Chris Froome is officially in the Tour de France, as I’m sure all of you reading this already know, cleared in extremis of the “not-quite-doping” allegations – more on that in a moment – and his path towards becoming the greatest Grand Tour racer in history has been cleared. But what a treacherous path it has been for him over these last nine months.
As many of you also know, I’ve been a vocal critic, in print and on TV, of the anti-doping organizations and their policies for close to 20-years – and actually long before that as a racer in Europe observing how the system encouraged and often mandated doping practices. One reason, in short, that I, and others such as Jack Simes, dedicated ourselves to creating a better, healthier American cycling.
I’m delighted that Froome beat WADA and the UCI. The entire case stank from the get-go, coming on the heels of the British UCI president Brian Cookson being unexpectedly overthrown by the ASO-backed (ASO owns the Tour) Frenchman David Lappartient. Englishman Froome’s test data was then leaked to the press, exaggerated data it turns out, which was accepted chapter and verse by the media and used to bludgeon the Tour and Vuelta champion for months. Froome showed enormous character by keeping his cool, maintaining his training, and coming back from a hard crash to dominate the Giro (Tour of Italy) with one of the most astounding performances any of us have ever seen.
Velonews seems to have come around to the position that I’ve been advocating for all of this time: that the scorched earth prosecutorial policies of WADA are outdated, destructive -both to the athletes and their sports – and ineffective. These two articles proved most interesting:
Please do not think that I support the idea of doping! What I support is an honest, open discussion on the realities of modern, professional sport, what it entails, what the medical needs are, and above all, how to create a healthier working environment for the athletes. Chris Froome’s perseverance has finally opened the door for that discussion: now let’s see if WADA is willing to accept that their testing procedures are not always perfect and if they are able to summon the humility needed to undergo the desperately needed internal examination of their practices.
So, on to the races! I’ve three technical consultants for this Tour blog, upping my game considerably. First, the co-founder and former European Correspondent for Cyclingnews.com, Tim Maloney, who is based in Italy. Second, Erik Zabel, one of the greatest German cyclists in history, six-time winner of the Green Jersey at the Tour (1996-2001) and four-time winner of Milano San Remo. And third, but not least, USA’s Chris Horner, winner of the Vuelta (Tour of Spain -beating Vincenzo Nibali to do it btw) who’s coming on board “once things get interesting” ie. the mountains.
Tomorrow’s opening stage is a doozy, hugging the Atlantic coast of the agricultural paradise of the Vendée region. Lucky for the climbers and to the despair of the Belgians, strong winds are not forecast, and the sprinters should have their day. Big questions: can Marcel Kittel, whose preparation has seemed quite lackadaisical, redeem himself? Will the muy rapido Colombian Fernando Gaviria stay up on two wheels? And is Mark Cavendish finished or not? Beau Tour!
John 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.