Imagine this with me for a second – Andy Schleck never wins Tour de France during his career. Many years from now, having a party at his place with family and friends, one of his kids comes up to him and says, “Dad, did you really win Tour de France when you were young?” What is he going to say? “Yes I did but, you see…”
I wonder what Bjarne Riis has told his kids about his win in 1996. Even though the UCI asked him to return the yellow jersey (all of them? just one?), officially, he’s still listed as the winner of the 1996 edition even though he confessed later on he doped during that Tour. His teammates at the time, Erik Zabel, Rolf Aldag, Udo Bölts and Brian Holm have also admitted to being charged with slightly more potent than vitamin C substances. Team Telecom’s masseur, Jef d’Hont, has shared with the world his inside knowledge of organized EPO doping program on that team.
Jan Ullrich won the Tour in 1997 with Team Telecom. I wonder what he tells his kids about that win. Marco Pantani, the winner of the 1998 Tour, won’t have a chance to tell anything to anybody, not in this life, he’s dead but his doping affairs are well documented.
1999 gave us Lance Armstrong and his 7 Tour wins in a row. We all know now how this feat was achieved.
Floyd Landis won in a spectacular fashion in 2006. He didn’t get to enjoy his win for very long; a positive dope test came right after the end of the Tour de France and someone else was declared a winner.
2007 Tour was practically won by Michael Rasmussen but he was kicked out from the race by his own team in anticipation of a possible suspension for the missed out of competition doping controls. The win literally landed on Alberto Contador. He still had to chug along to Paris to collect the last yellow jersey but he didn’t win that Tour on the road just like Andy Schleck didn’t win it in 2010. Ironic, isn’t it?
One other exciting thing happened in that Tour; we saw a new breed of a rider emerge – the mountain sprinter. There were only two of them that year, Rasmussen and Contador. Two more appeared on the stage the following year, Riccardo Riccò and Leonardo Piepoli. Andy Schleck is the only mountain sprinter still standing today and not being suspended. A band of brothers.
I heard modern methods of training with a power meter is the main reason for this new breed of road racers. Compression garments too should not be ignored; who needs testosterone if you can recover with a pair of tight panty hose. And of course beetroot juice is as good as EPO, only legal.
At last, Carlos Sastre, who never been accused of doping, won Tour de France in 2008. Cycling forums around the world are infested with experts who claim it’s impossible to win Tour de France without doping. I wish I could gather all these experts on a stadium and ask them one simple question – How do you know it’s impossible to win Tour de France without doping? Have you tried it?
2009 gave us the most boring Tour in history although watching Klöden and Armstrong chasing their own teammate (Contador) up Verbier climb was very entertaining. This Tour, just like the one in 2008, has a legit winner which takes the count to 2 since Indurain’s win in 1995.
8 February 2012 gave us a winner of 2010 Tour de France but even Schleck himself gets no satisfaction from Alberto’s gift. “There is no reason to be happy now” he said. Indeed. ‘Cause I try and I try and I try and I try.
Some relief finally came in 2011 when we were treated to a doping untainted winner, Cadel Evans and a very exciting Tour bringing the count to 3 legit winners since 1995. Just 3. How this sport is still taken seriously is a bit of a mystery.