Scripted Racing

Watching the USA Pro Challenge in my home state of Colorado for the last two years, I was struck at how the race unfolded like a Hollywood script. The sponsors couldn’t have wished for a more dramatic outcome to the way the final days of the race played out. In both years, we had a happy ending with Americans winning the overall.

Personally, my favorite stage was when, the big man, Jens Voigt won a high-altitude mountain stage. The Jensie won with with an escape at 12,000 feet above sea level. He dropped America’s best climbers and solo’d to victory. We loved it.

How often does scripted racing occur in cycling?

Reading Millar’s book, it seems that the practice is common in Europe and can be a source of (undeclared) cash for the riders. I’ve read accounts of payoffs in US racing, when there was a multiplier in play for stacking wins, but we hear little about the practice on home soil.

What about triathlon?

I’ve only heard of a few athletes being prepared, paid and trained to race for a leader. Even at the Olympic level, there aren’t many countries that are able to assemble a team to work for their medal hopes.

Triathlon appears to be much more of free-for-all at the competitive level.

Which makes me wonder about the plausibility of a clean athlete dominating. History makes me wary of a clean athlete’s ability to sustain undefeated streaks, or multi-year championship runs.

What happened to triathlon performances when EPO entered the Pro Peloton?

Who dominated across the modern era of my sport?

Which great triathletes decided to retire as EPO entered cycling?

These questions make me uncomfortable and, perhaps, are better left in the closet.

I remind myself that it’s not all bad news. As EPO arrived, many elite athletes left. Over time some may share their reasons why. There may be an untold story out there.

With cycling there’s the option to pay off your competition directly, or indirectly by hiring them onto your team. In triathlon, there are only a few elite athletes that assemble a team around themselves.

Elite sport has shown, repeatedly, that implausible performances are implausible.

When I was emotionally attached to my heroes, it was easier to look down the results sheets for a foreigner, who would become the focus of my ethical concerns. The best cheats are skilled at getting us focused on something other than themselves.

Ten years ago, it was to painful to consider the scale of corruption that was happening in front of my eyes.

We share a need to believe.