Should I apologize for only logging my rides and nothing else? I am busy with a lot of other things too, finally regaining ‘the right spirit’ to write, now that home feels like home, and focussed on making the deadlines after missing two important ones in the past months. (Something I feel rather bad about).
Reading a lot too. (I read through all the Maximus Poems, still pondering what I really think about that ‘epic’, and knowing that I will come back to it, since I do not really know what to think of it…).
And following the Tour de France. The Tour that shows how disastrous the situation is, ‘thanks’ to the war between the UCI and the ASO a.o. I don’t feel compelled to give my opinion, since everything is said, something eloquently by the cycling journalists. There is nothing to add. It’s war, all involved parties are hypocrites, the stakes are too high, the cyclists are too divided amongst themselves (and that is not only a matter of ‘old cycling culture’ against ‘new cycling culture’ â€“ if it were only that, why doesn’t the new hero of Belgian cycling Tom Boonen take a leading role, to organize the riders?). The UCI might be too weak, but the ASO plays a dirty role too.
(They also have a problem with the lacking of a French ‘star’, for a long time now. How to sell the Tour in France when the French do not play leading roles?)
Just imagine: next year we will have three professional leagues, three circuits of races: 1. that of the UCI, consisting of the non-ASO-races, a truly international league; 2. that of the ASO with most of the European classic races with a long history, a mostly West-European league; 3. a new wild hyper-commercial league, backed by money from Astana and Tinkoff, plus some new sponsors and commercial television station, with as riders Vinokourov, suspended riders, and those who cannot withstand the call of money; races in Central Asia, Russia, Eastern Europe and closed circuits in Western Europe and the USA.
The wild league is of course open to any team, but the ASO and the UCI will forbid riders who compete in that circuit entrance to ASO and UCI-races. The Giro and the Vuelta wil probably join the ASO, but well, maybe they won’t?
Then the war will be really on. What races will the NOS and Sporza bring to us?
As disgusted as I am with this situation, I still love cycling (and pro-cycling) as much as ever. But I do not believe in a pure sport. I never have. (Benjo Maso’s analysis in I think a NRC-interview of a few days ago was of course very apt: the fictitious believe in a pure sport). “Cheating”, bending the rules, will always be part of cycling â€“ certainly when it’s professional sport. There are those who play it fair â€“ and I am always a fan of those riders. There are those who are sly in terms of tactics and I admire them (the ‘intelligent’ riders). And there are those who keep pushing the boundaries, who play on the edge, the ones of whom you suspect that their ‘medical preparation’ is “a bit too experimental”. (Like Riis’s in the past). I sometimes admire them, but it is an admiration, or maybe fascination is a better word, that comes with a certain abhorrence too.
By the way: it is said that Lucien van Impe is the only Tour-winner of the past 50 years not to have been involved in any doping issue ever. And Hinault I wonder? That analysis states that Hinault was the leader of a strike protesting doping controls. So he was involved in a doping story. If I remember well, that protest was not so much a protest against doping controls as such, but against the way they were conducted at that time. I am not stating that I am sure Hinault never used doping in his life (how could I know such a thing?), but it characterises the current state of cycling that even speaking up for one’s social and political rights makes one suspect.
What I wanted to do, is write a little ‘plug’ for an excellent book on cycling: Roule Brittania by one of the best (if not the best) cycling journalists of the moment: William Fotheringham (also author of Put me back on my bike, a biography of Tom Simpson). I am reading it at the moment â€“ getting up to date on British cycling, enjoying the always present undercurrent of the cultural difference between continental and English cycling, a difference that continues until today, that colours the stories of Brian Robinson, Alan Ramsbottom, Tom Simpson, Barry Hoban and all those that follow. (I’m halfway, and will still get to read about Paul Sherwen, Graham Jones, Robert Millar, Sean Yates, Chris Boardman and David Millar).
(Of course I would have liked to read about Phil Edwards too â€“ right hand of Francesco Moser in the seventies, in teams like Sanson – but this is a book on English riders in the Tour, so no Edwards here.)