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Thursday, July 26, 2007

The most exciting tour in years?

In case you have not heard by now, two more riders have been ejected from the tour, which is quickly becoming the most exciting in recent years due to the constant shuffling of the top placings. These ejections come on the back of Vinokourov's positive test and his team's withdrawal from the race.

Italian rider Cristian Moreni (Cofidis) tested postive for testosterone after Stage 11 on 19 July. His B Sample has yet to be tested, but the isotope-ratio mass-spectrometer test has been performed on his A Sample, and it confirmed the presence of external testosterone. The Cofidis team has also withdrawn from the tour.

Then, some time after the finish Wednesday, team manager Theo de Rooy withdrew Michael Rasmussen, the maillot jaune from the race, allegedly because Rasmussen lied to the Rabobank team about his whereabouts in June when he missed his out-of-competition tests.

What does this mean for the overall standings? This moves everyone up one place, leaving the top ten as follows:
  1. Alberto Contador (76:18:25)
  2. Cadell Evans (+1:53)
  3. Levi Leipheimer (+2:35)
  4. Carlos Sastre
  5. Haimar Zubeldia
  6. Alejandro Valverde
  7. Kim Kirchen
  8. Yaroslav Popovych
  9. Mauricio Soler
  10. Mikel Astarloza
(Sastre and the others are six more more minutes back and are effectively out of contention)
This leaves it pretty open until the time trial on Saturday, as Evans beat Contador by 1:14 and he Leipheimer by 1:35. In addition, it is a very flat course with one short Category 4 climb, so advantage Evans.

More importantly, though, where does this leave us as cycling fans? This is a tough one. While we are glad that the cheaters are getting caught and the UCI is taking a very hard line (finally), as we said in the previous post about Vino this just raises the question about who is and who isn't doping.

We would love to give them the benefit of the doubt, but when Vinokourov and his doctors tell us that he tested positive because due to his crash ". . .there was an enormous amount of blood in my thighs, which could have led to my positive test," we feel insulted and taken advantage of. This excuse is even better than Tyler Hamilton's "vanishing twin" hypothesis.

We will remain cycling fans and will watch the tour to the finish, our hope elevated that at long last it appears that the UCI is getting tougher and showing no fear when it comes to expelling top riders.
Roll on Paris. . . .
Ross and Jonathan