The tour the France never created a huge amount of emotions this year. It could have been about the small differences between at the (remaining) top – can you imagine riding 3553.9 km, and than have 3 cyclists within 30 seconds? But this year it was about something else.
Let me give you my opinion.
1. last week-end Eric invited me to ride the Eddy Merckx route from Meise (not the one from Ruien), around Brussels. Eric has become one of the persons I became to trust very much, and he is also one of the few people that are completely honest to me. So besides the usual shouts that should lose a couple of kilos and that I should exchange my Bianchi for a ‘real’ Eddy Merckx, we went of to ride 75km. The Eddy Merckx route takes you through some magnificent views and parts of Brussels, but I thought Eddy Merckx deserves a better designed route around Brussels.
Morale: cycling is one of most demanding and most beautiful sports in the world.
2.yesterday I read 2 books on cycling: Memoires van een wielerverzorger by Jef D’Hont, the notorious story of a ‘soigneur’ explaining the drugs in cycling, and the amazing ‘the tour awaits no-one’ by Mart Smeets, presenting the work of 9 photographers with fantastic guiding stories. The dirt and the beauty of the Tour in 1 afternoon – sport is emotion. Both books evoked quite the opposite sentiment, and I’d recommend everyone to read them.
Morale: the tour has always been full of people that use drugs, and its ability to create emotions is unprecedented.
3. after the dismissal of Vino (how similar to Landis can it get: a big breakdown followed by a heroic win…), Rasmussen (if you become unfindable during 3 weeks before the Tour starts in the most controlled sporting event of the world, you are a fraud or a fool, but anyway you must get out – bravo Rabo for consistency), Cofidis and some others – the Tour became a true thriller. With some luck, the most important prices go the new generation: Contador, Boonen and Soler.
Morale: A new generation takes over, and they may have a different perspective and impact.
4. many newspapers, sponsors, … will leave cycling for what it is. I applaud sponsors like Lotto, Rabobank or others that create so much youth support, that they both would have deserved a winner. Related to the ones that boycott because ‘this is untruthful’ and other reasons: well, we didn’t stop covering the Iraq war, although truth and honesty weren’t exactly the key values in that dispute.
Morale: keep the faith, this sports needs sponsors and media to exist
5. the positive minded argue that the sport is cleaner than ever before, and that only some of the top cyclists take drugs. Well, this ‘top’ is becoming rather broad (Basso, Ulrich, Landis, Vinokourov, Rasmussen, …), but also I think that the problem will definitely remain with the ‘lesser’ talented. OK, the toppers are and will always be cyclists – and take drugs to become the best.
But imagine for one instant if you are a 29 year old professional cyclist, and you are at risk of loosing your job because others are better – and the ones that are as good as you became better, got lucky, or … use drugs now and then. You are now confronted with 2 choices: stop your cycling career, or enter into an anonymous, very hard labour nightshift in the uncertain automobile sector. Still think only the toppers use??
Morale: we are far from having a clear sport.
So my take:
cycling is the most beautiful sport in the world, and I hope their leaders dare create a strategy and waterproof operations to clean up the current mess. I also hope that media and sponsors will remain loyal, because the new generations just might have a different attitude, and they may lead this sport to where it belongs: in our hearts, in our minds and in our legs.
Mart Smeets says in his book very often: the tour waits for no-one. Maybe, just maybe, it should wait a while for itself.