Tour de France: Sprinters move aside, it's time for the mountain stages
Two-time defending champion Alberto Contador is once again the favorite as the Tour de France heads into the Pyrénéan climbs this week and next week’s Alpine stages.
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"Unfortunately, the race is being decided by crashes,” Horner’s compatriot and teammate Levi Leipheimer said last week. “Of course, they’re part of the sport, but I don't think it's right to have [them] to this degree.”
Sunday also saw the most terrifying crash of this year’s race – a French television car hit Spain’s Juan Antonio Flecha, who slid into Holland’s Johnny Hoogerland. Flecha hit the pavement and Hoogerland was flung into a barbed wire fence.
The car, which was authorized to be on the race course, was immediately suspended; Tour officials announced Tuesday that there would be more restrictive measures placed on media vehicles driving alongside the peloton. Flecha’s Team Sky and Hoogerland’s Vacansoleil teams are also pondering legal action against the driver, whose identity has not been released.
It’s not a typical Tour de France without doping casting a dark shadow over the race.
In addition to Contador’s participation, which Tour officials have downplayed, Russian Alexandr Kolobnev failed a drug test taken after last Wednesday’s stage 5.
Mr. Kolobnev, a rider for Katusha, tested positive for hydrochlorothiazide, a diuretic often used to mask other drugs. He left the Tour on Monday and has said he “does not know where [the diuretic] came from.”
Also on Monday, French anti-doping police searched Kolobnev’s hotel room for banned drugs, finding nothing.
It was their second publicized drug search of this Tour; on the eve of stage one, they seized and rifled through the bus of the Belgian team Quick Step.
"Fighting against doping is extremely complicated, but it's much easier when it's done together," said Tour director Christian Prudhomme on Wednesday. "And here is a good example of the anti-doping authorities working together.”
IN PICTURES: Cycling in stages: Tour de France 2011