State of the Nation - Cycling: Taking the positives despite the dark clouds that still hover

Lizzie Armitstead . Picture: Chris Etchells
Lizzie Armitstead . Picture: Chris Etchells
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Four years have passed since the day that shook the cycling world – when the enormous scale of the Lance Armstrong lie was exposed.

In that time the healing process has been largely cathartic, highlighted by some vivid memories of the Tour de France in Yorkshire, Lizzie Armitstead winning the rainbow jersey, Sir Bradley Wiggins smashing the hour record and a determined Chris Froome running up Mont Ventoux after his bike had been mangled by a motorcycle.

Sir Bradley Wiggins. Picture:  David Davies/PA

Sir Bradley Wiggins. Picture: David Davies/PA

Yorkshire has played it’s own part in the feelgood factor, with a hugely successful legacy race now held annually, and the news that the region will host the UCI Road World Championships in 2019.

But amid the positivity, scepticism remains.

News of a missed drugs test for Armitstead – now Deignan – on the eve of the Olympics, followed by the therapeutic use exemptions prescribed to Wiggins on the eve of his Tour de France triumph of 2012, have seen doubts resurface.

On both occasions the athlete in question was found to have operated within the laws of the sport, yet they are incidents which highlight how intertwined cycling and drugs remain to this day.

While ever there are superhuman feats, question marks are never far behind. That is the legacy of the Armstrong saga.

Yet to dwell on such dark clouds would devalue all that is good about British cycling going into 2017. A Tour de France winner in four of the last five races; dominant in the velodrome at three straight Olympic Games; home to two international stage races and with grass-roots participation levels on the rise.

Cycling remains a growth industry, thanks to this country’s cutting edge technology, the government’s willingness to invest in the sport and that magical phrase of ‘marginal gains’ which separates Britain’s elite from the rest of the world.

Closer to home, the Tour de Yorkshire attracts huge crowds that dwarf races of a similar stature and the county has more riders populating the higher echelons of the sport – both men and women, on the track and on the road – than ever before.

Cycling is booming.