Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Truth Costs

In May 2011, Neil Browne posted an inoffensive tweet about Lance Armstrong which the man himself couldn't leave alone. After this now infamous exchange, Neil was fired by NBC Sports/Versus. 

Here, Neil's wife Pamela Wood-Browne shares how "questioning the Armstrong myth" affected them. 

In October last year when the USADA Reasoned Decision hit, you posted on Google Plus “Proud my husband Neil Browne has been one of the truthtellers about doping in cycling even though there have been costs.” Neil said himself the costs of not being pro Lance were the NBC Sports firing and losing other writing gigs. Were there other costs? 

It is hard to know of all the possible jobs or freelance gigs Neil missed out on because he questioned the Armstrong myth in his writing. He was told of instances when pro cyclists were reluctant to risk having him work for them and had interviews where he was questioned about “being controversial.” Other losses included being blacklisted from interviews, financial support for our local cycling website, and even suddenly being removed from his rewarding mentor role with the Hincapie U23 team. Sometimes it was just the noticeable lack of friendly interactions when he was covering races.

What kind of relationship did Neil/yourself have with NBC Sports/Versus prior to the firing?

Neil wrote a regular column and additional coverage of cycling. When they added live chats to their TV coverage of the Tour de France we produced them and that expanded into producing their live chats for other races.

Did Neil foresee anything like NBC Sports firing him if he refused to be pro Lance?

No, it was a complete shock especially since it was such an innocuous Twitter exchange that was the cause. I mean really? Fired because Lance Armstrong called him a douchebag?

Was that tweet exchange the catalyst to his firing and losing other gigs?

That exchange was supposed to be the reason but it seemed that there was more behind it. That exchange also was the birth of the “Neil ruined cycling” meme. Announcer Dave Towle jumped in supporting Lance and accusing Neil of ruining cycling. It was so absurd that people continue to joke about it today even though few people remember the origin.

What was the effect of the Versus/NBC Sports firing and other job losses? Was there any financial worry? 

Losing the work with Versus/NBC Sports was a big financial blow for us. We moved to Greenville in 2009 to help my elderly parents whose situation had taken a major turn. I was especially grateful that we made the sudden move (we planned to move there later) because my dad died 8 months later. When we moved Neil was expecting to have work with Road Magazine but that commitment unfortunately turned out to be a mirage. Since then we’ve worked to build a business together as Browne Eye Media. We were finally getting our financial footing with our work for Versus and launch of in 2010. In a short time we took a big hit. Just as we were leaving to cover the 2011 Tour of California we got the word that it would be our last gig for Versus and when we got home we were notified that Hincapie Sports was cancelling their advertisements on our site.

How did it affect you emotionally?

It’s been hard with both the stress of financial and family concerns, as well as, seeing Neil lose opportunities he should have had. We’ve put our heart and soul into contributing to the sport of cycling, both bringing more attention to the sport locally and creating interactive opportunities for cycling fans worldwide.

Did Neil receive any “unpleasantries” as a result of the tweet? And were any of these people other journos/media people? Did you?

There have been events that we used to attend that we stopped being invited to and obvious snubs, even some friends told us they couldn’t speak to us in public.

Had Neil had any altercations with LA or his people before that tweet exchange? Or any kind of a similar negative reaction during his career for not being pro lance?

I’m not aware of any incidents, unless you count being blocked on Twitter by Lance. Quite a few people have had that honor though.

What kind of a toll did this take on yourselves and your relationship?

We've had some health challenges that we attribute to the stress over the past few years, which of course add to the financial stress. It’s been a long time since we've been able to spend some relaxed time together.

Neil also said this under your October Google Plus post: “the Hincapies have black-balled as well as ostracized me on a local level…it was George’s people that wanted me to be quiet and go away.” Has this changed/improved? Have they apologised? If not, do you expect them to?

Neil appreciated getting a call from Rich Hincapie apologizing and stating that Neil had been right. Ironically, at the same time that the Hincapies had been distancing themselves from us, we had been accused of being too soft on them in our coverage for our local cycling site.

How did you react to Fat Cyclist’s recent post about Lance warning him not to go on Tour Chats saying he should be prepared to be attacked by Neil?

That was really surprising to us, that our show would be in Lance’s circle of concern.

In seven words or less, sum up the Lance/Oprah interview

Stunning first few moments, then, awkward disaster.

And moving on! What exciting things do you have planned for Tour Chats and Browne Eye Media that you can share?

We’re excited by our recent move to Spreecast. Our focus on a live interactive format has its technological challenges and Spreecast is doing a great job of creating the best tool. They have some great mobile-friendly developments coming which will be awesome!

Finally, will you guys be making to it to Louisville this month for the World Cyclocross Championships?

Neil and I will be at the Worlds and we’ll be looking for TourChats fans in the crowds!

Follow Pamela and Neil on Twitter @wellsoulbikes and @neilroad

Friday, January 18, 2013

That's so Couch - the Doprahfication of Cycling


Oprahfication: a Wall Street Journal coined term meaning "public confession as a form of therapy"

Doprah: a pithy hashtag coined by @iworedettos (I think)

Dope: can also mean stupid

Oprahfication pervades other areas of society and was always going to hit cycling. In fact it has already. First David Millar (anti doping team, book) Landis (with Kimmage?), then Tyler (60 minutes, book), and Jonathan Vaughters (Twitter).

As Lance can always be counted on to be the best at everything, including delicious irony, it came as no surprise he's gone for some rapport talk with the source herself.

It also came as no surprise to many others including the co-host of CBS This Morning, Charlie Rose who along with Oprah's BFF, Gayle King and some other lady, interviewed Oprah post Lance interview. Rose said he emailed Lance himself to try and get THE interview but from his body language you knew he knew he'd got pwned. Barbara Walters said to Gayle King on The View (aired here yesterday - yep, Gayle was doing the hard yards for Oprah!) she also tried to get Lance adding "I don't think anyone didn't try to get THAT interview." Even though her face can only now express one emotion, you knew she knew Oprah is the best.

Before the cycling press opted to cover LAOprah ad nauseum for click/klout bait purposes, indignation came. Their sense of entitlement was expressed in social media posts going something like this "What, he should be facing us, he owes us." Some of these reactions came from journos who only in 2011 were fawning over and laughing with Lance in the back of a van at the Tour Down Under while Cameron Meyer was pushed off the stage by the SA Premier.

It takes a village filled with good and bad journalists, anti doping crusaders and a peloton of lancestruck riders to make a sport about one person and make that one person bigger than their sport. It should be no surprise then when that one person continues to be bigger than your sport and stage manages a confession with probably no apologies to the people who really count. Oh and Cav, I would've reacted the same way as you the other day when journalists kept asking you about Lance after you were polite a few times but you weren't 10 when you rode in the same peloton as him.


Phil's Tatt

This description from @brassyn seems apt "Is PhilGil serious about that tattoo? I'm hoping baby AGil just got creative with his felt pens."


Nothing to say about this really. But it sucks some men can roll out of bed and still look pretty damn good.


Cav's outfit for some reason makes me think of this  (hat tip, @bethanykeats)

Kit - GreenEdge vs Sky

No, I don't mean which one looks better but who supplies their riders better.

Here's the kit supply Michael Matthews recently received tweeting just before it he was pumped to get all his kit.

And here's Ben Swift's.

Tweets - Lost in Translation

Australian BMX'er Sam Willoughby tells us what he gets up to in his spare time.

And with that, goodbye - enjoy LAOprah coming up in 5,4,3,2.....


Friday, January 11, 2013

Fridays on the Couch

Here's a collection of some good reads, blogs, pictures or vids I've found this week on t'internet

Obituary of Wendy Law Suart 

"In 1946, at 19, she and her equally adventurous school friend, Shirley Duncan, 21, were dissuaded from travelling across war-ravaged Europe and instead opted to ride their Malvern Stars to Queensland." 

Read more about this adventurous pair and their battle to conquer the continent on their bikes here. I'd really love to get my hands on the book too. 

(Hat tip: @cyclingnirvana)

Jack Bobridge 

"Everyone's got to grow up at some point"
You may have already read this article but if not, it's a great insight into the lad and his 2012, which you could almost say was his annus horribilis. Even more surprising is his silent struggle. 

The Buffalo Soldiers who Rode Bikes 
The steep descent presented more danger; Moss and his men had to walk their bicycles, all the while digging in their heels, lest they lose their footing and plummet downslope. Surely, they must have breathed a collective sigh of relief once the Continental Divide was behind them. But more challenges lay ahead.
Read more here

Best of 2012 Aussie Women's Cycling

OK, so I saw this in December but I still wanted to include it. Russ Mullo has put together a brief video of the best 2012 Australian women's cycling moments. Check it out here.

Australian Institute of Sport women's road cycling program abolished due to funding cuts

Because this got buried by Oprah, I'm including this article. Wonder what the consequences will be. 

Cyclocross World Cup Round 7  - Rome. Women's Race

It's rare to see women's racing, so putting a link for that reason. 

David vs Goliath Battle for the Green(Edge) and Gold

"For the women's..and the men's race,it's pretty much a battle of everyone versus Orica-GreenEDGE...but when that team turns up with 16 riders at the national champs, well that's just bullshit! Like turning up to a fistfight with an AK47, they've got the numbers and the armoury to outgun all-comers." 
Loving Jono Lovelock's contributions over at The Roar, read the rest of this piece for even more gems.

Photo gallery of Burry Stander's career. 

Rest in Peace. 

Herald Sun Tour Photo Gallery

See all four days' galleries at Peloton Cafe


Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Chasing Pro Wheels

Fellow tweep, Catherine, or @Meowclank, from Auckland is so in love with cycling, she's sold up her car and chucked in her job to chase the wheels of the pros in some parts of the world. First stop - the TourDown Under. I caught up with her before she left for Adelaide and faced with her first time ever at a pro cycling race, I found one very excited cycling nut. 

Soyou sold your car to fund your trip to the TDU and beyond?I’ve sold pretty much everything.  I will be living out of a rucksack for the next year!

How long have you been planning this trip?About 2 years in my mind, but in actuality I booked my ticket to Adelaide in August.  The whole reasoning was to go to the Giro.  I had only seen the photos in magazines before this year, but as soon as I saw the live streaming I wanted to go.  The whole vibe is so different from TDF.

What are you looking forward to the most? The whole thing: riders, people, competition, bikes, seeing friends & having a holiday.

On a scale of 1-10 where 10 is most excited, how excited are you about going?Now I’m at about 7, but I’ll be a 10 this time next week.

Whythe TDU?It’s the first stop.  From NZ with the start of a new year it was the logical choice.  I’ve seen a few bits of it before when back in England and since, but as with most sporting events, it is just not the same as being there.

When are you arriving and are you staying for the whole race? I fly from Auckland on 19th January.  I am staying the whole race & hopefully see a little bit of OZ for the weeks following. 

Meetingup with anyone you've met on Twitter through cycling?Yes.  There are quite a few of us, staying in the same hotel for the most part, but we are sharing the driving & the excitement.  Some are old hands at TDU and then me as a first-timer.

When did you become a fan of cycling? And how?My brother had little plastic figures when we were kids with all the TDF jerseys.  When we played he was always Eddie Merckx and I was Lucien van Impe!  I think at the age of 5 or 6 I just liked the name, but still have a soft spot for small climbers.  I lost interest during the USPS years, although I love to watch the TTT spectacle.  When you’re watching something like Rabotini & Rodriguez last year it was just amazing & you’re not thinking about are they on PEDs or anything.  I think we all picked up on @mmmaiko’s ‘Platoon Boy” spotting last year as just how we all felt after the race had finished – sinking to hi sknees in relief & exhaustion. Hopefully on the “world tour” I will get to Ronde Vande Velde or Paris Roubaix.

Fave riders?Many of my faves will not be at TDU, but I am looking forward to seeing Philippe Gilbert and Andy Schleck of course.   I’m not a devout team follower, although I am partial to OPQS, but at TDU I’m going to be with a lot of BMC fans so I will have to be adaptable!  To compensate me for this though I will be treated to EBH and am pleased that the Lotto boys are gracing the competition. I haven’t seen the full start list yet so I may find some other faves who coming sown for a spot of summer.

You ride yourself?Not very well.  I used to but not so much.  Took the bike for a spin 2 days ago for the first time in a year!  Today the bike left to be tarted up for under-privileged children.  I’m sure it will have a good home.

Tour de Couch wishes Catherine all the best in her travels and hopes to check in her with at the Classics 

Monday, January 7, 2013

That's so Couch - Passing the Time

Money's tight here at at the House of Couch and we can't afford a calendar. Rather than rely on the Mayans, I've decided to instead rely on pro cycling.

I know it's December/January because the following has happened:

The cycling media need to mention Lance to feel relevant again Lance needs to feel relevant again. Noticing on his own calendar it is January, he hasn't raced for awhile and the city of Adelaide has changed the locks, this story appeared about a possible Lance confession. Weighing an admission? So in other words, he's just debating whether he will have a press conference about his doping and the fact he did dope is therefore not in question?  Of course any confession will no doubt mention how everyone was doing it, he just leveled the playing field. But you can imagine something like this will be playing in his head.

Lance's confession of course also provoked this sort of reaction from some in Twitterville:

"Just tweeting this & other tweets to let u kno how much I don't care about LA confession,", of course followed by the hashtag #lanceconfession to deprive yet more oxygen from the Lance issue.

Fans with Typewriters in other sports, just journos obsessed with doping when reporting cycling, need to feel relevant again/one has a new hurried book to shift....Anti Doping Crusader Paul Kimmage raises suspicions about Sky. David Walsh says Sky's fine. Somewhere in between lies the truth, especially about Mick Rogers. In  this video of his and Nicholas Roche's visit to Saxo Tinkoff he explains his reasoning for leaving Sky. (Anyone notice Nicholas looks as in pain as he does when he tries to top 10 in a grand tour when they explain financial-y stuff and things). But one day, someone will find out how Wiggins really won last year's Tour. I watched the race, so I can easily start to believe this theory:

Is Wiggins part robot?

French Teams Discover Social Media - Riders Get Bored and Make Videos

Cycling "Photographers" get bored and "write" blog posts defending meal tickets Lance
If you can get past the first paragraph, you deserve a Graham Watson 2013 calendar. Let's hope Graham remembers it's about the bike and other cyclists and doesn't extend his portfolio and include  stuff like this in his calendar, books, and websites. 

Sky tries to steer away from doping  Teams reveal new kit It's no Rapha Condor but the Sky Rapha kit is pretty hot. Although, why so shiny/rubbery looking? Is it to make it easier to wash down the Andes yak milk that ejaculates from bidons specially made from organic polymers of high molecular mass, because a MAMIL/MAFIL throws it around in excitement after achieving another Strava personal record? Probably.

Do I want it? Absolutely.