The Amgen Tour of California - Another Year of Drama
Is there a dark shadow following the Amgen Tour of California?
The Amgen Tour of California can't get a break. Sure, the first couple of years it was nothing but sunshine and great weather. But lately there's been a dark shadow following this race.
The 2009 edition suffered with lousy weather, which kept riders on their team buses until the last moment. I remember seeing a photo of riders from the OUCH team wearing dish washing gloves as protection against the elements. That was foreshadowing for what was to happen the following year.
2010 I was standing on top of a climb somewhere in California, waiting for the peloton to pass me by when I received an email I was cc'ed on. It was the infamous Floyd Landis email in which he accused his former teammate Lance Armstrong and former director Johan Bruyneel of leading an organized doping ring during his time on the Postal Service squad. Suddenly the race was knocked off the center stage and replaced by the accusations that could potentially take down someone the general public considered a hero for battling back from cancer and winning the Tour de France seven times.
This got awkward fast with Armstrong who was racing in California and was instantly pounced upon. Unfortunately (or perhaps for him fortunately), he crashed out the following day and quickly got out of the state, thus avoiding what would have been a media circus. However the damage was done - the Landis email and its accusations consumed the press. Another phase of an ongoing doping investigation into professional cycling was starting.
In what seemed like déjà vu, the 2011 edition of the Amgen Tour of California again faced a doping accusation. It was another ex-Postal teammate, Tyler Hamilton, who went on national television on the day of the final stage of the Tour of California accusing Armstrong and Bruyneel of supplying doping products to the team. The last thing you want as a race promoter is a doping scandal that involves two of the biggest names in the sport. It tends to make both current sponsors and potential sponsors skittish. Oh, did I forget to mention that before that negative PR storm hit an actual storm rolled through stage 1, canceling the day's race. Yeah, that was bad.
Fast forward to this year's Amgen Tour of California and things were looking pretty good. The weather forecast didn't predict any of the monsoon-like conditions we'd had in the past. The course was considered to be the toughest ever, making the race actually interesting from a sporting standpoint. Dare to dream, the race still might be decided later in the week and keep us on the edge of our seat. Also, the 2011 first and second place finishers were no longer teammates, setting up what could be a great battle on the mountains of Southern California. And of course there was the 2011 third place finisher Tom Danielson who had been seriously training for California, but with the larger goal of the Tour de France. Yes, things were looking good.
You're probably well aware that the investigation by the