Tour de Drama
The Dauphine reveals who is looking good for the 2012 Tour de France.
The Dauphine is all wrapped up and except for some strong moments by BMC Racing Team's Cadel Evans, it was the Team Sky show starring Bradley Wiggins.
The British team rode a dominating race with Wiggins a very close second place finisher in the prologue and then his resounding victory in stage 4's individual time trial. Stage 3 went to Edvald Boasson Hagen in a sprint. And let's not forget the collaborative effort of the whole Team Sky during the queen stage of the race taking the riders from Saint-Alban-Leysse to Morzine. The team never showed any weakness and was able to stay with team leader Wiggins when it mattered. Impressive stuff.
However, in these days of doping scandals when a rider or team does exceptionally well suspicion is raised. Wiggins did a pre-Dauphine training on Tenerife - an island off of Africa known for mountains and ideal for high altitude training. This location, while seeming far off is actually used by pros for the reason that there are very few distractions. All they can do is sleep, ride, eat, repeat. Regardless people suggested that the true reason was to be away from prying eyes.
In response to the Team Sky questioning, Team Garmin-Barracuda manager Jonathan Vaughters took to Twitter and commented, "not sure why ppl are surprised by sky:a few €800k guys pulling a €900k guy, who then pulls for a €1.3m guy,who helps a €2m guy."
For all the sly comments regarding Wiggins becoming a real grand tour threat you first need to look at the mechanism behind the man. Team Sky has one of the richest budgets in professional cycling. And to quote Vaughters again, "they aren't doping, they are buying up talent."
I've been burned too many times to never boldly state like Vaughters does about anyone not doping. I've learned that the fan or media person never truly knows what a rider is doing. Hell, team managers always claim that they didn't know that their busted rider was doping - how can I know?
However, I'm not at that place in my mind to believe that just because a team or rider is having some phenomenal results to automatically suspect shenanigans. That type of disbelief only ruins my enjoyment of the sport I have called my passion for well over 25 years.
Sometimes you need to enjoy the story. You want to be able to enjoy the heroic story in cycling without constantly questioning whether the winner is cheating. That said, I'm not naively closing my eyes to doping that has occurred and will occur again. If a situation looks dodgy then yes, I'm going to question it. But I'm not going to have a knee jerk reaction that they must be doping. Also, I haven't changed my views on certain riders and whether they doped or not - I'm just not going to throw my arms up in the air, proclaim they all cheat and always be suspicious.
At this point I have no reason to doubt that Team Sky has been using anything more than its large budget and transforming that to wins. If you remember, Sky said that this was a three year program to start winning and that's what they have done.
Another squad that has a large budget is BMC Racing Team which also impressed at the Dauphine. And by "they" I mean Cadel Evans. A stage win, second place and two thirds in addition to his third place on the final general classification means that the Tour de France defending champion has a bit of work to do in comparison to Wiggins. But he's awfully close to the winning form necessary to repeat.
For the longest time I thought the Schlecks (or is the plural Schlecki?), particularly Andy, would be a threat to the G.C. and by looking at his results so far I think the safest bets would not be where he finishes on the G.C. but if he finishes at all.
Andy crashed in the Dauphine time trial and abandoned a couple of days later. Brother Frank is also having some hard luck with a crash in the Giro d' Italia and then also dropping out a couple of days later, much to the chagrin of RadioShack team manager Johan Bruyneel. This led to a good old fashioned war of words and it was being duked out in public for all to see. Not the classiest way to conduct team business, but hey, I guess RadioShack (I'm referring to the corporation that kicks in the money so they can have their big red "R" on the jersey) knew what they were doing when they hired Bruyneel?
As I'm writing this article it was announced that George Hincapie is retiring after this August's USA Pro Cycling Challenge. From the press release Hincapie said, "I came to the conclusion that I want to go out while I can still contribute and make a difference. To be able to compete for 19 years as a professional cyclist has been something I would have never dreamed of doing. But at the same time, it's also going to be good to spend more time with my kids, who are getting to be the age where they miss me when I'm gone."
Hincapie's retirement is an end of an era in many ways, but here are some of his career highlights.
- Five time Olympian
- 17 Paris-Roubaix finishes
- 17 Tour of Flanders finishes
- When he starts this year's Tour de France it will be a record breaking 17 participations, besting the record of Dutchman Joop Zoetemelk.
It's a stellar career that is only missing a Paris-Roubaix win - a classic that was near and dear to his heart. However, I don't think that will keep him up at night as other things will undoubtedly keep him occupied such as family life and his clothing company Hincapie Sportswear.
Hincapie goes on to say that he would like to stay involved in cycling in some capacity. Next year the Hincapie Development squad is transitioning to a U-23 team. Perhaps he could transition into a mentor to these riders? But like I mentioned - he's got a lot in front of him in the near future.
Another American icon is Chris Horner. To my surprise Horner did not make his RadioShack team's long list for the Tour de France. I know that he has stayed in the States to heal a nagging back injury, but not to be selected for the Tour is a mistake on Bruyneels's part - unless the wily Belgian knows something more about Horner's injury that isn't being let on to the rest of us. I wonder if Horner's agent is on the phone with other teams.
With a little less than three weeks until the 2012 Tour de France let the drama begin!
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