Lance is Back

The Legend that is 7 times Tour de France winner, Lance Armstrong, has announced his return to professional cycling. It looks like he'll be in the Astana team. However, this may be problematic as Astana were not allowed to compete in the 2008 tour due to doping offences under its previous management. Christian Prudhomme from the Tour de France says "if he is in a team that we will choose for the Tour, L.A. (Lance Armstrong) will be at the start of the 2009's Tour de France in Monaco the 4th of July"

Prudhomme also talks of doping regulations: Lance Armstrong... pourra participer au prochain Tour de France s'il respecte les règles concernant notamment la lutte antidopage - Lance Armstrong... may participate in the upcoming Tour de France if he respects the rules concerning the fight against doping.

I've only really been watching cycling for a little over a year - and there's still a lot I don't know. I don't know the history - or anything about the doping allegations against Armstrong. I barely know the major rider and teams (they change names so often!) - however, I know this. Lance Armstrong is a name that I knew before I got interested. In this respect he's the Lawrence Dallaglio of Cycling - and as such, it's a good thing to get the chance to see him ride again.

(Additional: Today has been a good day for Cycling. The Tour of Britain had a nail-biting stage finish today, with the yellow jersey puncturing, and the peloton making good ground on the lead riders for a nail biting finish. In addition, Team GB have been storming the Paralympics in the velodrome... a good day. However, I drove to work, so my cycling record isn't too hot).

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.


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!

Riding to Portsmouth

My trust steed (the one with wheels)

I did a huge bike ride yesterday, about 80km to Portsmouth. My route took me over the South Downs - and this was very hard going. More than once I had to walk it.

The downhills were great though, some of them just seemed to go on and on - and I got a new top speed of 62.2km/hr.

The ride itself was done at a lowly average of 11.5km/hr, as I say, the hills really affected things.

This represented a huge undertaking for me, and I gratefully staggered onto the train at the end of the day.

Unfortunately, unlike saturday, there was no medal for me. I think I deserved one!

I had arrived in Portsmouth

I completed the ride on my New World Tourist. It's developed an odd squeak when being walked (not ridden) - I think the brakes need a little adjusting - I'll try and do that soon.

My train got in after dark, and I did find myself befuddled again that Greengear saw fit to make a bicycle rack without a standard attachment for lighting. Let's hope that they can come up with a bracket which can bolt on to provide a standard light plate (with 50mm and 80mm spaced holes). This'll then accept a cateye adaptor (or similar). I have asked them directly if they had a particular brand of light in mind when designing the rear fitting - to my surprise they could not recommend anything.

I got home using a light attached to my under-seat tool carrier - but this isn't ideal.

Odd Rack FittingRear Rack Lighting Bracket Design

Bikeathon Completed

My Bikeathon Medal

So, I did the 26 mile (46.2km actually according to my cycle computer) Bikeathon, having cycled some 20km to get to the train in the first place due to engineering works, another 8km at the other end to and from the station, and then 5km from the train station home (I used a different station).

My New Bike and the Thames Barrier

It was a nice route, well signposted, with only one unclear part on the return leg. The route took me from Chelsea, up to Smithfield Market, around the Isle of Dogs, then to the Thames Barrier. Evans cycles were there, and they did a 'tune up' of the bike (a new bike should be checked after some distance, and this was a free check!).

The route returned through the City (I stopped in Evans Cycles' City branch as I'd lost a bolt on my cycle rack, the tuneup people didn't have a spare. The guy in the City branch gave me a new bolt in goodwill). Kudos to Evans Cycles for being helpful without fuss or bother. This earned them a lot of goodwill. Okay, admittedly that was the point of them sponsoring the event and doing their 'surgeries' - but the guy in the City branch didn't have to sort out my rack for me.

As the end of the course approached, I did feel weary - but Monica was there to meet me, which was most welcome.

Returning home, she wasn't on a bike, so I cycled to Clapham Junction whilst she walked and took the bus. I got there in plenty of time, allowing me to refuel with a pastie. She arrived in the nick of time and we both got the same train home.

There were engineering works for our station, so Monica got off 20km away and used the train replacement bus service. I was tired and so stayed on the train (which went down a different branch) and cycled 5km back. She arrived just before me, I was slow.

On the way back, I was almost taken out by a guy in a black estate car who decided to emerge the wrong way from a one-way street at a high speed as I was about to cross it (having looked that way and then, seeing it was one-way, concentrated on the cars coming from the right). This wouldn't have been a good end to the day - but fortunately, he missed. There are some real dangers out there. This wasn't a function of the bike though, he was at a speed to have been a danger to crossing pedestrian or any other road-user.

Anyhow. I've got a medal... I wore it all evening as I dozed. That's not tragic, is it?

My sponsorship site is still open (until October this year), so please visit it to help Leukaemia Research.

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.