Sports Outside the Beltway

Cyril Dessel Leads Tour de France

I see via YahooNews that Cyril Dessel has taken the Tour de France lead:

Unheralded French rider Cyril Dessel took the Tour de France leader’s yellow jersey Wednesday on the first high altitude stage, and American Floyd Landis fell from second to fifth overall. Juan Miguel Mercado of Spain won the stage, beating Dessel in a sprint to the line at Pau. The previous yellow jersey holder, Serhiy Honchar of Ukraine, was still riding far behind with the main pack of racers when Mercado and Dessel finished.

Honestly, I had no clue the Tour had even started. For me, this has quite literally been the “Tour de Lance” for years. Without Lance Armstrong in the competition, it might as well not exist so far as I’m concerned.


Basso, Ullrich out of Tour de France

Anyone who knows anything about bicycle racing other than Lance Armstrong and the Tour de France knows that Jan Ullrich and Ivan Basso are main favorites to win the famous race now that Armstrong is no longer racing. Well, they WERE the favorites:

Pre-race favourites Jan Ullrich and Ivan Basso are out of the Tour de France after both were named in an anti-doping investigation in Spain.
Ullrich, team-mate Oscar Sevilla and team manager Rudy Pevenage have all been suspended by the T-Mobile team.

Basso, who rides for the CSC team, was excluded by organisers of the Tour, which starts in Strasbourg on Saturday.

This dramatically changes the race, which starts tomorrow. I don’t think we really have any solid idea who is going to win, since the common wisdom held that “either Basso or Ullrich” would win. Not only has Armstrong been dominating, but Basso and Ullrich have also consistently been in second and third place throughout Armstrong’s run.

In related news, Armstrong wins a preliminary injunction for libel.

I find it incredibly ironic that they have been unable to prove Armstrong’s guilt for years, but have now found all his rivals were doping. However, as long as they can’t put solid proof behind it, I’m inclined to beliee Armstrong.

ESPN is reporting that another big name, Francisco Mancebo, was also dropped from the race. This means that three of the top four finishers from last year’s tour are out on allegations of doping. Since Armstrong is retired, this means that the ENTIRE TOP FOUR from 2005 is not in this race. Whether they are guilty or not remains to be seen, but this is a truly significant development in either case. This year’s winner will probably be someone who few people have even heard of.


Via ESPN: Alexander Vinokourov, who finished fifth last year, wasn’t implicated, but lost his ride when the rest of his team was.

Ironically, this may pave the way for an all American sweep of the top three in the race.

And the repercussions are mighty. With Vinokourov, Mancebo, Ullrich, and Basso out of the Tour and possibly completely out of the sport, the biggest favorites, or the best doped athletes as the case may be, have unceremoniously exited stage left and the yellow jersey is again up for grabs. This leaves the race wide open for the handful of pre-race favorites remaining in the race not caught up in the scandal — Americans George Hincapie (Discovery), Floyd Landis (Phonak), and Levi Leipheimer (Gerolsteiner).

Having an American finish at the top of the Tour de France again would probaby drive the some in the world absolutely beserk. There are many out there who were looking forward to Lance leaving so that they could take back the event they saw as “theirs”. This scandal diminishes the chances that will happen. Looks like they will just have to take solace that we still aren’t anywhere near the World Cup.

Another tidbit from the Fox Sports article: they mention the fact that unlike American sports, the Europeans take steroids seriously. They were unafraid to take out the top four (based on last year’s Tour de France finish) athletes in order to clean out their sport, something that few, if any, organized sports would do (the NCAA might do something on this scale, but none of the professional leagues have the guts to pull the trigger). Not only that, but they did it the night before the race.

Of course, there is a chance that this is a witchhunt, and that these racers are innocent and were taken out too early, before anything was proven. Time will tell us whether the cycling authority should be praised for its proactive anti-drug stance, or if they should be scorned for jumping to conclusions. Lance Armstrong would seem to benefit from these actions, though. If the authorities are so willing to jump on racers when they have proof, it would seem to follow that they never had this proof with Armstrong.


Armstrong Says LeMond ‘Not in Check with Reality’

The Lance Armstrong-Greg LeMond feud grew hotter today, as Armstrong vehemently denied LeMond’s claims that he’d threatened him with bodily harm.

Lance Armstrong denied Monday that he threatened three-time Tour de France champion Greg LeMond, calling the allegation “ridiculous.” “Greg is just not in check with reality,” Armstrong said Monday from New York City. “It’s ridiculous. Greg is obsessed with foiling my career. I’m apoplectic when I read stuff like that,” Armstrong said.

LeMond was the first American to win the Tour de France with victories in 1986 and 1989-90. Armstrong came back from life-threatening testicular cancer that had spread to his lungs and brain to win seven in a row from 1999-2005 before retiring last year.

LeMond told the French weekly edition of L’Equipe Dimanche that he had testified in a recent legal dispute involving Armstrong. “He threatened my wife, my business, my livelihood,” LeMond told the newspaper. “His biggest threat consisted of saying he would find 10 people to testify that I took EPO. Of course, he didn’t find a single one.”

America’s top cyclists have had a public feud since 2001 when LeMond said he was unhappy about Armstrong’s association with Italian doctor Michele Ferrari, who had been linked to doping accusations but later was cleared by an appeals court.

Quite bizarre. LeMond was a legendary cyclist, the first of whom I’d ever heard, but he’s clearly been overshadowed by Armstrong. Not once has Armstrong had more success as a racer, but he’s got the “cancer survivor” story and been a major celebrity, including a widely publicized romance with Sheryl Crow.


Report Clears Armstrong of Doping in 1999 Tour de France

Report clears Armstrong of doping in 1999 Tour de France SI.COM

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands (AP) -Lance Armstrong called it a “witch hunt” from the very beginning, saying a French newspaper used dubious evidence to accuse him of doping – even charging that lab officials mishandled his samples and broke the rules.

According to a Dutch investigator’s findings released Wednesday, he may have been right.


It said tests on urine samples were conducted improperly and fell so short of scientific standards that it was “completely irresponsible” to suggest they “constitute evidence of anything.”

Other than using Soap, deodorant, and toothpaste — Lance was found not to be using any banned substances in France (old joke).

The article goes on to mention possible legal and ethical violations by the organization that was falsely accusing Lance.



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