Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Tour de France Plagued by Strange Circumstance

Posted By on Wed, Jul 7, 2010 at 11:16 AM

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It started on Saturday. On the opening day of the Tour de France, the Wall Street Journal ran a huge story based on an exclusive interview with Floyd Landis, in which he intensified his allegations of illegal doping among professional cyclists.

Most notable among his accusations are those against American cycling hero Lance Armstrong, who must not have been too distracted, as he managed to rip off a speedy prologue and finish in fourth place, ahead of arch-rival and former teammate Alberto Contador.

But doping allegations and an ongoing investigation by WADA are the least of Armstrong and Team Radioshack's problems. On Sunday, a dog ran out into the middle of the race, causing another major pileup that took out Armstrong's teammate, Levi Leipheimer. Fortunately, Leipheimer's injuries weren't enough to prevent him from staying in the race. However, another massive crash immediately before the finish line prevented most of the peloton from contesting the stage victory. At least Leipheimer had a good attitude about it.

Yesterday's Stage Two was fraught with a series of crashes on rain-slicked pavement, one of which resulted in such extensive carnage, that the race leader, Fabian Cancellara, instigated a protest to draw attention to unsafe courses without adequate pre-race cautionary information. Although one rider had escaped the main pack and soloed to victory, Cancellara convinced the remainder of the field to soft-pedal to the finish and deny the spectators a sprint for second place. That's the power of the yellow jersey at work. A number of overall podium contenders—including Armstrong, Contador, Andy Schleck, and Bradley Wiggins—lost minutes on the day.

Meanwhile, for the past two days, Mark Cavendish (a.k.a. "The Fastest Man on Two Wheels"), who was predicted to win at least one of the first couple stages, hasn't even been among the top 20 finishers.

I don't want to spoil today's race for those who are TiVo-ing, but another rather strange route filled with sections of cobblestone roads guarantees more crashes and upheaval in Stage Three. If you're at work and nobody monitors your computer use, check out this link for live coverage from VeloNews.

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