Long Gone

I’ve been asked a few times over the past week or so for my take on the Alberto Contador/Lance Armstrong/Jan Ullrich thing.

Or, basically, how do you feel about doping/alleged doping/getting fat?

And, despite my best efforts to summon a not insignificant amount of rage, I cannot. I just don’t care.

That’s not a reflection of my love dimming for the sport, or of weariness upon hearing yet another doping story. And it has nothing to do with the personalities themselves. I’ve never been a Contador fan, really. Armstrong had retired (the first time) before I ever raced a bike. And Ullrich? Sure, he was cast as the enemy, but he very rarely stood in the spotlight in the Lance era. He was harmless.

I just don’t care about the fates of these three riders. Or about doping in general, really. Sure, it’s a problem in cycling — but only in pro cycling. Where I race, in the Cat. 3 amateur level, doping is a non-issue. For that matter, the rest of the trappings of pro cycling are a non-issue, too: money, sponsors (though we have a few small ones), contracts, to name a few.

It’s about riding a bike for fun and fitness. For the challenge of trying to make that bike go really fast, even if your body says no. When I ride out of my garage, the state of pro cycling is not on my mind.

To be bummed about doping because you’re a cycling fan is fine, but I think that just means you’re ascribing too much weight to what you’re watching: They’re people riding bikes. They’re pretty fast, but they’re just people riding bikes. It’s entertainment.

If you’re a football fan, think of it this way: do you watch it for the purity of the sport? No, you watch it to see two guys plow into each other. Consider the lack of uproar over doping positives. In 2006, Shawne Merriman of the San Diego Chargers served a four-game suspension for a steroids violation. He remained a fan favorite and finished third in the NFL defensive player of the year balloting.

Spectator sports are entertainment, nothing more. They’re nothing upon which to place your faith or base your identity. And they’re certainly nothing that should dim your enthusiasm for a sport in which you can actually participate.

When you think about it, that’s probably why so many people get so bummed about doping in cycling: they know how hard it is to go fast. And when somebody takes a shortcut, it’s an affront to those who have turned the cranks in anger without resorting to outside assistance.

But take a step back and think about it. It’s disappointing as a fan, but does it affect your next ride in any way? Does it mean you won’t be able to take advantage of the next unseasonably warm day?

No, it doesn’t. It doesn’t matter. Pro cycling is the exception in the greater world of cycling. It’s fun to watch, yes — of course.

But cycling is much more fun from the saddle, when rolling down your driveway. Your love for the sport, passed on to others, is the future of cycling — not some skinny, doped-up skinny guy climbing the Galibier.

Random link time

  • Cyclismas is my new favorite (fake) cycling news site. Tyler Farrar’s scathing post-sprint commentary cannot be missed.
  • SRAM unveiled its new Red group last week. In person, it’s every bit as cool as you’d think. And for those complaining about no 11-speed or electronic options: Do you really think you need that stuff?
  • Nick Legan’s columns are a must-read on VeloNews. The rest? Meh.
  • You know how everybody’s all “Pinterest this” and “Pinterest that?” Behold, the coolest Pinterest site of them all: Ours.

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