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Friday, July 20, 2007
Sure, getting the 'test' call is scary, but it's worth it

By Bobby Julich
Special to ESPN.com

LUXEMBOURG -- When the Michael Rasmussen news started to leak out to us Friday morning at our Team CSC training camp in Luxembourg, our morale was just shot.

The younger riders just looked at me and said, "Man, why is this happening? We just want to ride our bikes."

Well, it's not that simple in cycling anymore. And here we are again, faced with another scandal during the sport's biggest event, the Tour de France.

Oh, there's a race, too!

While the Rasmussen news was coming out, let's not forget there was a race today. It was nice to finally see a "sprint royale" at the end of Friday's Stage 12. All of the top sprinters were up front and there were thankfully no crashes this time. It set up one of the best finishes of the Tour so far.

It all sets up for a dramatic individual time trial on Saturday.

A time trial is like a big carpet unrolling -- it's real big at first and then it's faster and faster toward the end. The most important thing is to quickly get into a rhythm, find it and hold it as long as you can.

If you're 2:00 behind the pace halfway through, you're most certainly going to be 4:00 back at the end of the stage. You can't say, "I'll make up time at the end." It never happens. You have a speed, that's your effort level and you hope to hold it. Knowing how to read your body just comes with training and knowing your limits. Time trial specialists can judge that better than others. You know when you're in trouble when you can feel the burn starting.

You see riders start out too fast, and then, halfway through, they're done. The first kilometer is not where you're going to win the race. You take it up easy, get it going after a kilometer and get into your rhythm.

I would have to say that Andreas Kloden would be my top favorite to watch. You should also keep an eye on Christian Vandevelde (he's had glimpses of strong time trials this season). I'll also be pulling for George Hincapie and Levi Leipheimer to do well. Carlos Sastre and Alexandre Vinokourov could also be dangerous.

-- Bobby Julich

Rasmussen allegedly missed two recent drug tests and was given a warning of the violations on June 29 by the International Cycling Union (UCI), cycling's governing body.

Why does news like this always come out during the Tour de France, during the biggest sporting event in the world? The Tour is our marquee event. The UCI has a job because of us cyclists. Why would they want to release this information? To get a bigger story out of it? Why didn't his Rabobank team stop him, even when they knew about the warnings?

Well, here we are again in this quagmire we've been trying to get out. Every cyclist is hanging his head low right now.

I'll be the first to tell you that filling out the paperwork for our doping controls is a pain, but it's one of the sacrifices we're making to clean up the sport. It's the regulations. We've had to deal with it for years, so it's nothing new.

If Rasmussen really missed those multiple tests, there is something wrong there. Out of respect for the sport, you fill out these forms and you let officials know where you'll be. If you're gone for a month, if you're gone a week, if you're plans change, you have to let them know where you are.

We usually fill out one form for the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency and another for UCI every quarter. With Team CSC, we do it month-to-month. Sure, sometimes it's hard to know months in advance where you're going to be; plans change. But you can revise your "whereabouts" form, you can even do it all online.

A story from my own personal experience: I recently had a crazy travel schedule. I flew from France to Philadelphia, then out West for altitude training, then back to France again. I said to myself, "If I was an anti-doping person, this would look shady because of all the extra travel." So, I made double sure I filled out those forms so officials would be able to locate me.

There are times when it's really an inconvenience. You might decide at the spur of the moment to take a day trip with your family, or officials might call when you're about to sit and eat dinner, or put your kids to bed. That's why I keep my cell phone on me even when I am training. If they call you, you have to be prepared to drive back to meet them. You work it out if there's a last-minute change to your presubmitted schedule.

No one wants a missed test. When you get the call from an anti-doping inspector, it's scary! You have to just make sure to haul yourself home and get there and give them the sample. You say to yourself, "Thank God I had the cell phone on."

But that's my life. These are the sacrifices we're making to make the sport better. And when I get tested, I say to myself, "This is working! If officials are paying attention and testing me, then I am not wasting my time filling out these forms." It gave me more confidence in the out-of-competition testing. Even though it's hard sometimes, I was happy that they tested me. I would have been disappointed if they didn't.

But even with all of the rules we've added to cycling, there are still these endless stories of riders skirting the rules and trying to avoid detection.

If this is true about Rasmussen, if they really couldn't find him, his federation or team or UCI should not have allowed him to enter the Tour. If all of this is true, someone is not doing his job. Other riders will look at this and say, "This isn't right. Something is fishy here."

That's the scary thing about sports right now. If you win, you're going to be in the crosshairs. Even more reason to make sure you're doing things by the book. For Rasmussen to potentially go missing for a certain period of time, then come and earn yellow at the Tour and the team knew about the warnings -- this goes deeper than the rider.

Bobby Julich, a member of Team CSC, will be providing a diary for ESPN.com throughout the Tour de France. The American has been a professional cyclist since 1992. He finished third overall in the 1998 Tour de France and won the Paris-Nice race in 2005.