Riding is Life


130 completely innocent amateur riders abandon race with anti-doping waiting at finish line

Cry until you laugh, laugh until you cry.

Jonny Long
by Jonny Long 07.03.2024 Photography by
Cor Vos
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Doping news is to the cycling media industrial complex what actual doping is to … maybe this particular analogy is better left unfinished.

But yes, in a previous life, still as a cycling reporter, news that 130 of 182 participants in a Spanish amateur race subsequently failed to finish when anti-doping officials rocked up to the finish line would leave me practically able to taste the clicks. I’d quickly rattle off my copy before being able to put my feet up until clocking off at 5 PM knowing I’d achieved exactly what my bosses required from me that working day.

One would chuck “doping” somewhere near the front of a headline that almost reads like a complete English sentence, along with a photo of an anti-doping testing site that visually described what the story was about without directly – and perhaps falsely – incriminating anyone (thanks to Cor Vos for this particularly retro re-enactment of how doping definitely works) and bam. Clickity click click click.

Happily, I have a new life now. But then why, you may be wondering, am I still trading in something that looks like clickbait, feels like clickbait, and therefore probably is a little bit clickbait? Especially when we aren’t really trying to siphon off a small slice of the Google SEO pie in order to feed our families anymore. Especially considering this month of March is what we refer to as “the cliff,” where a significant number of our members decide whether or not what we offer is worth them ponying up their hard-earned cash for another year of … well, this [waves in the general direction of the website].

My answer is that ~130 amateurs running scared of doping testers, leaving the race with just a few dozen finishers, is exquisitely hilarious and frankly absurd, too much so to pass without comment. This means there are around 130 otherwise regularly functioning members of Spanish society who rock up to a race they are probably paying for the privilege of starting and are glowing like a white t-shirt during a game of laser tag. They then must pretend to crash or puncture in order to scram so they don’t get caught by anti-doping … so that they can continue to pull the same elaborate bullshit again next time. What is it in these individual psyches that leads to such a life? Is it a distinctly male thing? It probably is, right.

Of course, some of those 130 abandons at the Interclubs Vinalopó race in Villena, a city inland from Alicante, were probably legitimate. But Marca, who first reported this story, say that a study of the race footage shows not nearly enough crashes or riders stopped by the side of the road waiting for their team cars for this to not be a bunch of doped-up amateurs running from the authorities.

Admittedly, it is slightly callous of us to find levity, or at least choose laughter over crying, in response to this sorry state of affairs, because Interclubs Vinalopó have been quick to release statements defending their race, saying they stand for clean cycling and are proud to do so. More power to them. Also, the race’s second-place finisher Álvaro Marzá, via social media, evokes a tiredness of what he has to put up with when he just wants to race his bike.

“Anti-doping control in Villena = punctures and withdrawals,” Marzá said. “It is not a complicated mathematical explanation, but it is the harsh reality. I hope action is taken because this is a joke. By the way, I took the doping test three times. Hopefully I will get the results soon and I can announce them.”

A bottle of EPO in the spokes of a bike wheel.
Rule number 1 of doping: Do NOT attempt to hide your bottle of EPO in the spokes of your wheel.

Who are the members of this lycra-clad Fight Club then? Exacting their vengeance over the world through placing middlingly well at an amateur bike race while doped to the gills. Are they employed at banks? In schools? Do they work at one of Spain’s seven nuclear reactors that generate about a fifth of the country’s electricity? I’d probably rather not know.

Could I have an advance of 15 years on my salary please, Caley, so I can buy enough supplies and then find a hole somewhere to hide in and then see out my days filing 1,000 words four to five times a week, pipe up on the Placeholders every Wednesday. I’ll make do without restaurants. Or sunlight. Maybe one of the 130 riders could sit in the corner quietly and act as an EPO-powered bedside light.

Aside from hiding away, maybe laughing is the best way to combat this shit show. The reason for being a doped-up amateur must be to go off in pursuit of some imagined small-to-medium-sized glory, in lieu of the riches accessed by actual professional dopers. Maybe there should be a broomwagon at the back of these events that can shout “laaaaame!” at anyone who clearly hasn’t crashed, got injured, or punctured and is trying to avoid the testers at the finish line. Keep clicking. Keep laughing. Stop doping, you weirdos.

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