Tour de France winner so far: A new type of American champion
In the post-Lance Armstrong era, Team Garmin-Cervélo is proving it's possible to win clean. Since the squad pioneered a rigorous internal drug-testing system in 2007, not a single rider has tested positive.
In Pictures Garmin-Cervelo cycling team
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Team Garmin-Cervélo won its first-ever stage victory on Sunday, repeated the feat Monday, and is currently No. 1 in the team standings while squad member Thor Hushovd is the overall individual winner so far.
There is little doubt that its riders are clean: the squad has pioneered a rigorous system of drug testing that goes far beyond the mandatory tests imposed by cycling officials. Since the team went pro in 2007, not a single rider has tested positive.
“I am confident that clean riders can win big races,” said team director Jonathan Vaughters after Garmin cyclist Tyler Farrar won Stage 3 on Monday. “The proof is in the pudding. We’ve showed [it's possible.]"
Indeed, in the post-Lance Armstrong era, Garmin-Cervélo is emerging as a new sort of American champion – one that can win at cycling's marquee event without the cloud of doping doubts that has hovered over everyone from seven-time Tour victor Armstrong to this year's favorite, Spaniard Alberto Contador.
Garmin's rigorous drug-testing program
Garmin's success, particularly its unprecedented win on Sunday, is also a landmark moment for Vaughters, a former teammate of Armstrong and an outspoken opponent of doping.
His Garmin squad is one of the few teams in the professional peloton that’s openly committed to an “anti-doping” policy.
Throughout the season, Garmin riders are subjected to independent drug controls run by Dr. Don Catlin, a pioneer of anti-doping tests. (HTC-Highroad, a rival American squad, also uses Catlin’s lab.)
These tests are a supplement to the official controls administered by race officials and the UCI, professional cycling’s governing body.
In addition, the team has riders sign a contract that stipulates, among other things, that they won’t use needles or take infusions of any kind.
Originally, Vaughters’ team was focused on youth training. After retiring from a nine-year racing career in 2003, including a stint with Armstrong’s US Postal Squad, the Denver native took $50,000 of his own money and started Slipstream Sports, a venture aimed at cultivating young American riders.
Two years later, he was approached by Doug Ellis, a New York businessman who wanted to start an American ProTour team. By 2008, the squad had become Garmin-Chipotle, partnering with the GPS makers and the Mexican grill restaurant chain, and was racing in the Tour de France.
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A Tour stage win proved to be elusive for the team, though it came close at times: Before Sunday’s win, the team had recorded 17 second or third place finishes in the Tour.