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Friday, July 06, 2007

Tour de France 2007

For the second straight year, the Tour de France will open without its defending champion.

Last year, of course, Lance Armstrong didn't return after winning seven consecutive Tours. This year, the race opens without Floyd Landis, who is out because of doping allegations stemming from last year's race.

Frankly, the doping revelations that have shaken the cycling world leave me a bit ambivalent about this year's race. Will I follow the race? Yes. Will I follow it as closely as I have in previous years? Probably not.

It's good to see that all 189 cyclists who will begin the race Saturday with the Prologue in London have signed the International Cycling Union's anti-doping charter. That means they promised to submit DNA samples to Spanish authorities for the Operation Puerto probe. Cyclists also had to agree to pay a year's salary on top of a two-year ban if caught doping.

Despite the pledge, I expect fewer Americans will be watching the Tour de France this year on the Versus channel, although it is still planning many hours of event coverage. Six Americans are racing this year: Levi Leipheimer and George Hincapie of Discovery, David Zabriski and Christian Vandevelde of CSC and Christopher Horner and Fred Rodriguez of Predictor-Lotto.

As usual, I won't be doing much commentary on the Tour. The news sources listed on the right column of this blog do a much better job of putting the Tour in perspective than I can hope to do.

Let the racing begin -- and the doping end!

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