Tour 2007: Another Shadow On The Sport

Today was the 11th Stage of The Tour de France and while the race continues on the road, and the main contenders position themselves for the Pyrenees, another doping scandal has cast it’s shadow over the event.

T-Mobile rider Patrik Sinkewitz test positive yesterday for elevated levels of testosterone, the same test that Floyd Landis failed last year. Apparently he test positive back in June, but the results are just coming out now. The news breaks just a few days after Sinkewitz dropped out of the race after hitting a spectator during Stage 8. He has also been suspended from his team while he ponders whether or not to request a “B” sample of the test.

Cycling has been trying to clean up it’s image after a huge doping scandal broke in Spain last year on the eve of it’s premier event, The Tour. A month later the sport was rocked again, when Tour winner Landis tested positive as well. This year, the governing body over international cycling proposed that the riders sign a pledge that they wouldn’t dope, with heavy fines hitting those that did sign it and then tested positive. Clearly cycling still has a ways to go before it’s completely clean.

Meanwhile, on the course today, Robert Hunter of South Africa became the first rider from that country to ever claim a stage victory on the tour. He was followed closely by former Yellow Jersey owner Fabian Cancellara of Switzerland and Murilo Fischer of Brazil, who came in third.

Today’s 113 mile course was once again mostly flat and fast, favoring the sprinters who attempted to pile up points towards the Green Jersey. Danish rider Michael Rasmussen still wears the Yellow Jersey with a 2 minute 35 second advantage over Alejandro Valverde of Spain. Rasmussen is also the leader for the Polka Dot Jersey given to the best climber in the Tour. The former mountain bike world champion is the two time defending King of the Mountain.

Tomorrow’s 12th stage will run 111 miles in length and will make it’s way to the foothills of the Pyrenees. There will be climbs to test the stamina of these riders, but they’ll be nothing like the ones that lay ahead. Saturday will be one of the two remaining individual time trials, and Sunday will bring the mountains. Look for the riders within striking distance to make their move to close the gap with Rasmussen during the time trial, as it is clearly the weakest portion of his riding skills.

Kraig Becker

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