPS that automatically tracks your routes—if you want to map your run, you have to do it manually on the Nike site. There's no heart rate monitor, so even though you know how far and how fast you've traveled, you don't know what level of cardiovascular exertion it required. "We really wanted to separate ourselves from that sort of very technical, geeky side of things," Tchao says. "Everyone understands speed and distance."

In other words, Nike+ isn't a perfect tool; it wasn't designed to be. But it's good enough, and more crucially, it's simple. Nike learned a huge lesson from Apple: The iPod wasn't a massive hit because it was the most powerful music player on the market but because it offered the easiest, most streamlined user experience.

But that simple, dual-variable tracking can lead to novel insights, especially once you have so many people feeding in data: The most popular day for running is Sunday, and most Nike+ users tend to work out in the evening. After the holidays, there's a huge increase in the number of goals that runners set; this past January, they set 312 percent more goals than the month before.

There's something even deeper. Nike has discovered that there's a magic number for a Nike+ user: five. If someone uploads only a couple of runs to the site, they might just be trying it out. But once they hit five runs, they're massively more likely to keep running and uploading data. At five runs, they've gotten hooked on what their data tells them about themselves.

Huge thanks to all the people at Nike who took time to talk to me, and everyone at Wired who made it a much better story -- especially Thomas Goetz, whose editing and advice was crucial in the story's success.

AuthorMark McClusky
2 CommentsPost a comment

So, Buzz Bissinger wrote probably the best sports book of all-time, Friday Night Lights. If you only know the movie and TV series, you owe it to yourself to read the book, because no one has ever captured the importance of sports in small communities, and the ways it can break down and lift up people. Too bad that last night he revealed himself to be a bully, a troglodyte, and a jerk. If you haven't seen it, he was on Bob Costas's HBO show with Will Leitch, the editor of Deadspin, in what was supposed to be a "discussion" of blogging in sports.

The first words out of Bissinger's mouth to Will were, "I really think you're full of shit," and then he went on a minutes long tirade and rant about the evils of blogging, and how they're debasing our discourse and culture.

You can watch the full segment here.

It's sad to see a hero behave like such a tremendous ass. I can only imagine that Bissinger sees a world that he's on the wrong side of, that confuses and scares him, and that the only reaction he can come up with is to try and destroy it.

Will, who I've never met but respect greatly, was clearly set up here. Bob Costas framed the entire issue to put him on the defensive, and then tried to get the other guests to bury him. Will, to his credit, didn't sink to Bissinger's level, but simply tried to have a discussion. Later, he posted his take on the experience, which is worth reading.

Bissinger, Costas, and the traditional media are, I suppose understandably, trying to protect their world. But that world is changing, and they can either change with it, or get out of the way. I just wish that people I admire didn't reveal themselves to be not just wrong, but cruel as well.

AuthorMark McClusky

Hey there. Long time, no blog.

Today's news that an arbitration panel has found Floyd Landis guilty of doping in the 2006 Tour de France is a tragedy.

To be up front, I have met and interviewed Landis. I liked him a great deal. I would like to believe that he didn't dope, but I don't know if he is innocent or not. But none of that matters.

The case against him simply wasn't strong enough, and the fact that the panel voted 2-1 to convict him shows that the system is hopelessly rigged against athletes. The mere opening of a proceeding seems to be evidence enough to declare guilt.

Never mind that the lab work at the LNDD, the French lab involved in the case, was somewhere between laughable and horrifying. Never mind that the chain of custody wasn't maintained. Never mind that the testing wasn't anonymous.

Those who believe Floyd to be guilty will say that those are technicalities, and don't address guilt or innocence. But technicalities are the only basis that athletes can argue in the current system. And technicalities are important -- WADA has rules that they are supposed to follow. They're there for a reason. And if they are allowed to break them, well, it's a farce.

Like I said, I don't know if Floyd doped or not. But if you're going to destroy a man's career, you better have a buttoned-up case. And this one doesn't even come close. Doping, especially in cycling, is shameful. Even more shameful is a willingness to bend or break rules in one's zeal to fight doping.

AuthorMark McClusky

No, not Floyd Landis. Bijarne Riis, the winner of the 1996 Tour de France, admitted that he was doping when he won the race:

"The time has come to put the cards on the table," said Riis. "I have done things which I now regret and which I wouldn't do again. I have doped. I have taken EPO. For awhile it was part if my life."

Sad news, but hardly shocking. What is shocking is that the code of silence that's surrounded drug use in cycling seems to be breaking down. Riis is now the director of team CSC, the top professional team in the world -- we'll see what effect this admission has on his current career.

One question: was EPO even on the banned list in 1996?

AuthorMark McClusky

The short version: holy crap!

The longer version: The boom in carbon wheels has been massive over the past few years. In the professional peleton, nearly every rider is on carbon hoops, even in the most demanding races like Paris Roubaix or the Tour of Flanders. Of course, those guys have the luxury of a team car carrying dozens of spares right behind them, just in case something goes wrong.

The other car there is Mavic's famous neural support car. The French wheelmaker had been conspicious in its absence from the carbon market, with just a couple of models out there, some of which use carbon as a non-structrual faring. But they've entered the arena in a big way with these wheels, which are fully carbon, from the rims to the spokes to the hubs.

I had a chance to ride the first pair of the wheels in North America over two weeks -- look for pictures of them in Wired magazine soon. But I wanted to post some snaps, and some impressions.

Mavic Carbone Ultimate Front Wheel
That's the front wheels on our scale, with a Hutchinson tubular (yes, they're tubulars) and the skewer installed. That's 821 grams out the door. Woot, as they say.

Mavic Carbone Ultimate Rear Wheel
That's the rear wheel, with tire and skewer, but no cassette. Just over a kilogram, at 1006 grams.

So what does it mean when your entire wheelset is under two kilos, including the tires? It means that they spin up amazingly quickly. The biggest difference I felt riding these over other wheels I've ridden was in acceleration.

You know when you're on rolling terrain, and you look to stomp up a hill in a big gear, trying to keep your momentum going? That moment when you stand and pound on the pedals is just silly with these -- they just seem to rocket forward when you apply the power.

How do they keep the weight down? A couple of tricks:

Mavic Carbone Ultimate Front Hub

The front wheel is all one piece, like Lightweights wheels. The spokes are molded directly into the rim, and then into the carbon hub. There's no adjustment, and no truing available. That means that the mold better be damn straight, and Mavic's seemed true and perfect.

Mavic Carbone Ultimate Rear Hub Detail

In back, there is some adjustment available -- nipples molded into the non-drive side allow the wheel's dish to be tweaked. Again, the models I had were just fine as delivered, but it's interesting that they've made some provision for tweaking.

Braking performance on carbon wheels is a fraught topic -- no matter what steps you take, a carbon wheel, right now, isn't going to stop as well as an aluminum rim. I installed Zipp's carbon pads on the bikes Campagnolo Record brakes, and was reasonably pleased with the braking. One ride had a good bit of mist during it, and stopping power was fine. There was the usual squealing that one gets with carbon rims.

Now, a 2 kg set of wheels that retails for $2,750 (Oh, I didn't mention that before?) isn't for everyone. These are definitely racing wheels, and are the stiffest wheels I've ever ridden. Even though they're carbon, they're not absorbing vibration. The goal of these is to transmit power from rider to road, and they do that exceptionally well.

That pricetag is pretty tough, as well, although its much less than the very comparable Lightweights. Mavic also has a wheel protection plan that will pay for replacement wheels if there's damage -- that seems like a well-spent $220 in this case.

Those yellow cars following pro races are a symbol of quality and reliability, and Mavic's been working on this wheelset for several years. They're very confident in them, and after my time on them, I am as well. Suffice it to say that as I box them up to return to Mavic, I'm wondering just how I can go back to regular old wheels.

AuthorMark McClusky

Not to turn my far too-infrequent posts here into a running blog on the Floyd Landis situation, but Martin Dugard, a well-known cycling writer and friend of Floyd has some pretty incendiary things to say today on his blog:

I'm not saying I can prove he [Floyd] was set up, but it certainly is beginning to look as if a concerted effort was made to sabotage the 2006 Tour de France by higher-ups within the UCI. They seek to elevate themselves, paying absolutely no heed to the damage they do to cycling, and all sports. That stinks.

Is it really possible that the men in charge of international competitive cycling would fake a positive drug test to make the biggest event in their sport look stupid? Sadly, it's not beyond the question. The UCI has been feuding for years with the organizers of the Tour, and if there's one thing that my experience in covering the Olympic movement has taught me, it's that many of the guys who run these international governing bodies care more about their power than their sport.

I don't know if this is true, but the fact that it's even plausible is tragic.

AuthorMark McClusky

So, here's the deal. If you're an athlete who's subject to testing under the World Anti-Doping Code, you can file for a Therapeutic Use Exemption. What that means is that you get a doctor's note that explains that you must use a banned substance for some legitimate medical purpose. Any positive tests for that performance enhancing substance are then written off, since you have a magic TUE.

Makes sense, right? Well, what if I told you that of the 199 riders in the 2006 Tour de France, 60 of them had TUEs. Whoa. That's kind of messed up, right? Nearly a third of riders in the Tour have a pressing medical need to take a drug that has some sort of performance enhancing characteristics? What are the odds....

Thirteen riders in the Tour suffered a positive test -- only one, Floyd Landis, is facing punishment. The other 12 had TUEs. The most prominent of those riders turns out to be Oscar Pereiro, who finished second to Landis in the Tour, and who has been campaigning to be declared the winner.

Pereiro, according to Le Monde, tested positive for salbutamol, an asthma medication. Pereiro has been called before the French Anti-Doping agency to explain his use of the drug, and his TUE. Like they say, people in glass houses probably should put down the inhaler.

AuthorMark McClusky

The new issue of Wired just hit the streets -- it includes a profile I wrote about Dick Pound, the head of the World Anti-Doping Agency. The story is also available online.

First things first: There's one factual error in the story which made it way in there during the editing process. The story reads, "Tour winner Floyd Landis tested positive for abnormally high testosterone," which is incorrect. As those who have been following the Landis case closely know, Floyd didn't have abnormally high testosterone; he had an abnormal ratio of testosterone to epitestosterone. In fact, the absolute levels of testosterone in Lansis's system, by my reading of the lab data, were in the normal range. I regret the error made it into print, and we'll get it fixed online after I get back from the holiday.

Now, onto the reaction, and some more thoughts.

Over at Trust but Verify, the essential clearinghouse blog about the Landis case in particular, they write:

Wired runs a long story by Mark McClusky about Mr. Pound, including Landis. It's a double edged article. Email to us about it splits between views that it puffs Pound, vs. it being reasonably fair. It appears to us that it accepts the idea of WADA, but is skeptical of Pound's ability to lead with credibility, highlighting many of his ethically challenged utterances.

I'm surprised to hear that there was email viewing the story as a puff piece about Pound. I think that to read it that way, you have to be utterly convinced that Dick Pound is evil incarnate, and that any attempt to understand the man and his career is puffery.

That's simply not the case. Pound's an easy man to demonize, but in person, I found him sharp and funny and easy to be around. And I think it's important to acknowledge his achievements. They really don't make them like Pound these days. He's a throwback to a different time.

Spinopsys makes this point well in his post about the story:

Pound is entrepreneurial in the old fashioned sense of the word, something seen in his negotiations with the networks and rights holders - the kind who used to build railroads and newspapers - hardheaded, idiosyncratic, demanding, full of bluff and bluster, and not afraid to crack a few heads or eggs in the process of building something new.

I find there's a lot to admire in that sort of drive and determination. But as I hope the story makes clear, there's a difference between being the visionary who can wrangle an organization like WADA into existence, and being the right man to lead it going forward.

Rant Your Head Off takes a moment to analyze the construction of the story:

The article strives for a certain balance between Pound’s legitimate accomplishments, and his inability to live up to the rules he, himself, created. To analyze the reporting a bit, one common technique in journalism is, rather than inject your own opinion, let the subject, him/herself, do the job of pointing out their own foibles. Dick Pound fell right into that trap.

Pound's public statements really are a mystery to me. It seems clear that he thinks that the lawyerly disclaimers he throws in at the start of an interview are enough -- I don't know why he doesn't realize that, from a perception standpoint, they aren't nearly enough. As he says in the article, he views his role as prosecutorial, and that's clear from what he says and how he says it.

And I think that's the clear failing of WADA under Pound. It's turned the system into a adversarial process. I don't know that there's anyone who's happy about the use of performance enhancing drugs in sports, from administrators, to fans, to clean athletes. And I do think that WADA can provide a framework to help decrease the problem.

But right now, the athletes don't trust the system. They see it as arbitrary, and out for blood. Until you have some sort of system that athletes buy into, I don't know that you'll ever get anywhere.

There's also more discussion at the Daily Peloton Forums, where I'm gratified to see that most folks seem to think it was a solid story.

AuthorMark McClusky
CategoriesSports, Wired
4 CommentsPost a comment

Before the start of this year's NBA season, the league introduced a new game ball, made of a microfiber material which was supposed to be more consistent than the old leather balls. The new ball, it was claimed, would absorb moisture better, giving players a better grip.

Just one problem. The players hate it.

Since the beginning of training camp, players have been upset with the switch to a ball that was supposed to have more consistency in the way it handles and bounces. Instead it has less. According to many players surveyed over the past two months, the new ball has stuck to the players’ hands, become frequently lodged between the rim and the backboard, and has also not been able to absorb moisture as well as the leather ball.

Steve Nash, the Phoenix point guard and two-time league most valuable player, wore bandages on his fingers last week because of cuts caused by the new ball. The Nets’ Jason Kidd, and the Dallas Mavericks’ Jason Terry and Dirk Nowitzki have all spoken out against the material, complaining of cuts on their hands.

The league didn't bother to talk to the players beforehand -- instead, they reached a deal with Spalding to create the ball, and then had a big marketing push this summer about it (in interests of disclosure, I featured the ball in Wired).

It's kind of unfathomable that a league would overhaul the one essential tool of its sport without talking to the players who use it on a daily basis. NBA commissioner David Stern, not one for backing down, has admitted the league made a mistake; meanwhile, the player's union has filed a grievance, looking to return to the old ball.

My guess? The leather ball will be back within weeks, and this whole episode will be another case study in the law of unforeseen consequences.

AuthorMark McClusky

Courtesy of the very nice folks at SRAM, and especially their media person, Michael Zellmann, I was able to get a chance to ride their new Force group of road components. The high-end component market has been dominated by Campagnolo and Shimano for the 20 years that I've been riding bikes -- in fact, SRAM's gruppo is the first full road group that's been released in that period of time.

Armed with a lovely Specialized Tarmac SL equipped with the Force components and Roval full-carbon clincher wheels, I hit the roads in Northern California to see if Force is a legitimate challenger to Shimano's Dura Ace and Campy's Record line.


The crankset is a lovely piece, wrapped in very pretty carbon fiber. The chainrings are shot-peened, and have a nice grey color to them. Although you can't see them, the bearings for the bottom bracket are outboard, similar to Dura Ace.

I had no compaints with the crank/bottom bracket combo. It was plenty stiff, certainly for the amount of power I can generate. There was no creaking or play in the bearings, and the build seemed very solid. Frankly, there's not a lot that can really go wrong here, and SRAM didn't make any mistakes.

Front Derailleur

One real problem I've face with my bike (equipped with Dura Ace) is getting it to shift well on a compact crankset. Especially on the way from the large to the small chainring, it's very prone to throwing the chain completely past the chainring, and onto my bottom bracket. Which sucks.

I was very impressed by the front shifting on the Force. There's one front mechanism that's used for either standard or compact chainrings -- but there's a clever way to lower it to make sure that the tolerance is right for the size you're running. Also, the cage is wide enough that there aren't any trim settings to mess with. You just get it to the right chainring, and forget it. All in all, a major upgrade for me.

Rear Derailleur

In the back, shifting was equally good. There was a very solid feel -- some might argue inelegant. With Dura Ace and Record, you sometimes aren't quite sure if your shift has finished; by the time you're trying to sense it, it's already over. But with Force, there's a very positive action, almost a THUNK, that lets you know for sure. Some people might not care for it, but I like it.

The other nice thing is how unfussy it seems. I feel like after (or during) most rides, I'm tweaking my cables just a bit, trying to insure that upshifts and downshifts happen with the same speed, and equally smoothly. After adjusting the rear once, I didn't have to futz with it at all, even after swapping out the cassettes, which I have a hard time imagining with Dura Ace. One of the things that SRAM is touting in their marketing is that each shift requires the same amount of cable to be pulled (unlike the other groups), and from my testing, that consistent mechanical action does show some benefits.

Not pictured here is the SRAM cassette -- I had to wuss out and put on a 25 in back for the hills around here. SRAM is going to be shipping an 11-26 rear cassette, which is great news, I think. Perfect for compacts in tough terrain like NoCal.

Cockpit View

Here's the cockpit. Like Campy Record, all the cables are under the handlebar tape, leading to a nice, clean look. It's a little hard to tell from this shot, but the left and right hoods are sculpted differently, and are canted slightly to fit the hand -- they were comfortable while on the hoods, and provided a good platform on top. They're a little smaller than the Shimano hoods, a similar size to Campy.

Left Brake Lever

In this closeup of the left brake lever, you can see the cant I was talking about.

The shifting on Force uses what SRAM called Double Tap. A small inward movement of the lever downshifs to a higher gear, a longer throw upshifts into a smaller gear. It's was actually completely intuitive -- imagine using the upshift lever on Record for all the shifts, but just tapping is slightly to get bigger gears. Seriously, it sounds much, much more complicated than it rides, and I didn't find myself having to think about it at all, even after just a few miles.

Rear Brake

I found the brakes to be really nice looking, especially the cutout in the top arm. Modulation was very good, and the action at the lever was smooth and controlled. Stopping power was harder to evaluate for me, as I was riding a test bike with carbon rims, and therefore had cork pads, and not the standard pad that SRAM ships for most wheels.

Front Brake

Another look at the calipers, this time up front.

Overall, I was really impressed by Force. SRAM's done a ton of work and research to get this right, and it's a hugely ambitious undertaking. It's certainly right there with the top of the line from the big two, and I'll definitely consider it when I need new gear.

AuthorMark McClusky

(Update, 1:54 PDT: Austin Murphy at SI got Floyd on the phone, and Landis denies using testosterone. Worth reading.)

Word comes today that Floyd Landis, the recent winner of the Tour de France, has tested positive for an elevated level of testosterone after stage 17 of the race, when he came back from a 10 minute deficit through one of the epic rides in cycling history. Here's the text of his team's announcement:

The Phonak Cycling Team was notified yesterday by the UCI of an unusual level of Testosteron/Epitestosteron ratio in the test made on Floyd Landis after stage 17 of the Tour de France.
The Team Management and the rider were both totally surprised of this physiological result.
The rider will ask in the upcoming days for the counter analysis to prove either that this result is coming from a natural process or that this is resulting from a mistake in the confirmation.
In application of the Pro Tour Ethical Code, the rider will not race anymore until this problem is totally clear.
If the result of the B sample analysis confirms the result of the A sample the rider will be dismissed and will then pass the corresponding endocrinological examinations.

I've, sadly, written a lot about doping in cycling on this blog. Here's some quick thoughts and reactions.

1) It's important to note that this isn't over yet. When athletes get tested, the sample is split in two -- this is an announcement that the first sample showed elevated testosterone. What will happen now is that the second sample will be tested; it must confirm the result of the first test before Landis would be stripped of the win, and banned from competition for two years. Were that to happen, there is an appeal process that Landis could follow.

2) At the Tour, the winner of each day's stage and the overall race leader are tested daily, along with two other randomly selected riders. That means that Landis was (at a minimum) tested after Stages 11, 12, 15, 17, 19, and 20. Presumably, the tests on the stages before Stage 17 have been completed, which would mean that Landis passed those three tests, as no positives have been announced. I would guess that the tests for Stages 19 and 20 would be completed today or tomorrow. If Landis were to pass all the other tests, it would certainly raise questions about the (not yet confirmed) positive result on Stage 17's test.

3) I've often wondered aloud if it's possible to ride at the top level of cycling without doing drugs. I don't know that answer, but these guys are doing such amazing things that there's part of me that will always question it.

4) Hearing this news today, it felt like a punch in the gut. I've really grown to like and respect Landis, the race he rode, and the pain he overcame due to his degenerative hip. I'm hoping against hope that there was some mistake at the lab or some other easy explanation for a result that I'd be crushed to have confirmed. And not just because I like Floyd -- because I worry that cycling really can't withstand another blow like this.

AuthorMark McClusky

Rumors of his demise were greatly exaggerated. Today's stage win by Landis, which vaults him just 30 seconds off the lead, is one of the legendary rides in cycling history. A solo attack 125km from the finish, taking back almost 7:30 in the overall.

This Tour has to be about the best bike race I've ever seen. Make sure to watch the time trial on Saturday! I'll be the one rooting for Floyd.

AuthorMark McClusky
2 CommentsPost a comment

And not in the hip-hop positive way. After a terrific ride yesterday up Alpe d'Huez, Floyd Landis, America's new cycling hope, was looking like a pretty good bet to win the Tour de France.

Unfortunately, on today's ridiculously hard stage (over 17,000 feet of climbing!), Floyd completely cracked on the final climb. He dropped 10 minutes and 4 seconds to the winner of the stage, and over eight minutes to his top rivals for the overall title.

Since revealing that he's facing a hip replacement at the end of the Tour, I've been pulling hard for Floyd -- this could be his only shot to win the biggest bike race in the world. Simply put, no one has any idea if he can compete at the highest level after a hip replacement, so this might be it. So, I'm sad for him today.

But it points out one thing -- love him or hate him, Lance Armstrong had the most important characteristic of a great Tour rider: he never seemed to have a bad day. This first post-Lance tour has shown, especially for the Americans like Floyd and Levi Leipheimer, that one bad day can end your dream of yellow.

AuthorMark McClusky

Sorry for the silence -- was out on the East Coast for a lovely, and much needed, vacation with the wife and kiddo. We enjoyed Kate's first Bristol 4th of July parade (my seventh, already) and spending some time on Cape Cod at Kristen's sister's place. Many, many pictures to come.

Meanwhile, what's been going on. Oh, Jan Ulrich and Ivan Basso were thrown out of the Tour? Jimminy Christmas, this is a horrible story. On one hand, you've got the UCI finally seeming serious about cleaning up the sport, which they didn't do in '98 after the Festina affair blew up.

On the other hand, you've got cyclists thrown out of the premier event in the sport without a positive test, simply because they're under investigation. I know that all ProTour riders agree to this, but there's something about the lack of a presumption of innocence that rankles.

In fact, that's at the root of what's bothered me with the entire WADA regime, and the climate around athletics today. When an athlete is implicated, the instant assumption is that they're guilty, from the top of the sport to the fans on the street. I'm not sure why that's the case -- maybe innocent until proven guilty is a uniquely American view of the world.

But the event continues, as do the whispers.

AuthorMark McClusky