Cycling has had a bad rap for the longest time, and with bloody good reason.
Cheating has been rife for decades, whether it be steroids, blood doping and transfusions or cocaine use, cyclist have done what ever it takes to win; and win at all costs.
Between 1996 and 2010, only two of the eight “winners” of Tour de France have not been banned for drug use, or been striped of titles after admitting to cheating.
And in the case of the biggest name in cycling, Lance Armstrong, 7 titles lost and a life ban from cycling have all added up to tarnish the sport.
But the sport is more than that? It is more than the cheats, it is more than Tour de France, and it is more than road cycling? You only have to look to Andorra at the moment to see the good side of the sport, and it features a few Kiwis to boot.
The UCI Mountain Bike World Cup is currently being held (not that you would know) which features both Cross Country and Downhill disciplines. Both offer thrilling action, and now one of the offers a Kiwi World Champion.
Anton Cooper – already Commonwealth Champion – can now add the World U23 Cross Country rainbow jersey to his collection of accolades. A list that is only likely to grow in the future.
And in the Elite Men’s Cross Country Eliminator, Sam Gaze took out silver. Add to the mix the likes of Brook MacDonald, Sam Blenkinsop and George Brannigan, all world-class Downhill riders, and NZ’s chances of more success are looking strong.
Then there is our track cycling teams who have dominated the velodrome in recent times. NZ’s Mens sprint team of Sam Webster, Ethan Mitchell and Eddie Dawkins all-but won gold at this years World Track Cycling championships – if it weren’t for a few centimetres, they would have prevailed over France.
Dawkins also recently smashed the 200m sprint world record, previously held by cycling royalty, Sir Chris Hoy.
It’s not just those with big wheels that look good at the moment either. Sarah Walker is back from a very long injury break, having recovered from a broken arm and head injuries, and claimed a bronze at the recent UCI BMX World Champs.
Racing in her less favoured time trial, the third place is just the start of a long road back to the top.
And despite the all the doom and gloom surrounding road cycling, Kiwis litter the big professional cycling teams.
Greg Henderson, Sam Bewley, Jack Bauer, Jesse Sergent and Hayden Roulston all feature in some of the top teams.
Greg Henderson being an intergral part of the Lotto-Soudal, winner of lead out – the riders that set the stage for the sprinters – for Andre Greipel, winner of 4 stages in this years Tour de France.
He is widely regarded as one of the best lead out riders, and leads a strong mens, and womens, team to this years UCI Road Cycling championships.
All of these disciplines, with the exception of Downhill, will feature at next years Rio 2016 Olympic games. And all of the events offer many chances for us to take away silverware. Chances that I am sure we will snap up.
So there you have it. Despite all the hard work of a cancer surviving, drug taking, one testicled man and some of the biggest cheats the world has seen, cycling has never been in a better place. At least for us Kiwis. But there again, I might be just a little biased.