The tour enters the Pyrenees today. I have no idea what happens or how the contenders stack up, because I wrote this in advance and set it to auto-post this morning. This year’s Tour is proving nearly as interesting as the Giro, but for entirely different reasons. The only thing that could make it better were if Jan Ullrich were racing.
I feel like Phil Ligget on Versus this week, what with the constant mention of Lance Armstrong, but I can’t help it—there’s one more thing I want to get off my chest. I think Lance is back for a reason and wants to win for a reason: he wants to do it clean.
I don’t buy Lance’s argument of “I’ve never failed a drug test, therefore I’m clean.” Frankie Andreu was riding right alongside Lance, and he never failed. Same for Jonathan Vaughters. Both have admitted since to being on the sauce. Also along for the ride were Manuel Beltran, Floyd Landis, Roberto Heras, and Tyler Hamilton. We all know how those turned out. Sure, these guys got caught after they left US Postal/Discovery, but that's only because US Postal/Discovery[/Astana?] were [are?] better at doping and doing it undetected than anyone else. I can’t imagine a team leader as dominant as Lance not doping when his domestiques were.
Moreover, it’s taken as a given that Jan Ullrich was doping. And a clean Lance Armstrong doesn’t beat a doped Jan Ullrich. Ever. Say what you will about Jan being overweight, less-disciplined, whatever. I’ve re-watched archive footage from ‘01 and ‘03, and Ullrich was a lean, fit, fast rider. And somehow Armstrong just rode away from him, not just in the mountains, but in the time trials as well.
I [want to] believe that the peleton has cleaned up immensely over the last four years. That between the biological passport and the more sophisticated tests, anti-doping authorities finally have the upper hand, and most of the riders are racing clean.
But my faith is weak. I have a couple Garmin-Slipstream water bottles that say “100% clean” right on the side. It will only take one positive from that team for me to lose faith, not just in them, but in Saxo Bank, Columbia-HTC, and all the other teams that claim to have internal measures in place to ensure riders aren’t doping.
Lance has backpedaled from his position that the 2008 Tour was a joke. Could it be that he thought it was a joke because the contenders, save Kohl at least, were clean for the first time in years? And that nobody rode away with the race like he used to because nobody was juiced enough to do so? But now that Lance is [finally, I hope] racing clean, he realizes just how tough it is?
Armstrong is very concerned about his legacy. His behavior this year points to that. His foundation points to that. In the back of his mind, he’s got to be concerned that sometime, somewhere, somehow his credibility as a clean racer completely disappears. So he’s back for one more—clean this time [?]—just in case.