27 July 2014

Vincenzo Nibali- Pane and Acqua

"It will take more than that to make him a hero to me. I think he is redefining the term "pharmaceuticals." I mean, look who his DS is.."  -Bob, from Facebook

Photo from Astana

Vincenzo Nibali is the 2014 Tour de France champion, winning four stages in 21 days of competition, with an advantage of nearly eight minutes over his second place rival - Now he has to start defending himself.   Bradley Wiggins had to do it and so did Chris Froome.  It seems like every year the champion of the Tour de France has to defend himself against the insinuations and accusations that he's doping and that he won the race on everything but bread and water.  Understandably, fans of the sport are very skeptical.   The graphic below from the New York times illustrates the top 10 riders who have implicated for doping or have admitted it since 1998.

Photo from the NY Times

The blank spaces represent riders that haven't had their names tarnished.  From 1998 to 2013 that's only 4 winners!!!! 

As a fan, I really want to believe that this race was clean.  I've been following the Tour de France since I was 14 years old in 1984.  To me, there are many compelling reasons to believe in Nibali.  First, he has quietly won both the Tours of Spain and Italy without any controversy.  He's never had a negative test.  Indeed, drug testing has come along way with more out of competition tests and tougher procedures.  Vincenzo is quoted as saying, "Steps have been taken and great progress has been made, and with it my results have arrived," said the Italian. "I have to thank (the UCI) because without these controls, maybe I wouldn't be here today."

Racing with intelligence
Nothing could stop him during this years Tour de France (not even fans stepping in the road with cell phones.) Mostly, he won this race because he raced intelligently and was always attentive at the front from start to finish. Chris Froome probably wasn't his best after crashing two weeks before the start of the Tour in England. Nibali also rode a much smarter race in stage 5 than Alberto Contador.   The Spaniard lost 2:37 on the cobble stone stage before crashing out with a broken leg on stage 10.   Vincenzo also used measured attacks to gain time on his rivals.  In his stage wins he won by 2, 15, 10 and 70 seconds.  Not huge gaps by any measure and well within the means of reasonable human performance.  He was seldom under pressure and perfectly used his team to win the race. 

There will be those that will always be skeptical of cycling.  It's understandable.  As fans we've had our hearts broken too many times by Delgado, Riis, Landis, Armstrong, Ulrich, Contador and et al.   Despite the large margin of his victory, this was always a fun and exciting Tour de France.  Vincenzo Nibali perfectly used a measured approach to this race and seemed to be at the right place at the right time.  His victory is a credit to hard work, obsessive preparation and lots of luck.  I really enjoyed this race.   Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.  

DougDoug Duguay
Doug has been cycling since he learned to ride at age 4.  In 1984 a friend gave him a Bicycling Magazine after he broke his ankle and that launched a love affair with cycling and the sport that remains undiminished to this day.  He remembers watching the 1984 Olympics, the 1984 Tour de France and 1985 Paris Roubaix.  

After selling jerseys on eBay to pay his mortgage, Doug Duguay launched BicyclingHub from his home in 2002 after a productive six-hour coding session. A native of the Pacific Northwest, Doug’s passion for cycling already had plenty of momentum when he moved to Portland, the town that inspired him to take up all manner of racing, from cyclocross and track to road and stage races. He considers starting BicyclingHub a lucky accident, and while running a business has cut into some of his training time, he’s chasing the idea of a race comeback--something he contemplates while climbing Portland’s west hills. Doug is BicyclingHub’s resident bibshort expert.

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