The Garmin team manager wrote this short article for the August 1999 edition of Cycle Sport. On his request, we have re-run it here.

Words by Jonathan Vaughters

Sunday October 14, 2012. This was originally published in July 1999

This is one of the many common experiences cyclists share – pros and cat-five riders alike. Along with fixing flat tyres, running out of food, dreading rainy days, and the looks of those not acquainted with Lycra clothing, the Tour is something we can all relate to on some level or another.

While speaking to a friend of mine, a weekend warrior back in Colorado, I was reminded of how many parallels we share. He was speaking to me about how a race in Colorado ended due to some controversy over the centre line rule – one of many odd and obscure rules all of us who race in the US have to deal with.

The centre line rule simply states that you may not cross the centre of the road while racing – 50 per cent of the road for racing, 50 per cent of the road for cars. This makes sense, I suppose, as oncoming traffic is dangerous for the riders, and closing roads is difficult these days.

Well, back in Colorado we have quite a few races incorporating the centre line rule. We have quite a bit of wind in the mountains, so, as you might except, sometimes, to get a proper drafting effect riders sneak over the yellow line. Illegal and unsafe as it is. Soon enough, the other riders notice the advantage gained by those drafting on the sheltered side and also start to move across.

All of this is very much against the rules but riders think, “if they’re doing it, I better do it too, else I’ll be dropped in the crosswind.” Being competitive in nature, bicycle racing attracts people who want to win.

Soon enough, race officials come and lash out warnings from their motorbikes. For a time it works, but a few here and there sneak across, then more, then all. This situation escalates and the officials start to give out penalties. To whom? Only the ones they see. If you can get away with crossing the line you won’t get a penalty. So everyone is going across from time to time.

Once more, most of the field has crossed the line. Now cars have to pull off and dangerous situations arise. Motorists are angry. The public is angry with cycling. So, as the race rounds a bend a police car pulls in front. The race is stopped by stern-looking policemen, wanting to know why cyclists can’t obey the law.

This scenario has happened more than once in Colorado, but my friend seemed particularly upset this time. “Stupid rule,” he said. “We weren’t in danger! Man, I love that race, and now it might not happen any more. I only crossed the line for a second maybe once, or twice, because I had to.”

“The pros never have to deal with stuff like this,” he said. Then I told him that maybe all cyclists have to deal with stuff like that. He shrugs and says, “Nah, not you guys,” and then asks me how I think I’ll do in this year’s Tour…

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  • http://falseflat.wordpress.com/ fiona cooke

    Ha Ha! I thought JV was ACTUALLY writing about racing on the wrong side of the road….. D’oh!!

  • Lawro

    Interesting article that represents a typical amature racing scenario. Many races are called off by the police and indeed many have have now ceased due to law breakers- yes its a shame when ‘my favourite’ race has to finish but if people continue to break the law, knowingly and continously, they deserve what comes to them. I guess i’m not the only one who interprets this article as ‘code’ – but i guess it is a rather useful comparison with the recent drugs scandals (actually last 20 years and probably way before that!). Lets face it…being honest, 99% of the peleton was on drugs, each team probably had its own ‘leaders’ who strove for better performances, wins etc etc. Despite the drugs (which I think i would have had to have taken just to get over those mountains..at that pace) I am still totally in awe of the legends of tours and other races…lance included. They were all on it – lance was the best at it. Hopefully now we move onto new pastures and the likes of Wiggo et al can take the sport into new ‘clean’ territory.

  • Blatman

    Crossin the road.. in little old new zealand we are just starting to have the fun of having to ride on our half of the road.. the good old days of a free for all are gone. bureacrats are running out of things to control..cyclist are like anyone else when faced with temptations. even as simple as staying safe. if cheating was replaced with unsportmans like conduct a few more pros may own up to not playing fair.. like performancing enhancing items like taking the train in an early Tour de france…

  • Funny

    You got to love how JV likes stands on his soap box now that he is in the position to do so. He was a doper through & through. Amazing how much of an advocate he is for clean racing…if it weren’t for his drug use he would have never been racing for USPS which then launched his career and resulted in the coaching job for Garmin. Do as I say, not as I did. All of these guys are frauds, some bigger than others.

  • Skippy

    Took a little to understand where the ” police ” came into the story ! UCIless worth nothing then , worth even less now .

  • Jack Soulsby

    Can’t see much “code” there! It’s a great piece of allegorical writing. I would be interested to know how it was remarked upon at the time? Someone must have thought “Jeez! That guy, Lance’s mate, he’s just really said something there! Maybe we should talk to him about it?” Or is that the point?

  • Mikka Hobart

    So, the author knew what he and a lot of the peleton were doing was wrong, even enough to write this thinly cryptic piece and yet some people on here still praise him for his strength? Rubbish. His well timed “confession” simply prevented his lies from being revealed by USADA. He deserves to be tarred with the same brush as LA et al. A cheat, pure and simple.

  • Makumi

    This metaphor is precise and impressive in both extent and accuracy and the analysis is unfailingly cogent and well balanced. Vaughters’ prose is concise, natural and readable. He writes/wrote with the same aplomb that is visible from his sartorial panache.

    Its vital that those in charge understand the diverse tapestries of cycling beyond just winning. Doping pained him then. He was aware, he remains aware long may it continue.

  • Burt Bronson

    Wow. You rock, JV. Keep doing what you’re doing. You are making a change, and changes take time.

  • G. C.

    I am a little puzzled why this written and published.

    It was written in code so effectively that only those “in the know” realised that the article was really alluding to the use of drugs in cycling.

    The problem seems to have been that “those in the know” were complicit in covering up the lies and deceit all those years.

    My hat raises to Kimmage and Landis, tarred by the sport for being bitter and resentful for the way the sport had treated them, with hindsight were some of the few with integrity