In June of 1991, I met a Spanish couple in Yellowstone Park. They gave me a ride to one of the park attractions that was 40 miles from my campsite (and bike). We talked food, cycling and the looming Tour de France. When it was time for prognosticating, they picked Greg LeMond, which surprised me, not because I didn’t think he could win, but because Spain had so many great riders. And when they asked my opinion, I picked Indurain. When he won, I wondered if they thought back on the crazy American who thought a Spaniard would win.
The following July I was excited to see if he could do it again, and was thrilled to see him repeat when it was clear LeMond couldn’t find his form. We didn’t yet know about mitochondrial myopathy.
But come July 1994, Indurain’s countenance of marble had worn thin for me. I wanted almost anyone but Indurain. I wanted someone new, someone exciting, someone fresh, someone you’d want to invite to dinner.
I’ve tired of Chris Froome in much the same way, but for different reasons. Froome is personable, gives a good interview and is a genuinely likable guy. However, even though he displays none of the hostility Lance Armstrong had for the press, he delivers many of the same answers to questions about doping as Big Tex did.
Why the press bothers to ask riders if they dope baffles me. It sends all interviews down an incredibly awkward rabbit hole. But that’s not even the best reason not to ask: They all say no. Every last cyclist. So the question becomes, are you going to call them on it and provide some proof? No. Almost no one ever has anything approaching smoking-gun proof.
I’d have an easier time thinking that Froome was clean if Sky Team director David Brailsford hadn’t decided Cyclingnews writer Barry Ryan was an enemy and excluded him from a press conference. There’s no one in cycling that is more reminiscent of than Johan Bruyneel who, it’s worth remembering, has been banned from cycling for 10 years for the way he ran the U.S. Postal formation. Next to Armstrong himself, no one has had a more adversarial relationship with the press. But now we have Sir David Brailsford.
Of course, that’s not the only reason to question how he runs Team Sky. No, the simple fact that Sky can arrive at the bottom of the final climb on any stage with their team essentially intact and then drill the pace until two Sky riders are leading Froome and the other GC favorites is really what makes me uneasy. Watching that team race reminds me of trying to land a Cessna ahead of a big storm. They simply don’t make enough Dramamine on an annual basis. Seeing three Sky riders isolate the other GC hopefuls is a page straight out of the USPS play book and we know exactly how they achieved that.
There’s no doubt that cycling is the cleanest it has ever been. There’s also no doubt that riders still dope. To think there isn’t a single team out there coordinating the doping of their riders seems as naive as thinking the earth is flat. Oh that’s cute.
However, whether Sky has doped half of London is not our concern. I don’t want to ask you a question you can’t answer. No, the question before us today is, can you set that question aside and simply watch the Tour de France and enjoy it?
Does the Grand Boucle captivate you?