I am pretty happy that justice appears to be winning in the sport of professional cycling these days, probably for the first time ever. That said and I am not sure why, but I am having trouble taking down my Lance poster. It does motivate me to ride on cold, wet, winter mornings. He was the best of the best in a crooked sport.
This week’s announcement that Lance Armstrong has been stripped of his seven tour de France titles was a huge disappointment for this sport and I believe a real embarrassment for all Americans who have participated and for the most part dominated professional cycling these past 15 years. But, I am not going to go off on Lance…as I have writing in previous posts I believe professional cycling has become a joke sport with no signs of gaining any credibility in the near future.
While riding yesterday I did pretend in my head, that if I were running this sport I would make the following changes starting in 2013.
1. De focus individual riders and focus on the teams instead.
2. Award the top cash prizes to the teams, to be split across all members, vs. individual team members.
3. Ban all pharmaceutical companies from sponsoring teams, riders or races.
4. If one team member is caught doping, then the team is automatically disqualified from all races for the remainder of the season.
And for cycling fans, start rooting for teams, not individuals. In my opinion, it is virtually impossible for any clean rider to place first out of one hundred and ninety riders (the tour de France roster) consistently. This expectation is just insane and I believe is the reason riders to take drugs and such to meet this expectation.
I still watch the races, though not as much as before, and never with any real emotion…but I have faith that some day this great sport will prove itself as one of the very best sports on the planet.
This Saturday’s WSJ story, For Cycling’s Big Backers, Joy Ride Ends in Grief saddened me. It’s been hard these past few years to be a professional cycling fan – with all the doping and such. But I am not deterred. Cycling is one of the hardest physical sports on earth, and I will always respect the guys and nowadays women that commit themselves to it.
I started riding seriously in college in 1987 and raced competitively for three years until I graduated. If I was not in class or studying I was on my bike putting in between 200 to 250 training miles per week. I raced every week from spring through fall while idolizing Greg Lemond and the Tour de France. I was also involved in quite a few major crashes while racing (1989 picture) which I am still reminded of when I look at myself in the mirror. I no longer race competitively, but have kept training to this day.
A few years ago as CEO of a software company I had co-founded. I started sponsoring local teams and criteriums. In total I sponsored over 450+ riders spanning three teams in the bay area from 2007-2009. This was my first experience as a cycling sponsor and I was especially proud of the Los Gatos Elite Women’s team in 2007-8. Last year I sponsored Third Pillar Racing via BackBeatApps.
So…it is hard to see the sport of cycling go through such publicly difficult times today. Compared to other popular sports such as football, baseball, basketball, tennis and running – all great sports. Cycling by far requires more endurance, core strength and skill. The effort to crank out 50 miles in less then three hours can not be matched. The life long benefits of a strong heart and vascular system with minimal impact to bones and cartilage is also unmatched. Cycling is also good for the mind. Riding for two to three hours can help reduce my stress level in that I can get my emotions out on the bike and what ever might be bothering me at the end of the ride is usually real, not emotional. I have also found that by riding I can sustain greater stress loads in my daily life…the list goes on.
One final perspective on the present doping problem, I do not think it is fair to pay professional cyclists a fraction of what most athletes earn and expect one or two team leaders to place first out of 115+ Tour de France riders for consecutive years in a row. Greg and Lance proved it can be done and I belive they were clean when they did it. But as a rule I do not think it is realistic for one person to win a 21 stage, 2,100 mile race every year with such odds.
If it would only stop raining so I could go out for a ride. -john