Biking one of life’s pleasures

Published 8:00 pm Sunday, January 20, 2013

Quick question: Who won the 2012 Tour de France? Bradley Wiggins.

Who won all the Tours before that? Not Lance Armstrong, but close. Armstrong won seven of the last 14 Tours. That is until they were recently taken away from him. Other winners of Le Tour during that time included Floyd Landis, Alberto Contidoro, Cadel Evans and Carlos Sastre.

Another quick question: Over the past 14 years, which Tour winners have not been accused of or admitted to doping? Only three: Wiggins, Evans and Sastre.

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The statistics don’t bode well for those coming in second and third, either. In fact, of those who stood atop the podium in Paris these past 14 years, well over half have admitted to, or have been officially accused of doping.

In his Oprah interview this past week, Armstrong finally admitted to one of the worst kept secrets in sports history. He doped. He used performance-enhancing drugs to help him cheat his way to the top of the world stage in his sport of cycling.

I took up recreational cycling during the Armstrong Empire. I started out riding for exercise in the early 2000s, advancing to longer rides and buying a Trek, the official brand of the U.S. Postal Service Team. In a way it seemed almost patriotic.

As my rides got progressively longer and more frequent, I transitioned to the bike of Lance’s perpetual rear wheel – second place finisher or as some call the first place loser, Jan Ullrich. FYI: also a doper.

I also became intrigued with watching the Tour de France every July. Like golf, most of Le Tour can be mind-numbingly boring television – 21 days, more than 2,000 miles of a couple of hundred guys peddling down country roads, sometimes chatting or munching on a power bar, spitting and throwing their water bottles to the ditch.

Then, in an instant, golf becomes NASCAR with a sudden pileup, or football with an incredible breakaway, or downhill skiing. Or, it becomes like no other sport like it when riders claw their way to the top of the Alps through throngs of fanatical spectators.

But what I enjoy most about watching the Tour is on the peripheral, the towns and the scenery through which they ride. I can only assume that the beauty of the countryside is all but overlooked by the men on the Tour, but for me that’s what riding a bike is all about – total emersion in the farms and the fields and the fellowship.

JFK once said, “Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of riding a bike.”

Back to Lance. The fact that one man, a cancer survivor at that, could dominate such a grueling sport for so long was unbelievable, almost unreal. And as it turns out, it was. Lance was not the superhuman being we thought at the time. But neither were most of his rivals.

I’m not sad to see Armstrong disgraced. I think he is getting some of what he deserves. Thankfully, none of us really get what we deserve. He hurt a lot of people with his lies and cover-up.

He lived a rock-star’s life, made and spent millions of dollars. On the other hand, he also used his fame to do a lot of good – probably more than most super-stars celebrity athletes, though his Livestrong Foundation and his fight against cancer.

I will always admire Lance’s competitive nature. I also appreciate the attention his “accomplishments” did in bringing a sport I have grown to love to the public’s attention.

That simple pleasure of riding a bicycle can only be enjoyed within a safe cycling environment. Thankfully, laws and attitudes are changing toward cycling. Most motorists are aware they must share the road. Cyclists pay taxes, too, you know.

And most conscientious cyclists are obedient to traffic laws and the rules of the road. Please share the road and be kind to cyclists.

Rick Reynolds is president/publisher of The Daily Leader. Contact him at