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Allez! Jake Farrell on Cycling

Cycling is a maddening, frustrating and unpredictable sport. The vageries of it's variable institutions and the way that they relate to each other is difficult to fully understand. It's strangeness has been fully crystallised by the case of Alberto Contador and the clenbuterol tainted steak. (Thumbnail credit Image: scarlatti2004 via Flickr Creative Commons)

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Doping problems rumble on for Tour de France Champion Contador

Cycling is a maddening, frustrating and unpredictable sport. The vageries of its variable institutions and the way that they relate to each other is difficult to fully understand. Its strangeness has been fully crystallised by the case of Alberto Contador and the clenbuterol tainted steak.

The two time Tour champion tested positive, was stripped of his title and then banned for a year. He appealed and his defense was accepted by the Spanish Cycling authority. He's been free to race since and won the Tour of Murcia in fine fashion recently through an excellent showing in a 12 km time trial.

Now though the real problems begin. The World Anti-Doping Authority (WADA) and cycling's international authority the International Cycling Union (UCI), have both taken this judgement to the International Court of Arbitration for sport, the sporting equivalent of the supreme court that was the ampitheatre of Pantani and Landis' demise.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport has promised that it will rule on both appeals before the start of the tour giving rise to the possibilty that Contador will be on the startline in the Vendee at the Passage du Gois on July 2nd. What a story it would be if he was.

Velo News reported earlier this week that Contador was training at high altitude in preparation for the Giro d'Italia whilst most other Tour de France contenders are warming up with the Tour of the Basque country. This would suggest that Contador realises cycling's authorities aren't likely to let him ride in their marquee event with the spectre of a doping case hanging over him. After all no one has been successful in a full campaign for both tours since Marco Pantani and he was subsequently shown to have levels of banned substances in his system akin to a dope fiend straight out of The Wire.

Equally the Giro may well be his warm up of choice. Lance Armstrong was largely responsible for the doctrine that both could not be ridden and has been proven right in recent years; riders rarely attempt both now given that the race through the mountains of Italy is akin to that of France rather than a precursor for it. Bradley Wiggins singled out his involvement in the Giro as one of the factors behind his poor showing in the Tour last year even though he made a pre-scheduled drop out mid-way through.

Thomas earns team support for a tilt at a classic

British rider Geraint Thomas will be joint leader of Team Sky with Spaniard Juan Antonio Flecha for the Paris-Roubaix one day race this coming Sunday after impressing with some aggressive displays in the Tour of Flanders. This will come as a huge boost to the Welsh rider, who held the white jersey during last year's Tour, as the chance to get a race of this magnitude under his belt is a signal of his progression as a competitor. Many people will be looking to Thomas for another strong showing in France this year after it was he, not expected star Bradley Wiggins, who performed strongest in the mountains for Dave Brailsford's outfit. Swiss rider Fabian Cancellara will start as favourite for the race after cementing himself as the best Classics rider in the world over the the last couple of years.

Horner and Kloden go close in the Basque country

Chris Horner and Andreas Kloden, of a now Lance Armstrong-less, Team Radioshack, put in a solid team showing to finish third and fourth in the opening stage of this year's Tour of the Basque Country. Joaquim Rodriguez of Katusha won, with last year's fourth place in the Tour de France Sammy Sanchez coming a narrow second. The result will be no small comfort to Horner and Sanchez after they went clear of the pack on the formidable La Antigua climb and then stayed away on the descent into Zummaraga. They will hope to replicate this form in the grand Tours later in the year and will have their eyes quietly fixed on the podium.

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2 Comment

Stephen Roche Posted on Saturday 19 Jan 2019

Good article, nice to see someone taking an interest in road (proper) cycling (more than can be said for bbc sport).

Thomas Lovkvist actually performed best in the mountains for Team Sky at the tour last year. Also, whilst Wiggo had a disappointing tour compared to 2009 (what an achievement that was!) he still finished over 1 hour 20 up on G Thomas but not sure if you meant strongest relative to ability/expectations or in absolute terms. Having said that I am probably a bigger fan of G Thomas and think he bags of potential. Other than Cav's tears after stage 5 his performance on the cobbles last year was probably my favourite moment of the tour. He is completely selfless in the way he rides and whether it's putting in a turn for one of the sprinters in the last k or digging in for the team leader in hill stages you know he'll give everything for his team (unlike some of the French pricks). As most British riders he's also an extremely handy time trialist so a very useful rider to have in the team. Thinking back to 10 or so years ago it's amazing how many promising British cyclists there are now and I find it strange going into Le Tour with genuine optimism and expectations. Hopefully Cav can take the green jersey this year and maybe (but less likely) Wiggo can push for a podium again like 2 years ago.

In general I think you're right about doing the Giro and Le Tour both in the same year although it wasn't a problem for me back in 87!


Jake Farrell Posted on Saturday 19 Jan 2019

Really appreciate the response, thanks for your input.

I will be really interested to see how Thomas performs this year. As you rightly say to see him barrelling along the cobbles with some of the best riders in the world, and in the white Jersey no less, was a great moment.

For me though this year is totally about Cav. Last year he barely bothered in 2 stages, when his form seemed to dessert him with no obvious explanation, and still went so close.


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