Since Usada came out with their report on Lance Armstrong, it has become clear that doping has been a major part of cycling for the past two decades. It was not just those few that got caught, but the hero of cycling; Lance Armstrong was using as well. He has also been accused of forcing others to use EPO and bribing himself out of positive doping tests. People speak of a real doping mafia in the peleton and that Lance was the Godfather of them all.
I do not dare to go that far, but it is clear we have been lied to all these years. Because of all this cycling does not seem that fun for me at this moment. I am a huge fan, but I am not even sure I will watch the Tour the France this year. This is also due to the fact that Rabobank, the major sponsor of the most important dutch pro cycling team, has cancelled the support to their cycling team. This means we will get to see the team until the end of the contract, but we can no longer cheer for the orange jerseys. Then again I might not even want to, since some of them might be using doping as well.
There is however one form of cycling that is doping free and will probably always be. In 2001 a games studio named Cyanide released the first Cycling Manager. You could race 60 different stages in realtime 3D, it was the beginning of a cycling game series. Cyanide released Cycling Manager 2, 3 and 4 in the 3 years after that, each with small improvements and of course the new teams of that season.
In 2005 Cycling Manager went Pro, at least in the title. Although it certainly looked better than its predecessors, people still found it buggy and complicated. Each year Cyanide released a new version of the game, with updated graphics, the new teams, new riders and improved the game a little bit. It also became possible to implement a custom database. Which was very nice, because Cyanide did not have the license to use most of the real names of the riders or teams, so ‘Lance Armstrong’ went by the name ‘Lance Neilstrung’. The growing fan base could now fix that by creating there own database with the real names of the riders and teams.
Cyanide never misses a season and has released a new PCM every year. You could say that is a little bit ambitious for a game that has a relatively small audience and does not sell as good as soccer games. This is however reflected in the quality of the game and the amount of bugs it has on release. You can put hundreds of hours in a cycling team, to have your database corrupted after your second season and no way to fix it. These things can make the game very frustrating, but since it’s the only Cycling game out there it will just have to do. Luckily almost every PCM gets a patch a few weeks after its release and the major bugs are fixed. This is why I always buy the game a couple of months after its release, so it’s a bit cheaper and the first patches are out.
You can play PCM in different ways. You can just play single stages, a single tour or go for a whole season with a team of your choice. The career mode is the most rewarding, but also the most time consuming. Especially when you start your own team you will begin at the bottom of the professional cycling ladder. You have to win races in you class and be one of the best of the season to get more sponsors. After the first or second season you will be allowed into the UCI tournament, the major cycling league. You can also pick an existing team, and begin with the major races right away. There are a lot of options and even with all the bugs, the PCM games are pretty great.
Just like there will be a Tour the France this year, there will be a Pro Cycling Manager 2013. It will not be that different from PCM 2012, but it will be doping free. I don’t know if I will watch the Tour this year, but I will definitely play PCM 2013. Because in PCM all the cyclist are still heroes and Lance Armstrong is Lance Neilstrung and not a liar.