Vincenzo Nibali's performance in stage 18 of this years Giro was fantastic. The individual time trial course was 20.6k through the hills east of Lake Garda in Northern Italy that ended with a nice little 8 degree sting on the top of the climb up to Polsa. Nibali's victory was in very little doubt after the first time check and he celebrated a not incredibly overwhelming, but very solid win which devastated any lingering hopes that Cadel Evans or Rigoberto Uran Uran may have had to displace him at the top of the podium.
It was a victory which - based on his personal history - should rightfully be celebrated as a victory that cements his position in the top echelon of competitors in the peloton today. Should he maintain his current 4 plus minute lead all the way to Brescia he will sit squarely on the top shelf next to Froome, Contador, Wiggins, JRod, et al. as the creme de la creme of the current stage racing crop. Sadly though, in this day and age when you couple his dominating performance so far in this years Giro with his move to an Astana team still tainted by their dope filled recent past I simply cannot ward off the voices that well up in the back of my mind.
As I watched the race unfold I couldn't help but wish that he would not win this stage, that he would do enough to keep the maglia rosa, but to falter slightly and show that he was not that much stronger than the rest of the field, because we have more often then not seen what that means in modern road racing. It is a nagging feeling that gnaws at your perception of the beauty of this sport. That chips away at the veneer of passion and perfection that we who love cycling paint it with. I want so badly to believe that this peloton is clean, that these riders whom my son is learning to idolize as athletes have a conscience and a biological passport clean enough to warrant his adoration.
I will give Vincenzo the benefit of the doubt, but so long as he chooses to ride for teams and directors that refuse to acknowledge their connection to the stain that is doping I'll have a hard time going all in as a supporter. The sadness of suspicion is a true emotion understood by today's cycling fan, and we can only hope that those in position to affect change do everything they can to clean up what should be the most beautiful sport in the world.