Vingegaard accelerated at the col de la Loze, last Wednesday.DPA via Europa Press (DPA via Europa Press)
“How strange,” he says in L’Equipe Nicholas Raudenski. “We do hundreds of controls and they are all negative. Something happens”. Distrustful by nature and investigator by vocation, Raudenski, an American anti-terrorism expert who is now in charge of intelligence at the International Testing Agency (ITA), the company to which the International Cycling Union (UCI) entrusts the anti-doping of the Tour.
The skeptical strangeness of the rookie Raudeski is fueled by two of the so-called universal truths that are passed down from father to son on the Tour. Doping in all sports has a prevalence of 20%, at least, according to multiple surveys, but the rate of positives in laboratories does not reach 1%. And, as everyone knows, cycling, and the Tour, has always been the showcase for the latest trends in performance chemistry, since its first edition in 1903. Raudeski is frustrated that even though he designs the Tour controls with all the information his intelligence service provides him – controls by lottery or those limited only to the first of the stage or the general have ended years ago; The controls also ended only at the end of the stage: on days of important stages, the agents board the buses of the best teams, Pogacar’s and Vingegaard’s, to take samples in the morning, and repeat at night, and the suspects are controlled, and more than 10 controls are carried out a day, including blood samples for the biological passport, the indirect method of EPO detection—they don’t find any cheaters, and their insistence on showing their distrust is not the best news for Jonas Ving Egaard, who, like all the best on the Tour so far this century, has to overcome skepticism, the doubts about his cleanliness that his great performance inevitably arouses. The Dane, after the sinking of Tadej Pogacar in the time trial and the Col de la Loze, lives alone on the moon.
Having exhausted the words, “how good is skeptical vigilance so as not to sin again”, “I would not take anything that I could not give my daughter”, and the transparency, “yes, I do high-altitude camps in the Sierra Nevada, Teide and Tignes”, Vingegaard, who from time to time resorts to sarcasm and irony to deal with those who doubt, has no more proof of what he takes than purple lips after drinking his beetroot juice, and cherries sometimes, and the red color of your urine that no longer surprises anti-doping agents who observe your urination daily. “Of course beetroot juice works because of its high content of nitrates that end up being converted into nitrites and nitric oxide that circulates in the blood,” explains Aitor Viribay, an exercise physiologist whose doctoral thesis dealt with beets and nitrates and who is about to publish research that supports the joint supplementation of nitrates and citrulline, an amino acid that comes from watermelon. “That is why humans take nitrates chronically. They improve muscle contraction capacity, ventilatory efficiency and potentially long-term performance, because we have some pool of nitrates in the muscles that load themgenerate a beneficial effect also at the mitochondrial level, of the motor of the cells”.
They share the best teams in the platoon, almost all populated and scientifically directed by a new generation of researchers who know each other and spy on each other and communicate, the impression that there are no secrets, that everyone takes the same thing, all legal, of course, all with studied effects on performance but much less pronounced than those of the large prohibited substances, EPO, anabolics and corticosteroids. The improvement in performance is achieved, explain the physiologists, engineers, nutritionists, psychologists, because of the best way to train, because of how fabulous the bikes are now – and they don’t have an engine, as verified by the team of ex-racer Michael Rogers, who X-rays a dozen bikes at the start and finish line – because all the roads are newly paved, because the cyclists are increasingly professional, because of how well they handle the heat, eat better, live better, and concentrate more. at altitude, they control hypoxia… “The biggest change in cycling now is the compression of the training, adaptation, recovery, and fatigue processes. We are seeing that runners who, with a different approach than usual in a grand tour, perform well, because when they are out of shape, sometimes you think that we are causing them a lot of fatigue, sometimes the cyclists are overfatigued”, says Viribay, from the Ineos scientific team. “Now there are very good coaches and what they are doing better is fatigue management, fatigue management, more than training.”
The permitted substances are the minimum differential factor, the law of small details, which in the case of Vingegaard, even become minimal. The Dane does not ingest ketones or bicarbonate, two of the most fashionable substances.
Bicarbonate, which has always been used for its buffering effect on lactic acid, but is very aggressive for the stomach, is now formulated as a continuous-release hydrogel, and it has also been discovered that it can help at low intensities. “The metabolic paradox is that cyclists use a lot of lactate also at low intensities, and the working hypothesis is that bicarbonate can help speed up glycolysis so that cells extract energy also at low intensities,” summarizes Viribay.
Ketones put the body into ketosis without the need for carbohydrate deprivation dieting, the cyclist’s staple. Ketone bodies make the body use fat as fuel, which saves glycogen at some intensities, more expensive, more limited, and also, according to a study published by the Spanish scientist from the University of Bath Javier González, former head of nutrition at Ineos, it also increases the body’s production of erythropoietin in the same way that apnea sessions increase it. What has not been proven or proven is whether this increase also generates an increase in hemoglobin in the blood.
Journalists say that Vingegaard does not like the taste of ketones, of which Remco Evenepoel is so gluttonous, while scientific sources report that their consumption disturbs the strict control of his weight, that he never wants to exceed 60 kilos, but shows that even without ketones you can win the Tour, and twice.