The Holiday cheer is missing in the cycling world. The Grinch has stolen all of the good cheer from anyone related to pro cycling. Sure Discovery Channel, CSC and Tinkoff among many others have already met for their first training camps for the 2007 season. Discovery Channel played paint ball in Texas while CSC was training to go to fight in Iraq in South Africa. Lampre can be happy that they locked up the services of Il Princippe (Damiano Cunego) until 2009.
A cold wind started blowing way back in the spring time when Spanish Guardia Civil started leaking info on a new investigation that was to bust open the world of doping in cycling. 200 or 59 or 8 cyclist in all were implicated in the press. Now we approach the end of 2006 and no one rider is implicated and pretty much anyone whose name has been associated with Operation Puerto has been cleared.
Their names were cleared in the courts,but not in the world of public opinion which is why the group of ProTour teams minus Frances des Jeux (for whatever reason) decided to put up a no-Discovery Channel Team club sign in front of their tree house. Whether this decision has any bearing at all on the actual ProTour no one knows. But the team directors have spoken. Their code of ethics has been violated because you cannot sign a rider who was implicated in the press and then cleared in the courts. Even though there is no active investigation and no solid evidence against a particular rider, if there was something written about them in the press then they are forever to be known as a doper and should never race again. The teams have decided to take a stance against riders involved in doping and are getting serious.
Meanwhile Paolo Bettini declares that he would rather retire than submit to a DNA test. This is a valid point. To what degree do pro cyclist now have to be automatically treated like criminals? Riders would then be assumed to be guilty even before they enter a race or join a team. Their DNA samples are taken to be on file in case a bag of blood appears in someones office somewhere where it should not be. That bag of blood will be compared to hundreds of DNA samples already on file to catch the culprit. Sounds convenient doesn’t it? Maybe a bit to convenient for most when French laboratories cannot keep their labels straight, and investigations a marked more for their sensational press leaks than by their actual evidence.
Meanwhile Floyd Landis is starting to feel the financial burden and is pondering life without cycling. The disgraced Tour winner (yeah I wrote Tour winner) is getting desperate in the dark days of winter. The legal costs are adding up and Landis may just be thinking of what his next career move should be that will probably not involve wearing cycling shorts to the office.
The UCI under Pat McQuaid has dared to mess with on of the Grand Tours by suggesting that that Tour of Spain be cut down to two weeks. The third Grand Tour would be reduced to the likes of a longer Dauphine Libere to make room for the Tour of Germany and Tour of Poland. You’re a mean one Mr. McQuaid.
But just as the Whos of Whoville gathered around the town center and sang songs on Christmas Day without their presents, cycling will do the same. The bad news of cutting down the Vuelta means that they have to do it to make room for more races. The Tour of California and Tour de Georgia are looking good for 2007. The Giro looks like it will be a close race to the end next year. Saul Raisin is making an awesome recovery and may even race next year.
Despite all of the doping stories cycling is as popular as ever. It sucks that all of the doping stories are like a body blow to the beautiful sport.