I’ve never had sports heroes. I don’t care about watching baseball, football, or basketball. Even when I became interested in cycling, I didn’t idolize anyone. Sure, I was impressed with Armstrong, but he was never my hero.
But when I started reading Tyler Hamilton’s column in Velonews, along with his diary entries in the Tour de France, I became a fan. He’s the toughest, nicest guy in the professional biking world, and there’s nobody in the world I’d rather ride with.
Then, in stage 16 of the 2003 Tour de France, when he pushed through the pain of a busted collarbone to do a solo 200Km mountain stage win, he became my hero.
A few days later, I snapped the saddle off my seatpost in the final quarter of the Brian Head 100 — a 100-mile mountain bike race — with 20 miles of climbing still ahead of me. I kept going — standing, cramping, suffering — chanting to myself in time to my pedalstrokes: “Ty. Ler. Would. Not. Quit.”
Today is Tyler Hamilton’s appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, trying to overturn the doping allegation. The logical part of me knows that it’s possible he’s guilty, but — and this is rare in me — my gut says he’s innocent. I just can’t believe that the nicest, toughest guy in pro cycling would cheat.
I know that sounds naïve. Fine, I’m naïve. But I desperately hope Tyler’s successful in his appeal.
I want to watch my hero race again.