In today’s world the thought of change has been on all our minds especially Americans with the most recent presidential election. It is only fitting that in cycling we have gone through many changes in the recent past. The compulsory use of helmets and the ever growing number of doping tests are a couple of more recent examples. More so than before there is an ebb and flow of cyclists trying to overcome injury or some type of personal substance abuse battle. These types of incidents have ruined many a cyclists dreams and have no rhyme or reason to whom they affect. Now as we reach a new dawn in cycling with more pro races appearing on a multitude of continents we are poised for the mother of all comebacks! First let’s look at a few others who have crossed the threshold of the comeback trail.
Ivan Basso besides being one of the best looking cyclists in the peloton one day held the hopes and dreams of all the Italian tifosi. He was hailed as the new Moser, a man who may someday be adorned with the palmares equivalent of Fausto Copi or Gino Bartali. He seemed to rise like a Phoenix from the peloton one July day in France, promising a new world order to the cycling fanatics. His fall from grace was that which rivals the likes of Rocky Balboa or even possibly a Tanya Harding. His comeback is most certainly being followed closely by many Italians and even many cycling fans around the globe. He will be riding for team Liquigas and will no doubt challenge for the spot of team leader in at least the Giro d Italia. His climbing ability combined with his time trialing prowess will be a much welcomed force for the Liquigas team that is already packed with talent. No doubt that there will be somewhat of a power struggle between Basso and Danilo Diluca. The two will be the class of the peloton providing they can sort it out amongst themselves.
Basso will be in the spotlight as far as doping suspicions and will be well aware of the fans and UCI’s distrust of him. The other riders in the peloton will not judge him as one might think or label him a cheat as they are all aware of what it takes to be a top ranked pro cyclist. It is quite conceivable that Basso can shake the doper moniker and once again be one of the most feared and respected athletes in cycling. As far as this season, he may have to shake off some rust before he is ready to challenge for g.c. in one of the grand tours but for now you can just enjoy watching the beauty of his almost flawless style and fluid pedal stroke.
Floyd Landis is another one of the comeback kids of the pro peloton. He turned the cycling world upside down with his dethroning from the tour and subsequent legal battle for what was thought to be then his career. Floyd will be riding for the OUCH team in 2009 and will definitely give them an added spark they need. It seems he will be able to earn the spot of team leader with a not too impressive roster behind him. This will undoubtedly make his road back from the dregs of the cycling society more difficult than that of Basso. He will also be held to a different standard as far as fans go because the U.S. fans are less tolerant when it comes to dopers and cheats. Landis was never really considered as a true champion as the likes of Greg Lemond or Lance Armstrong. He will not be much of a factor in any race other than possibly the Tour of California. His time in the spotlight has quite possibly passed him by and bionic hip and all he’ll be more of an also ran than a contender. Due to his much publicized and unsuccessful court battle to clear his name he will be known more for his doping blunder than for his ability in the saddle.
Lance is back! What everyone in the state of Texas has been waiting to hear. He is going to ride his white horse wearing his Stetson all the way to the Champs-Elysees! A fairytale no doubt but one conceived in the mind of this patriotic American and confirmed by most who love our country. Lance will be riding for the super team Astana. If you were a general and wanted a staff to ensure victory you would surround yourself with Macarthur, Patton, Eisenhower, Norman Schwarzkopf and Colin Powell. Lances Director Sportif has done the cycling equivalent in assembling a cast sure to make a cycling fantasy team owner salivate With names like Leipheimer, Horner, Kloden and Chechu Rubiera he’ll surely be protected in the peloton. If your going to make a comeback find the team with the best riders and take it over. That’s what seems to have happened here. Of the riders there are several that were once considered tour contenders and some besides Lance who actually are contenders. As well as a second previous winner. This may be a cast of characters to rival the New York Yankees lineup or the 14 pro bowler’s roster of the Dallas Cowboys. Without question Lance will be the leader here but how will this affect the team’s ability to become one unit with Alberto Contador in the mix. Let’s hope that the personalities can meld better for Astana than the aforementioned teams. Lance’s comeback although meticulously planned to avoid failure may be the toughest of all the others. He’s no stranger to re-establishing himself as a successful cyclist. His much publicized escape from the jaws of cancer back to the top of the cycling world has prompted worldwide appreciation for him as an athlete and a cancer pugilist. He now sets his sights higher than ever but he has the ability, determination and the knowledge to again be the greatest cyclist on earth. No question he lives by the credo “If you can conceive it and believe it you can achieve it.” He’s got me believing. Go Lance!