23 October 2008

2009 Parcours for Tour de France Revealed

Mister Stephen is rather excited about the route for the Tour de France 2009 which has been revealed today.

As he likes both F1 and le Tour he is quite excited of the prospect that le Grand Départ is in Monaco and seeing as this will need a spectacular back drop for the finish, it may well finish on or near parts of the Grand Prix circuit in Monte Carlo.

The cyclists, who may or may not include Mister Yellow Wristband, then will cycle along the Mediterranean coast. Before leaving Barcelona to head into the Pyrenees. They will then head through the Massif Centrale en route to the Alps.

But it is the penultimate stage of hell, finishing on Mont Ventoux . The most barren, the most inhospitable, the most feared mountain in Tour history that will be the ultimate decider of next year's tour. Nothing will be set on stone until the riders reach that final summit one day before the procession along the Champs d'Elysée.

It may lack too many summit finishes but it is a tough, hilly tour, with a real sting in the tail.

7 October 2008

Schumacher and Piepoli Found Out

Back in July I reported how ITV 4 attacked Stefan Schumacher after his stage win in this years Tour de France over anomalies and a police intoxication test. Well in retesting of samples by the French Anti-Doping Agency the German along with Italy's Leonardo Piepoli have tested positive for Continuous Erythropoiesis Receptor Activator (CERA) and 3rd generation version of erythropoietin (EPO). Italy's Riccardo Ricco had already confessed to using CERA which makes winners of 5 of the 21 stages of this years race now proven drug cheats.

While endurance events like the Tour de France are a target for the use of EPO and CERA type enhancement drugs it is good to see that the Tour is taking testing to new levels and retrospectively carrying out tested when new tests are available. It means that the cheats cannot get away with it, even if they think they may initially have masked their misuse.

The continual testing in professional tour cycling and the comparison to a normal sample looking for anomalies seems to be working in highlighting just what samples look suspicious. As the examples of Schumacher and Piepoli show as do other examples from this year's Tour the organisers are doing their utmost to change the image of the sport. It means weeding out the cheats but they are pro-active in seeking out samples from anomalous samples in the run up to the race during competition, and now show they are prepared to follow up with new testing procedures after the event if necessary. They want the greatest cycling spectacle to be above suspicion. However, to do that every suspicious improvement or result is going to have to be looked at, sudden improvements and rapid recovery are signs that something may be up.

Other sports including Athletics may well take a page out of the Tour de France's book. As their regime is starting to pay off, racers are calling for clean racing and are shunning those who are now caught out. They are being suspended or sacked from their teams upon suspicion even if they are a favourite. That is one sport taking the drug cheats seriously and treating them as such.