by Neil Browne
Tour de France Round Up
Let’s forget for a second all the doping allegations and rumors aimed at Team Sky’s Chris Froome. By far he’s been a better Tour de France winner than last year’s Bradley Wiggins.
Last year Wiggins was unable to deal with the press and media spotlight that comes with the burden of wearing the yellow jersey. As people say, the yellow jersey can give you the strength of ten men, but so does the weight of it when off the bike. The result of wearing yellow was Wiggo became standoffish, rude, and just plain douchie.
Froome, on the other hand, has attended press conferences and has portrayed himself in a professional manner answering questions. Even the uncomfortable ones.
Before stepping onto the final 2013 Tour de France podium he told the press, “I’m glad I’ve had to face those questions after all the revelations of the last year. I’m glad that’s been channeled towards me. I’ve been able to deal with it. Cycling has changed. The peloton is standing together.”
On the podium Froome said, “This is one yellow jersey that will stand the test of time,” an obvious reference to Lance Armstrong and his seven wins that were scrubbed from the record books.
The centennial winner of the Tour de France, barring a disaster, has been determined and a new king has been crowned. But part of being the new king means dealing with the pressure. Froome acts like he can wear the crown. He has shown leadership qualities on the road – not afraid to rein in Ritchie Porte when needed, but also giving praise to his Australian right-hand man.
Where Wiggins falls into the new Froome/Sky dynasty I don’t know. Will the moody Englishman resign himself to the Giro and smaller stage races as Froome becomes the new Tour de France dominator? Are two chiefs one too many in the new Sky empire?
My personal prediction is Wiggins and Froome will both remain with Team Sky. Wiggins has realized he’s not cut out to be a multiple Tour de France winner, and Froome has shown he is. Sky can assign Wiggins the Giro, various small stage races and one of the bigger North American stage races. That said, rumor has it that Froome might make an appearance at the Tour of Colorado ... err ... USA Pro Cycling Challenge.
Professional sport is all about what have you done for me lately. Look at Andy and Frank Schleck. In the last possible moment Frank was flicked from RadioShack – a squad that he was ready to resume racing with.
In a twist – team owner Flavio Becca did an about-face and offered a contract to Frank, ostensibly to ride the upcoming Vuelta a Espana. However, there are apparently not enough “My Little Pony” plushies in the world to get Frank to rejoin RadioShack-Leopard as he told Becca to pound sand. The older Schleck is gambling that another team is looking to pick up a Schleck whose best-by date is several years old.
Trek is taking over the title sponsorship of the team in 2014, and it’s reported that the Schlecks are aboard with their salary cut to a third of what it once was. There’s a new leader on the team and it’s Fabian Cancellara. He brought the sexy back to the Spring Classics for Trek and deserves the promotion. The Schlecks? Not so much...
Wiggo is in the same boat. Sure, not as drastic, but 2012 was so long ago. What has Wiggins done for Sky lately? His four-year contract is about to run out, but where does he go? Froome has said he wants to stay in the stylishly retro Merino wool gear of Team Sky. Wiggins will be faced with a choice: play second lieutenant to Froome or go to another squad that can afford him. Remember teammate Porte has shown he’s a capable winner too, so Wiggins hasn’t got a lot of leverage. You can’t swing a Pinarello Dogma over your head in a Sky team training camp without hitting a possible grand tour or one-day race winner.
The Tour de France is done and we have a new Sky Overlord. Froome is a stable choice when it comes to the over running riches that face team principal Dave Brailsford. Perhaps Wiggins will prove me wrong and transfer to Trek? Wiggins to Team BMC Racing?
Speaking of BMC the fallout from their terrible Tour de France has begun.
In a team press release BMC director John Lelangue left the team “for personal reasons – effective immediately.” Those “personal reasons” were the team that contains so many superstar riders with superstar contracts came away with nothing in the world’s biggest race.
Also the Mantova doping trial is set to go forward and Alessandro Ballan is one of those who could go on trial for doping. Ballan was riding for Lampre at the time, not BMC. However, someone needs to take the blame for bringing a guy onto the roster who has a dodgy past.
I hope Lelangue at least had a chance to return to the BMC Service Course and clean out his locker or were the locks already changed when he got there?
The other fallout is the scheduled release of 44 positive doping results from the 1998 Tour de France. The French senate postponed publishing the names of those who didn’t calculate their glow-times correctly during the Tour. Some notable riders who participated in that edition of Le Tour and are still racing include Stuart O’Grady and Jens Voigt. The list drops this Wednesday and is sure to shoot to the top of the charts.
NEWS FLASH – In another “effective immediately”-themed team press release O’Grady states he is retiring. This is surprising as this past June his team press released an O’Grady statement saying he was continuing for another year. A month later that has changed.
There are others from that Tour, nicknamed the Tour du Dopage, who have already retired under the cloud of doping, not counting the entire Festina team: Jan Ullrich, Bobby Julich, Erik Zabel, George Hincapie, and Marco Pantani. The complete list of riders suspected or charged with doping is quite staggering.
As we count down to the release of the names of the 44 doped riders, people have asked why should these names be released at all? Once those names are published there’s no way for the accused to defend themselves. It’s quite simple why we need to: If we don’t acknowledge the past, we’re doomed to repeat it.
Continuing to hide the past only enables those who were riders in that dirty era to continue their dirty ways in the present. Look at the rosters of teams. Many are still involved in some capacity. Others have taken roles in media, which is quite shocking to me. To some it will seem unfair and there’s a valid argument. However, the lies of the past are too big to hide and the price must be paid.
The Tour de France peloton finished their celebratory laps around the Champs-Élysées and the speculations had started to fly from rider transfers to doping accusations. I expect this month will be quite revealing.
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