How soon is too soon? History is full of tragic events, that with the passage of time are able to be joked about – there are now Hitler memes, jokes about the Spanish Inquisition, and TV programmes like MASH that managed to find humour amongst the tragedy of war.
Of course, whether sufficient time has passed to joke about such events is a matter of personal judgement – hence the rhetorical question “too soon?” when a joke about a recent-ish tragedy falls flat. It can be hard to judge.
So today we’re tackling the big issues and thorny subjects. We don’t shy away from the important stuff here at Soigneur.
We’re asking - is it time to embrace the EPO racing of the 1990s and 2000s? Or is it too soon?
Consider some of the most iconic moments of the era…
- Armstrong passing Jan Ullrich in the Stage 1 Time Trial of the 2005 Tour.
- Ivan Basso’s great 2010 Giro win on Monte Zoncolan.
- Armstrong giving Ullrich ‘the look’ on the 2001 l'Alpe d'Huez.
- Pantani’s 1998 Tour-winning attack over the Telegraph, Galibier and Les Deux Alpes.
- Richard Virenque’s 70km Bastille Day solo breakaway over unrelenting mountains in the 2004 Tour.
- Djamolidine Abdoujaparov, both a doper and one of the most exciting sprinters of the era.
- The incredible battle between Pantani and Armstrong on Mont Ventoux in 2000.
All of the examples above have two things in common – all the riders doped, and all those wins are incredibly exciting to watch online. But can we watch them guilt-free? Do we need to hide our internet browsing history if we do?
Your answer determines if it’s ’too soon’ or not.
If you answer ‘too soon’, you undoubtedly think of the clean riders whose careers were hurt, the amoral racing, and the damage to cycling’s reputation. The passing of time doesn’t make a wrong thing right. Watching these battles of old implies an intolerable tacit acceptance. We get it.
If you answer ‘let’s watch, enough time has passed’, you may be thinking that with so many riders doping, it was almost a level playing field anyway. You may be thinking that regardless of how an attack is fuelled, an attack is an attack and can be glorious to watch. Doping didn’t make riders suffer any less, they just achieved more speed for the pain they endured.
The answer certainly comes down to time and place. We idolize the greats of the more distant past - Merckx, Gimondi, Anquetil, Simpson and Coppi – despite them all testing positive or admitting to using. Of course, doping was far more permissible then and so less of a moral issue than in the EPO era, but that doesn’t seem to taint our respect and love of their legendary exploits (we sell enough jerseys commemorating them after all!).
So, whether you can enjoy those videos for what they are (and hearing Phil Liggett call Armstrong’s riding ‘unbelievable’ is certainly ironic), or you would prefer to focus on today’s swashbuckling wunderkinds of Roglic, Pogacar and van Aert, it’s entirely up to you.
Posted: Wed 18 Jan 2023