Organizers have disinvited last year’s winner, Alberto Contador, and his entire Astana team, barring U.S. podium finisher Levi Leipheimer and former T-Mobile rider Andreas KlÃ¶den, as well as perennial Tour scrapper Chris Horner (who I hope winds up a race commentator based on his consistently excellent interviews). Also disinvited? QuickStep’s Tom Boonen, the defending green (sprinter’s) jersey champion, who tested positive for cocaine in an out-of-competition test in late May. Slipstream-Chipotle’s David Zabriskie (back injury) and Tom Danielson (fitness) won’t get a chance to show off the team’s new sponsor and name, Garmin-Chipotle.
And, since it’s apparently impossible to announce a cycling doping verdict during the 50 weeks of the year that don’t precede the Tour, we’ve got a final (maybe) Floyd Landis verdict arising from the ‘06 Tour and a Michael Rasmussen decision arising from the ‘07 Tour. This doesn’t smell like the recipe for a great Tour.
On the other hand, we’ve got two U.S. teams in the Tour this year. Garmin-Chipotle and Team High Road, rechristened Team Columbia and arising from the ashes of the old T-Mobile team, are two teams that are in the forefront of longitudinal testing, where teams track a number of blood markers and measurements throughout the season. The UCI plans to bring a similar program, which they’re calling the biological passport, to all teams next year. It’s not foolproof, but it looks like the best way to move beyond one-shot blood tests to a comprehensive and contestable doping defense in depth. Maybe the sport is starting up the hors categorie climb back to credibility.
Garmin-Chipotle brings two American riders without a lot of grand tour experience, Will Frischkorn and Danny Pate, to ride in support of seasoned team leaders David Millar and Christian Vande Velde. George Hincapie looks to be back doing his natural thing in support of Kim Kirchen (and possibly young Kanstantsin Siutsiou) rather than trying to ride as a team leader. And Canada - Oh Canada - finally returns to the Tour, with Ryder Hesjedal becoming the first Canadian Tour starter since Gord Fraser in 1997.
As always, I’ll be covering all the action over at TdFblog, where Byron has promised to drop by for the occasional guest post. I’ve also got a Twitter feed and welcome contributions at my reference wiki, TdFwiki. If you find an interesting link, a news story, or a photo gallery, please feel free to drop it in the wiki.
I love the Tour and I can’t wait for it to start tomorow. I’ve followed it twice, and seen individual stages in 3 other years. I know that some people have grown a little callused, or chosen to not pay attention anymore (and “ I can’t blame them, it has been a bit of a circus). Regardless of all that I’m going to be tuning in daily (probably more than one showing) to Versus to watch the in-depth coverage.
I think people tend to take Versus coverage for granted, but I remember back to the Olympics when NBC covered the Road Race. OMG “ now that was painful. Human interest stories, cameras following only the Americans, and I think the whole race got 20 minutes TV time as it switched back to Men™s Floor Exercise gymnastics. Suck.
Check the Versus site - make sure they know that the interest is still there and support their sponsors. If you really want to help keep the tour on TV - go buy a SAAB or something.
This German postcard from 1898, depicts Emil Nauke. The post card claims that Emil is “the heaviest biker on Earth.”
Despite his rotund size, little feet, and belly that nearly touches the bars, Emil is dressed in dapper attire, and is proudly seated atop his bicycle for this photo. This funny oddity of cycling history, makes me think of Chris Farley in Tommy Boy. On the other hand, Emil is clearly a bike hugger, and this photo makes me want to shout, “Get on with your bad self Emil!”
It’s great to see all the commuters out on the Burke these days, but it’s even greater to see folks riding in their regular clothes, copenhagen style. This cyclist manages to pull it off with an unusual amount of panache for the great pacific northwest, goodonya says I.
You may have passed or been passed by this Bike Battleship on the path, the road, or anywhere else. Possibly seen the long, tall, lanky gent riding it and wondered maybe WTF it was or even why it was …
It’s the Dread Nought – a bike battleship built for transportation and to take on any motorized vehicle that crosses it. With a horn that’ll clear a 520 traffic jam (and I suspect a system to throw darts or other medieval-inspired weaponry), Val gets where he’s going on this bad boy. And nothing is stopping him.