– Where the Tygart Affair (we have to name it something, don’t we?) proved most remarkable was in the heartbroken woe we heard time and time again from the riders. With each mea culpa — almost universally featuring Grand Tour-scale usage of the passive voice — riders bemoaned how they were victims of a dastardly system. By contrast, nearly nothing was uttered about the sinister satisfaction they surely felt when their peak fitness was amplified by perfectly timed-and-dosed dopage. Dave Z’s send-up of Jimi Hendrix was the only expression of the thrill of the perpetrator. Are the riders conducting revisionist history by describing all those years as nothing but gloomy victimhood? How much spin in each confession?
– The UCI’s complicity in the culture of dopage is old news. But the surprise that emerged last week was that it could be bribed so cheaply. Wipe out a scandal for a half-million dollars? For you and me, that’s a lot of cash. But in the world of international sport, that’s the weekend’s bar bill. (The IOC is Cat 1, but FIFA is PRO.) But this is another example of how the UCI has become a shakedown racket. It’s an organization that fleeces bike manufacturers for countless thousands of dollars in frameset certification fees that produce no meaningful benefit for anyone. That UCI decal on your bike: Is it a guarantee of safety or integrity? No, it’s simply proof of conformity to an empty, purposeless standard.
– A worrisome insinuation from the last two weeks is that peloton is firmly on its way to becoming far cleaner. Perhaps we’ll see less institutionalized doping in the style of Manolo Saiz or Johan Bruyneel. But for those of us who remember 1999, the year of the so-called ‘Tour of Redemption,’ the notion of a lily white peloton seems misplaced.
For every rueful, ex-doping pro who sang like a canary there are 10 (or perhaps 100 or maybe 1,000) bike racing kids who’ll take any risk to escape the probable grimness of the adulthood awaiting them. Decades spent in a Kazak titanium mine? A lifetime doing construction in the Dallas suburbs? Au contraire — who wouldn’t choose to train like Merckx and befriend the needle like Lou Reed? Deliverance is where you can find it.
– Chapeau Rabobank, you will be missed. Four of my favorite Men In Orange, in chronological order:
Rolf Sørensen. Dig the final bend.
Michael Boogerd, giving The Lance a lesson at the ’99 Amstel Gold Race. Dig the massive Dutch wheelsucking:
Erik Dekker, giving The Lance a lesson at the ’01 Amstel Gold Race. Dig the track stand action:
Juan Antonio Flecha, killing boredom at another yawn-inducing day at the Vuelta. Dig the broad stripes and bright stars thru the perilous fight: