Left field

The Reuters global sports blog

Lance Armstrong, a story of doping and deception

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(Any opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Thomson Reuters)

Doping and deception: the yellow colour of the Livestrong band will never mean the same thing again to the 80 million Lance Armstrong fans who bought it.

Armstrong’s unprecedented seven consecutive Tour de France victories from 1999 to 2005 depended on lies and illegal behaviour, but what is worse is that the character most people thought they knew has turned out to be someone very different. Character is the most important virtue that sport is supposed to celebrate.

Now he has been banned for life and stripped of his Tour victories. It may not be enough.

Armstrong re-retires, says no way back this time

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ARMSTRONGIt’s been a sad week in sport in some ways, with two modern greats announcing their retirements with immediate effect.

Admittedly, we knew long ago that we’d already seen by far the best of both Ronaldo, who called it a day on Monday, and Lance Armstrong, who announced on Wednesday his “retirement 2.0″.

Armstrong makes good Tour start but what next?

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“Since I started, I’ve been at the front of my sport,” Lance Armstrong told me before the start of the Tour de France.

Whether you like him or not, it’s quite true.

At almost 39, Armstrong is still in the game and rode impressively in Saturday’s 8.9-km prologue in Rotterdam.

Ice cool Contador trains sights on Armstrong

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CYCLING-TOUR/It looks like Alberto Contador has learned from the master himself, with the Spaniard apparently intent on unsettling the seven-times Tour de France champion with his recent change of schedule.

Contador announced on Tuesday he was re-shuffling his race calendar following a commanding victory on Paris-Nice. Instead of taking part in the Tour of Catalonia, the defending Tour champion will travel to Corsica for the two-day Criterium International, where he will square up with Armstrong, who had decided to go to Corsica instead of Catalonia after Contador first announced he would race in Spain!

Contador looks stronger than ever … even in a weaker team

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SPORT-DECADE/CYCLINGDon’t tell Alberto Contador his team is weak. He won’t like it and he might be right in saying Astana are stronger than some would think.

Last year, Contador was part of an Astana team featuring Americans Lance Armstrong and Levi Leipheimer, and German Andreas Kloeden. That team was labelled as the strongest ever but Contador did not enjoy much of his season despite winning the Tour de France.

Can Bradley Wiggins become Britain’s first Tour de France winner?

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Can Bradley Wiggins win the Tour de France?
It’s a simple question with a reasonably simple answer – yes, well maybe. Not necessarily this year but soon, if everything goes right and he stays fit.

Has he got the support every rider needs to win the Big One?
And some. Team Sky have put together a hand-picked 26-rider team that balances young thrusters and old hands and with the money of Sky and the inspiration and attention to detail of Dave Brailsford and his similarly hand-picked assistants, nothing will be left to chance.

Armstrong v Contador – It’s already game on

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The Tour de France is still more than eight months from now, but the much-awaited duel between Alberto Contador and his illustrious challenger Lance Armstrong has already begun.
 
The Spanish champion and the American veteran, third this year after an impressive comeback following 3-1/2 years in retirement, both attended the 2010 route presentation in Paris on Wednesday.
 
Seated in the second row of the Palais des Congres, they were only separated by Luxembourg’s Andy Schleck, one of the riders hoping to settle the dispute with victory on the Champs Elysees on July 25.
 
Contador and Armstrong shook hands on Wednesday, but the tension between the two was already palpable.
 
The Spaniard, who has won every Grand Tour he has raced since claiming his first Tour de France in 2007, will be the hot favourite when next year’s event kicks off in Rotterdam.
 
He is the best climber, and Fabian Cancellara — not an overall contender — looks like the only man able to beat him in a time trial.
 
With four stages in the Pyrenees and a total of 23 passes, it is hard to imagine that Armstrong can compete.
 
But the Texan is 38 years old and has the experience that goes along with it.
 
While Contador is still unsure about his future — Astana ? Garmin ? Quick Step ? — former Astana man Armstrong has already set up his new team, bringing Levi Leipheimer and probably Andreas Kloeden to RadioShack.  

The American outfit, given a Pro-Tour Licence on Friday, will no doubt be strong.
 
Contador still does not know who will be his lieutenants next season. If he stays at Astana, he will be able to rely on Alexander Vinokourov, but who else? He wants Haimar Zubeldia to stay but the Spaniard is willing to join Armstrong.
 
Armstrong is ready to start preparing for the 2010 Tour, Contador is not.
 
Before the race enters the mountains, the first week will be potentially treacherous. Armstrong has the experience to deal with it, while Contador sometimes has problems holding his nerve. Not good when you are set to face strong crosswinds and nasty cobblestones in Northern France.
 
Basically, Armstrong has until July 6 — the Tour third stage with 13 km of cobbled sections — to unsettle Contador. After that, it could be too late.

Prepare for Pyrenees classic in 2010 Tour de France

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One hundred years after first featuring on the Tour map, the Pyrenees could be the scene of a classic battle between Alberto Contador and Lance Armstrong.

Tour de France organisers unveiled the route for next year’s race here in Paris on Wednesday, with four stages, including a gruelling 16th stage with four daunting climbs, to be held in the mountains that form the border between France and Spain.

Live blogging from the Tour de France stage 20

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rtr2609h1cowAlberto Contador is almost there but the penultimate stage up Mont Ventoux is the toughest climb on the Tour.

Here is how the day is panning out (French time, new items now at top):

There we are! Contador set to win his second Tour de France. Andy Schleck is second.
Armstrong’s comeback is a success with what looks like a wonderful podium finish.

Contador is out on his own — literally

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Alberto Contador is closing in on Tour de France victory having won the 18th stage on Thursday, a time trial in Annecy.

If he succeeds, and I have no doubt he will, the Spaniard will owe it to nobody but himself.

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