Sunday, July 29, 2007

finis

Cadel tried valiantly, but Contador felt the jersey slipping away and managed to keep a grasp on the hem. Levi rode with the vengeance of what could have been and layed down the 4th fastest TT in TdF history. How different would this podium look if Rasmussen had not been allowed to start and his vicious accelerations in the mountains had not made their withdrawals from the other riders energy stores. Leipheimer, the consummate nice guy, selflessly rode for young Contador and setting him up for the win. Evans looks to have regained the confidence and promise of his early career to ride with aplomb and tenacity. Contador, recently cleared of the Puerto implications, has managed a win of both the yellow and the white jerseys.

I will not be one of those hysterical and histrionic people who says they won't watch pro cycling anymore or that all riders are doping. This is the only sport I have loved and I have been in love since I was 14. This sport is changing and change can usually be painful and this change is no different. I believe that we are going to go back to a pro cycling like that that existed up until the very early 1980's. Lemond is often credited with a great influence on American cycling and on the use of technology and equipment in the European peloton, but he also did much to elevate rider salaries and usher in a more modern expectation of prize money. Prior to 1984, the winner of Paris-Roubaix received about $2000 for winning the greatest one-day bike race in the world.

The big money corporate sponsors are going to pull back their support for pro cycling. I think we will see the rise of trade teams once again, as the only ones with a vested interest in professional cycling are cycling related companies. As the money shrinks, the large team budgets will disappear and teams will have to run leaner staff numbers. I hope we don't reenter the days when domestiques were true to their title and were in charge of laundry and fixing meals and serving the needs of the team stars both on and off the bike. I remember watching Rabobank Directeur Sportif Theo de Rooj racing for the Panasonic team in the 1985 Paris-Roubaix. He had made the winning break early in the race, riding in horrendously muddy conditions on cobbles slickened to a glass-like polish. This was in the early days of cycling coverage in the states, and it was a taped and edited race that CBS showed with a dramatic narration/commentary by Phil Liggett. In the midst of de Rooj's break, CBS showed a human interest piece on him. It showed him waking up Panasonic team captain Eric Vanderaerden, making breakfast and washing team kits. The most striking thing was how the rider's had their names on their respective room doors. Vanderaerden's name was literally written on a large foil star, presumably to insure that he was treated with the proper deference. Theo crashed out while riding in a straight line on one of the many crowned cobble paths, thus ending his dream of winning the race. By the end, de Rooj's breakaway companions (the enigmatic Patric Versluys and the Daehnens brothers) were caught outside of Roubaix by Panasonic team star, Eric Vanderaerden. Reportedly, Vanderaerden caught the break and said, "I'm here boys, now what are you going to do?" Vanderaerden smoked the sprint and took the win from his domestique competition. de Rooj was interviewed in his team car. He was nearly unrecognizable with head to toe dried, caked on mud. He said, "You're out here riding like an animal." When told that his team captain had won, pain flickered across his demeanor at the thought of what could have been his. He then stammered, "I know I'll never... I know I'll never be the captain of... I know I'll never be the leader of a team." Let's hope that our new cycling era will be able to insure the dignity of every rider, at the very least.

Pro cycling will survive. We must also keep in mind that cycling is doing far more to combat doping than any other major professional sport. Every sport has its complimentary performance enhancement products, just take a look at the IOC's banned products list. I have to be honest and say that no matter what, I'll be right there glued to the monitor or the tv, soaking in the racing coverage.
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