By Graham Jones
and Barry Boyce

CyclingRevealed Historians



Tour de France Champions Living and Dead







CyclingRevealed's First Impressions '08

Stage12 - (Thursday) July 17th, Lavelanet to Narbonne, 168.5 km Flat Stage

Traitors' Gate

One of the most famous sights in London is the iconic Tower of London. For many centuries this forbidding Norman Castle was used as a prison. Amongst the ‘celebrities' who had the misfortune to be sent there are Anne Boleyn, Sir Thomas More, Queen Catherine Howard and Elizabeth I.

Traitors' Gate in London [ Images ©: London Travel]

Most prisoners were brought by barge along the River Thames and entered the Tower by the ‘Traitors' Gate'. To add to their misery and sense of impending doom the heads of the recently executed were stuck on spikes on the stone gate houses. For many proven traitors the trip through the ‘Gate' and into the Tower was a one-way journey.

Ricco, the Traitor

Today, just as the race entourage was getting ready for the start, it was announced that Saunier Duval's Ricardo Ricco had turned in a positive result for EPO. He was immediately thrown out of the race and literally minutes later the entire Saunier Duval team withdrew from the race.

Riccardo Ricco "He chose... poorly!" [ Image ©: ]

Ricco, and anyone else who still think that they can cheat the system, are learning the hard way that those days are over. These cheats are truly traitors in every sense of the word. This case has caused as yet untold damage to the sport. The Tour is faced with another drug related catastrophe. The sport as a whole has been dealt another severe blow to its credibility. The Saunier Duval team (according to early news) may collapse completely and disappear from the sport. The ramifications of this case will go deep, very deep. Ricco is a traitor to the sport, the Tour his team and himself. We can only hope that his journey, like the doomed souls who entered the Tower of London , is a one-way journey out of the sport.

Random Precision

As the Tour set out on stage 1 in Brittany it was announced that 10 riders had returned “abnormalities” in the pre-Tour medical tests. Apparently the daily “random” drug tests have not been so random as ‘the ten' have been on the hit list for close observation. Ricco joins Moises Duenas (Barloworld) and Manuel Beltran (Liquigas) and now the remaining seven riders displaying “abnormalities” must be feeling very nervous as the daily drug tests close in with random precision!

Maybe if they listen to Pink Floyd's great ‘Shine on you crazy diamond' on their iPods they will identify themselves with the lyrics of the song:

Shine on You Crazy Diamond
(Pink Floyd)

Remember when you were young, you shone like the sun.
Shine on you crazy diamond.
Now there's a look in your eyes, like black holes in the sky.
Shine on you crazy diamond.
You were caught on the crossfire of childhood and stardom,
blown on the steel breeze.
Come on you target for faraway laughter,
come on you stranger, you legend, you martyr, and shine!
You reached for the secret too soon, you cried for the moon.
Shine on you crazy diamond.
Threatened by shadows at night, and exposed in the light.
Shine on you crazy diamond.
Well you wore out your welcome with random precision,
rode on the steel breeze.
Come on you raver, you seer of visions,
come on you painter, you piper, you prisoner, and shine!

Don't Forget the Race!

A sad aspect of drug cases is that the focus was removed from the racing. But today, as every day, the peloton lined up and rode into the countryside. There was no doubt a range of emotions from sadness to to intense anger. However as consummate professionals the riders set about the task in hand.

The stage itself contains no significant climbs and the second half of the day is generally descending as the peloton heads towards Narbonne on the Mediterranean coast. This is one of the last chances for the pure sprinters before they reach Paris.

After some earlier attacks were nullified Arnaud Gérard (Francaise des Jeux) and Samuël Dumoulin (Cofidis) managed to pull away after 36kms of racing. The peloton seemed content with this situation and so the two leaders were all set for a long ride alone (not counting police outriders, commisaires, photographers, motorised TV cameras, team cars and of course the overhead helicopters with TV cameras and lucky VIP's)!

A Not So Slow Death!

Fuelled by strong tailwinds and aided no doubt by considerable anger over the Ricco case, the race moved extremely rapidly today. For the longest time the average speed was close to 50kmph.  

The two leaders were holding there own but then a sign of things to come occurred when Juan Jose Oroz (Euskaltel Euskadi) managed to leap from the peloton up to the two leaders. The third set of wheels added some impetus to the escape but behind them the bunch was closing. With about 40kms remaining the leaders had a scant 1 minute lead.

In the peloton the sprinters were licking their collective lips. A stage win and valuable Green Jersey points were just over the horizon. Riding at an incredible pace the leaders focussed on their task while the fast moving peloton gauged its speed to eliminate the break somewhere near the city limits of Narbonne. 

9kms to go. The junction is made and now it looks like the running of the bulls in Pamplona . Ramping up to warp speed Cadel Evans was clearly seen right near the front trying to keep out of trouble but at the same time he was not letting Frank Schleck out of his sight who was right in front of him. All around these two GC contenders every top sprinter was right in the middle of the cut-and-thrust action. Suddenly Mark Cavendish exploded from the front as Hushovd, Friere, McEwen and every other sprinter in the pack tried to stay on terms. Cavendish nailed his third stage win and with it made history as the first Englishman to achieve the feat.

The More Things Change...

Sadly, history shows us that the truism stating that the more things change, the more they stay the same is very true. The awareness and the battle against drugs has been going on for many years. The little cartoon created by the famous artist Pellos that we show here was published in the 1960's.

Pello's cartoon 1960 (see our Pellos "Cyclng Cartoon" collection)

With the capture of Ricco, as well as many other cycle racing “stars” in recent years, we can only hope that the days of the cheats are finally drawing to a close. The key is that the efficacy and credibility of the drug tests themselves are beyond reproach. It would seem from recent cases that the legal experts fully believe in the tests.

For the riders there is a fork in the road. Choose wisely and and the world of racing is spread out before you. Choose poorly and you too will be passing through Traitors' Gate.



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