by Neil Browne
It's Tour de France time
I don’t make a habit of arguing on the Internet. Sure, I’ve mixed it up a couple of times, but the reality of web-based arguing is that it’s a colossal waste of time. Have you ever seen two hardcore Facebook or Twitter arguments end with one side saying, “You know, this has totally changed my point of view on the subject. Thank you for your insightful analysis.” No. It’s mudslinging which ends in challenging the other’s cognitive mental abilities or the chastity of the person’s mother.
However, I saw something on Facebook that made me stop and reply to this person’s statement. Perhaps I took his innocuous statement like it was a personal affront. I replied and then immediately regretted doing so.
After a bit of back and forth the debate ended as well as it could - no one changed their mind and there was no name calling. In fact our disagreement ended with the promise of us having beers together if he came to my little berg of Greenville (or this might be a trap).
What I really learned from this exchange is that there is still confusion regarding the ongoing doping scandal in cycling. It seems to swing from stories of professional riders cuing up in front of Lance Armstrong’s Gerona house as he handed out ampules of EPO like Halloween candy, to riders were given no choice by Armstrong and team director Johan Bruyneel and strapped to a chair in a dungeon as IV bags were hung from the ceiling dripping a PED cocktail into their skinny arms.
As with most stories the truth lies somewhere in between. As I was writing this article I went back to my timeline to check on my statements. Additional people had commented, but now with the often used response of, “they were all doping so this was a level playing field.”
There’s no way to effectively convince anyone that “the level playing field” is a legitimate excuse for doping. This argument has been shown as an erroneous theory too many times to count.
So after a frenetic thirty minutes on social media debating a point about doping I learned there’s no point in getting too bent out of shape about someone’s views on the matter. They aren’t going to change and chances are neither are your views. To quote George Bernard Shaw, “I learned long ago never to wrestle with a pig. You get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it.”
In other news that we already knew: Jan Ullrich admits to blood doping and Laurent Jalabert’s urine sample from 1998 was chocked full of EPO. For those who may be new to the sport of cycling Frenchman Jalabert has won both the green sprinter’s and polka-dotted climber’s jersey in the Tour de France. So yeah...there’s that...
In the case of the German, after years of veiled hints and not so subtle comments regarding his shady T-Mobile past, he finally came clean. He said the infamous Doctor Fuentes helped him blood dope. You didn’t need to be Sherlock Holmes to figure out the clues to this mystery.
But let’s circle back to Jalabert. After he retired he became the French national coach and is a commentator for French television. Both of these positions have a level of implied trust that must be upheld. You can’t have a coach in that position. Once again I’m surprised that he was even awarded the position of national coach. But really I shouldn’t be. Those were the wild days of organized doping and thinking these dirty secrets would always be safe.
Instead these are the days when fifteen year old pee is uncorked like a wine and run through the spectrometer by your country’s anti-doping agency. The chickens have indeed come home to roost.
Let’s move on to last minute Tour de France predictions...
Any cycling journalist worth his salt is making Tour de France predictions so here are my predictions for the 2013 Tour de France.
This year’s main contenders for the overall win in the Tour de France are without a doubt Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff) and Chris Froome (Team Sky). My pick for the overall honors is the Spaniard. Sure he had a crappy time trial at the Dauphine, but I think he’s corrected his mistakes and will be on top form in the Tour de France in June and July. Froome will give him a run for his Euros, but will have to be satisfied with the runner up spot.
In any breakaway the winner will always be the rider with the aero road helmet. Giro, Specialized, Lazer, Scott and Kask (Did I miss anyone?) all produce aero lids and expect to see them used in full force. If you’re one of those people who say these new helmets are terribly awful and you wouldn’t be caught dead in one I have some words of advice - get over it. We’re aero, we’re proud, we’re here to stay. Expect to see local master racers sporting one at a race near you.
If a rider is wearing an aero helmet and road skinsuit/speedsuit then take every dime (or euro) you have and bet on them to win.
Mark Cavendish will blame someone for poor sprinting skills and drop an “F-bomb” on live TV. He will still win several stages and continue to “F-bomb” post-race interviews out of pure joy.
A random French rider will finish the Tour de France in fifth place. I don’t know who, that’s why they’re random - duh! A random French rider will win on Bastille Day. He will become emotional due to winning on this important French national holiday and will be held tenderly by his French director as he sobs into his shoulder. Americans will snicker at this display of emotion.
This will be a boring Tour de France with Team Sky keeping control of the peloton until Contador attacks on the last climb of each mountain stage. Game, set, match.
Wimbledon will preempt the Tour de France when it comes to television time.
Final prediction - I will be incredibly snarky during most of the Tour.
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