July 3, 2010

Cracks in the Cycling Empire?

I just finished reading the article Blood Brothers, published in this weekend’s edition of the Wall Street Journal.  The story is essentially Floyd Landis’ account of the systematic doping that goes on in the world of professional cycling, including Lance Armstrong.  The Tour de France begins its first stage today.

Though as I sit here today I’m disappointed in the sport of cycling, particularly the Tour de France, a race I have followed for over 25 years as a genuine fan.  I yearn for the days when American’s were considered nothing more than want-to-be’s by Europeans in the sport of cycling.    At least until Greg LeMond and Andy Hampsten showed up and spoiled their party.  Greg and Andy paved the way for today’s American’s cyclists.  They toiled in the Alps and Pyrenees when most American’s didn’t even know the meaning of peloton.  Or EPO.  Or testosterone patches.

What has cycling become?  From my vantage point it's is nothing more than a shell of its former self, held together as a sport by extremely well-off sponsors and media hype.  When money enters the game, the rules change.  People do things that they wont do for the simple joy of it.  I’m all for making a living in sport.  But it’s gone way beyond that.  Sponsors want market exposure, product branding, and sales.  Isn’t that what capitalism is all about?  Are the riders being exploited? What about the fans?  If drugs are really happening, and I think they are, the answer to those two questions is affirmative.

This wasn’t intended to be a rant, but I’m just so disappointed in the sport right now.  I so much wanted Floyd Landis to assume the title that Greg and Lance held before him, but it wasn’t to be.  When he rode uncontested for most of a stage in one of the most dramatic comebacks in the history of sports, only to be dethroned by a drug test, was for me, simply, depressing. Now that he has come clean and said what he has said he can at last breathe deep, look his mom in the eye, and not blink.  There is something to be said for being able to do just that.  I think our grandparents would place that above standing on the podium in terms of a life value.  I’m not sure our generation would.



Anonymous said...

I too have been a fan of the TDF since the 80's, and even my wife watches because she likes listening to Phil, Paul, and especially Bob Roll.

I wanted so much to believe that Floyd was telling the truth, and I still hope the same thing about Lance. It's too bad there is that uncertainty about our heroes.

For me, cycling is still exciting to watch so I will keep watching!

wes616 said...

Part of the attraction to ultras are the fact that the elite of the elite are essentially amateurs, and the sport is unspoiled by marketing like cycling, and thus not really affected by doping scandals... for the time being anyway.

Will Cooper said...

Tom, its a great show to watch, especially when they get to the mountain stages. I'll keep watching too.

Wes, I agree that ultra running has been clean and it is due to the relative low profile of the sport (and the athletes).

zbsports said...

The event looks really have fun people are exited to start the game...