Tuesday, January 30, 2007

I still don't...

No one was happier for Floyd Landis the day he won the Tour. When he trailed after stage 16 by more than 8 minutes to Oscar Pereiro, even he was having his doubts. But an astonishing display of guts, grit and determination, all the qualities that define champions, in stage 17 put him back in contention. Eventually, Landis would prevail and keep the American streak at the TDF alive at eight.

Then the accusations of cheating came. I'm a more-than-amateur cyclist. I ride a middle-of-the-road Trek roadie, but, unlike most Americans, I understand team cycling. Having lived in Europe for two years, I gained a serious appreciation for the sport, especially for the TDF. I was in Segovia, Spain in 1989 when native son Pedro Delgado lost to my fellow Minnesotan, Greg Lemond. Since watching that Tour, I've been a fan of the road race.

That's why I can't believe Landis is guilty. Here's my case. Unfortunately, it is in no way based on evidence or science. It's all emotion and opinion.

1) Cycling has the most stringent anti-doping rules and tests in sport. You'd have to be an idiot to try to dope. You'd have to be an utter moron to do so DURING a race.
2) I trust Floyd. I don't know why. I've never met him. I trust him.
3) France is tired of losing their own race. In a sport that America did nothing in until Lemond won three Tours, France (and perhaps the rest of "Old Europe" are tired of Americans walking off with the honors. The problem for the rest of the world is that of our relatively small number of riders, the majority are found in the upper echelon of the classification.
4) I know how you can ride like crap one day and come back invincible the next. The human body is a strange thing. Some days it just comes up short, others it overperforms and surprises even the owner. On a 520-mile self-supported ride across Spain five years ago, I found this out. The distances we covered were nothing like those ridden by TDF-caliber riders, but for me, only making 25 one day on a flat stage and turning around and finishing 75 in about the same time with world-class climbs proved it to me.

Floyd: I believe you. Congratulations 2006 Tour de France champion!

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