After more than a decade of dealing with the many doping accusations both domestic and abroad, 7-time Tour de France Winner, Lance Armstrong has decided not to keep on fighting anymore. Earlier this year, the US Government dropped a federal case against Armstrong. Two months ago, the United States Anti-Doping Agency, USADA, issued a statement saying that they were bringing up charges against Armstrong and other members of his medical and training team. This time, Armstrong, has declined to enter USADA’s arbitration process — his last option — because he said he was weary of fighting accusations that have dogged him for years. “”There comes a point in every man’s life when he has to say, ‘Enough is enough.’ For me, that time is now.” The USADA is taking this as an admission of guilt and has publicly announced that Armstrong will be stripped of his 7 Tour titles as well as his bronze medal from the 2000 Summer Olympics, as well as any awards, event titles and cash earnings.
When it comes down to Lance Armstrong the sides have been chosen long time ago. It is very difficult to believe that at this point in his career, at this point in the history of professional road cycling, a figure with the stature as Armstrong is nothing but a polarizing figure. Those who believe his story, who see the 7-time Tour de France winner and life-threatening testicular cancer survivor as an example, as a true fighter, will still believe his story. For those who always had their suspicions, who doubted that in an era when everyone was doping, the only guy who was riding clean kept on winning the most demanding and grueling competitive event in the world, this comes as a confirmation. He was no better than any of the other great cyclist in that time that cheated their way to the top. So perhaps the most interesting issue here is that this will ultimately work both ways. I really don’t see anybody who knows anything about cycling changing their minds now about Lance Armstrong.
One could easily understand the logic behind this. “I have been dealing with claims that I cheated and had an unfair advantage in winning my seven Tours since 1999. The toll this has taken on my family and my work for our foundation and on me leads me to where I am today — finished with this nonsense.” He said on a press release earlier today. Armstrong has stated time and again that he is innocent, and that Travis Tygart, USADA’s chief executive, is carrying on not an investigation but an unconstitutional witch hunt against him.
We are not here to take sides. On the one hand it is hard to believe that he is now completely innocent. More and more teammates were now willing to testify in court about Armstrong usage of performance enhancing drugs. At least for now, those testimonies are not going to become public records. On the other hand, if he did use drugs to gain an edge, he was still the fastest and drug cheat among a pack of cheaters. It’s not much of a comfort, but it could just be as fair to say that among the cheaters, he was also the best.
It’s all about persistence. Cadel Evans gave up a promising career as a professional mountain biker to take on a bid in the road. He focused on a single race: Le Tour. In his first try, back in 2006, Cadel Evans finished 4th overall, after Floyd Landis was stripped from his win. Even though Evans had successfully raced in the other two main stage races, that is, Spain’s La Vuelta and the Giro de Italia, Evans was focused on winning on the biggest stage of them all.
He finished second in the 2007 Tour, unable to survive Alberto Contador’s attacks on the mountains. He was expected to win the next year, considering that Alberto Contador was not able to defend his title as his team Astana, was banished from the the 2008 Tour. Evans held the yellow jersey from stages 10 to 14. However, during Alpe d’Huez on stage 17, Carlos Sastre of Team CSC took 2 minutes 15 seconds from Evans. He gave it a good shot in the last time trial and even managed to cut down some time on Sastre, but by the time he made it to Champs Elyse he would be the runner-up again. Last year, he was leading the race but crashed and fractured his left elbow. The pain was too much and he dropped out of contention in tears, ultimately finishing 50 minutes behind winner Alberto Contador. Cadel Evans had always been the guy that fell short, the underachiever of the Tour de France. Not anymore.
At 34-years-old Evans became the oldest rider since World War II to win the Tour. He shared the podium with Andy and Frank Schleck of Luxemburg. He was utterly emotional as the Australian National Anthem played in the background and he was officially announced as the 2011 Tour de France winner. On the traditional Tour victory lap on Paris’ Champs-Elysees, champagne in hand, Evans seemed to stop to celebrate with just about every fan bearing an Australian flag.
Evans’ final margin of victory over Andy Schleck was 1 minute, 34 seconds. It was a close call. Considering that the last tours had been dominated by a single man, just as it happened with Lance Armstrong and then Contador, it was quite a change of pace to see that with 4 days to go, any of the top 6 riders in the pack still had very good chances of securing the Maillot Jaune in Paris. Still, we must say that he kept us all in suspense. Evans was only really able to break the Schleck brothers in Saturday’s time trial. Evans hadn’t panicked when Andy Schleck had jumped ahead on the climb of the Galibier pass on Thursday and then took the overall lead in Friday’s last mountain stage.
He’s only the third non-European to win the Tour since it started in 1903. American Greg LeMond broke the European domination in 1986, with the first of his three wins, and his fellow American Lance Armstrong won seven straight beginning in 1999. This was a good change of pace overall. Considering that the last tours have been stained by the use of performance enhancing drugs, it is quite a relief to see a guy like Cadel Evans winning the Tour. Evans has never faced doping allegations, and his longtime coach Aldo Sassi was known to be opposed to doping. Some sports writers had said that Evans had failed to win the tour on his previous tries because he didn’t want to take EPO, Clenbuterol, or other performance enhancing drugs, and thus allegedly claiming that Contador and even Armstrong did. All we can say is that for once in a long time, we have a Tour de France winner, who seems to have won this race clean.
Welcome to the Tour de France, the epic race that has seen it all. From drug scandals, to prostitution rings, to cyclist dying on top of their bikes while climbing one of its mountain stages; it’s all here, the best and the worst of one beautiful sport all mixed together over 3 weeks of intensive racing and 2200 miles over France and its neighboring countries.
Today the peloton took its first day of rest after an exhaustive week of racing, filled with crashes and a few surprises in the top, including a great win by American Tyler Farrar on July 4th. Defending Champion, Spaniard Alberto Contador has been having some issues. He crashed earlier on Stage four and again he went down in Sunday’s ninth stage. Contador is probably looking forward to this break, as his ailing right knee certainly needs some rest. The Spaniard lost his balance and fell heavily with about 74.5 miles left in the 129.2-mile trek from Issoire to Saint-Flour in France’s Massif Central — banging the same knee he had hurt in a fall last Wednesday.
Even though he has been accused many times of taking performance enhancing drugs, the Spaniard Alberto Contador is a three-time Tour champion and he has clear intentions and chances of making it 4. Contador recovered quickly and was soon chasing down the main pack. Just when he had the peloton in sight as he was closing in quickly, Contador then had a mechanical problem forcing him to change bikes just as he was about to catch up. That was a minor glitch and the Saxo Bank rider soon caught up again and rode on, crossing the line in the same time as his main Tour rivals, last year’s runner up Andy Schleck of Luxembourg and Australia’s once mountain bike ace now turned roadie Cadel Evans.
Contador remains 1 minute, 30 seconds behind Schleck in the overall standings, and 1:41 behind Evans. Contador lost precious time in a crash on the opening stages. Contador’s disappointing start to the defense of his yellow jersey continued last Sunday when the Spaniard lost more time to key rivals. On stage one Contador lost 1min 14sec to Luxembourg’s Andy Schleck and 1:17 to Australian Cadel Evans when he got caught up in a crash 9km from the stage finish. But that will not be the end of Contador losing time as he dropped more time on the 23 km team time trial. Saxo Bank team could only finish eighth at 28sec, leaving the Spanish all-rounder 75th overall at 1:42 adrift of Hushovd.
Controversy seems to follow the Spaniard wherever he goes. Even before he began the Tour there were some doubts about he been able to defend his championship this year. Alberto Contador was cleared to race in the Tour by the Spanish cycling federation after testing positive for the banned anabolic agent clenbuterol late in last year’s race. The Spaniard claimed that he had taken the substance without consent after eating some contaminated meat on the weeks previous to the race. The International Cycling Union and World Anti-Doping Agency have appealed the ruling to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Should the UCI win the case, which will make it to court in August, the Spaniard faces the strange prospect of losing his 2010 title days after possibly winning another one.
It’s funny how some things work out. I’m still uncertain how I should deal with this breaking news, or if it’s even appropriate to talk about the Tour de France and about one Tyler Farrar winning a stage on the 4th of July. But I’ll go ahead and take on a couple liberties. I knew Tyler Farrar back when he was 16 and was kicking ass in Washington State’s Category I races of the United States Cycling Federation. At 15 he was already faster than any amateur racer in the Washington, Idaho and Montana racing series and whenever he would go out to defend his Junior National Championship title with the rest of us, he would just simply make it look like a joke.
Be it on a time trail, on a criterium, on a stage race, Tyler Farrar was simply faster and stronger than any racer that same age I had ever seen, I had ever raced with, or quite simply I had a chance to see live. Racing against Farrar was like taking a slap to the face. He would help you realize that only a very select few has what it really takes to make it and survive in the Tour de France. That’s when at least for me it all became clear. It was the Tyler Farrar’s of the World who made it the Champs-Elysees after more then 2200 miles of cycling in less than a month. Those of us Juniors who raced against Tyler Farrar, we all knew that he couldn’t train more than we already did. We knew that he didn’t have a better or faster bike than we all did, and even if he did, it was not about the bike. We just knew that he was build to be professional racer, and despite all our efforts we weren’t.
I’ve been following Farrar’s career for a while now, because for the few occasions I had to race against him, I knew that he was going to make it to the top. Little over ten year’s later, I’m writing about Tyler Farrar winning his first ever Tour de France stage, and the first American to win in the most prestigious and demanding race in the world since Levi Leipheimer placed first in the individual time trial in Angouleme in 2007.
Farrar is one of the world’s best sprinters and took advantage of the 123-mile flat route from Olonne-sur-Mer to Redon in western Brittany. This particular stage favored sprinters like Farrar, Mark Cavendish of Britain, Italy’s Alessandro Petacchi, Tom Boonen of Belgium and Thor Hushovd of Norway. At the finish, the American barely outsprinted out of France’s Romain Feillu, who was second, and Jose Joaquin Rojas of Spain who came in third. Farrar and a pack of riders clocked the same time: 4 hours, 40 minutes, 21 seconds.
The defending champion, Alberto Contador of Spain, lost time on Saturday after getting entangled in a crash, and is currently 69th overall — 1:42 back of the Norwegian leader.
Among the other favorites to arrive to the Champs-Elysee on July 24 wearing the Yellow Jersey, runner-up Andy Schleck of Luxembourg, the leader of Leopard-Trek, is eighth overall, 4 seconds behind Hushovd. It’s still early. This first stages are for the sprinting specialist, but its not going to be until we hit the first mountains and the individual time-trails that we could start counting on the favorites to make their move.