• JJ Cobo, winner on the road of the 2011 Vuelta, could have the title stripped after discovery of abnormalities in his biological passport (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
Boredom does have its benefits, writes Anthony Tan, who the past week, hasn’t been losing sleep over the Vuelta.
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7 Apr 2015 - 11:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:37 PM

I
don't know about you, but I've had a little trouble staying up to watch
the last week of the Vuelta. Save for the seventeenth stage to Peña
Cabarga, of course, which almost saw the dethroning of this bloke named
Cobo that most of us never heard of till now.

Okay, I admit, I've had a lot of trouble…

Confession:
I recorded all the stages on my PVR and watched them sometime in the
morning or afternoon. But just to keep the suspense – which for the most
part had been lacking in this final week – I didn't look at any cycling
websites till I had done so.

Problem was I still got bored.

I'll likely get a 'please explain' e-mail from SBS management for saying what I've just said. (Ach, I'm the black sheep in our cycling family, anyway...)

If
Unipublic, the Vuelta organisers, are going to put their queen stage
(Stage 15 to the Angliru) at the end of the second week and no big
mountain-top finish or time trial at the end of the third week, then how
d'ya expect me and the rest of us to justify forgoing our well-earned
rest and going into work groggy-faced and bleary-eyed?

Just a
hint, Unipublic: there is a reason why Tour de France organisers ASO
invariably schedule a decisive stage on the penultimate day of the race
(or in the case of the 1989 Tour, on the final day). You should do the
same.

For me, not even the sight of those olive-skinned podium
girls, with a rictus so toothy one may have thought they'd been Smilexed
by The Joker, could justify the thought of anything less than six
hours' kip any day this past week.

* * *

Racing that bears the excitement of watching the tick-tock of a cuckoo clock does have its benefits, however.

Not
only does one get a full night's rest, if you're a tennis fan (which I
am; pugilism without the brain damage, I call it), you get to wake up to
the US Open, where this morning, our muscled Sammy Stosur became the
first Australian since 1973 to win the fourth and final Grand Slam of
the year.

It also gives you time to think, if one has a proclivity to do so.

What was I thinking, you ask?

'When was the last time we went through a Spanish Grand Tour without a doping positive announced?' I thought to myself.

In fact, when was the last time we went through all three
Grand Tours with just one doper being declared positive? (That anomaly
being Alexandr Kolobnev of Katusha, whose case is in the hands of his
Russian cycling federation, and who appear to be taking their sweet time
about it.)

* * *

It made me recall my question to UCI
president, Pat McQuaid, 11 months ago, on the second-to-last day of the
world road championships in Geelong, Victoria.

'You said that
four Spanish riders have tested positive but [their names] haven't been
announced. But isn't the problem deeper than just four more riders
testing positive?' I asked McQuaid, in a press conference convened by
none other than himself.

'If riders are still doing so – and a
sizeable proportion is every year – don't you need to discuss this with
the teams,' I challenged him, 'to try and change the mentality of
'winning at all costs'? I'm not sure if the problem is being solved by
creating a new test or a new product [that tests for PEDs]…'

"I
wouldn't disagree with you at all, Anthony," responded our Aigle,
Switzerland-based prez, who, not much later, appeared to contradict
himself.

"I don't necessarily think the teams [are to blame]. By
and large, the teams are aware the doping culture is over, the doping
practice is over and they've got to move forward.

"I do agree
that quite a few of team management – team managers and team [sport]
directors – are not taking their responsibility enough; they tend to
leave the responsibility to the athletes. They say, 'these athletes are
living in different parts of Europe, different parts of the world, and
we can't control them 24 hours a day'. I don't fully accept that. I
think they do need to control their athletes more. I think they do need
to know who their athletes are meeting with; they do need to know – even
during events – what their athletes are doing.

"And if things
like blood transfusions or whatever are going on in the team," said
McQuaid, "ultimately the manager is to blame for that, because he should
have more control of the riders in the races.
"And in relation to
Spain […] there is a problem in Spain, because 50 per cent or… I don't
know what the percentage is, but a large percentage of doping cases come
from Spain. And so far, there doesn't seem to be the will to tackle
this in Spain. And that will needs to come from the government-down."

This
2011 season, by virtue of just the one doping positive from the three
Grand Tours contested Рand so far, none from the Vuelta a Espa̱a Рit
appears both teams and riders are listening.

But they're not
just listening, they're acting: like ethical, well-behaved adults
should, they're taking responsibility for their own lives and
livelihoods, and in doing so, change is afoot.
Change for the better.

If
the Giro reduces its stupidly-long transfers and the Vuelta gets its
stage placement right (and the Novitzky and Contador cases reach some
sort of finality, which should go without saying), we may well be back
on the right path.

Watching clean, exciting, unpredictable racing? Now that is something I'm happy to lose sleep over, any night!

* * *

Oh
– one last thing: I just had to share this quote from you from Team
Sky's sport director at the Vuelta, Steven de Jongh, who said after
Stage 20: "Brad and [Chris] Froomey haven't put a foot wrong all Tour
and the whole team can be proud of themselves."

Haven't put a foot wrong? Haven't put a foot wrong?! (Sorry, I had to say it again, for effect.)

Er,
hello? How about making Froome work his tush off for Wiggins the first
two weeks, even though earlier on, Wiggo showed signs of struggling to
maintain form after his broken collarbone at the Tour? And when Froome
beat Wiggo in the Stage 10 time trial in Salamanca, did you think about
changing your game plan to make the former also a protected rider?

I
don't doubt Team Sky's ability to construct and prosecute a plan; what I
struggle with is their inability to adapt, and their predisposition
towards intransigence.

Follow Anthony on Twitter: @anthony_tan