2008 : Paul Kimmage : Faith restored???



Trev_S

New Member
Jan 24, 2004
479
0
0
OAR8 said:
Who is this Flyer your talking about?
He is the resident Alzheimer's nut case.
He forgets what he posts so he posts it again and again and again.

Oh yeah he is also now the resident invisible man as nobody can actually see what he is posting anymore.
But he can't seem to grasp the concept that what ever he writes can not be seen by anyone, I doubt he can actually see it either. But he keeps on trying.

He has been binned more often than not and comes back as a reinvention of himself. Same old same old.
 

Flyer

Banned
Sep 20, 2004
2,961
0
0
Rolfrae said:
As cycling fans we are now provided with a degree of certainty: we can be 100% sure that we know absolutely nothing about the men and women at the top of our sport; we can and should trust no one. Pro cycle sport has become a faked spectacle on a par with pro wrestling and 100 metre sprinting. The only cycling we can believe in is the miles we get in on our own bikes. Everything else is a sham designed to sell us myths: those of the advertisers behind the team jerseys; those of the cheating riders; and those of the bike companies who will have us believe that riding their latest carbon product will make us ride faster and happier. Everything in pro cycling is a lie, 100% guaranteed, no B-test required.
rree
 

Flyer

Banned
Sep 20, 2004
2,961
0
0
limerickman said:
From yesterdays Sunset Times newspaper :

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/sport/more_sport/cycling/article4407072.ece


Frodo: “I can’t do this, Sam.”
Sam: “I know. It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. It’s like in the great stories, Mr Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines, it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you; that meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something.”
Frodo: “What were they holding on to, Sam?” Sam: “That there’s some good in this world, Mr Frodo . . . and it’s worth fighting for.”
- Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers


If there’s one thing professional cyclists have always been more proficient at than racing bikes, it’s telling lies. From Richard Virenque to Bjarne Riis to Tyler Hamilton, the angel-faced maestro of deceit, the sport has fostered some of the finest liars in history. So a year ago, when Jonathan Vaughters began making headlines for his innovative plans at Slipstream, the new antidoping team hoping to ride the Tour de France, it was hard not to snigger. Did he seriously expect us to believe him?

Slipstream started the season in February with a fine performance at the Tour of California, and for the next five months I watched from the shadows and wondered. I liked the way they raced; the way they conducted themselves; and pretty much everything they said about doping. But were they clean? Did they practise what they preached? I had absolutely no idea.
How were we to balance the presence of Allen Lim, the brilliant physiologist whose reputation had been tarnished by an association with Floyd Landis, with Prentice Steffen, the physician with the most trenchant antidoping views in cycling? And that so many of the riders and staff had been at US Postal, a notorious doping team, was a concern.

In May, I travelled to Vaughters’s home in Denver with a proposal for the Tour. “I want complete and total access for the duration of the race; access to the bus, access to the meetings and to all team bedrooms.”
“What about the logistics?” he asked. “We don’t have that many hotel rooms.”
“I’m going to hire a camping car and sleep in the car park of your hotel at the end of every stage.”
He didn’t even blink: “Yeah, that would work.”
In June, I followed Christian Vande Velde, Ryder Hesjedal, Danny Pate and David Millar for two days at a training camp in the Pyrenees. Then it was on to Brest for the start of the Tour. Millar set the tone in the build-up to the race with a remarkably honest interview about his passage to the team. Kevin Reichlin, the team chiropractor, picked up the baton. “Why don’t you come to my room and I’ll show you some of the work I do with the guys and the nutritional supplements we use.”
“Yeah, I’d like that,” I replied. At 2.30pm on a wet Friday before the opening stage, Vaughters gathered the riders and staff for the first race briefing. Garmin, which makes satnav equipment, had just been unveiled as the team’s title sponsor. “They’re a conservative, mid-west American company and the only thing we can never say is, ‘We’re lost’,” Vaughters cautioned with a smile. “So no matter how lost you are, never say, ‘I’m lost’, say, ‘I’m naked’ - that’s the codeword.”
Then he outlined his expectations for the race. “Everyone knows what our general objectives are. We need to race and have fun racing. There is no specific pressure on any one thing; any pressure you guys are feeling - that’s your own motivation . . . We’ve got a lot of guys here who are in the best form of their lives.
“As far as Doug [Ellis, the co-founder of the team] and I are concerned, this is all about seeing how well we can do first time out. I hope that’s a yellow jersey and a couple of stage wins and I absolutely believe that that will be the case, but whatever you guys end up doing . . . be happy with the way we’ve got to the race. It’s the biggest stage in the world, so you might as well enjoy it.”

It felt strange to be on the inside again; strange and mildly intoxicating. And they were such an interesting and eclectic mix. Lim regaled me for hours with tales of his ancestors in China. Vaughters told a story at dinner one night about a wine auction in New York when he’d found himself bidding, and losing, for a case of vintage Romanee Conti with “this guy who owns Manchester United, Roman Abramovich”.

Before studying medicine, Reichlin had spent 10 years at a spiritually based commune with the 7th Marquis of Exeter. And the delightfully sceptical Steffen was a constant joy.
“How many of your guys are doping?” I asked, jokingly, one night.
“How would I know?” he replied with a smile.
During the third stage to Nantes, I watched transfixed as Will Frischkorn, a 27-year-old Virginian, broke clear of the pack with two French riders and as they entered the final kilometre, I did something I hadn’t done in almost 20 years. I was cheering for a rider. I was rooting for Will. “Oh Christ!” I thought, “They’ve transformed me into a fan!”

Frischkorn’s second-place finish at Nantes was the start of a fine week. The next afternoon Millar, Vande Velde and Pate raced brilliantly in the time trial at Cholet and they were suddenly the leading team. On Friday, after seven stages, it was reported that the AFLD, the French antidoping agency, had found anomalies in pre-race blood tests.
When the story broke on the radio I called Vaughters in a state of panic that must have spooked him, but he assured me he wasn’t concerned. Next morning, he woke me up with a text: “There you go”. It had just been announced that Manuel Beltran, a former US Postal rider now racing for Liquigas, the Italian team, had tested positive for EPO.

After a bright first week, the cloud of doping had returned as we entered the Pyrenees, where Vande Velde rode out of his skin to move to third in the race, just 38 seconds behind the leader, Cadel Evans. My presence with the team had not gone unnoticed in the press room and I was suddenly fielding questions about Vande Velde, who had also raced with US Postal. Why is he suddenly riding so well so late in his career? Have you seen anything? Do you believe in him? Is he clean? For Vande Velde, and for me, it was uncharted territory and we were both uncomfortable. He was dealing with pressures he had never had to face; I was the spurned lover who was facing love again.
Did I believe in Christian Vande Velde? Was I prepared to make the ultimate act of faith? Yes, absolutely.
Why? That’s a tough one. It’s not as if I was sure he had never doped before. It’s not as if we’d spent the past year together. Okay, so I had walked in and out of his bedroom several times since the start and observed him at the meetings and on the team bus. But he was tested at least three times by the AFLD and ACE (the Agency for Cycling Ethics) when I was there at the team hotel and I’d never even noticed. So it wasn’t as if some sorcerer couldn’t have been topping up his blood.

I believed in him because we sat down for two hours one night and he told me about his life. I believed in him because of Vaughters; I believed in him because of Lim; I believed him because of Reichlin and Steffen and Frischkorn and Pate. I believed in him because of Millar. And as an extension of that belief, I was forced to engage with the race.

Vande Velde was my new barometer. Could a clean rider compete with the rocket-fuelled exploits of cheats such as Riccardo Ricco and his pals at Saunier Duval? No, we had witnessed the difference on the Col D’Aspin. But as soon as the Italian was snared the waters were clearer. Andy Schleck, one of best climbers in the race, went backwards on the ramp to Hautacam with two other prerace favourites, Alejandro Valverde and Damiano Cunego.
A week later in the Alps, almost everyone was struggling. After a brilliant ride to Cuneo on Sunday, Vande Velde hit a flat spot two days later on the monstrous Col de la Bonnette-Restefond, crashing on the descent and losing a chance of winning. “That’s bike racing,” he shrugged bravely, later at his hotel. And it hurts.

It hurt even more on Wednesday during the shoot-out at Alpe d’Huez when we witnessed the scenes that had once made the race so special. Rewind the tape and the truth is in the pain; the mouths gaping for breath; the eyes rolling with tiredness; the exhausted portrait of the Austrian Bernard Kohl - second overall and King of the Mountains - as he collapsed after crossing the line. The moment of the race.
But not everyone was pleased. No, back in the press room, some of the muppets who had glorified the Robo-cop years were bemoaning the lack of “spectacle”. They had spent so much time with their heads up the arses of the cheats, they had forgotten:this is how it looks when it’s clean.
Now there’s a chance I have been completely suckered on this. There’s a chance the winner will prove to be a clever doper and that I’ll appear a fool. And that’s not a chance I’d have taken before I met Vaughters. But these past 27 days with his team have taught me a valuable lesson.
I’ve spent a good portion of my past 20 years enraged by dopers such as Virenque, Riis, Ivan Basso and Hamilton and seized every opportunity to expose them. No apologies. They deserve our contempt . . . but not as much as the guys who are trying to compete clean deserve our support. I’d lost sight of that. To David Millar, Christian Vande Velde, Ryder Hesjedal, Will Frischkorn, Danny Pate, Julian Dean, Martijn Maaskant, Trent Lowe and Magnus Backstedt, thanks for the reminder.

The sport has a hell of a lot to do before it drags itself from the mire, but with guys like Vaughters it has a chance. I hope Vande Velde comes back and wins the Tour next year. I hope Millar wins the stage on the Champs-Elysees and then sits down to write his book. I hope that every Tour I watch from now is as much fun as this one was. I hope.
reeeeew
 

Flyer

Banned
Sep 20, 2004
2,961
0
0
limerickman said:
From yesterdays Sunset Times newspaper :

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/sport/more_sport/cycling/article4407072.ece


Frodo: “I can’t do this, Sam.”
Sam: “I know. It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. It’s like in the great stories, Mr Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines, it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you; that meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something.”
Frodo: “What were they holding on to, Sam?” Sam: “That there’s some good in this world, Mr Frodo . . . and it’s worth fighting for.”
- Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers


If there’s one thing professional cyclists have always been more proficient at than racing bikes, it’s telling lies. From Richard Virenque to Bjarne Riis to Tyler Hamilton, the angel-faced maestro of deceit, the sport has fostered some of the finest liars in history. So a year ago, when Jonathan Vaughters began making headlines for his innovative plans at Slipstream, the new antidoping team hoping to ride the Tour de France, it was hard not to snigger. Did he seriously expect us to believe him?

Slipstream started the season in February with a fine performance at the Tour of California, and for the next five months I watched from the shadows and wondered. I liked the way they raced; the way they conducted themselves; and pretty much everything they said about doping. But were they clean? Did they practise what they preached? I had absolutely no idea.
How were we to balance the presence of Allen Lim, the brilliant physiologist whose reputation had been tarnished by an association with Floyd Landis, with Prentice Steffen, the physician with the most trenchant antidoping views in cycling? And that so many of the riders and staff had been at US Postal, a notorious doping team, was a concern.

In May, I travelled to Vaughters’s home in Denver with a proposal for the Tour. “I want complete and total access for the duration of the race; access to the bus, access to the meetings and to all team bedrooms.”
“What about the logistics?” he asked. “We don’t have that many hotel rooms.”
“I’m going to hire a camping car and sleep in the car park of your hotel at the end of every stage.”
He didn’t even blink: “Yeah, that would work.”
In June, I followed Christian Vande Velde, Ryder Hesjedal, Danny Pate and David Millar for two days at a training camp in the Pyrenees. Then it was on to Brest for the start of the Tour. Millar set the tone in the build-up to the race with a remarkably honest interview about his passage to the team. Kevin Reichlin, the team chiropractor, picked up the baton. “Why don’t you come to my room and I’ll show you some of the work I do with the guys and the nutritional supplements we use.”
“Yeah, I’d like that,” I replied. At 2.30pm on a wet Friday before the opening stage, Vaughters gathered the riders and staff for the first race briefing. Garmin, which makes satnav equipment, had just been unveiled as the team’s title sponsor. “They’re a conservative, mid-west American company and the only thing we can never say is, ‘We’re lost’,” Vaughters cautioned with a smile. “So no matter how lost you are, never say, ‘I’m lost’, say, ‘I’m naked’ - that’s the codeword.”
Then he outlined his expectations for the race. “Everyone knows what our general objectives are. We need to race and have fun racing. There is no specific pressure on any one thing; any pressure you guys are feeling - that’s your own motivation . . . We’ve got a lot of guys here who are in the best form of their lives.
“As far as Doug [Ellis, the co-founder of the team] and I are concerned, this is all about seeing how well we can do first time out. I hope that’s a yellow jersey and a couple of stage wins and I absolutely believe that that will be the case, but whatever you guys end up doing . . . be happy with the way we’ve got to the race. It’s the biggest stage in the world, so you might as well enjoy it.”

It felt strange to be on the inside again; strange and mildly intoxicating. And they were such an interesting and eclectic mix. Lim regaled me for hours with tales of his ancestors in China. Vaughters told a story at dinner one night about a wine auction in New York when he’d found himself bidding, and losing, for a case of vintage Romanee Conti with “this guy who owns Manchester United, Roman Abramovich”.

Before studying medicine, Reichlin had spent 10 years at a spiritually based commune with the 7th Marquis of Exeter. And the delightfully sceptical Steffen was a constant joy.
“How many of your guys are doping?” I asked, jokingly, one night.
“How would I know?” he replied with a smile.
During the third stage to Nantes, I watched transfixed as Will Frischkorn, a 27-year-old Virginian, broke clear of the pack with two French riders and as they entered the final kilometre, I did something I hadn’t done in almost 20 years. I was cheering for a rider. I was rooting for Will. “Oh Christ!” I thought, “They’ve transformed me into a fan!”

Frischkorn’s second-place finish at Nantes was the start of a fine week. The next afternoon Millar, Vande Velde and Pate raced brilliantly in the time trial at Cholet and they were suddenly the leading team. On Friday, after seven stages, it was reported that the AFLD, the French antidoping agency, had found anomalies in pre-race blood tests.
When the story broke on the radio I called Vaughters in a state of panic that must have spooked him, but he assured me he wasn’t concerned. Next morning, he woke me up with a text: “There you go”. It had just been announced that Manuel Beltran, a former US Postal rider now racing for Liquigas, the Italian team, had tested positive for EPO.

After a bright first week, the cloud of doping had returned as we entered the Pyrenees, where Vande Velde rode out of his skin to move to third in the race, just 38 seconds behind the leader, Cadel Evans. My presence with the team had not gone unnoticed in the press room and I was suddenly fielding questions about Vande Velde, who had also raced with US Postal. Why is he suddenly riding so well so late in his career? Have you seen anything? Do you believe in him? Is he clean? For Vande Velde, and for me, it was uncharted territory and we were both uncomfortable. He was dealing with pressures he had never had to face; I was the spurned lover who was facing love again.
Did I believe in Christian Vande Velde? Was I prepared to make the ultimate act of faith? Yes, absolutely.
Why? That’s a tough one. It’s not as if I was sure he had never doped before. It’s not as if we’d spent the past year together. Okay, so I had walked in and out of his bedroom several times since the start and observed him at the meetings and on the team bus. But he was tested at least three times by the AFLD and ACE (the Agency for Cycling Ethics) when I was there at the team hotel and I’d never even noticed. So it wasn’t as if some sorcerer couldn’t have been topping up his blood.

I believed in him because we sat down for two hours one night and he told me about his life. I believed in him because of Vaughters; I believed in him because of Lim; I believed him because of Reichlin and Steffen and Frischkorn and Pate. I believed in him because of Millar. And as an extension of that belief, I was forced to engage with the race.

Vande Velde was my new barometer. Could a clean rider compete with the rocket-fuelled exploits of cheats such as Riccardo Ricco and his pals at Saunier Duval? No, we had witnessed the difference on the Col D’Aspin. But as soon as the Italian was snared the waters were clearer. Andy Schleck, one of best climbers in the race, went backwards on the ramp to Hautacam with two other prerace favourites, Alejandro Valverde and Damiano Cunego.
A week later in the Alps, almost everyone was struggling. After a brilliant ride to Cuneo on Sunday, Vande Velde hit a flat spot two days later on the monstrous Col de la Bonnette-Restefond, crashing on the descent and losing a chance of winning. “That’s bike racing,” he shrugged bravely, later at his hotel. And it hurts.

It hurt even more on Wednesday during the shoot-out at Alpe d’Huez when we witnessed the scenes that had once made the race so special. Rewind the tape and the truth is in the pain; the mouths gaping for breath; the eyes rolling with tiredness; the exhausted portrait of the Austrian Bernard Kohl - second overall and King of the Mountains - as he collapsed after crossing the line. The moment of the race.
But not everyone was pleased. No, back in the press room, some of the muppets who had glorified the Robo-cop years were bemoaning the lack of “spectacle”. They had spent so much time with their heads up the arses of the cheats, they had forgotten:this is how it looks when it’s clean.
Now there’s a chance I have been completely suckered on this. There’s a chance the winner will prove to be a clever doper and that I’ll appear a fool. And that’s not a chance I’d have taken before I met Vaughters. But these past 27 days with his team have taught me a valuable lesson.
I’ve spent a good portion of my past 20 years enraged by dopers such as Virenque, Riis, Ivan Basso and Hamilton and seized every opportunity to expose them. No apologies. They deserve our contempt . . . but not as much as the guys who are trying to compete clean deserve our support. I’d lost sight of that. To David Millar, Christian Vande Velde, Ryder Hesjedal, Will Frischkorn, Danny Pate, Julian Dean, Martijn Maaskant, Trent Lowe and Magnus Backstedt, thanks for the reminder.

The sport has a hell of a lot to do before it drags itself from the mire, but with guys like Vaughters it has a chance. I hope Vande Velde comes back and wins the Tour next year. I hope Millar wins the stage on the Champs-Elysees and then sits down to write his book. I hope that every Tour I watch from now is as much fun as this one was. I hope.
eerrre
 

Flyer

Banned
Sep 20, 2004
2,961
0
0
limerickman said:
From yesterdays Sunset Times newspaper :

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/sport/more_sport/cycling/article4407072.ece


Frodo: “I can’t do this, Sam.”
Sam: “I know. It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. It’s like in the great stories, Mr Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines, it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you; that meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something.”
Frodo: “What were they holding on to, Sam?” Sam: “That there’s some good in this world, Mr Frodo . . . and it’s worth fighting for.”
- Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers


If there’s one thing professional cyclists have always been more proficient at than racing bikes, it’s telling lies. From Richard Virenque to Bjarne Riis to Tyler Hamilton, the angel-faced maestro of deceit, the sport has fostered some of the finest liars in history. So a year ago, when Jonathan Vaughters began making headlines for his innovative plans at Slipstream, the new antidoping team hoping to ride the Tour de France, it was hard not to snigger. Did he seriously expect us to believe him?

Slipstream started the season in February with a fine performance at the Tour of California, and for the next five months I watched from the shadows and wondered. I liked the way they raced; the way they conducted themselves; and pretty much everything they said about doping. But were they clean? Did they practise what they preached? I had absolutely no idea.
How were we to balance the presence of Allen Lim, the brilliant physiologist whose reputation had been tarnished by an association with Floyd Landis, with Prentice Steffen, the physician with the most trenchant antidoping views in cycling? And that so many of the riders and staff had been at US Postal, a notorious doping team, was a concern.

In May, I travelled to Vaughters’s home in Denver with a proposal for the Tour. “I want complete and total access for the duration of the race; access to the bus, access to the meetings and to all team bedrooms.”
“What about the logistics?” he asked. “We don’t have that many hotel rooms.”
“I’m going to hire a camping car and sleep in the car park of your hotel at the end of every stage.”
He didn’t even blink: “Yeah, that would work.”
In June, I followed Christian Vande Velde, Ryder Hesjedal, Danny Pate and David Millar for two days at a training camp in the Pyrenees. Then it was on to Brest for the start of the Tour. Millar set the tone in the build-up to the race with a remarkably honest interview about his passage to the team. Kevin Reichlin, the team chiropractor, picked up the baton. “Why don’t you come to my room and I’ll show you some of the work I do with the guys and the nutritional supplements we use.”
“Yeah, I’d like that,” I replied. At 2.30pm on a wet Friday before the opening stage, Vaughters gathered the riders and staff for the first race briefing. Garmin, which makes satnav equipment, had just been unveiled as the team’s title sponsor. “They’re a conservative, mid-west American company and the only thing we can never say is, ‘We’re lost’,” Vaughters cautioned with a smile. “So no matter how lost you are, never say, ‘I’m lost’, say, ‘I’m naked’ - that’s the codeword.”
Then he outlined his expectations for the race. “Everyone knows what our general objectives are. We need to race and have fun racing. There is no specific pressure on any one thing; any pressure you guys are feeling - that’s your own motivation . . . We’ve got a lot of guys here who are in the best form of their lives.
“As far as Doug [Ellis, the co-founder of the team] and I are concerned, this is all about seeing how well we can do first time out. I hope that’s a yellow jersey and a couple of stage wins and I absolutely believe that that will be the case, but whatever you guys end up doing . . . be happy with the way we’ve got to the race. It’s the biggest stage in the world, so you might as well enjoy it.”

It felt strange to be on the inside again; strange and mildly intoxicating. And they were such an interesting and eclectic mix. Lim regaled me for hours with tales of his ancestors in China. Vaughters told a story at dinner one night about a wine auction in New York when he’d found himself bidding, and losing, for a case of vintage Romanee Conti with “this guy who owns Manchester United, Roman Abramovich”.

Before studying medicine, Reichlin had spent 10 years at a spiritually based commune with the 7th Marquis of Exeter. And the delightfully sceptical Steffen was a constant joy.
“How many of your guys are doping?” I asked, jokingly, one night.
“How would I know?” he replied with a smile.
During the third stage to Nantes, I watched transfixed as Will Frischkorn, a 27-year-old Virginian, broke clear of the pack with two French riders and as they entered the final kilometre, I did something I hadn’t done in almost 20 years. I was cheering for a rider. I was rooting for Will. “Oh Christ!” I thought, “They’ve transformed me into a fan!”

Frischkorn’s second-place finish at Nantes was the start of a fine week. The next afternoon Millar, Vande Velde and Pate raced brilliantly in the time trial at Cholet and they were suddenly the leading team. On Friday, after seven stages, it was reported that the AFLD, the French antidoping agency, had found anomalies in pre-race blood tests.
When the story broke on the radio I called Vaughters in a state of panic that must have spooked him, but he assured me he wasn’t concerned. Next morning, he woke me up with a text: “There you go”. It had just been announced that Manuel Beltran, a former US Postal rider now racing for Liquigas, the Italian team, had tested positive for EPO.

After a bright first week, the cloud of doping had returned as we entered the Pyrenees, where Vande Velde rode out of his skin to move to third in the race, just 38 seconds behind the leader, Cadel Evans. My presence with the team had not gone unnoticed in the press room and I was suddenly fielding questions about Vande Velde, who had also raced with US Postal. Why is he suddenly riding so well so late in his career? Have you seen anything? Do you believe in him? Is he clean? For Vande Velde, and for me, it was uncharted territory and we were both uncomfortable. He was dealing with pressures he had never had to face; I was the spurned lover who was facing love again.
Did I believe in Christian Vande Velde? Was I prepared to make the ultimate act of faith? Yes, absolutely.
Why? That’s a tough one. It’s not as if I was sure he had never doped before. It’s not as if we’d spent the past year together. Okay, so I had walked in and out of his bedroom several times since the start and observed him at the meetings and on the team bus. But he was tested at least three times by the AFLD and ACE (the Agency for Cycling Ethics) when I was there at the team hotel and I’d never even noticed. So it wasn’t as if some sorcerer couldn’t have been topping up his blood.

I believed in him because we sat down for two hours one night and he told me about his life. I believed in him because of Vaughters; I believed in him because of Lim; I believed him because of Reichlin and Steffen and Frischkorn and Pate. I believed in him because of Millar. And as an extension of that belief, I was forced to engage with the race.

Vande Velde was my new barometer. Could a clean rider compete with the rocket-fuelled exploits of cheats such as Riccardo Ricco and his pals at Saunier Duval? No, we had witnessed the difference on the Col D’Aspin. But as soon as the Italian was snared the waters were clearer. Andy Schleck, one of best climbers in the race, went backwards on the ramp to Hautacam with two other prerace favourites, Alejandro Valverde and Damiano Cunego.
A week later in the Alps, almost everyone was struggling. After a brilliant ride to Cuneo on Sunday, Vande Velde hit a flat spot two days later on the monstrous Col de la Bonnette-Restefond, crashing on the descent and losing a chance of winning. “That’s bike racing,” he shrugged bravely, later at his hotel. And it hurts.

It hurt even more on Wednesday during the shoot-out at Alpe d’Huez when we witnessed the scenes that had once made the race so special. Rewind the tape and the truth is in the pain; the mouths gaping for breath; the eyes rolling with tiredness; the exhausted portrait of the Austrian Bernard Kohl - second overall and King of the Mountains - as he collapsed after crossing the line. The moment of the race.
But not everyone was pleased. No, back in the press room, some of the muppets who had glorified the Robo-cop years were bemoaning the lack of “spectacle”. They had spent so much time with their heads up the arses of the cheats, they had forgotten:this is how it looks when it’s clean.
Now there’s a chance I have been completely suckered on this. There’s a chance the winner will prove to be a clever doper and that I’ll appear a fool. And that’s not a chance I’d have taken before I met Vaughters. But these past 27 days with his team have taught me a valuable lesson.
I’ve spent a good portion of my past 20 years enraged by dopers such as Virenque, Riis, Ivan Basso and Hamilton and seized every opportunity to expose them. No apologies. They deserve our contempt . . . but not as much as the guys who are trying to compete clean deserve our support. I’d lost sight of that. To David Millar, Christian Vande Velde, Ryder Hesjedal, Will Frischkorn, Danny Pate, Julian Dean, Martijn Maaskant, Trent Lowe and Magnus Backstedt, thanks for the reminder.

The sport has a hell of a lot to do before it drags itself from the mire, but with guys like Vaughters it has a chance. I hope Vande Velde comes back and wins the Tour next year. I hope Millar wins the stage on the Champs-Elysees and then sits down to write his book. I hope that every Tour I watch from now is as much fun as this one was. I hope.
eewww