Endurance: Tour de France

Verbruggen denies Armstrong coverup

December, 18, 2013
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Former UCI president Hein Verbruggen ended his silence and shot back at claims leveled by banned cyclist Lance Armstrong that Verbruggen was part of a coverup.

Speaking to London daily The Telegraph, Verbruggen denied he helped cover up a positive test for cortisone by Armstrong during the 1999 Tour de France.

“I see it as if I’m part of a kind of industry now. It’s called the Lance Armstrong industry. People are making films now. It’s all part of the industry," Verbruggen said. "You have a lot of people in it with a vested interest, and this interest is clearly not to know the truth."

“Lance Armstrong has his own agenda and that is certainly his own personal interest, whether it is that he wants his sanctions to be reduced or whether he wants money. Usually, with Lance, there is always an interest also in money. My interest is the truth.”

Verbruggen, who left his position as UCI president in 2005, defended his record at the helm of the cycling federation. He denied corruption charges, but admitted his reputation is tainted.

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Lance ArmstrongFranck Fife/AFP/Getty ImagesJan Ullrich, left, believes all seven of Lance Armstrong's Tour de France wins should be reinstated.
BERLIN -- Lance Armstrong should have his seven Tour de France victories reinstated because of the prevalence of doping at the time, former cyclist Jan Ullrich said.

"I would give Armstrong the Tour victories back. ... That's how it was back then," Ullrich told the current edition of Sport Bild magazine. "It doesn't help anyone to draw a line through the winners' list."

Ullrich, who won the Tour in 1997, finished second to Armstrong three times -- in 2000, 2001 and 2003 -- but the German declined to stake a claim for his former rival's stripped titles.

"I only want victories that I've experienced on the bike. I don't want to win anything at the green table," he said.

Armstrong, the dominant cyclist of his generation, acknowledged in January that he doped for all seven of his Tour wins from 1999-2005. He was subsequently stripped of the titles.

Ullrich admitted to Focus magazine in June that he received blood treatments from Spanish doctor Eufemiano Fuentes.

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Stuart O'GradyClive Mason/Getty ImagesRecently retired cyclist Stuart O'Grady admitted to blood doping during the 1998 Tour de France.
SYDNEY -- A day after retiring from professional cycling, Stuart O'Grady admitted to using a blood-booster during the scandal-plagued 1998 Tour de France.

The 39-year-old Australian rider, a six-time Olympian who wore the leader's yellow jersey for a total of nine days in 17 Tours de France, announced his retirement earlier this week after the 100th edition of the race. He admitted he used erythropoietin (EPO) for two weeks before the 1998 event, saying he acquired it himself and used it without the knowledge of his team.

His admission in an Australian newspaper came after the French senate inquiry into doping in sport released its findings and implicated dozens of cyclists for suspicious test results, uncovering evidence that 1998 Tour de France champion Marco Pantani and runner-up Jan Ullrich used EPO.

"You win Olympics, Paris-Roubaix and now all of that is going to be tainted by this action," O'Grady, who won the Madison gold medal at the 2004 Olympics and was a silver medalist in the team pursuit at the 1992 Olympics, was quoted as saying Thursday in News Corp Australia newspapers. "That's the hardest thing to swallow out of all this -- it was such a long time ago and one very bad judgment is going to taint a lot of things."

O'Grady told the newspapers he just had to "drive over the border and buy it in a pharmacy" and used "extremely cautious amounts" of EPO.

The 1998 Tour de France was notable for the major scandal that emerged with the discovery of widespread doping on the French Festina team. The subsequent police crackdown led to seven of the original 21 teams either withdrawing or being ejected from the Tour.

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PARIS -- A French inquiry into sports doping uncovered proof that 1998 Tour de France champion Marco Pantani and runner-up Jan Ullrich used the banned blood-booster EPO to fuel their performances.

France's senate, after a five-month investigation focused on sports doping, released a report Wednesday that confirms what many have long suspected: Use of the banned substance EPO was rife in cycling in the late 1990s, before there was a test for the drug.

Pantani was suspended in 1999 from the Giro after failing a random blood test, and his career was damaged by several doping investigations. He died in 2004 at 34 of an accidental drug overdose.

Ullrich, the 1997 Tour winner, has admitted to blood doping and last year was stripped of his third-place finish in the 2005 Tour.

The 1998 Tour de France was notable for the major scandal that emerged with the discovery of widespread doping on the French Festina team. The subsequent police crackdown led to seven of the original 21 teams either withdrawing or being ejected from the Tour.

Other star riders whose positive EPO doping tests were disclosed include American Kevin Livingston, who finished 17th in the 1998 Tour. Also listed were double-stage winner Mario Cipollini of Italy and Laurent Jalabert of France.

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VAISON-LA-ROMAINE, France -- Swatting the air with the back of his hand, Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme says he has nothing to say to a group of female cyclists hoping to one day ride in the sport's greatest race.

Before the start of Tuesday's 16th stage, Prudhomme brushed off a question about an online letter and petition urging Tour organizers to let women compete next year.

Prudhomme said, "We are saying nothing for the moment."

Olympic gold medalist and road race world champion Marianne Vos and British Olympian Emma Pooley are among the cyclists behind the petition.

-- Associated Press
Marianne VosFranck Fife/AFP/Getty ImagesOlympic road race champion Marianne Vos wants a chance to add a yellow jersey to her collection.
THE HAGUE, Netherlands -- Marianne Vos has Olympic gold medals and the road race world champion's rainbow jersey in her trophy cabinet. Now she wants the chance to add a yellow jersey.

The Olympic road race champion is among a group of cyclists, including British Olympian Emma Pooley, who have launched an online petition urging Tour de France organizers to let women participate in next year's race.

In an online letter to Tour director Christian Prudhomme, the riders say that after a century "it is about time women are allowed to race the Tour de France, too."

A "Tour Feminin" women's race in France that was staged in the past, but not since 2009, "lacked parity, media coverage, and sponsorship" the letter to Prudhomme says.

Pooley won the 2009 race, known as the Grande Boucle Feminine, and Vos placed third.

The riders backing the petition said letting women race in the men's Tour, "will also create an equal opportunity to debunk the myths of physical `limitations' placed upon female athletes."

Vos conceded that getting women into the 2014 Tour may not be realistic, "but we hope to get the ball rolling," she told Dutch daily De Telegraaf.

On Friday, more than 2,200 people had put their names to the petition.

-- Associated Press

Van Garderen hits reset button in France

July, 10, 2013
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Tejay van GarderenBryn Lennon/Getty ImagesAmerican Tejay van Garderen has fallen more than 35 minutes off the lead at the Tour de France.
SAINT-MALO, France -- Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing) didn't expect to be starting the second half of the Tour de France parked in 50th, more than 35 minutes behind the yellow jersey.

Eleven days ago on Corsica, van Garderen started his third Tour as an outsider for the podium. Two brutal days in the Pyrénées surprisingly saw van Garderen languishing off the back, when normally he would be right in the front row, trading punches with the big boys.

Speaking to VeloNews before the start of Tuesday's 10th stage, van Garderen said he was still at a loss about what happened in the Pyrénées.

"I would have liked to have been better. I don't really have an answer to why," Van Garderen said. "I am not going to make any excuses. The legs were not there for some reason."

Last year, van Garderen was one of the revelations of the Tour, becoming the third American to win the white jersey en route to placing fifth overall.

After winning the Amgen Tour of California in May, many expected van Garderen to pick up where he left off last year. BMC was backing Cadel Evans, but van Garderen would have a free ride.

Things went sideways, however, when van Garderen lost contact on the hors-categorie Pailhères climb, the first major test of the 2013 Tour.

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Distance runner reinvents Tour de France

July, 4, 2013
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Zoe RomanoCourtesy Alexander Kreher
After dismissing a run across Iceland because it was too safe, Zoe Romano decided the Tour de France route was right for her. Read about her story on espnW ...


Froome happy to avoid yellow as gap opens

July, 2, 2013
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Chris FroomeBryn Lennon/Getty ImagesChris Froome is satisfied with Team Sky's performance through four stages at the Tour de France.
NICE, France -- Tour de France favorite Chris Froome (Sky) and the man tipped to be his closest challenger, Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff), both declared themselves satisfied with their performances in Tuesday’s fourth-stage team time trial around Nice.

The flat, 25-kilometer race around the city was won by the Orica-GreenEdge team, allowing stage 3 winner Simon Gerrans to seize the yellow jersey.

Sky was third-quickest on the day, leaving Froome just three seconds off the pace in the general classification as the Tour begins to move along the Mediterranean coast towards the Pyrénées.

Meanwhile, Contador and his Saxo team lie a further six seconds back.

"The main objective of today was to come through without having lost any time on the big contenders, but we've actually come through it having gained a bit of time. So that's a fantastic thing," said Froome.

It looked at one point as though Sky might sneak ahead of the Omega Pharma-Quick Step team of Mark Cavendish before both were outdone by Orica, but the Kenya-born Froome insisted he was happy at not being in the yellow jersey for the moment.

"If we had taken yellow it would have been by just a few seconds and it would have meant that we would have to be on the front for the next few days, possibly spending quite a lot of energy to defend only a few seconds," he said. "So I think in a way it's a good thing we didn’t end up in the yellow jersey."

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PORTO VECCHIO, Corsica -- The dirty past of the Tour de France came back on Friday to haunt the 100th edition of cycling's showcase race, with Lance Armstrong telling a newspaper he couldn't have won without doping and that he feels he is still the winner of the 1999-2005 races.

"It is fine to erase my name from the record book, but the Tour was held between 1999-2005, wasn't it? It was held and there was a winner. Who was he? No one has manifested to claim my jerseys," Armstong told French publication Le Monde.

Armstrong's comments to Le Monde were surprising on many levels, not least because of his long-antagonistic relationship with the respected French daily that first reported in 1999 that corticosteroids were found in the American's urine as he was riding to the first of his seven Tour wins. In response, Armstrong complained he was being persecuted by "vulture journalism, desperate journalism."

Now seemingly prepared to let bygones be bygones, Armstrong told Le Monde he still considers himself the record-holder for Tour victories, because the Tour declared no winner over those seven years after it stripped him of the titles for doping.

"We wish that there is no winner for this period," Tour director Christian Prudhomme said last year when making the announcement. "For us, very clearly, the titles should remain blank. Effectively, we wish for these years to remain without winners."

Armstrong also said his life has been ruined by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency investigation that exposed as lies his years of denials that he and his teammates doped. And Armstrong took another swipe at cycling's top administrators, darkly suggesting they could be brought down by other skeletons in the sport's closet.

The interview was the latest blast from cycling's doping-tainted recent history to rain on the 100th Tour.

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Froome eager to fill Wiggins' void in France

June, 28, 2013
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Wiggins-Froome Bernard Prevost/Presse Sports/US PresswireChris Froome, right, is settling into the Team Sky captain's chair vacated by Bradley Wiggins.
PORTO VECCHIO -- Chris Froome stood in front of a phalanx of photographers and TV cameras Thursday a little bit in awe of all the fuss.

"Good thing I am not camera shy," Froome later joked.

Froome was sitting in the hot seat, the exact same place where Sir Bradley Wiggins sat one year ago, just weeks before becoming the first British rider to win the Tour de France.

The Kenyan-born Froome inherits the weight of expectation that comes with being the pre-ordained favorite from Wiggins, who is not even back to defend his yellow jersey.

With it comes the pressure, expectations, and stress as the Tour favorite, but Froome seems to be taking it all in stride.

"There's not much you can do to be ready for this type of hype," Froome said. "It's very different to the other races on our calendar. This is a bit of a surprise to see all this."

Unlike Wiggins, who gritted his teeth under the media pressure that came with Tour success, Froome seems unfazed by the crush of cameras and nosy questions

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Bradley WigginsAP Photo/Laurent ReboursAt 33, Bradley Wiggins says his days riding in cycling's most famous race could be finished for good.
Defending Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins (Sky), sidelined from this year's race because of an injury, may not try to win the race again, he indicated in comments published on Friday.

"For me it was always about winning the Tour," Wiggins was quoted as saying on the website for The Guardian.

"I've done that. If I'm honest, I don't think I'm prepared to make those sacrifices again that I made last year, with my family and so on. I've achieved what I've achieved. I'm incredibly happy with that."

Wiggins, who was Britain's first-ever winner of the famous race, followed up with a gold medal in the Olympic time trial and played a starring role by ringing a bell to signal the start of the Games' opening ceremony.

He also won the BBC's prestigious Sports Personality of the Year award and was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for his services to cycling, but he has endured mixed fortunes on the bike since then.

First he was involved in a training ride crash with a car near his home in northwest England, and then he had to pull out of last month’s Giro d'Italia -- which he was hoping to win -- because of an illness.

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Horner ruled out of Tour de France

June, 7, 2013
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Chris HornerDoug Pensinger/Getty ImagesRadio Shack-Leopard benched American Chris Horner due to a lingering knee issue requiring surgery.
RadioShack-Leopard announced on Friday morning that it would keep Chris Horner benched for the Tour de France, due to a lingering knee issue that ultimately required surgery.

The team said that Horner will not be able to take the start in Corsica on June 29, as he recovers from his knee operation from two weeks ago. Horner has suffered from iliotibial (IT) band friction syndrome since the end of Tirreno-Adriatico.

Horner has completed the Tour five times, and withdrawn once, in 2011, after a hard crash and a concussion. His best finish of ninth place came in 2010 and the American, popular for his affable nature and spot-on summation of racing tactics, finished 13th last year.

Horner missed a home-race in the Amgen Tour of California last month, a race he won in 2011, with knee pain as well, and has had a very quiet spring due to injury.

The climber abandoned the Vuelta a Catalunya in March and was a last-minute scratch from April's Vuelta al Pais Vasco (Tour of the Basque Country), which he won in 2010.

It's been feast or famine since the start of the season for RadioShack, which sees most of its stage-race potential now hinge upon the shoulders of Andy Schleck, who has had a difficult time returning from injury at the Critérium du Dauphiné last year, but enjoyed a remarkable classics campaign thanks to Fabian Cancellara's wins at the Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders) and Paris-Roubaix. Cancellara, it was revealed on Friday, will skip the Tour to prepare for the world championships.

Off the bikes, it's also been tough sledding for the 'Shack team, as reports surfaced earlier this week that owner Flavio Becca was out, and will opt to sell the team’s UCI WorldTour license to Trek.
Christopher FroomeFabrice Coffrini/Getty ImagesChris Froome looks to better his runner-up finish in the 2012 Tour de France when he leads Team Sky.
MANCHESTER, England -- Bradley Wiggins' chances of retaining his Tour de France title receded on Monday when teammate Chris Froome was chosen Team Sky's leader for cycling's biggest race.

Team principal Dave Brailsford ended months of speculation by saying the British-based team would stick to the plan to go with Froome.

"As always, the team selection is a management decision and it will be evidence-based," Brailsford said. "However it is crucial there is clarity of purpose and for that reason we will go to the Tour with one leader."

Wiggins, the Olympic time-trial champion, left Team Sky in an awkward position last week when he said he was hoping to pull off a rare Giro d'Italia-Tour de France double this year. That statement came despite Froome lined up as the team's No. 1 at the Tour after finishing runner-up in 2012.

Froome reacted the same day by saying he had been "reassured by the management ... that I have their full backing" as Team Sky's leader for the Tour.

Froome is widely considered a better climber and has powered to overall victories at the Tour of Oman, Criterium International and Tour de Romandie this season.

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Eisel, Cav: A professional parting of ways

November, 19, 2012
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Mark Cavendish and Bernhard EiselGraham Watson/www.grahamwatson.com Teammates, roommates and friends, Mark Cavendish and Bernhard Eisel had been together since '07.
Bernhard Eisel says Mark Cavendish remains his best friend. But next year, he and the Manxster will square off in opposing jerseys.

Cavendish's high-profile move to Omega Pharma-Quick Step last month put Eisel on the spot. While Cavendish grated at Sky last season, Eisel found himself feeling right at home -- so much so that the popular Austrian signed a deal to stay with Sky through 2015.

Staying with the British ProTeam meant saying goodbye to Cavendish. For Eisel, the choice wasn't easy, but it was the right one for him.

"I have had so many good times with Cav over the years, but it came down to where I wanted to be," Eisel told VeloNews. "He said he didn't want to stay (at Sky) anymore. I tried to convince him, but there wasn't a solution. It was hard leaving my best friend, but it is my life."

Eisel and Cavendish have been joined at the hip since 2007, with the Austrian acting as a pilot and mentor both in and out of the high-speed bunch sprints at High Road. Cavendish quickly developed into the world's best sprinter and Eisel was the consistent shepherd at his side.

Eisel was the only former High Road teammate to follow him to Sky at the end of last season, but while Cavendish chafed at Sky, Eisel found he thrived in the team's professionalism, organization and new ways of thinking.

For Cavendish, it was a question of having the support he wants and needs for the bunch sprints. With Sky clearly backing Tour de France champion Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome going forward, the Manxman's honeymoon at the British team was short-lived.

His move to Omega Pharma reunites Cav with former High Road teammates Tony Martin, Bert Grabsch and the Velits twins. But Eisel will not be there.

"That was the hardest part, telling Cav. I had to say, 'Sorry, buddy, I am not going with you,'" Eisel said. "I tried to convince him to stay at Sky, and he tried to convince me so many times to go with him. In the end, it's kind of a sad story, but we will always still be best friends."

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