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Exciting sport

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Most of those that know me will be aware that I stopped believing in the cleanliness of male pro cycling a very long time ago, in fact I'm not sure that I ever believed in it, really. Put it this way, if I did believe in it back then, I'm now ashamed to think that I ever did now. After realising that the sport wasn't clean I came to a point a while later when I justified watching it to myself by saying of some riders: well, at least he's clean, citing various nonsensical reasons to back up my statement. The most irrational of which probably being that the rider was British or a 'nice guy' and hence wouldn't dope. And then a few years later still I gave in and just accepted the riders for what they were, I used to just look at the positive tests as just part of the fun and games, and think of them as goodies and baddies (Rasmussen vs the fresh faced Contador being but one of many examples). It had changed in to pure entertainment with none of the competition that I thought I was watching before, it's almost like watching WCW wrestling.

In a way the testing could be seen as a bit like an ongoing extension to the competition, seeing who gets eliminated in the subsequent weeks and months can be quite good fun in a way. It can add a whole new and exciting dimension to the sport, in fact I actually welcomed Vinokourov's return last year. You could argue that he was good for it, lighting up the worlds road race as he did, he made it more exciting. It's an undeniable fact. I basically slowly replaced love with hate for riders and simply carried on watching, I reckon I barely noticed the difference.

Then this morning I realised that my views on pro cycling have now become so cynical that they couldn't really become much worse. I didn't bat an eyelid when I was told that Contador tested positive today, I mean why should I? It's boring now, if you really care about the sport its probably upsetting too, but frankly I just can't be arsed any more. I am very sorry to say that the only thing that surprised me is that he got caught, how horrible a thought is that to make about someone you don't even know? The fact that trace amounts of an asthma drug (Clenbuterol), which in the frankly homoeopathic quantities* found would do nothing to affect your performance makes things simply baffling more than anything, but it's neither here nor there. I bet Contador is as confused as everyone else. But as far as I'm concerned it's like getting punished for not wearing a seatbelt whilst no one notices the 5kgs of heroin in your boot. I should feel bad about feeling like this and give riders the benefit of the doubt still but I'm sorry, I simply can't any more.

The thing is It doesn't matter now what happens, Contador's name is mud and will remain so forever, in sport it is the court of public opinion that matters and nothing else. He was already a baddy now anyway since the whole chaingate debacle. His PR machine is in full swing and no one at the UCI really wants him to be banned, his bad publicity has a good chance of destroying Bjaarne Riis's new look pro tour team before it even gets off the ground. For a simple man like Pat Mcquaid with all his conflicts of interest its very hard for him to say whether it's good or bad that Contador got caught. You see, on the one hand the sport has less money now but on the other a cheater has been caught. I'm going to guess he will side with it being bad, he's gets progressively worse at his job after all and is probably incapable of seeing this as a good thing long term. He appears to be better than anyone else at ignoring the elephant in the room, that's for sure, perhaps he will acknowledge it now? I doubt it.

Male pro cycling has become far less exciting now that I don't feel that I can support anyone any more, it's become boring, numbing almost, I no longer have passion for it. Well, that's not strictly true, there are some things that are still amazing to watch, like for example when Gilbert attacks: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w2gtBXIexE8. It's a guilty pleasure though, and it's tainted by doubt in whether what I'm watching is real or not. It's a guilty feeling akin to buying heat magazine, by buying it you know it only encourages the publishers to make more issues. It is much the same with cycling, perhaps one day it will be as embarrassing to be a cycling fan as it is to buy heat magazine? It is perhaps something we should all hope for**. I feel that about a lot of sports now, at least they're up front in Moto GP about having engines in their bicycles, that's one of many reasons I like it.

Yesterday morning I came to realise that one of the most exciting things about watching sport is supporting someone, willing someone to win over someone else, it makes sense that it adds to the story of a race if you have a main character.

I didn't have any footage of the women's TT yesterday, I was just sat constantly refreshing http://live.cyclingnews.com for the last 15 or so minutes. The trouble is that most people don't really know who anyone is that they're watching on telly, male or female, they don't know if they like them or can trust them or not (I don't trust any of the male pros for reasons I've already explained). The only impression the majority of people have of Emma Pooley, Bradley Wiggins, Lance Armstrong or Eddy Merckx (or Dave and Ed Milliband) is the one presented to them via the media. That image is sometimes carefully manicured, sometimes not at all, and some riders have a bigger profile than others - you can be sure of one thing though, whatever that profile is it certainly doesn't have much bearing on who that person might be in reality.

You will of course have to take my carefully manicured blog image in to account and trust me when I say that Emma really deserved to win that race yesterday. I don't expect you to believe me, why would you?

My last race is in Italy on Sunday, I think after the season I've had I will be needing a very long off season.

*He was still over the limit though (which as far as I can tell is 0), be sure of that. His press release is deliberately confusing: http://www.cyclingnews.com/news/cont...litical-victim and yes, I would be crying if I was about to lose my earnings as a fine, or don't they do that any more? I expect he will get off the hook, unlike Fuyu Li of Radioshack. Everything points to the contaminated food theory.

**Who am I kidding? I'll be watching on Sunday like everyone else.

Updated 30-09-2010 at 08:01 PM by David Mclean

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Comments

  1. David Mclean's Avatar
    Update: forgot to mention Mosquera's positive, he came second in the Vuelta: http://www.cyclingnews.com/news/mosq...-at-the-vuelta
  2. ego_land's Avatar
    WCW (WWF) taught us North-Americans to suspend our disbelief long ago.

    You're in the unenviable position Dave of having the ugly truth knock on the door of your own hopes and ambitions.

    My personal participation in the sport is so much further removed from the pros that the two are almost completely compartmentalized, mentally. So I can enjoy the spectacle of a pro race without having to engage my brain any further than skin deep, and that has very little relation to the sport I participate in on weekends, where the possibility of cheating would upset me greatly.

    Sometimes being a chipper makes life easier? Would I trade up for a better pair of legs if it meant a little more cynicism and mental anguish?

    Probably. That's the thing about cyclists, we're always trading pain for performance right up to the breaking point.