Tour de France

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!

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.


And now the sport...

I'm becoming increasingly annoyed with sports reporting in the UK. I woke this morning, and heard on the news 'and now the sport'...

What followed was news about the football premiership, the scottish football, some football transfer speculation, something about arsenal, and then the weather.

Anyone would think that nothing else was played. What about the Rugby Union Guinness Premiership? What about the cricket?[*] In Rugby League, Leads have just been crowned world champions. What about the threat to the Tour de France this year? What about Williams and Rosberg?

Whilst football is a sport, sport is not synonymous with football. If you're going to do football news, fine. But don't prefix it with 'and now the sport....'

[*] AKA: The slowest form of animal life. Except Golf.

Pyrenees Trip - Day 8

Monday, 23rd July, 2007 On Monday, the Tour de France was coming close to us. Audrey, Paul and Greg set off mid morning. Monica and I followed a little later. The tour was finishing in Loudenvielle, which is where Audrey, Paul and Greg managed to stop. We couldn't go that way, and so parked on the route itself and walked up toward the Col de Peyresourde

Cow On the way to our destination, we drove over the Col d'Aspin. Lots of cyclists were heading our way, and they, like us, stopped on the Col to admire the view. A herd of cows had the same idea, and one cow took objection to the people milling about, nudging them gently as if to say 'go away'. This wouldn't have been a problem except for the big horns!

Waiting by the roadside for the Tour de France (Stage 15)Waiting by the roadside for the Tour de France (Stage 15) We found a spot by the roadside, about 1km short of the Col de Peyresourde and settled in for the duration.

It was a bit of a wait, we were there for some ours (during which time Paul and Greg cycled past, went down the other side of the Col, then climbed it again to pass us going the other way.

Eventually, direct evidence of the Tour started to appear.

Homer chases a doughnutA cycling Kangaroo? What next?!Alas, they didn't throw us any Haribo.It's a weird thing seeing giant bottles of drink drive past at speed. The first thing to appear is the convoy, essentially these are vehicles from the sponsors (and there are a lot of them!) As they go past, they'll often throw out 'goodies' - mostly junk though. Unfortunately, Haribo didn't see fit to send anything our way - though we did get a hat from Sköda!

As we were standing on the edge of a steep slope, several items went straight over the edge, we recovered most of them, but had to leave some - it was a very precarious operation!

Tour de France Convoy

We waited a little longer, and then we began to see the helicopters tracking the Tour - finally the riders began to appear.

The Race LeaderThe Tour de France passes byThe Tour de France passes by As we were on a downhill stretch, these guys were really shifting.

Tour de France helicopterAt one point, the TV helicopter hovered next to us, with nobody near us, and no cyclists passing at that point, I wonder if we got on TV?

We didn't see one big peloton, instead, we had several mini-peloton (for want of a better term) - we were at the end of a stage with several big climbs, and the riders had been spread out.

The Tour de France passes by

At the end, we stopped for a drink and a small bite in the restaurant 3km from the Col, we couldn't drive off as all the amateur cyclists were tanking it down the slope, confident that the road was still closed. Eventually, the road opened and we drove back. The cloud cover had lowered though, which made the drive a little more difficult.

Col d'AspinCol d'Aspin was just below the cloud layer, but Tourmalet was most definitely above it. As we climbed the mountain, we passed through cloud. Driving through La Mongie was particularly difficult as the road is wide at that point, with no road markings - and so you just have to go slow until you see something through the mist which you can then follow to the narrow road continuing upwards.

Evening views near Col du Tourmalet Breaking through the clouds was most welcome, it was a tiring drive due to the concentration required. We found a safe place to stop and watched the clouds moving about in the valley (unlike another car, which stopped on a blind bend as the cloud level raised further).

We didn't stay long, as the clouds were moving higher, and we didn't want to lose the good visibility just yet.

Evening views near Col du Tourmalet

We stopped again at the top of the Col du Tourmalet, and got some fantastic views of the clouds in our valley. The clouds filled the valley almost as foam fills a bubblebath - it really was magical. There was hardly anyone else there, though a support vehicle from the Tour did stop to admire the view. One of their number got caught short, and decided to relieve himself. He didn't take into account the strong wind on the Tourmalet and made himself a little wet - to the amusement of everyone about, and his embarrassment.

Decending, we stopped in a restaurant called Auberge La Couquelle, above Barèges, where we were joined by the other three guys. It was a nice little place - in the cloud when we arrived, but under the cloud when we left. Good food. It was warm in there, the place would be a good place to eat in the winter. It was situated close to the base of the ski lift.

It was a good day. I wouldn't want to see the Tour too often - lots of hanging about - but I'd certainly consider going again if there was a nice spot to watch it from.

Pyrenees Trip - Day 7

Sunday, 22nd July, 2007 Paul and Greg went off for a bike ride on Sunday. Just a little one, some 60km, up a couple of Cols (including Tourmalet at 2115m above sea level). This left Audrey, Monica and I to entertain ourselves. We got in my little Ford Ka, and made our way up the Tourmalet, stopping a few times on the way to look at the view.

Mountain ViewAudrey and MonicaCol du Tourmalet There were a load of cyclists going up the Tourmalet. Most sensibly, carrying the minimum load. Some had lots of panniers and there was one with a trailer and small child in tow. It's a long climb from up to the Tourmalet, something like an 8% gradient with a kilometre of up from where we were staying in Barèges - so climbing the Col was a real achievement, we were amazed at how many people were doing it.

At the top, we took some lunch in the café there, and then went for a walk on the path leading from the Col up to the Pic du Midi. We didn't go too far, maybe a few kilometres. I found it quite tough going, having gained a lot of altitude in a short time. Toward the end of my stay in the mountains I had adjusted to the thinner air, and then it was time to descend. I certainly was impressed by the cyclists who had cycled up there!

Mountain Flower

We continued east, going through La Mongie (not the most attractive of towns). La Mongie has a section of road which is really wide, with no road markings. It's like driving across a playground - quite disconcerting. We stopped at a small dam below the town and wandered about there for a bit, admiring the view.

Clouds passing alongsideMountain Lake

At St. Marie de Campan we turned around and headed back. We'd only driven down one road, but we had taken it slowly and stopped frequently. We'd also taken ourselves on a high walk (albeit not very far and along a wide track). We were quite surprised to find that we'd been out for most of the day, it was early evening when we returned to the house.