Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Past and the Future of Cycling

An interesting, depressing, and exhilarating crossroads of time and space occurred in France today.

Before today's 12th stage began, cycling's past reared its ugly head in the form of another doping scandal. Ricardo Ricco, the erstwhile leader of the King of the Mountains and Young Rider classifications, as well as the winner of two mountain stages so far this year, was revealed to have been doping during the individual time trial. He was expelled from the tour and taken way by police. His Saunier-Duval team withdrew, saying that they could not in good conscience go on with their leader expelled for cheating.

After all the depressing excitement of the morning, the past gave way to the future in the form of an up-and-coming present star. Mark Cavendish, riding for the Columbia High Road team, won his third stage of this year's tour. Columbia is, as previously noted, one of the guaranteed clean teams (along with Garmin-Chipotle), who constantly test and retest their riders to make sure they are not cheating. So, in spite of the morning's events, eerily reminiscent of last year's doping-plagued Tour, there is still hope for the future of cycling, in the form of string team controls through organizations like the Agency for Cycling Ethics (ACE), which oversees both Columbia and Garmin-Chipotle.

David Millar, who served a two year ban for doping, has since become the leading anti-doping crusader in the peloton, and now rides for Garmin-Chipotle, is rarely at a loss for words. Last year, when the situation was at its worst, he broke down and cried. Today, he had this to say (from the AP via

"It's just amazing. It's irresponsible," British cyclist David Millar said. "This guy does not have any love or care for the sport.

"The unfortunate is that we are learning that things that look too good to be true are too good to be true," Millar added.

And standing above everyone in the Tour right now is Cadel Evans, the Australian who rides for Silence-Lotto. Silence-Lotto is not one of the ultra-clean teams (I am not leveling accusations at the team; I am just saying that, as far as I know, they are not associated with ACE), but I have never heard any accusations against Evans, and as far as I know, he is as squeaky clean as anyone.

So we have more bad news on the doping front, as a big name and a major contender is exposed and expelled. But we have good news as well, as a clean team's rider wins his third stage, and an ostensibly clean rider leads the GC race. Fingers crossed that we have seen the end of the big-name expulsions, but I'm not holding my breath. I just hope that some day soon we can have a Tour without the specter of doping hanging over it.

Maybe next year.