Bernhard Kohl has retired for good from the sport of cycling, claiming that it is impossible to win at the highest level of the sport without doping. So, as the Giro d'Italia is contested among a select handful of elite climbers, Kohl sits in front a microphone, and makes sweeping allegations regarding the best athletes in the sport of cycling. Not only were Kohl's comments ill-timed, but they are frivolous and irresponsible.
Monday, May 25, 2009
As one of the most important Giro stages unfolded today, stage 16, it was amazing to see the top GC threats battle it out on the way to the mountain top finish to Monte Petrano. Spain's hero Carlos Sastre had the best legs on the day, and was able to distance the Maglia Rosa Denis Menchov and the Italians Danilo Di Luca an Ivan Basso. In a fearsome display of what will again be on display in France in July, Sastre jumped away out of a small group at the base of the final climb of the day, and was able to elevate himself to third overall in the three week event.
There was a moment during the stage that seemed to directly contradict what Kohl claimed about cycling not being winnable without drugs. The four big favorites on the day, Menchov, Di Luca, Sastre, and Basso, rode four across as they ascended the Monte Petrano climb. Riding pedal stroke for pedal stroke, that stretch of road has come to symbolize everything the centenary Giro has been about over the last week and a half. Equally matched competitors pushing each other to the limit in the quest for athletic glory.
The four riders rode shoulder to shoulder, each showing the other their warrior spirit and total unwillingness to give up in the face of adversity. And while Sastre eventually proved to be the strongest on the day, the other three riders deserve equal accommodation for a valiantly fought battle on one of the decisive days of the Giro d'Italia. And while pre-stage favorite Levi Leipheimer lost significant time, effectively ending his Giro GC campaign, still the American fought hard all the way to the line, and was typically gracious in defeat.
Meanwhile, as these great athletes suffer on behalf of the sport they love, Bernhard Kohl sits in his ivory tower far away and decries what he believes is rampant cheating within the sport of cycling. In part, Kohl is undoubtedly right about doping. There are still and there will always be cheats within the sport of cycling (and all sports!), but not EVERYONE is cheating. It is possible to win races clean, and many of the riders in the Giro are surely proving it every day.
Bernhard Kohl should take a long look at himself in the mirror and try to discover what it was inside him that made him go to the lengths he did for success as a professional cyclist. Instead of casting a critical eye on his former colleagues, he should take care to work on his own faults. And perhaps sitting down and actually watching the Giro would do him a bit of good. While watching riders like Sastre, Basso, Menchov, and the rest, Kohl would be able to see several examples of riders competing, and yes winning, clean.
Posted by Briggs at 9:39 AM