David Millar is laughing. Ooh, he’s disappointed and upset that he and Tour de France champion Bradley WIggins and tour runner-up Chris Froome could not carry Mark Cavendish to the final kilometer where the Manx Missile would destroy all rivals.
No, he’s not happy but given his sense of humor and long perspective, he had to be laughing. Because for all the bullshit and politics and finger pointing about his participation in the Olympics as a former doper, the race was won by unrepentant doper Alexander Vinokourov. Irony stuffed inside an irony stuffed inside pile of horse crap.
Shake your head, reminder of cycling’s dark cynical past, last guy you wanted to win the race wins race. If any rider could turn the Olympic ideals into an embarrassing joke it would be Vino. There was almost a global groan of disbelief.
Twisted Spoke was on vacation at a resort hotel on Elkhart Lake in Wisconsin. We got up late for breakfast and walked into the all-you-can eat buffet with the Olympic Road Race headed into the final 18k.
There was almost no volume on the flat screen but quickly we figured out there was a large group up front and Mark Cavendish was screwed. So much for all that weight loss and the “dream team” and his new climbing legs. Box Hill boxed him good.
So even through the eggs and potato hash were mediocre we were thrilled to catch the race and stood next to the screen holding a plastic container of strawberry yogurt.
When Cancellara misjudged the right hand turn and hit the barricade, we winced. How much does one man have to suffer in one season? Four breaks in his collarbone and his paychecks don’t even show up on time. We were pulling for the Swiss champ with the massive thighs and down-to-earth grin.
When we saw Vinokourov in the break with Uran we felt our anger and indignation rising. There were only two riders out of 140 that could have spoiled the race and Vino — along with Alejandro Valverde — was one of them. We groaned, we shook our head, we begged the Cycling Gods, no, please, not him, anyone else but him and Valverde.
Vino was set to retire this season so why could he not go quietly? Slink away, less said the better, take up this seat in the Kazakh parliament and perhaps bring his unique views on corruption, lies and hypocrisy to a new place. Let his people deal with the stench.
When Vino appeared to have a chat with Uran, who didn’t think that Vinokourov was trying to buy another race like he did the 2010 Liege-Bastogne-Liege? The word travesty comes to mind — along with outrage and disgust.
Yeah, sure, who doesn’t like Vino’s “attacking” style? We also like Ricardo Ricco’s attacking style — but later you find that the acceleration isn’t human, it’s chemical. As one writer said on the Inner Ring forum, “If I knew he was going to win, I wouldn’t have watched.” Chapeau, my friend.
Do we draw a distinction between Millar and Vinokourov? You’re damn right we do. Millar did the whole confession and has spent the rest of his career agknowledging his mistakes, campaigning against doping and riding for arguably the cleanest team in cycling, Garmin-Sharp. Vino came back defiant and without the slightest hint of remorse. As long as Vinokourov and Valverde ride in the professional ranks, the sport suffers and potential sponsors run away screaming.
Vinokourov won the gold medal in the Olympic road race. The other 139 riders lost, the sport lost and everyone watching the event on television lost. A sad day for cycling and there’s simply no other conclusion with any reality. You can be damn sure nobody wanted to put that medal around his neck. Nobody.