Now I know what I want to do if I live to be 100 years old. I want to ride my bicycle. I want to ride my bicycle like Robert Marchand. Never heard of him? Well he’s just the 100 year old man who set the hour mark on a bicycle at 15.1 miles. We know he set this record because it seems noone else has even tried in his age category. The UCI had to invent a category for him. Now that’s special!
Five and a half years have passed since Jan Ullrich made an unceremonious exit from the sport of cycling. It was only hours before the 2006 Tour de France that the Operation Puerto story broke. It marked the end of an era for cycling and a period of uncertainty for several years to come. And now it seems that the squeaky door has finally shut on a scandal that took down many of the greats of the late 90s/early 2000s peloton. The now meaningless and irrelevant verdict that suspends Jan Ullrich for two years is the final nail in the coffin. Done. Finally.
I don’t think Alberto Contador knowingly ingested clenbuterol. I don’t have any proof of this, it’s just my opinion. Then again, the doping authorities don’t seem to know how the microscopic amounts of this substance got into his system either. They’ve decided to label him as a doper and strip him of a whole slew of titles he won even without proof of ANY illegal substance being in his system.
When a man defies a fascist regime by refusing to represent it in the sport he excels in, he’s making a powerful statement about his own beliefs and the courage to back them up. When that regime is the Nazi party, it is a veritable death sentence. Albert Richter was a German track cycling champion in the 1930s who refused to represent the Nazi party and he paid for his convictions with his life.
Now that Alejandro Valverde has made a successful return to the peloton, Michael Rassmussen is continuing to defend his ghostly itinerary, and Alberto Contador awaits a court’s ruling on the microscopic bits of clenbuterol in his blood, it’s once again time to reflect on the complexities of doping offenses and how we should react to it’s impact on our sport.
For as long as there has been professional cycling we (as cycling fans) have been imbibing the intoxicating notion that certain up and coming cyclists may be the “next somebody.” Directors, managers, fellow cyclists, commentators, and pundits are always peddling certain members of the younger generation to be “as talented as (name your champion).” Why not? It’s easy to project hints of greatness into neverending glory when predictions can be so easily forgotten. It’s fun to seek out the new Eddy Merckx or Bernard Hinault. But very often the riders we saddle with these unrealistic expectations fail under the heavy weight of reality. Being an “expert” in sports predictions is like being a weatherman, noone is going to hold you accountable for being wrong tomorrow. Or if they do, it will be quickly forgotten. Don’t worry, you’re getting paid for trying, not for being right.
Ignorance is bliss. I just finished reading the article “To be Frank with Andy” in the February 2012 issue of Cycle Sport magazine. I don’t know what universe the Schleck brothers reside in but clearly it runs perpendicular to the one I see every year in the Tour de France. Bear with me fine readers as I’m going to make a quick dissection of this article because I just find it absurdly fascinating that these two brothers continue to live inside a cycling bubble.