Tour de France - Interview with Kos Samaras Posted on 24 Jul 09:53 , 0 comments

Watching the TdF as I have for over 20 years, I’ve been through the best and worst times. There was That Bastard and Other Bastards and then there were (maybe) the good guys.

And post Oprah, one could almost feel cleansed and ready to watch a clean peloton have a go. But the rumours- and perhaps the evidence- is there to indicate that all is not well again.

Kos Samaras is a significant figure in Australian cycling. A gifted and hardworking cyclist in his own right, today he’s the team owner of Kosdown Performance and his comments on a Facebook post lead me to ask him for this chat about the tour, the contenders and then yes, the doping.

Tom Reynolds: Ok. Let's about the top contenders and what's what. Teejay Van Garderen (BMC) I said to you a few days ago that you always feel like Tejay is just seconds from a bad day. Then it happened.”

Kos Samaras: "Yeah, he's not really a top level GC rider. He will bubble around the top 10, top 5 for most of his career. A top result will be podium for him.

TR: "I think it's gonna hurt Teejay when Richie comes across and he goes back into indentured servitude!

KS: "Yep, Richie is a class act, much higher calibre than TJV."

TR: "I'm just not convinced that Richie nor Teejay are true GC contenders."

KS: "Yes, well Richie has been hot and cold and Teejay seems to have been taken out by the restday of all things!"

TR: "On Richie, I just wonder if they have be saving him for this block in the Alps"

TR: "What about Alberto Contador? I was on Skype to Matt Keenan and he said that that Contador's attack the other day was "all for show" and he's got nada. It's pretty sad.”

KS: "It's pretty clear that Berto cooked himself in the Giro. In today's modern cycling winning back to back grand tours is simply not possible. So he will suffer in the Alps..!

TR: “Contador has not looked like the Contador we all know once. Not even once. I skyped Matt Keenan the other day and he said the one attack we've seen from Alberto was "all for show"

KS: "Regarding Contador, his Total Stress Balance (TSB) (see:TSB  )would have been negative 500 after the Giro. To get that back into the positive he would have needed to rest for two weeks, which would have lost form and then he would have needed to get back into a huge training block. So no real proper down time and proper build time. So he would have been fatigued on stage one!"

I think most high level coaches would advise against what Berto did..! On the plus side, having failed to recover fully from the Giro is actually a great sign that he's relatively clean."

TR: "Yeah we all hear the stories about how you have one good marathon in you a year. A bloody GT is three weeks of daily marathons."

TR: “Ok. Let's talk Nibali. He's been pathetic. No rain on the cobbles ended his chances. Am I being too mean?”

KS: "His program looks like it has not worked. To be honest this brings us back to doping. I think all the extra attention on Astana has prevented him taking risks in my opinion. Nibs has clearly not had a good run up to the tour. His program has not prepared him well for the tour and it shows badly"

TR: "I won't ask you to define "risks"..."

 KS: "Nairo Quintana will most likely be the only one who will challenge Froome in the Alps. Valverde is doing well but is not consistent."

TR: "Yeah. So let's go there. Quintana. Can he uncork something this week?

KS: "I reckon at best he will match Froome. Froome for most part will just follow him and nail him when he sees an opportunity. The tour is over in my opinion. All accusations aside Froome is a level above them all.”

TR: "Must NQ attack? Surely he can't just roll into Paris without having a red hot go?

KS: "He has no option and has to force the play to ensure that at the very least he gets second. So attacking is his only option"

TR: "With Froome way up the road I'm wondering if they'll maybe support Geraint for a sneaky podium.... Indeed we saw Richie Porte helping Geraint a little on stage 17, maybe there will be more of that?"

KS: "That would be in their plan no doubt but that will be by chance rather than design as their main goal will be secure GC."

TR:" Righto, let's get to it. The reason why I called for this chat. Tell me why you think there is systemic doping in the 2015 TdF? Let me state I think there is little to no doping because of the incredibly even performances. People think doping actually makes results very even. But doping programs (and opportunities) cary wildly and that has a knock on effect on the road. But you’re certain there’s Bad Things happening?!”

KS: "Before the really advanced drugs entered the sport, the TDF was a far more even matched competition. Greg Lemond- who has recorded possibly the highest vo2 of any cyclist in history- was only ever able to win his TDFs by very small margins and via very slight outcomes at certain stages of the tour. Once the real heavy stuff entered the sport you started seeing a clear runaway. Indurain, Riis, Lance etc."

TR: "Ok but as I countered at the time; Froome hasn't blown then apart over and over. Some good riders have had bad days... He just hasn't!

Kos: "Well that’s what is missing. Clean riders are having more bad days these days. You see that in Richy and others, Froome never has a bad day!"

TR: "He's been a protected species. Better protected than say Teejay...?"

KS: "That’s physically not possible if you're clean. Lemond for example nearly lost the tour numerous times because he had horrible days"

TR: "...But Lemond was not racing in this era nor under the training conditions we see.

KS: “Look, doping and grand tours have had a relationship since the first TDF. In fact I would argue that competing at a GC level there has to be some level of medical assistance. I think the modern race is all about finding legal medical forms of assistance but in the past they resorted to illegal methoids"

TR: "Is the cure two week grand tours?"

KS: "Yep, drop the 3 week concept which was set up in the early 1900s. No one back them would dream that one day the race the thought up would require riders to race flat out for three weeks. When riders to race clean they suffer the fate of TJ. They break down or have shocking days aka Porte"

TR: " I predicted. Poor TJ, just can't last three weeks."

KS: "...because he's clean!"

TR: "ok- will Froome have a bad day? Is he just bullet proof?" He bloody looks it!"

KS: "He's bullet proof. For me, I'm lean towards his team using legal forms of doping - it’s still doping but they would be trying everything possible to give him a medical edge."

TR: "Team SKY released the power data... anything of interest? I'm not sure it's the answer to accusations, but you reckon Froome's numbers have been fiddled."

KS: "So Sky release the data. Chris Froome smashed a 40 odd minute effort where he put 2 minutes into Adam Yates. Adam weighs 58kgs. Froome 67kgs. They released cooked data. Idiots forgot that there are clean riders like Adam Yates from Green Edge who publish their data every day. Sorry, you can’t have less power than a lighter rider and still put time into them to that extent.

Bottom line is this. Let’s all take a step back and have a solid clear headed look at this. Athletes- no matter how good they are- don't stand out from the pack. They show signs of a gift early on, even if they are a late starter. You see riders like Fabian Cancellara show signs of his ability to TT very early in their career. That skill develops, blossoms, peaks and now with him we see it starting to show signs of decay. At his peak he had a window of around 1 year where he was exceptional but most other wins were achieved via a flat out dog fight. At the grand tours we have sometimes seen this. Greg Lemond is a good example, an athlete with one of the highest ever recorded Vo2s but even at his peak he was ever so slightly ahead and the window was tiny. The decay came on very quickly. Cadel is another fine example.

All these guys all willingly tested their vo2s. Froome won't. Froome has shown no naturally athletic progression. He shows the same traits as Armstrong, in fact he shows less physical traits to Armstrong before he came onto the scene. I don’t buy this marginal gains rubbish. As if every other multimillion dollar team don’t have access to any sports science or expert advice. It’s almost borderline childish of the media to swallow that crap and not actually look around them. Hell, there are doctors finding cures to cancers right now and Sky are trying to tell us they are beyond all known medical expertise. Just dumb.”

TR: "Ok wrapping up; what are you personally enjoying so far in the TdF and what are you looking forward to this week?

KS: "Personally enjoying the individual efforts of classic riders like Sagan and looking forward to seeing more of those rides. Even stage 17s victory was brilliant to watch. The post-race interview captured what bike racing is about. I’m almost not even looking at GC now. Look for the other exceptional rides in the bunch and there is a lot of them."

TR: "Kos, you cynical old bastard, thank you!"