By Bryan Perkins
The Tour has come to an end – Froome predictably the winner. Although Quintana tried valiantly up the last Alpine climb up l’Alpe d’Huez to claw back precious GC time. Froome’s two and a half minute advantage proved just too much. Movistar must be kicking themselves for letting Froome gain such an advantage earlier in the tour. It was clear Quintana had the better climbing legs as the tour concluded and while the riders celebrate with champagne and days of trying to get used to not riding up to 200 km’s a day; lingering doubts over drug use of course continue. And while continuing the drugs story, maybe the real story about the issue of drugs belongs to two riders who are evidence, (if ever any was needed), that the Tour is indeed the hardest sporting event in the world. And that failing ‘clean’ actually sucks. It also serves as another understandable rationale of temptation, fueling compelling insights into why you would consider doping when everything around you screams to stay clean.
When the 2015 Tour is remembered on yellow crinkly newspapers; a fading memory recalled by only by cycling tragics, the names of Geraint Thomas and Tejay van Garderen will be recalled with a sigh and a belated ‘oh dear, they never quite had it’. Van Garderen, the BMC third place GC rider who was looking assured for a podium finish in Paris, before he abandoned on stage 17 after failing to recover from an illness; and similarly Thomas – who rode a fantastic tour in supporting Froome in the mountains, (where he isn’t traditionally a contender but this year trimmed down, forgoing on mince pies and Guinness and discovering the ability to truly match the world’s best mountain climbers). Thomas tragically just ran out of juice, and lost almost 20 minutes on stage 19. Thomas quote following the stage is a gem:
Fourth overall at the start, Geraint Thomas lost 22 minutes today and described himself as a “cheap Ikea nail”.
“I don’t even know what happened, actually. I was just empty today. It was always going to happen, but I was hoping it was going to come on Monday. I just didn’t have anything. As they say, sometimes you’re the hammer, sometimes you’re the nail. I was a cheap little Ikea nail today. It was terrible.”
For van Gardener this and last year’s tour attempt have ended in failure. His capitulation in both tours happened after the second rest day. He’ll be back next year but questions remain over whether his poor body has the constitution to survive 3 weeks of the toughest event in road racing. It’s an interesting question – but most will say he was a paragon of ‘clean’ riding. Pure right down to his Moro bar and mineral water. After all he abandoned right! Druggies win – don’t they? Thomas too had the extra effort this tour of riding with the climbers, and it ultimately proved too much as he crumbled – a small illness giving the peloton the power of a big whacking hammer to smash his individual ambitions.
Now – no one in their right mind would ever ask Tejay this (especially right now as he nurses his wounded pride, the hopes of America and the fact that guys at the pub will remember him as a loser) – but if (and it’s a long, unsubstantiated and dubious suggestion), for just a few seconds we asked Tejay the morally compromising question, would you cheat if you had no chance of being caught? – what would his deepest, most private responses be? (not the PC one he’d give to his coach, sponsor or mother-in-law) For example: Tejay; what if we gave you some magic formulae (100% undetectable) that allowed you to survive and recover from stage 17 Instead of being a cry baby on the shoulder of your BMC team manager? And Tejay – even better – what if a few insignificant pricks in the bottom, a few innocuous blood transfusions and a few pills rattling around with your energy gels, allowed you to be triumphant in Paris! For a 3rd placed position on the podium? And likewise for Thomas to survive triumphant at the tour in amongst the top GC contenders?
If you were van Gardener of Geraint, would you be tempted?
For if Tejay did make it to Paris: BMC bike sales would sore because Tejay rode on one that was a third place getter on the 2015 Tour De France. Tejay would be buying the drinks at his local because:– MATE! – “I smashed the hardest fuc_ n bike race around”. He would be negotiating an increase on his annual salary (already likely in the high 100,000 Euros, but after a podium finish in Paris we’re talking a possible multi million Euro contract,). See Link to what Pro cyclists are paid below.
But no. Tejay leaves the Tour, in an almost Shakespearian like-spectacle, after his fantastic preparation – an awesome ride in the Critérium du Dauphiné, 2 brilliant weeks in the tour then leaving us all feeling bloody sorry for the bloke. Likewise for Thomas, we watch another fantastically prepared athlete crumbling as a mere mortal as gravity stands up and gives him a whopping great slap in the face.
All I can say is I’d be tempted, and I reckon once you cut out your own holier-than-thou righteous bullshit and were gasping for air and energy up another bloody 18 km Alps mountain climb, (with over 3000 km’s already in your legs) a drop of performance enhancing help – however mad it may seem – would seem as rational … as the Sky is blue!
Read about the complexity behind cyclists salaries. And why golf just seems an easier way to make a buck if you’re good.