Nathan's column: A bunch of dopes on bikesI realize most Americans don’t care much about a bunch of guys in tights half a world away, but if you want to claim to be a serious cyclist in this country you have to at least pretend to know what’s going on.
By: Nathan Hansen, Rosemount Town Pages
The Tour de France got under way earlier this month in Belgium, a geographical anomaly I can only assume has something to do with a massive failure on the part of everybody’s global positioning systems. I realize most Americans don’t care much about a bunch of guys in tights half a world away, but if you want to claim to be a serious cyclist in this country you have to at least pretend to know what’s going on. Most reputable bike shops won’t even sell you a pair of those stretchy spandex shorts unless you can name at least three former Tour champions.
Depending on who you ask, the le Tour, as the French and the particularly snobby American fans call it, is either one of the world’s greatest endurance sporting events or a the world’s biggest rolling pharmacy.
Doping was a big story at this year’s Tour long before the first rider started working on his remarkably well-defined tan lines. Lance Armstrong, who is celebrating yet another year on top of the list of professional cyclists whose name most Americans actually know, faces another round of charges he used illegal performance-enhancing drugs when he won a record seven straight Tour following a comeback from cancer.
This isn’t the first time Armstrong has been accused of doping. The latest charges, brought by the United States Anti-Doping Agency, follow in a long line of accusations from groups including the U.S. Attorney’s Office and, briefly, a team-up of Encyclopedia Brown and Nancy Drew.
The charges are a little ridiculous. Not because Armstrong wasn’t doping. He almost definitely was. They’re ridiculous because you might think after enough failed attempts people would just give up. It’s a little like the Washington Generals going into every game against the Globetrotters thinking, “Maybe this time!”
Besides, Lance Armstrong hasn’t won a Tour since 2005. He wasn’t caught when he competed. He still hasn’t, at least officially. At a certain point, you just have to sit back and say, “OK, you got us.”
Doping talk at this Tour hasn’t all been focused on the past, though. British person Bradley Wiggins, who as of the writing of this column was the leader of this year’s tour, caused a stir last weekend when he launched a curse-filled tirade at journalists who brought up allegations made on Twitter that Wiggins and his teammates had been doping.
I feel like the journalists got pretty much what they deserved in that exchange, actually. A modern reporter starting a question with, “People on Twitter have been saying …” is a little bit like a reporter in the 70s leading with, “So, I was on my CB radio the other day....”
Besides, cursing sounds totally adorable when you do it with an English accent.
It’s all kind of a shame, because this drug talk has taken away from the real point of the race, which is that professional bikers are crazy. Through one week of riding, there had been several crashes and at least 13 broken bones. One rider’s bike snapped clean in half.
It’s almost enough to make turning to drugs seem like a sensible move.