Winning clean?

Vansummeren wins

I just wanted to make the observation that we’ve seen the likes of Johan Vansummeren, Matthew Goss and Philippe Gilbert winning big so far this year. So what? Well both Vansummeren and Goss belong to squads with a big anti-doping ethic and “Phil” has long been a supporter of clean cycling, ready to denounce those cheating.

With all the talk of doping investigations in Italy, with the ongoing Contador-CAS saga and more, it’s almost gone unnoticed that teams and riders reputed to be the strictest supports of anti-doping measures are winning.

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On luck

History is written by the victors
– Winston Churchill

When a rider wins a race or a general is victorious in battle, it is often easy to ascribe physical supremacy and tactical brilliance. We align a series of facts from the day into a story, the narrative of victory becomes self-evident. Only what of luck?

Napoleon Bonaparte

It makes you wonder about the tales and statues of war heroes, just how brilliant and superior were they? Or was an unmentionable stroke of luck involved too? This isn’t necessarily cynicism on my part, the last man to durably conquer Europe was Napoleon Bonaparte. When asked whether he preferred courageous generals or brilliant generals he replied “neither, give me lucky generals“.

I’ve often wondered about this when it comes to sport too. Do we ascribe particular skills and talents to some athletes and teams when in actual fact, they just got lucky? Before you leap to the comments section, I am not suggesting you fluke a win at elite level nor, I stress, suggesting that victories in warfare occur without guts and courage. No, this is not to deny the hard work and skill involved. Instead, what I’m trying to explore is whether luck is a bigger deciding factor that we might currently think. Are our heroes all conquering or do they get a little bit of luck along the way too?

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Vansummeren’s turn

Vansummeren on the way to winning

What a race. What a season. I’ve seen enough racing this season to satisfy me for some time to come and Johan Vansummeren’s win today is one big part of all of this.

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