Even if you are not an avid cycling fan, reading back over the results of the 2005 Tour de France is an interesting, almost educating, experience. The first thing that becomes apparent is the strikes through the names of the top competitors: Lance Armstrong (winner), Jan Ulrich (3 rd ) and Levi Leipheimer (6 th ) were all retrospectively stripped of their accolades due to, somewhat infamous, doping violations.
There is no rewriting of history with the strikethroughs though. They act as a monument to cycling’s difficult recent history.
For the modern cycling fan, the other, arguably more interesting, aspect of those tainted 2005 results is the fact that there is not one British cyclist listed 154 competitors. In the 102-year history of the Tour de France before 2005, there had been no British winners. In the last six years, British cyclists have won five Tour De France titles.
Froome chasing history
This is not an anomaly either. Sure, Chris Froome (four titles) is on his way to equaling the all-time record (five titles), and he may one day equal Armstrong’s tainted record of seven, but he is by no means the only British cyclist pitching in with their fair share of history-making. Bradley Wiggins.
In fact, got the ball rolling with a first ever British win in 2012. Indeed, at the time of writing we are around three quarters of the way through the 2018 Tour.
The leaders at stage 17 are two Brits – the aforementioned Chris Froome and Welshman Geraint Thomas. The latter is leading the betting odds for Tour De France 2018 right now, coming in at 17/20 with William Hill.
Froome, so desperate for that fifth title, is priced at 7/4. At this stage, if there is to be a non-British winner, Tom Domoulin looks the most likely, with the Dutch cyclist coming in at 12/1.
Team Sky dominance remarkable
Of course, if, as seems likely, Thomas or Froome win out in the end, much of the credit will go to the brains behind the operation – Team Sky. Froome, Thomas and, the now retired, Wiggins have all been members of the ultra-dominant Team Sky, which was launched in 2010.
A win in 2018 will mean six of its nine years in existence have resulted in Tour de France glory. To put it into perspective, imagine the uproar if an NHL expansion team won six Stanley Cups in its first nine seasons?
However, it must be said that the shadow of Armstrong and cycling’s past still hangover the sport.
These successful British cyclists and Team Sky are not immune to criticism and rumors about doping. Froome, for example, got urine thrown at him by protesters in France a few years ago and pepper spray this year, incidents that have made security a massive part of the Tour.
In Britain, Bradly Wiggins, who was knighted after his 2012 win and subsequent Olympic glory, also faces allegations about potential past doping.
Anti-doping authorities rigorous in their testing
There is nothing concrete to suggest that Team Sky, or any of its riders, are doing anything wrong. In fact, most of the current cyclists will say they are being punished because of the misdemeanors of past cyclists.
One must also remember that successful individuals like Froome are under even more scrutiny by UCI, simply because they do now want to see another Lance Armstrong situation.
Until otherwise informed, we should look on with respect at the men who brought British cycling from nothing to the dominant global force in a few short years.