I have always been into cycling, and always fascinated by the Tour De France. It is an amazing spectacle. Whichever side of the fence you stand on; whether you hate cyclists altogether, or just the ones that you believe clog up the road in the morning, or just the ones that take drugs, professional cyclists are a different breed.
The drugs allegations have always perplexed me. I knew from years back, when Lance Armstrong came back after his treatment that he was taking something. The improvement was incredible. Indeed once he was asked ‘Is it a miracle?’ To which he replied ‘Yes, it is’.
His behaviour, his power and control and cruelty which he would yield as briskly as a ‘kick’ up a mountain, was as brutal as could be possible, superseded only by his arrogant denials. There were a few racing at the time who I never suspected, who also turned out to be dopers or cheats as they are more widely known. They, for some reason I didn’t think were cheating, but I always thought he was. It seemed he quickly started believing his own lie, made much more easily by some of those around him not only ignoring what he was doing, but others in very high places, actually assisting him.
The president of the UCI at the time, (I won’t mention his name or the event), once allegedly said to Lance, ‘We have found something in your system; you need to give us a reason for it being there.’
This to me was and is astonishing, but a lot of people don’t blame Lance for the lies, they despise him because of the arrogance, the denials, and the power and cruelty he displayed in a nonchalant, god like way. I do think he is an extremely intelligent man, and he has been through an awful lot, some his own making, some out of his control. People have used him, and he has used others. Guess that makes him human, but some of what he did was evil. Other things he did were wonderful and beautiful and generous and overwhelming, and he seemed brilliant with children.
To me, he seems almost machine like, he kind of looks like one, like a variation of a new Terminator (if you know the films). This isn’t surprising really. Imagine getting over cancer; imagine having your head cut open and lesions cut from your brain, pretty spectacular stuff really. He said that whatever happened in cycling, whatever he did, nothing would be as painful. He said he looked at winning the Tour as life or death, as that’s the way he views everything now.
I think this strength, this determination, and this darn right doggedness not to die, would change you, and would totally determine the rest of your life. I’m not condoning what he has done but I kind of see why he did it. The old lame excuse of everyone was doing it doesn’t hold any validity at all, and neither should it. And it is this I have never understood. Pro cyclists do about 12,000 miles a year, that’s the same average as a family car. It is incredible. They work their socks off; make all sorts of sacrifices and concessions in the pursuit of cycling perfection. So, they get to a point when they are good, but just not quite there. They must know or at least suspect that those above are doping, so why don’t they stay being true? Why do they make the leap? I think pressure from all circles plays a part, including team managers, (in some cases), but also, they must get to a point and think what the hell, everyone else is doing it.
This is the bit I don’t get, why would they risk it? If I was a pro rider in the Tour, and I finished say 60th every year, approximately halfway down the general classification I would obviously have a hard time staving off the desire to join the elite, but I wouldn’t for one simple reason. All the effort that had gone before would be for nothing, both in my head, and if I got caught.
David Millar who for quite a while was Britain’s best hope, came clean (if you pardon the pun) and admitted as soon as he was asked that he was doping. Incidentally it’s worth noting that the French even have a word for those who are cheating within pro circles, how widespread does that make it? He started once he lost a few races and stages in succession and just couldn’t keep up. He was directed, by his team boss, to go and recuperate with a colleague down in Spain. The colleague happened to be a well known doper. Coincidence? Hmmmmm. David cracked, not in pure cycling terms, but in terms of capitulating and starting to cheat. He got to a stage where he said he felt like a motorbike and the crux came when it wasn’t if he was going to dope, but when.
I do find this sad. I know for those of you who aren’t interested in cycling you’d have not read this article at all, but the whole psychological aspect of cycling is incredible. Here as some quite astounding facts:-
• Mark Cavendish crashed out of this year’s TDF. He did this because he caused a crash, while fending off a rival by leaning his head against another rider at over 40mph
• The average speed of this year’s TDF is 26mph. That’s including 3 weeks,
numerous mountains and over 2,270 miles of racing.
• The average time trial speed for this year was 28 mph over 33 miles.
• 12 of the 23 TDF riders questioned think Lance should have his Tour wins back
Now, which one of these facts stays mostly in your mind?