Some French riders and ex-pros are leading a chorus of doubt following a series of moving performances during the recent Tour de France.
After a superb comeback by Tadej Pogačar to win the yellow jersey in Saturday’s time trial and the dominance of Jumbo-Visma for much of the race, some within the French cycling establishment are publicly questioning the veracity of the results.
“I didn’t watch the Tour after the Grand Colombier stage,” said former yellow jersey holder Stéphane Heulot. West France. “It makes me want to throw up. ”
The 2020 Tour sees some of the ghosts of cycling’s doping past return to haunt the sport. And the investigation underway on the Arkéa-Samsic team by the French authorities this week has only fueled the fires of suspicion and doubt among some observers.
Some question the dominance of the Tour’s top teams as well as individual performances which included record climb speeds, notably the Col de Peyresourde in the Pyrenees.
Jumbo-Visma, who had knocked out archiving Egan Bernal and his powerful team Ineos Grenadiers, set a relentless tempo throughout the race to impose his might on the peloton, only to see Pogačar overthrow Primož Roglič in the penultimate day against the clock.
“Those who know the race know that this is not normal”, declared Romain Feillu, retired driver, also in West France. “We’ve learned from the past that when a team dominates so dramatically that there’s something behind it.
Feillu went on to suggest that some Tour riders should take new performance-enhancing products or use power-assisted bikes.
This skepticism sparks outrage from some within the peloton, who say the allegations are made without any evidence, and do not take into account a battery of new doping controls or the biological passport that was introduced in 2008. It doesn’t. there’s no. t been a doping case on the Tour since 2012, when Fränk Schleck tested positive for a banned diuretic.
Throughout the 2020 Tour, riders have undergone routine doping controls without triggering a positive result (so far), and bikes have been scanned, x-rayed and even dismantled throughout the 2020 Tour, and it didn’t. there was no evidence of technological fraud.
However, there are many questions following a Tour de France organized under extraordinary conditions of a global pandemic, and with riders and teams entering the race with a mixture of fitness and preparation.
Some believe that riders and teams are pushing the ethical line without crossing it, perhaps not with blatant doping agents, but rather with new practices and techniques that are not on WADA’s ban list, such as ketones, which can further aid in recovery and performance. .
“I wouldn’t put my hand in the fire that the whole peloton is okay,” Guillaume Martin, who finished 11th in Paris as the best French driver, told French radio. “Journalists have doubts, it’s their job. But for me, I can’t host them, because I couldn’t run anymore. If I did, I would think, if I finished 11th, what would be my real place? I try to do things the best way. There are a lot of people who don’t want to ask questions, because if you put that in your head, you can’t go on.
Pogačar’s victory in the final hour in the climbing time trial at Belles Filles on Saturday converted him into the youngest Tour de France winner in over a century, and sparked a new round of questions credibility and suspicion that inevitably accompany winning cyclists. most difficult race.
The once-familiar line of “this is not normal” has made its way into the lexicon of the 2020 Tour.
This superb race also brought new management attention to UAE-Team Emirates. Two of the men who built the UAE team, Mauro Gianetti, a former silver medalist in world road racing, and Joxean “Matxin” Fernandez, have been involved as runners and coaches for more than three decades, and they have learned from experience how quickly a failed drug test can destroy a team.
In the 2008 Tour, Italian Gianetti and Spaniard Matxin were in charge of the Saunier Duval team whose Italian driver Riccardo Riccò tested positive for a blood recall. Riccò, along with the team, was expelled from the race dramatically and spent one night in a prison cell. The main sponsor soon left.
Riccò was banned, admitted that an Italian doctor had supplied him with erythropoietin (EPO), a blood-stimulating substance, and was given a two-year suspended prison sentence. Riccò and Italian driver Leonardo Piepoli, who also tested positive for the banned CERA blood booster, have both been fired from the team.
The team then evolved into Geox-TMC, who won the 2011 Vuelta a España with Spanish rider Juan José Cobo, who saw the victory canceled in 2019 for violating his biological passport during the 2009 and 2011 seasons. The victory was then awarded to vice-champion Chris Froome.
Of course, they are not alone. Almost all of the great WorldTour teams have at least some staff or management who have ties to some of the darker chapters of cycling’s dark past.
Nothing in the UCI regulations prevents riders or managers formerly banned involved in doping scandals from returning to the peloton before 2011, when a new rule was introduced. 1996 Tour winner Bjarne Riis, who has since disowned his doping history, was welcomed back into NTT Pro Cycling earlier this year.
Since taking over the UAE-Team Emirates in 2018, management has recruited a medical team and performance coaches with an unblemished track record and no connection to cycling’s dark past.
So far, other than guesswork, there is no direct evidence to question Pogačar’s Tour victory.
That still hasn’t stopped some critics and observers from questioning the performances of some throughout what has been an extraordinary edition of the Tour.
When asked in a post-race interview The team, Pogačar, born in 1998, said he largely ignored some of the darkest chapters in cycling history in recent decades.
“I’m too young to remember that time,” he said The team. “I was 10 years old in 2008 and it’s strange to talk about it because it goes against everything I believe in. I know that doping puts the health of athletes at risk, I have always been aware of this. We have nothing to hide today and I believe that cycling, despite the climate of suspicion, has done a lot to fight doping. In truth, it saddens me that people doubt my performance. My only defense is that I’m happy with my conscience.
– France Media Agency contributed to this report