clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Shorten the Tour!?

The UCI has been bandying about a proposal to reduce the length/difficulty of the Tour de France and perhaps other grand tours, as a way to reduce the temptation of riders to dope. The thinking goes, the long, fast, punishing stages really demand a lot of every rider, even on the flats nowadays, and plenty of riders feel that they need the extra push only EPO can give you just to keep up, or to recover from day to day.

This strikes me as a finger in the dyke. Yes, knowing nothing more, it stands to reason that harder races put more pressure on guys to dope than easier ones, so the proposal is worth considering. Except that, IMHO, its impact will be little to nothing. From my distant perspective, I suspect the temptation to dope is driven almost entirely by a rider's relationship to other riders, not to the road. If the Tour were shortened to two weeks, the dopers would still have an advantage over the clean guys, and as long as the dopers continue winning, the temptation to dope would remain exactly the same, give or take a few degrees.

So, OK, the organizers should avoid taking races to the extremes and giving riders no choice but to dope, simply to survive. If some races should be mellowed out a bit, fine by me. The tension between what's exciting to read about and where the riders' physical limits lie has been a problem in cycling for a century now. But the UCI and others need to keep studying the real problem and looking for real solutions. Otherwise, reducing the Tour's length by 10% will only increase the speed by 10%, and the result will be as clouded in suspicion as ever.