The post, below, is not about Alberto’s bike…merely inspired by the extraordinary sequence of events it triggered.
In the past 36 hours, many have been openly wondering why the whole Contador ‘broken bike’ saga took off so explosively during Monday’s Stage 10 and, stoked by evermore articles and photos on social media, still won’t go away.
Aside from the fact it was a rest day (so the world had nothing better to talk about) my theory is as follows:
Tainted by the pharmaceutical misdeeds of the last two decades the cycling community is considerably more cynical in 2014. Rightly or wrongly, we’ve lost our innocence; the gradual exposing of the omertà within the pro peloton and the shady goings on that involved many of the sport’s biggest and most powerful figures has left us wary and scarred. And whilst the initial pain of such trauma subsides with time, the scars nevertheless remain.
Is it sad that it’s come to this? Of course. But just as our wandering and mistrusting minds constantly search for a politician’s hidden motives, or the real reason behind a major business announcement, we no longer accept what we’re told by cyclists, teams, sponsors or even the media at face value.
Combine this increasingly ubiquitous suspicion with the exponential power of social media to spread news (true or otherwise) like wildfire and it’s a public relations minefield. As one of the world’s most influential admen – and my ex-boss – Englishman David Jones says in his 21st Century brand bible Who Cares Wins, “Social media is forcing businesses, politicians and leaders to be more socially responsible. It will reward those who are. And remove those who aren’t.” You can add cycling teams, event organisers and sporting bodies into his list without much trouble. Ignore it at your peril.
Social media or otherwise, however, cycling has always loved a good conspiracy and ‘Framegate’ is merely the latest incarnation. You can be certain there will be more, possibly as early as tonight.
You sure don’t have to dig too deeply to realise there have been some absolute doozies over the years; some quite humorous, others far more sinister. Looking beyond the more obvious doping controversies surrounding Festina, ‘Motoman’ and even Tom Simpson in the 60s, here are just a few of the others that whipped the cycling community into a frenzy of claims and counterclaims at the time…
1. Bike Face
As reported here just last month, one of the earliest and most shameful cycling conspiracies involved members of the medical community who concocted something called “Bicycle Face” in an attempt to stop women from riding bikes.
2. Fabian’s Electric Bike
In the Spring of 2010 Fabian Cancellara was flying. After scorching wins at the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix rumours began to emerge of mechanical doping. Widely reported at the time in many of the world’s most respected publications such as the NY Times, there were far-fetched suggestions his team had somehow incorporated an electric motor into his frame. Chris Boardman even suggested he’d raised concerns about the risk of precisely such underhanded behaviour a year earlier to the UCI.
3. Stelvio 2014
A very recent example, but no less controversial. On Stage 16 at this year’s Giro d’Italia treacherous conditions saw the decent from the Stelvio Pass neutralised by the race commissaires. Or so it seemed. Talk (and footage) of red flags and conflicting announcements over race radio did nothing to ease concerns and confusion. Ultimately Nairo Quintana secured the maglia rosa by nearly three minutes, clearly the strongest rider in the race, but eyebrows were still raised.