The controversy around Wiggins' TdF in 2012, Froome's TdF in 2013, recently Horner's Vuelta, makes me wonder: what would it take for cycling fans to consider a Grand Tour victory NOT suspicious?
I'm thinking it would have to be something like this:
- Rider is from mid-20s to early 30s
- Not Spanish, or Russian/East European, or Colombian
- Does not live in Spain, Russia/Easter Europe, Colombia, or in a region considered hostile to dope enforcement or inconvenient for testers to access
- Does not ride, and has never previously ridden, for a Spanish team (Movistar, Euskatel), a Russian/East European team (Astana, Katusha, etc), an Italian team (Lampre, Cannondale, etc), any team that Lance Armstrong was on (Discovery, US Postal, Astana, Radioshack), Team Sky, Telekom, Festina, and various other teams
- Has no past association, directly or through a team, with Ferrari, Fuentes, Conconi, Sauders, or a long list of other team doctors that I don't have the patience to type, or with a somewhat shorter list of team managers
- Has not been mentioned in dopers' books or affidavits or in doping investigations
- Has been winning at top level since his neo-pro year (a meteoric talent) or has steadily improved year after year (a natural development)
- Does not produce over 6.2 watt/kg for over 20 minutes based on theoretical models using time, vertical feet, and standardized rider weight
- Does not equal, or come close to, ascent records from the years 1995-2005 for any major climb
- Has at least one, preferably a couple of, bad days during the GT
- Publicly and vocally denounces doping, and has done so through his career
- Has no record of positive dope tests himself
I think that would about do it, don't you?
My further conclusion is that this rider would probably not be a climber, but rather would win the GT through strong time trials, misfortune of his adversaries, or a series of unusual events (cross wind gaps etc). He would probably be from an Anglo country or Western Europe. He would either be quite young, or have had an unusual career that avoided entanglement with the teams or persons mentioned above.
Looking at the GT winners of the past two years -
Bradley Wiggins actually seems like a fairly decent fit to my "non-controversial winner" profile, other than the unfortunate fact that he rides for Team Sky. His career on the track kept him away from problem teams and events on the road, and his track results leave no doubt as to his engine. And he's not a climbing specialist.
Ryder Hejesdal might be an even better fit, although I don't know his career that well. He does ride for Vaughters' team, a negative, but he also only won the Giro by seconds.
Chris Froome is not as good a fit, given his start in South Africa, supposedly rapid rise to top-level performance, the Team Sky connection, and his furious climbing speed.
Chris Horner has the curse of being a climber, with a complicated career, was teammates (gasp) with Armstrong and Contador, and lives in Oregon which some consider a remote and lawless backwater.
Vincenzo Nibali is Italian and rides for Astana, Alberto Contador has a record, both are climbers.
Looking ahead, I'm thinking that for cycling to enjoy some "non-controversial" GT wins, we need TVG to step up, one of the Classics roulers to figure out how to win a GT, or to see the renaissance of French cycling.
What are the odds? Should we just give it up and turn to gravity racing?