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.
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.