Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Stage 16: Orthez to Gourette to Col d’Aubisque

It seems that all 151 remaining riders are on their bikes today in the toughest stage of the '07 Tour. However, there was a small anti-doping protest at the start: says, "The French and German teams stayed at the start for a minute or so to protest at doping in the sport. Others such as Discovery Channel, Euskaltel, Lampre, Caisse d'Epargne and Preditor Lotto didn't feel the same way and left. Michael Rasmussen also left with these. Strangely, T-Mobile and CSC also moved off, even though they have strong anti-doping programmes. Hmm, what about solidarity, guys? . . . There was some booing from the crowd. We don't know if that was for those who left, or those who stayed."

According to Reuters, it was Rasmussen who was booed by the crowd. summarized it: "Today's stage began with a riders' protest, from teams expressing frustration at yesterday's news of a positive doping test from Alexander Vinokourov. The teams were also angry that the Tour is being led by a man many regard as suspicious."

While I'm on the topic (and I don't intend to dwell on it on this blog, because - call me naive - I honestly don't think most of the riders in the back of the pack are dopers), I particularly liked this viewpoint on the subject of unannounced tests by Bobby Julich, who is in a position to know.

And Rasmussen wins the stage and probably the Tour, but loses in the court of public opinion - he is booed at the finish line. That's the first time I've heard of that happening to a stage winner.

Ronan Pensec said, "People along the road today were whistling at him and telling him things I won’t translate here. It is really like no one wants to see him win anymore with all these drug-taking problems. The atmosphere is more than tense, it is really bad. Everybody is tired of all these problems and they all pretty much want to be at the end already."

Matthieu Sprick, a French rider for Bouygues Telecom, withdrew during the stage, bringing the peloton down to 150 riders. A note on the BT team website says, in a funny translation, "It should be noted that Matthieu SPRICK has to pose foot with ground after respiratory problems." I suppose that means "step down from the Tour" in English.

The autobus arrived at 41:49 today, and contained 72 riders, nearly half the active remaining cyclists in the Tour. No stragglers.

That leaves the bottom of the standings essentially unchanged:

146. HUSHOVD Thor 101 CREDIT AGRICOLE 79h 53' 18" + 3h 38' 03"
147. KRAUSS Sven 96 GEROLSTEINER 79h 55' 44" + 3h 40' 29"
148. GERAINT Thomas 215 BARLOWORLD 79h 57' 22" + 3h 42' 07"
149. NUYENS Nick 145 COFIDIS CREDIT PAR TELEPHONE 79h 59' 23" + 3h 44' 08"
150. VANSEVENANT Wim 49 PREDICTOR - LOTTO 80h 02' 22" + 3h 47' 07"

Barring any major crashes or climbs in the rankings from a breakaway, this may be what we see in the back of the rankings all the way to Paris. But we must never forget that these riders have already been able to accomplish what 39 others have failed to do: survive the Alps and the Pyrenees and remain in the Tour.

Probably the peloton will be down to no more than 149 tomorrow, since Christian Moreni of Cofidis tested positive for exogenous testosterone. He finished 41st in today's stage and was 54th overall. Unless the entire Cofidis team chooses to withdraw as well. . . . and TDFBlog note with some irony that the Cofidis squad was part of the anti-doping protest today. discusses the scoring issues that have arisen from the Astana team's departure - since their riders were all technically a DNS today, since Vinokourov was not disqualified. Yet.

Update: Um, I was joking. But yes indeed, the entire freaking Cofidis team is leaving the 2007 Tour too. I have to go look at the standings again. . . .

Here is part of the stage stats again, from Velonews. Maybe I'm the only one who finds these tidbits interesting, but I can't find them anywhere else, and there's a lot of stories in each item, I'm sure:

Medical report:
Horner (Predictor-Lotto), Quinziato (Liquigas), Tosatto (QuickStep-Innergetic) all digestive problems.
Barredo (QuickStep-Innergetic) contusion on left knee.
Sprick (Bouygues) abandon for abdominal pains.
Ballan (Lampre) crash at 134, superficial cuts and scrapes.
Voigt (CSC) crash at 137km, superficial cuts.

Jury decisions:
Arrieta (Ag2r) and Camano (Saunier Duval-Prodir), fined 50 CHF, penalized five points and 10 seconds in GC for pushing off vehicles.
Flecha (Rabobank), Kohl (Gerolsteiner), Tankink (QuickStep), fined 50 CHF, penalized five points and 10 seconds in GC for bidon pulls.
Niermann and Weening (both Rabobank), fined 100 CHF, penalized 20 seconds in GC (two infractions each) for following too long behind vehicles.
Rabobank sport director fined 400 CHF for above infractions.
Arrieta (Ag2r), Zubeldia (Euskaltel) and Fofonov (Credit Agricole), fined 50 CHF for irregular feeds.
Ag2r, Euskaltel and Credit Agricole directors each fined 200 CHF for above infractions.
Cofidis sport director fined 200 CHF for not respecting commissaire.
After receiving news about failed doping control taken after 11th stage into Montepellier, Moreni (Cofidis) accepts the results without request for "B" sample.

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According to French newspaper L'Equipe, another rider has failed a doping test, this time for testosterone. test was taken after Stage 11 - Marseille to Montpelier.

Robert Hunter (BAR),Michael Rasmussen (RAB), Kim Kirchen (TMO), Patxi Vila (LAM), Christian Moreni (COF), Lilian Jégou (FDJ), Erik Zabel (MRM), Maxim Iglinskiy (AST) were tested after Marseille - Montpellier"

Whodunit? Place your bets!
PLEASE not Zabel, please.....

I hate these leaks. They stink.
And the winner is.......?

Christian Moreni of the Cofidis Team.

How will the French react?
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