The most-compelling argument from the anti-gun lobby in America is that, given the choice, the majority of adults there would vote for gun control, in defiance of their own constitution. The point being, given the choice, people want to do the right thing – they just often do not know how.
The same dynamic exists in professional cycling. It wants to change, but to do so it must wrestle against the cold dead hands of its past.
It’s been 15 years since a Texan gunslinger called Lance rode into town to steal our hearts and minds. Since then the sport plummeted to all-time lows (Oprah Winfrey WTF) only to rise again on the spindly shoulders of Messers Wiggins and Froome.
All quiet on the Western Front?
An outlaw has returned in 2014 – a man they call ‘El Pistolero’.
The baddest man in the west…
Alberto ‘El Pistolero’ Contador (main picture) is a two-time winner of the Tour de France and is the biggest threat to Team Sky’s dominance of cycling’s showcase event since that scoundrel who threw a near pallet of thumb-tacks on the road in front of Wiggo in 2012.
Contador is a true bandit, a convicted doper, stripped of one of his three Tour de France titles. You could say he represents the old guard. When he attacks he does so in a wild flurry of limbs, violently swaggering up the sport’s cruelest climbs. When Contador (31) defeats an opponent he absolutely crushes them, crossing the finish line with the signature ‘Pistolero Salute’ of the baddest man in the west.
Contador sits at the top of the UCI Pro Tour rankings but, despite this, enters this Tour as underdog to GB’s Chris Froome. Team Sky’s main charge is 8/11 to Contador’s 15/8 for the Outright General Classification but his odds are shortening fast.
Fallen from the Sky…
Many are losing faith in Kenyan national Froome (above), who has yet to recreate his devastating 2013 form. For a team famed for its flawless preparation, the last few weeks have been an unbridled mess for Team Sky. They have cast aside arguably the UK’s most popular rider of his generation, Bradley Wiggins, witnessed any hint of form evaporate, drawn criticisms from their fellow teams on the Pro Tour for their use of Therapautic Usage Exemptions (TUEs), leaving even their staunchest supporter, David Walsh, to question just how much whiter than white the Men in Black really are?
There exists, for the first time, a real air of uncertainty over Sir Dave Brailsford’s army of Skybots. The cracks are appearing in the sleek onyx exterior of the GB super team. The tour may start in Yorkshire on July 5 but far away on the hellish climbs of the Pyrenees his team will face a torrent of abuse from a partisan crowd and a peloton baying for blood.
[Follow the tour and key stats with our interactive graphic, above]
Froome, The Milky Bar Kid, will face off against a savage marksman, who, despite being a convicted doper, may well be the Old Town favourite. Team Sky may have been pitched as a clean start for cycling and the Grand Depart in Yorkshire a fresh addition but this tour finishes at its traditional home, the Arc D’Triomphe, a historic monument of European Imperialism. If the history of cycling tells us anything it’s that the bad guys usually win.
My money is on Contador.
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