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The VV View – Ain’t no Smoke Without Fire?


The splendidly named ‘Bugatti and Musker’ released a disco classic in 1976; ‘Ain’t no Smoke Without Fire,’ it’s about a guy who’s worrying that his girl is straying.

“Please don’t do nothin’ to make me ashamed of you … when I heard the news it broke me in two…”

But it could just as well have been written about cycling’s problems.

If you love the sport, really love it – not just the ‘Glam Gigs’ as Viktor would call the Grand Tours and Flanders Classics then the doping sagas break your heart.

Or maybe I’m a sad old fool?

Ain’t no Smoke Without Fire
Tiernan-Locke reckons he drank 33 units in a binge session a few days before riding his first elite Worlds Road Champs.

But surely we’re all desperate for it be squeaky clean, shining bright, heroic, majestic – whilst the storms which break these days aren’t on the Festina/Telekom/Lance scale, they still cause a lot of damage, bring a lot of trees down, cause me to ponder.

And the powers that be do little to help; can someone explain to me why it takes three years to bring the ‘Kreuziger Affair’ to a head?

And a year to empty the puss from the Jonathan Tiernan-Locke boil – but not actually clear up the infection.

More of JTL in a moment, though.

But first, what are TUE’s (Therapeutic Use Exemptions) all about, we wonder?

The people we know who we speak to about these things tell us that if you’re so sick that you need prednisolone – as Chris Froome did in the Tour de Romandie – then the last thing you should be doing is riding a World Tour bike race.

We’re also lead to believe that cortisone wouldn’t help you if you were suffering from bronchitis; for a man suffering from said ailment Chris Horner looked very much like a rider nicely building form when we saw him in the last week of the Tour.

And we can’t help but muse; ‘would he have started, let alone won the 2013 Vuelta if Trek were members of MPCC?’

And before we talk about JTL we can’t say we’re delighted about WADA campaigning for retrospective testing for growth hormone abuse in cycling; more scandal and Troll fodder is all that will provide – can we please look forward, it’s much more productive.

Ain’t no Smoke Without Fire
Tiernan-Locke took the fourth stage of the Tour of the Med in 2012.

The JTL ‘thing’ has us in a quandary.

On the one hand he could be ‘an Obree’ – a Maverick, a rider for whom the conventional rules do not apply; the kind of guy who does go ‘on the bevy’ before a big race.

And there’s a lot of rubbish talked about the man.

He didn’t come from ‘nowhere,’ he had international results as far back as 2005 before he contracted Epstein-Barr virus.

Then there’s the fallacy that he did nothing after winning the 2012 Tour of the Mediterranean and Tour du Haut Var – in fact he ended the season third on the UCI European Tour having won the Tours of Alsace and Britain.

His ride in the Worlds that year to finish 19th was of the highest order. Shortly before the ‘irregularities’ story broke last year we spoke to him about how things were,

‘Yeah, not bad thanks – back training again now, but the Vuelta’s off the cards. By the time I got to June/July I was just knackered and had no form/morale . . . went straight from Austria to a training camp and it was literally the last thing I needed.

“Had a talk with the coach and went home to rest for a few weeks. Like banging my head against a wall trying to get through to him since the season started. Had the conversation in Feb when I saw myself going downhill.

“Just too much training, the wrong type and not enough recovery, hence getting sick all the time. Was treated like this neo that needed telling what training to do. Just told him that I’m 28 and never had a coach before which suits me . . . think past results have proven that.

“Anyway, Plouay is next up, then probably worlds and finally Beijing & Japan cup to finish up.

“So that’s why I’ve been MIA and not riding in Spain . . . hope that clears things up!

“Thankfully two year contracts exist…”

And you know the rest.

He was always happy to chat to us, always polite, grounded – it’s hard to accept that he was on EPO.

But when you chat to your contacts about the man there are stories of him, ‘always asking around in the peloton about who’s taking what?

Then maybe those are ‘Chinese Whispers’. Maybe he is a Maverick, a one off, ‘an Obree?’

But that Bugatti and Musker riff just won’t go away; “Baby, ain’t no smoke without fire…”