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Tour de France

Vaughters Q&A: Time will tell if performances are clean

The Garmin-Sharp CEO talks about his squad, Sky’s dominance, and more in Gap

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GAP, France (VN) — Jonathan Vaughters just returned to the Tour de France, fresh off finals at Denver University, where the Garmin-Sharp CEO is pursuing an MBA at the University of Denver’s Daniels College of Business.

He took time to chat with two reporters before the stage into Gap Tuesday about his squad, the skepticism surrounding Chris Froome (Sky) in the media, and the Tour thus far.

VeloNews: Are you happy with what you’ve seen out of your team thus far?

Jonathan Vaughters: I was really happy with the way that they raced in the Pyrenees. I think, you know, we’ve just got to look for the some opportunities in the Alps. Its like Dan Martin said: “Just treat every day as a one-day race, and see what comes of it.”

You got to have legs to be aggressive in the last week. So like I can go in there and say, “goddammit we’re going to attack from the beginning of the stage.” If the recovery’s not there, if the legs aren’t there, then it’s not going to work. The last week’s a little unique. Early in the race you can be aggressive when you want to be aggressive. When you get to this point in the race, sure an aggressive tactic sounds great, but the legs need to be there to make that happen, too. I think the guys have recovered well but you never know until they’re on the road.

VN: How about the performance of Andrew Talansky in his first Tour?

JV: I think he’s done a very nice first Tour de France. I think we’ll see a little more from him. I think he’s suffered a little bit more with the heat than expected. If you look at most of his top race performances, they’ve been in slightly cooler climate events. That’s also a little bit of adapting and age, you know. [At] this TDF there hasn’t been a single day of rain. It’s been hot every day. So I think maybe he’s a tiny bit below his expectation because of the heat, but at the same time he’s learned a lot and he sort of understands what he needs to do to continue his progression forward.

VN: Did he underestimate the Tour?

JV: I don’t think so at all. If you look at what he said before the race, he said, “My goal is to finish. It’s my first Tour de France.” And I think that was a good goal, and I think he’s outstripped his own expectations considerably. You guys are the ones who said everything else.

VN: Before the Tour, you said you thought the difference between Sky and everyone else would shrink and so far that hasn’t happ—

JV: I would say the level between other teams and Sky is very similar. But you’re talking about one rider on Sky. If you compare Movistar or Saxo Bank to Sky, both Movistar and Saxo Bank are stronger than Sky, but there’s one rider on Sky that outstrips it. So … what we’ve seen in the past of the Sky sort of train up the mountains and then slowly disassemble the field. We’ve only sort of seen that on one day here, and the other days we’ve seen their guys suffering and getting dropped. I think the parity amongst teams is spot on here, but the fact of the matter is that Froome is just better.

VN: There’s a lot of skepticism about that team … do you think that’s a function of Froome’s dominance or more a function where cycling is now?

JV: It’s a combination. I think it’s impossible for people or journalists or whatever to just push out 100 years of history when they’re asking questions that now they are more authorized to ask than they were 10 years ago. I think that’s just a fact of the matter. Do I think the skepticism would be much less if he was winning by 15 seconds? Of course it would.

Well, what’s the answer? Is it founded to have skeptics? Yes. Is the skepticism founded? I mean, there’s no one that can answer that question except Chris Froome. He can only answer that question to himself. Because if he answers it to you, because of cycling’s history, you can perceive that as truth or you can perceive that as a lie. But, in the end, you’re going to question that just because of the history. I said this [Monday] … although people don’t want to hear this, the reality of this is that only the passage of time will bring this to a successful resolution, meaning that in 10 years from now will we be able to know 100 percent if this was a doped performance or a natural performance? Yes, we will. Nobody wants to wait 10 years. I’m sure Sky doesn’t want to wait 10 years … Chris probably doesn’t want to wait 10 years, but the fact of the matter is that is just sort of the reality that we have and I think that you have to remain transparent and pushing forward for the next 10 years and if we continue on that line then we’ll look back, and hopefully my hope and my belief … is that you know 10 years from now that we’ll look back and say, “wow, we really put that guy over the grill,” and he didn’t deserve it. That’s my hope, but I think we have to allow everything to filter through. The tincture of time will bring the truth to light no matter what. That’s been proven to be the case, always.

VN:Are we in danger of missing out on a brilliant performance because of our skepticism?

JV: You’re in danger of it, but the thing is there’s nothing wrong with the skepticism. That’s where you get caught. Yes. I mean, like, yes. You are in danger of missing out [on] truly the pinnacle of human performance, and not celebrating that. But at the same time the skepticism is founded because of the history. How do you get out of this sort of odd situation? I wish I had the answer to that.

VN: Garmin has experience with data release, etc. What else should Sky do?

JV: I believe that transparency is sort of the way out. But looking at if from the outside, they’re thinking, “Well, jeez. We release blood values that we think are completely fine, and then you’ve got a ton of people that aren’t necessarily experts criticizing it, and maybe people that are experts saying, ‘Well, I don’t know.’” There’s a lot read into the statement “I don’t know.” So at the same time, it’s a rock and a hard place for them. I mean, sure, if it were us, we’d probably just release the blood data, right? Well I can damn well see why they don’t, too.

VN: What about releasing watts, as some have called for?

JV: Where has there been a statistical, or universal, double-blind study that correlates power data with doping? It doesn’t exist. Sure, you can — listen, looking at broad statistical trends, you can see climbing speeds in 1988 here, you can see climbing speeds in 1996 here, climbing speeds are now here, right? And then all of the sudden you’ve got this outlier where it’s like, “he’s not 1996,” but you know, whatever. Statistically one outlier isn’t significant. But that statistical one outlier is the yellow jersey of the Tour de France. So, then, you know — when I talk about the statistics of VAM and power and so on, I’m talking about our broad group of 30 or 40 riders. I’m not talking — because you can’t individualize it and have it be statistically significant. But I understand why people want a definitive answer. The want to know yes or no, and …

VN: Do you want to know yes or no?

JV: Of course. But I don’t think that the definitive answer to that comes out for a while … With time, all truth is revealed. But like I said, my hope and belief — put it to you this way. If you put a gun to my head and say, is Chris Froome clean or is Chris Froome not? You get it wrong and the bullet goes off, right? My expectation would be that I would hear “click” and the bullet wouldn’t go off. But would I be f—ing wincing beforehand? Yes.

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