There was no lack of headlines in 2013, a year that proved crucial to cycling’s transition toward a cleaner, more credible future.
It seemed that cycling’s past was generating just as much buzz as what was happening in the races, with a dynamic and exhilarating racing season sometimes being overshadowed by off-road drama. The Lance Armstrong scandal continued to churn throughout 2013, and coupled with the no-holds-barred UCI election, there was never a dull day in 2013.
Beyond the scandal-driven headlines was racing across the elite men’s calendar that was as exciting, unpredictable, and thrilling as cycling should be.
Today’s generation is getting fed up with questions about what happened years before, and in 2013, they more than held up their end of the bargain. Here’s a look at the top 10 stories of 2013.
10. Horner wins Vuelta
Chris Horner’s victory at the Vuelta a España did more than set a new, likely never-to-be-broken record as the oldest winner of a grand tour at 41; it also kicked open a hornet’s nest of incredulity. It seems that just about everyone was scratching their heads in a collective, “really?”
As Horner (RadioShack-Leopard) dispatched one GC favorite after another with calm resolve, the more some simply couldn’t believe what they were seeing. Horner did his best to brush off the doubters, insisting that the 68th edition of the Spanish tour simply presented the popular veteran with his first chance of his long career to truly race for the GC in a grand tour, with good health, and without the baggage of sacrificing for a team captain.
Horner told fans they could believe his Vuelta victory, and when the final controls returned clean, the conversation was over. Unfortunately for Horner, his victory coincided with an odd marketplace, and instead of cashing in on a huge victory and the UCI points that came with it, Horner was still shopping for a ride in late December. It’s hard to imagine the peloton without Horner in 2014, but whatever happens, he will go down in history as the first American to win the Vuelta, and the oldest person ever to win a grand tour.
Lance Armstrong’s confessional interview with Oprah Winfrey aired over two nights in January 2013. Photo: George Burns | Harpo
9. Armstrong confesses/Operación Puerto trial
Early in 2013 saw two stories from the ghosts of doping past put cycling on the front pages for all the wrong reasons.
The first was the day that no one ever thought they’d see; Lance Armstrong confessing that he doped. The opening 20 minutes of the Oprah Winfrey interview in January were riveting. The fallout of the Armstrong scandal continues to rumble across the peloton, but his confession marked a clear breaking point from the past.
Barely a month later came the long-delayed Operación Puerto trial. Though not quite packing the punch of the well-produced Oprah-Armstrong show, the Puerto trial had its moments. Star witnesses Tyler Hamilton and Jörg Jaksche offered new, sometimes-grisly details on how blood doping truly worked. And it wasn’t pretty, or nearly as sophisticated as many were led to believe. Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes might have sold himself as a Svengali who could turn a mule into a racehorse, but he proved to be little more than charlatan with a refrigerator full of blood bags.
When Hamilton described how his urine turned black after a botched blood re-infusion, there was no doubt that cycling had reached its absolute nadir.