There are not many riders that I dislike. In fact I’d be hard pressed to actually name a rider that I don’t like. I mean, I don’t know these people personally so it would be a little arrogant of me to pass judgement on their character. Sure, some of them bother me with their über-arrogance during interviews, but then one has to remember that you rarely get to the top of your game by acting like a shrinking violet. That being said, I still find myself looking up to the pro riders, as athletes that is, and so when one of them wins a grand tour that may be, just may be, he should not have won, that bothers me.
The latest professional to fall foul of the ultra tight doping controls is 2010 Tour de France champion Alberto Contador. He wasn’t the only rider last year to be busted for ingesting a performance enhancing drug, but he was certainly the highest profile fail of the year. The cycling world was only just starting to recover from that other ‘stripped’ champ, Floyd Landis, who a few years ago gambled on an evening cocktail of beer with a testosterone chaser and then promptly rode an unbelievable stage. Well, it was unbelievable as it turned out, and there were elements of the same in some of Contador’s riding last year as well.
I don’t profess to be an expert. I am not a professional commentator à la Paul Sherwen or Phil Liggett, but I have done a lot of riding. That qualifies me, to a certain degree, to know when a rider is truly in ‘the zone’ as they’re climbing a 14% grade in temperatures exceeding 35c, or whether they look as if they’d seem just as comfortable lounging in a Lazy-Boy with a brandy snifter in one hand and a copy of ProCycling with their picture on the cover in the other! I couldn’t help but think, more than once I might add, that this was the aura that ‘Il Pistole’ exuded as he climbed. He just looked lighter than the others. Less stressed. Not as hot. More bouncy. More smiley. If there’s one thing you don’t feel like doing when you’re forty minutes into a steep climb, its smile. Grimace, yes. Smile, not so much.
So if the media reports are accurate, (why wouldn’t they be?), then we will have to wait a couple of weeks before we hear from the champion himself. He has allegedly been informed that he will receive a one year ban from the sport, thus ruining his chances of defending his Tour de France crown, and this same trophy is also the subject of speculation that basically points to it having to be returned. This would promote Andy Schleck, last year’s runner up for the second year in a row, to tour champ, but I highly doubt this will give him any satisfaction. Whether you’re a chemically aided rider or not, no-one wants to win a grand tour because the guy that beat them on the road on the day was disqualified. There’s no satisfaction in that for these guys at all. May be that’s because second and third place were just lucky they were not caught (I am not insinuating anything), or may be its just down to the simple fact that sports men and women want to win, and while many want to win at any cost, they all want to win because they crossed the line first.
Alberto, I will listen to what you have to say in a couple of weeks, but I have to tell you, it’d better be good.