French see proof of cleaner race in 6 wins
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.”
Stage winner Andy Schleck, right, and Alberto Contador, wearing the leader’s yellow jersey, cross the finish line of 17th stage.