A general lack of cooperation among the sprinter's teams allowed a group of seven riders to stay away to the finish, but the first rider across the line, Saxo Bank's Niki Sorensen didn't wait around to sprint with his breakmates. His solo attack in the closing kilometers brought Saxo Bank it's second stage win after Cancellara's victory in Monaco.
I was a day for opportunities as the AG2R-La Mondiale team had to spend most of day at the front riding for their man in yellow, Rinaldo Nocentini, as the sprinter's teams just couldn't coordinate a chase effort to bring back the breakaway. While Nocentini kept the jersey, it was a lost day for the Cavendish, Farrar, Hushovd, et. al. as the stage profile clearly called for a bunch finish. But, that's why they ride each day, just to see who has been reading all the journalists' prognostications.
Clearly, Mark Cavendish is the class of the sprinters and my guess is that the other teams with sprinters such as Garmin-Slipstream and Cervelo Test Team decided not to do any work at the front just so 'Cav' could get another win. With two riders in contention for the overall, I can see why Garmin-Slipstream might have chosen not to ride, but it is a bit of a pity as their fastman, Tyler Farrar, came oh, so close to winning yesterday. But, the third week of the Tour is, as Lance Armstrong put it 'sinister', and as we reach the Alps in just three days maybe all eyes are looking at the mountains.
Jens Voigt are you listening? This is your opportunity to go for stage win!
Nicolas Roche has some big shoes to fill being the son of Irishman Stephen Roche who won the Tour de France, Giro d'Italia and the World Road Championship all in the same year, 1987. He is riding his first Tour, and sporting the jersey of the Irish National road champion, for AG2R-La Mondiale team who just happen to have the yellow jesey. I talked with him about his Tour experience.
Bruce: what is it like riding for Rinaldo in yellow?
Nicolas: for me it is a fantastic experience. It is my first Tour and straight away I have the opportunity to ride for the yellow jersey. Some riders never do that in their whole career. Of course, that puts a big stop on my own personal motivations, but it is my first Tour so everything is going all right. I had my chances in the first week in the sprints. Now there are two more weeks to go and lots of chances to get into the breakaways.
Bruce: What is the biggest thing you have learned so far?
Nicolas: I suppose that when you are riding the Tour you are either riding to be top ten in GC or the most important thing is to try and save you energy for the next day to give it a go in the breakaways. You can't win the sprint because of Cavendish and there are too many other good sprinters. If you wait for a mountain top finish there is Contador, Armstrong and so many others. There are not many possibilities to get a stage win which is the dream of everybody who comes to the Tour, I think.
While Serge Borlee is currently Cadel Evans' bodyguard, he has preformed the same duty for Lance Armstrong, Jan Ullrich and Alexandre Vinokourov. I thought there would be a bidding war for Serge's services when Lance announced his comeback, but it didn't happen. Hopefully, we are buddies now and he won't hurt me!
Bruce: what are your duties as a bodyguard?
Serge: Every morning I bring him to the start line for the sign in. I make sure nothing happens to him before the race starts.
Bruce: some people don't know your background. You are an ex-Belgian policeman.
Serge: I am not an ex, I am still a policeman. This is my holiday. I take my holiday to do the Tour de France.
Bruce: Cadel is a bit different this year than last year. He is more friendly.
Serge: Last year they put too much pressure on him to make him win the Tour de France and it was too stressful for him. But, this year I think he is in better shape than last year and he's looking good.
Bruce: have you ever had to take somebody down while protecting a rider?
Serge: In 2005 I got in a fight with the police in Paris when I was protecting Lance. Put my name in YouTube and you will see.
Bruce: of all the riders you have worked with, who was the best to work for?
Serge: Cadel. It is less stressful. He's a nice guy.
Last time I talked with Rabobank Director Sportif (DS) Erik Breukink was in Rome during the final TT of the Giro. The team was on a definite high as they were just hours away from wining the Giro D'Italia. Here at the Tour, their luck has been going in the opposite direction. As I predicted, I didn't think Menchov could recover from the Giro and he hasn't. The their hope for the white jersey and possibly the overall, Robert Gesink(pronounced Hesink, just like Houda not Gouda cheese) crashed and had to retire with a broken wrist.
Bruce: with Gesink out and Menchov apparently not recovered from the Giro are you looking to stage wins?
Erik: a stage win is important, for sure. Gesink for the mountains was our guy. Menchov is getting a litle bit better, but it is difficult for him to move up on GC because he is so far behind. Stage wins are important now.
First it was Jan Ullrich getting popped for ecstasy. Then Gilberto Simoni was nailed for cocaine. Next, Tom Boonen tests positive for cocaine, as well. Now uber-swimming phenomenon, Michael Phelps, is taking bong hits. Of course, who could forget Ross Regabliati, the Canadian snowboarder who lost his gold medal he won in the 1998 Nagano Olympic Games after testing positive for marijuana.
Jan, Gilberto and Tom paid a pretty heavy price for their recreational drug use. Jan was suspended for six months, Gilberto was booted from a Giro he could have won and Boonen lost his ride at the Tour where he was a heavy favorite to take his second consecutive green(sprinter's) jersey. Their suspensions definitely affected their careers. I could be argued, that in the counter-culture, non-conformist world of snowboarding, Ross's dalliance may have been more of a positive for his aspirations. After all he did get his medal back. Maybe.
But, what is going to happen to Michael Phelps? He will probably lose a few endorsements, but will swimming's governing body feel a need to take action?
Yes, there are rules governing the use of recreational drugs in most sports, but is this a good thing? It can easily be argued that since most, if not all, recreational drug use is illegal there should be some sort of penalty. The penalty can take several forms. A national anti-doping agency can impose a suspension or ban. A jurisdictional body can hand down a fine or prison sentence.
What is not clear is if recreational drugs can have a positive affect on an athlete's performance. Yes, as mentioned above, an athlete is probably breaking the law by using them, but did they gain an advantage over their competition? Over fifty years ago, the drug of choice for cyclists were amphetamines. Clearly, this recreational drug could increase performance.
Much like the TV show Lost I am asking a lot more questions than providing answers. In Michael Phelps' case regardless of what the law and USA Swimming decide to do, he will lose some $$$. That seems fair to me. I can't tell him how to behave, but if he behaves in a manner which doesn't please his sponsors then he will have to answer to those sponsors.
In cycling, there appears to be a policy of zero tolerance to drug use of any kind. Not surprisingly, cycling is in the fight of it's life to try to keep and attract sponsors. Boyz will be boyz, but they better understand that everyone is watching.
Belgian uber-cyclist Tom Boonen recently tested positive for cocaine. The result came from an out-of-competition test and since cocaine is only considered to be performance enhancing during competition the Belgian Cycling Federation(BCF) won't be pursuing any sanctions against the 2008 Paris-Roubaix winner. More than likely this was a case of recreational drug use, but possession and use of cocaine is illegal in Belgium.
While the BCF will not be imposing any ban on Boonen, there is already some fallout in the cycling community. The Tour of Switzerland, which starts on June 14th, has indicated that it might not invite Boonen, who is targeting the event as preparation for the Tour de France. Speaking of the Tour, race officials decided that the winner of the green, sprinters, jersey last year will not be invited to their race, either. Citing a need to protect the integrity of the Tour, race organizers have decided to exclude the Belgian from their event.
In a sport that has been rocked by a seemingly endless string of doping scandals the finding of recreation drug use among the pro cyclists isn't all the shocking. In 2002, two-time Giro winner Gilberto Simoni also tested positive for cocaine and was tossed out of the Giro. He came back to win the event the following year. Jan Ullrich, the 1997 Tour de France winner, tested positive for the designer drug ecstasy while sidelined with a knee injury in 2002. He was suspended for six months by the German Cycling Federation.
Probably the most famous recreational drug use case took place in the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics when Canadian snowboarder Ross Regabliati was stripped of his gold medal after testing positive for marijuana. His gold medal was reinstated.
Should testing positive for recreational drugs be taken as seriously as performance enhancing drugs(PED)? Is this just a case of 'boys will be boys' or is breaking the law just as serious as taking PEDs. What are your thoughts?