Lance Armstrong gives Tour de France new juice
The seven-time champion lines up in Monaco on Saturday for Day 1 of an event looking to overcome the doping-inspired moniker "Tour de Farce."
(Page 2 of 2)
There's cynicism over the fact that L'Equipe, owned by a family with financial stakes in the Tour, is now among the biggest cheerleader for the Texan and the heroic Return of the King narrative.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
In fact, in the past three years, the biggest Tour question became not "who is winning?" but "who got caught doping?" The disillusionment is palpable.
Winner Floyd Landis, an American, was later disqualified for using synthetic testosterone – a charge he spent $2 million contesting in a bitterly fought case.
In 2007, everything went further sideways: Germany's two public TV stations quit covering the race completely – at no insignficant cost to themselves – after the first of three riders tested positive for banned drugs.
The leader Michael Rasmussen was booed, then tossed out by his team mid-Tour for missing random drug tests in the runup to the race. Last year was a nadir: Ricardo Ricco, a little-known Italian, began to respark interest by winning two major mountain stages. He then tested positive for EPO on July 17; his whole team voluntarily withdrew as a result.
As part of his comeback campaign, Armstrong had promised to undergo a private drug-testing regimen for his skeptics, to be run by renowned antidoping scientist Don Catlin – the results of which would be published online for all to see. Five months after the two announced the program at Armstrong's September 2008 press conference, the two parted ways, citing cost and logistical complications. Armstrong is still tested under Astana's program, in addition to the sport's regular testing.
The route for this year's Tour
An informal web poll in Le Figaro has 4 of 5 respondents saying the Tour isn't credible anymore. Still, everyone plans to watch – or at least that's the mood in Paris.
On July 25, the penultimate day, they face an especially difficult 108-mile stage, starting at Montelimar (altitude 328 feet) and rising throughout the day to the top of Mont Ventoux, at 6,273 feet. The ride is considered hot, bleak, and a place that may separate the final pack. The last day, July 26, ends at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.
Follow us on Twitter