Le Tour


So once again the Tour de France has been dogged by drug controversies, with the media bleating that the Rasmussen & Vinokourov incidents were the worst things t0 happen to the tour since … since … well, since last year.

Most people will know that last year’s winner F Landis (not to be confused with Homer Simpson’s neighbour, Ned) tested positive after a Pegasus-like comeback in the mountains. But even before last year’s tour began, several of the favourites – Ulrich, Basso – were booted out on the eve of the race. This year’s winner Alberto Contador was implicated in the same investigation but has thus far escaped sanction.

Hopefully these recent high profile doping cases mean (a) the tests for cheats are getting better and better; (b) the cheats are being caught and (c) potential cheats will be thinking twice before doping up in future. Or does it?

Interestingly, I read during the week that only 4 samples are tested after each stage – the stage winner, the Yellow jersey holder and two random riders. From a field of around 200 this is hardly comprehensive. By my calculations a rank and file rider who doesn’t win a stage has less than a 1 in 4 chance of being tested during the tour. This doesn’t seem sufficient.

The Tour is looking at introducing 4 year bans for riders testing positive (double the current penalty) and is already fining cheats a year’s salary if caught. Seven figures sums in many cases, so not to be sneezed at.
Despite the controversies I found the tour compelling viewing. Wakes and I had a great time watching the two London stages in person (or at least as much of the stages as we could see from 3 deep with riders flying past our vantage point at around 55 kph), and we watched most of the other stages on TV. (The Portuguese commentary was a bit hard to follow for the week we stayed in Portugal – note to self, must work on Portuguese). The scenery, the drama, the tactics, the incredible physical efforts, the history, and of course the fantastic performance of Cadel Evans in coming second all contributed to a fantastic event. If even one of those athletes is clean, it is an incredible effort just to finish.

I spent a fair bit of time reading the Tour de France forum on the SBS website, and many of the contributors expressed similar sentiments – the Tour itself is a unique, passionate, dramatic, gripping event, and fans are willing to keep up their interest, despite the drugs crap, in the (maybe naive) belief that eventually the sport will clean itself up. Let’s hope so.

Attention now turns to catching up on the sleep debt that has accumulated during the tour. Roll on next year, and onya Cadel.


4 Responses to Le Tour

  1. Brett says:

    I’m not a big cycling fan, but I couldn’t help but notice that, at least in the States, coverage of the Tour was way, way down this year. Probably cuz no Americans were doing anything worth talking about, right?

    It is sad that it’s always such a controversy magnet. I’ve been told that sometimes guys really aren’t doping, but using safe, legal supplements that happen to spike their testosterone levels.

    Enjoy your sleep.

  2. Skinful says:

    Not to be a pedant but..

    Pegasus wasn’t too famous for comebacks. Lazarus maybe?

  3. clarkebruce says:

    Brett – you should have been watching Saturday’s individual time trial stage – at one stage it looked as though another American (Levi Leipheimer) was going to win the Yellow Jersey. As it was he came third, only 31 seconds behind Contador. Still, I’d have thought Americans would have been pretty happy seeing as Contador and Leipheimer both ride for Armstrong’s old team, Discovery Channel, which also won the teams award.

    I don’t think many of the guys can use that ‘legal supplements’ argument – Landis got done with synthetic testosterone in his system, Vino was caught with old blood cells in his system (indicating a transfusion), and Moreni did the ‘honorable’ thing and admitted he was on the juice. Rasmussen simply went missing when the testers went looking for him off-season. He must have a bad memory; he told them he’d been in Mexico but had been spotted in Italy at that time.

  4. clarkebruce says:

    Skinful – most unlike you to be a pedant…

    Would you believe I was referring to that great racehorse of the 60’s, Pegasus, which was famous for making amazing last minute runs for victory?

    No, I didn’t think so. OK, you got me cold. But it was late and I am suffering from sleep deprivation.

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