USADA Attacks Steel WÜl Riders citing unfair practices
By staff writer: Jay Dicharry
Velo news has learned of a developing event on the west coast. In the Santa Cruz mountains lies a group of riders known collectively as Steel Wul. These riders have denounced their former aims on training, and deny any specific goals to achieve a place in history on the podium. They have built their national reputation on banding together for the “spirit of riding” and widely promote their “you-find-it” competitions and group rides such as this weekend’s Cobble Classic as a way to experience adventure among like minded folks who enjoy bicycles. They even run their cobble classic to align with European events, featuring prizes for KOM, Sprint, and DFL specialists within their ranks.
Evidence suggests that this group, who “rides for the sake of riding their bicycle” and is “all about the boogie” have actually been using performance enhancing strategies such as training to ensure success.
USADA chief Travis Tygart wrote in an early press release, for its summary of its claims, called “A Reasoned Decision.” “The evidence of the Steel Wul-run cobble classic scheme is overwhelming. The evidence shows beyond any doubt that these black and baby blue clad riders ran the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful training program that sport has ever seen.”
The USADA statement continues: “just look at the field. They may say they are all about a group ride in the mountains while enjoying great cheeses and meats, but the field is stacked beyond a doubt. You’ve got current and former triatheltes, industry insiders, and professional and national team riders – good ones too. Some of them have even stood on the podium at the Tour of California, the Firefighter Olympics, and the Davis Criterium. One of the participants George Janour, keeps his body in such fine training shape, that he is frequently mistaken for Val Kilmer. Dan OConner isn’t just a stunt double for Cancellera, he has apparently raced as Cancellera in several stages over the past few years.”
While founder Jake Hess denies that Steel Wul riders are interested in competition, a well placed spy this summer offered Jake a Dharma’s chocolate chip cookie one evening. Jake ran off mumbling something about “a minute on the lips equals a lifetime on the hips.” He was tracked later that evening, and was spotted riding his rollers while writing some fluffy blog posting about recycling, hair styles, and cycling trivia to appeal to his core audience.
USADA is hell-bent on exposing Steel Wul’s purpose: to rip the legs off fellow riders at any costs while feasting on artesian cheeses, meat, and breads. Some riders have established fronts. When asked why he engages in training as an advantage for group rides such as the Cobble Classic, Jeff Tragout became overly defensive and stated “I just make guitars and beautiful music dude”.
Brent Marks, whose training has been showing impressive form in the Saturday ride lately, is also shrinking behind a front. He established the “I Believe Foundation” and adamately denies any training in preparation for the Cobble classic. He claims that the rider who looks like him is really his un-born twin that died in the womb. Right.
Andrew Carrol, flanked in the interview by his 2 mafia hit men Vincent and Anthony, says he doesn’t train for cycling, and claims that “oh I haven’t ridden in weeks.” While trying to confirm this, VeloNews identified true, Mr. Carrol has not ridden in weeks. However, he earned a belt buckle at Leadville, ran a marathon 5 times in the past 2 weeks, and now has his highest VO2 in history. Mr. Carrol is a black eye on the spirit of noncompetitive group riders.
And then there’s Reidstrong, who still, shockingly, vehemently denies any wrongdoing. On Wednesday evening, Reidstrong sent out a defiant message on Twitter: “What am I doing tonight? Hanging with my wife and tending to my organically grown garden that has mulch from certified redwoods and manure from organically fed cows that were fed a diet of gluten-free grains that were processed in a mill using only local-solar for power”.
This timing of this tweet seemed rather odd. About 10 min before the tweet was broadcast several Steel Wul participants who were uploading their own power data from their “easy spins with friends”, saw that Reidstrong just broke posted 29 new Strava record segments from his 165 mile ride earlier that day.
If Reidstrong is defiant, perhaps it’s because he has no choice. As noted in an Outside article last month, Reidstrong risks jail, perjury charges and damages from past lawsuits should he ever admit to training. I’m still just surviving on my base from college swimming” he insists.
However, some riders have begun to crack under pressure from USADA:
On Friday, Self-sponsored Rapha athlete Gren-capie wrote the following: “Early in my un-professional career, it became clear to me that, given the widespread use of performance enhancing training by cyclists, it was not possible to keep my $285 Rapha shorts in the top 90% of touring cyclists without it.” He continues, “I deeply regret that choice and sincerely apologize to my family, teammates and fans.”
In his own statement, which appeared on WSJ.com, Doug E Fresh wrote, “Having made sacrifices for my dream, several years after I realized I’d shift my attention to noncompetitive group rides that give shellacked rocks for prizes, I came to see Steel Wul for what it was: A sport where the athletes at the highest level — perhaps without exception — trained. A sport where training was so accepted that riders from different teams — who were competitors on the road — coordinated their training to keep up with other riders doing the same thing. Right or wrong, in my mind the choice was ‘do it or go home.’ For me that was not a choice.” I want a cobble.
If there is a common connection between the riders, it is the kingpin, Dr Bill Cao. While masquerading as a family doc, VeloNews finds it interesting that the training peaks logo is prominent on his prescription pad. In fact VeloNews sent an undercover patient to see Dr Cao. On his patient intake form, we found the usual - do you have a history of cardiac disease? Do you smoke? And are your bowel movements regular. However, we also found an additional section asking: how many minutes do you spend in zone 1,2,3,4a, 4b, 4c, and 5 per week? How much does your power-weight ratio drift off course in the off season? How many weeks do you spend at altitude per year, and how many nights do you use your altitude tent when at home? It appears that Dr Cao is operating outside the limits of traditional medicine and trying to promote training. USADA is looking into this, and is pending a case. Dr Cao was not available for comment.
The group is under scruitnany from USADA for sponsorship cover-up. Steel Wul has made progress from pulling in funding from Caletti Cycles and Image Tribe. But at what lengths have these allegiances failed to promote the spirit of Steel Wul itself? VeloNews made many attempts to contact Steel Wul rider Chris Appleton. All we could find is that he is training in Baja for the next month. Apparently he was too shamed by his power-to-weight ratio to show up @ Steel Wul.
Caletti Cycles attempts to uphold its image of a company dedicated to the pure riding experience, funding the mission of Steel Wul. Meanwhile, its right-hand woman, Corey Caletti, is racing her way into shape with the Saturday morning ride, the Saturday afternoon ride, the Sunday pre-breakfast interval session, the Sunday brunch ride, and evening intervals in the pain cave. This type of aggressive “training” flies in the face of the mission of Steel Wul – a ride amongst friends. Apparently, Caletti has been paying other riders to deny they have seen or heard of Corey’s training.
Despite USADA’s findings there is hope amongst the ranks. Rider Kevin McGuillicudy is showing up clean. “haven’t trained, or even ridden my bike since last year’s Steel Wul” he says. “Well, OK did to go for a beer run the other night. Do you know how many episodes of arrested development I’ve watched on Netflix while sipping micro-brew while these fools are “training”? They think they are out there riding amongst friends, but they are living a lie. I’m their friend and they drop me every time the damn road turns uphill. Training is unfair. I’m here to promote the message that its OK to sag at the back of the Cobble Classic while looking quite dapper in spandex. And that, my friends, is what this day is all about.