It’s early yet. There is still plenty of time in Grande Boucle 2010 for a violent plot twist and/or turn. Tours de France (see how easy it is to pluralize that?) are pretty much plot twist machines. You just start one up and out come the thrills.
And so, even though it’s early, this week’s Ride is about the Tour that was. This Ride has got to last us all through the weekend and into next week, by which time we’ll have the benefit of about ten minutes of hind sight.
Clearly, this race will be remembered as the one where Lance Armstrong went out with a whimper, rather than a bang, the one where Andy Scheck tried hard, but couldn’t quite ride Alberto Contador off his wheel. We’ll remember Fränk Schleck down on the pavé. We’ll remember everybody and their brother down on the Stockeu. We’ll remember the World Champ riding into Paris with a broken elbow and scores of riders (ok, a few) going home with broken wrists. Mark Cavendish? Poor form, his lead, lead out man expelled, and he still took four stages. Old man Petacchi in green. Chaingate. So many stories here.
Will this be the year that Tour organizers realized their route was causing just that little bit too much pain and suffering? Or is 2010 the year that heralds the return to grand tour as survival race, the way Henri Desgranges envisioned it? Will this be Jens Voigt’s last Tour de France? Egads!
Wrap it up for us, people. Who was the biggest surprise? Who was the biggest loser? What was the best story? What will you remember?
Image: John Pierce, Photosport International
Today, my Twitter feed mentioned that the UCI would begin scanning bicycles to prevent “mechanical doping.” I’m not sure what misguided interpreter hatched the phrase, but it has taken on a whole life of its own, hasn’t it? I’m guessing that “mechanical doping” is meant to denote any piece of equipment that puts force into the pedals OTHER THAN the rider’s legs. But if you open up the idea, if you consider the possible connotations of the phrase, you start thinking about the pros’ current standard equipment.
There was a time when Henri Desgranges, the patron saint of cyclorific suffering, would scoff at the use of multiple gears, when the derailleur qualified as “mechanical doping,” and the standard road race bicycle looked more like a cross between a track bike and a touring machine. That was a quaint time when the illicit use of brandies, schnapps and apertifs passed as illegal performance “enhancement.”
But time stands still for no man. First there were gears. Then there were aero wheels (I’m skipping some steps) and bars. There were cyclocomputers and power meters. We had indexed and now electronic shifting. We had steel and now carbon fiber. Each time the bicycle leaps forward there are those who lament the advantages conferred by new technology and those who celebrate the forward march of progress.
If I’m honest, I’m more of a Luddite than most. I keep in my mind some non-existent vision of pure cycling, where the equipment matters less than the talent and heart of the rider. Call me an idealist. For a guy who goes by the sobriquet Robot, it’s a sort of self-contradictory view point.
What I’d like to talk about on the Group Ride this week is what piece of equipment, if any, on a pro racing bicycle, you would ban. What would you get rid of? Assuming seat tube motors are not currently installed on every other race machine, what do you think is superfluous or even detrimental to the racing? Or do you live in the other camp? Do you think think technology has only benefited the spectacle?