I really don't like to write about cycling because its like talking about an ex-girlfriend with whom you've had a bad break-up.
I loved cycling. From about 1987 - 2004 I lived cycling. Cycling has directly affected where I lived, who my friends are, what jobs I've had, and who I am. The sport has provided me with experiences that I'll always cherish.
But in the end the sport has left disappointed. Betrayed.
At the risk of overusing the analogy, I lived through the 90's like a guy who knows deep down knows his girl is cheating, but just pretends not to notice. I saw Indurain break the 50km barrier for time trials and chalked it up to his unusual size, I saw Berzin go from the track to winning the Giro wire-to-wire and credited it to "modern training techniques", and saw Mapei and Areostea finish 1-2-3 in classics and attributed it to great teamwork.
When the Festina Affair happened it was really a relief. Willy Voet getting caught finally gave us all a chance to stop the charade and really admit what we already knew. And it was a real chance for everyone in the cycling community to make a commitment to put the transgressions of the past behind us and move forward with a fresh start. As far as I'm concerned, anyone doping before 1999 has a free pass.
But sadly and predictably 1998 was a missed opportunity.
Maybe things cleaned up a little, but it was only a year later that Pantani disappointed everyone. Then came the Giro raids. And once I saw US Postal putting 8 guys on the front of the field, all day, over the same Alpine passes that had decimated the likes of Bernard Hinault and Greg Lemond only a decade before, I know that nothing had changed.
But I'm a fool and I'll admit it....a hopeless romantic.
So when Lance retired I thought we stood at those crossroads again. I thought, " here's a chance for change". Tyler was behind us. Spain had their own Festina in Operation Puerto and finally the ( IMO) the epitome of the problem...the transgressor made hero, the cycling version of Iraqi WMDs...was leaving the sport.
And when I sat an watched Floyd, the anti-Lance, win stage 17 I believed. I BELIEVED. Here was a regular guy, one of us, from my hometown even !!! A guy who had the balls to tell Lance to fuck off. A guy who spoke from his gut instead of through a press agent, who was more likely to have a beer with you than have a bodyguard.
For me, and for many of us, stage 17 was everything that made up fall in love with cycling in the first place. Stage 17 was one man showing us what was possible in the human condition - proving to all of us that despite the seemingly impossible odds and challenges in our lives, that if we persevere, that if we sacrifice, that if we will ourselves that we can overcome. Against the heat, the mountains, the riders, the time deficit, against everything stacked against him Floyd Landis proved that we can exceed our limitations.
And Floyd Landis lied.
For me, and for a lot of cycling fans, that's the day the music died.
Everything that has followed with Floyd after that has only proven to drive that point home. He's lied about the drugs. He's pilfered from his friends and supporters for a phony defense based, not in his innocence, but in the technical merits of the process. He outted Greg LeMond as having been molested - when Greg's only offense was an offer of help.
So now when a warrant asking him appear as a witness in a hacking case is announced, it comes as no surprise that he twists the truth and lies about the matter. Its no surprise that his best defense is the same as his testosterone defense,
" I'm too smart to do something that I could be so easily caught doing"
Oh yeah Floyd ? If you're so fucking smart, then how do you explain you and Will Geoghegan drunk dialing Greg Lemond with the caller-ID on ?
With all that, I know that I can't get away from my nature. I still check in at cyclingnews.com almost daily. I can't help but watch Taylor Phinney and think what can be. And a little part of me still holds out hope that Landis wakes up one day and decides that having character is better than living a lie. Somewhere deep down I expect to wake up, open the paper, and find out that Landis has told EVERYTHING and is the champion who saves this sport.
Yeah, the flame of hope is a tiny ember, but its still in there. But that's me, a hopeless sap.