I may be the first card carrying, certified, actual 'new fan' and 'Sky fan who started watching (road) cycling in July' ever to post on this thread from what I have read here (if the legions of vitriolic Sky fans who are moaned about regularly ever existed outside peoples imaginations I can only assume that they had almost all of their posts deleted).
On that point I would like to thank the moderators who have removed literally hundreds of offensive posts from both sides of the argument. I was particularly glad to see the back of the Hitler one.
I have just finished reading this entire thread through for the second time, following all the provided links (where there was no pay-wall involved) and doing my own research into techniques in training and nutrition for endurance athletes because I hate not knowing stuff and trying to base a decision on 'smells'.
I would now like to announce my 'reasoned decision'.
There is absolutely no reason why Sky would have had to dope their riders to perform as they have this season, and my opinion is that they (either team or riders) haven't used any banned substances/techniques.
Note that this doesn't mean they haven't in the past, the only one I would make that claim for with anything like certainty is Brad.
I know that I have several 'strikes' against me being taken seriously in this thread so I am not holding out much hope but if anyone wants to know any specifics behind how I reached my decision I will be around until the season starts, after which you will probably find me in the Road Racing forum
Strike 1: I am a fat, forty-something female who prior to the tour hadn't been on a bike for ten years despite buying a second hand one some months before the race started. Post tour I have started commuting on it intermittently so I suppose I am also an example of the 'Wiggo effect' in action.
Strike 2: I am from the UK and live not a million miles away from BC central. (In my defense I have travelled extensively in Europe and further afield and agree that it is obvious that brits are no more immune from the temptation to dope than anyone else, particularly when there is lots of money involved).
Strike 3: I started watching the tour when the fact that Brad had taken yellow suddenly interrupted my Wimbledon viewing. (Since then I have watched every bit of televised cycling I could find, although 'watched' was a very loose term when it came to Lombardia. That last attack from Rodriguez must have been a belter).
Strike 4: I have been a (Olympics only) Brad fan since Sydney and do think there are potential physiological crossovers between great IP performances and great GC performances. If Bobridge (Current world record holder) is indeed a better IPer than Brad and shares a similar physiology then I would love for him to make the grade in a few years.
Strike 5: I have been a Sky fan since discovering their race tracker and using it during the race to get up to speed with both the race and cycling in general. I particularly liked Scott Mitchell's photographs and the amazing looking food that Soren produces
My favourite Sky rider is currently EBH although I also have a soft spot for Bernie. Brad comes in third, just ahead of G.
Strike 6: I did not find the tour boring and not just for the obvious reason that Brad was in the lead. Compared to Formula one which I have been watching since the early nineties even the worst stage was packed with tactics and action (and beautiful scenery). My favourite stage was eighteen, although I found the Champs pretty special too.
Strike 7: I have a science/engineering/data background in a completely non-related field and thus tend to trust logic quite a lot rather than my instinct/gut feelings.