The Reuters global sports blog
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.
Sport has become big business and egos have exploded too, while security restrictions have made visiting many stadiums something of a chore.
But not on the Tour. To say the French approach is laissez faire is an understatement. As a journalist you can practically go wherever you want with hardly any checks, even standing just behind the stage finish line. Yes you might get your toes clipped as the rider speeds past but the access to the cyclists is remarkable.
from Photographers' Blog:
This year's riders of the Tour de France covered 3430.5 km (2131.6 miles), divided into 21 stages, according to the Tour's official website.
What you may not know is that the Reuters pictures team covering 2011's most-watched sporting event managed to tally up some 10,000 km (6213 miles).
Cycling has changed a lot in the last 15 years. Once the team had just 12 riders and there was just one captain for the whole season. At almost every race all the team worked for the same guy, because the same guy could win every kind of race, from Paris Roubaix to the Tour de France. Think about Merckx, Moser, Hinault and Co.
Now the sport has changed radically — between 25 and 30 riders per team, super light bikes, while wheels and training methods have improved a lot. The average level of every rider has increased. And top riders have started to have fewer targets during the season.
It’s been a sad week in sport in some ways, with two modern greats announcing their retirements with immediate effect.
Tour de France winner Alberto Contador returned an “adverse analytical finding” for clenbuterol following an analysis of a urine sample taken during an in-competition test on the second rest day of July’s race, the International Cycling Union said on Thursday.
The concentration was “400 time(s) less than what the antidoping laboratories accredited by WADA must be able to detect,” the UCI said in a statement.
from Photographers' Blog:
I am writing this on the road from rural eastern France at the end of the fourth stage of the month-long Tour de France. It’s hot and dusty outside with temperatures at about 38 degrees Celsius (100 degrees Fahrenheit). On the backs of the motorcycles in protective gear we are suffering as we spend all day in the sun. Fortunately there has been a lot happening in these early stages of the Tour and the images have been worth it.
On the third stage of the Tour between Wanze in Belgium and Arenberg in France, I was riding on the second of our two motorcycles. The second bike is not authorized to shoot the riders on the move, but instead can overtake the pack and then stop on the side of the road so the photographer can shoot the riders as they pass by. The third stage was very special as the last 50 kilometers were on the famous cobblestone backroads of northern France more commonly associated with the Paris-Roubaix cycling classic. This section is known as the “Hell of the North”. I have covered 21 Tour de France races, but never had the occasion to cover either Paris-Roubaix, nor shoot a cobblestone section.
“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.
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!
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.