Arnaud Jouffroy, here claiming the top step in Lille, may soon be the World U23 champ as well. © Bart Hazen
by Josh Liberles
Cyclocross continues to be at the center of lots of hub-bub in cycling news outlets, and is the focus of a good deal of online chatter. Unfortunately the story that’s creating all the stir continues to be the positive EPO test readings for Polish brothers Pawel and Kacper Szczepaniak, the top two finishers in the U23 World Championship race in Tabor, Czech Republic.
The main take-away from the story, of course, is a negative one. Not only has doping now tainted the most prestigious cyclocross event of the year, but it was perpetrated by a 19 and 20 year-old. Somehow, I instantly was struck by upsides as well – for one thing, the cheaters were caught. For another, the guys who were doping achieved a clear performance benefit over the rest of the field. There’s a definite blind leap here, but maybe this means the other top riders are clean? I’d like to think so.
One of the most common complaints by those who inherit a championship after the fact is that it’s not nearly the same experience. No triumph in the moment, no podium celebrations, just an anti-climactic acknowledgment weeks or months later. Assuming the B-samples prove the EPO infractions, that’s what Arnaud Jouffroy has to look forward to. Tom Meeusen, who will move into second place once the two Polish brothers are dismissed, raises another excellent point. Simply moving everyone up two places ignores the impact that the Szczepaniaks had in the race. Meeusen blew himself up trying to keep pace with two dopers. They were instrumental in the pace of the event and how it unfolded, in a way that’s not as simple as subtracting two from everyone’s placings.
Here are some quick quotes from Meeusen, Jouffroy and American U23 national champ Danny Summerhill, as well as some overheard Twitter post reactions from the cyclocross world.
Arnaud Jouffroy (Vendée U Pays de la Loire), 3rd place in Tabor, now likely to be U23 World Champ:
“Fortunately I managed to keep my third place in Tabor. They stole the first two, and part of my joy because I could not celebrate this title,” Jouffroy told French publication Cyclism ‘Actu. “It proves that the doping controls are effective. The day of World Championships, I’d say it was strange that they separated themselves as easily as they did, even if they are strong in the snow. Especially since the week after, they no longer were! At the time, I said to myself, maybe he had just been celebrating his title.”
Tom Meeusen (Telenet – Fidea), 4th in Tabor:
“The results would have been quite different,” a disappointed Meeusen told Belgian publication Sport.be. “I tried to follow men who drove me (to blow up). The results were thus quite different than they would have been.”
“I rode the World Cup and Championship with only one goal: win! I went for gold,” said Meeusen. “I’m shocked. Kacper races for Telenet-Fidea. For my team, this is bad publicity, as it is for the entire cyclocross field. I’m not happy.”
Danny Summerhill (Felt-Holowesko Partners-Garmin), US U23 National Champ:
“Within the first 10 minutes that I heard the news, I had a plethora of different emotions. First and fore most I was completely shocked, in a somewhat happy way. I was very pleased that the cheaters had been caught,” Summerhill told Cyclocross Magazine. “About five minutes later, my mood started to change drastically from being happy and ecstatic that news like that had actually come to the surface, to extremely pissed off and saddened that cheating and doping had actually made it to the U23 category, which I had always thought was the last and final place anyone could feel safe that doping wasn’t going to touch.”
“As we’re just U23′s, you’d think people would only be racing for the love and fun of the sport. However, after Wednesday’s news, that sense of security proved to be drastically wrong,” Summerhill told Cyclocross Magazine. “Generally you only think of doping as having tarnished the name and reputation of the Pro Tour ranks. Sadly, that reputation is no longer for the Pro Tour alone!”
Overheard Responses from the Twitter-sphere:
Jeremy Powers (Cannondale – Cyclocrossworld.com)
Just got an email about the Szczepaniak brothers. I’m sick of guys cheating. Get a real job, stop stealing people’s dreams!!!!! Hard work and dedication always out-does the cheaters and sneaks. If you want it enough & train smart, you’ll get what you want out of cycling
Ryan Trebon (Kona – FSA)
Son of a ******!
Tim Johnson (Cannondale – Cyclocrossworld.com)
Annnnd…The joke’s on those two dickheads from Poland. Guys, go take a crap in someone else’s pool…
Matt Shriver (Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory)
I remember watching this race thinking it was to good to be true. It was.
Adam Myerson (Cycle-Smart)
You know, the Polish Wondertwins didn’t do EPO in a vacuum. Who helped them do it? Who showed them how? Where did they get it?
The Szczepaniak parents must be proud…
RHendry, echoing the thoughts of fellow amateur ‘crossers everywhere
Disproportionally upset that the Szczepaniak brothers doped for Tabor. Bad form and bad news for cyclocross. Leave doping to the roadies.