Yesterday, Austin (Sweetpea Bicycles), Scott (Portland Velo Cat 3), and I held an impromptu support group session in the comments section of my blog entry. As the news of the day grew worse and worse (Cofidis!? Then Rasmussen!?) our dolor increased.
Scott and I were nearly sealed in our resolve to drown our sorrows in a keg+fifth combo when Austin brought us back to the point of my original entry: it’s time to start buying local (our heroes, that is).
And while I know he’s right, and I’m happy to turn my attention back to the great men and women of Portland, there’s a part of me that is going to take some time to heal.
This is a hard thing to explain to people who don’t follow cycling (I tried yesterday). Having the Maillot Jaune shockingly and disgracefully pulled from the tour is a huge deal. The Maiilot Jaune, as a symbol, carries a tremendous and powerful weight that is hard to put into words. It IS the Tour de France in some ways. It is the hero’s cloth. It is sacred.
I returned from boot camp this morning, delivered a hot and steamy Stumptown americano to Sal, and then went downstairs to watch the pre-race coverage for today’s stage. Part of me felt like I was turning on the news channel to watch footage of some great natural disaster; some fantastic earthquake that had ripped a country in two. Indeed, the international cycling world is toppled, brought to its knees… crushed. Reeling.
You might accuse me of drama but I doubt I’m overstating my case. As Phil Liggit, Paul Sherwin, Bob Roll and Al Troutwig discussed the bombshell (and the impending consequences) they intermittently called it the “darkest day in cycling”. Phil Liggit (my personal favorite) was quick to point out that in a few years we may actually refer to it as the “brightest day in cycling” because it was the day that we caught-out all the cheats. It was the day that we cleaned house.
And when I say we I mean everyone. My language is intentional – there is a sense of ownership that permeates the sport, as with many other sports. Those are my heroes. The maillot jaune belongs to me. I have stake in it. I have made an investment in it. I deserve more. We deserve more. We deserve better.
And I think that we’re about to get it.
You can call me a hopeless optimist, but I think we are just about at the bottom of this trend, and I believe that it’s going to start turning around. I also feel like a huge naivety has been eradicated from my soul – I felt duped today when I reviewed the numbers.
Rasmussen’s performance, was, in many ways, impossible. Catching Valverde in the individual time trial? Why didn’t that register with me before? Rasmussen is not know for his time-trialling skills – how could that possible have happened? Then you look at the GC breakdown and you see that the fifth place rider (Valverde again) was more than 6 minutes down. That’s pretty phenomenal and it gets more telling from there… the tenth rider back was somewhere around 12 minutes down! That’s crazy!
Rasmussen hasn’t been proven guilty of anything – that’s the real kicker. He hasn’t tested positive. He simply missed some tests and misrepresented his whereabouts at key times before the tour started. But, if the facts that his team pulled voluntarily from the race, and that the peleton is rumored to be massively engrage are any indicator – you can be pretty sure that he’s done something wrong. And hopefully they’ll be able to give us some “scientific” evidence to support it.
In the meantime, the tour rolls on and I agree with Phil’s assessment that the top 3 riders are now, almost assuredly, clean. Levi and Contador both showed true-human fatigue yesterday on the top of that climb. The look on Levi’s face as he finished was a testament to the agony of the Pyranees – and to the substance of his spirit. Cadel is a human rock and can crack like any rock might – his strength is there but I am bolstered moreso by his weakness. Now, more than ever, I am looking to riders to be real and human. To break down and pop, to cringe and grit it out, to show the real guts of suffering.
I won’t watch today’s stage until this evening but I’m hopeful that the riders will deliver something amazing today. I am confident that they are as sick and frustrated of fakes and cheats as we are. I expect big things. I remain optimistic about the future of cycling and the tour.
European press be damned.