Rolling News. Thursday, June 20, 2013.
With the recent discovery of a chemical “master key” that allows for the detection of agents in the bloodstream that a person’s body would not naturally produce, drug testing in the sport of cycling has become absolute. No cheating, no mistakes, no tolerance, and – as it turns out – no fans.
As the adoption of the new testing procedures spread, pro cyclists started “losing interest in the sport,” as one acclaimed cycling pro put it. “All the organizers are concerned with are tests, tests, and more tests. What ever happened to good, old fashioned racing?” When asked if they would’ve tested positive under the new testing regime, the unnamed pro cyclist quickly pealed out on his single-speed bike, flying up a startlingly steep hill, leaving the question unanswered.
The fans in turn have been left with athletes that – while trying their best and still performing at levels far beyond the every-day rider – “just can’t put the hammer down like they used to,” says Albert, a long-time fan of the sport. “I watched because there was no frackin’ way I could ever dream of doing what they do. But now… maybe with enough training…”
During the toughest classics races, fans were left waiting at the finish line – often for hours – for the remaining pros to complete the course. The Tour of Flanders – one of the hardest cobble-classics, usually completed in just over six hours – took almost eight hours to complete.
With fans of the previously fast-paced, awe-inspiring efforts moving on to other sports, advertising dollars went with them, leaving behind fewer professional teams, fewer athletes that those teams can afford, and less cutting edge tech. “We want to keep the team together,” said the manager of one of the famous international teams on condition of anonymity. “But it’s hard. We’ve lost 3/4 of our team. And 90% of our financial backing. With the money we have left, it was either fire all but two riders, or cut back on the gear.”
The manager told Rolling News that they’ve had to reduce the number of bikes they maintain per rider, and those bikes aren’t anywhere near the top-end they used to ride. “Seriously, who can afford those $15k bikes with $5k of additional upgrades? Without the fans, the sponsors don’t want to give us money. Without the money, there’s no high-end bikes. Without the high-end bikes, you get… this,” he said, gesturing at the racks of admittedly mid-range bikes.
But not everyone despairs of the new situation. “I like it,” said Carter, a cycling enthusiast. “No more of this bike tech arms race bull. The racers gotta face each other with what they got. It’s more like a street fight.” When asked about the slower speeds and less-impressive performances from the remaining pros, Carter said “What do you mean, less impressive? If anything it’s more impressive. These guys… they’re like us, you know? They work their [posterior] off, and they train day in and day out. They don’t get paid millions, and they do it because they love it. Yeah, they might not be as fast, but neither were the dope-heads of yesterday without their ‘special training juice’!”
In possibly related news, records have recently been broken in many sports not currently utilizing the new drug testing standards that cycling has employed, including several skiing disciplines, track and field events, triathlons, swimming, and badminton.