The Tour de France started this past Saturday. No prologue -- it's said that that historically the prologue was used to preview the riders.... mainly French riders. And since there aren't many good French riders to speak of, they just did away with the entire prologue. Seems that's the way the TdF organizations solve everything. They don't like it; make it go away. Eh, fine with me; makes it a tighter race and will result in a more accurate winner.
No time bonuses either for the first two stages (also something that will create a tighter race). I don't proclaim to know all that is the TdF, but this is my understanding at the moment.
The whole doping scandal is still going on in the sport, however teams are coming around with testing programs that ensure compliance by all athletes. It still baffles me though, that with the gifts of talent all these athletes have, why augment with drugs? That is really more of rhetorical question since I can think of a million answers, but still it speaks of their core values.
Take Landis. At first I wasn't sure about his innocence. I mean, he was so vehemently fighting to appeal that I just felt, "why would he go through all that if he wasn't innocent?" "Maybe the French lab tests were tampered?" Court rulings decided that regardless of the lab mishaps, none of that changes the fact that he had elevated testosterone in body. If you saw the 2006 TdF, he was like a machine taking back all but 30 seconds of the 8 minutes lost to Perrerio.
If he did dope. He's lying about it, disrespecting the sport and all the fans that supported this American rider. Even after his appeal was denied, he's still examining his legal recourse.
I know that doping is doping, but then you see 5 time gold medal winner Marion Jones. In spite of lying for 7 years, she finally comes clean about doping. Admits that she was enhanced. Loses her titles and takes the hit with prison time! To me, she stumbled, but at least she didn't throw her values down the tube for eternity. She'll always remember, but eventually she will sleep more soundly at night.
Anyway, back to the TdF. I have to root for the the American teams, High Road finally got a title sponsor in Columbia Sportswear, and that's where my Big George Hincapie sits. I hop he has a great season. Incidentally it's his 13th TdF! Hard to believe anyone lasts that long in the TdF -- someone must like him. :) And what's not to like? He's a true team player and I love that about him.
The other American team, Slipstream, got their title sponsorship from Garmin (the GPS folks -- so at least the team will find their way through France). So they are team Garmin Chipolte. I'll root for them too, but they don't have my Big George. :)