Sal and I work together in separate home offices and we have a “door policy”; when the door is shut we’re heads down (do not disturb). So, yesterday when he came bursting through my closed door with a look of agony on his face I knew something really important must be up.
But I did not expect to hear what he had to say.
“Vino tested positive. Astana is going home.”
The news hit me like a sucker punch to the gut. The saliva in my mouth thickened and I could feel my heart rising into my throat. I wanted to throw up.
“What? You’re kidding.”
“No, I’m not. It’s all over the news.”
My response mirrored Millar’s widely published reaction (from Velonews.com): ” “Jesus Christ – there you go, that’s my quote,” he blurted out. “What timing, huh? This is just f#cking great.”
But the news about Vino wasn’t the only thing that got me. Astana going home? Really? Salvodeli? Kloden? Gone? I fucking love Salvodeli. I love him as I loved Chechu and as I loved the ill-fated, floppy-eared pirate. And Kloden was in 5th place!
Cycling is a funny sport and 9 years ago I didn’t even know it existed. I would have found out eventually, I suppose, as The Lance Armstrong Effect took hold in the states, but I got a crash-course after meeting Sal in 1999.
I’ll admit it, I scoffed at the idea of watching a 3 week bike race on TV. I couldn’t imagine what I would see… what could possibly be interesting about watching a bunch of skinny dudes on bikes?
And then Sal started explaining tactics, and politics, and teams, and kits, and components. I started to get a feel for the way the peloton moves as an entity and how a break forms. I became enthralled with the gleaming and pristine machines they rode and their shiny-shiny baby-smooth legs.
What’s my point?
I didn’t want to love cycling but I do. I love all the prima donna bullshit, the bank-busting gear, the bike lust, the tiny bodies, the rock-hard calves, the snaking motion of a really amazing climber, the post-race banter, and the drama. And I love the tour because it is the pinnacle of all those things.
And I’m sick of having my heart broken.
On one hand I’m proud of professional cycling for continuing its efforts to ensure the sport is clean (trust me, pro baseball and football have far worse demons, they’re just not brave enough to actually call them to task). On the other hand, I’m tired of heroes toppled again and again, just when I think I’ve found someone that won’t let me down.
For the moment I’ll watch the rest of the tour like a good girl and hope the news doesn’t get any worse. At the end of the day, however, the message for me is clear. There’s too much money, pride, and pressure at the pro level. Better to keep my heroes local and human. Better to put my faith in the PV boys, the great Molly Cameron, or super-hard-man Erik Tonkin.
Go to hell, Vino.