The second Tour De France, in 1904, set a precedent for cheating that cyclists have tried to match for years. The event was marred by a series of brawls, fans forming packs to stop riders, nails scattered across the course to puncture tires and masked men in cars knocking bikers off the road. There were allegations that some riders were poisoned. The winner, Maurice Garin, was later stripped of his title after reports that, for part of the race, he took a train.
And while the greatest cheater in Tour de France history, Lance Armstrong, was exposed for years of doping after his record seven wins, it seems the propensity to cheat is as much a part of “La Grande Boucle” as it was a century ago. While the United Cycling Federation has taken measures to limit doping in the sport, it’s been forced to adopt an aggressive approach to combating another creative form of cheating: motors. “This problem is worse than doping,” France’s sports minister, Thierry Braillard, told the press in June. “This is the future of cycling that’s at stake.”
I guess none of this should be surprising, but it is disappointing. Then again, Le Tour has a way of disappointing fans. For all it could be, it seems to always have a shadow looming over it.
Still, I’ll probably catch some of it, there’s nothing like the views of the peloton crossing the Alps or the French countryside!
Every once in a while something like this happens and we all wonder about the safety of being out on the open road. But then, the Tour wouldn’t be the Tour if you changed that. Hopefully the sport is cleaned up enough that it can start to shed the image of doping, but I also understand the skepticism of fans when one rider, and team, seems to be doing so much better than the rest. Still, that’s no reason to throw urine at anyone. Yuck!
Urine ‘hurled at’ Tour de France leader Froome
More fun history of the Tour de France, and how finishing last is it’s own reward!
Winning Is For Losers: The Great Stories Of The Guys Who Finish Last
Had a feeling he was done while I was up early watching this morning. Sad really to have the leader drop out like that. Yeah, he wasn’t going to win the overall Tour, but what many non-fans of the Tour don’t understand is how much honor and respect is due to anyone who wears Yellow for any amount of time, and how hard guys will fight to hang on to it as long as possible.
Many also don’t understand what a dangerous sport cycling at this level can be, but crashes cause serious injuries, and occasionally deaths, when it’s just you and the bike.
Martin abandons Tour de France due to fractured collarbone
If you didn’t get to watch the latest ESPN 30 for 30 film, Slaying the Badger, about the battle between Greg LeMond and Bernard Hinault in the 1986 Tour de France, check it out when it’s replayed. It’s fascinating. As someone who was a teenager during the LeMond victories, I have some fuzzy memories of those and it was good to fill in the blanks.
For example, I thought for sure that LeMond had won a Tour on a time trial on the final day, but could never figure out how that happened when the final day is traditionally just a celebration day into Paris, but seeing the bit about winning the 89 Tour by 8 seconds showed that my memory was correct, that year the ride into Paris was a time trial!
Frankly, since LeMond is now officially the only American to ever win the Tour, it’s nice to see him get his due.
However, there was one thing about the film that made me furrow my brow a bit. The producers and the cyclists being interviewed clearly state that 1992 was the start of widespread doping in the world of cycling. That puts us right at the beginning of 5 straight Tour wins by Miguel Indurain. As far as I know, his victories have not been called into question.
Looking at the winners list in Wikipedia you can clearly see where the questionable, and even stripped, Tour wins start, 1996.
So the question is, should we consider Indurain part of the doping era, or a cyclist that was so dominant that even others using performance enhancing drugs couldn’t beat him?