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The Troubled Ode

A moment of reflection...

Linus Gerdemann's rather pointed actions -- announcing his refusal to work with Luigi Cecchini due to the latter's possible doping connections -- gave me pause to consider where in the big picture this is all going, at least for me as a fan. It's too soon to know what to make of this, but I wonder if Gerdemann is somehow representative of the U-27 Project's attitude towards doping, and therefore (on yet another level) bringing the promise of a great new Cycling generation.

Gerdemann is just one guy, and all I know about him personally is that Mags says he's cool. But I'm very interested to see if the new wave of phenomenal young talent currently hitting the shores of the Pro Tour are a bit like the 80s kids: turned off by the Love Generation's ways, determined to stake out their own turf on different terms. I wonder if Boonen, Gerdemann, Tommy Dekker, Valverde, Cunego, and so forth have seen enough of the drug years, enough humiliation of individual and sport, enough of the raids, the fan suspicion, the nauseating chemicals and needles, the creepy doctors, the constant surveillance. Maybe what Gerdemann is demonstrating represents what a lot of the next generation of champions has been thinking all along.

OK, I'm a serial optimist, but I can understand when people say they think Landis is guilty, or innocent, or they're all dopers, or this is a terrible witch hunt. I can understand why fans of the sport might feel tempted to give up on caring about who wins when it seems like maybe, just maybe, the wins are tainted.

But I can't understand why people say they want to give up on the sport. To me, the sport represents people stretching the abilities of humans to endure, be it over great lengths, at great speeds, or both. The power of a rider who can get up Alpe d'Huez in less than 45 minutes is just an amazing thing to comprehend. Who wins... that's exciting, both because of the strategy and the demonstration of ultimate strength. And determining this last part -- the greatest of the great -- is where drugs have muddied the waters. But we know that drugs don't turn a club rider into a champion. With or without EPO, David Millar was a guy who endured regular, immense suffering for months on end, accomplishing things even the strongest club riders can't imagine. Even before any of these guys started putting needles in their butts, they were physical marvels.

The essential greatness of Cycling isn't erased by drugs; it's just kind of obscured. Maybe Linus and his cohorts of the next generation, the great U-27 Project, will demand that last bit of clarity that drugs have taken away.