My Sportsman: Jonathan Vaughters
The gravest threat to sports as we know them? No, smartass, the answer is not
The correct response: performance-enhancing drugs. So it follows that the person who did most to slow that scourge in '07 should be called out for his heroism. So take a bow,
Vaughters, 34, is a wispy former pro cyclist whose trademark sideburns are as formidable as his intellect. Talented a rider though he was, this one-time teammate of
In 2003, with $50,000 of his own money, Vaughters founded a development squad of promising U.S. riders. Four years later, Team Slipstream-Chipotle features an expanded roster dotted with grand tour stage winners. Barring catastrophe, the men in the funky argyle kit will be the sole American-based team in next year's Tour de France. And that may be the least interesting thing about them.
Directed by Vaughters and bankrolled by financier
The partnership with ASE was announced five months before this year's Tour de France, which degenerated into a cascade of doping-related scandals. With each fresh revelation and ejection, Vaughters looked smarter and more visionary.
After the race, he announced the signing of a slew of name riders:
The most powerful moments of the night came courtesy of Vaughters, who delivered a forceful, emotional declaration of Slipstream's mission. "We will succeed," he vowed, "not by out-horse-powering" our foes, "not by crushing the competition with 6.7 watts per/kilogram at threshold" -- that's a really big number, apparently. They would succeed as they have in the past, he promised, with "panache"; by "attacking when no one else would"; through luck, grit, and by training harder .. and suffering more that anyone else."
When Slipstream has won, he went on, "it has never been a crushing blow dealt by an individual" -- think Armstrong riding the peloton off his wheel -- but rather "the strength of the bonds created between the riders on this team."
These guys won't win the '08 Tour. But they could win a stage or two. And they'll animate it every single day.
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Vaughters was paid a grand compliment last October, when cycling's governing body announced that "biological passports" -- a record of each rider's biological markers -- will be mandatory, starting next season.
"If this works," said
That movement will have been led, to a large extent, by a spindly director who had the vision to match his sideburns.