Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Taking the High Road and Starting Fresh

We are five days into the 2008 Tour de France, and it seems like every other commercial shows disgraced cyclists Michael Rasmussen and Jan Ulrich riding, and Floyd Landis being awarded a yellow jersey. What makes this commercial noteworthy is that all of the scenes are run in reverse, so it shows the riders moving away from the finish line and Landis removing the maillot jeune. The end of the commercial has a single rider, I believe from the disgraced (and this year banned) Astana team filling the screen and locking into the starting gate and saying "A New Stage Begins."

Today, the new stage took off. A member of the new Team Columbia High Road, Mark Cavendish, won the 232 KM stage from Cholet to Chateauroux. And after today's stage, Garmin Chipotle and Columbia High Road hold the top two places in the team time competition. On top of that, it was Garmin Chipotle rider William Frischkorn who started a breakaway in stage three that led the race for over 200 of the 208 KM. Frischkorn finished second in the stage, as the breakaway group maintained over a two minute lead on the main field of riders. Columbia High Road and Garmin Chipotle, the team formerly known as Slipstream before securing corporate sponsorship, are committed to racing clean. The teams pay for testing by the Agency for Cycling Ethics, and their riders are tested far above and beyond the requirements for the UCI or the ASO, the international governing body for cycling and the organization that puts on the Tour de France.

The early success of Columbia High Road and Garmin Chipotle give hope for both the present and future of cycling. Riders can be unquestionably clean and still have great success. For another example, Garmin Chipotle rider David Millar, who in the past served a two year ban for doping violations and has since then become the leading critic of doping in the peloton, is only 12 seconds behind the leader in the overall general classification.

Maybe this year the Tour will not be tainted by the dark cloud of doping, and can instead be a celebration of cycling, competition, and the toughest test in sports. As for me, I'm rooting for Millar and Cavendish and Frischkorn, because they do it right, honestly, and in line with the spirit of the event.