In a week of cat and mouse revelations from ‘Legend’ Lance Armstrong, a more deserving legend announced her retirement from cycling with an incisive attack on dopers – In doing so, Nicole Cooke reminded us about the honesty most of us share in riding our bikes.
As with her breakaways and sprints, Nicole Cooke’s timing of her retirement was finely judged. Leaving the sport she loved, she fired a broadside at the Disney media managed, show ‘confession’ being played out across the Atlantic with Lance Armstrong and Oprah Winfrey. I loved her unbridled courage in saying to the world
‘When Lance cries on Oprah later this week and she passes him the tissue, spare a thought for all those genuine people who walked away with no rewards – just shattered dreams. Each one of them is worth a thousand Lances…’
If only some of her fellow male cyclists had the guts to say that out loud in the 90s and early 2000s, then we might be further on than we are. In her press statement Cooke added
‘I do despair that the sport will never clean itself up when rewards of stealing are greater than riding clean. If that remains the case, the temptation for those with no morals will always be too great…’
This is certainly borne out by a BBC graphic released this week stating that of the 33 Tour title since 1980, 17 were nullified by doping. More than half. That’s a lot of shattered dreams for those who followed those races in awe.
Across the Atlantic, when what is needed is an unreserved and detailed confession to the proper authorities, all we read and hear is speculation about how Armstrong is avoiding litigation, how he is in discussion, how he is preparing the way for a book deal etc. Compared to these depressing shenanigans, Cooke’s honesty is like a ray of dazzling sunlight to the club cyclist. If it weren’t for cycling pros like her we might end up in an apocalyptic situation where we trust no one in the pro tour.
Sometimes we club cyclists could be forgiven for thinking that unlike fans of Murray in tennis or Messi in football, our sport has no pro heroes. And when you think that, as I write, there are thousands of cyclists in their freezing garages or sheds smashing themselves in a turbo session then maybe we know who the real heroes of cycling are.
Thanks Nicole Cooke!