As much as I love riding bikes, I generally assume that the very top of pro cycling is approximately as authentic and fair as the very top of pro wrestling. I didn’t watch the Tour de France this year and pretty much only followed the action and attendant controversies both legitimate (like l’affaire King) and manufactured (like the endless speculation about Chris Froome’s power files) on Twitter. But I was nevertheless interested to read this report from Cycling Tips’ “Secret Pro:”
In terms of this being a clean Tour, one thing I can say is that the style of racing has changed, even in the past five years. The previous generation of riders, who we all now know were dopers, would put in five or six attacks and then ride to the top of the HC mountain without even being out of breath. Now, you’ll only see a couple attacks and that’s it. Riders are coming past the finish line cross-eyed and completely destroyed now.
It’s important to keep this in mind when comparing this Tour to the ’90s and early 2000s. It’s much different to be riding a climb at threshold with only a couple attacks or responses in your legs versus what Armstrong and Pantani did. If you’ve ever ridden a bike and looked at your power meter to see what those types of efforts take out of your legs versus riding at constant threshold, you’ll know what I’m talking about. This is likely why some of the top climbers are setting times up the climbs that rival some of the fastest.
From my perspective as a mediocre cyclist who often becomes acutely aware of the pronounced effects of burning too many matches too soon, this makes a lot of sense. That’s not to say that the peloton is actually riding clean — we are, after all, talking about a sport where mad-scientist snake-oil blood treatments are deemed “not doping” merely because they are probably ineffective — but this explanation is a parsimonious response to some of the most prominent conspiracy theories.