Friday, May 21, 2010

Landis Lands First Punch - But No Longer Dreams

The day after Floyd Landis enters the nasty ring of accusations and denials, it appears clear Lance Armstrong is his sentinel opponent - and he has landed the first punch. Sure there are others, Hincapie, Levi, DavidZ, etc. including UCI head Dick Pound, but Landis came out swinging for the top step of the America podium of cycling icons and there's only one guy standing there - sorry Greg - it's Lance.

This has the makings of a grand soap opera reality movie the likes of which a nation tired of economic bad news, Wall Street stumbles, endless desert war, oil spills and Glenn Beck's Hitler-Obama tirades is dreaming.

But that's it - its and American soap opera. Okay, maybe David Walsh, self-appointed cycling-doping-journalist is taking glee in the pilot episode of what will undoubtedly consume the summer cycling season, but does this really have historical legs to stand on, in the only arena which really counts - The Tour of Cycling History?

I sound a bit like a broken record here, but folks, read your history books. And you know what you will find? History doesn't just repeat itself, it's been riding the same old grand boucle for more than a hundred years. Doping in cycling isn't new news.

Wait. Let me repeat that.

Doping in cycling isn't new news.

That is unless you love old news. News that has been chewed up and spit out a dozen different ways. News that has been printed and recycled so many times that it barely holds the ink. You can tweet and IM it a thousand times, its just old news.

This is not a condemnation or support of Landis, Armstrong or any other cyclist or person that has used some performance enhancer. Personally I think drugs are wrong. But this is about history. A history of a sport born out of marketing, media, and men who make money. Drugs have always been the lubrication of the 3Ms. They made this machine run throughout history.

The sport we love so dearly, cherish so passionately, are willing to put our lives on hold for 23 days each July for, is just that, a sport. SPORT - period. What we do on the weekends and a few other days a year is ride our bikes - we are not pro athletes - we are not paid to do this - and we are not paid to take certain risks to do this. Pro athlete are.

Landis landed the first punch while swinging at Lance Armstrong, and maybe a few others he feels wronged by, but what he is clueless about, and so too a litany of non-cycling-journalists at The Wall Street Journal, ESPN, NY Times, and others, and armchair cycling critics everywhere, is History (yes, with a capitol H) doesn't give a damn. It didn't give a damn in 1892 when they pedaled the first Paris-Brest-Paris, it didn't give a damn in 1896 when they pedaled the first Paris-Roubaix, it didn't give a damn in 1903 when they pedaled the first Tour de France, it didn't give a damn in 1924 when Henri Pelissier and his brother Francis spilled their guts and little boxes of pills to journalist Albert Londres for his Forcat de la Route, and it didn't give a damn in 1967 when Tom Simpson O.D.d on amphetamines and alcohol climbing the slopes of Mont Ventoux, and it didn't give a damn at king Eddy's tearful exit from the '69 Giro, and it didn't give a damn in 1998 at the Festina Affair, and it didn't give a damn at Il'Pirata's overdoes failed blood test in the '99 Giro d'Italia or after he died of a cocaine overdose in 2004, and it hasn't given a damn in past 107 years of drugged racing in Italy, Spain, Belgium, France or any other country.

Yes, I hate doping, I wish they, the pros, wouldn't, but History says it's not about Floyd Landis or any of them, as individuals, but as Le Tour de France Director Christian Prudhomme put it, it's about a dream:

“Cycling has always made me dream,… It is an extraordinary sport, a legend of a sport, a sport of legends. It's almost as hard as boxing and combat sports. It takes place in exceptional conditions, obviously the mountains, the cobbles. It's a sport where anything can happen. The weather plays a significant part and the riders have to confront it. It has always made me dream.”

We all dream of riding our bikes fast, faster than the next guy, fast enough to win. We all take risks when we try to go to fast. No one ever said chasing dreams was safe.

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