20 July 2008

The Tour - Cash & Cav

Saunier-Duval is forced to pull out its entire team because of the doping scandal, and BarlowWorld announces that it will drop its sponsorship as soon as the Tour ends. Surely this is writing on the wall for the future of professional cycling. Because without sponsorship, they will be nowhere. and nobody can possibly blame the sponsors. After all, would you want your commercial reputation linked to a group of cheats whose achievements were proven to be worthless?

The Tour could just about survive the next few days through the Alps and make it to Paris without completely damaging the reputation of the sport, but any further dope scandal would approach the point of terminally disastrous for the sport.

Meanwhile, the very successful Mark Cavendish is already talking about 'not making it to Paris' because he's got the Beijing Olympics to think about. There's the cynicism of professional sport writ large. He's in a three week cycle race which isn't going to give him many further opportunities to win in a sprint finish. So he might pull out of the race, rather than do a bit of suffering in the Alps - leaving his team (who have helped him to his four victories) to continue without him - whilst he floats off to chase victories elsewhere.

Will they be pleased with that - or not? If they're happy, that means it's only money that matters, and that all the sentiment attached to teams, races, and the achievement of winning through genuine effort, mean nothing, and we might all as well go home.

If Cavendish leaves the Tour before Paris and bigs it up in preparation for the Olympic Games, that will be a cynical and opportunistic move which smacks of sheer commercialism. If he stays the course and sees it through to the Champs Elysees, we will all think the better of him.

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