France

Mark Cavendish

Well done to Mark Cavendish on his fourth stage victory in the Tour de France. Quite outstanding. He's still not in contention for the green jersey (given to the leader on points).

It really was a great burst of speed. Watching it head on, I couldn't believe that he was sitting up as he crossed the line, but the side and overhead shots showed just how quick the guy was.

From L'equipe:

Le Britannique Mark Cavendish décroche son quatrième succès personnel vendredi en remportant le sprint massif à Nîmes devant l'Australien Robbie McEwen et le Français Romain Feillu. Cadel Evans reste en Jaune.

La maxime de l'Anglais Gary Lineker est devenue proverbiale : « Le football se joue à onze contre onze et à la fin, et l'Allemagne gagne à la fin ». Son compatriote Mark Cavendish peut désormais lancer sa propre version pour le Tour de France : les sprints massifs se jouent entre 158 cyclistes et Cavendish gagne à la fin. Le jeune sprinteur du Team Columbia a remporté vendredi au terme de l'interminable ligne droite de Nîmes (1,9 km) le quatrième sprint sur plat disputé depuis Brest. Une nouvelle fois, il a fait dérailler les trains Crédit Agricole, Milram ou Liquigas pour s'imposer avec trois longueurs d'avance malgré le vent de face. Les francs-tireurs Robbie McEwen (Silence-Lotto) et Romain Feillu (Agritubel), deuxièmes et troisièmes, n'ont même pas eu l'ombre d'un espoir sous la chaleur méridionale.

Britain's Mark Cavendish won his fourth personal success this friday by winning the mass spring in Nîmes ahead of the Australian Robbie McEwan and the French Romain Feillu. Cadel Evans remains in Yellow.

The maxim of Englishman Gary Linekar has become a proverb: "Footballis playing eleven against eleven and at the end, Germany wins". His compatriot, Mark Cavendish, can now launch his own version for the Tour de France: The mass sprints are between 158 cyclists and Cavendish wins in the end. The young sprinter for Team Colomba won on friday on the fourth sprint flat disputed since Brest. Once again he derailed Credit Agricole, Liquigas and Milram with three lengths ahead in spite of the wind. The sprinters Robbie McEwen (of Silence-Lotto) and Romain Feillu (of Agritubel), who were second and third, did not even have the slightest hope in the southern heat.

For info, the points are awarded as follows:

The general individual points classification will be determined by adding the points obtained in the individual stage classification, in accordance with the following scales and taking into account time penalties:

  • For flat road racing stages: 35, 30, 26, 24, 22, 20, 19, 18, 17, 16, 15, 14, 13, 12, 11, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1 for the first 25 riders
  • For rolling stages: 25, 22, 20, 18, 16, 15, 14, 13, 12, 11, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1 for the first 20 riders
  • For mountain stages: 20, 17, 15, 13, 12, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1 for the first 15 riders
  • For individual time trial stages: 15, 12, 10, 8, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1 for the first 10 riders.
  • For each hot-spot sprint 6, 4 and 2 points are attributed to the first three riders respectively.

Source

Saunier-Duval Scott Official Statement

An official statement regarding Riccò has been released.

SAUNIER DUVAL-SCOTT announce that just an hour before the start of today´s stage, the French anti-doping agency notified Riccardo Riccò that he´d tested positive for a banned substance after the fourth stage of the Tour de France 2008. Although the Tour organisers allow teams to continue to participate after a positive test, given Riccò ´s important role to the team in the race, SAUNIER DUVAL-SCOTT have decided to withdraw in order to preserve the positive image of the team´s sponsors and the Tour de France itself. Riccò has been suspended.

Moreover, the team decided to temporarily abandon competition activities until this unfortunate incident is clarified.

Despite the problems, this is probably the best move the team could make given their situation.

Moises Duenas

A second rider has failed a drugs test in The Tour - this follows Manuel Beltran earlier.

L'equipe has this to say:

L'Espagnol Moïses Duenas (Photo L'Equipe), 19e du Tour de France après dix étapes et coureur n°1 de l'équipe Barloworld au général, a été contrôlé positif à l'EPO à l'issue du contre-la-montre disputé à Cholet le mardi 8 juillet. Il été emmené à la gendarmerie de Tarbes après une perquisition d'une heure effectuée mercredi matin par une trentaine de gendarmes dans l'hotel où logeait sa formation à Tarbes. Il s'agit du deuxième contrôle antidopage positif sur le Tour 2008 après celui, déjà à l'EPO, d'un autre Espagnol, Manuel Beltran (Liquigas). Ce qui a provoqué cette réaction de Pat McQuaid, le président de l'UCI : «L'Espagne est plus lente à comprendre le message (de la lutte antidopage)

Is EPO a controlled substance in France, or is it just controlled for the sportsmen? If the latter, why are the Gendarmerie involved?

Either way, I'm still amazed that they risked it given the attention this issue was bound to get during this tour after last year.

As an aside - it'd be lovely to see some other races for different types of cycling. How about the Tour de Tandem, the Tour de Fold or, erm... the Tour de Donut.... hang on, at least that last one already exists!

Manuel Beltran tests positive.

Tour de France Out of Bounds

L'equipe is reporting that Manuel Beltran of the Liquigas team has tested positive for the banned substance EPO in a urine sample.

Information L'Equipe : l'Espagnol Manuel Beltran (Liquigas), 37 ans, présente des traces d'EPO dans l'échantillon A de ses urines prélevé à l'issue de la première étape du Tour de France, samedi 5 juillet entre Brest et Plumelec.

Professionnel depuis 1995, Beltran a débuté sa carrière chez Mapei avant de passer par Banesto, Team Coast et de devenir l'un des principaux équipiers en montagne de Lance Armstrong à l'US Postal et chez Discovery Channel.

Beltran fait partie de ceux qui avaient été ciblés par l'Agence Française de lutte contre le dopage (AFLD) lors des prélèvements sanguins effectués les 3 et 4 juillet derniers à Brest avant le départ.

BBC article.

After last year's fiasco where the race leader, Rasmussen, was sacked for doping (although he is now getting compensation!) the image of cycling was dramatically tarnished, and we all knew, even those who were not intimately involved, that this year they'd be extra-vigilant about doping.

I can't believe that Beltran has tested positive in this climate of vigilance.

It does make Pat McQuaid's predictions look rather quaint though.

"This year's Tour probably will go down as one of the cleanest on record," International Cycling Union President Pat McQuaid told the Associated Press in the lead-up to Saturday's start of the three-week race.

Updates:

Fêtes du jour

In France, every day is dedicated to a Saint. Not only does a child have a birthday, they celebrate a 'Saints day'. Until recently, the name had to come from this calendar. This is why we have lots of 'François' and 'Pascale' and very few 'Kylie's. Anyhow, today, the day of the London Mayoral Election: Vendredi 2 mai ... the saints day is 'Boris'.

Update: Boris Wins

Six Nations 2008

So, Everyone gets something... Wales get the Grand Slam, the championship and Bragging Rights (as do Wasps, as Wales did it with Warren and Shaun)

England get second place, and the Millennium Trophy for beating Ireland today (I was there). We also got to see Danny Cipriani's first game, and he was good - as Wasps knew he would... be.

France get the Giuseppe Garibaldi trophy for beating Italy (can all Italy games have a trophy at stake, please? That seems like an easy option to get a trophy in the short term... unless you're Scottish)

Ireland get the Centenary Quaich trophy for beating Scotland.

Scotland get the Calcutta Cup for beating England (in a game that caused me to fall asleep - but well done to Scotland)

Italy get a wooden spoon.

Nobody gets whitewash.

Everyone has something... and Italy can use their trophy for making nice meals. Bonus.

England vs France (Investec)

On saturday, I went to see England vs. France at Twickenham. The game could have gone either way, there were flashes of inspiration from both sides - but England just couldn't finish the plays. At one point we were inches from a try and the French pulled it back to recover. Chabal's try near the end was phenomenal, powering through the tacklers.

Chabal scored a try for France

Johnny Wilkinson came on with a few minutes to spare, to no avail. It was 21-15 to France. Danny Cipriani didn't get a run out, in either this game or against Wales - which probably means that he's out of Ashton's thinking for now - still, there's plenty of time left for him to be considered in 2011.

On the day, everyone I overheard seemed to think that the ref had a shocker, disallowing a try by Paul Sackey for example. However, watching the highlights on TV has changed my opinion. Yes, it was a knock on. Well done, referee.

The game could have gone either way, England had a few breaks which were not capitalised upon - but in the end, I do think that France deserved the win here. In the larger picture, I'm quite pleased with the result - it's not a morale-zapping hammering, instead it's a gentle reminder prior to the world cup that there is work to be done.

French Supporters Celebrate