For years, the same faces have won the same races. There has been little suspense. The winner always comes from a small pool of people. For the US Pro TT, he is DZ. For the RR, there is no victor other than Hincapie, Hamilton, Leipheimer or Fast Freddy.
While Hincapie and company were once young, promising talents, they are no longer. Their best years are behind them. Tour or Roubaix glory becomes more and more unlikely with each passing dope-tainted year.
A look at this year’s Tour de France appears to be a confirmation. American riders were announced as potential winners, yet they failed to deliver. And as a rule, they were part of the old guard.
And for a time, it seemed like little would disrupt the state of affairs. While the Pharmstrong boys may not be speeding up, they are still fast enough. Who would challenge their reign?
The first shadow of insurrection appeared at the Criterium du Dauphine. A then unknown American from HTC managed to ride within himself and contain the attacks of Contador in route to a third place. Despite his foreign name, Tejay Van Garderen was soon an American cycling idol.
Next, larger cracks appeared at the Tour of Utah. In the form of Taylor Phinney, Levi was defeated in the TT. Yes, Phinney had a skinsuit and Levi did not. And yes, differences between skinsuits can amount for more than a handful of seconds. So compared to a jersey and bibs, the gains are enormous. But the boy still won.
And in the climbing stages, Ian Boswell surprised. Climbing like few other riders his age, he managed to stay with the big guns on the hardest stages.
Even more impressive, 2010 l’Abitibi winner Lachlan Morton riding for Holowesko Partners (Garmin’s junior racing team) managed several respectable placings on the intense climbing and TT stages.
In Spain, Van Garderen later followed through on his Dauphine promise. While he eventually fell out of the top 15, he fought valiantly and was within striking distance of the top ten for most of the race.
But compared to this weekend, the results in Spain and Utah were nothing but blips. In two days of racing, the old guard has been destroyed.
Again, the defining shot came from the young Phinney. Narrowly defeating Leipheimer, he posted a time over a minute faster than the third place finisher in the USPRO TT.
A day later, Ben King rode to one of the most impressive results in years. Going on an audacious breakaway and then attacking the group on the Paris Mountain climb, King soloed to the win.
Some will say the wins of King and Phinney are tainted. Riding for Trek—Livestrong, they are assumed to be recipients of the RadioShack doping program. However, we can hope they are not. The results of King and Phinney have followed a linear path. From their youth, they have excelled.
Rather than with doubt or anxiety, the results of this weekend should be welcomed. On their own roads in their favorite races, the old guard has been defeated. Ready or not, American cycling is entering a new era.
For one, I hope it to be a cleaner, more competitive and entertaining one.