If you haven't heard by now, you're not a bike geek.
Sadly for me, I am.
It started five weeks ago in Spain. A raid of some sort turned up drugs, perserved containers of blood, and complicated coded lists. List of 58 riders it was said. Codes detailing that some had paid the equivalent of $50,000 a year. To improve their ability by use of EPO or by modification of their own blood by increasing the number of available red blood cells enabling them to carry more oxygen in their bloodstream. Ah, thanks a lot science. I've no idea, but I'm left to wonder what disease or illness was this technology developed. Someone please tell me that it wasn't developed just for jackass athletes to improve their performance.
Then the information in the last few days got worse. The directors of the sport teams withdrew the names of the prominently mentioned riders. Lets start with Lance's arch rival, Jan Ullrich. Then the man who Lance just couldn't drop in the mountains where the winners are separated from the losers, Ivan Basso. Of the top five remaining after Lance's retirement there were two gone.
Next it was Francisco Mancebo was out as well, and he's speaking of retirement at 30 years of age. There were six others, but they weren't considered contenders. Then the rumors began swirling about as many as another 11. This did not come to be, but one more thing occurred, and it was an entire team.
The AstanÃ¡-WÃ¼rth team was down to five riders with the eliminations. Home of Alexandre Vinokourov, a rider who lived to challenge. At any time at any location, Vino was a threat. And he was a pleasure, because he was willing to risk everything, to expect punishment to achieve. Although he didn't finish as highly placed as others, he was always interesting to see, and I will miss him.
So this is it, right? Should my level of disgust be so elevated (like with my own government and the fools that helped elect them and continue to defend them) that I ignore the rest of the tour? Not. Someone has to win. Everybody has to think they can win now. They all are thinking, hey, I'm five steps closer to the podium, to first, the malliot jaune, the polka dot jersey, some measure of improvement. Do you say, yeah, but. No, its le Tour de France, the greatest race in cycling and there are over one hundred top competitors who want your position. Now is not the time to give up on this race. It will be every bit as exciting.
Who are my favorites? I haven't any. I want them to win me over. I want them to show me who is so full of himself that he leaves the saddle with no regrets. Attacks should be plentiful. Who'll be the team to control the peleton and catch the breaks? I believe there is much excitement to see.
Will I be disappointed if no US riders figure prominentlyly? Not at all. I've followed the tour since Bernard "the Badger" Hinault was fighting with Greg Lemond and against Laurent Fignon. Then it was great just to see Lemond on a team with a contender. When Lemond won, I thought it might be 25 years before I saw another American win. When Lance came along, wow, that was simply icing on a cake I'd not expected to have a piece of. Like the World Cup, I don't think the US has to be the winner at everything. Lets just see now, okay?