At the Tour Down Under in Adelaide, the cycling fraternity was eager to move on from Armstrong and use his Oprah admission to close the book on the doping era and insist the cycling on show was, in the most part, clean.
“Please don’t mention Lance Armstrong,” one insider asked me. Said insider then spent a fair amount of time discussing Armstrong: why we should have been aware of the doping and why the sport has moved.
The reasons? Teams are applying more of a non-doping scientific approach to training and racing; the effectiveness of the biological passport and other anti-doping tests; and the fact there are a new generation of riders coming through, scared off doping by the ‘popping’ of former riders.
But, there’s always a but… No one could promise the current peloton was entirely clean. Sure, the majority were said to have embraced a doping-free mantra. But there were a few who still practiced the same methods as the shamed riders of the recent past.
As cycling attempts to move on and convince the sceptical public the sport has changed, it would do well to avoid the temptation of using Armstrong as the fall guy for its bad image.
But what hope is there when the governing body, the UCI, dismantles an independent commission into the recent scandals, increasingly wages war with anti-doping agencies such as WADA and USADA and fights off growing threats from reform groups, such as the Change Cycling Now organisation. In any in-fighting there is an inevitable blood spillage.
Even in Australia, the governing body Cycling Australia risks having its federal government-funding cut if it fails to meet the recommendations of an anti-doping review.
In the meantime, current sponsorships will come under the microscope and new sponsors may be dissuaded from getting involved in a tainted sport.
Given the Darwinian nature of pro-cycling, in this climate teams will be forced to fight hard for their survival. After all, money is tight in Europe in particular, the heartland of the sport and its economic epicentre. And this is an environment where old temptations to gain an unfair advantage could resurface…
Nevertheless, the mood seems buoyant among the cycling fraternity. The Tour Down Under, for example, attracted a round 757,000 people over race-week with over 100,000 people attending the final city stage.
The Australian event and the currently underway Tour Qatar are vital international destinations for a sport bidding to move away from Europe and having seemingly squandered mainstream American support thanks to Lance.
Where to from here? Cycling faces a long road to redemption. Lance can’t just be forgotten.
Adrian Musolino is editor of V8X Magazine, and has written as an expert on The Roar since 2008, cementing himself as a key writer who can see the big picture in sport. He freelances on other forms of motorsport, football, cycling and more.
After three weeks of racing, the Tour de France has finally made it to Paris, where the victors will be crowned. As the race heads to its conclusion at the iconic Champs-Elysees, join The Roar for live coverage of Stage 21 from 11:30pm (AEST) onwards.
The final yellow jersey of the 2018 Tour de France will be decided during a challenging individual time trial on Stage 20, with Geraint Thomas looking the favourite to hold onto his lead. Join The Roar for live coverage from 10:45pm (AEST).
So, after 18 stages and almost 3000km of racing, today is the last chance for the climbers to make their mark. As the Tour de France bids a final, dramatic farewell to the Pyrenees, join The Roar for live coverage of Stage 19 from 9pm (AEST) onwards.
The final transition day of the 2018 Tour de France is upon us, with it appearing almost certain a breakaway will succeed on Stage 18. Join The Roar for live coverage of the 171-kilometre trek to Pau from 10pm (AEST).
The peloton embark on one of the most explosive stages in Tour de France history, with three huge climbs across just 65 kilometres. Join The Roar for live race updates and coverage from 11:15pm (AEST).