Call it a fit of pique, but my annoyance with the pro scene hasn’t gone quite so far as I planned. No, I don’t concentrate on it, but I do comment from time to time.
Caught an interesting talk at UNCG yesterday. Christopher Thompson spoke about the origins of Le Tour, and the role doping plays in pro cycling. This is what I shared with the Triad Cycling list:
If you didn’t manage to sneak away from work yesterday to hear Christopher Thompson’s talk at UNCG about the Tour de France and doping, you missed an excellent presentation. Thompson is an historian with an interest in cycling and public health issues, grew up in Belgium watching Eddy Merckx and his contemporaries race, and has written a book about the cultural history of the Tour de France. He began his talk with this: “Cycling is the most boring sport there is,” and then went on to explain how such a mechanical sport could capture the imagination of an entire country that was suffering the malaise of a stagnant population rate and losing the Franco-Prussian war. The audience followed him through 100 years of Tour history, including the transition from “the cult of suffering” when just finishing a month of 16-20 hour stages was enough to make one a “Giant of the Road,” to the “cult of performance,” which is all about winning. I talked to several people who heard his talk (and who were among the few of us who spent time with him after the event), and I’ve heard differing opinions about what Thompson’s views on doping really mean.
I’ll paraphrase a few things he said, and let you read between the lines: Regarding the new wave of “clean” pro teams: “If they’re successful, you should be suspicious.”
About Marco Pantani’s TdF win, and his performance in one particular mountain stage: “When someone is climbing 10% grades and has to brake for turns — going uphill — that tells you something.”
Regarding the idea that there’s a level playing field if everybody dopes: “Blood doping is entirely different than popping pills. It takes medical personnel and lots of money. Only a few cyclists can afford it.”