Yesterday’s Danielson “Rant”

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Okay, I’m not exactly sure why I got so riled up with the Vaughters narc’ing on Danielson thing yesterday. It wasn’t like it was any surprise at all to me. I guess for Jonathan to act so nonchalant about the whole thing, acting like he just needed to make a couple little tweaks and take a rider that had doped for years and then make him a clean Tour rider, pissed me off. He wasn’t telling hardly any of the story. I realize the post was blunt, maybe with even an seemingly angry overtone.

It’s not like I don’t like Tom Danielson. I don’t really have any personal relationship with the guy at all. I can’t really see a circumstance where he and I would be friends at this point, but other than talking to him a few times, and racing with him a bunch, I don’t know him at all. That being said, I did have a relationship with him on the bike. And, I don’t and never did, have any respect for Tom Danielson as a bike racer. Sorry, but that is my deal. He fucked up his chance at the sport at long time ago, in my opinion, so I don’t feel like I need to give him the time of day in that regard.

I guess another reason I was I worked up was because I’ve had the “pleasure” to watch the meteoric rise of Tom Danielson from inception to present. And at the inception, he didn’t have the goods. Sorry, but facts are facts. Let me tell you, back when he was going to Fort Lewis, I was over 40, and there is no way the guy could beat me in a MTB race, let alone a road race. Then presto magic, 6 months later, he can slay any rider the United States going up hill. And on the flat too sometimes. It don’t happen that way. I have no idea what Thomas’ physiological capabilities were/are, but he didn’t have the mental capacity to be able to race bikes at the top level. Even Vaughters admits this.

Jonathan knew it all along. You know Jonathan spent the last year of his career racing here in the US for Prime Alliance. I’m sure Jonathan remembers quite well the last stage of Redland’s, the Sunset loop in 2003. I remember talking to Jonathan before the start and asking him if he was ready for the explosion that was about to happen. The race starts directly up a climb to a time bonus KOM on a very hard circuit. Jonathan said he was going to do the hurting. Flash forward to the feed zone, a couple k’s after the KOM, which his rider, David Clinger (now suspended for life for doping) won. But, the problem was Nathan O’Neill, Chris Horner and Thomas Danielson, all Saturn riders, jumped the field and were already over a minute ahead. I said something to Jonathan about who was doing the hurting and he said “That didn’t work out so well.” I stayed in the field, which was maybe 30 guys, for the next 5 or 6 laps, while Jonathan, Danny Pate and a few others managed to lose about a minute every 6 miles to the trio. At the end they won by over 12 minutes. 3 riders, from the gun, in the biggest race in the country, dropping the whole field of 150 guys and winning by 12 minutes in 85 miles. Tom won that race. Remember Jonathan?

Now that I think about it, it was at least a couple guys taking drugs chasing some other guys that were taking drugs. Man, in retrospect, I sure am glad I spent my money and a couple cold winter months training for that race. Thanks guys.

I’ve ridden all over the world with a ton of very, very talented athletes. I think I’ve raced against/with 8 Tour de France winners in my lifetime. It is very easy to spot talented guys. And, every once in a while you do see the random phenom, but most of them don’t make it, for a variety of reasons. Many times it comes down to their heads. Tom Danielson never had the head to race bikes at anywhere near the level he is currently at. He didn’t have the head to race bikes at a domestic Pro level without the “supplements”. Of course, these are all my opinions. We’ll never know the absolute answer because no one gets a redo at life.

I got a lot of emails yesterday, mostly about the Danielson deal. Here’s one I got from a friend. He used to race professional on the road in Europe. Then he switched to MTB bikes.

Hi Steve,

Good piece on Vaughters and Danielson. I don’t know how it is for you, but I’ve had a lot of anger over the years at the generations that came after us. When I was a kid, testing positive was a big deal. It was just not an option, totally verboeten. Messing with drugs was never in the equation. It was always hard during the Lance years to watch the progression of guys on Postal. Makes me fucking sick to this day. To hear Vaughters talk about it so non nonchalantly, while covering his ass, charading along like everyone else…

It’s still difficult to observe public perception. This has all been a lesson in “how the world works”. I don’t believe Lance can have this both ways. Oakley, Nike, etc. simply have to step up. Otherwise, what is the message they are sending to young riders? If I was 15 today and saw their response to what is happening, I may think “I just need to dope more and be more sophisticated than everyone else”. It’s the opposite message they need to be sending. You don’t get to fuck everyone over in your sport, capitalize off of people who don’t know or don’t care what you did to your sport, then go be part of a charity to “make it all ok again”.

These companies are two-faced, and it can’t work. No one can play both sides of this.

It may be our responsibility to tell those generations that think it’s “normal” to take the drugs to snap the fuck out of it. Tell them no, it’s not normal, and it’s not “ok”. We drank Coca Cola when we wanted a ‘boost’. These guys take EPO and blame the ones who came before them for having to do it. Level playing field? Could you imagine spending $45,000 a year just to be on that “playing field”?

Swear to god, people don’t understand cycling.

I hope you’re well.

I wrote him back and told him that I really don’t have much pent up anger over the last couple decades of polluted cycling, although you probably would not get that impression after reading yesterdays post. I do hate how people seem to dismiss the whole issue like it was a piece of lint on their suit before a photo shoot. Many trivialize the whole matter.

Again, I watched the whole “oxygen vector” drug scene from inception to the current state. I was in the thick of it from the late 80’s, through the 90’s and now. On the road, MTB and cyclo-x. It really doesn’t take a brain surgeon to see what was going on. People keep asking me if it was/is so apparent, why weren’t you speaking up before? I believe I’ve done my share of speaking up on the subject. Obviously, here, I’ve shared my opinions. Here is a post I did a couple years ago about Thor talking nonsense. Below it there is an article I did with Mountain Bike Action in 1998. So, that was 14 years ago when I wasn’t holding my tongue. That was a pretty long time ago and I’m sick of it.

That being said, I’m not going to go and publicly accuse someone, any team or team director of drug usage just because of my strong beliefs and observations. It is too big of a deal to randomly do that without positive proof, 1st hand evidence. But, when it becomes fact, such as the case here with Danielson and Vaughters, I don’t have any problems listing my experiences and observations of the situation. I’m not bitter, although I can see how you might take it that way, I’m just stating a time line of observations and experiences over a decade.

The problem with knowing for sure is that there are those few, the Greg LeMonds out there. I witnessed what could be done on a bicycle first hand by a teenager. And seeing that, it shows me that there are very special people out there with enormous talent. I don’t know how many of them there are, but it is not that many. And watching rider after rider go through the stratosphere over the winter, by training, or by getting a new coach, or by eating a vegan diet, gets really frustrating and old. It doesn’t work that way. Cycling doesn’t work that way.

It is so obvious, yet people always want to believe. It is as obvious as, say you’ve decided to do an open water canoe race and the guy next to you shows up with a motor boat. I’m not kidding you, but it is that obvious.

Like I said above, I’ve clipped into my pedal with lots of riders that are the real deal. Much, much better athletes than I could ever be. When guys take drugs to eclipse their results, it’s an insult to the whole sport. It is why the US Congress got involved in baseball finally. Baseball is a sport where statistics are very important. The guys screwing with steroids and messing up the history of the sport were doing a dis-service to the players before them. Cheating ghosts, you might say.

It’s not quite the same in the sport of cycling, but don’t let the thought that everyone was/is doing it, so it was a fair playing field argument even exist. Not everyone was doing it. There were some guys that weren’t. They weren’t wining any races, but they were racing clean. The sport will be much more healthy and exciting if this “disease” is stopped in its’ tracks.

I think it is an important time to address it. This time, is the time for that, these next few months, when many of the heros are “outed”. We need to fix it from within. With need to say we aren’t going to tolerate it anymore in our sport. And we need to quit giving these guys the benefit of the doubt, and say it is okay. It’s not. It wasn’t since the Festina deal back in the late ’90’s. But it kept escalating. Finally we’re here, in disbelief. I never was in belief. That is truly a sad statement.

Anyway, I did go out for a nice ride on the River Road on my MTB after all the internet ordeal yesterday. I found a new road, which is maybe the first new road I’ve “found” around the city of Topeka in 3 decades. I love riding my bike. I love racing my bike. If only it could be that easy.

Many of the gravel roads here in Northeastern Kansas have hedge trees lining them.

This is the un-maintained road Bill and I rode today.

This is the entrance of the primitive road from the other end.

I found this wad of jewelry on the side of the road on the way home. I wonder what its’ history is?

42 thoughts on “Yesterday’s Danielson “Rant”

  1. Michael

    Thanks for a great post. The fact that you end it with a ride on undiscovered road and a shoulder find is the reason why I read your blog. Still think some of these heros need the sh*t kicked out of them however….

  2. Marc

    Ok Steve. Now did you send an email to Trek and Bontrager. Or don’t you bite the hand that “feeds” you as well?

    Time for a new bike, right?

  3. Kurt Fletcher

    Regarding your shit kicking comment Michael, i wholeheartedly agree. I was shopping for new sunglasses online the other day and Oakley’s support of the dipshit that is LA swayed me to buy Bolle’s! I also took my Nike shorts and cut them up for toilet bowl rags. Great stuff Steve, you do have supporters so keep it coming!

  4. Dziewa

    Why would Nike do anything? Look at the work conditions they have been known to allow. If they allow those why would they care about backing Lance. Furthermore, look at the other athletes Nike has sponsored and ask yourself about all the bad things they have done. In the end, Lance has so much goodwill that Nike won’t/can’t drop him.

  5. Jim D.

    Your interview in MBA could almost be run today. Time for a change in the sport. It’s too bad the feds didn’t make their case because more people than LA might have gone down. Everyone go ride this weekend.

  6. Max

    Thanks for speaking out on all this Steve it is great to get the perspective from someone who has been around, and through all this at such a high level. I raced against you while I was an aspiring pro racing for the Zaxby’s/Jittery Joes Teams from 1999-2001. I had some decent result during that time. I was 2nd at the US 100k in Atlants, 6th on the tough mountain stage at the tour de toona, so every now and then I was able to mix it up with the bigger named riders on Mercury, Saturn and the domestic postal guys. I remember one year while at US Pro in Philly I was in a break that got about 18 minutes at one point then all of the sudden those three teams that all had riders in the break started riding to break up the break, I had pretty much been sitting on then all of the sudden these same guys that had been driving the break started attacking the break with fierce accelerations that I could hardly believe. Many of these riders are now the ones being outed or questioned. I can remember thinking holy shit i have a long way to go. I think a week or two later I went to West Virginia to race in the Norba event there. I had been doing the whole series and was holding a #21 number plate for the short track so I was riding pretty decent. This is when I thought again holy shit I have a long way to go when during the MTB race Roland Green and Ryder nearly lapped me on the 30 plus minute lap. Hmmm. Looking back it does piss me off because I was putting my heart and soul into racing bikes, and I wonder what could have been if I would not have been so discouraged at the time thinking Holy shit I have a long way to go! Now its like Come on Jonathon, give me a fucking break. These guys that at the time was impressed with now I think Fuck you guys. Thanks a lot. And when someone says look what he, or they have done for our sport, I think holy shit it has a long way to go!

  7. Wild Weasel

    Steve is almost as angry as the time they “screwed” him with call ups at some random cross race. Stay classy

  8. old and slow

    Your old friend’s email to the contrary; I’ve noticed that the people within the sport who really resented Lance these last ten years or so were roughly his own age or maybe a little bit younger.

    When he beat Indurain in the World’s in 1993, when he was in yellow on 4th of July in 1999, I rejoiced-American professional cycling was BACK-but I also had a very inexact idea of what he had done to get there.

    I never quite had the sense of personal betrayal that some of the younger guys manifest. That said, I still have a natural 50 hematocrit today and what stopped me from progressing further in the sport was how late I took it up more than anything else.

    A lot of what Steve posts about TD not being fit mentally to race at the top levels resonates with me. If you didn’t know how to win a national class race by the time that you were 19, then you came into cycling with a serious disadvantage. That guy always stood out like a sore thumb when he had so much more horsepower than racing sense.

  9. VCScribe

    Steve, get Kent E. to build you a lightweight road bike and ditch the Madone. Those guys are in bed with the Last American Hero, and they need to get the message.

  10. jim sully

    I like it when I find stuff on my rides.
    Biggest find- $2,600 in cash, unmarked envelope.
    Brought it to local town hall(1/4 mi from where I found $$), they took my info, advised to wait 30 days for someone to report missing cash…no-one did…presto..not only is riding a bike good for one physically,but $$ too.

  11. Thomas

    If you think someone is dirty and you do nothing about it then shame on you.
    USADA drug hotline number is 1800 233 0393
    they dont even ask for your name.

  12. Jacob

    Awesome post Steve. You may’ve addressed it in earlier posts that I missed (I’m a newish reader), but I’d love to hear some stories about some of the rare huge talents that you saw who didn’t pan out for one reason or other.

    Also curious to hear more about MTB history. I was a fan of the sport in its infancy when Tomac and Overend ruled everything, then stopped paying attention when the Euros started to dominate and the Americans disappeared from the top of the World Cup. I have long wondered if the disappearance of the US guys from the top of the sport was due to doping, and the US MTB scene just not being rich enough to make it attractive to guys willing to dope. Sounds kinda like that might be true, and might explain why we haven’t seen US guys in the top of the world standings. Would love to hear more about that.

  13. Vincent

    @USADA drug hotline. Talk about an opportunity for transparency. How about a list of calls to the hotline and riders tested as a result. Maybe that is to much to ask for. How about just the total number of calls each month and total number of riders tested as a result. What about reports on which drugs where being reported. I can see no good reason this is not made available. (maybe it is and I don’t know)

  14. Scott R

    Two damn good (and informative) posts in a row – I appreciate getting to read them.

    (Not that I haven’t enjoyed reading all your posts for a while – these just seem extra important)

  15. Dennis C

    All of your whining over doping is pathetic. Let’s all attack a great guy like Tommy D because he did what he needed to do to be successful. Tommy D is doing well financially are you guys ? Wake up, this is a big, bad world, and believe it or not, sometimes people break the rules, shocking isn’t it, LOL ?
    You guys don’t get it, Lance Armstrong is god. The American People don’t care about other professional cyclists or cycling, period. He is the tide that lifts all boats. He is the earth, moon and stars. How many Twitter Followers does he have 3.7 Million and JV 50,000, LOL.

    It is Friday, all of you guys need to go out, have a few drinks, and get laid. You guys need it real bad. PS give me your addresses, and I will send you some towels so you will have a place to put your tears. You are probably all Romney Voters, angry white men, LOL.

  16. The point

    I think some people are missing the point. Danielson doped, outed by JV. The only question is when did he start? Tilford thinks he knows when he started. If Tilford is correct or off by 5 years, it does not matter Danielson is still a douchebag.

  17. Fabio

    @Max and Steve,

    Steve thanks for the post and thanks Max for matching my own story. I was also a promising rider. I did my fair share of pro races in MTB and Road. ( Jamis, Columbus Group, AEG Aerospace, etc… ). I did the training, dieting, workouts and at one point top 3 rider in the SE USA in MTBs.. The entire year I got top 3 in all races I’ve entered. I had a great time racing, but took a lot of work.

    Then, while moving up to the Pro ranks, comes Red Lands in early 2000. Day 2 of racing we are going along a lonnnnnnnnng flat road. While moving forward within the peloton, me and one of my team mates we looked at each other and said ” What the hell…. is this speed ever going to come down ? I just can’t see the motorcycle up in front motor pacing the race !!” – Well, eventually we got to the front of the group. So, guess what ? In the front pulling the peloton at high speed were 2 Mercury riders side by side …. Doing what ? Making everyone else feel tiny while there were having a conversation. Right then, I felt I was a nobody, no talent and far from ever making it as a Pro. I knew about doping, but didn’t even think how much stronger anyone could be on that stuff. I just thought these guys were way more talented and I naturally didn’t have that kind of talent. I was just a pack filler.

    Now days I just feel sick when I think how many races and opportunities I lost because of these riders. Doping will never go away, but living with honor, dignity and peace beats any title or medal gained via doping.


  18. Honch

    My concern for the future of cycling is that it will take the same form as professional body building did during the same time frame. Cycling is very mathematical. You weigh X and produce power of Y and travel the corresponding speed. There are mental aspects and riding skill aspects to it as well but the majority of the sport is determined by a weight vs power ratio. At one time, I was very interested in body building and eventually saw that I have a genetic limit to strength. Many other body builders were able to break through those barriers by taking drugs. I think cycling is suffering the same problem. I sometimes wonder if cycling will end up where body building did which is designated categories for those on drugs and those that are not. When you take someone like Lance who was obviously gifted without the drugs, then add drugs, you get a super human cyclist. It appears that the only way to be a celebrity on bikes these days is to follow the same course. You can either be great genetically, stay clean and train hard or be not quite as good genetically and take drugs to get to a high level but if you want to be the top echelon of rider and win all the big races, you have to be and do both.

  19. Mark

    The jewelry is probably cast-offs from a burglary. Might have sentimental value to victim. Maybe cops can ID.

  20. Romandy

    Steve’s comment about Danielson’s meteoric rise reminds me of a midwest rider who came out of nowhere to dominate, only to get caught a few years later for doping. I raced at the P12 level a decade ago, and I distinctly remember the 2002 season as Adam Bergman’s coming out party, if you will. He could pretty much ride away from the field, even in big races. I distinctly remember him being off the front at Rock Island that year, hearing the PA say his name and wondering who he was and where he came from. He was based out of Minnesota at the time, and riding for a well-known Minnesota team. I was familiar with all the strong midewstern riders, so I got to wondering if he recently moved to MN from one of the coasts. Or, maybe he was one of these guys like Jeff Louder who went to Belgium as a young amateur to cut his teeth on kermesses, only to return home with a leg up on everyone. But, that wasn’t the case. He had been racing in P12 races all over the midwest the past few years, with not much to show for results. Pack fill, if you will. All of a sudden, a dominant rider. I thought it was fishy, considering one of his teammates was caught doping later that year. We all know the story….Within three years, Adam was serving a suspension for using EPO.

  21. Ethan

    I had an interesting conversation with an old team mate of mine this year. I had not heard from him in a long time. We started talking about racing in the 80’s and I told him I got to a point I couldn’t get any faster and that he and a bunch of other people just kept getting ridiculously faster.

    He laughed and said – “Ethan – no one was training harder than you – that should tell you volumes on what was going on.”

    I always thought I just didn’t have it to go to the next step like a lot of my past teammates did and I backed off.

    As much as the drug scene cost me and my ambitions of a cycling career – it obviously cost you more Steve.

  22. Scott

    All good, but everyone should be really careful about assuming that feats of strength necessarily indicate doping.

  23. JL

    @ Dennis C
    I was gonna give a lengthy response to your idiocy, but then I thought “what’s the use?”. You wouldn’t get it anyway, you’re a doosh.

  24. Dennis C

    JL, Anyone who can put up with the rigors of cycling, can be anything that they put their efforts into accomplishing. Who knows, some day you could be a Governor or the CEO of Apple Inc. I love these posts. Tommy D doped so 850 guys missed out being on a top cycling team, LOL. You guys need to admit to yourselves that you were just not good enough to make the big time. You were hard workers, you did the correct diet thing, had good coaching etc., but you did not have the right DNA. That is the bottom line. The truth hurts, but accepting it is the first step to a happy and fulfilling life.

  25. Dennis C's Dad

    Please forgive my son Dennis C, he acts out from time to time! It’s our fault really, we inflated his ego too much as a child.

    Dennis it’s NOT OK to cheat to get a head in life. I am sorry that when you were a kid I let you break the rules so you could win at board games. I guess you never really learned that you need to earn something, that hard work means something, that cutting corners has consequences.
    It’s not too late son!

  26. Kurt

    The playing isn’t level for other reasons even if everyone does dope. Here is why:

    1.) My doctor might be better than yours, he can monitor my intake, my levels, what cocktail to consume,recovery etc….this not only applies to cyclists but bodybuilders, football players, etc…
    2.) The same drug can have varying results on different athletes.

    To the morons who post stupid shit like, ” you just didn’t have the DNA to make it” I ask, how would you ever know? Look at the guys who were getting trounced in Europe then all of a sudden were winning stages. The point is, unless you had some sort of physiological test how would you know where your top end was? Some guys have normal hemocrit levels of around 48 so doping for them in the 90s would have been next to useless. That is with the drugs that were available at the time. People were cheated out of a chance as evidenced by guys that quit Pro tour teams instead of succumb to doping.

  27. Dennis C's mother

    Dennis C’s Dad
    Please don’t bring up Dennis C’s missing chromosomes. Poor little Dennis’ DNA is not the full strand.

  28. jt

    What about all of the BMC skeletons? hope you’re as interweb tough when that hits the fan. the whole charade is unraveling – George is next. he’s been on the hot sauce for the better part of 2 decades – lock it. the Steve Tilford Court of Circumstantial Evidence and Public Ranting should have field day with that one I should hope

  29. Beaster

    I busted my balls ALL winter long and did NO drugs, all the while racing against 7-11, Shwankers, Mengoni and your alma mater – Raliegh-Kretschmer. I felt some guys were DOING things the rest of the pack fodder was not privy to. My point is self-respect trumps results and the drugging has frigged-up our sport and made a carnival environ for one of the greatest physical and mental sports endeavors. Ride Clean & Train Mean works just fine for me.

  30. DavidA

    One aspect of this entire rant/rave he did this or didnt do that blog blow-out that not been made mention of is all the riders, both PRO and Elite/Beloften that DIED from EPO in the 80’s and 90’s. I was living in Belgium and racing with the Elites/Beloften and there was 1 to 3 riders a month found dead at home or on the bike path from heart attacks. The doctors did not know how to dose the drug so these guys were just lab-rats that they experimented on!!!! How about getting upset about that. But that still wasnt enough to stop someone from using it. As Eddy Plackaert said after his retirement he used EPO and caffiene tabs and flew on it….if it didnt kill you.

  31. tilford97 Post author

    jt-Where is the circumstantial evidence here? Vaughter’s said the guy took drugs. I wrote down a bunch of my personal observations. Obviously there is some opinion involved, but circumstantial evidence? I don’t see it. I see my personal experiences that back up exactly what Jonathan wrote on Cyclingnews forums.

    And, I’ll pretty much write what I want to write about, but thanks for the suggestions.

  32. cycloCROSS

    JT – ” interweb tough” sounds kinda condescending. Steve’s just telling it like it is, no BS and no drama. The time is right and we certainly appreciate him doing so.

  33. AlpineClimbr

    You set the tone of your raging rant in the first sentence, blazing about “Vaughters narc’ing on Danielson”. Narc’ing? Isn’t that a little Junior Hi? Doesn’t that support omerta policy that talking about doping is bad? No one ever said truthiness will set you free.

  34. Skippy

    Had posted to ” Parrabuddy ” as a result of your earlier post and the news overnight about Fat Pat’s ” Amnesty / truth & Recon. comm.”

    Your final comment on that post was welcome and should tell ” doubters ” where they belong !

    Had the pleasure of meeting Davis in London , both at Box Hill & Hampton Court , where he was cheering on Taylor , who was unlucky not to podium on both occasions .

    Your experiences as related in these posts sends a clear message to those weaklings who are susceptible to the pressures to take short cuts , DON’T !

    As mentioned in previous comments in many places in the past months , the ONLY way forward is to turn a new page BUT only the IOC & WADA can implement the necessary mechanism required to bring ALL to book in ALL Sports at the same time !

    Can you imagine Fat Pat controlling an ” amnesty ”
    FP: ” you are forgiven my son , make your deposit to ” xyz bank in zurich for the benefit of ” UCI special projects ” , ahem , yes i do control that account !

    Doubt that Mr IOC , Jacques Rogge , realises what Fat Pat can do between now and 2020 Olympics , with his ability to put his feet in his mouth ?

    Who is going to be brave enough to unseat him when Jacques as just conferred ” Special status ” on him for the unforseeable future ?

    Thanks for the past two posts , creates the right environment for more like Greg Kleipeda to come forward and reveal what they saw as they attempted to survive the ” Circus ” that pro cycling has become !

  35. Matt Sarna

    Hi Steve,

    Thanks for posting your thoughts. I’ve known you a long time and it’s really good to read the reflections of someone who has seen the sport go through as many changes as it has these past 30-plus years. I’ve followed your career since the early eighties and raced with you in a variety of circumstances (remember the NCL and that whole experiment?) both weird and wonderful.

    Keep the rubber side down. Nice pictures of the new roads!

    Yours truly,

    Matthew S.


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