Monday, July 16, 2007

Chickens Come Home to Roost

The Tour de France, the world's biggest spectator sporting event and not a bad little bike race, is now well underway. It's been a topsy-turvy first few days, what with (as last year) several of the world's best riders unable to race due to doping-related suspensions and, on the roads, a lack of a clear favorite who can dictate the stages. The hallowed yellow jersey has changed hands several times already, but is now on the shoulders of Michael Rasmussen, a Dane who may have the experience and climbing power to keep it for a while. Rasmussen attacked the field on Sunday's big mountain stage to leap from 39th place in the general classification to first. And as is de rigeur aujourd'hui, he immediately talked at length about how he's clean as a whistle. No doping here! Certainly, one look at the sticklike arms of "the Chicken" will show you he probably isn't sharing a dealer and a weight room with the hulks in the WWE.

The drug saga will play out over the rest of the Tour, and on into the future. After all, it's still not been determined whether Floyd Landis, who finished first in last year's Tour, will be allowed to keep the win or be disqualified for doping. Nonetheless, the Tour will be at least as interesting and gripping an event as ever, with at least a half-dozen racers capable of winning.

If you're interested in following the Tour, VeloNews' coverage is top-notch, and includes everything from stage previews, as-it-happens live accounts, and summaries to a truly staggering number of video highlights and interviews. Naturally, the coverage also include graphics likes this profile of Monday's ninth stage, a killer 159.5 kilometer (99 mile) race in the Alps that includes two "hors categorie" climbs and should shake out the general classification before the field heads across the south of France to the Pyrenees for next weekend's decisive mountain stages. (And if straight-on coverage isn't your thing, maybe this first-person account of trying to ride a bike up the Tour's most famous climb, L'Alpe d'Huez, will appeal.