French see proof of cleaner race in 6 wins

Austin American-Statesman - - SPORTS -

COL DU TOUR­MALET, France — French rid­ers have ex­celled at the Tour de France with six stage vic­to­ries this year, and some be­lieve they are tak­ing back their race be­cause of im­proved anti-dop­ing mea­sures.

Tour com­peti­tors from France — whether from pride about keep­ing the race clean or out of fear about tough French laws aimed to pre­vent dop­ing — have long had a rep­u­ta­tion as among the clean­est rid­ers in the pack.

France’s Bernard Thevenet, who won the Tour in 1975 and 1977 and is still in­volved in pro cy­cling, says French rid­ers in­creas­ingly be­lieve the “cy­cling at two speeds” di­vid­ing clean rid­ers and those who cheat is end­ing.

The In­ter­na­tional Cy­cling Union is con­duct­ing hun­dreds of blood and urine tests at the Tour this year, and “in­de­pen­dent ob­servers” brought in by the World Anti-Dop­ing Agency are on hand to make sure UCI testers carry them out prop­erly.

The UCI also has touted its bi­o­log­i­cal pass­port pro­gram, which is de­signed to monitor rid­ers’ body chem­istry pro­files over the long term to look for fluc­tu­a­tions that could in­di­cate dop­ing.

“The French rider thinks these con­trols are very tight, very ef­fec­tive,” Thevenet said Thurs­day. “It’s re­ally bear­ing fruit now. So at the start, they be­lieve they’re equal with the oth­ers.”

Lau­rent Rebours

Stage win­ner Andy Sch­leck, right, and Al­berto Con­ta­dor, wear­ing the leader’s yel­low jersey, cross the fin­ish line of 17th stage.

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