by Bob Roll
Tour '08 Report #1
After a great opening week of racing where the yellow jersey changed hands between 4 riders in only 6 stages, and sprint finishes were won by Valverde, Hushovd and Cavendish, and generally speaking a fantastic opening week of this year’s Tour….some rather disturbing news has come to us this evening.
A Spanish rider, on the Italian team, named Manuel Beltran has tested positive for EPO during the first stage. This is a stage where Mr. Beltran did not finish in the top 100 riders and is not a rider that anyone has picked to win a stage or finish well in the overall standings. As is often times the case, it’s the bad news that grabs all the headlines. And justifiably so or not, this Tour will not be free from the infamy that cycling has gone through recently.
To imagine any rider could be so conceited and have such total disregard for his teammates, his sponsors, the fans, the Tour itself and, most importantly, for himself is another sad chapter in the continuing degradation of a beautiful sport.
One would presume that all of the riders are under such intense scrutiny that their transgressions would be exposed before they came to the Tour and would never be allowed to compete. But, in the ongoing battle between the ASO and the UCI it has become, this year, more difficult to scrutinize the athletes adequately. In this case of the “feuding, divorcing parents” (ASO and UCI), the “kids” (the riders) are the ones that are free to do bad things that they might not do otherwise.
Since Beltran is not one of the top riders and no rider on his team, Liquigas, was forecasted to be an overall contender, let’s hope this is another incident that will blow over and we can resume paying attention to the race itself.
One side note, a recent signing to the Liquigas team for next year should give us an idea of the increased scrutiny that will be on this team. That would be Ivan Basso.
The ASO, organizers of the Tour de France, can not be asked to send a clearer message and every rider, no matter what station of the hierarchy of the sport, must race clean or never race again!