LAUSANNE (AFP) — International Cycling Union (UCI) president Pat McQuaid jumped to the defense of today’s cyclists, blasting the press who are focused more on doping than racing at the Tour de France.
Chris Froome and Sky’s dominant performance on the first Pyrenean mountain stage on Saturday got tongues wagging in the press, with many drawing comparisons to performances produced by the disgraced former U.S. Postal team with whom Lance Armstrong won seven Tour de France titles he would be later stripped of for doping.
But McQuaid told AFP it is unfair to tarnish today’s racers with the same brush as their predecessors from the 1990s.
“I think the riders deserve another thing than to be asked about doping as the first question when they show up in the press conference,” he said.
“In the recent classics, yesterday [Sunday] and the day before, the first questions the riders had to answer were about doping, I think it is unfortunate.
“I think the media have to understand the riders of today don’t deserve to be judged on the mistakes of their predecessors, of the riders of a generation of the past now. Riders of today need to be respected for what they are trying to do, which is to race clean and race without a doping program.
“The evidence is there. If you look only at Saturday, when you saw big riders like Cadel Evans and (Alberto) Contador in trouble on the first day in the mountains. In the past, all the favorites came out more or less together from the first mountain stages, and the final battle would be done in the second period of mountains.
“Here we are after the first mountain stage in the Tour de France, already big catch up has developed between the favorites of the race. So it shows that the riders are human, they have good days and bad days.
“Richie Porte had a very good day on Saturday and very bad day yesterday. These are evidence that the sport has changed.”
Saturday’s mountaintop finish saw Froome open up a 1min 25sec gap to his nearest challenger from another team, Movistar’s Alejandro Valverde.
His closest rival that day was teammate Porte, who finished only 51 seconds back.
That had many in and around the peloton feeling dismayed that Sky would dominate the race this season even more so than they did a year ago.
But Sunday’s stage changed all that as Movistar and Garmin attacked from the off and isolated Froome from his team, with even Porte failing to keep up with the furious early pace.
Although Froome lost no time to any of his rivals, he was left vulnerable by the lacking of supporting teammates.
Even so, doping had been a hot topic all weekend as people reminisced uncomfortably over the U.S. Postal era when a team of riders under a sophisticated doping program controlled every stage and laid the platform from which Armstrong launched his victory bids.