On Vino, Kolobnev, and the 2010 Liege-Bastogne-Liege

Fotoreporter Sirotti

Let’s all calm down for a second and take a look at what we know, and what we’re told, and why. 

We know that the winner of Liege-Bastogne-Liege receives 20,000Euro, and the runner-up receives 10,000Euro. 

A Swiss magazine claims to have emails between Alexander Vinokourov and Alexandr Kolobnev. Here is their article – based on “emails that [the magazine has] procured,” the magazine claims that Vino bought the race from Kolobnev for $100,000. What do we know about the reputation of this magazine, L’Illustre? I don’t know anything, except that it seems that they are willing to either hack or lie to sell magazines. Based on the emails, it seems that Kolonev admits to allowing Vino to win, and that bank information was exchanged.

This is suspicious. However, whether this is proof that the race was bought and sold really depends on the veracity of the emails that L’Illustre has. You’ll forgive me for having a hard time trusting the reputation of a magazine willing to be known to “procure” private emails, presumably without consent. Tut-tuts on Twitter about cheating conveniently ignore this. 

I can’t help but wonder if the righteous moral outrage that’s followed this story is due to the fact that it’s Vino, a polarizing figure who was popped for blatant doping, served his ban, and came back to top  levels of competition. I think that those who love to hate him, this news is simply convenient fuel for the same “populist angst among cycling fans” that makes us “all feel really self-righteous,” as Cosmo of Cyclocosm initially said of Vino’s Liege-Bastogne-Liege victory in How The Race Was Won.

Why? Well, when Joe Parkin’s A Dog in a Hat came out, stories about the purchasing of races seemed to me to be treated by fans as a unique and salty facet of a gritty, dynamic sport.  Should there have been outrage? No. Inner Ring elaborates: collusion among opponents is the essence of bike racing. Your enemy today is your ally tomorrow. 

Based on the alleged emails, it certainly appears that Kolobnev may have let Vinokourov win. Paying to win is objectionable, but save your outrage for facts you can rely on. And if you can’t do that, at least save your outrage for the guy who may have sat up, not the guy who rode hard all the way to the finish line. 

What do you think? Share your comments below. 


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6 Responses to On Vino, Kolobnev, and the 2010 Liege-Bastogne-Liege

  1. Touriste-Routier says:

    While very well stated, Ryan has resurfaced to write a great post on this subject at:http://www.theservicecourse.com/ His post examines the flip side of the story.

  2. Ben says:

    Ok the veracity of the email is important. I also agree with the points of INRNG that collusion as he puts in makes cycling more interesting. However, there is a difference between gifting a stage in return for either future or past help, working together for seperate goals (e.g. leaders jersey for one rider, stage for the other) and collusion involving money. If the email is real, then there are no excuses, it doesn't matter that Vino rode hard to the end of the race, if he exchanged money for the victory he cheated, simple as.

  3. stanley says:

    Moral outrage from cycling fans…pffft. If you pay 100 USD/100 GBP for a ticket to a ballgame, yeah, feel free to heckle or rage against blatant cheating. But the dumbest guys in any bike race are the self-proclaimed morally superior anti-doping crusaders. The guys who wear surgeon kits, wave giant syringes or steaks in riders faces. Who the hell gave them the right to harass and impose their views on the riders? They've paid nothing. They get their sport for free. Is that a Molteni shirt? You like Eddy? Doped to the gills. Coppi? Like Keith Richards, only skinnier. If, on the other hand, you're a rider trying to make it on the highest level, you've earned the right to have your say, loudly.

    I'd like to know how many of those who now criticise Vino would name Andy Schleck as one of their favorites. Good looking and smiling Andy. So good looking that Dries Devenyns of QuickStep buried himself for Andy on the 18th stage in this year's Tour.

    In the end, I want racing, I want entertainment, and Vino has always been a great rider to watch. Given all his 2nd's Kolobnev probably would have liked a win but felt uncertain whether he could do it, I see no wrong if he went for the cash.

  4. Big Mikey says:

    Stanley +1
    You put into words how I've been feeling lately about the vitriolic outrage over doping. Seems to me the sense of outrage is outsized given the relative offense, and that most of the pro peleton has been PED'ing for several decades. Let's enforce a level playing field to be sure, but keep it all in perspective in the meantime.

    If a guy wants to sell a win to someone else, sure. He's the one that got himself into position to sell the win, so as long as he shares the proceeds with the team, carry on. It's his business, and we have precious little to say about it.

  5. Pingback: inrng : the moment the race was won - the olympics

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