Thursday, July 26, 2007

Tour de France Stage 16 - 17

I don't have much to say about yesterday's bicycle race. However what happened after the race is big news. Yesterday after winning his second stage in this year's tour Danish Rabobank rider Michael Rasmussen who was leading the Tour by just over 3 minutes was pulled from the race by his team.

At this time it is hard to know what Michael Rasmussen's status really is. Is he still a member of the Rabobank team? The media keeps using words like "sacked" and "kicked out." But it is not clear whether he has been fired from the team, or just pulled from the race. But the important thing is that the race started today without a yellow jersey holder.

So why did Rabobank take this drastic step? Rabobank claims that Rasmussen told them he was with his wife in Mexico in June while he has been reported as being seen in Italy.

"Rabobank is shocked and enormously disappointed that Rasmussen has lied about his whereabouts,"
the team said.

Rasmussen denied being in Italy.

"I am shattered," Rasmussen told Danish tabloid BT. "I am on the verge of tears. I was not in Italy. Not at all. That's the story of one man who believes he recognized me. There is no hint of evidence."

I really have to respect the Rabobank team for taking this step. But what I really don't understand is the reactions of the race commentators. Al Trautwig, Paul Sherwin and Phil Ligget when this mornings broadcast started were crucifying Rasmussen for being caught up in the doping scandals. All they talked about for several minutes was Rasmussen and doping. Yet, no one has officially accused Rasmussen of doping. He has not failed any of the 17 drug tests that he was subjected to so far in this year's race. Rabobank claims that Rasmussen was removed from the Tour for violating internal team policies.

Each cyclist is required to report where they are training before the tour and Rasmussen apparently didn't do this. But to automatically assume that he was doping is ridiculous, at least this early in the whole situation.

So I am pleased to see Rabobank take this drastic step to send a message to all their riders that they must follow all the rules. But I am very disappointed in the four race commentators that they were so quick to jump on the doping bandwagon and start convicting Rasmussen of doing something that so far, no one has accused him of doing. I am also disappointed in the race officials. The race continues today without a yellow jersey on the road. The did not make Alberto Contador put on the jersey when the race started. Contador, to his credit has been reported as saying that he didn't want to wear yellow today. Most cyclists will not want to inherit the leaders jersey because of a rider crashing, abandoning, or being pulled from the race. But several years ago, when David Zabriski crashed while wearing the yellow jersey he was left laying beside the road by his team and as a result lost his yellow jersey to Lance Armstrong. The next day Armstrong reported for the race without the yellow jersey claiming that he didn't win it the day before, but had inherited it when Zabriski crashed. At this point the race officials told Armstrong that if he didn't wear the yellow that day he would be disqualified from the tour. Funny how things change if you aren't an American rider. Armstrong tries to be a good sport and he is threatened with disqualification. But when a Spanish rider does the same thing, he is allowed to be a good sport.

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