Tour de France 2007

Stage 6

"One of the Discovery Channel riders smashed into the back of the Bouygues Telecom team car yesterday, breaking the rear window in the process. The incident that involved Benjamin Noval happened near the end of the fifth stage and was the result of sudden braking by the French squad’s driver.
Noval has facial injuries and cuts to his arms. He is now at the rear of the peloton and consulting the race doctor."

Stage 8 - Dotty Grabs Yellow

165km alpine stage with summit finish
Sunday 15. July

TdF: "With 20km to go, Rasmussen attacked again and disposed of Arroyo and Colom for the final time. He would not be seen again until the end of the stage. The main animator of the main pack was Moreau (A2R) and Mayo (SDV). Their efforts reduced the chase group to just seven: Moreau, Mayo, Evans (PRL), Kashechkin (AST), Schleck (CSC), Contador (DSC) and Valverde. None of the attacks stuck and these seven stayed together for most of the climb until Mayo launched ahead with 5km to go. He finished 2’47” behind Rasmussen. The Danish rider not only won the stage but claimed the lead in both the general and climbing classifications.
Linus Gerdemann (TMO) finished 20th, 5’05” behind Rasmussen. The Danish Rabobank rider will wear the yellow jersey in stage nine on Tuesday 17 July."

1. Michael Rasmussen (DEN) RAB - 165km in 4h49’40" (34.177km/h)
2. Iban Mayo (ESP) SDV - at 2’47"
3. Alejandro Valverde (ESP) GCE - at 3’12"
4. Christophe Moreau (DEN) RAB - at 3’12"
5. Frank Schleck (LUX) CSC - at 3’12"
6. Cadel Evans (AUS) PRL - at 3’12"
7. Andrey Kashechkin (KAZ) AST - at 3’12"
8. Alberto Contador (ESP) DSC - at 3’31"
9. Denis Menchov (RUS) RAB - at 3’35"
10. Carlos Sastre (ESP) CSC - at3’35"

Dotty: “The goal at the start of the day was to get rid of all the frustration of not riding for the victory yesterday. I got caught a little off guard and today I made up for it. We tried to keep the race under control today. The break was always within striking distance and, at the bottom of the Roseland climb, so I saw my opportunity.
“It was quite surprising that I was able to put time into the peloton on the second last climb because it wasn’t really suitable for riding alone – there was a lot of wind and the ascent was not particularly steep – but at the end there was quite a big battle behind me and everybody was suffering as much as I did at the front.
“I have a very strong team, we’ve proven that in the last couple of days so everything is possible, including defending both jerseys. The Pyrenees are even harder than the Alpine stages so everything is still wide open and I still have to negotiate 110km of time trialing and that’s not exactly my specialty so I think I need to be realistic about yellow… but the polka-dot jersey is what I’m most interested in and I think I can defend that well.”

Rabobank: “The peloton makes what Rasmussen achieved today possible. Yesterday we saw that everybody was very afraid. There are no teams that can ride like Discovery did for the last few years of Lance’s reign and so it’s a completely different race. I was wondering what would happen if Rasmussen attacked yesterday on the Colombiere climb; he didn’t but I think he could have won.
“Today everybody paid for their misjudgment: Michael took a few minutes and although they chased, they didn’t get closer. And he’s so good that he didn’t lose any time… not even on the final climb when all the favorites were attacking each and riding very quickly.
“This is the new Rasmussen. He has a lot of confidence now and although he’s leading the general classification, for him to win he needs a lot more time on the others to be able to win the Tour de France.”

Mayo and Moreau clearly see a swansong opportunity but I think its Valverde who has the biggest chance. He entered the TdF 2 years ago as the latest spanish hot-shot but withdrew from both of the last 2 tours. If he stays fit and can keep Pereiero along side him then he's surely got a good chance. However, with the field so wide open this year, if Dotty has another good day in the mountains, I think hes a shoe in for the yellow in Paris. U heard it here first. Biggest shock is Robbie McEwen's elimination due to the time limit. At least half the field came in togther at 39mins behind dotty, evidently McEwen couldn't keep up with the very large "gruppetto" and its an early shower for him. David Millar is still in but his yellow jersey chances are dead in the water. Also, Mark Cavendish is on the bus after withdrawing bit hey, he wanted to be the new Chris Boardman, well now he is.......
All in all a good day for the TdF which just goes to show that when theres no dominant rider, the race is more interesting.

The landscape on this stage around the Roseland climb was spectacular and looks well worth a hike!

Stage 9 - British Team Bag Galibier 5 Grand Prize, Dotty and White Shirts

159km alpine stage with long descent finish
Tuesday 17. July

"The highest point of the 2007 Tour is the Col d’Iseran. At 2,770m it is an imposing ascent that rises for 15km at an average gradient of six percent. The first time it was part of the Tour’s itinerary was in 1938 when Vervaecke was the first over the top. It was part of the route in 1996 but it was never raced over as snow covered the road and that stage became an abbreviated one. It has only been contested during the Tour six times before today. In 1939 the winner of a time trial up the mountain was S. Maes. The most recent winner of points at the top of the ‘hors category’ pass was Claudio Chiappucci in 1992."

"Stuart O’Grady, the CSC rider who crashed in stage eight and was taken to hospital in an ambulance, received several visitors yesterday. His brother, Darren, is in France and working as a host for guests of the CSC team during the Tour. He saw Stuart yesterday and said that, despite the injuries, he was in good spirits. "His legs and head are good," said Darren O’Grady, "even if the rest of his body is a mess.
"He has five broken ribs and has had a lot of treatment from the medical staff, but we managed to get a smile from him before we left."
The injuries are enough for most riders to consider ending their season but O’Grady told his brother: "I’ve got about seven weeks to get better, so I’ve told the team: sign me up for the Vuelta a Espana! I’m not wasting the good form I’ve got... a few broken ribs shouldn’t slow me down for too long."

Today is the first day that the two-time King of the Mountains, Michael Rasmussen (RAB) has worn the yellow jersey. The only Danish rider in the 94th Tour leads Linus Gerdemann (TMO) by 43” and Iban Mayo (SDV) by 2’39” in the general classification.
The rest of the top 10 overall includes riders who were favored for the title prior to the start of the Tour: 4th - Valverde (GCE) at 2’51”; 5th – Kashechkin (AST) at 2’52”; 6th – Evans (PRL) at 2’53”; 7th - Moreau (A2R) at 3’06”; 8th – Contador (DSC) at 3’10”; 9th - Schleck (CSC) 3’14”; 10th – Menchov (RAB) at 3’19”.

"Burghardt (TMO) has just thumped into a dog that cross the road as the peloton was passing. The German’s front wheel collapsed completely, the rider flew over the bard... the dog walked away although it is likely to be very sore right now. After his spectacular crash with the canine, Marcus Burghardt has rejoined the peloton. It’s fair to say he appears in a better state that the golden retriever that copped a solid thump into its ribs... a hit that was hard enough to make a carbon-fibre deep-dish Shimano Dura-Ace wheel crumble."

At the top of the Col du Galibier the situation was as follows:
1. Soler (BAR) 40pts
2. Popovych (DSC) 36pts - at 2’05"
3. Contador (DSC) 32pts - at 2’05"
4. Evans (PRL) 28pts - at 2’20"
5. Astarloza (EUS) 24pts - at 3’00"
6. Valverde (GCE) 20pts - at 3’15"
7. Rasmussen (RAB) 16pts
8. Moreau (A2R) 14pts
9. Kloden (AST) 12pts
10. Cobo (SDV) 10pts

"The action amongst the race favourites was once again limited until the final third of the Galibier when Valverde launched an attack which immediately distanced injury-plagued Alexandre Vinokourov.
Alberto Contador then sprinted clear of the elite bunch, with Cadel Evans setting off in pursuit, and the young Spaniard reached the summit of the final climb with over a minute's lead on Rasmussen's group.
However the Australian was caught on the long downhill stretch to the finish as were the Discovery duo of Popovych and Contador with around 5km to go leaving a bunch of 14 to contest the bonus seconds behind Soler.
Valverde nipped away to take the 12 bonus seconds as runner-up and he is now 2:35 behind the Danish race leader with Evans taking third to move up from sixth and fourth, just behind Iban Mayo who was fifth on the stage.
Contador is now fifth on GC but it was a bad day for Astana with Andreas Kloden set to take over as team leader after Andrey Kashechkin and Vinokourov finished in a group of 13, 3:24 behind."

The results for the ninth stage of the 2007 Tour de France is:
1. Juan Mauricio Soler (COL) BAR 159.5km in 4h14’24" (37.617km/h)
2. Alejandro Valverde (ESP) GCE - at 38"
3. Cadel Evans (AUS) PRL - at 38"
4. Alberto Contador (ESP) DSC - at 40"
5. Iban Mayo (ESP) SDV - at 42"
6. Michael Rasmussen (DEN) RAB - at 42"
7. Levi Leipheimer (USA) DSC - at 42"
8. Kim Kirchen (LUX) TMO - at 46"
9. Andreas Kloden (GER) AST - at 47"
10. Carlos Sastre (ESP) CSC - at 47"

Dotty: "My team did a really good job controlling the pace until halfway up the Galibier. After that I got a little isolated when the attacks really started going but I have to expect that. Essentially only the top contenders are left and you can’t expect to have it all your own way and with a full team. I got attacked left, right and center… it felt like a million times but I just tried to follow them and eventually Evans got away. I chose to follow Valverde because he had a team-mate up the road and we could join forces and work together to reel in the riders who were ahead.

“The time trial is not a concern even if it’s not my specialty. I haven’t worked on it specifically but we have done some testing with the Rabobank team – visiting the wind tunnel and adjusted my position to try and refine some aspects of that discipline – and hopefully the result will reflect that I’m a little stronger against the clock than I was two years ago.”


Another excellent stage, competitive and clearly demonstrating whos interested in yellow in Paris: Valverde, Evans, Contador, Rassmussen and even Kloden is still hanging in there despite a fractured coxyx. Vino won't be having "great success" this year as his injuries have left him impotent.

Stage 10 - Cagey Sprint Finish Leaves Jens Empty-handed

229km flatish sprint stage
Wednesday 18. July

Dotty: "The team wants to protect the overall lead,” said Rasmussen at the end of stage nine. “Now it’s all about the yellow, obviously the polka-dot jersey is secondary. I’m in the lead by almost three minutes now. The next big test will be the time trial on Saturday and I believe I’ll manage to protect the jersey for the next four days. The time trial is not a concern even if it’s not my specialty. I haven’t worked on it specifically but we have done some testing with the Rabobank team – visiting the wind tunnel and adjusted my position to try and refine some aspects of that discipline – and hopefully the result will reflect that I’m a little stronger against the clock than I was two years ago.”

Only six seconds separates Valverde from the riders in third and fourth overall, Iban Mayo (at 2’39”) and Cadel Evans (at 2’41”).

Dotty and Valverde

The directeur sportif of the CSC team, Alain Gallopin was recently contacted by to get his thoughts on the escape today. “It was very animated at the start of the stage; everyone was chasing everyone. We aren’t too stressed about being in the move or not because the priority today is to get some rest after the difficult days in the Alps. But everyone knows Jens’ enthusiasm for this sort of move.
“Now that the escape has a lead of over seven minutes we’ll see what happens. If the escape succeeds it’s difficult to evaluate Voigt’s chances. There are good riders along with him in the move today with Burghardt, Scheirlinckx… and Flecha who hasn’t done any work so far.”

The team of Alejandro Valverde - currently second overall - is wearing yellow ’dossards’ today as the leaders of the team rankings.

Marcus Burghardt, Jens Voigt, Juan Antonio Flecha, Paolo Bossoni, Patrice Halgand, Staf Scheirlinckx, Michael Albasini Aleksandr Kuschynski, Sandy Casar, Cedric Vasseur and Andriy Grivko lead the peloton by 10’50" at the 165km mark.

German T-Mobile rider Patrik Sinkewitz has tested positive for elevated levels of testosterone. Germany's National Anti-Doping Agency has informed the German cycling federation that a test on a first sample Sinkewitz gave on June 8 had shown increased levels of the hormone. T-Mobile general manager Bob Stapleton said: "He is suspended and if the analysis of the B sample is also positive his contract will be terminated. T-Mobile, who won the seventh stage of the Tour thanks to Linus Gerdemann have their own anti-doping programme, including unique blood volume tests that measure the body weight/blood ratio in order to detect blood doping. German state television stations ARD and ZDF said they were ending coverage of the Tour for the time being after the news of Sinkewitz's positive test.

Vasseur Wins By 7.2cm
Although there was a lot of attacking over the final climb and again after the descent to Marseille, none of the five main protagonists could drop each other. Halgand was most intent on trying to break the grip of the others before arriving on the streets of Marseille and he was awarded the Most Aggressive rider title for his efforts but it was Voigt who was forced to the front of the quintet with 2km remaining. He stayed there ahead of Albasini, Casar and Vasseur. That was the order until 250m from the line when Vasseur launched an attack down the blind side of Voigt, going up the right while the German looked left. The Quickstep rider was in the lead with 100m to go and held off a late challenge by Casar who finished 7.2cm behind Vasseur. It was the second Tour victory for the Frenchman - his first in stage five of 1997 race.
Michael Rasmussen finished 30th in the stage at the same time as the Sebastien Chavanel (who led the peloton hom 10’36" behind Vasseur). The Rabobank rider will wear the yellow jersey in stage 11.

The top five in the 10th stage are:
1. Cedric Vasseur (QSI) 229.5km in 5h20’24" (42.977km/h)
2. Sandy Casar (FDJ)
3. Michael Albasini (LIQ)
4. Patrice Halgand (C.A)
5. Jens Voigt (CSC)

Vasseur: “This morning I was on the phone to a friend and he told me, ‘Today is your day!’ And in all honesty I had the same confidence about this long stage. The victory had to be mine. The ambiance in the Quickstep-Innergetic team is one that I like and I’m really comfortable with my place in the squad. They say it’s third time lucky and (after Steegmans and Boonen’s victories in the first week) I’m a firm believer in that catch cry.
“It was 10 years ago that I achieved something I’ll always cherish by winning a stage and wearing the yellow jersey. Now, with this victory in Marseille, after all this time I can retire from cycling on the top.”

18.07.2007 - Nach Bekanntwerden der positiven Dopingprobe des T-Mobile-Profis Patrik Sinkewitz stellen ARD und ZDF ihre Berichterstattung von der Tour de France vorläufig ein. Das bestätigte ZDF-Chefredakteur Nikolaus Brender.
Er habe sich am Morgen mit dem ARD-Programmdirektor Günter Struve beraten. "Wir haben entschieden, bis zur Klärung des Falles aus der Tour- Berichterstattung auszusteigen", sagte Brender im "Mittagsmagazin" des ZDF. Der Boykott werde so lange anhalten, bis die Angelegenheit geklärt ist, bestätigte ein ZDF-Sprecher gegenüber der Deutschen Presse-Agentur dpa. Der Sender Eurosport wird nach dpa-Informationen die Berichterstattung hingegen fortsetzen.
Brender setzt darauf, dass alle Beteiligten nun "Klarschiff" machen würden. "Ich hoffe, wir haben einen Schritt dazu beigetragen", sagte er. Vor der Tour hatten ARD und ZDF angekündigt, ihre Berichterstattung vom wichtigsten Radrennen der Welt einzustellen, sollten erneute Dopingvergehen aufgedeckt werden. 

Stage 11 - Vino Strikes Back

182km flat sprint stage
Thursday 19. July

“I think that today is going to be one of those days where we’ll see another breakaway succeed,” said Henkdrik Redant of the Predictor-Lotto team. “The Quickstep team has already got three stage wins, and Credit Agricole has one so I don’t think that Boonen or Hushovd will want their guys to work too hard to chase anything down.
“When Robbie [McEwen] won in Montpellier last time (in 2005), we brought back an escape that had a lead of something like nine minutes but it cost us for the next couple of days.”
The Australian sprinter finished out side the time limit and Redant’s team is now focused on working for another Aussie, Cadel Evans, who is ranked fourth in the general classification. “He’s just going to look to stay out of trouble today. We want him to make sure that he doesn’t spend to much time in the wind.”

There was no change to the top order of the general classification after the 10th stage. Michael Rasmussen (RAB) held his advantage of 2’35" over Alejandro Valverde (GCE), 2’39" ahead of Iban Mayo (SDV), while Cadel Evans (PRL) is still just six-seconds shy of second place overall at 2’41". 

“There’s been a lot said about the situation regarding leadership between myself and Denis Menchov," said Rasmussen after the stage to Montpelliler, "and I think it’s quite clear now that I’m the leader in the team now and I’m here to defend the yellow jersey for as long as possible.”

The Australian AG2R recruit, Simon Gerrans, was caught up in the crash involving Christophe Moreau at the 30.5km mark. Both have sustained abrasions, with the Aussie losing skin on his right thigh while the French champion lost skin on his left side.

Moreau’s knicks are torn and blood is seeping through the Lycra after a crash early in the 11th stage. He is now being treated by the race doctor.

The Astana squad has upped the pace and split the peloton in an audacious move that has reduced the leading margin from 7’30" to 7’00" in a matter of minutes. Some of the riders in the second peloton are Moreau, Halgand, Arroyo, Weening, Boogerd.

Once the gap to Moreau was secure, Vino (21st place in GC) commanded the Astana train to stand down. Unlike yesterday, Vinos injured knees did not appear to be seeping any longer!

It was at the 115km mark that the real story of the stage began: the Astana squad raced to the lead of a peloton that was over seven minutes behind quintet of escapees and hit the turbo button. Within moments what had been a tranquil peloton was split into three. Christophe Moreau was caught in the second group while Erik Zabel and Thor Hushovd were well behind in group three. The French champion began the day in sixth overall and ended it 12th place in the general classification.

Hunter: Into The Record Books
The speed in the final 30km was so fast that only the boldest of the bold would attempt to attack. The lead peloton remained together until the 6km to go mark when Rinero (SDV) jumped ahead but it lasted a matter of seconds. With 4km to go, it was Mr Vinokourov who demonstrated that he is not yet finished with. The Astana team leader hovered ahead for one kilometre and was then swallowed up by the Quickstep, Liquigas, Barloworld and Credit Agricole teams. The bunch sprint was interrupted by a crash with 900m to go involving Dean (C.A) and several others. It also halted the progress of Boonen. But it was Robert Hunter (BAR) who, as he’d done in the opening week, started the sprint early. He led out of the final turn and held off Cancellara (CSC) to claim the first stage victory for a South African at the Tour de France.
Moreau’s group finished 3’20” behind Hunter and the French champion slipped from sixth overall to 12th. Rasmussen (RAB) was 46th at the same time of Hunter and will wear the yellow jersey in stage 12.

The top 10 in the 11th stage is:
1. Robert Hunter (RSA) BAR - 186.5km in 3h47’50" (48.061km/h)
2. Fabian Cancellara (SUI) CSC
3. Murilo Fischer (BRA) LIQ
4. Filippo Pozzato (ITA) LIQ
5. Alessandro Ballan (ITA) LAM
6. Paolo Bossoni (ITA) LAM
7. Claudio Corioni (ITA) LAM
8. Philippe Gilbert (BEL) FDJ
9. William Bonnet (FRA) C.A
10. Kim Kirchen (LUX) TMO

Stage 12 - Escapees Caught at Flamme Rouge by Quickstep Express

178km bumpy sprint stage
Friday 20. July

The Tour de France was plunged into turmoil last night (19. July) when race leader Michael Rasmussen was dropped by Denmark's national team in a row over drug testing. The Danish Cycling Union said the Rabobank team rider had been given three warnings about failing to inform drug-testing officials of his whereabouts. "It has been decided that Michael will no longer be part of the national team," said Jesper Worre, the director of the Danish Cycling Union. Rasmussen, however, blamed an "administrative mistake" for his failure to attend the tests, claiming that the warning letter had been delayed in the post.

Rabobank manager Theo de Rooij has confirmed that Rasmussen had received a warning from the UCI on June 29 for having failed to report his whereabouts before random anti-doping tests that should have been conducted on May 8 and June 28. "UCI said a third 'no show' would be considered as a positive test." Prudhomme said he could not understand why the DCU had waited until Thursday to issue a statement on Rasmussen's case. "Some questions seem legitimate to me. Why now since the warning dates back to June 29? Why did Mr Worre wait until July 19 with Rasmussen in the yellow jersey to give elements he had at his disposal since June 28," he said.

"It's up to him (Worre) to give us this information. If he fails to do so, Rasmussen will start the stage," he added.

Michael Rasmussen will wear the leader’s jersey for the fifth successive day. The Rabobank rider has a lead of 2’35” on Alejandro Valverde (GCE), 2’39” on Iban Mayo (SDV), 2’41 on Cadel Evans (PRL) and the leader of the youth classification, Alberto Contador (DSC) is ranked fifth, 3’08” behind the Danish rider.
There was a reshuffle of the top 10 after stage 11: Christophe Moreau (A2R) dropped from sixth to 14th after being caught behind the lead peloton on the road to Montpellier. Carlos Sastre (CSC) is now in sixth 3’39” behind Rasmussen.

Mario Aerts has crashed in the neutral zone. He has changed his bike and appears to be okay after the fall. 

Ongarato, who crashed at the 7km mark, remounted his bike but then consulted the race doctor. He has opted to call it quits and has abandoned. There are now 167 riders in the 2007 Tour de France. The crash victim Alberto Ongarato is being transported to hospital in Montpellier.

Txurraka and Fedrigo are now near the summit of the third climb of the 12th stage. They have been on the attack since the 52km mark. The "col" du Buis is 2.6km long at an average gradient of 4.8 per cent. The summit is at the 74.5km mark.

Fedrigo just extended his had to thank Txurruka 1,200m from the line. The peloton caught them and the rush is on for the bunch sprint.

The three riders at the top of the points classification have taken the first three places in Castres. Boonen won by about a bike length but it’ll go to the photo for second place.

Tom Boonen has given Quickstep its fourth stage victory in the 2007 Tour de France. The top 10 in Castres is:
1. Tom Boonen (BEL) QSI - 178.5km in 4h25’32" (40.333km/h)
2. Erik Zabel (GER) MRM
3. Robert Hunter (RSA) BAR
4. Daniele Bennati (ITA) LAM
5. Thor Hushovd (NOR) C.A
6. Bernhard Eisel (AUT) TMO
7. Sebastien Chavanel (FRA) FDJ
8. Nicolas Jalabert (FRA) AGR)
9. Robert Forster (GER) GST
10. Andrey Kashechkin (KAZ) AST

Stage 13 - Vino Power Surge Matched by Rassie's Resolve

54km ITT
Saturday 21. July

After 12 stages of the 2007 Tour de France, Michael Rasmussen still leads the general classification. The Danish Rabobank rider has an advantage of 2’35" over Alejandro Valverde (GCE) at the start of the 13th stage. When he was last in contention for a high overall finish, Rasmussen faltered in the time trial; that was in 2005 when he began the penultimate stage ranked third, but he finished 77th in the 55km stage in St-Etienne and lost 7’47" to the stage winner... and slipped down the GC ranks to seventh place.
In third at the start of today’s stage is Iban Mayo (SDV, at 2’39").

As the Welsh rider who is currently ranked last in the youth classification, Gerraint Thomas (BAR) sets the best time of the day at the 18km mark, it’s time to note who the leaders of the category open to those born after 1 January 1982 are.
Alberto Contador (DSC) is ranked fifth overall and wears the white jersey again today. He has an advantage of 3’37" over the former Tour leader, Linus Gerdemann (TMO) and 3’41" over the winner in Briancon Mauricio Soler (BAR).

The weather bureau’s forecast is coming true; rain has started to fall in Albi. It’s only a light drizzle at the moment but the showers are expect to continue throughout the day with conditions only getting wetter as the stage progresses.

The rain is getting heavier in Albi. The roads are now wet and the first rider to arrive at the finish is Rik Verbrugghe (who was the second to start). His time is 1h12’25" for the 54km.

Britain’s Bradley Wiggins has posted the best time at every check. He was 1’06" ahead of Host at 18km, 25" ahead a 35.6, 23" ahead at 38.5km, 39" ahead at 49km and 42" ahead at the finish.
His time for the 54km course is 1h08’48".

Kim Anderson of the CSC team was following Fabian Cancellara when he crashed and, at the finish, he had this to say: "It’s just bad luck," said the directeur sportif. "He is a little bit sore, I’d imagine. He came down hard but it was just a slip of the front wheel and there was nothing he could do about it. It’s one of those things and it’s a lesson for everyone today: you’ve got to be careful as well as fast."
Cancellara has the 29th best time, 6’31" behind Wiggins. He had the second best time at the first check but the crash near the end of the 54km race hindered his hopes. After crossing the line, Cancellara went straight into a campervan parked a couple of hundred meters past the line and was tended to by a soigneur. He appeared concerned about his hip but didn’t appear too injured. He was walking fine and is probably more shaken than hurt.

The only rider who has been able to interrupt the top five lately has been David Millar (SDV). He has finished 1’13” shy of Wiggins’ time. “Oh man,” said Millar at the finish, “it’s so dangerous! I almost stopped on the descents, but I quite like time trialing in the rain: it feels faster.
“I had good fun out there but it’s treacherous, absolutely treacherous! When you’re on time trial equipment everything is a lot stiffer, your tire pressure is a lot higher and we’re not used to riding on these wheels or these bikes so you just don’t know how far you can push it.
“When I won in 2003 I fell off that day when I was going about 10km/h… you’ve just got to take care. It’s a zero risk day. I think we’ll see the GC guys having to take it really easy. That’s what I’m going to recommend to Mayo anyway.”

Considering his nasty crash in the closing kilometers, Vladimir Gusev has posted a very impressive time. He is 4th at the end of his time trial.

The Astana team appears destined for a stage win. At the 3rd check Vinokourov has beaten Wiggins’ time by 1’19"! And Kloden and Kashechkin are yet to arrive at any of the time check...

The forecast of storms arriving late in the day doesn’t look like becoming a reality. The roads are still damp but the rain has stopped, there are rays of sun shining through gaps that are opening in the clouds and the conditions much better now than they were when, for example, David Millar did his time trial. 

Popovych has also crashed. He has torn knicks on his right side. It’s almost a mirror image of the injuries sustained by his team-mate Gusev.

Vinokourov looks like the winner of the stage even if there are another 18 riders yet to finish. The Kazakh has posted a time of 1h06’34 - an average speed of 48.7km/h!

Andreas Kloden has crashed on the right hand turn that has caused problems for many riders today. He bounced up quickly and is riding again but he lost a bit of time at around the 30km mark.

The left side of Kashechkin’s knicks are also torn. We haven’t seen footage of his crash but it’s clear that his time trial has been hindered by an incident in the first 30km.

Many expected Alejandro Valverde to end the stage in the yellow jersey. He has lost 2’18" in just 18km of the 13th stage... that’s good enough for 41st so far.

The popular belief is that Rasmussen will lose a fair amount of time today. He is yet to reach the second check but he lost 1’42" to Vinokourov at the 18km mark... and needs to stay 2’41" ahead of Evans to keep his yellow jersey.

At the 49km mark, Evans is 1’17" behind Vinokourov. The Predictor-Lotto rider won’t win the stage but he may yet take the yellow jersey from Rasmussen.

Rasmussen needs to finish 2’41" ahead of Evans to keep the yellow jersey. At this stage he is 2’53" behind Vinokourov while Evans was 1’17" behind at the same point. It seems that the Danish rider will maintain his lead in the general classification despite finishing out of the top 10 in stage 13...

Valverde has cracked in the 13th stage. He has been caught by Rasmussen 2.5km from the finish. The sun is now shining and the battle of the former mountain bikers is due to begin tomorrow with Rasmussen and Evans due to start the Pyrenean stages in first and second overall.

Michael Rasmussen didn’t falter in this race against the clock. He has finished in 11th place, 2’55" behind Vinokourov. He will lead the general classification by 1’36" over Evans after 13 stages.

An inpired ride by Rassie, probably riding the ITT of his life gives him the nod over Vino as best effort of the day, all things considered. For a man who people used to laugh at when he sat on a TT bike, hes really got some guts. Vinos ride was at best calculated and determined, at worst it was show-boating. Rassie rode for yellow and kept it. Evans and Kloden are hanging in their but to my mind Valverde's blown it.

BTW, Albi looked a really nice place with impressive bridges over a river. Must go there some time!

The top 10 in stage 13 is:
1. Alexandre Vinokourov (KAZ) AST - 54.0km in 1h06’34"610
2. Cadel Evans (AUS) PRL at 1’14"
3. Andreas Kloden (GER) AST at 1’39"
4. Andrey Kashechkin (KAZ) AST at 1’44"
5. Bradley Wiggins (GBR) COF at 2’14"
6. Yaroslav Popovych (UKR) DSC at 2’16"
7. Alberto Contador (ESP) DSC at 2’18"
8. Sylvain Chavanel (FRA) COF at 2’38"
9. Levi Leipheimer (USA) DSC at 2’39"
10. Mikel Astarloza (ESP) EUS at 2’42"

Stage 14 - Danish Armstrong Recovers ITT Loses

197km bonkers pyranean test of will
Sunday 22. July

The scenery on the route south out of Axat looked very impressive.

Port de Pailheres
The first rider to drop from the lead group was Kuschynski. With 7km to climb, Perez rode away from his escape companions but was caught by Gutierrez, Txurruka and Colom soon after. Saunier Duval led the peloton for the first 12km of the ascent. Dekker (RAB) then led the peloton until the top. Moreau was dropped early and, with 6km to climb, Vinokourov also lost contact. Rabobank took control with Dekker, Boogerd, Menchov and Rasmussen leading the peloton with 4.5km to climb. There were 24 riders in the yellow jersey’s peloton including all the top 10 on GC except for ‘Vino’ and Astarloza. Mayo lost contact in the final 500m when Soler attacked for points. The four led Barredo by 1’05”, Soler by 2’45” and Rasmussen’s group by 2’55” at the top… Vinokourov was at 8’16”! The winner of the time trial would eventually finish 81st in the stage, 28’50" behind the yellow jersey.

Contador & Rasmussen: 1st & 2nd
With 4.5km to go, Evans lost touch with the riders in the yellow and white jerseys. The Australian would finish with Kloden and slip from 2nd overall to 3rd. Up ahead Contador and Rasmussen attacked each other once or twice but then collaborated in gaining time on their rivals. With 2km to go they began to talk to each other. They’d passed Colom with 3km to go and were racing for the win. Rasmussen claimed double points for the mountain classification and sprinted for the line but he was past by Contador in the final meters. The Spaniard delivered a series of firsts: his maiden stage win, the first victory for his team in the 2007 Tour and the premier victory for a Spaniard this year. He moved to second overall, 2’23" behind Rasmussen who will wear the yellow jersey in stage 15.

The top 10 in stage 14 is:
1. Alberto Contador (ESP) DSC - 197km in 5h25’48" (36.279km/h)
2. Michael Rasmussen (DEN) RAB at same time
3. Mauricio Soler (COL) BAR at 37"
4. Levi Leipheimer (USA) DSC at 40"
5. Carlos Sastre (ESP) CSC at 53"
6. Andreas Kloden (GER) AST at 1’52"
7. Cadel Evans (AUS) PRL at 1’52"
8. Antonio Colom (ESP) AST at 2’23"
9. Andrey Kashechkin (KAZ) AST at 2’23"
10. Yaroslav Popovych (UKR) DSC at 3’06"

After 14 stage of the 2007, the top order of the general classification is:
1. Rasmussen
2. Contador at 2’23"
3. Evans at 3’04"
4. Leipheimer at 4’29"
5. Kloden at 4’38"

Contador: “Today I have made time gains on Cadel Evans. Now I have to attack Rasmussen and I will try to do just that. My team decided to take its responsibility just like what Saunier Duval tried to do [in the lead-up to the first mountain pass] but it didn’t work out for them. We sent Hincapie and Popovych to the front leading to the final climb to take charge and then I chose the moment to attack when my legs were good.”

Rassie: “That is probably the most difficult climb and stage finish of the entire race. The Tour has been up here a few times before and the likes of Pantani and Armstrong have won here so it would have been nice to put my name to that list but I didn’t succeed in that but it was a good victory for Alberto. I’m still happy, however, with the outcome of today.
“My team was riding very strongly today, that’s for sure. I was trying to hold them back a little bit because we still have more than 400 kilometers of riding in the Pyrenees ahead of us and the battle is far from over. I didn’t want them to ride too hard but it was difficult to hold them back today.
“I got to a point where I realized, ‘Okay, I might not win the stage but I will be able to thin out the field of rivals quite significantly.’ So I worked all the way to the line and, obviously, Contador had the better position for the sprint. But it’s not over with you, there’s a long way to go and, with the time trial on the final Saturday, I think we need to accept that a lot can change. Anyone within six or seven minutes of me can win at this point.”

A classic stage demonstrating that Rassie has the backbone for the win in Paris. He may be thin but its all steel. Vino was blown after yesterdays huge showboating ITT and blamed his knees once more. The GC contenders were magnetised to the yellow jersey but within the last 10k Rassie ground them all down except Contador, who is clearly the other excellent grimpeur in this tour. Evans, hunched up, grinding away, was dropped at 5k and Klöden just had to let Rassie go and lost the gains he'd made in the TT. Valverde let his team down by dropping back earlier than the rest leaving Pereiro and Arroyo to escort him limply to the top (Pereiro should be team captain, otherwise Caisse d'Epargne will leave empty handed next year too). In the mountains, at least, Rassie is the new Lance.

Stage 15 - Vino Showboats as Grimpeurs Attack Again

196km just-plain-crazy pyranean mountain stage
Monday 23. July

Once again there was a shake up to the top order of the general classification yesterday. The stage winner at Plateau de Beille, Alberto Contador (DSC), moved up from third to second overall. He now trails Michael Rasmussen (RAB) by 2’23” while Cadel Evans (PRL) dropped from second to third after finishing seventh in the first stage in the Pyrenees. The Australian is 3’04” behind the Danish rider who has worn the yellow jersey since winning the stage to Tignes on the second Sunday of the Tour.
The two riders to drop out of the top 10 after the 14th stage were Alexandre Vinokourov (AST) who was ninth but finished 81st at Plateau de Beille (28’50” behind Contador and Rasmussen) and Kirchen (TMO) who was 10th but is now ranked 14th.

“It’s our objective for Soler to go for the polka-dot jersey," said the directuer sportif of the Barloworld team, Claudio Corti earlier today. "We have to be mindful of attacks from other teams. We’ll have to watch what happens during the race but we have our plans mapped out for how Mauricio can make up the deficit of two points to Rasmussen... but I don’t want to give away our tactics before the start.”

The winner of the 13th stage, Alexandre Vinokourov (AST) had a miserable day in the Pyrenees yesterday. He lost contact with the yellow jersey’s peloton with 7km to climb on the penultimate ascent and tried to minimize his losses. He then crashed on the final climb when he ran into a spectator.

After his crash on the descent of the Col de Port, Christophe Le Mevel (C.A) has abandoned the race. He is on his way to hospital after his front wheel slid out from under him. The early reports are that he has a broken left collarbone but that’s not yet confirmed.

The top of the Col de Peyresourde is 11.5km from the finish in Loudenvielle. Vinokourov has won at the base of a big mountain in the past, that was when he last contested the Tour (in 2005) when he won in Briancon after cresting the Col du Galibier along with Santiago Botero...

Vinokourov collapsed a day after winning the time trial and lost 28’50" but the Astana rider doesn’t understand the notion of defeat. He is now racing to the top of the Col de Peyresourde on his own. He’s not afraid of pain, his rivals, the wind or the prospect of a rapid descent on his own.
It was in 2003 that he attacked Armstrong on this same climb and finished the stage just 15" behind the American in the general classification.

Contador has attacked the yellow jersey but, like yesterday, Rasmussen has been able to respond. These two are now putting time into Evans et al...

Contador is now racing for gains against Rasmmussen. The Chicken is fighting but he was almost fried by the Spaniard.

The surge by Contador came at the 3km to climb sign. It was powerful and yet Rasmussen was able to respond. Without a moment’s reprieve, however, Contador is now fighting past traffic and trying to put time into the yellow jersey... They are 5’27" behind Vinokourov at the summit.

Alexandre Vinokourov was on the attack from the moment the flag was dropped to signal the start of racing in stage 15. He insisted on being part of The Escape group today and was rewarded with another stage win. 

The top five in stage 15 is:
1. Alexandre Vinokourov (KAZ) AST - 196.0km 5h34’28" (35.16km/h)
2. Kim Kirchen (LUX) TMO at 51"
3. Haimar Zubeldia (ESP) EUS at 51"
4. Juan Jose Cobo (SDV) at 58"
5. Juan Manuel Garate (ESP) QSI at 2’14"

Cadel Evans has held onto his third place in the general classification but he lost 6’27" to Vinokourov and 1’37" to Contador and Rasmussen.
The top 10after 15 stage is:
1. Michael Rasmussen (DEN) RAB - 2,750.4km in 69h52’14" (39.359km/h)
2. Alberto Contador (ESP) DSC at 2’23"
3. Cadel Evans (AUS) PRL at 4’00"
4. Levi Leipheimer (USA) DSC at 5’25"
5. Andreas Kloden (GER) AST at 5’34"
6. Carlos Sastre (ESP) CSC at 6’46"
7. Haimar Zubeldia (ESP) EUS at 7’27"
8. Andrey Kashechkin (KAZ) AST at 7’54"
9. Kim Kirchen (LUX) TMO at 8’24"
10. Mikel Astarloza (EUS) at 9’21"

Vino: “Yesterday, I admit, was a terrible day. It really affected my mind and that’s one of the reason I finished so far behind the peloton at Plateau de Beille. When I got back to the hotel last night I realized that the hope of victory in the Tour de France was over for me. The team asked me if I wanted to abandon but I told them I’d never give up. I spoke with the guys and they all said they’d support me with my new goal, a stage victory.
“Since the crash, I haven’t been able to fully recover but I’m always optimistic. Today was indeed a good day. It’s no time for regrets about the general classification I just had a bit of bad luck but that’s race.”

Contador: “It was a good day for me. It turned out to be a spectacular stage and I wanted to manage a good place. Other than what happened in front, it ended well for me. I tried to attack and I hoped to be able to drop Rasmussen but he continues to prove that he’s really strong.
“Each time I attacked he was able to come back to me, but I have to take inspiration from the last two days because we have taken time out of the time trial specialists and Rasmussen and I have a good lead in the general classification and there’s still another very tough mountain stage yet to come. This is my first Tour and it was meant to be a learning experience but I’ve had great support from my team. It’s an honor to ride for Discovery Channel because I always admired the way they controlled the race.
“My hero is Lance Armstrong because of the way he won seven Tours but also because of the way he beat cancer. I had an operation on my brain a few years ago and there was a lot of doubt about how I would be but now I’m back on the bike and that’s when I’m happiest.”

Rassie: “My team was fantastic today and I owe a lot to them all but especially to Michael Boogerd who was exceptional. I can’t thank my team enough. To have Menchov in the escape at the start and then come back to help was a great display of commitment from the whole Rabobank squad. The pace Boogerd set on the last two climbs made it difficult for anyone to attack me until Alberto Contador took charge. And when he went, nobody could respond and I certainly had a tough job just staying on his wheel.
“My big objective today was to control the race today and stay with Contador if he attacked, which is something we’ve learned that he’s likely to do.
“He attacked multiple times and each time it was really, really fast. He has a fantastic acceleration which I could not follow but I was able to fight my way back each time but he had a bit of an advantage because he was so fast that he caught the motorbikes a couple of times at the top of the Col de Peyresourde which made it even more difficult for me. In the end, I managed to stay with him until the top but if I hadn’t, I would have been in trouble because Contador had the benefit of having Hincapie waiting for him at the top of the final climb.
“Contador has the best acceleration in the whole peloton and I was under pressure but I still stayed with him and I’m happy with that effort.
“We still have the hardest stage of the entire race remaining. On Wednesday we finish on top of the Col d’Aubisque so nothing is final yet.”

Another gripping stage, with plenty of effort being shown by GC contenders and B-list stage winners. Vino switches strategy and explodes out of the blocks for a stage win whilst Rassie and Contador go head-to-head again to debate the dotty-yellow. Rassie struggled to match Contis constant attacks but he held in there and the only question is, why didn't Discovery get Conti up there earlier on? The Rabbos know what they're doin', they're the new Discovery train and everyone fighting for GC in todays stage owes Boogerd a huge beer. Its Boogies last tour (so he says) and its a memorable way to go out. Big respect.

Alexandre Vinokourov, Professional Cyclist, RIP

2. rest day
Tuesday 24. July

Astana leader Alexander Vinokourov failed a dope test after winning Saturday's Tour de France time trial, prompting his team to leave the race on Tuesday.

Vinokourov, who has won two stages in this year's race but was not in contention for the overall victory, has been sacked by Astana, the team said in a statement.

"The doping test carried on Alexander Vinokourov after last Saturday's time trial in Albi has returned positive," the Swiss team backed by Kazakh companies said.

"There is the presence of a double population of haematids (blood corpuscles), which implies there has been a blood transfusion with homological (the same type of) blood."

"Tour organisers have asked Astana Cycling Team to leave the race, which has been accepted spontaneously."

Vino cements his irresponsible tag with the ultimate in stupidity by winning the ITT having doped-up knowing full well that as stage winner he would be tested for drugs. Its a carbon copy of Landis last year, dissappointment encouraging drug abuse to make amends. Just plain daft if you know you're gunna get caught. So perhaps thats the explanation, the riders believe they know the system and how maybe to get around it, by doping in ways they believe are untraceable under the right conditions. Unless he's really crackers, Vino must have believed the blood transfusion would not be traceable after the stage. Its just so mad that only a good conspiracy theory will sate the incredulity...Kazakh mafia coersion? Why not..

If Klöden didn't see I-2-I with Vino before now, then its definately daggers at dawn after this scandal. Astana were "invited to leave the Tour forthwith" and accepted "gracefully". Yeah right, would liked to have been a fly on the wall at the back room meeting between Prudhomme and the Astana management. I don't know what the French for "f*ck off out of my race" is, but I bet it doesn't sound any more graceful than in english. So Klödi and Kashechkin, both in the GC top 10 had to pack up the socks and go home. Klödi at 5 mins down, but with the 2. ITT to come was poised to spring onto the podium as usual, probably in third place behind Evans. Klödi is consistant, perhaps consistantly uninteresting, but hey you've got to feel for the lad (some would say, its all he deserves following the big bucks move to Astana despite his uncomfortable relationship with Vino) however he's not under doping suspicion, so he'll be back next year. Rabbobank need a good GC contender (coz Menchov doesn't get the job done) but if Gerolsteiner could raise the cash, perhaps he'll end up there.

What of the Tour de France? It'll survive especially as they've piled all the discredit onto Vino by letting Astana fall on their sword. Mud sticks to Vino like glue. No doubt to sate public outrage the rules will be tightened further, perhaps immediate suspension after a positive A-test, perhaps testing before the stage starts, but whatever they do its gunna be a while before the Tour, indeed any of the 3-weekers will be clear of stigma. I predict an increase in UCI organised events such as the error-prone debut of a tour thru the low countries last year (where the riders went the wrong way for 10k and the organisers had to stop the race!), under the banner of "we can control it better ourselves". Perhaps Prudhomme will lose his job, but the Tour de France, "the big one" will survive and rise again...eventually.

Stage 16 - Rassie Deals Death Blow

218km ultimate pyranean madness mountain stage...definately need drugs for this one!
Wednesday 25. July

Its now or never for Evans. Contador will lose in the ITT on Saturday, so its up to the aussie to do something spesh.

There are five climbs on today’s itinerary: the ‘hors categorie’ ascent of the Port de Larrau (at 79km), the cat-3 Alto Laza (at 93km), the cat-1 Col de la Pierre St-Martin (at 131km), the cat-1 Col de Marie-Blanque (at 180.5km) and the final ascent to the Col d’Aubisque.

The leader of the 2007 Tour de France after 15 stages is Michael Rasmussen (RAB). The Danish rider held a press conference in Pau at 2.00pm on the rest day where he explained the circumstances surrounding some missed random doping controls and his team manager, Theo De Rooy, insisted that the rider has the full support of the Rabobank squad and the sponsors.
Rasmussen’s advantage over the rider in second place overall, Spaniard Alberto Contador (DSC) is 2’23”. In third place is Australian Cadel Evans (PRL) who is four minutes behind.

12:48 - Soler Surges Ahead
Soler has decided it’s time to dance. Clad in the polka-dot jersey, the Colombian has dropped the rest of the peloton wiht a solid surge. Carlos Sastre (CSC) has bridged the gap to Soler as has Txurruka is also on the attack. Sastre is making a bid to rise up the rankings early in the 16th stage. He began the day in fifth overall, 6’46" behind Rasmussen and he’s now prompting a reaction from the peloton with his solid move ahead of Soler.

13:08 - Redant: "We’ll let Rabobank control the chase..."
The directeur sportif of Cadel Evans’ Predictor-Lotto team, Hendrik Redant doesn’t seem stressed about the attack of Sastre who is currently about 50" ahead of the rider ranked third overall at the start of the day. "Cadel is still fighting for a podium place in Paris," said Redant, "that was our objective for him from the start of the Tour. There’s no panic at the moment with Sastre’s attack. We’ll let Rabobank control the chase. There’s a long way yet to go today."
Evans is expected to be named the winner of the 13th stage (after Vinokourov’s positive test) and the Australian was adament about his chances of attacking today. "I don’t think that Rasmussen and Contador - or their team-mates - will let me just go ahead at the start of the stage. If I attack it’ll have to be a good one and the best place to do that is late in the race."

14:28 - Gallopin: "Sastre cannot respond to Contador’s attacks, so..."
Allain Gallopin has just offered some thoughts on the escape today that includes Carlos Sastre. With a lead on the ploton of 4’10" at the last check, he’s pushed his way from fifth overall at the start of the stage to virtual third. "He cannot respond to Contador’s attacks," said the directeur sportif of CSC, "so he has taken a chance today.
"It’s worth trying to attack early and risk losing five place in favor of a podium in Paris..."

14:56 - Soler Takes Lead In Mountains Classification
By claiming 12 points at the first climb and 15 points at the third, Mauricio Soler (BAR) is now ahead of Rasmussen in the mountains classification. There are double points on offer for the final ascent today so the Rabobank rider could yet reclaim the lead and hang on to the polka-dot jersey.

15:18 - Five Ahead Of Peloton
The peloton is 4’50" behind at the 150km mark. Rinero and Auge have been caught which means that only Sastre, Garcia-Acosta, Verdugo, Soler and Mayo are ahead of the peloton.

Approaching The Aubisque
With 25km to go in the stage, the escape group’s advantage on the yellow jersey was 1’25”. Garcia-Acosta dropped out of the lead group and helped set the pace until the base of the final ascent when the advantage of the four escapees was just 45”. Verdugo was caught and passed by Rasmussen’s group at the foot of the Aubisque.

Rasmussen Races Onward A Salute In Yellow…
Soler and Sastre tried to maintain their advantage but a powerful turn of pace by Popovych in the first 5km of the final ascent would be the beginning of the end for the escapees. They were caught with 9.5km to go and dropped immediately by an elite selection that had been whittled down to just Rasmussen, Contador, Leipheimer and Evans. The Spaniard attacked three times but he was chased down each time. The decisive blow for Evans would come from the American. With 4.5km to go, the Australian was out of contention. In the last kilometer Rasmussen raced into the lead and onward to victory. He increased his advantage in the general classification but lost the lead of the mountains classification to Soler. Rasmussen will wear the yellow jersey in stage 17.

For the second time this year, a rider in the yellow jersey has won a stage. The top five of stage 16 from Orthez to the Col d’Aubisque is:
1. Michael Rasmussen (DEN) RAB - 218.5km in 6h23’21"
2. Levi Leipheimer (USA) DSC at 26"
3. Alberto Contador (ESP) DSC at 35"
4. Cadel Evans (AUS) PRL at 43"
5. Mauricio Soler (COL) BAR at 1’25"

Rasmussen has increased his advantage over all others by winning the 16th stage. The order of the top five hasn’t changed after the stage to the Col d’Aubisque but the time differences have. The new top five scenario is as follows:
1. Michael Rasmussen (DEN) RAB
2. Albert Contador (ESP) DSC - at 3’10"
3. Cadel Evans (AUS) PRL - at 5’03"
4. Levi Leipheimer (USA) DSC - at 5’59"
5. Carlos Sastre (ESP) CSC - at 9’12"

Rassie: “It’s true that I was booed at the start and again during the stage also. I believe that, for the moment, there’s a lot of frustration amongst the people who follow cycling and in the peloton about what’s going on – about what happened to ‘Vino’ yesterday – and I think that since he is not here and the Astana team has gone home, people are taking their frustration out on me. I understand now what Lance Armstrong went through for seven years and my respect for him is growing day by day.
“The only good thing there is to say about the Vinokourov case is that it proves that the system is working and to that I can only add that I’ve had 14 negative tests so far during this Tour.
“Now the overall victory is more important than stage wins but with the position that I was able to put myself in – winning the queen stage of the Tour while in the yellow jersey – it was pretty hard to deny taking the opportunity to do so.”

Tour de Farce

Wed 25 Jul, 11:27 PM

PAU, France (AFP) - This year's Tour de France was dealt a potentially fatal blow on Wednesday when yellow jersey wearer Michael Rasmussen was sensationally kicked out of the race by his own Rabobank team, the Dutch outfit revealed on Wednesday.

The 33-year-old Dane had seemingly weathered the storm over missing four out of competition dope tests in the past 18 months.

The two-time King of The Mountains had won Wednesday's stage to all but seal overall victory and go some way to erasing the stigma of the Danes over their disgraced 1996 Tour de France winner Bjarne Riis - who has since been stripped of the title.

However the team - whose hotel was subsequently invaded by police - has learnt that Rasmussen lied to them over where and what he was up to during the month of June when he was in fact in Italy and not in Mexico as he had told them.

"He broke team rules," said Jacob Bergsma, the team spokesman.

"It is not even sure if the team will carry on in the race," he added.

Tour de France race director Christian Prudhomme - who phoned International Cycling Union (UCI) president Pat McQuaid to berate him over not informing the organisers over Rasmussen's missed tests - said that there was not much more he and his co-directors of the race could have done.

"We did all we could do to get rid of him," Prudhomme told AFP.

"I at the very least do not feel that I have been dishonoured.

"One cannot mock the Tour de France impunitively like those riders," he added, referring to Rasmussen, Cristiano Moreni - who also exited on Wednesday after failing a drugs test - and Alexandre Vinokourov who was thrown out on Tuesday.

Rasmussen had won two stages during the Tour, though, his presence at the race was questioned by several officials and from the race organisers as well.

Moreni's positive test is the third official doping case to be announced at the Tour, which will end this Sunday in Paris.

Rasmussen was jeered by the crowd before the start of the stage since the Danish Cycling Union questioned his eligibility to compete saying the rider has received four warnings for failing to provide information of his whereabouts during training.

Under International Cycling Union rules, a rider must inform the sport's governing body of his personal schedule so random tests can be conducted. If the cyclist fails to do so, he receives a warning. Three such warnings over a rolling 18-month period is considered the equivalent of a positive test and results in a two-year suspension.

And AG2r team manager Vincent Lavenu has called for him to be kicked out of the race.

"He (Rasmussen) should be kicked out of the race by organisers, whatever the cost," said Lavenu.

"He is a disgrace to the sport. When Francisco Mancebo was involved in Operation Puerto (a blood-doping episode that surfaced in Spain in May 2006) I sacked him without legal grounds and it cost me 15 per cent of my budget.

"That is about one million euros."

Thu 26 Jul, 03:00 AM

GOURETTE, France (AFP) - France's top cycling team Cofidis have exited the Tour de France following confirmation of a positive doping test for their Italian rider Cristian Moreni here on Wednesday.

Cofidis are the second team in as many days to be thrown off the race, following the premature exit of Astana on Tuesday due to a positive blood doping control for pre-race favourite Alexandre Vinokourov.

Moreni was officially thrown out of the race following the 16th stage, the third and final day in the Pyrenees, after being told he had tested positive for testosterone.

The 35-year-old former Italian champion, who has also competed for the Quick Step and Liquigas teams, tested positive for the banned hormone after an International Cycling Union (UCI) sanctioned control following the race's 11th stage in Montpellier, according to a race official here.

Moreni was subsequently held by local police and arrived back at the team hotel in a police car. The police subsequently searched the team's rooms and several of their vehicles.

"Moreni is being held by police," the local prosecutor Erick Maurel told AFP, adding that other people were also being questioned by the police.

The announcement of Moreni's positive test prompted the team sponsors of Cofidis to immediately asked the team's sports director, Eric Boyer, to pull his riders out before any decision had been made by the race organisers.

Boyer said they would forego their right to ask for analysis of a 'B' sample.

Boyer, who has been at the forefront of the fight against doping in the sport since he took over the team in June 2005, said that Moreni had put his hand up.

"I spoke to Moreni and he admitted to me straight away that he had used a medicine that caused him to test positive for testosterone," said Boyer.

"At least he owned up to that fact which is not what a lot of riders do," he added.

Patrice Clerc: “We just want to kill doping. In this sport, the presumption of innocence no longer exists. That’s why we have to make sure we go all the way to achieve clarity. This must be done to reinstate the right of a presumption of innocence.”


With TdF07 hijacked by the anti-doping holy grail, the question remains how many more years will this event suffer before the riders are clean and the stigma is gone. I reckon until 2015.

You don't know what to believe. Every one must be at the drug game. Personally I don't really care what the riders do as long as they don't keel over and have heart attacks. Its not my race or even my sport for that matter. I'm fascinated by the race itself, which OBVIOUSLY encourages riders to dope up because who could do all those mountain stages day after day without "bonking"? No one.

So here's controversy for you:
a clean race must go hand-in-hand with a REDUCTION OF THE DIFFICULTY. Doh!

I can't feel sorry for Evans and Leipheimer coz they must be doin' it to and Rassie beat them hands down. So who cares who wins in Paris. TdF07 is dead, long live TdF15.