NO NEED TO DOPE !
Article Published : 27/08/07
I have thought long and hard about what I am about to write and I have analysed the situation over a very long period of time before putting “pen to paper”. I now realise, however, that I can definitely state that “You can ride the Tour de France and other top class events without having to resort to taking drugs!” What I have written below is certainly not meant to come over as “I am the great Dave Lloyd so I am the only rider who could do this.” Far from it, as there were other riders around at the time who were as good or better than me. I can, however, only talk from personal experience and that is exactly what I am doing … This is a personal account of exactly what happened to me when I was a professional bike rider and the conclusion I have come to is that I now realise there is no need to “do drugs” or do any other abnormal thing to your body to take part at the highest level in this sport. My forte in cycling was stage racing, so I think I have credibility in what I am saying about races such as the Tour de France and can speak from “personal experience” as I went through it. As they say “ I WAS THERE!” I realise I could have ridden the Tour de France and competed in that race at the highest level and done it cleanly! What I hope to do is explode the “myth” that you have to take doping products in order to take part in these events and give hope to young riders who are coming into the sport that they have no need to look towards any form of “cheating” to fulfil their dreams.
I rode for the TI Raleigh Professional team in the early/ mid 1970’s and I was a “wet behind the ears” naïve young rider who had only been riding a bike for 3 years before I turned Pro. It was a steep learning curve for me. I had had a lot of success as an amateur, especially in stage races. I had finished 7th in my first ever stage race, The Milk Race, and had won the GP William Tell (the amateur Tour of Switzerland) in the same year. Both these were two week stage races and I came out of them both with fantastic form. After the Milk Race , for example, I had gone over to the Isle of Man the very next day and ridden the Mountain Time Trial, where I broke the record and got up 2 hours later to ride the Willaston Handicap and from the scratch group, I got through the field with Phil Bayton to catch and drop everyone except for the guy who won the race and I finished a shattered 3rd! At the William Tell GP, I was the only rider in the race who worked full time and it was the pre Olympic stage race with all the main countries taking part and I beat them all. So , when I say stage racing was my forte, you can see what I mean. The fact that I just seemed to get stronger as the race went on was also a really good sign for my future as a stage race rider.
When I joined TI Raleigh, I soon found out what most of the riders were doing and it was a big shock to me. It was, however, just what everyone “did” as a professional and there was no stigma attached to it. In those days the emphasis was on Amphetamines, Ephydrine, Anabolic Steroids, Blood Doping (a la Lasse Viren) and other cocktails I didn’t even find out about as I had no interest in becoming involved in this illegal and more importantly dangerous activity. I may have been naïve, but I knew I wanted to race cleanly and if I did anything in the races, I wanted to be proud of my achievements and taking dope would have taken that away from me.
I saw a lot of things that would make your hair curl. I once saw a second string Belgium Kermesse team getting changed in the same house as me before a Kermesse and they were handing out an ampoule of “something” all using the same syringe and the same needle and passing it from one to the other. I was horrified … Plus they were all out of the back on about the third lap! I was seeing and hearing things in my own team which were disquieting and I knew the guys who were most “at fault”. The problem was, in those days, we didn’t have doctors looking after us, just bloody Soigneurs, who thought if a little did you a little good , a LOT would do you a LOT of good. They had no idea what they were doing and as long as the rider got the results they cared less! Riders were dying “suspiciously” in their sleep, or just dropping dead. We had one inexplicable fatality whilst I was in the team … Bas Hordijk … and 4 more have died from the same team since those days. Now , I can’t prove any of these deaths were drug related, but you only have to draw your own conclusions. I remember Roy Schuiten getting ready for the Grand Prix des Nations in 1975 and being soigneured by the notorious Gus Nassens. I actually SAW Schuitens legs “growing” before the event. He won by about 4 minutes and put about 6 minutes into me. This is the same guy I beat in the amateur GP des Nations in 1972 !! But he hardly won a thing after that event , and he too is no longer with us…
I soon realised I was going to have to train a lot harder than I ever had as an amateur, and if I wanted to beat these guys who were juicing up, I would have to train even harder. I simply wasn’t going to succumb to the doping and I was going to do it free of drugs , or just fail. I began to see how much harder these Pros trained than I ever had as an amateur. I remember going to ride a Belgium Kermesse in the Spring of 1975 in preparation for Paris Roubaix. Roger de Vlaeminck was there and he actually won the race in the pouring rain. I was in the second group and finished about 7th or 8th. A good days work out, I thought and got changed and drove back home with Chris. We lived about 10 k’s from de Vlaeminck and on the way home (about 100k’s) we saw de Vlaeminck riding home all kitted up with cape etc. After we had arrived home and had something to eat, I decided to go for a haircut at the local barbers. As I came out of the barbers , having had my hair cut, a motorbike went through our small village with a rider on the back wheel, absolutely “nailing” it… It was de Vlaeminck ! This was his prep for the Paris Roubaix, which he duly went on to win. I strolled back to our little house and had a long talk with Chris and told her I was going to have to completely rethink my training and practically double what I had been doing and a LOT of quality too. This is when I learnt more about training than ever before and how important “rest” was going to be in the equation. I talked it over with Eddie (Soens… my coach) and we formulated a much heavier training structure with a lot more Kermesses and intervals and speed work… Plus plenty of rest. I immediately put this into action and the results began to come very quickly.
My main aim for that year was the Tour of Switzerland. This was the biggest “Tour” on my calendar for that year and was to be replaced by the Tour de France in the following year. I was the same size as Hennie Kuiper, and Post wanted me to be his right hand man in the 1976 Tour… So I prepared like a maniac for the Tour de Suisse, and was excited about my prospects as I had won the amateur version of the race in 1972. Now this is where I have been leading , and this is where I proved to myself and others in the team that you can race and do well without doping!
I was riding like 10 men in the Tour and was up there in the mountains every day, climbing with Merckx, de Vlaeminck and Pfenninger. On the hardest day of all, I was in the break and feeling great. There were about 7 in the front group and this was the “break of the race”. Unfortunately, Didi Thurau ( Peter Post, our Director Sportif’s “blue eyed boy”) was having a really bad day and was 3 minutes off the pace on the last climb. Peter Post came up to the break and told me to wait for him!! I told him that (my team mate) Bert Pronk was in the break and below me on the GC, so he should wait and not me… Well, I was told in no uncertain terms that I waited, or went home the next day. I waited by the side of the road for 3 minutes. The longest, unhappiest 3 minutes of my cycling life. It was there I lost a 4th overall place in the race. I gave Thurau one of the hardest times in HIS cycling career all the way to the finish as he was completely shot and couldn’t hold my wheel.. I did , however, make amends in the final time trial, where I was the fastest over the second half of the 45 kilometre test and got 4th place behind de Vlaeminck, Merckx and Pfenniger. So I would have got that 4th overall instead of the 11th place I finally ended up with..
This is when I realised I COULD do this, and ride and compete in the Tour de France, without dope. Even though one of my team mates had said I would never get through the Tour de France without doping and a three week tour was VERY different to a two week tour. On reflection, and as I say after a lot of thought, this was just garbage. I came out of that Tour de Suisse absolutely “FLYING”. I went straight to Harrogate after the Tour and won every Time Trial of the Harrogate festival. I got away in the Pro National Champs in the same week, got brought back, went away again, towed every break back and got worked over by every team and still got 4th place. We were staying with Chris’s parents this week and I was training again for the Paris Tours. After coming back from Harrogate, in the same week, I went out to Wales one day for a 7 ½ hour ride in the hills. Bill, (Chris’s Dad) then asked me to ride their club 25 mile TT that evening as the “lads would like to see me!” I was reluctant , as I was really tired after my epic training ride, but I succumbed to Bill’s wishes, rode out to the 25 on my training wheels. I rode the event and did a short 52 minute on the Chester- Whichurch (SLOW) road. I think the record was about a long 55. I didn’t even feel my legs I was going so well. That is the reason I know I could have been good in the third week of the Tour de France and been up with the leaders without doping. I believed then , and still believe today that most riders take dope “just in case” or “because everyone else is on it”. They use it as a crutch, when really they could do just as well without it.
So there you have it … I am absolutely convinced now that I could have competed at the highest level as a pro and done it “clean”. As I also said, this is not to show how great Dave Lloyd is, or was. There were many bike riders as good or even better than me at the time who were juicing up. They could also have done it without dope. So there IS hope for the future and the younger generation of bike riders seem to be taking the anti doping seriously and rebelling against it now, and the “old guard” are getting caught easier and leaving the ranks, thank goodness. In any case I am optimistic that eventually, doping will be regarded as a curse in cycling and in time we will have a dope free peloton. Can’t come too soon for me... I also believe that my favourite rider of all time, namely Fabian Cancellara is a "clean" rider!