Thursday, 14 June 2012

A Rivalry Reignited - A Word On Armstrong

When Alberto Contador received a suspension for doping, putting him out of action until August after the Tour de France, it was clear that the greatest rivalry in cycling right now would take a year off in 2012. I am 100% anti-doping but I am willing to admit that I was disappointed - it was this rivalry that maintained my interest in the sport - and a Contadorless Tour in 2012 quickly became a less exciting prospect to me, though Bradley Wiggins has since done much to alleviate this. So when I heard yesterday that Andy Schleck would not be riding this years Tour de France due to a fractured pelvis sustained in his Dauphine crash, I had mixed emotions. This years Tour without Andy Schleck, no matter what you think of him, his attitude and methods, will be worse for it. He was the only real contender who would have been guaranteed to light up the race with big attacks in the mountains. Now it really does look like a two horse race between Wiggins and Cadel Evans. Every cloud though, has a silver lining and it is this which has reignited a fire within me and fuelled that great rivalry once again...

This years Vuelta a Espana will see the return of Alberto Contador. Already confirmed to be riding his home tour, it looked on paper that romping to a victory in a fashion akin to the 2011 Giro d'Italia was merely a formality. Andy Schleck not riding the tour though is a game changer. In the press conference yesterday Andy Schleck said "I hope to be back to ride the Olympics and then my main goal will be the Vuelta a Espana". That is one heck of a silver lining in my eyes. Not only will Contador be returning at the Vuelta but so will a 6 year rivalry that we though would not be resumed untill 2013.

Andy Schleck never looked like he was going to win the Tour this year, it would have been very difficult thanks to the Time Trials and with his form struggling things were not looking good. Schleck clearly doesn't have the passion for the Vuelta that he holds for the Tour but I think he will ride to win in order to salvage something from his pretty dismal year, with or without a kick up the backside from sponsors eager to get their monies worth. The Vuelta course suits Schleck far more than the Tour course, with a whole stack (10 I think?) of uphill finishes and plenty of action in the high mountains. The course looks to be insanely difficult, but hopefully now it won't be a total washout with Andy capable of keeping up with Contador in the mountains.

There could still be one spanner in the works that may prevent this clash of the titans though. Yesterdays astounding news that Lance Armstrong will be charged by the USADA for doping (finally!) and the leaked letter (Here) from the USADA, which is the most damning account of cheating and doping that I have ever read, also strongly indicates Yohan Bruyneel and some of Radioshack's backroom staff and doctors - it wouldn't be beyond the realms of possibility that Radioshack will be banned from competing, or be disbanded as a team. I could spend a good 3 hours talking about the Armstrong situation here, but so many others are doing likewise I shall not waste my time. What I will say is that I am pleased that finally it looks like Lance Armstrong may be forced to face the facts, face the fans and face the truth. Its come years too late for my liking, but hopefully now we will be able to put an end to the whole sorry saga once and for all and see those responsible get punished. My only hope is that we look not only beyond Armstrong and the riders, but at the obvious corruption in the UCI that has kept this mess under wraps for so many years...


  1. The cat has certainly been put among the pigeons! With Andy Schleck now focussing on Spain, and Armstrong now focussing on staying out of the calaboose the next few months should be interesting. As I recall you forshadowed some of Armstrong's woes in a post a few weeks ago. Looks like you called the turn. As you said then he might hav been softening up the public for what he knew or suspected was to come.

  2. You are right Roff, there was a rat to be smelt. I could look for a deeper conspiracy here but it's to early to say. It's certainly no coincidence that George Hincapie announced his retirement the day before this news, Bruyneel's Subpoena is still unexplained, Chris Horner talking to the USADA could be why Shack left him out of the Tour roster without even telling him, Andy Schleck withdrawing from the Tour with a broken pelvis...hmm, the mind can wonder...

  3. Very interesting times. I hadn't heard abiut Hincaoie. That is certainly a remarkable coincidence, or not as th case may be.