It has finally happened; a Grand Tour victory has been determined solely by a dope positive. Riders have been busted at controls and kicked out (and sometimes left in), declared unfit to start (scroll to Stage 21), caught with dope in the car, entire teams have been asked to leave due to overwhelming suspicion, and, depending on who you believe, this one dude even got caught seven years afterward. But never before has someone raced for three weeks, bested all comers (by quite some margin, I might add), reveled in the fruits of victory, and than had it all swept away by a positive dope test. And as far as I’m concerned, that’s fine. You cheat, you lose. If you think it isn’t fair, don’t worry, Heras will appeal. Personally, I’d be more interested to see how newly-crowned winner Denis Menchov feels; last time I checked, he wasn’t too psyched. So, since I agree with the ruling, am I willing to say that Heras sucks? No; dude is still a nice guy, still auctioned his bike for charity. The only guy who can say he sucks might be whoever won that auction, and even then, it’s just because he or she is too stupid to realize they’ve now got the cycling equivalent of Shoeless Joe’s bat.
On to results. A rainy day at the TdL saw another break escape by the slimmest of margins. LPR’s Elio Aggiano was the beneficiary this time around, while South Africa’s David George mantained his lead in the GC. I’m gonna diverge from cycling for a bit to note that Malaysia, a primarily Islamic country, has yet to be convulsed by violence over these Mohammed cartoons. One could only imagine what would happen to a peloton of 100 or so Northern Europeans travelling through Lebanon right now; the difference between the two reactions on either side of the Asian continent sure seems to support the assertion that rioters have had some help in the Middle East. In the more cycling-familiar realm of the Mediterranean Coast, Ivan Guitierrez of Caisse/Balears thundered to the top of Mt. Faron first, beating out young Thomas Lovkvist of FdJ and a couple Italians in a four-up sprint. For some reason, it’s also a big deal that Credit Agricole won the team battle today. Mt. Faron, you may recall, was in last year’s Paris-Nice, but, like the long TT, was axed from this year’ race, to avoid weather problems, organizers say, though neither the TT nor the Faron climb suffered in the early-season chill. Sounds to me more like a ploy to help Tom Boonen win the MonkeyTour title, thus making it a more cromulent measure of “best overall cyclist”.