Remember when I said that doping hadn’t been as big of an issue with this year’s Tour de France as it had been the past few years? Well, forget what I said. A third rider has gone down in shame today as Italian Riccardo Ricco, the winner of two stages this year, has tested positive for EPO. His entire Saunier-Duval team has pulled out of the race after this revelation. Ricco was detained by police for questioning before today’s stage, and neither he, nor his teammates rode at all today.
Speaking of today’s 12th Stage, the 168.5 (105 mile) course ran from Lavelanet to Narbonne, with the victory going to Mark Cavendish of the U.K., who sprinted to the finish just ahead of a group of other riders, that included Sebastien Chavanel of France in second place and Gert Steegmans from Belgium claiming third.
Cadel Evans of Australia remains in the Yellow Jersey once again, as most of the riders in the GC stay close to one another and bide their time to make their move in the Alps. Spain’s Oscar Freire extended his lead in points for the Green Jersey and now has a 24 point lead over Kim Kirchen of Luxembourg. Sebastian Lang of Germany holds a two point lead over Bernard Kohl for the Polka Dot Jersey, and the standings in that category won’t change until the Alps either. Meanwhile, Vincenzo Nibali now whears the White Jersey for the best young rider after Ricco, who had been in White, was forced to leave the race.
Tomorrow’s stage is 182 km (113 miles) in length and runs from Narbonne to Nîmes. It’s another day of rolling hills, but little challenge in the way of climbs, and the sprinters will once again duel it out for points, which will become sparse once the Tour rolls into the Alps this weekend.
As for the doping scandals that continue to plague the race, and the sport in general, I don’t have a whole lot more to say about it. Clearly the rampant cheating still runs deep, despite the efforts to clean it up. Very disappointing.
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