Cycling, TDF and Drugs : Paul Kimmage



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limerickman

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Jan 5, 2004
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O body swayed to music, O brightening glance, How can we know the dancer from the dance

William Butler Yeats

Friday evening in London, as the curtain was raised for the Grand Depart of the Tour de France, it was easy to believe that the storms had passed. Some 25,000 people had flocked to Trafalgar Square for the opening ceremony and everywhere you looked there were smiley, happy faces: the London mayor Ken Livingstone, the race director Christian Prudhomme, the announcer Hugh Porter, the commentator Phil Liggett.

God Save the Queen? No, God Save the Tour.

Had Liggett, the “Murray Walker” of cycling, ever witnessed a finer setting for a start? “No,” he replied during the ITV4 live broadcast. “This is superb.”

The fact that five of the 189 riders who were wheeled out on stage are British was a help. It was a great night for Bradley Wiggins, Mark Cavendish, Geraint Thomas, Charlie Wegelius and David Millar, and they were clearly enjoying the moment. “It’s amazing to be here,” Wiggins announced. “You can see the stir the Tour de France has created and if a couple of people can be inspired by this then that’s fantastic.”

“This is what I have dreamt about since I was a small boy,” said Wegelius, “so to start my first Tour de France in Britain is the best I could hope for.”

It is also the best the Tour could hope for. All 189 starters have signed the new antidoping charter produced by the UCI, the sport’s governing body, and it is generally acknowledged that this will be the cleanest race for years. It is also acknowledged that the doping has continued.

“This sport needs to bleed to death before it can rebuild,” the American three-time Tour winner Greg LeMond observed last week. The bleeding has started. The sport has split down the middle on how to address the problem and is ripping itself to shreds. The haemorrhaging is now so bad that even the Tour is under threat. Will professional cycling survive? Should professional cycling survive? How has it come to this? MEET Jean-Louis Le Touzet. Here he comes, striding into the press room at the Excel Centre in London’s Docklands with his laptop and his ear muffs. To watch Le Touzet at work is to marvel at a man at the summit of his art. It is the ear muffs. He puts them on when he sits down to work; they help him to remain detached. A sense of detachment is imperative to Le Touzet. He’s one of those rare jewels in our profession, a real journalist.

“You know,” he says, “cycling is a wonderful sport. I mean, you write about football and they don’t care if you ever come back, but cycling embraces you. It wraps itself around you and won’t let you go. It holds you close to its bosom and says, ‘I love you’. But to do your job correctly, you have to push it away. You can’t love it back.”

Politics is his usual beat. He has spent most of the year writing for the French newspaper Libération about his country’s recent presidential elections but has applied his razor-sharp perception to the Tour each summer since 1997.

“The Tour has always considered itself bigger and stronger than doping,” he says. “It’s like the alcoholic who thinks he can control his drinking but who wakes up one day to find he is dependent on it. There was a book [Sauvons le Tour] published recently by the former race director Xavier Louy, that made some interesting points.

“The power of the Tour has always been about memories – the great riders, the great battles, the mountains, the suffering – and those memories served as a kind of washing machine. If ever there was a stain and the race was mildly tarnished, you stuck it in the machine with the ‘myth and memory powder’ and came out nice and fresh. But the machine has reached the end of its cycle. The powder has run dry and the washing keeps coming out dirty.

“Winning has no value any more. How can you exploit a win that nobody believes in?”

Meet Jose Miguel Echavarri. That’s him with the bronzed and slightly crumpled features, talking to a journalist outside the shiny London bus they have parked in the middle of the press room. Everybody likes Echavarri. He once raced as a professional against Jacques Anquetil, the great French champion of the 1950s and 60s, but made his name as the manager of the Spanish Tour winners Pedro Delgado and Miguel Indurain. Like Le Touzet, words have always been the wily Spaniard’s power.

“When a king comes to see his people, it is not the people who must rise to the level of the king but the king who must come down to the level of the people,” he once cautioned Indurain, a five-time winner of the Tour. But he has struggled to retain his composure during the eruptions of these past few weeks, and now this.

He has just come from a meeting with the 21 heads of the teams and after a very heated debate, eight have decided to split and form The Movement for Credible Cycling.

Echavarri is explaining his frustrations to the press man.

What do they mean by credible? Where is it all going to end? So many confessions and still the witch-hunt continues! This finger-pointing and talk of the truth – what good has it served? He shakes his head and glances around the room. “If they are going to start talking about the truth, nobody will leave here alive,” he says.

Meet Vino. That is Alexandre Vinokourov from Kazakhstan to you. That’s him with the blond hair and the boxer’s jaw facing the media at his press conference. Vino is the prerace favour-ite and rides for Astana. The team have been somewhat unfortunate of late. Eddy Mazzoleni, a star of the recent Giro d’Italia, is currently being quizzed by the antidoping prosecutor of the Italian Olympic Committee and has been provisionally suspended by the team. Another Astana rider, Matthias Kessler, tested positive for testosterone last month and has also been provisionally suspended.

But it is Vinokourov’s recent admission that he is working with Dr Michele Ferrari, the controversial Italian trainer, that has generated the biggest headlines. It is the first item on the agenda when the questions are thrown open to the floor.

Vinokourov is reminded of a recent interview given by the UCI president Pat McQuaid, who stated that a win for the Kazakh in Paris this month would lack credibility because of his collaboration with Ferrari, who was convicted of sporting fraud by an Italian court but later cleared on appeal. He takes the hit on the chin and explains the position calmly. Ferrari was his trainer, not his doctor. “And nobody asked any questions when he was working with Lance Armstrong [the American who won the Tour seven times].”

The storm passes. The subject is changed. But it won’t go away. Another journalist raises his hand. “You said that nobody asked any questions when Ferrari was working with Lance Armstrong, but that’s not true,” he begins. “I thought it was disgusting. I think it’s disgusting that you’re working with him and I’ll be disgusted if you win this Tour. Does it not affect you that so many in this room are disgusted by what you’re doing?”

Vinokourov is stunned. “Ferrari has not done anything illegal. He was never condemned in Italy. He is my trainer, not my doctor. Why do you think that trainer means doping? I have done my work and have nothing to reproach myself for.”

For Vino, and Astana, it could be a long three weeks.

Meet Pat McQuaid. They call him “Big” in Dublin, the city of his birth, and though he never raced with Anquetil, he has always loved the game. Much has been written since he succeeded Hein Verbruggen as the UCI president but even his most fervent critics would concede that he has done some fine work. The recent announcement by Anne Gripper, the director of the governing body’s antidoping program, was a fine example.

“We have targeted six, seven riders considered a high risk because of their suspicious behaviour and because they could perform very well in the Tour de France. Some have already had three or four surprise controls,” Gripper said. She also explained that there had been some problems tracking them down. “We’ve dubbed them the Men in Black because they train in anonymous jerseys rather than in team kits so that they can avoid the controls.”

Take a bow, Madame Gripper, for keeping the heat on them. Take a bow Big Pat: zero tolerance is the only way forward. There is just one question. Why didn’t this happen when riders were dying from conditions brought on by their drug abuse in the 1990s? Why has it taken until the sport is on its knees?

The answer, of course, is that the response has been commercially driven. Television is losing patience; sponsors have had their fill; yesterday, it was reported that even the world championships in Stuttgart in September are in danger. “Perhaps we’ll have to reach the conclusion that a spectacular cancellation [of the championships] would herald the new start cycling needs,” the German interior minister Wolfgang Schauble said.

And Big Pat will huff and puff but he has no right to complain. Nine years ago in Dublin, in the build-up to the start of the Tour, before the eruption of the Fes-tina scandal, which revealed the systematic nature of the drug abuse in the sport, his pronouncements on doping were the polar opposite of what he says today. There were one or two bad apples. The big names didn’t need it. There wasn’t a real problem.

Two months ago, when questioned by an astute radio presenter on an Irish sports show, he was still in denial.

Hein Verbruggen, he insisted, was the finest administrator the sport had ever had. And no, he did not believe the UCI bears any responsibility for the mess. Listening to him, you were reminded of the split between the riders who believe (or have been forced to concede) that confession is good for the soul – Bjarne Riis, David Millar, Ivan Basso, Erik Zabel, Rolf Aldag, Jesus Manzano, Jesper Skibby – and those who would rather suck the blood from a child than admit that they doped.

What side is Big Pat on? It depends which day you ask. He has got the sport that he deserves.

Meet Dave. He is a white van driver. He lives on a council estate with a wife and kids in Essex. Dave is pretty harmless by nature and if you spotted him walking towards you down the street, you would never be tempted to cross the road. But that might be a mistake if you are a professional cyclist. Another doping scandal? A terrorist attack? No, the biggest threat to the Tour this weekend was Dave.

He hasn’t always despised cyclists. In the summer of 1994, when the Tour last visited England, Dave was a fan. Chris Boardman had the yellow jersey that year. Then the other guy, Sean Yates, got it for a day. Dave would sit in front of his TV with Liggett each night and suck it all in. “This race is superb.”

Then the doping stuff starts to appear and it is illogical, he knows, but he feels betrayed. “They’re all f****** at it.”

On Thursday, Dave is out driving his van when he happens upon Wiggins and the Cofidis cycling team. He winds down his window. The resentment suddenly takes hold. “You’re all dop-ers,” he screams. “We don’t want the Tour de France here.”

Wiggins is shocked but unhurt. “It was quite bad actually,” he explains later. “I was quite surprised but that is the kind of level it has got to in cycling now.”

What hope for Bradley? What hope for Dave? What hope?

Favourites to wear the yellow jersey in Paris

Alexandre Vinokourov Country: Kazakhstan Team: Astana Age: 33

Combative allrounder who missed last year’s race because too many of his team had been suspended after the Spanish Operation Puerto doping inquiry. It recently emerged that he has been working with the controversial trainer Michele Ferrari. Needs to control his aggressive instincts if he is to prevail Odds (Ladbrokes): 7-4

Cadel Evans Country: Australia Team: Predictor-Lotto Age: 30

The former mountain biker fi nished eighth in his fi rst Tour de France two years ago and fi fth last year, revealing the talent to win overall. His real strength is his consistency and he has worked on his time-trialling to augment his ability in the mountains. Not an attacking rider though so cannot be expected to make death-or-glory breaks Odds: 10-1

Andreas Kloden Country: Germany Team: Astana Age: 31

The German has the class to win the race – his previous two starts have led to places on the podium – but has reportedly agreed to support his team leader Vinokourov’s campaign this time in return for similar backing next year. But should the Kazakh slip up, Kloden will be ready to mount his own bid for glory Odds: 4-1

Levi Leipheimer Country: US Team: Discovery Channel Age: 33

American cycling has struggled since the retirement of Lance Armstrong. Leipheimer, who leads the Texan’s former team, is the only American of note in the peloton these days, with Floyd Landis and Tyler Hamilton fl oored by drugs allegations. The Californian is strong but always seems to have one terrible day Odds: 11-2

Alejandro Valverde Country: Spain Team: Caisse d’Epargne Age: 27

The Spanish heir to Miguel Indurain, the five-time Tour winner, but has so far failed to finish the race, abandoning with a knee injury in 2005 and crashing out in the Ardennes last year. Has won stage races this year and twice finished second in the early season Classics so comes into the race in great form Odds: 8-1

The five Britons who are competing in the Tour de France

Bradley Wiggins Team Cofidis Age 27

The winner of three medals – a gold, silver and bronze – on the track at the Athens Olympics, the Londoner became the poster boy of British cycling. His success on the road too has inspired this young group of riders. His best chance of glory this year was in yesterday’s prologue time-trial. He will struggle in the mountains, but proved his fi ghting spirit last year by making it to Paris

Mark Cavendish Team T-Mobile Age 22

A series of stage wins on the tough continental circuit in May and another last month show the young Isle of Man rider to be in great form going into the Tour. He will target today’s rolling stage as one that is perfectly suited to his riding style. Another track rider from the medal factory that is the British academy in Manchester who has turned to the road with great success

Charlie Wegelius Team Liquigas Age 29

The Italian-based rider is Britain’s best climber since Robert Millar, the elfin Scot who won three mountain stages in the 1980s. He has already ridden three Tours of Spain and five Tours of Italy, but this will be his first Tour de France. Don’t expect to hear his name on commentary until the lowlands are left far behind, but he will hope to be in the leading group of riders in the mountains

Geraint Thomas Team Barloworld Age 21

Like Wiggins and Cavendish, the Welshman – the first to race in the Tour for 40 years – is a successful track cyclist who has turned to the road. Earlier this year he was part of the British team that won gold in the team pursuit at the world track championships. His tender age means he will almost certainly be withdrawn before the big climbs of the Alps loom next weekend

David Millar Team Saunier Duval Age 30

The winner of three stages in the Tour de France, his record is tainted by his admission to taking EPO, for which he served a two-year ban from 2004. He was stripped of his 2003 world time-trial victory as a result and has not matched the heights of his early career since. The Scot starts this race in a trough of form. ‘I have never spent so long feeling so terrible on the bike,’ he said last week
 

wolfix

New Member
Mar 11, 2005
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Today was a fantastic stage in the TDF. McEwen overcame great odds to a surprising win. That is what is great about the TDF......
Kimmage needs to concentrate on what is good about the TDF instead of constantly dragging the sport thru the mud. The only winner in that is his pocketbook. He needs to take his disillusionment and concentrate on abused cyclists like Lemond . He might sell more books that way.

Thursday, Dave is out driving his van when he happens upon Wiggins and the Cofidis cycling team. He winds down his window. The resentment suddenly takes hold. “You’re all dop-ers,” he screams. “We don’t want the Tour de France here.”
Davis is wrong. The people came out in force to view the TDF stage one. Kimmage needs to interview one of the thousands that lined the streets. Kimmage writes as if the TDF is life itself. It is not, it is enertainment. And the people who are trying to hold it together know this.
 

limerickman

Well-Known Member
Jan 5, 2004
16,130
220
63
wolfix said:
Today was a fantastic stage in the TDF. McEwen overcame great odds to a surprising win. That is what is great about the TDF......
Kimmage needs to concentrate on what is good about the TDF instead of constantly dragging the sport thru the mud. The only winner in that is his pocketbook. He needs to take his disillusionment and concentrate on abused cyclists like Lemond . He might sell more books that way.


Davis is wrong. The people came out in force to view the TDF stage one. Kimmage needs to interview one of the thousands that lined the streets. Kimmage writes as if the TDF is life itself. It is not, it is enertainment. And the people who are trying to hold it together know this.

If you're familiar with Paul's writing - you'd be aware that he does devote energy to the more positive side of the sport.

For example, last year during the TDF he selected a rider from the FDJ team and wrote a weekly column about how that rider was faring in LeTour in the Sunday Times newspaper.
The cyclist in question, Benoit Vaugrenarde of FDJ, finished 87th in the TDF.

Kimmage's book - Rough Ride published in 1989 - was a superb and very brave book.
 

Doctor.House

New Member
Jun 14, 2007
902
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limerickman said:
If you're familiar with Paul's writing - you'd be aware that he does devote energy to the more positive side of the sport.

For example, last year during the TDF he selected a rider from the FDJ team and wrote a weekly column about how that rider was faring in LeTour in the Sunday Times newspaper.
The cyclist in question, Benoit Vaugrenarde of FDJ, finished 87th in the TDF.

Kimmage's book - Rough Ride published in 1989 - was a superb and very brave book.
Thanks for posting this Lim.

This excellent writing!

This is non-fiction sports candor.

Most people lust after fiction-based Nike themes--and are repulsed by truth.

That is why Nike can sell $6 sneakers for $300.
 

Flyer

Banned
Sep 20, 2004
2,961
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0
limerickman said:
O body swayed to music, O brightening glance, How can we know the dancer from the dance

William Butler Yeats

Friday evening in London, as the curtain was raised for the Grand Depart of the Tour de France, it was easy to believe that the storms had passed. Some 25,000 people had flocked to Trafalgar Square for the opening ceremony and everywhere you looked there were smiley, happy faces: the London mayor Ken Livingstone, the race director Christian Prudhomme, the announcer Hugh Porter, the commentator Phil Liggett.

God Save the Queen? No, God Save the Tour.

Had Liggett, the “Murray Walker” of cycling, ever witnessed a finer setting for a start? “No,” he replied during the ITV4 live broadcast. “This is superb.”

The fact that five of the 189 riders who were wheeled out on stage are British was a help. It was a great night for Bradley Wiggins, Mark Cavendish, Geraint Thomas, Charlie Wegelius and David Millar, and they were clearly enjoying the moment. “It’s amazing to be here,” Wiggins announced. “You can see the stir the Tour de France has created and if a couple of people can be inspired by this then that’s fantastic.”

“This is what I have dreamt about since I was a small boy,” said Wegelius, “so to start my first Tour de France in Britain is the best I could hope for.”

It is also the best the Tour could hope for. All 189 starters have signed the new antidoping charter produced by the UCI, the sport’s governing body, and it is generally acknowledged that this will be the cleanest race for years. It is also acknowledged that the doping has continued.

“This sport needs to bleed to death before it can rebuild,” the American three-time Tour winner Greg LeMond observed last week. The bleeding has started. The sport has split down the middle on how to address the problem and is ripping itself to shreds. The haemorrhaging is now so bad that even the Tour is under threat. Will professional cycling survive? Should professional cycling survive? How has it come to this? MEET Jean-Louis Le Touzet. Here he comes, striding into the press room at the Excel Centre in London’s Docklands with his laptop and his ear muffs. To watch Le Touzet at work is to marvel at a man at the summit of his art. It is the ear muffs. He puts them on when he sits down to work; they help him to remain detached. A sense of detachment is imperative to Le Touzet. He’s one of those rare jewels in our profession, a real journalist.

“You know,” he says, “cycling is a wonderful sport. I mean, you write about football and they don’t care if you ever come back, but cycling embraces you. It wraps itself around you and won’t let you go. It holds you close to its bosom and says, ‘I love you’. But to do your job correctly, you have to push it away. You can’t love it back.”

Politics is his usual beat. He has spent most of the year writing for the French newspaper Libération about his country’s recent presidential elections but has applied his razor-sharp perception to the Tour each summer since 1997.

“The Tour has always considered itself bigger and stronger than doping,” he says. “It’s like the alcoholic who thinks he can control his drinking but who wakes up one day to find he is dependent on it. There was a book [Sauvons le Tour] published recently by the former race director Xavier Louy, that made some interesting points.

“The power of the Tour has always been about memories – the great riders, the great battles, the mountains, the suffering – and those memories served as a kind of washing machine. If ever there was a stain and the race was mildly tarnished, you stuck it in the machine with the ‘myth and memory powder’ and came out nice and fresh. But the machine has reached the end of its cycle. The powder has run dry and the washing keeps coming out dirty.

“Winning has no value any more. How can you exploit a win that nobody believes in?”

Meet Jose Miguel Echavarri. That’s him with the bronzed and slightly crumpled features, talking to a journalist outside the shiny London bus they have parked in the middle of the press room. Everybody likes Echavarri. He once raced as a professional against Jacques Anquetil, the great French champion of the 1950s and 60s, but made his name as the manager of the Spanish Tour winners Pedro Delgado and Miguel Indurain. Like Le Touzet, words have always been the wily Spaniard’s power.

“When a king comes to see his people, it is not the people who must rise to the level of the king but the king who must come down to the level of the people,” he once cautioned Indurain, a five-time winner of the Tour. But he has struggled to retain his composure during the eruptions of these past few weeks, and now this.

He has just come from a meeting with the 21 heads of the teams and after a very heated debate, eight have decided to split and form The Movement for Credible Cycling.

Echavarri is explaining his frustrations to the press man.

What do they mean by credible? Where is it all going to end? So many confessions and still the witch-hunt continues! This finger-pointing and talk of the truth – what good has it served? He shakes his head and glances around the room. “If they are going to start talking about the truth, nobody will leave here alive,” he says.

Meet Vino. That is Alexandre Vinokourov from Kazakhstan to you. That’s him with the blond hair and the boxer’s jaw facing the media at his press conference. Vino is the prerace favour-ite and rides for Astana. The team have been somewhat unfortunate of late. Eddy Mazzoleni, a star of the recent Giro d’Italia, is currently being quizzed by the antidoping prosecutor of the Italian Olympic Committee and has been provisionally suspended by the team. Another Astana rider, Matthias Kessler, tested positive for testosterone last month and has also been provisionally suspended.

But it is Vinokourov’s recent admission that he is working with Dr Michele Ferrari, the controversial Italian trainer, that has generated the biggest headlines. It is the first item on the agenda when the questions are thrown open to the floor.

Vinokourov is reminded of a recent interview given by the UCI president Pat McQuaid, who stated that a win for the Kazakh in Paris this month would lack credibility because of his collaboration with Ferrari, who was convicted of sporting fraud by an Italian court but later cleared on appeal. He takes the hit on the chin and explains the position calmly. Ferrari was his trainer, not his doctor. “And nobody asked any questions when he was working with Lance Armstrong [the American who won the Tour seven times].”

The storm passes. The subject is changed. But it won’t go away. Another journalist raises his hand. “You said that nobody asked any questions when Ferrari was working with Lance Armstrong, but that’s not true,” he begins. “I thought it was disgusting. I think it’s disgusting that you’re working with him and I’ll be disgusted if you win this Tour. Does it not affect you that so many in this room are disgusted by what you’re doing?”

Vinokourov is stunned. “Ferrari has not done anything illegal. He was never condemned in Italy. He is my trainer, not my doctor. Why do you think that trainer means doping? I have done my work and have nothing to reproach myself for.”

For Vino, and Astana, it could be a long three weeks.

Meet Pat McQuaid. They call him “Big” in Dublin, the city of his birth, and though he never raced with Anquetil, he has always loved the game. Much has been written since he succeeded Hein Verbruggen as the UCI president but even his most fervent critics would concede that he has done some fine work. The recent announcement by Anne Gripper, the director of the governing body’s antidoping program, was a fine example.

“We have targeted six, seven riders considered a high risk because of their suspicious behaviour and because they could perform very well in the Tour de France. Some have already had three or four surprise controls,” Gripper said. She also explained that there had been some problems tracking them down. “We’ve dubbed them the Men in Black because they train in anonymous jerseys rather than in team kits so that they can avoid the controls.”

Take a bow, Madame Gripper, for keeping the heat on them. Take a bow Big Pat: zero tolerance is the only way forward. There is just one question. Why didn’t this happen when riders were dying from conditions brought on by their drug abuse in the 1990s? Why has it taken until the sport is on its knees?

The answer, of course, is that the response has been commercially driven. Television is losing patience; sponsors have had their fill; yesterday, it was reported that even the world championships in Stuttgart in September are in danger. “Perhaps we’ll have to reach the conclusion that a spectacular cancellation [of the championships] would herald the new start cycling needs,” the German interior minister Wolfgang Schauble said.

And Big Pat will huff and puff but he has no right to complain. Nine years ago in Dublin, in the build-up to the start of the Tour, before the eruption of the Fes-tina scandal, which revealed the systematic nature of the drug abuse in the sport, his pronouncements on doping were the polar opposite of what he says today. There were one or two bad apples. The big names didn’t need it. There wasn’t a real problem.

Two months ago, when questioned by an astute radio presenter on an Irish sports show, he was still in denial.

Hein Verbruggen, he insisted, was the finest administrator the sport had ever had. And no, he did not believe the UCI bears any responsibility for the mess. Listening to him, you were reminded of the split between the riders who believe (or have been forced to concede) that confession is good for the soul – Bjarne Riis, David Millar, Ivan Basso, Erik Zabel, Rolf Aldag, Jesus Manzano, Jesper Skibby – and those who would rather suck the blood from a child than admit that they doped.

What side is Big Pat on? It depends which day you ask. He has got the sport that he deserves.

Meet Dave. He is a white van driver. He lives on a council estate with a wife and kids in Essex. Dave is pretty harmless by nature and if you spotted him walking towards you down the street, you would never be tempted to cross the road. But that might be a mistake if you are a professional cyclist. Another doping scandal? A terrorist attack? No, the biggest threat to the Tour this weekend was Dave.

He hasn’t always despised cyclists. In the summer of 1994, when the Tour last visited England, Dave was a fan. Chris Boardman had the yellow jersey that year. Then the other guy, Sean Yates, got it for a day. Dave would sit in front of his TV with Liggett each night and suck it all in. “This race is superb.”

Then the doping stuff starts to appear and it is illogical, he knows, but he feels betrayed. “They’re all f****** at it.”

On Thursday, Dave is out driving his van when he happens upon Wiggins and the Cofidis cycling team. He winds down his window. The resentment suddenly takes hold. “You’re all dop-ers,” he screams. “We don’t want the Tour de France here.”

Wiggins is shocked but unhurt. “It was quite bad actually,” he explains later. “I was quite surprised but that is the kind of level it has got to in cycling now.”

What hope for Bradley? What hope for Dave? What hope?

Favourites to wear the yellow jersey in Paris

Alexandre Vinokourov Country: Kazakhstan Team: Astana Age: 33

Combative allrounder who missed last year’s race because too many of his team had been suspended after the Spanish Operation Puerto doping inquiry. It recently emerged that he has been working with the controversial trainer Michele Ferrari. Needs to control his aggressive instincts if he is to prevail Odds (Ladbrokes): 7-4

Cadel Evans Country: Australia Team: Predictor-Lotto Age: 30

The former mountain biker fi nished eighth in his fi rst Tour de France two years ago and fi fth last year, revealing the talent to win overall. His real strength is his consistency and he has worked on his time-trialling to augment his ability in the mountains. Not an attacking rider though so cannot be expected to make death-or-glory breaks Odds: 10-1

Andreas Kloden Country: Germany Team: Astana Age: 31

The German has the class to win the race – his previous two starts have led to places on the podium – but has reportedly agreed to support his team leader Vinokourov’s campaign this time in return for similar backing next year. But should the Kazakh slip up, Kloden will be ready to mount his own bid for glory Odds: 4-1

Levi Leipheimer Country: US Team: Discovery Channel Age: 33

American cycling has struggled since the retirement of Lance Armstrong. Leipheimer, who leads the Texan’s former team, is the only American of note in the peloton these days, with Floyd Landis and Tyler Hamilton fl oored by drugs allegations. The Californian is strong but always seems to have one terrible day Odds: 11-2

Alejandro Valverde Country: Spain Team: Caisse d’Epargne Age: 27

The Spanish heir to Miguel Indurain, the five-time Tour winner, but has so far failed to finish the race, abandoning with a knee injury in 2005 and crashing out in the Ardennes last year. Has won stage races this year and twice finished second in the early season Classics so comes into the race in great form Odds: 8-1

The five Britons who are competing in the Tour de France

Bradley Wiggins Team Cofidis Age 27

The winner of three medals – a gold, silver and bronze – on the track at the Athens Olympics, the Londoner became the poster boy of British cycling. His success on the road too has inspired this young group of riders. His best chance of glory this year was in yesterday’s prologue time-trial. He will struggle in the mountains, but proved his fi ghting spirit last year by making it to Paris

Mark Cavendish Team T-Mobile Age 22

A series of stage wins on the tough continental circuit in May and another last month show the young Isle of Man rider to be in great form going into the Tour. He will target today’s rolling stage as one that is perfectly suited to his riding style. Another track rider from the medal factory that is the British academy in Manchester who has turned to the road with great success

Charlie Wegelius Team Liquigas Age 29

The Italian-based rider is Britain’s best climber since Robert Millar, the elfin Scot who won three mountain stages in the 1980s. He has already ridden three Tours of Spain and five Tours of Italy, but this will be his first Tour de France. Don’t expect to hear his name on commentary until the lowlands are left far behind, but he will hope to be in the leading group of riders in the mountains

Geraint Thomas Team Barloworld Age 21

Like Wiggins and Cavendish, the Welshman – the first to race in the Tour for 40 years – is a successful track cyclist who has turned to the road. Earlier this year he was part of the British team that won gold in the team pursuit at the world track championships. His tender age means he will almost certainly be withdrawn before the big climbs of the Alps loom next weekend

David Millar Team Saunier Duval Age 30

The winner of three stages in the Tour de France, his record is tainted by his admission to taking EPO, for which he served a two-year ban from 2004. He was stripped of his 2003 world time-trial victory as a result and has not matched the heights of his early career since. The Scot starts this race in a trough of form. ‘I have never spent so long feeling so terrible on the bike,’ he said last week
ddfffdd
 

Flyer

Banned
Sep 20, 2004
2,961
0
0
limerickman said:
O body swayed to music, O brightening glance, How can we know the dancer from the dance

William Butler Yeats

Friday evening in London, as the curtain was raised for the Grand Depart of the Tour de France, it was easy to believe that the storms had passed. Some 25,000 people had flocked to Trafalgar Square for the opening ceremony and everywhere you looked there were smiley, happy faces: the London mayor Ken Livingstone, the race director Christian Prudhomme, the announcer Hugh Porter, the commentator Phil Liggett.

God Save the Queen? No, God Save the Tour.

Had Liggett, the “Murray Walker” of cycling, ever witnessed a finer setting for a start? “No,” he replied during the ITV4 live broadcast. “This is superb.”

The fact that five of the 189 riders who were wheeled out on stage are British was a help. It was a great night for Bradley Wiggins, Mark Cavendish, Geraint Thomas, Charlie Wegelius and David Millar, and they were clearly enjoying the moment. “It’s amazing to be here,” Wiggins announced. “You can see the stir the Tour de France has created and if a couple of people can be inspired by this then that’s fantastic.”

“This is what I have dreamt about since I was a small boy,” said Wegelius, “so to start my first Tour de France in Britain is the best I could hope for.”

It is also the best the Tour could hope for. All 189 starters have signed the new antidoping charter produced by the UCI, the sport’s governing body, and it is generally acknowledged that this will be the cleanest race for years. It is also acknowledged that the doping has continued.

“This sport needs to bleed to death before it can rebuild,” the American three-time Tour winner Greg LeMond observed last week. The bleeding has started. The sport has split down the middle on how to address the problem and is ripping itself to shreds. The haemorrhaging is now so bad that even the Tour is under threat. Will professional cycling survive? Should professional cycling survive? How has it come to this? MEET Jean-Louis Le Touzet. Here he comes, striding into the press room at the Excel Centre in London’s Docklands with his laptop and his ear muffs. To watch Le Touzet at work is to marvel at a man at the summit of his art. It is the ear muffs. He puts them on when he sits down to work; they help him to remain detached. A sense of detachment is imperative to Le Touzet. He’s one of those rare jewels in our profession, a real journalist.

“You know,” he says, “cycling is a wonderful sport. I mean, you write about football and they don’t care if you ever come back, but cycling embraces you. It wraps itself around you and won’t let you go. It holds you close to its bosom and says, ‘I love you’. But to do your job correctly, you have to push it away. You can’t love it back.”

Politics is his usual beat. He has spent most of the year writing for the French newspaper Libération about his country’s recent presidential elections but has applied his razor-sharp perception to the Tour each summer since 1997.

“The Tour has always considered itself bigger and stronger than doping,” he says. “It’s like the alcoholic who thinks he can control his drinking but who wakes up one day to find he is dependent on it. There was a book [Sauvons le Tour] published recently by the former race director Xavier Louy, that made some interesting points.

“The power of the Tour has always been about memories – the great riders, the great battles, the mountains, the suffering – and those memories served as a kind of washing machine. If ever there was a stain and the race was mildly tarnished, you stuck it in the machine with the ‘myth and memory powder’ and came out nice and fresh. But the machine has reached the end of its cycle. The powder has run dry and the washing keeps coming out dirty.

“Winning has no value any more. How can you exploit a win that nobody believes in?”

Meet Jose Miguel Echavarri. That’s him with the bronzed and slightly crumpled features, talking to a journalist outside the shiny London bus they have parked in the middle of the press room. Everybody likes Echavarri. He once raced as a professional against Jacques Anquetil, the great French champion of the 1950s and 60s, but made his name as the manager of the Spanish Tour winners Pedro Delgado and Miguel Indurain. Like Le Touzet, words have always been the wily Spaniard’s power.

“When a king comes to see his people, it is not the people who must rise to the level of the king but the king who must come down to the level of the people,” he once cautioned Indurain, a five-time winner of the Tour. But he has struggled to retain his composure during the eruptions of these past few weeks, and now this.

He has just come from a meeting with the 21 heads of the teams and after a very heated debate, eight have decided to split and form The Movement for Credible Cycling.

Echavarri is explaining his frustrations to the press man.

What do they mean by credible? Where is it all going to end? So many confessions and still the witch-hunt continues! This finger-pointing and talk of the truth – what good has it served? He shakes his head and glances around the room. “If they are going to start talking about the truth, nobody will leave here alive,” he says.

Meet Vino. That is Alexandre Vinokourov from Kazakhstan to you. That’s him with the blond hair and the boxer’s jaw facing the media at his press conference. Vino is the prerace favour-ite and rides for Astana. The team have been somewhat unfortunate of late. Eddy Mazzoleni, a star of the recent Giro d’Italia, is currently being quizzed by the antidoping prosecutor of the Italian Olympic Committee and has been provisionally suspended by the team. Another Astana rider, Matthias Kessler, tested positive for testosterone last month and has also been provisionally suspended.

But it is Vinokourov’s recent admission that he is working with Dr Michele Ferrari, the controversial Italian trainer, that has generated the biggest headlines. It is the first item on the agenda when the questions are thrown open to the floor.

Vinokourov is reminded of a recent interview given by the UCI president Pat McQuaid, who stated that a win for the Kazakh in Paris this month would lack credibility because of his collaboration with Ferrari, who was convicted of sporting fraud by an Italian court but later cleared on appeal. He takes the hit on the chin and explains the position calmly. Ferrari was his trainer, not his doctor. “And nobody asked any questions when he was working with Lance Armstrong [the American who won the Tour seven times].”

The storm passes. The subject is changed. But it won’t go away. Another journalist raises his hand. “You said that nobody asked any questions when Ferrari was working with Lance Armstrong, but that’s not true,” he begins. “I thought it was disgusting. I think it’s disgusting that you’re working with him and I’ll be disgusted if you win this Tour. Does it not affect you that so many in this room are disgusted by what you’re doing?”

Vinokourov is stunned. “Ferrari has not done anything illegal. He was never condemned in Italy. He is my trainer, not my doctor. Why do you think that trainer means doping? I have done my work and have nothing to reproach myself for.”

For Vino, and Astana, it could be a long three weeks.

Meet Pat McQuaid. They call him “Big” in Dublin, the city of his birth, and though he never raced with Anquetil, he has always loved the game. Much has been written since he succeeded Hein Verbruggen as the UCI president but even his most fervent critics would concede that he has done some fine work. The recent announcement by Anne Gripper, the director of the governing body’s antidoping program, was a fine example.

“We have targeted six, seven riders considered a high risk because of their suspicious behaviour and because they could perform very well in the Tour de France. Some have already had three or four surprise controls,” Gripper said. She also explained that there had been some problems tracking them down. “We’ve dubbed them the Men in Black because they train in anonymous jerseys rather than in team kits so that they can avoid the controls.”

Take a bow, Madame Gripper, for keeping the heat on them. Take a bow Big Pat: zero tolerance is the only way forward. There is just one question. Why didn’t this happen when riders were dying from conditions brought on by their drug abuse in the 1990s? Why has it taken until the sport is on its knees?

The answer, of course, is that the response has been commercially driven. Television is losing patience; sponsors have had their fill; yesterday, it was reported that even the world championships in Stuttgart in September are in danger. “Perhaps we’ll have to reach the conclusion that a spectacular cancellation [of the championships] would herald the new start cycling needs,” the German interior minister Wolfgang Schauble said.

And Big Pat will huff and puff but he has no right to complain. Nine years ago in Dublin, in the build-up to the start of the Tour, before the eruption of the Fes-tina scandal, which revealed the systematic nature of the drug abuse in the sport, his pronouncements on doping were the polar opposite of what he says today. There were one or two bad apples. The big names didn’t need it. There wasn’t a real problem.

Two months ago, when questioned by an astute radio presenter on an Irish sports show, he was still in denial.

Hein Verbruggen, he insisted, was the finest administrator the sport had ever had. And no, he did not believe the UCI bears any responsibility for the mess. Listening to him, you were reminded of the split between the riders who believe (or have been forced to concede) that confession is good for the soul – Bjarne Riis, David Millar, Ivan Basso, Erik Zabel, Rolf Aldag, Jesus Manzano, Jesper Skibby – and those who would rather suck the blood from a child than admit that they doped.

What side is Big Pat on? It depends which day you ask. He has got the sport that he deserves.

Meet Dave. He is a white van driver. He lives on a council estate with a wife and kids in Essex. Dave is pretty harmless by nature and if you spotted him walking towards you down the street, you would never be tempted to cross the road. But that might be a mistake if you are a professional cyclist. Another doping scandal? A terrorist attack? No, the biggest threat to the Tour this weekend was Dave.

He hasn’t always despised cyclists. In the summer of 1994, when the Tour last visited England, Dave was a fan. Chris Boardman had the yellow jersey that year. Then the other guy, Sean Yates, got it for a day. Dave would sit in front of his TV with Liggett each night and suck it all in. “This race is superb.”

Then the doping stuff starts to appear and it is illogical, he knows, but he feels betrayed. “They’re all f****** at it.”

On Thursday, Dave is out driving his van when he happens upon Wiggins and the Cofidis cycling team. He winds down his window. The resentment suddenly takes hold. “You’re all dop-ers,” he screams. “We don’t want the Tour de France here.”

Wiggins is shocked but unhurt. “It was quite bad actually,” he explains later. “I was quite surprised but that is the kind of level it has got to in cycling now.”

What hope for Bradley? What hope for Dave? What hope?

Favourites to wear the yellow jersey in Paris

Alexandre Vinokourov Country: Kazakhstan Team: Astana Age: 33

Combative allrounder who missed last year’s race because too many of his team had been suspended after the Spanish Operation Puerto doping inquiry. It recently emerged that he has been working with the controversial trainer Michele Ferrari. Needs to control his aggressive instincts if he is to prevail Odds (Ladbrokes): 7-4

Cadel Evans Country: Australia Team: Predictor-Lotto Age: 30

The former mountain biker fi nished eighth in his fi rst Tour de France two years ago and fi fth last year, revealing the talent to win overall. His real strength is his consistency and he has worked on his time-trialling to augment his ability in the mountains. Not an attacking rider though so cannot be expected to make death-or-glory breaks Odds: 10-1

Andreas Kloden Country: Germany Team: Astana Age: 31

The German has the class to win the race – his previous two starts have led to places on the podium – but has reportedly agreed to support his team leader Vinokourov’s campaign this time in return for similar backing next year. But should the Kazakh slip up, Kloden will be ready to mount his own bid for glory Odds: 4-1

Levi Leipheimer Country: US Team: Discovery Channel Age: 33

American cycling has struggled since the retirement of Lance Armstrong. Leipheimer, who leads the Texan’s former team, is the only American of note in the peloton these days, with Floyd Landis and Tyler Hamilton fl oored by drugs allegations. The Californian is strong but always seems to have one terrible day Odds: 11-2

Alejandro Valverde Country: Spain Team: Caisse d’Epargne Age: 27

The Spanish heir to Miguel Indurain, the five-time Tour winner, but has so far failed to finish the race, abandoning with a knee injury in 2005 and crashing out in the Ardennes last year. Has won stage races this year and twice finished second in the early season Classics so comes into the race in great form Odds: 8-1

The five Britons who are competing in the Tour de France

Bradley Wiggins Team Cofidis Age 27

The winner of three medals – a gold, silver and bronze – on the track at the Athens Olympics, the Londoner became the poster boy of British cycling. His success on the road too has inspired this young group of riders. His best chance of glory this year was in yesterday’s prologue time-trial. He will struggle in the mountains, but proved his fi ghting spirit last year by making it to Paris

Mark Cavendish Team T-Mobile Age 22

A series of stage wins on the tough continental circuit in May and another last month show the young Isle of Man rider to be in great form going into the Tour. He will target today’s rolling stage as one that is perfectly suited to his riding style. Another track rider from the medal factory that is the British academy in Manchester who has turned to the road with great success

Charlie Wegelius Team Liquigas Age 29

The Italian-based rider is Britain’s best climber since Robert Millar, the elfin Scot who won three mountain stages in the 1980s. He has already ridden three Tours of Spain and five Tours of Italy, but this will be his first Tour de France. Don’t expect to hear his name on commentary until the lowlands are left far behind, but he will hope to be in the leading group of riders in the mountains

Geraint Thomas Team Barloworld Age 21

Like Wiggins and Cavendish, the Welshman – the first to race in the Tour for 40 years – is a successful track cyclist who has turned to the road. Earlier this year he was part of the British team that won gold in the team pursuit at the world track championships. His tender age means he will almost certainly be withdrawn before the big climbs of the Alps loom next weekend

David Millar Team Saunier Duval Age 30

The winner of three stages in the Tour de France, his record is tainted by his admission to taking EPO, for which he served a two-year ban from 2004. He was stripped of his 2003 world time-trial victory as a result and has not matched the heights of his early career since. The Scot starts this race in a trough of form. ‘I have never spent so long feeling so terrible on the bike,’ he said last week
ewwee
 

Flyer

Banned
Sep 20, 2004
2,961
0
0
limerickman said:
O body swayed to music, O brightening glance, How can we know the dancer from the dance

William Butler Yeats

Friday evening in London, as the curtain was raised for the Grand Depart of the Tour de France, it was easy to believe that the storms had passed. Some 25,000 people had flocked to Trafalgar Square for the opening ceremony and everywhere you looked there were smiley, happy faces: the London mayor Ken Livingstone, the race director Christian Prudhomme, the announcer Hugh Porter, the commentator Phil Liggett.

God Save the Queen? No, God Save the Tour.

Had Liggett, the “Murray Walker” of cycling, ever witnessed a finer setting for a start? “No,” he replied during the ITV4 live broadcast. “This is superb.”

The fact that five of the 189 riders who were wheeled out on stage are British was a help. It was a great night for Bradley Wiggins, Mark Cavendish, Geraint Thomas, Charlie Wegelius and David Millar, and they were clearly enjoying the moment. “It’s amazing to be here,” Wiggins announced. “You can see the stir the Tour de France has created and if a couple of people can be inspired by this then that’s fantastic.”

“This is what I have dreamt about since I was a small boy,” said Wegelius, “so to start my first Tour de France in Britain is the best I could hope for.”

It is also the best the Tour could hope for. All 189 starters have signed the new antidoping charter produced by the UCI, the sport’s governing body, and it is generally acknowledged that this will be the cleanest race for years. It is also acknowledged that the doping has continued.

“This sport needs to bleed to death before it can rebuild,” the American three-time Tour winner Greg LeMond observed last week. The bleeding has started. The sport has split down the middle on how to address the problem and is ripping itself to shreds. The haemorrhaging is now so bad that even the Tour is under threat. Will professional cycling survive? Should professional cycling survive? How has it come to this? MEET Jean-Louis Le Touzet. Here he comes, striding into the press room at the Excel Centre in London’s Docklands with his laptop and his ear muffs. To watch Le Touzet at work is to marvel at a man at the summit of his art. It is the ear muffs. He puts them on when he sits down to work; they help him to remain detached. A sense of detachment is imperative to Le Touzet. He’s one of those rare jewels in our profession, a real journalist.

“You know,” he says, “cycling is a wonderful sport. I mean, you write about football and they don’t care if you ever come back, but cycling embraces you. It wraps itself around you and won’t let you go. It holds you close to its bosom and says, ‘I love you’. But to do your job correctly, you have to push it away. You can’t love it back.”

Politics is his usual beat. He has spent most of the year writing for the French newspaper Libération about his country’s recent presidential elections but has applied his razor-sharp perception to the Tour each summer since 1997.

“The Tour has always considered itself bigger and stronger than doping,” he says. “It’s like the alcoholic who thinks he can control his drinking but who wakes up one day to find he is dependent on it. There was a book [Sauvons le Tour] published recently by the former race director Xavier Louy, that made some interesting points.

“The power of the Tour has always been about memories – the great riders, the great battles, the mountains, the suffering – and those memories served as a kind of washing machine. If ever there was a stain and the race was mildly tarnished, you stuck it in the machine with the ‘myth and memory powder’ and came out nice and fresh. But the machine has reached the end of its cycle. The powder has run dry and the washing keeps coming out dirty.

“Winning has no value any more. How can you exploit a win that nobody believes in?”

Meet Jose Miguel Echavarri. That’s him with the bronzed and slightly crumpled features, talking to a journalist outside the shiny London bus they have parked in the middle of the press room. Everybody likes Echavarri. He once raced as a professional against Jacques Anquetil, the great French champion of the 1950s and 60s, but made his name as the manager of the Spanish Tour winners Pedro Delgado and Miguel Indurain. Like Le Touzet, words have always been the wily Spaniard’s power.

“When a king comes to see his people, it is not the people who must rise to the level of the king but the king who must come down to the level of the people,” he once cautioned Indurain, a five-time winner of the Tour. But he has struggled to retain his composure during the eruptions of these past few weeks, and now this.

He has just come from a meeting with the 21 heads of the teams and after a very heated debate, eight have decided to split and form The Movement for Credible Cycling.

Echavarri is explaining his frustrations to the press man.

What do they mean by credible? Where is it all going to end? So many confessions and still the witch-hunt continues! This finger-pointing and talk of the truth – what good has it served? He shakes his head and glances around the room. “If they are going to start talking about the truth, nobody will leave here alive,” he says.

Meet Vino. That is Alexandre Vinokourov from Kazakhstan to you. That’s him with the blond hair and the boxer’s jaw facing the media at his press conference. Vino is the prerace favour-ite and rides for Astana. The team have been somewhat unfortunate of late. Eddy Mazzoleni, a star of the recent Giro d’Italia, is currently being quizzed by the antidoping prosecutor of the Italian Olympic Committee and has been provisionally suspended by the team. Another Astana rider, Matthias Kessler, tested positive for testosterone last month and has also been provisionally suspended.

But it is Vinokourov’s recent admission that he is working with Dr Michele Ferrari, the controversial Italian trainer, that has generated the biggest headlines. It is the first item on the agenda when the questions are thrown open to the floor.

Vinokourov is reminded of a recent interview given by the UCI president Pat McQuaid, who stated that a win for the Kazakh in Paris this month would lack credibility because of his collaboration with Ferrari, who was convicted of sporting fraud by an Italian court but later cleared on appeal. He takes the hit on the chin and explains the position calmly. Ferrari was his trainer, not his doctor. “And nobody asked any questions when he was working with Lance Armstrong [the American who won the Tour seven times].”

The storm passes. The subject is changed. But it won’t go away. Another journalist raises his hand. “You said that nobody asked any questions when Ferrari was working with Lance Armstrong, but that’s not true,” he begins. “I thought it was disgusting. I think it’s disgusting that you’re working with him and I’ll be disgusted if you win this Tour. Does it not affect you that so many in this room are disgusted by what you’re doing?”

Vinokourov is stunned. “Ferrari has not done anything illegal. He was never condemned in Italy. He is my trainer, not my doctor. Why do you think that trainer means doping? I have done my work and have nothing to reproach myself for.”

For Vino, and Astana, it could be a long three weeks.

Meet Pat McQuaid. They call him “Big” in Dublin, the city of his birth, and though he never raced with Anquetil, he has always loved the game. Much has been written since he succeeded Hein Verbruggen as the UCI president but even his most fervent critics would concede that he has done some fine work. The recent announcement by Anne Gripper, the director of the governing body’s antidoping program, was a fine example.

“We have targeted six, seven riders considered a high risk because of their suspicious behaviour and because they could perform very well in the Tour de France. Some have already had three or four surprise controls,” Gripper said. She also explained that there had been some problems tracking them down. “We’ve dubbed them the Men in Black because they train in anonymous jerseys rather than in team kits so that they can avoid the controls.”

Take a bow, Madame Gripper, for keeping the heat on them. Take a bow Big Pat: zero tolerance is the only way forward. There is just one question. Why didn’t this happen when riders were dying from conditions brought on by their drug abuse in the 1990s? Why has it taken until the sport is on its knees?

The answer, of course, is that the response has been commercially driven. Television is losing patience; sponsors have had their fill; yesterday, it was reported that even the world championships in Stuttgart in September are in danger. “Perhaps we’ll have to reach the conclusion that a spectacular cancellation [of the championships] would herald the new start cycling needs,” the German interior minister Wolfgang Schauble said.

And Big Pat will huff and puff but he has no right to complain. Nine years ago in Dublin, in the build-up to the start of the Tour, before the eruption of the Fes-tina scandal, which revealed the systematic nature of the drug abuse in the sport, his pronouncements on doping were the polar opposite of what he says today. There were one or two bad apples. The big names didn’t need it. There wasn’t a real problem.

Two months ago, when questioned by an astute radio presenter on an Irish sports show, he was still in denial.

Hein Verbruggen, he insisted, was the finest administrator the sport had ever had. And no, he did not believe the UCI bears any responsibility for the mess. Listening to him, you were reminded of the split between the riders who believe (or have been forced to concede) that confession is good for the soul – Bjarne Riis, David Millar, Ivan Basso, Erik Zabel, Rolf Aldag, Jesus Manzano, Jesper Skibby – and those who would rather suck the blood from a child than admit that they doped.

What side is Big Pat on? It depends which day you ask. He has got the sport that he deserves.

Meet Dave. He is a white van driver. He lives on a council estate with a wife and kids in Essex. Dave is pretty harmless by nature and if you spotted him walking towards you down the street, you would never be tempted to cross the road. But that might be a mistake if you are a professional cyclist. Another doping scandal? A terrorist attack? No, the biggest threat to the Tour this weekend was Dave.

He hasn’t always despised cyclists. In the summer of 1994, when the Tour last visited England, Dave was a fan. Chris Boardman had the yellow jersey that year. Then the other guy, Sean Yates, got it for a day. Dave would sit in front of his TV with Liggett each night and suck it all in. “This race is superb.”

Then the doping stuff starts to appear and it is illogical, he knows, but he feels betrayed. “They’re all f****** at it.”

On Thursday, Dave is out driving his van when he happens upon Wiggins and the Cofidis cycling team. He winds down his window. The resentment suddenly takes hold. “You’re all dop-ers,” he screams. “We don’t want the Tour de France here.”

Wiggins is shocked but unhurt. “It was quite bad actually,” he explains later. “I was quite surprised but that is the kind of level it has got to in cycling now.”

What hope for Bradley? What hope for Dave? What hope?

Favourites to wear the yellow jersey in Paris

Alexandre Vinokourov Country: Kazakhstan Team: Astana Age: 33

Combative allrounder who missed last year’s race because too many of his team had been suspended after the Spanish Operation Puerto doping inquiry. It recently emerged that he has been working with the controversial trainer Michele Ferrari. Needs to control his aggressive instincts if he is to prevail Odds (Ladbrokes): 7-4

Cadel Evans Country: Australia Team: Predictor-Lotto Age: 30

The former mountain biker fi nished eighth in his fi rst Tour de France two years ago and fi fth last year, revealing the talent to win overall. His real strength is his consistency and he has worked on his time-trialling to augment his ability in the mountains. Not an attacking rider though so cannot be expected to make death-or-glory breaks Odds: 10-1

Andreas Kloden Country: Germany Team: Astana Age: 31

The German has the class to win the race – his previous two starts have led to places on the podium – but has reportedly agreed to support his team leader Vinokourov’s campaign this time in return for similar backing next year. But should the Kazakh slip up, Kloden will be ready to mount his own bid for glory Odds: 4-1

Levi Leipheimer Country: US Team: Discovery Channel Age: 33

American cycling has struggled since the retirement of Lance Armstrong. Leipheimer, who leads the Texan’s former team, is the only American of note in the peloton these days, with Floyd Landis and Tyler Hamilton fl oored by drugs allegations. The Californian is strong but always seems to have one terrible day Odds: 11-2

Alejandro Valverde Country: Spain Team: Caisse d’Epargne Age: 27

The Spanish heir to Miguel Indurain, the five-time Tour winner, but has so far failed to finish the race, abandoning with a knee injury in 2005 and crashing out in the Ardennes last year. Has won stage races this year and twice finished second in the early season Classics so comes into the race in great form Odds: 8-1

The five Britons who are competing in the Tour de France

Bradley Wiggins Team Cofidis Age 27

The winner of three medals – a gold, silver and bronze – on the track at the Athens Olympics, the Londoner became the poster boy of British cycling. His success on the road too has inspired this young group of riders. His best chance of glory this year was in yesterday’s prologue time-trial. He will struggle in the mountains, but proved his fi ghting spirit last year by making it to Paris

Mark Cavendish Team T-Mobile Age 22

A series of stage wins on the tough continental circuit in May and another last month show the young Isle of Man rider to be in great form going into the Tour. He will target today’s rolling stage as one that is perfectly suited to his riding style. Another track rider from the medal factory that is the British academy in Manchester who has turned to the road with great success

Charlie Wegelius Team Liquigas Age 29

The Italian-based rider is Britain’s best climber since Robert Millar, the elfin Scot who won three mountain stages in the 1980s. He has already ridden three Tours of Spain and five Tours of Italy, but this will be his first Tour de France. Don’t expect to hear his name on commentary until the lowlands are left far behind, but he will hope to be in the leading group of riders in the mountains

Geraint Thomas Team Barloworld Age 21

Like Wiggins and Cavendish, the Welshman – the first to race in the Tour for 40 years – is a successful track cyclist who has turned to the road. Earlier this year he was part of the British team that won gold in the team pursuit at the world track championships. His tender age means he will almost certainly be withdrawn before the big climbs of the Alps loom next weekend

David Millar Team Saunier Duval Age 30

The winner of three stages in the Tour de France, his record is tainted by his admission to taking EPO, for which he served a two-year ban from 2004. He was stripped of his 2003 world time-trial victory as a result and has not matched the heights of his early career since. The Scot starts this race in a trough of form. ‘I have never spent so long feeling so terrible on the bike,’ he said last week
FDDDD
 
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