Since getting shuffled out as CEO of Cervelo, Gerard Vroomen seems to have become a lot more outspoken about the top tier of cycle sport. This section in an interview with Cyclingnews, about the tipping point in the relationship between CSC and Cervelo as well as the Contador case, is very telling and a point worth repeating:
“What happened with the Spanish federation and Contador was 100 per cent predictable and it’s the same in the [Frank] Schleck case. It was no surprise that the Luxembourg federation decided not to do anything. I thought the real turning point with our entire pro cycling sponsorship was the press release sent out when the Schleck thing broke. That for me was really the end of it. That was so bad and it assumed cycling fans were so stupid that I just didn’t get that at all. That for me was the end.”
It’s still one of the big mysteries as to how Frank Schleck has never taken flak for that and why he doesn’t get tarred with the same Puerto brush as Scarponi, Basso, Valverde and even the continuing – and as yet unproven – allegations of Contador’s involvement.
I wonder if Frank ever got that money back, or was several thousand Euro an acceptable loss to avoid bigger questions about why anyone would pay a gynaecologist masquerading as a cycling coach for training plans when his stock in trade was autologous blood doping?
I’d have been checking my statutory rights if I got mugged like that. It’s akin to being caught buying hooky designer gear on Ebay: you almost certainly knew it was going to be hooky when you bid for it, but you can’t really go showing your arse when you won it.
An easy ride for Vroomen?
I’m still a bit wary of his new “truth-speaker” persona. This is coming off the back of a mea culpa blog post apologising for describing the cycling media as being “uncritical”. Also this comes at a time when Vroomen is effectively “out” of the game as he is no longer CEO at Cervelo. And there’s plenty of people who make for good copy when they say things that are likely to be greeted with nodding approval.
He happily trashes Ivan Basso’s 2006 Giro win on a Cervelo and admit the failings of that moment to cyclingnews.com. But this is still someone who took his company into sponsorship with Bjarne Riis, never a rider with the most saintly of reputations, even before his own admissions of guilt.
The flip side is that experience – of involvement with people including Frank Schleck, Bryan Nygaard, Kim Andersen and Bjarne Riis – probably played a role in Cervelo Test Team coming into being. As a team and brand, they did something significant to move away from the old ways of presenting the sport and of acting within the sport.
For example, there’s the great Beyond The Peloton series of videos which have set a new benchmark for high quality hagiography among teams. They’re not completely without a critical edge, but they’re hardly Panorama, nor should expect them to be.
Then there’s the ethical stance on doping. How many teams would have pulled a rider from the Tour de France not for failing a test but for breaching internal policy on medical referrals? They did it to Xavier Florencio.
In a way, Vroomen’s situation is indicative of where professional cycling finds itself now: there is a movement for change, a rebuilding of trust and belief in the sport, but there is so much baggage attached that no one can truly speak without their past actions throwing up questions about their own complicity.