You may or may not have noticed, but the biggest deal in North American Men's Professional Road Cycling, the Amgen Tour of California (or AToC for those desperate for initializing) began on Saturday. This race marks the return of Lance Armstrong to his first US race, Floyd Landis to his first post-suspension race and Ivan Basso to his post-suspension era as well.
It struck me as odd that in a week dominated by the performance enhancing drug revelations of Alex Rodriguez, that no fewer than 5 professional cyclists who had served suspensions for drug violations would be in California. They include the aforementioned Landis and Basso along with Stage 1 winner Francesco Mancebo, Tyler Hamilton and Oscar Sevilla (all of Rock Racing - a supportive, half way team that eases those coming off of suspensions back into the rough and tumble world of the pro peloton with all of its temptations and pressures). Couple this with convicted party drug imbiber Tom Boonen (cocaine) and everybody's favorite man in grey (the area between legal and illegal), Lance Armstrong and you just know somebody is going to have to say something. Paul Kimmage, former pro cyclist, journalist, and author of the tell-all drug expose Rough Ride, confronted Armstrong in a press conference and really told it like it is to his face. Armstrong's reaction was to be expected, but his recent dropping of his much touted and publicized self-testing program under the direction of Don Catlin, doesn't exactly make for a strong defense in Armstrong's corner.
What is even funnier is the American public's seeming desire to really, really, really want to forgive A-Rod and move on from the whole drugs mess, while cycling just keeps devolving into a sordid, soap opera like series of scandals and bitter recriminations. Maybe, just maybe, this will be the year that nothing much happens in cycling and the rest of the sports world gets its share of cheaters and dopers exposed.