Dogfight

Tour de France Views by John Eustice

Tommy Simpson

The racers now believe, and that’s the scariest thing for Team Sky. Coming into the Tour, the main GC contenders were confident…of a podium spot. They would of course race for the win, but in the back of their minds, and especially after seeing those ridiculously deep and fast Time Trial results from Dusseldorf (remember Dusseldorf? Such a long, long time ago it seems) laid down by the Sky riders, somewhere knew they were racing for bridesmaid placings. Not anymore. Froome’s slight cracking has opened a Pandora’s Box for the British team and today’s violent stage – violent in the level of the efforts which will demand a level of pain unlike any other road stage of the race – will be fascinating.

Froome wanted to KO the Tour yesterday and he rode those horses of his to the brink, to the detriment of British Champion Steve Cummings. Brits were chasing down a Brit on the 50th anniversary of Tommy Simpson’s death. Hooray, love the sentimentality of Sky. It’s amazing to me how the English-speaking cycling media has whitewashed Tommy out of the narrative, like Stalinist purge. Without Tommy, there’d be no Paul Sherwen, no Team Sky and so forth. He opened the door that led to decades of UK development culminating in Sky’s dominance. What bothers me about all of this, and has informed my often-unpopular stances on how the anti-doping wars are waged, is the fact that the system – race organizations, team directors, UCI, media, etc. – remain almost completely absolved of any responsibility with all the blame and punishment falling strictly on the athletes. My goodness, 50-years later and Tommy’s still being punished!

Tommy Simpson died from the general ignorance that defined cycling for decades. It was a sport for the uneducated – like boxing – and the management of it reflected that societal level. In the days before his expiration on Mount Ventoux, Tommy, who was desperate to become a GC contender, was stricken with diarrhea due in part to his extreme weight-loss diet. The mechanics were cleaning excrement off his bicycle each night. The team’s solution to this? Restrict his water intake…Tommy died of dehydration and ignorance. His memory should be treated more respectfully.

Last bit of my current anti-Sky joy is the kerfuffle between Landa and Froome. The Spaniard didn’t do anything wrong – there’s only so much help that one can give on a vertical finish like that – but it was interesting to see. Landa, from my sources, is going to Movistar next year to be groomed into a team leader under the stewardship of Alejandro Valverde. That is clearly in the back of Landa’s mind in this Tour.


John EusticeJohn Eustice, is the organizer of the Thompson Bucks County Classic in Doylestown, Pennsylvania and a long-time cycling analyst who has contributed to ESPN, ABC Sports, Time Magazine, and CNN among others. The Bucks County native resides in New York City. He was a pioneer on the European racing circuit and is a two-time United States Professional Champion.

1 Comment

Comments are closed.