Cycling is entering a clean chapter, says Phil Liggett

THE global voice of cycling has highlighted Ballarat’s major cycling event as key to a new era of drug-free competition. 

Phil Liggett yesterday told The Courier the sport had entered a new chapter and it would be seen today, day one of the 2013 MARS Cycling Australia Road National Championships.

“People still think that cycling is at a cross roads,” Mr Liggett told The Courier at the ORICA-GreenEDGE team launch in Melbourne yesterday. 

“The sport has already moved on,” he said.

“The kids that are coming through are not like the old guard where, quite clearly, they were virtually all

taking drugs, which was a level playing field in their minds.

“I think that’s gone. 

“There will always be a speedy motorist, and there will always be a drug taker, but you will get caught.”

Mr Liggett said he gave Lance Armstrong the benefit of the doubt until the disgraced cyclists confession on Oprah’s show last year.

“It’s almost a year to the day that Lance Armstrong made an announcement on the Oprah show, but the actual offences were seven years ago,” Mr Liggett said. 

However, he said recent offender Italian rider Danilo Di Luca’s was “crazy” and “deserved everything he got” after he was caught doping a third time and was issued a life ban in December.

While he is critical of Di Luca’s actions, Mr Liggett does however believe Canberra cyclist Michael Rogers is a “victim of circumstance” after he tested positive to unusually high levels of clenbuterol in December. 

The cyclist has maintained his innocence following the test, blaming contaminated meat eaten in China where the chemical is used to promote lean meat.

The distinctive and smooth-toned British commentator will be seen and heard on SBS coverage of the event, starting today. 

“It’s nice to see a city or town, open their streets and I think that people see this as a great expression of where they live, you can’t get a bed in town when the Nationals are on,” Mr Liggett said.

“With the Road Nationals you have the time trials, the criterium and the road race.

“The whole spectrum is piled into one week and they are not all for the same riders, its horses for courses.”

The 70-year-old said he aimed to fit a ride in every day and was very familiar with the Ballarat courses. 

“Once you’re away from the city they are quiet roads to train on,” he said.

“I like to ride everyday myself, but I try to avoid the Midland Highway.”

Mr Liggett said the sport could thank Cadel Evans for increasing its prominence in Australia.

“When he won the Tour de France, he won it well. He came from behind and he won it in the time trial and the views went through the roof on SBS,” he said. 

“He came to Federation Square and 80,000 people welcomed him. 

“Cadel didn’t know what to say, he was speechless. And he’s not finished, I think he’s finished with his love affair with the Tour de France but I think he will do well this year at the Giro de Italia. 

“When you’re a superstar you just do it.”

david.jeans@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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