Lance Armstrong, seven-time winner of the Tour de France, on Thursday announced he would no longer contest charges that he doped his way to victory. The 40-year-old legendary cyclist still maintains he's innocent.
Spain's Luis Leon Sanchez gave his crash-ravaged Rabobank team a lift on Sunday as he secured victory in the Tour de France's 14th stage on a day marred by a series of punctures at the front of the field.
Three-time Tour de France winner Alberto Contador has been stripped of his 2010 title and retroactively banned from cycling for two years following Monday's ruling by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
With the Tour de France nearly upon us, here's a shout-out to Wordsworth's wingman, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who coined the phrase "willing suspension of disbelief" -- which comes in particularly handy when you're watching a pro bike race.
In his doping confessional to CBS's 60 Minutes, Tyler Hamilton not only tells of witnessing teammate Lance Armstrong's use of the banned blood-boosting agent EPO when they rode together on the U.S. Postal Service team from 1995 to 2001, but he also delivers a blow to Armstrong's longtime defense against such allegations: "Never a failed test," Armstrong tweeted in response to Hamilton's remarks. "I rest my case."
When is a suspension not a suspension? When it is issued in Spain, against a high-profile cyclist. On Tuesday, members of the discipline committee of the Spanish Cycling Federation (RFEC) declared Alberto Contador innocent of doping charges. The defending Tour de France champion had been suspended three weeks earlier for a positive drug test during last year's Tour. Contador's urine showed traces of clenbuterol, a result he attributed to a contaminated steak eaten during the race. It was ruled, at the time, that even though he may not have knowingly ingested the substance, Contador was responsible for its presence in his body.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Buck up, Lance Armstrong fans. Maybe your hero was sandbagging. Maybe the seven-time Tour de France winner was trying to lull his rivals into a false sense of security as he ticked off his woes at last Friday's introductory press conference for the eight-day Amgen Tour of California, which starts Sunday.
Alberto Contador is a 26-year-old professional bike racer from Spain who in two seasons has won the Tours of France, Italy and his homeland. It's a feat matched by only four other riders in history, and by last fall Contador's performances had depleted the European press of its supply of superlatives. Then, in March, wearing the yellow leader's jersey one week into the Paris-Nice stage race, he did what even the finest racers are occasionally known to do, but Contador since his rise to prominence had not yet done. During a mountain stage, he cracked.
Two weeks before the start of the 96th Tour de France, 1,870 days after his last pro victory, Lance Armstrong soloed to first place in the Nevada City (Cal.) Classic, a brief but brutal 40-lap circuit in the Sierra Nevada foothills. Asked afterward about the upcoming Tour, which starts Saturday in Monaco, the Texan poor-mouthed his own chances, pointing to Astana teammates Alberto Contador and Levi Leipheimer as clear favorites. After those two, he went on, "they got an old man like me to come around and pick up the pieces."
Levi Leipheimer doesn't need sunglasses at the poker table. The 35-year-old Astana rider, currently enjoying the best season of his career, seems to be under the impression that he will be fined $100 per facial expression.
Just because he's lean and ripped and far more fit than he's ever been at this time of year, Lance Armstrong won't necessarily regain the form that won him seven Tours de France. Just because those questions about his past have faded from the foreground, they haven't necessarily gone away. And while none of them care to be quoted, there are plenty of cycling people who wish he'd leave and not come back. He is a magnet for attention that might otherwise redound to more deserving riders -- guys like his Astana teammate Levi Leipheimer, who on Sunday clinched his third straight victory in the Amgen Tour of California, but whose next mention in this story is more than a thousand words away. But give Armstrong this: Three-and-a-half years after his retirement, two races into his comeback, he has plunged an IV full of Red Bull into the arm of a sport sorely in need of a pick-me-up. By his mere presence in the peloton, the 37-year-old Texan makes pro cycling an infinitely more interesting
On the one hand, there was J.P. Hayes, plumb-bobbing a putt on page B13 of yesterday's New York Times. Last November, upon realizing that he'd inadvertently played a prototype ball not yet approved by the USGA, the journeyman from Appleton, Wisc., phoned officials from his hotel room between rounds at Qualifying school to turn himself in. He was disqualified, dashing his chances of earning his Tour card this year.
Grim news for gossip rags everywhere: Lance Armstrong confirmed Tuesday that he is, in fact, coming out of retirement. The immediate result, of course -- aside from a defibrillation of interest in cycling in this country -- will be a marked reduction in late-night sightings of the Lone Star State's most prolific Lothario with celebrity blondes of various vintages on his arm. If Lance is going to take the start at the Amgen Tour of California on Valentine's Day, 2009 -- the first of five stages races he's reportedly eyeballing, culminating with the Tour de France next July -- he'll need to maybe be dial down the night life a bit.
Every year more than 200 professional cyclists set off on the epic Tour de France, some preparing for this brutal and astounding journey by embarking on various programs of extreme workouts, strict diet and intense focus. Plus huge quantities of drugs.
While Lance Armstrong chased his record-setting Tour de France winning streak, a number of American businesses rode victoriously along. For Trek Travel in Madison, Wisc., the mid-'00s were boom times: 500 travelers each year booked $5,000 trips to see Lance in action, giving the two-year-old company $2.5 million in revenue a year from the Tour de France alone.
Rhetorical question posed on the eve of the 95th Tour de France, which begins Saturday in Brest, at the tip of the Breton peninsula: Wouldn't it be surprising if cycling, for so long the poster child of pharmacologically jacked-up sports, turned out to be cleaner than, say, the NFL, or the NHL, or Major League Baseball?
For three weeks they admired his matador's daring, his dark good looks and his abundant charisma. But as Spain's precocious Alberto Contador stepped onto the podium and the strains of La Marcha Real filled the Champs-��lys�es, cycling fans had one overwhelming thought: Please, God, let this kid be clean.
The leaders of the Tour de France were playing chicken in the final climb of stage 14 on Sunday when they were briefly overtaken by ... a chicken. To the Borat impersonator in a lime singlet who ran alongside the cyclists during stage 8, waving the flag of Kazakhstan, and the guy who adorned his bike with gigantic racks of deer antlers in stage 10, add the fellow in the yellow-feathered costume to the list of amusing spectators at this, the most unpredictable Tour in memory.
CASTRES, France -- The staging area for Friday's start was in Montpellier's Pavilion Populaire, a spacious, marble-tiled commons shaded by century-old trees, between which were strung colored lights that make every night a festival. Nearby, a glittering carousel. As the gleaming, brightly colored team buses pulled into the Pavilion before today's start, it occurred to me again that the Tour must be most aesthetically pleasing event in all of sport.
The Greek philosopher Diogenes carried a lantern in broad daylight, in the search, he said, of an honest man. I was thinking of bringing a lantern -- or at least one of those little squeeze lights -- over to the Tour de France this year, in search of a clean rider.