Thursday, July 17, 2008

Stage Twelve: Lavelanet to Narbonne

Ack! The whole Saunier Duval-Prodir team gone, Ricco positive for EPO from Stage 4, announced while he was wearing the polka-dot jersey and the young rider jersey! Two riders in the top ten!!

The official team statement reads like their entire team (whoops, I've been getting their name wrong) is shutting down:

"SAUNIER DUVAL-SCOTT announce that just an hour before the start of today's stage, the French anti-doping agency notified Riccardo Riccò that he'd tested positive for a banned substance after the fourth stage of the Tour de France 2008. Although the Tour organisers allow teams to continue to participate after a positive test, given Riccò's important role to the team in the race, SAUNIER DUVAL-SCOTT have decided to withdraw in order to preserve the positive image of the team´s sponsors and the Tour de France itself. Riccò has been suspended. Moreover, the team decided to temporarily abandon competition activities until this unfortunate incident is clarified."

Those gone include former Lanterne Rouge (stages 1-3, 2005) and stage winner Leonardo Piepoli, who previously had drug use issues of his own.

Here's the original 2008 Tour team lineup for Saunier Duval-Prodir (Sporting Manager: Joxean Fernandez):
171 RICCO Riccardo
173 COBO ACEBO Juan Jose
174 DE LA FUENTE David
175 DEL NERO Jesus
176 GOMEZ Angel
177 JUFRE POU Josep
178 PASSERON Aurélien
179 PIEPOLI Leonardo

Also: Baden Cooke from Barloworld went down today and abandoned.

And Mark Cavendish, a former Lanterne Rouge (Stage 7, 2007), now riding for Team Columbia, wins a historic third stage in the Tour! Well done! Side note: Over at Triple Crankset they seem to think Cavendish will soon come down with a nasty case of the dreaded Mountain Fever as soon as the Tour enters the Alps, in favor of leaving to train to represent Great Britain in the Olympics in track cycling along with Bradley Wiggins. Let's wait and see if they're right. It sounds likely to me, since Cavendish was originally planning to skip the Tour entirely. I'm thinking he will leave on or before Saturday (stage 14) to avoid the HC climb and category 1 uphill finish on Sunday (Stage 15).

There is some speculation that Agritubel's Christophe Moreau's causeless abandon in Stage 7 (immediately after Beltran was pulled that day for a positive dope test) was associated with abnormal pre-race blood values. Hmmm.

Lanterne Rouge Wim Vansevenant increased his time gap to the nearest rider today by arriving toward the end, just in front of the exhausted Gerard and Dumoulin who had ridden in a breakaway all day:

155. VANSEVENANT Wim 9 SILENCE - LOTTO 3h 43' 04" + 02' 12"
156. GERARD Arnaud 164 FRANCAISE DES JEUX 3h 43' 32" + 02' 40"
157. DUMOULIN Samuel 185 COFIDIS CREDIT PAR TELEPHONE 3h 43' 32" + 02' 40"
158. VERDUGO Gorka 29 EUSKALTEL - EUSKADI 3h 44' 58" + 04' 06"

The bottom of the General Classification remains largely unchanged other than the number in the peloton and a bigger gap in front of Vansevenant, and will not change much until we have an Alpine finish.

153. CASPER Jimmy 123 AGRITUBEL 52h 18' 40" + 1h 55' 35"
154. EISEL Bernhard 45 TEAM COLUMBIA 52h 20' 14" + 1h 57' 09"
155. RIBLON Christophe 108 AG2R-LA MONDIALE 52h 20' 15" + 1h 57' 10"
156. AUGE Stéphane 182 COFIDIS CREDIT PAR TELEPHONE 52h 24' 53" + 2h 01' 48"
157. SPRICK Matthieu 146 BOUYGUES TELECOM 52h 25' 25" + 2h 02' 20"
158. VANSEVENANT Wim 9 SILENCE - LOTTO 52h 29' 19" + 2h 06' 14"

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Sad to see an entire team drop out, but good to see Wim maintaining his dominance at the back of the pack. At this rate, Wim could finish the tour with both the maillot jeune and the lanterne rouge, with everyone else DQ'd for doping.
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