For information about my fabulous career as a racing cyclist, see my previous blog. As an update, I had walked away from the sport, feigning no interest, but still keeping an eye on what's happening. And slowly, the riders that were doping were getting caught, and in the case of one of my favourites, Bjarne Riis, (Tour de France "TdF" winner in 1996) he decided to confess his many years of EPO use. So when the likes of Lance Armstrong give us the "most tested athletes in history and never failed a test " spiel, forgive me when I cough.
And along came our then two-years old son's diagnosis of Type 1 Diabetes, and our personal introduction to the world of shooting up with hormones just to keep him alive, the cyclists disgusted me even more with their doping choices. On the other hand, our handiness with the needles gave me an insight into how humans can quickly get used to abhorrent practices with a bit of practice.
Yet, despite it all, I still loved the traditions of the TdF, the supreme efforts and achievements of the riders, the beauty of the scenery and of the peloton. And even if they were doping, they were still incredibly fit strong people, wrestling with machines that don't ride themselves round the two thousand mile course, climbing over many thousands of feet in the Alps and Pyrenees.
Some of the bike riders have now broken the omerta (an agreement not to talk about drug taking), and the authorities seem more keen to act, and the sport is pulling me back. The TdF starts tomorrow, and I'm keener than I have been for many years.
Plus there are some very positive forces out there, and I'm going to mention just two. First up, Phil Southerland, the leader of the "Type 1" cycle racing team, who have steadily risen up the pro rankings, with some splendid results in the wake of Phil's leadership. The team are not all T1D, but they wave the flag for the condition, and show that it is possible to exert yourself to the extreme as a pro bike rider, and succesfully manage T1D, at the same time.
And there's Tony Cervati, from http://www.type1rider.org/, who had the ambitious plan of the extreme Tour Divide ride, riding for himself as a T1D, and all the diabetes community. Unfortunately he met a bear on the road fairly early in his mammoth ride, shot into a ravine, got flushed downstream by icy water, dragged himself out, hitched a lift, and got taken to the hospital.
Guys like these, and the clean riders speaking out in the peloton, have given me back my love of the sport. And no, despite their inspirational stories, you won't catch me back in my lycra gear, it's a wonderful material, but it can only stretch so far.......