Hi. This is Dave Shields on the Tour de France again. The Armstrong era is over, but the race has remained as dramatic as ever. While this weeks flat stages aren’t the place to win the overall competition, it can definitely be lost here. Just ask Spanish sensation, Alejandro Valverde. On Tuesday morning he was a favorite for the overall win. By Tuesday afternoon a dramatic crash had landed him in a hospital bed with a broken collar bone. These accidents often occur because cyclists ride so close together on flat stages. That’s because they can save 40% or more effort hiding in the wind shadow of nearby cyclist (a technique known as “drafting”). Spending energy only when it’s absolutely necessary is a huge key to surviving this grueling event. This highlights a sporting dynamic unique to cycling. To win, you must cooperate with your rivals at key moments. This is sometimes done by making concessions (allowing competitors to win sprint or mountain-climbing bonuses, for example). At other times deception is the tool of choice (Armstrong's legendary bluff in 2001, for instance). That’s why cycling is sometimes described as high-speed chess on skinny tires. The best cyclists are not just strong, they are also masters of complex tactical maneuvering.
In response to my last post, Jimmy Beck asked what I make of recent drug allegations against Lance Armstrong by NPR and LAT. It’s important to understand the source of this “uncovered” information. These were illegally leaked, highly selective pieces of testimony from a court case that Armstrong won decisively. They initially appeared in a pair of French newspapers. You can read Armstrong’s response to the story here. The unfortunate thing is, it’s impossible for Lance to ever prove that he competed clean. If he didn’t cheat, it’s tragic to see his name dragged through the dirt like this. He was tested comprehensively, and it would have taken very sophisticated methods to beat all of those tests. That means numerous people would have to be involved. Given this, if Lance is lying, the truth won’t hide forever. It seems that “innocent until proven guilty” is a principle often disregarded by modern media. One of my goals in writing The Tour, was to highlight the plight of an unjustly accused athlete.
As to Jimmy’s question about Dick Pound, I remain unimpressed with his methods. The leader of an organization founded to uphold ethics must be ethical. Pound has repeatedly circumvented rules in order to pursue his goals. For me, the ends do not justify the means.
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