I wish I could look back at 2006 with only memories of some of the best racing we’ve seen – and sure enough the year was full of outstanding rides from Fabian Cancellara’s time to win Paris-Roubaix, to Paulo Bettini’s exhilarating win at the Worlds and his emotional Lombardia triumph after the tragic death of his brother. And regardless of the outcome of Floyd’s dope charges, his solo epic on Le Tour’s stage 17 was a thrill to watch. For thousands of fans around the world, watching these moments play out before our eyes became a weekly pleasure thanks to the guys at Cycling.TV who broadcast so many major races live on the internet.
In spite of the worst drug scandals in cycling history, 2006 was full of spectacular rides, like Fabian Cancellara’s Paris-Roubaix win, and plenty of reasons to not give up on the sport.
But for myself, and I dare say most fans, 2006 will be sadly remembered as a low point from which things can only get better.
The joy of these great rides was stolen from us by the worst drug scandals the sport has seen – and not just because some riders continue to get busted for using illegal products, but also because the way the organizers, the UCI, WADA, and the various police authorities have bungled and mismanaged the investigations and most importantly the dissemination of information. How many riders have had their seasons and possibly careers wrecked because of unfounded rumors? Regardless of what you might think about the innocence of Jan Ullrich, Ivan Basso, or any of the other riders implicated in Operacion Puerto, the guys in charge of the investigations have proven nothing beyond their ability to abuse power by casting doubt over the riders they’re supposed to be looking out for.
I think these are the darkest days cycling has known – they certainly are the darkest of the 20 years I’ve been a fan. But like I learned when I started PEZCycling almost 5 years ago, every day you’re not dead is another day that something positive can happen – you just gotta have hope, and take another step forward… it may take some time (even a few years), but the only thing that can really stop you is if you’re not around to make it so.
Belief in yourself is a most powerful motivator – look at any great champion for proof. I learned it myself in the early days of PEZ, when for 2 years I made little money (ie: none), saw no light at the end of the tunnel, and didn’t get a single solid night’s sleep, but what kept me going was my own belief that cycling fans wanted to be entertained by the reporting of this sport, just like I did, and I was guy to make it happen. Call it ego, or blind stupidity, or some combo of the two, but I stuck it out and took every day as another opportunity to pick up a few more readers… and here we are almost 5 years on a still growing each month. But enough about me…
The governing bodies and powers that be in cycling are not doing the job, and they certainly aren’t looking out for the riders’ best interests. I’d really like to see the riders – and I mean all riders – start standing up for themselves, declare their innocence, and work to expel the cheats from amongst their own ranks. It was a welcome relief to read Magnus Backstedt’s words after a disconcerting period of rider silence following the Tour de France. I hope we see more of this attitude from within the peloton.
As long as we can turn another pedal forward, the current state of pro cycling can be improved. 2007 is a new year, riders are resting and refreshing and getting ready to return to racing in the next weeks, and as long as there is a sport of pro cycling, there’s hope to clean up the problems and get back to what we fans love the most – a season full of great racing, celebrating champions old and new, rekindling our love with the Classics, the Grand Tours, and racing bikes. Don’t give up on pro cycling – it’s not dead – it just needs some fixing.
Happy New Year to all, thanks again for reading our pages, and have a safe and successful 2007. We’ll see you on the roads!
– Richard Pestes
Publisher, PezCycling News