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Optimism despite Tour shock

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Riders protested before the stage start

The best start ever to a Tour de France – that is what the organisers were saying in London 18 days ago, that is what the riders were saying. It seems like a long time ago now.

The mood on the Tour on Wednesday, the morning after the bombshell of Alexandre Vinokourov’s failed doping test, was mixed.

The fans were still there in force at the start of stage 16 in Orthez, scrabbling for the freebies the sponsors hand out, and for autographs from those riders they still believe in.

It is clear they don’t believe in the current race leader, Michael Rasmussen, who was greeted with cries of “voleur” (thief) when he finally emerged from the safety of the Rabobank bus to sign on.

Rasmussen has not tested positive but there are doubts over his explanations for missing random drugs tests after he failed to provide anti-doping authorities with his up-to-date whereabouts. He would clearly be an unpopular winner.

I spoke to a number of riders before they set off. Australian Cadel Evans, widely regarded as an anti-doping champion, told me he was always happy to see a cheat caught, although he acknowledged it was bad for the sport’s image.

His words were echoed by team-mate Chris Horner, who said: “I'm certainly not surprised [and] glad to see that the drug-testing is working.

“People are going to have to be patient and have a bit of belief in the system, I guess. It's certainly better than it has been.”

Perhaps the most interesting words came from T-Mobile’s Bernhard Eisel, whose team was left in shock by last week’s news that Patrick Sinkewitz had failed a drugs test.

The Austrian sprinter faced a tough day chasing the climbers up tough Pyrenean stage and that the peloton still features a number of cheats.

“It's a never-ending story, a nightmare actually,” he said.

“They [the cheats] just keep going. They believe they are smarter than everybody else.

“The tests we have are really good but at the moment it's depressing to go to the start of a big mountain stage and still know there's somebody else out there.”

We had some hint there would be a protest before the start of the stage, and sure enough all six French teams and the German T-Mobile and Gerolsteiner squads staged a 13-minute protest.

They are the first teams to join a coalition called the Movement for Credible Cycling and hopefully more will join.

The last few days have been painful for those who love the Tour and who follow cycling.

Some may feel it’s not worth it anymore and they will walk away from the sport, others will raise an eyebrow every time a rider puts in a great performance.

The question is where now for cycling?

For a start, firm action must be taken by those at the top before sponsors, cycling fans and the kind of casual fans who lined the course so enthusiastically in London desert en masse.

Latest 10 comments

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posted Jul 25, 2007

"Vinokourov, a pre-race favourite, tested positive for blood doping after winning last Saturday's time-trial stage.

The Ukrainian reportedly had two different kinds of red blood cells, indicating he has taken blood from someone of a compatible group. "

I make great blunders, I fail to proof read; but Vinokourov is from Kazakhstan everyone seems to know!

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posted Jul 25, 2007

What has happened is truly sickening in this climate of a positive turnaround that all thought was possibly happening. However, we mustn't let what has happened change the sport. We must continue to get behind Le Tour and all of cycling and give 100% support to all concerned. We must mercilessly deal with all people who are not prepared to promote the sport and participate in the sport cleanly and fairly. We must encourage all people concerned with the sport to believe that they can, should and indeed owe it to all others, that they can make a difference. If they believe someone is doping that they must shout, forcing others to prove they are clean, and not for others to prove they are doping. People have been getting away with it too long and cycling fans are becoming a laughing stock

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posted Jul 25, 2007

Just heard that Rasmussen is kicked out- huge news!

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posted Jul 26, 2007

I feel sorry for Wiggins and all of the other clean riders who have been caught up thanks to the idiocy and corruption of others. As for Vino's excuse- I also have a large amount of blood in my thighs, difference is that it's all mine.
Evans to win- the only one in the top three yesterday who hasn't been implicated in any of the scandals of the last couple of years.

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posted Jul 26, 2007

Morning everyone. Well, I am sort of vindicated by Vino's departure as I did n't think he was riding to win. It was an odd lack of competitiveness until it was too late for him to winch back the time he'd lost to Rasmussen. However, Rasmussen must live with the rules regarding attending random tests. Actually they aren't that random as you need to let the testers know where you'll be. His fault lay in not letting the testers know his whereabouts, again, you would think with the responsibilities of the job, you would be more pro active ? Would your Manager not know where you were ?
Watching stage 16, and the inability of Contador and Leipheimer to control Rasmussen on the last climb left me commenting to the boys in my local bike shop that the Dane would not be on the start line today.I was serious. Pat McQuaid's comment earlier that day left little doubt that another stage win would not be tolerated, and so it proved. Was Rasmussen given the 'black spot' to force him out ? It was his team which made the decision, but why not withdraw all the riders? Is it because there is no positive test, unlike the Moreni case and Cofidis ? A collateral issue here might be for a standard to be established. However it would have been infinitely better for Cofidis and therefore Bradley Wiggins to keep going. Were there questions over other riders?
I agree with all remarks about the apparent lack of sense in letting things get within a few days of Paris, (indeed realistically one final TT), and then bowing to pressure from the top.
All in all this has drawn attention to how deeply troubled the sport is. Everyone will recall this edition of the tour being the one where the overall leader was sacked by his team under a general mood of suspicion rather than based on actual results. As long as this can be clearly explained cycling or more particularly, the Tour will survive. There must be no suggestion of witch hunts blighting clean riders due to suspicions about others. That is the pity for Wiggins, that he has been forced out in this way.

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posted Jul 26, 2007

So Rasmussen has gone too.

It's good the cheats are being weeded out and punished severely.

But it doesnt stop the fact that the stages and shape of the race has been affected by guys that shouldnt have been there.

Levi Leipheimer for example would have ridden the stage differently had he known Rasmussen was out. Evans too. etc. Makes a mockery of it all and affects the clean riders chances too.

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posted Jul 26, 2007

I think the TDF organisation has taken a strong stance in view of the drugs situation. They have displayed their intolerance of it which is a good thing in my view. They are facing the fear of bad publicity of the sport to do this and I believe that takes courage.

I can understand people's reaction to Wiggins departure. Us, as fans, have been robbed of the opportunity to he how he faired in the final TT, for instance. Whilst the punishment seems somewhat unfair, having the full team pull out could well help to support the fight against drugs. I do wonder what effect this will have on sponsors though? How much patience will they have? How will new sponsors be encouraged to support teams?

I found Riis's revelations interesting earlier this year. The fact that he said his yellow jersey was gathering dust in some box in his loft says something about the impact on an individual's self-esteem when he chooses to cheat. I wonder if he feels the price of achieving fame and fortune by deception is really worth it? Wouldn't you want a yellow jersey to represent a symbol of dedication and hard-work and celebrate that? If riders perhaps gained a greater appreciation of the impact of their choices, they may not be so inclined to cheat in the first place....

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posted Jul 26, 2007

cs15 Hammer.
It is sadly speculation as to how the Discovery boys would have ridden if they had known that the Dane had a big question mark over him. It was clear to me that given McQuid's comments that the suspicious among us would not be surprised to see him not start. I think Evans would have ridden exactly the same,gutsy and absolutely focussed. I honestly don't think either Leipheimer or Contador had anything left and would have watched stunned as the Dane rode away from them.
Well, they can now have a good day and worry about Contador's TT when it comes. So far they could have done no more.

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comment by El (U6200300)

posted Jul 26, 2007

This is very good for cycling - certainly better than letting the doping continue & brushing it under the rug. M. Prudhomme is taking the correct stance, with his iron rule. The sooner that the competitors realise what they're doing, not just to their sport, but to their sponsors & teammates also - a big disservice, to say the least - the sooner cycling, & particularly Le Tour, can enjoy & deserve it's position as one of the greatest tests of endurance. Part of that test of endurance is to deny oneself the will to dope.

I would encourage the sport to take this a step further, even, & allow the sponsors their time in court to recover the losses incurred in any destruction of the good name of their sponsored team. Money talks; if personal & previous earnings were potentially on the line, then this would make every cycling professional (whether riders or support staff) think twice about not playing fair.

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posted Jul 26, 2007

"Well, they can now have a good day and worry about Contador's TT when it comes. So far they could have done no more. "

I mean a guy and team can go out and ride in a certain way with a plan based around the assification. Only to find the next morning the classification is on its head and nothing was it was. So the guy in 4th can suddenly be in Yellow, but he hasnt really had to earn it or prove worthy of it under the pressure of defending it that is expected.
It's like if Oscar is crowned last years winner. Yes the cheats are out which is great but it belittles the clean ones left in too.
Ok it could happen at any point if there was a crash but that's kinda "nature" taking
its course, this is cheating and ruining it for all.

To me its another tour ruined, so I cant see it is great for cycling.

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