The victory of the yellow jersey in the time trial and the still widespread incapacity of enthusiasts to feel amazement when they watch cycling. Past mistakes still weigh on today's runners
It is thanks to amazement, to our tendency to try to amaze ourselves, that sport has become an indispensable part of our lives. Great athletes have always goaded our amazement, made our eyes roll, unstitched the "incredible" from our mouths. They are men like us, but done better. They do things that we couldn't do and this amazes us. Poor amazement. Now it is a bit 'in crisis. It was a positive feeling, not so recently, it seems to have become a problem, a sign of misfortune, of imminent collapse. Especially in cycling.
In this Tour de France the runners of amazement have distributed them in packs, especially Jonas Vingegaard and Tadej Pogacar have distributed them in packs. They attacked, detached, chased, feared, respected, teased, sportingly and cycling led. For two weeks they pedaled side by side, making the Tour de France a game of balance on seconds, a few seconds, a story in which it was difficult to predict how it would end. Then came the Combloux time trial on Tuesday 18 July 2023. Combloux is a small town of two thousand souls that has never finished in the geography of the Tour de France. It is now unforgettable, it has become the site of one of the most outstanding sporting feats of recent decades. There Vingegaard won superbly, outdistanced Pogacar by 1'28”, Wout van Aert by 2'51”. And all this in just twenty-two kilometers. An incredible superiority that has given enthusiasts the opportunity to marvel: there have been few such performances in the history of cycling. Amazement, however, now rhymes with suspicion in a part of cycling enthusiasts. One can be surprised, it is granted, but when it happens it is understood as a symptom that something is wrong. It emerges from social networks, from sayings but above all from the suspensions of various newspaper articles, from radio comments.
It is the faults of the fathers that fall on the children. The mistakes, the horrors, of those who came before them that overwhelm these exceptional guys who are making today's cycling enormous fun. And yes, no sport like cycling has tried to clean up, experimented and found a way to control its athletes. The runners are tested throughout the year, they must always be available for checkups, they have a file of all their body values - biological passport - which triggers targeted investigations by the anti-doping department at the slightest change. They live in a probation subspecies. However, all this seems not to be enough. Nor is it enough that cycling has been the sport that in the last five years has invested the most in research on nutrition and hydration, on training methodologies. Not to mention the step forward in materials. A Shimano study has revealed that the friction generated by the new bottom brackets - what makes the cranks turn - has dropped by about 15 percent in the last decade, that of the hubs - the central part of the wheel that allows it to turn - by almost 20. If performance improves, however, something is not right.
And it is a pity that all this happens. a pity not to try and fully enjoy these years, because they are years of amazing competitions, such as many have not seen. Astonishment seems to have become the prerogative of cyclists only: “It was one of my best days. At one point I thought my power meter was off, the data was too high”, confided Jonas Vingegaard at the end of the time trial. The day before he had said: “I understand and justify those who are skeptical about my performance: I'm going very fast. Having doubts is important: it prevents cycling from falling back into the mistakes of the past".