Here we are on the 18th Stage of Le Tour de France, Gap to L'Alpe d'Huez. Team Sky’s Super Domestique from the 2012 Tour, who shepherded Brit Bradley Wiggins to victory, Chris Froome has been wearing the Yellow Jersey for 10 days now.
In honor of the 100th running of the Great French Spectacle, the Organizers decided to ‘Double the Pleasure’ of the Tour’s most Iconic Stage, so the riders will climb L'Alpe d'Huez…twice in a single day…Brutal
Throw in millions of party-hardened Tifosi clogging the roadside and you have a scary spectacle unlike any other. No other Pro Sport allows the fans onto the field of battle. I saw one bare ass mooning the motorcycle cam in this morning’s LIVE coverage. It went by so fast I couldn’t resolve whether it was a male or female moon…suffice it to say it wasn't the most "heavenly body"...
It seems like there’s more schlughs in costume running alongside the bicyclists, patting them on the back and somehow staying upright every year.
“Schlugh” (pronounced schloog) is the derisive term coined by former TdF competitor and NBCSN TdF Commentator, Bob Roll for the common sense-challenged TdF Fans who get just a little too close to the action, given their blood alcohol levels and apparent sleep deprivation. Today one schlugh waving a Japanese flag nearly upended Ritchie Porte who was pulling leader Chris Froome up L'Alpe the second time.
Stage 18 was won by Frenchman Christophe Riblon from Tejay Ven Garderen who broke away together at the bottom of the first climb of L'Alpe d'Huez. Tejay had a mechanical on the Über-Scary descent of the unknown (and un-raced until this June’s Critérium du Dauphiné) Col de Sarenne, the back way off L’Alpe.
Amongst the kaleidoscopic background of the SchlughFest, I saw a few homemade signs that said simply: “Froome ?” Since Froome first pulled on the yellow jersey, there have been questions…Is Chris Froome doping? Froome says no, but the signs are in the galleries, and the questions are asked daily.
Today, Team Sky released Froom’s Power stats from 2011, 2012, and 2013…same power output each year. Today the peloton is PED-Free, and that’s a good thing…it took 90+ years to rid the Tour of doping, yet the spectacle is no less thrilling.
Tuesday was the MLB All-Star Game at the New York Mets’ CitiField. Monday they held the Home Run Derby, won by the Oakland A’s Yoenis Céspedes, another slugger with a God-given swing that’s as pretty as it is devastating.
In the aftermath of the game and derby, the internet became heavy with steroid talk…again. Sportswriters, the self-appointed “Protectors Of Baseball” are harping on again about the Home Run Records since Henry ‘Hank’ Aaron’s record. In fact they’re bypassing Hammerin’ Hank for Roger Maris’ iconic 61 when talking about the “Next Big Thing” who might give the HR Record a run, ignoring Mark McGuire’s and Barry Bonds’ records…yeah, the Royal Order Of The Asterisk is on point again to “save baseball”
Bonds and McGuire both came into the Big Leagues with awesome swings. Steroids won’t give a hitter a good swing. Steroids help build muscle mass and speed muscle recovery after heavy use damage…one could argue that steroids benefited the pitchers facing the sluggers more than it helped the hitters.
Baseball at the Major League level is an Entertainment that grosses billions of dollars annually. Players make millions once they’ve established themselves as stars. Who among us wouldn’t be tempted to take PEDs if they could keep the million dollar paychecks coming for a few more years…ball players have kids, mortgages, families, all that benefit from the game’s largess…
The last time I spent a week in Truckee, I read Tyler Hamilton’s Tour de France Tell-All tome, “The Secret Race” in two sittings.
Tyler’s book chronicles his fall into doping while a teammate of Lance Armstrong in the “Glory Years” where Armstrong won seven straight TdF Titles in as many years.
I remember the stages like they were yesterday…”The Look” that Armstrong gave fellow doper Jan Ulrich climbing L'Alpe d'Huez, the breakaways, the time trials, all dope-driven.
The midnight trips to obscure hotels away from the Tour for transfusions of their own blood (known today as ‘Blood Doping’) Dope schedules away from the big tours, all for an edge that calcs out at 1%...maybe 2%-3% at most…
I don’t support PEDs in sports, pro or amateur…but I understand the very human reasons why it’s so hard to rid sports of the scourge. This week, there’s several MLB ball players waiting to find out their fate after they were revealed to be doping recently…including some huge stars like A-Rod, Alex Rodriguez of the NY Yankees, once the highest paid baseball player in the world.
All their asterisk records were all products of their times. Armstrong never failed a drug test, ever. He’s in trouble now because newer standards and tests were unleashed on his blood samples from back in the day. Paula Dean has lost her livelihood because of a racial slur she admitted making 30 years ago, in the Deep South, because she’s been judged by today’s Politically Correct standards.
How soon before we strip actresses of their long ago Oscars because they had a nose job or breast enhancement? Think about it…they’re the same thing. I believe that this is one arena where a “More Nuanced” outlook is long overdue.
The Grand Tours survived the early years of amphetamine abuse (if not all competitors did) Baseball will always be the most “Human” of sports….yes, sportswriters manning the battlements to “save baseball” are Human too…