This past Saturday marked the beginning of the 94th annual Tour de France, a 21-day epic cycling journey that features a prologue and twenty stages that cover a total distance of 3,550 kilometers. For the first time ever, the race began in London and will finish as always in the heart of Paris at the Champs-Elysees. A total of twenty-one teams, with nine riders on each, will compete for the coveted final yellow jersey and top team standings.
Today’s stage, a slightly-hilly route that begins in Waregem, Belgium and finishes in Compiegne, France, is the longest stage of the tour at 236.6 kilometers. After yesterday’s second stage, Switzerland’s Fabian Cancellara remains in the yellow jersey. The first few stages have seen a few major pileups; yesterday’s dangerous crash was provoked by a Milram rider swerving to the right, which caused the peloton to fold up like cards.
Since I don’t have cable television at home, I can’t watch this year’s tour on Versus, the previously named OLN channel that covers the Tour in the states (Think: Phil Liggett, Paul Sherwen, and the infamous Bob Roll—"Tour day France"). This may be for the best, since I’m very much convinced that the sport of cycling is scandalously permeated by performance-enhancing drugs. I think most of ‘em are dirty birds. I don’t even believe our all-American boy Lance Armstrong was entirely Scotch-clean. It’s unfortunate that the sport has come to the point where every athlete and performance is shaded by a veil of doubt, and even otherwise clean athletes feel they must dope just to stay in the race. My friend who works in the anti-doping industry explained that the science behind the testing is not up to par, which leaves many of today’s performance-enhancing drugs completely undetectable by current testing methodology. Thus doping will continue until improved tests can detect the ever-changing current slate of drugs.
Despite all of this, I will still monitor the tour and cheer for all of the clean riders, whoever they might be. More information, as well as the most up-to-date news and standings, can be found at the official Web site: www.letour.fr/2007/TDF/LIVE/fr/300/index.html.