Jonas Vingegaard, outgoing winner of the Tour de France, is almost certain to offer himself a new crown in Paris on July 23. But the Dane from Jumbo-Visma is facing growing skepticism about his performance. The person concerned – and to a lesser extent his main rival, Tadej Pogacar – showed an insolent domination over the rest of the peloton, breaking records for ascents in certain passes; marks sometimes established by proven cheaters. On Tuesday July 18, during the 22 kilometer time trial, he beat the Slovenian by 1 min 38 s and the Belgian rider Wout van Aert, who took third place, by almost three minutes.
Friday July 21, before the start of the 19e stage, the yellow jersey was 7 min 35 s ahead of its runner-up in the general classification. A hole. In cycling, the specter of the Festina affair, in 1998, or of Lance Armstrong, whose seven titles on the Grande Boucle were scratched from the list after he admitted to having doped a large part of his career, is never far away.
No material evidence has come to confirm the suspicions with regard to the Dane, who repeats at will that he does not take any prohibited product. “It’s true that we are going fast, even faster than [certains anciens champions dopés]he admitted. Equipment, nutrition, training, everything has changed, and that explains why performance is improving. »
Researcher at the Institute of Sports and Health Sciences of Paris Cité University and co-author of the book The ordeal of doping – Sociology of professional cycling (PUF, 2008), Christophe Brissonneau highlights the increasingly close links between the high level and medical sciences.
Speed records are regularly broken by some Tour de France riders. Does this surprise you?
A certain number of processes of rationalization of training, of scientificization, of medicalization have also been put in place in cycling since the 1980s. Today, we are really in the logic of high-level sport, the famous “further, higher, stronger”, where progress is continuous.
This results in a segmentation of tasks. Before, former cyclists took care of clubs and professional training. They handled everything. Now, there are more and more positions within the teams: manager, sports director, nutritionist, etc. Anything that can serve performance should be used and optimized.
Performance is at the heart of high-level sport, but the question is “what do we put behind it?” Seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day, everything is thought out in relation to this imperative: the quality of sleep is scrutinized, as is food. Now, we eat a very precise number of grams of a specific food. We are in a universe that no longer has anything to do with that of the past.
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