CyclingRevealed's First Impressions '07
Stage 20 - July 29th, Marcoussis to Paris-Champs Elysées, 130 km
A New Beginning?
Last year we saw an incredibly exciting Tour with truly exciting racing every day. After seven years of a race largely turned into a parade controlled by the USPS/Discovery team, it seemed that the fetters had well and truly been discarded. A ‘melt-down' day, followed by an incredible come-back win on Stage 17, enabled us to celebrate with great joy as Floyd Landis stood on the top step of the podium in Paris . No sooner had the garbage created by the crowds been swept from the streets of Paris than we learnt of Landis's elevated testosterone analysis. To this day we still do not have an official winner for the 2006 Tour.
TdF 2006: (L toR) Oscar Pereiro, Floyd Landis, Andreas Kloden [ Images ©: www.gazzetta.it ]
Since last July the cycling world has been reeling from the Landis affair, Operacion Puerto and other unsavory drug related scandals. Clearly the Tour organizers did not want a replay of the 2006 fiasco and generally it was assumed that we were going into the 2007 race with clear rules and policies regarding drugs and other methods of cheating.
To great pomp and circumstance Tour 07 set off from London and was viewed by almost three million road side spectators before it left England 's green and pleasant countryside. For the first week Fabian Cancellara carried the Yellow Jersey with dignity and style. As predicted by many, he lost the jersey as soon as the first mountains arrived. Surprisingly a very young Linus Gerdemann from Germany won the first mountain stage and with it assumed the Yellow Jersey.
Stage Winner Linus Gerdemann [ Image ©: www.gazzetta.it ]
It transpired that Gerdemann was the first of the new young generation to make its presence felt at the Tour. Perhaps an even bigger surprise was the hereto unknown Mauricio Soler from Columbia riding for the wildcard entry team Barloworld. On Stage 9 he took an impressive victory into Briançon after storming over the monstrous Col d'Iseran and the legendary Col du Galibier. On Stage 16 Soler won the Polka Dot Jersey for good after another impressive ride that finished on the Col d'Aubisque. For a while Soler was also vying for the White Jersey of the best young rider. But here he was against another exciting young Tour rider, Alberto Contador from the Discovery team. Contador was consistently battling at the front of the race and many will long remember his numerous explosive attacks on the Col de Peyresourde as he tried to rid himself of the then Yellow Jersey holder Michael Rasmussen. The previous day, Stage 14, was no less exciting when Contador outgunned Rasmussen at the stage finish atop the Plateau de Beille.
Unfortunately this Tour will go down in history for its darker exploits. Alexander Vinokourov (Astana), favored by many to win the Tour, tested positive for homologous blood doping. Almost within hours of this news we learned that Christian Moreni (Cofidis) had returned a ‘positive' drug test taken at a race before the Tour. And then hours after his tremendous Stage 16 win on the Col d'Aubisque, Michael Rasmussen and his Yellow Jersey was withdrawn from the Tour by his own team. Central to this decision was the fact that he had lied to his team concerning his whereabouts in June. To have him finish the Tour as winner and then be deposed (Landis style) at some later date was unacceptable to his Rabobank team. It should have been easy for Rasmussen to prove where he was in June and explain why he missed out-of-competition drug controls. The fact that he couldn't, or wouldn't, demolished his Tour and his career.
Rasmussen awaits doping control [ Image ©: www.gazzetta.it ]
We should feel extremely sad for the collateral damage that these riders brought down on their teammates and team staff. Astana and Cofidis, under the Pro-Tour ‘Code of Ethics', withdrew their entire teams from the Tour. All their efforts and potential financial gain blown to the wind. Rabobank did not withdraw their team because Rasmussen was not accused of any specific drug use. However the team riders who had pulled themselves inside out day after day to protect the Yellow Jersey were totally demoralized. They all started Stage 17 but as a shadow of their former selves now dejectedly languishing at the back of the peloton. Their arrival in Paris simply ended their misery. For Michael Boogerd this was an incredibly horrible way to end his long and illustrious Tour career.
Peloton races up the Champs Elysees [ Image ©: www.gazzetta.it ]
Time will tell if the hard line ‘Zero Tolerance' policy is going to help rid our sport of the evils that up until now have plagued it. Time will also tell if the bright young stars that shone through so brightly on this Tour are here to stay.
Today we celebrate Alberto Contador as the winner of the 2007 Tour de France. He did not win by default; he won by virtue of his undoubted talent. For the longest time a cheater was denying him the Yellow Jersey. Cadel Evans (2nd on GC) and Levi Leipheimer (3rd on GC) were worthy adversaries and deserved their places on the podium. In fact after yesterday's incredible time trial their last ditch effort was the stuff of legend. As a result a scant 32 seconds separates the three of them (a new Tour record for the top three on GC).
Alberto Contador's triumphant arrival in Paris [ Image ©: www.gazzetta.it ]
However Contador stood above the rest because, like Gerdemann and Soler, he displayed an aggressive, youthful riding style. Evans, Leipheimer and most of the original big pre-Tour favorites spent much of the race following. Quite bluntly, and maybe a little cruel, Evans and Leipheimer were the best wheel suckers. Gambling everything on the final TT was a big mistake.
The sprint to the finish
Daniele Bennati's sprint win on the Champs Elysees
The new young generation of riders like Contador, Soler and Gerdemann most hopefully understand that we are entering a new ‘clean' world. Their natural talent will continue to carry them to great victories. But they cannot do it on their own. Race organizers like the Tour's ASO, cycling team management, the UCI, WADA and numerous other ruling bodies need to be unified in their efforts to stamp out drugs in cycling.
As the cheers for the 2007 Tour fade away we all hope that the dramatic drug related events that at first shocked us all, were in fact the first act towards a new beginning.
We hope that you enjoyed following us as we reported Le Tour. Thank you for reading CyclingRevealed.
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White Jersey / Best Young Rider
The White Jersey calculation is the same as the Yellow Jersey Classification. All riders in this classification must have been born after January 1, 1982 (25 years old or less).
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