Friday Group Ride #139

One of the things about the bicycle that always astounds me is how prone it is to staying upright. I mean, this was the big hurdle when I was a kid on training wheels, believing that a thing balanced on two narrow wheels could stand with nothing more to balance it than forward motion and a small dose of corrective steering.

You should see my friend Mike ghost ride his bike down a hill, through the woods, on a morning trail ride. The damn thing even counter steers itself!

And so, despite the shit storm raging in the pro peloton right now, I know the bikes will roll on. The consequences will be far-ranging and there are surely still shoes to drop, a veritable downpour of shoes I would bet.

But you’ve got to have hope.

I have hope because I have seen Tejay van Garderen ride top pros off his wheel. I have hope because I have read Taylor Phinney’s public denunciations of pill-poppers and caffeine hounds. I have hope because I saw the women’s road race in the Olympics. I have hope because I know the younger generation of riders is pissed off by the mess their elders have left them, and I believe they will use that anger to fuel a new, cleaner cycling.

Pro racing won’t be the same as it has been, and that is a good thing. Many (possibly most) of us have wanted this change to come for a long time. What seemed obvious, maybe even easy in our minds, won’t be.

The change will be hard. Sponsors will be harder to come by. Teams will be harder to fill with riders not tarred by the wide brush of past doping. But there are always young racers raring to go. For once, perhaps, their paths won’t be blocked by athletes willing to cheat to get ahead. You may not know the names of quite so many of next year’s pros, but you will trust them more than you have trusted the pack in more than a decade.

Because the bike will keep rolling. It will just go and go and go, if you let it.

This week’s Group Ride asks, what do you hope to see on the roads of Belgium and France and Spain and Italy next year? Who do you believe in? And what will be the benefits of this darkest time in our sport?


Image: Fotoreporter Sirotti


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  1. Nelson

    I believe in 2 wheels and regardless of who wins those races, they’ll be far better and more impressive than I could ever hope to be myself. That’s why I watch/follow from early spring thru August. I think our “darkest time” will lead to clearer sky’s and cleaner riders. The sport WILL benefit from this…even if its a year or 2 from now.

  2. tinytim

    What I learned on summer vacation. 1) Cycling is steeped in dope. Not just the riders but the supporting characters: The DS’s, MD’s, team owners,UCI, governing bodies(USA Cycling can suck a dick), the people who sell us on product that is creaky, unsafe and disposable just so that we can, for a few seconds, feel like LA or Levi. 2) Cycling is WWF on 15Lb bikes: it’s totally scripted with villians (vino) and heros (clean cut andy) playing the protagonist vs antagonist. Atleast in WWF there are cool charcters like Nature Boy and Macho Man.

    Who will be riding next year: Me and my degenerate buds, in the woods, on a steel single speed with a tall-can of high-gravity lager wrapped up tight in a cooze tucked in my ‘bidon’ cage. The only races that I am going to watch will consist of illegal short-track races in state parks, unsanctioned no license required open course road races (I’ll be in tight cut-off jean shorts with a ‘stache).

    How to fix the cluster f*ck? Shell all the teams and riders, they’re all dirty anyway, make too much money, and are way too euro for me (its all mullets, duran-duran and nose candy over there… trust me I seen it). Bring back the burly ass day and night stage races, SELF-SUPPORTED concept of racing and only allow National teams. Imagine tom boonen trying to fix his own flat. He would probably break off his coke nail and call it a day.

  3. S M

    I look forward to seeing names I have never heard before…..on the road, in the team cars, in the doctor’s offices and in the commentary boxes. This could be a rebirth of a sport. I sure hope it is. I’ve spent too many years going from “Wow, look how that rider won that race” to “Wow, look how that rider won that race…..I wonder if they are clean” to “Wow, look how that rider won that race, I’d like to believe they are clean because I’m sick of watching races and finding out later the winners were cheaters”. I’m kind of tired of amending my enthusiasm. So, here’s to a rebirth. Here’s to clean riders that none of us have ever heard of. Even the young ones in the pro peloton now are a little suspicious in my eyes simply because they are in the wrong place at the wrong time. Same goes for coaches, etc. Sucks for them. Sucks that the history of cycling is steeped in doping. I believe the sport can become clean because I want to believe it, not because I’ve seen any evidence that anyone involved wants it to be. The cynical devil on my shoulder saying “clean? Yea, right!” will be there for a while though.

  4. gmknobl

    What do I hope to see? At this point, a new cycling league. Will I, not next year.

    Instead of that, I’ll settle for a Garmin rider winning a GT by the barest of margins and with lots of other people finishing near the same time but no teams riding en mass up a mountain at anything more than a snails pace.

    Yeah, I know. I’m living a fantasy.

  5. rashadabd

    I am focused on the future. Many of my favorite cyclists have now admitted to doping. I question whether the rest that I have followed did it to (Cancellara, Boonen, etc.). Given that reality, my focus will be on the young guys I like. Andrew Talansky and Tejay become my favorite GC riders, Taylor Phinney is my new favorite classics guy and time trialist, Sagan and Degenkolb are my new favorite bunch sprinters to watch. I am excited to see how Stetina, Dan Martin and the other young Garmin riders progress and how Dombrowski and Boswell do with sky as well. I’ll still follow Garmin and also BMC now, but don’t trust too many teams beyond that. I will likely actively pull against Omega for firing Levi for taking part in uncovering the truth and may do the same for Sky (just my personal feelings and I think their justification is weak).

  6. Drago

    Mountain top finishes, TTTs, no lead out trains (in sprints AND definitely not in valley floors). Team leaders pulling in about $60,000/ yr.
    Oh, also, I can live without the ex-dopers giving the soon-to-be ex-dopers and the UCI advice. Just because you got caught first, doesn’t make you morally superior.

  7. Alex TC

    The night is darkest just before the dawn. Or so the saying goes. Since I find it harder that something gets any darker in cycling, I´m positive that we´ll have it cleaner in the coming years, one way or another. Besides, with the much attention it´s getting now everyone will be even more careful that´s for sure.

    Clean cycling? Never… Expecting that is the same as believing that politics will get rid of corruption. There´ll always be those characters doing anything for an edge.

    But I believe we keep must fighting, and I way I see this is in being more critical, more watchfull and active and vocal. And above all, by supporting the anti-doping initiatives from anyone within or outside cycling: riders, ex-riders and personalities, sponsors and entities.

  8. Chris

    I’m looking forward to racing even if none of the familiar names are there. In fact, maybe it will probably be better if they are not.

  9. Author

    @Rick – I would be very surprised if Tejay tests positive. First of all, he’s young enough to have come up outside the window of the worst abuse in the pro ranks. Second, he won something like 10 junior national championships, starting when he was like 13, so there is no meteoric rise. He has always been amongst the best riders in his age group. Third, he served as climbing lieutenant for Cadel Evans, in whom I also believe. I believe in Evans because he worked so closely (and successfully) with Aldo Sassi, one of pro cycling’s more outspoken anti-doping voices, until his death. I find it a little hard to believe Evans would allow his number one climbing domestique to dope, and even harder to believe he would allow him to dope AND beat him on GC without saying a word about it.

    I try hard not be credulous, especially as regards pro cycling, but equally I try not to be cynical. As soon as we give in to cynicism, I think we’re done, and we’re not done.

  10. Scott G

    I hope to see the reality of riders suffering on the steep climbs or having to sit down after a fast and furious sprint to catch their breath like the rest of us mortals do. To not miraculously recover over night from an incredible performance the day before. I hope to see “me” on those roads. Someone capable of having a great performance on a given day or failing miserably on any given day. I want the truth on two wheels.

  11. Webchem

    I love cycling. I love riding my bike, I love racing it, and I love watching those who are better than me race their bikes. I cannot hope to duplicate their physical feats, but my own meager struggles have instilled in me a deep respect for the skill, courage, determination, and sheer toughness that is required to do what they do. I love the history of the sport, the generations of legendary talent that are still referenced in revered tones, and the connection my feeble thrashings have to something far larger and older than myself.

    So It pains me to see the schadenfreude and cynicism that pervades the comment boards. And it pisses me off that so many in the sport I love seem to possess little more than reflexive, neurotic, venomous sanctimony.

    I was, but am no longer, a Lance fanboy. I admit it – I loved his intensity, his single-minded determination, and his success. I loved the big blue train rolling through the peloton. I really liked Santa Claus as a little kid too, but I’ve gotten over that disappointment and I am confident I’ll survive this one too. Because I don’t want a sport that hinges on who has the best pharmacologist on retainer, and I personally want to race on a level playing field. But I’m sure that Lance, Jan, Marco, George, or any of the hundreds of others who took advantage of what seemed at the time as a pretty-much-accepted performance aid suffered just like Eddy, Jacques, Fausto, Bernard, or Greg did. They just did it much faster.

    So yes, let’s purge all this crap out of the sport. It was already happening, but no doubt the lifting of the curtain off the Armstrong era will scatter a few more cockroaches out of hiding, so we can squish them. But really people, does it really make sense to purge all vestiges of the ’00’s? Yes, it was a mess, and we should learn a lesson from it. But I’m not sure that burning down the whole house is the smartest way to clear out the pests.

    And just to add an ominous final note: You think blood transfusions and EPO were a pernicious evil? You ain’t seen nothin’ yet, folks. This genie won’t be going back in the bottle, and there are plenty more on the way. Notice those ads about low testosterone level on your web pages? Know anyone who’s had plastic surgery? Ever had Lasik done? Technology will continue to advance and (sometimes) improve the human animal. Taylor Phinney came by incredible genes the natural way, but you can be sure that others will figure out how to get them through other means…if they haven’t already. The tussle with what constitutes an ‘unfair advantage’ will only get more frequent, more complex, and more interesting.

    I’ll still be riding and racing my bike throughout, btw.

  12. Steve

    1. New, young, no names winning.
    2. Full, detailed, online disclosure of every doping test performed from this point forward.
    3. Amnesty followed by lifetime bans.

  13. michael

    i hope to see myself on the roads of Italy, enjoying a hard-earned vacation while riding my bike through some new countryside.

    no research into “mythical” routes that pros used in famous races.

    no research online oon recommended routes.

    just go out and get lost in italy for 3 weeks of riding.

  14. Disch

    After an awesome ride Sunday at the LIVESTRONG Challenge here in Austin, where we got to ride with a lot of the young Bontrager-Livestrong riders like Lawson Craddock, it’s easy to be optimistic about the sport despite all the recent headlines. It was amazing to see how much fun the B-L kids were having leading out the front group, covering each other’s “attacks” and jabbing one another across the group. It makes it even cooler that Dombrowski and Boswell (two former B-L riders) just got signed by Sky. An American developmental squad like this…based in my town…training kids to go ride with elite Euro teams…that gives me hope.

  15. Dave

    Did anything change after Festina? How about after Puerto? Maybe a few new singers, but the sport will still sing the same old song… (sigh)

  16. Pat O'Brien

    I want to see a new, really professional, cycling league. I want to see a strong rider’s association, dare I say the word union, that will look out for rider’s rights and health.

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