Archive for November, 2012

Metzinger

November 28, 2012

Words: Colin O’Brien Images: courtesy of Peggy Guggenheim Collection

“We would often cross the broad avenue with the martial sounding name,” reads an interesting entry in Metzinger’s diary. “The one that separated Courbevoie from Puteaux. It was in the peaceful garden of that welcoming household only a few years before the terrible year of 1914 that forms were born that, 50 years later, one would still think were new! We returned there often and soon we were spending our Sunday afternoons not merely conversing about aesthetic novelties but rather kicking a ball around or indulging in a spot of archery.

“That garden was the place where my appearance as a cyclist at the Vélodrome d’Hiver was thought up. Gleizes and Villon claimed that I wouldn’t be able to cycle 100 kilometres without putting a foot on the ground. I bet them that I could for the price of a lunch. It’s actually a pretty hard thing to do to keep going over 100 kilometres on country roads. Neither of my opponents had a car and they didn’t want to chase after me on one of those velocipedes. A journalist from our circle of friends suggested cycling in a velodrome which is actually just as tiring, especially for someone who is not used to it. But I agreed. A few days later, one morning at ten, I began my laps in the Vélodrome d’Hiver. An hour went by and then another. The spectators, Fernand Léger was among them, cheered me on with increasing enthusiasm until quite unexpectedly the sound of a gong brought me to a halt. I had won my meal by my honourable average speed.”

I’m not sure what’s harder to grasp: the fourth dimension that Metzinger & Co. were trying to paint, or the sensation of novelty that the bicycle evoked in them. It’s always the way with a great invention – they seem so obvious that surely they must have always been with us. For the cubists and the futurists, the locomotion of a cyclist was exactly what they were after. No still life, no nature morte. The competitive cyclist was vitality at its most vibrant.

One hundred years after it was painted, At the Cycle-Race Track still seems fresh. Using the frozen, visual language of cubism, Metzinger depicts the movement and speed of cycling in a way that all but the best photography fails to. The Frenchman is less known today than many of his contemporaries but few were more influential than him. He exhibited with the best and was one half of the pair that wrote the book – literally, I mean – on cubism.

Extract from issue 35, available from Friday 30th

Advertisements

Podcast for Issue 35

November 26, 2012

Editor Guy Andrews and photographer Taz Darling join host Jack Thurston to talk about the current issue of the magazine. The discussion starts with a new Rouleur book about Fausto Coppi written by Herbie Sykes. The book is brimming with extraordinary photographs of Coppi, many previously unpublished. Taz and Guy discuss Coppi the bike racer, the style icon and debate his controversial relationship with la dama bianca.

Guy also talks about his story of how the British bike company Genesis is reviving steel as a material for professional race bikes. Jack interviews Maxine Peake who has written and stars in a new radio play about the life of British cycling great Beryl Burton.

Issue 35

The Rouleur podcast is brought to you by Mosquito Bikes, London’s custom made bicycle specialists. Throughout December Mosquito is opening through till 8pm on Thursday evenings and will be creating a bit of festive cheer with drinks, mince pies and a tempting range of christmas gift ideas for the cyclist in your life. If serious sports nutrition is more your thing than mince pies, come along on December 6th when nutrition expert Chris Green from Accelerade will be on hand to offer advice on fuelling up for your next ride. On the same evening Mosquito will be hosting a representative from Look bikes who will be showing off the 2013 range from Look. See the bikes in the flesh at 123 Essex Road, London N1 2SN or on the screen at mosquito-bikes.co.uk.

The Kids Are All Right

November 22, 2012

 Words and photo: Claire Read

The first thing that hit me when I walked into Glasgow’s brand new Sir Chris Hoy velodrome? A kid. It was an accident, you understand. He was scuttling around with 25-odd of his classmates, their collective excitement creating a blur in which both they and I became temporarily lost. It made some gentle jostling as inevitable as the multiple Scotch malts I pictured his teacher downing the second she got home.

When I finally made it to my seat and had a chance to look around the entire (impressive) facility, I realised that the school group I had encountered was far from the only one around. Loads of uniformed youngsters watched the Scottish leg of the 2012/13 UCI Track World Cup and – by cheering all riders but going ballistic for any member of Team GB – they proved very vocal members of the audience. A little too vocal, in fact. Their enthusiasm getting the better of them, some disregarded the big screen command to be silent during the final countdown before races – a request which was charmingly worded as the Scottish ‘Whees’d’ as opposed to the southerly ‘Ssshh’.

I enjoyed the kids’ exuberance but couldn’t help but find the whole situation bemusing. Could there really be children in front of me who, for their school trip, were watching cycling? Who were going crazy for each and every race? Who felt comfortable to demonstrate their support for this sport? When I was younger, to love cycling was more than enough to instantly render you the weirdest of the weird – more so if you insisted on wearing your Team Z jersey for non-uniform day. Yet these days that the kids who wear their cycling garb are probably the coolest in school.

For me one of the most fascinating revelations in Rouleur’s interview with Cath Wiggins (issue 35) is that, like me and many others, she has mixed feelings about the sport’s shift to the British mainstream – a move for which, let’s face it, her husband is in large part responsible. “The more the merrier, right, because I absolutely love the sport,” she says. “Come in, enjoy it, fall in love with it but if you’re not going to do that, then…”

Then go away, frankly. Over the summer, my friends – in between asking me about a sport in which I had never managed to get them to express any curiosity – comforted me with the idea that British interest in cycling wouldn’t last forever. The new fans would soon fall away. I confess I hoped they were right.

What I’ve come to realise though – what my four days in Glasgow crystallised – is that there is one group of new cycling supporters who I really hope stay. The kids. Because for them this isn’t an insincere jumping on the bandwagon. No, for these kids it’s like it was for me in 1987: they’re seeing pro cycling for the first time and some of them are falling in love. They’re just happening to do it at a time when some of their countrymen are doing well.

So while I shudder at the notion that adults who previously ignored cycling now keenly discuss it, I quite like the idea that school kids are talking about it. I think I would like a situation where British youngsters can chat with some of their class-mates about Brad and Cav – and, dare I hope, Cancellara and Evans and Voeckler – and not be ostracised. Such conversations may be the roots of a real love of the sport.

On Sunday, the final day of competition in Glasgow, I was sitting next to a family. Late in the afternoon, Shane Sutton happened to wander over to our section of seating and the kid – who was maybe about ten – plucked up his courage and went to ask for an autograph. When he reached Sutton, he realised with panic that he didn’t have a pen. I reached over and lent one of mine. Problem solved. Stuff was signed and photos taken.

As soon as the kid got back to his seat, he gently opened up his programme and stared with excitement at the personalised autograph. He smiled and turned to his father. “Who was he?” he asked. “He works for Team Sky,” replied dad delightedly, sharing the childish grin of his son. As I thrilled in the idea that Shane Sutton HAD USED MY PEN I remembered that a true love of cycling makes us all kids. So how could I possibly object to welcoming a few more? Just whees’d during the countdown.

Claire Read

 

On Doping: Sport, Play, and the Difference Between Them

November 15, 2012

 

Words: Michael Egan   Photo: Camille McMillan

During the summer of 1994, I fulfilled a childhood dream. That July, I stepped onto a soccer field for a professional trial with Oxford United (I haven’t verified this, but I suspect I might be the only academic who ever went to Oxford for the soccer). I didn’t expect to win a professional contract; rather, I think the trial was more for myself: culminating a youth career with a professional tryout, being able to say that I was good enough to get that far. I loved playing soccer.

Some of my earliest recollections involve kicking a ball around my backyard. The trees were hapless defenders; the swing set the opposition goal. This was my preparation: I would represent Canada in five World Cups, starting in 1994 and finishing in 2010 after a successful professional career. My parents wouldn’t let me play on a team until after I had learned to swim, so I raced through three swimming badges in about as many months in order to be ready for the new season. I was seven. Organised soccer was the carrot. And I looked forward to every practice. Every game. My school week revolved around weeknight practices (once, then twice a week) and weekend games. As a teenager, I would wake at the crack of dawn to watch English soccer on television as I polished my boots, anticipating my own game. Soccer was an important part of my adolescence; this I knew: I was a soccer player and nobody could tell me I wasn’t good at it. On the soccer field, I belonged.

My trial in Oxford not only cemented that belief (even if the bolder dream had already waned), but it also served as closure on my soccer career. My youthful dreaming had run its course. It closed, though, on a sour note. At the World Cup in the United States, my boyhood hero Diego Maradona tested positive for ephedrine, an illegal substance. He was banned and scapegoated for being a cheat. I was crushed. I cried. Not so much because he had betrayed me, but because of the manner in which he was cast out as a lone sinner.

A little bit about my relationship with Maradona: I watched almost every game of the 1986 World Cup in Mexico—the last and only time Canada competed in the tournament finals—and the diminutive Argentinian stole the show. He was positively brilliant. To my mind, he remains the greatest soccer genius. His magic was intoxicating, his play full of emotion and panache. He was at play, happy. That raw passion and playfulness was why I loved the beautiful game.

Four years later, he was overweight and stood listlessly in the middle of the field, but with a touch here and there he still dictated the game. By 1994, at the beginning of the World Cup, he looked trim and back to his best. It was awesome to see, and not just from a sporting perspective. The troubled Maradona—who faced so much legal and media attention off the field, and was constantly chopped down and fouled by players on it—was back. This was a human drama, a comeback story. He seemed older and more driven—angry, almost—but he still possessed otherworldly skill, only to be found guilty of cheating and forced to leave the tournament in shame.

In England, the response to his doping was vitriolic to say the least. In 1986, Maradona had almost singlehandedly dispatched the English, once with a little help from “the hand of God”, and once with the most brilliant goal I have ever seen (worth at least two as far as I’m concerned). Maradona was already a cheat, the English declared, and his doping in 1994 only confirmed it—he could now be properly punished. It was presented as a morality play. But was Maradona more sinner or sinned against? My sadness at his ban had more to do with the fall of a tragic hero than the fact that he had broken the rules. I don’t want to absolve him of wrongdoing, but it seems to me that Maradona’s cheating was more a by-product of the world in which he found himself. The poor son of the Buenos Aires ghetto with this supreme talent found himself almost overwhelmed by his celebrity, unable to cope with his transformation and the counsel he received from people who stood to benefit from his success on the field. On the field, opponents found the only way to slow him down was to cut his legs out from underneath him. This was no game anymore.

I stopped playing soccer shortly after my professional trial. A few months later, I fell in love and in 1997 I became a father. I stopped playing soccer because my priorities shifted, and I have barely played at all in the past decade. I have never missed it. And I do not follow the sport today. Somewhere along the line, soccer shifted from play to something more serious. I always took soccer seriously, but I lost my joy of training, and games were no longer fun. I loved the process of play, the work involved. But by the time I put my boots in my bag and buried them at the back of my garage, it seemed as though winning at any cost was the rule. On a much more modest scale, this was no game anymore.

More recently, I find my exercise in cycling, where I can enjoy the solitary struggle. Cycling can certainly be a social activity, but after years of soccer, something about the solitude of cycling alone appeals to me. The pleasure is derived in a rekindling of the difficult balance of work and play. Technique and fitness on the one hand, but also the sheer exhilaration of freedom the bike affords. This is play. Cycling is about getting up early to fit in a ride and thrilling at the crispness of the pre-dawn air as I click into my pedals. And the light whizz of the chain as I roll up my street, and the tightness across my chest and lungs when I’m confronted with a hill. And then going harder. I ride for me, for fitness, for pleasure. The more I ride, the more I appreciate the nature of cycling aestheticism and technique. But that’s not why I ride.

As a teenager, I read Alan Sillitoe’s The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, a short story about a boy in juvenile detention who finds solace in running. His story is not dissimilar from a number of accounts—true and fictional—of talented endurance athletes—cyclists and runners—who lose themselves in their discipline as a means of escape. The harder they run/ride, the more they are very evidently running/riding away from something. In that context, it might be worth noting that my rides are always loops and I am intent on returning. But the ride—alone—is a kind of solace. The tragedy of Sillitoe’s story, though, is that his protagonist is presented with an opportunity to get out of detention if he wins a race, thereby gaining prestige for his borstal. He speeds away from the others, but stops just short of the line—to the shock and disappointment of his wardens. Running—and running quickly—is his lone gift, his only escape, and he will not exchange it, even for his freedom. In his running he is free.

In riding I am free, and I have become a total convert to cycling, whose professional scene was dealt a severe blow with the US Anti-Doping Agency’s presentation of its evidence against Lance Armstrong, which has brought with it numerous confessions from a generation of North American cyclists who rode with Armstrong on the US Postal team. Among these is the Canadian Michael Barry, who I have admired as much for his exquisite writing as I have for his lucid pedal stroke. In Le Métier, Barry offers a chilling perspective of the professional cycling world. One of airports, dingy hotels, fatigue, pain. Re-reading passages of his book this week suggest shadows of Barry’s secret and his doping past. Le métier can translate loosely into English as “the job,” but a better translation probably revolves around something like “the trade” or “the craft,” stressing both technique and experience.

In Barry’s hands le métier is also something just this side of an addiction. He describes in vivid prose the struggle and agony inherent in professional cycling—the crashes, the hospital rooms, the suffering, the travel, the stress, the exhaustion. Always exhaustion. For the professional cyclist, racing bicycles is not a game and there is no place for Sillitoe’s romantic irreverence. Cold-hearted numbers, dollars, and seconds rule. It’s a beautiful and moving read, Le Métier. And through Barry’s exhaustion, one might infer an almost natural—pragmatic—descent from painkillers and recovery vitamins to EPO, testosterone, and blood transfusions.

I am saddened by the reaction of people both outside the cycling world and inside who dismiss and demonise individual cyclists with accusatory finger-pointing when clearly a much more sinister system of doping in the sport was in place. Twitter is not the right conduit for these discussions, where 140 characters is insufficient for uncovering the nuances behind any individual’s decision to dope or not to dope. The question is not whether or not one athlete or another did or did not cheat. Nor is there a black and white spectrum of morality and betrayal; the line is never that clear, especially the closer you get to the sport. The purity or sanctity of play is not tainted by the actions of a single rider who dopes, but rather by the machine that has systematically turned sport into big business and athletes into commodities. This is where the Armstrong saga gets ugly. Owners, managers, doctors, and team pressures created environments where doping was regimented and commonplace, and aspiring professional riders were shepherded through a well-orchestrated series of steps to the point where doping seemed inevitable, necessary, and maybe not all that bad. I don’t think this excuses doping, but I think it points to the extant pressures that give rise to a culture of doping.

And to that end, maybe cycling is unique not for its widespread problem with performance enhancing drugs, but for the fact that it has done more than any other sport to identify and confront the doping in its midst. Entertain the thought. The soccer I left almost 20 years ago has changed radically. Over 90 minutes, players today cover almost twice as much ground in an average game than Maradona did in 1986. The game is much faster. Ice hockey, too. And American football.

While there have been remarkable advances made in sports science in recent years, to profess that doping won’t help in other sports is to stick one’s head in the sand. My instinct is that more extensive and aggressive doping tests in other professional sports would knock down a massive house of cards. If there are advantages to be gained, if there is money to be made—and it pains me to be so cynical—systematic methods of doping will occur, frequently putting the athlete’s health and well-being at risk. And the parallels exist outside of sport. Athletes are not the only people prone to temptation in order to get ahead, and they are often enough as much victims of the necessities of surviving in their métier. The difference is that they are placed in a dubious spotlight and held up to be role models.

My soccer career never got me so far as to be faced with the difficult questions about where exactly the line between love and duty lay—or the line between responsibility to myself or to my employer. For me, ultimately, the tragedy of Diego Maradona was that his genius made this sinister world seem like play until it all came crashing down. For Michael Barry, it stems from the theft of the pleasure he derived from cycling because of le métier. Watching my own children grow up, though, I do worry about how play and process have become secondary to success in all manner of endeavours, even as we go to great lengths to stress the former.

Michael Egan is an associate professor of history at McMaster University, Hamilton. He is the recipient of the 2012 Petro-Canada Young Innovator Award, which is funding the development of a collaborative research project with his undergraduate students on the environmental history of the bicycle.

The third edition of Le Métier by Michael Barry and Camille McMillan is available from Rouleur

 

Safety Catch

November 8, 2012


Words: Guy Andrews

In 1992 when Chris Boardman won gold in Barcelona very few people in the world outside of cycling had heard of him. In the UK he was only really familiar to those of us who read the cycling press or rode the occasional time trial in the North West.

Cycling was small news in 1992. Those of us involved in the cycling press watched as the newspapers went gold medal crazy for a day or two. Then Sally Gunnell and Linford Christie took over, and the press moved on. Chris Boardman’s follow up in the mainstream media was all about the Lotus superbike and his ‘silly helmet’ and that was the end of that.

At that time I rode a bike to work in London. That evening, when Boardman won the Olympic pursuit, I was riding out to a race and as I weaved through the stationary traffic, a motorist leant out of his window and told me Boardman had won. I was delighted and so was he. This was the first time somebody acknowledged that I, as a cyclist, existed, and an exchange with a car driver took place that did not question my parentage. For once I felt included, identified and proud.

Riding in London has been an extraordinary experience, mainly in how humans behave towards one another. I have been punched (twice), kicked, spat on, been ‘egged’ and called all sorts of colourful names. And I’ve been knocked off too (who hasn’t?) car-doored (twice), run into the kerb (a particular favourite of cabbies it seems…).

When I first moved to London it was buses, skip lorries and cabs we all knew to avoid. Nowadays every moving vehicle is a potential hazard. I’m not sure there was a tipping point as such, it’s just gotten worse. Four-by-fours and the attitude that goes with them have been a notable shift and the school run is a particular problem area in London – put the two together and it’s a disaster. Cyclists long for half term and the back end of August when the roads are empty and the 4 x 4s have decamped to Tuscany, although the problem is only amplified when they return: too many journeys and too much traffic.

People take the most ludicrous risks to get their kids to school: drive too fast, don’t pay attention and then… But you know all this, you don’t need me to tell you. Cycling in London during the last summer, for a couple of weeks at any rate, was a joy though. The Wiggo effect and the all-round good feeling spread through the public and the traffic was courteous for a while. A cab even stopped to let me out in some traffic (the shock nearly brought me off) and it reminded me of that summer evening in 1992.

The statistics are still pretty frightening though. The fact that the majority of road deaths in London this year involve ‘professional’ drivers makes me wonder why we let people with no concern for others drive at all. Scaffolding lorries are particularly troublesome. It makes you wonder why we don’t have a personality test rather than a driving test. If they’d happily beat the shit out of you in a pub for not supporting the right football team, they’re hardly going to pass you with due consideration on a country lane, are they?

Cycling in fast traffic is like a race, although don’t expect anyone to be looking out for you, like pointing out potholes or warning you of parked cars. Consideration for others is something that even fellow ‘cyclists’ now ignore. I am not a particularly anarchic rider, nor am I dangerous, risky or aggressive. I know a lot of riders who can be and I see some shocking riding these days – not just jumping red lights and coasting through pedestrian crossings, but idiots doing really stupid, dangerous stuff. To the bystander, this is seen as cyclists being cyclists and we all get blamed.

We need to pull together, abide by the rules and stop shouting at one another. As Alexi Sayle once said in an interview: “When we start behaving badly, we’re just the same as them.” He’s right. It’s all about everybody having courtesy. That and slowing down a bit.

But the needs of the few far outweigh the needs of the many when it comes to sharing the roads. I’ve long thought that maybe we should pay to ride on the road, take a riding test, wear a helmet even… if I thought it would make a difference, which it won’t. In the UK the car is king, over all of us. It’s a cultural thing and deeply rooted in the psyche of the British. Statistically we’re as much at risk walking down the pavement as we are on a bike – I guarantee one driver will ride head-long at the pedestrians at Highbury Corner every night I pass through on my bike. I regularly see it; twenty or thirty unprotected pedestrians forced to scatter by one simpleton who’s late for his tea.

You see, when you get behind the wheel of a car in Britain, you are immediately in the right; you’re the boss. And that’s the bit that needs to change. An insurance assessor once said to me: “If you want to kill someone and get away with it, buy them a bike and run them over.”

Until the police, government and public realise that there is a huge disconnect here, nothing will change. If British Cycling are reading, I ask them to encourage our latest group of winners to do something for all cyclists in Britain. We need to change attitudes rather than get distracted with road ‘safety’ issues that aren’t really that important – the time is now.

Give Them Enough Rope

November 1, 2012

Words: Matt Seaton Photos: Paolo Ciaberta

From Rouleur issue 35, coming soon

In 1990, former Irish professional cyclist Paul Kimmage published Rough Ride, his memoir of racing in the pro peloton. In it, he gave a detailed account of a sport in which doping was endemic.

In 1991, Hein Verbruggen became president of the UCI, a post he held until stepping down in 2005. He remains its honorary president.

In late April and early May 2010, Floyd Landis admitted doping throughout his career in a series of e-mails sent to the head of USA Cycling and others. The story was broken by the Wall Street Journal. In those e-mails, Landis alleged that his former team-mate Lance Armstrong paid the UCI to hush up a positive test in 2001; Landis said that Armstrong himself had told him this. The UCI denied the story, saying that no rider had tested positive in the Tour de Suisse that year.

In late May 2010, at the Giro d’Italia, UCI president Pat McQuaid gave a press conference where he appeared to regret the UCI having accepted Armstrong’s donation. At that time McQuaid said there had been a single payment in 2005 of $100,000, which he denied was a bribe: “We didn’t think there’s a conflict of interest.”

At a subsequent press conference, in July, he affirmed that, in fact, the UCI had also received a personal cheque from Armstrong for $25,000 in 2002, which was used to pay for dope testing in junior races. The further sum of $100,000 came from Armstrong’s management company in 2005, at the point at which the American had announced his first retirement, and only after a reminder from the UCI. That amount was used to pay for a Sysmex blood testing machine.

McQuaid said that he did not know why it had taken Armstrong “so long to eventually pay up”. Nor did he shed light on who had contacted Armstrong to chase up the payment.

In July 2010, Landis repeated his story in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. In November 2010, Paul Kimmage interviewed Floyd Landis. Their seven hour conversation became the basis for a Sunday Times article but the full transcript was published in early 2011 by the US website nyvelocity.

In it, Landis says that Lance Armstrong forced him to apologise to then UCI president Hein Verbruggen. The reason? A statement that Landis had made to the press over a contractual dispute he’d had prior to joining US Postal. Landis alleges that part of Armstrong’s persuasion that it was necessary to cowtow to the UCI was the revelation the Texan had tested positive at the Tour de Suisse in 2001 but that the governing body had suppressed the information.

In May 2012, Tyler Hamilton told CBS’ 60 Minutes that Armstrong had shared the same story with him. In September 2012, he repeated the allegation in detail in his book The Secret Race. According to Hamilton’s co-author, Dan Coyle: “What happened next was a call was made from cycling’s body, UCI, that this test should go no further, this matter should end here. There was a meeting between Armstrong, his coach and the lab and then there was also a $125,000 donation from Armstrong to the UCI.’’ Armstrong’s lawyer Tim Herman responded by saying that Armstrong and his directeur sportif Johan Bruyneel had “no recollection” of any such meeting. The UCI has denied any cover up and any connection between Armstrong’s suspect test and the anti-doping donations.

The now famous Usada report released in October 2012 contains the same account, backed by sworn affidavits from Hamilton and Landis. Usada also has testimony from the director of the Swiss laboratory, Dr Martial Saugy, who said that the UCI had confirmed to him that one of several suspicious test results for EPO use belonged to Lance Armstrong. Saugy also confirmed that, in 2002, he did meet with Armstrong and Bruyneel to discuss the implications of the Tour de Suisse suspect samples.

The Usada report also notes that: “Pat McQuaid, the current president of UCI, has acknowledged that Lance Armstrong and Johan Bruyneel visited the UCI headquarters in Aigle in May 2002 and offered at least $100,000 to help the development of cycling.”

In a Swiss court in April 2011, the UCI launched defamation proceedings against Landis over the 2001/2002 bribe allegation. In October 2012, just days before the Usada report was released, the court found in favour of the UCI by default; Landis denied having been served the papers and did not appear to defend himself. Landis’ lawyer has said that the Swiss court’s ruling has no jurisdiction over the American.

There is precedent for the UCI’s action here: in 2008, the UCI sued the former head of Wada, Richard Pound, after critical remarks he had made about the UCI’s failure to tackle doping in cycling; the case was settled in 2009, without a retraction by Pound and with no damages paid.

In December 2011, the UCI started a defamation suit against Paul Kimmage. Kimmage said he did not receive notification of the action until January 2012 – coincidentally after he had been laid off by his employer, the Sunday Times, in a round of cost cutting measures.

Kimmage and McQuaid go back a long way. In 1985 – some 20 years before he became UCI president – Pat McQuaid was team manager for the Irish squad at the amateur road race World Championships. Kimmage finished sixth that year, behind Maurizio Fondriest. Kimmage says McQuaid has treated him as persona non grata ever since the publication of Rough Ride. But when it comes to the present lawsuit, Kimmage is in no doubt: “Verbruggen is driving this.”

As has been noted by Kimmage’s former Sunday Times colleague David Walsh, himself a longtime crusader against Lance Armstrong’s dope-cheating, the UCI is not suing any publication or media outlet that has aired the allegation – not the Wall Street Journal, nor L’Équipe, nor Bantam Press (Hamilton’s publisher), nor CBS Television, nor any website. Instead, it has chosen to go after an individual journalist who is now unemployed and has no institutional backing.

Asked about the Kimmage case in a recent interview, Dick Pound commented: “Verbruggen and Armstrong and so on have resorted to the institution of legal proceedings. Not so much to collect money, but to stifle any dissent or opposition.”

In September 2012, a legal defence fund for Paul Kimmage was set up by the nyvelocity and cyclismas websites. Within weeks, it had raised over $60,000 through individual donations from grassroots cyclists and cycling fans. Kimmage says that the fundraising effort is not about him: “For the majority of people who’ve contributed to this fund, it’s a total vote against the UCI.” Kimmage was due to appear on 12 December 2012, at Vevey in Switzerland, close to the UCI headquarters in Aigle. Usada witness and Garmin manager Jonathan Vaughters has indicated his support for Kimmage. And in a recent interview with the Guardian’s Donald Macrae, Tyler Hamilton was asked about the UCI lawsuit.

“It’s mind-boggling,” he said. “I just hope journalists keep asking the tough questions and we stick up for Paul Kimmage and others fighting for a clean sport.”

The timing of the Usada report’s release has raised the stakes enormously. What began as a petty vendetta for the sake of Verbruggen’s vanity has now put the spotlight directly on the governance of the sport and the UCI’s role in overseeing the sport’s dirty decades of systemic doping pioneered by Lance Armstrong during Verbruggen’s tenure.

On Monday 22 October, McQuaid convened a press conference at which he announced that the UCI recognised the Usada Decision on Armstrong. If you read the small print of the UCI report, you discovered how grudgingly that recognition was given. When challenged about the Kimmage case, McQuaid claimed it had nothing to do with the Armstrong revelations, was simply a private issue of defending his and his predecessor’s reputation from defamation, and would proceed as planned.

By Friday, facing a tide of criticism and protest, he’d been forced to reverse this position. The UCI announced the formation of an independent commission into the UCI’s role in the Armstrong doping history – and that the UCI’s legal action (and, necessarily, Verbruggen’s and McQuaid’s) against Kimmage was being suspended.

Even before this preliminary humiliation, McQuaid must have been bitterly regretting ever going along with Hein’s folly. And now, if Kimmage is never required to defend the action, it will probably be because the positions of the UCI president and vice-president have become untenable.

In any case, Kimmage is now mobilised – with a host of supporters and financing behind him. Regardless of the defamation case’s suspension, he has promised to “unleash hell” on his UCI persecutors. And he will not now rest until the reforms he has always argued are necessary have come.

Matt Seaton is editor of Comment is Free America for the Guardian