Tour Winner May Not Be First Over Finish Line

Originally published on July 3, 2011 9:55 am
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Yesterday, the world's greatest cyclists finished the first stage of this year's Tour de France. In the lead, Philippe Gilbert, a Belgian. He finished ahead of defending champion Alberto Contador of Spain who lost more than a minute yesterday in a crash. Contador stands to win his fourth yellow jersey in five years. But - and there's often a but - he is caught up in a doping scandal, the kind that stained the sport of cycling for years. If found guilty, Contador could lose the title he won last year and if he wins again this year, he would lose this one too. Joe Lindsey of Bicycling Magazine is following the tour. He joins us from Les Herbiers, France. Hi.

JOE LINDSEY: Hi, how are you?

STAMBERG: Good, thanks. Alberto Contador recently won the big Italian cycling competition. Now, he's trying to become the first rider since 1998 - isn't it - to win both races in the same year. You think he can do it?

LINDSEY: Well, as you mentioned, this has not happened since 1998, and quite frankly, since that race not a lot of riders have even tried, and that is because the two races are each so difficult and are so close together that there's just not a lot of time to recover between them. And Contador mentioned this the other day in his press conference. He kind of hedged his bets, saying, well, you know, I still do have some doubts about my form and I'm not sure where I'll be but that I hope that by the time I get to the mountains, which are not until about 10 or 11 days into the race, that I will be better.

STAMBERG: There is no Lance Armstrong in the race this year, but 39-year-old Chris Horner is there in France. And for years he's been a loyal Armstrong lieutenant. Now, he can pedal his own ambitions. Does he have a shot at it?

LINDSEY: Yes, absolutely. Chris is one of the most tactically savvy riders in the Peloton and he showed at Tour of California that he has the ability to command and control a race. The issue that he really faces is that he is not the sole leader of his Radio Shack team. There are three other riders who could potentially emerge as contenders. So, Chris essentially has to win the fight within his own team before he can go on to win the fight for the race overall. But I believe that he's certainly capable of doing that.

STAMBERG: Tell me, what effect are these doping scandals, first of all, having on TV ratings but also about how fans around the world are feeling about this sport?

LINDSEY: Viewership around the world has stayed roughly steady, even as these scandals come, you know, basically since 1998 when it was one of the first really big scandals. The TV numbers have actually grown. So, I think that in respect, we haven't seen a huge effect on it.

STAMBERG: Joe Lindsey is following this year's Tour de France for Bicycling Magazine. He joined us from Les Herbiers. Thank you.

LINDSEY: Thank you.


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