28 July 2012

There are some things I don't like

Even when I love something it is hard to always stay positive

My brother Mike marvels over how positive Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen can remain while commentating on a cycling race. Whatever people say about Phil and Paul, there is no doubt that they are always positive about cycling. Phil Liggett unflinchingly looks on the bright side, unquestionably believing good will prevail. That is quite a trait, or perhaps the craft of a paid position, but for me, a generally positive person, I admit I lack tolerance for certain things. I know I would not be able to keep all that goes through my mind to myself, as Phil and Paul do.
Today I listened to Paul Sherwen commentate for NBC on the Olympic men's road race. He maintained his professional tone straight through Vinokourov's win and Cavendish's and Phinney's losses. I definitely could not have done that. Within the walls of my living room, I was off the couch standing in front of the TV when Cancellara crashed head-straight into a hard right corner, I reacted with a loud, "Oh Noooo."

I was adding my own commentary (as many of us probably were) during the last few kilometers as I watched Vino cross the finish line in first place. My commentary went something like this, "Phinney quit looking at everyone else, if you want it - GO. Go after Rigoberto. Ah man, you just lost your race." "Vino, are you kidding me, Vino is going to win. Don't let him win. I would not have sat here for hours watching this race if I had known Vino was going to win. Ugh, four years with Vino in that title." "Poor Cav, bummer, but he is taking it well." "Look how sad Phinney looks, he missed out on everything else to focus on this race and he lost." "Awh, Fabian is crying.""Wow, Chris Horner is still talking." Unlike me, Paul had kept composed enough to only say things like "you cannot predict a race like this."
My brother was much wiser, he realized the NBC coverage was delayed, checked the results on line, saw that Vino had won, closed his computer in disgust, and went for a bike ride. I spent my time watching that race. I love this sport, but sometimes I don't like everything. One thing I do not like is the number of convicted dopers we still have actively racing in the peloton. I may not express my opinions often on this blog, but I don't like to see a known doper winning an Olympic Gold Medal.

The Olympics are sacred to me, they represent what sport meant to me as a child, when my heroes where Olympians. Vino does not fit the bill, I admit I am disappointed. Although Vinokourov stated this would be his swan-song and he is now retiring (again) after the Olympics. It seems an injustice, I wanted the gold to go to a young well-deserving rider, no matter what country he was from. I think it odd some press have called Vino an "unknown", which he certainly is not, what he is known for is not something I like to think of as an Olympic quality, but I understand many fans and teammates are proud of him and he certainly was happy.

I don't spend much time worrying about doping in professional cycling. People ask me what I think; I accept it as both history and possibility, but remain curious of the trends as methods come and go. A couple years ago I noticed as fans we seemed to be waiting longer for the riders to come through. Minutes lapsed behind the estimated time schedules until the riders actually arrived. Hmm either the riders were not riding as fast as previous years, or maybe use of performance enhancing drugs really had changed. Now I get questions such as, "What happened to Levi, is he no longer taking drugs?" I don't know, maybe Levi is not using drugs and others are back on them? But what and how, again I don't know.

What bothers me far more is the use of drugs in amateur racing. Weekend warriors, middle aged men and women who need to create an image for themselves as racers at any cost. I was disgusted at the news that David Anthony tested positive after winning his age-group (45-49) at the first ever New York Grand Fondo. This was the United States' chance at creating a true competitive style cyclosportif event which are so successful in Europe - and we end up with a past-his-prime doper, what is the point? All of this trickles down to the Juniors. It is not only the immoral concept of cheaters, nor the health of the athlete we are trying to protect, it is the pressure put on our youth that they must dope or have no chance to win in cycling. Wider Testing Reveals Doping Among Amateur Cyclists, Too

Still why the riders in the Olympic road race let Vino go off the front when he is a former Silver-Medalist (Sidney 2000) and known to ride his own race, I do not understand. I would have liked to see an exciting sprint finish battle between 7-8 riders for the line. I see no reason for anyone to be disappointed in Mark Cavendish, he remains the World Champion and continues to inspire young riders around the world and has significantly grown the sport of cycling in the UK. Cav is an admirable athlete. Also the fans in Britain were magnificent. Now that is the way to support a cycle race!

We still have the men's individual time trial to look forward to on Wednesday: Final -Hampton Court Palace - Wednesday, 01 August 2012 14:15. View the Olympic men's individual cycling time trial start list / roster, you will see that Vinokourov is on the list (he reports it will be his last race). I probably will work through the event so I don't take the chance of witnessing him win. Although this time I am hoping that Cancellara triumphs. His visit to the hospital after the road race showed no fractures on the xrays, but the Swiss team is waiting to make the decision about whether Fabian will race on Wednesday. (Update 30 July: Fabian will race)

If the gold is not for Fabian, I would be happy to see any of the other lead contenders on the podium. I like Luis Leon Sanchez and Peter Velits (I am a big fan of both riders), but Tony Martin, Chris Froome, Taylor Phinney, even Wiggo would all deserve the gold. It is also possible that Cadel Evans will not race the time trial event at the Olympics, he reports problems with his health and a general uncertainty. We may be hearing of a retiring Cadel Evans soon. (Update 30 July: Cadel will not race)
As a reminder of the 53.5km Stage 19 individual time trial at the 2012 Tour de France, only 5 of the riders within the top-20 results will be competing in the Olympic road time trial on Wednesday. There are plenty of riders who did not race in the Tour de France and thus it is unclear how they will stack up against each other in regards to form, but I wouldn't put all your eggs in the Wiggo basket. The Olympic course is also mid-distance at 44 km with plenty of turns. In the words of Paul Sherwen "you cannot predict a race like this ahead of time."

Time trial results from Stage 19 Tour de France (these riders will be competing in the Olympics). See the Full Olympic ITT Roster by VeloNews.com
1 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky Procycling 1:04:13
2 Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky Procycling 0:01:16
3 Luis Leon Sanchez Gil (Spa) Rabobank Cycling Team 0:01:50
4 Peter Velits (Svk) Omega Pharma-QuickStep 0:02:02
18 Bert Grabsch (Ger) Omega Pharma-QuickStep 0:03:43
2012 Olympic time trial route map
Humor is sometimes the best way to get over disappointment. Human nature - it keeps us guessing.