It’s a hard habit to break. Even tonight I came home, turned the telly on at 7PM and hopped to ITV 4. Alas, the tour is over now, but despite all the controversy I still enjoyed it. Cycling Weekly got it badly wrong when they called for the tour to stop early. Whilst it is clearly wrong that top line cyclists like Alexandr Vinokourov, Michael Rasmusen and Iban Mayo doped to improve their form it is far more important that this is the first year I’ve known in which favourites were caught and dealt with promptly.
David Millar and his fellow majority of clean riders in the Peloton are rightly getting very angry at many of his fellow sportsmen who clearly are taking a long time to wake up. How far back the culture of doping goes is hard to guess. Tom Simpson certainly died whilst doping and tales of doping from that period on are all over the place. Sadly there’s little interest in the veterans in tarnishing their reputation and coming clean, especially when like Bjarne Riis they were running a team. However, slowly the truth is emerging and perhaps we’re looking at the end of a scandal that has lasted several generations. That’s not to say all successful riders doped , there’s clearly been a number of outstanding riders such as Lance Armstrong and Miguel Indurain who by skill and genetics were able to operate on a different level. That said we do know almost certainly that Bjarne Riis and Marco Pantani doped their way to a yellow jersey.
It will be very interesting to see what shape of tour ASO (the TDF’s organisers) pick to run with when they announce in October. There’s talk of national teams, Millar’s moved to a new American team who appear to have a much stronger anti-doping regime than anyone else and also there’s a strong possibility of another stage to reach London in the coming years. However there are many issues to be resolved in cycling which essentially boil down to arguments between the organisers of the tour and the organisers of elite cycling over who has real power. If they can agree on entering national teams then a UK team is certainly on the cards in ’09 if not ’08. In the longer term a cleaner tour will only mean good things for the sport of cycling in the UK, as it will become only easier to enter our clean athletes and hope for success on a fair basis.
Roll on Tour ’08