Awards and citations:

1997: Le Prix du Champagne Lanson Noble Cuvée Award for investigations into Champagne for the Millennium investment scams

2001: Le Prix Champagne Lanson Ivory Award for

2011: Vindic d'Or MMXI – 'Meilleur blog anti-1855'

2011: Robert M. Parker, Jnr: ‘This blogger...’:

2012: Born Digital Wine Awards: No Pay No Jay – best investigative wine story

2012: International Wine Challenge – Personality of the Year Award

Saturday, 4 July 2015

2015 Tour de France: opening time trial + Vinokourov's cynical flip flops!

 Tour de France in Pauillac July 2010

Cycling's greatest sporting event – Le Tour de France – starts today in Utrecht, Holland. It is certainly the most famous of the three Grand Tours – Italy and Spain being the others. It isn't, however, necessarily the toughest in terms of the terrain although the pressure especially in the first week must be enormous. 

This year's edition starts with a short time trial of 13.8 kms a largely out and back course through Utrecht and virtually dead flat. Most of the course is at three metres above sea level. Unusually this will be the only individual time trial of this year's edition. 

Daniel Teklehaimanot (MTN-Qhubeka) will be the first rider off at 14.00 CET. Teklehaimanot is an exciting African rider, who won the King of the Mountains jersey in this year's Dauphiné. As last year's winner Vincenzo Nibali sets off last at 17.17. A one minute interval separates the riders.

I think I'll play safe with my picks to win today: either Tom Dumoulin or Tony Martin. Picking between the two I'll opt for Tony Martin. Although Fabian Cancellara has had huge success in opening Tour de France prologues and time trials I'm putting Martin and Dumoulin ahead of him this time due to age and long layoff from racing following his injury in the E3 Harelbeke in late March.

UK's Alex Dowsett, who recently held the hour record until Bradley Wiggins beat his distance, will be looking to do a good ride today. 

Nairo Quintana, the first of the four overall 2015 favourites (Vincenzo Nibali, Alberto Contador and Chris Froome are the other three), sets off at 15.00. He is followed by Tom Dumoulin (16.25), Alex Dowsett (16.28), Tony Martin (16.44), Fabian Cancellara (17.03), Tejay van Garderen (17.11), Alberto Contador (17.13), Chris Froome (17.14) and Vincenzo Nibali (17.17). 



Alexander Vinokourov and Astana's cynicism 
Sadly even before this Tour de France drug taking has again hit the headlines and again featuring the Astana Team. Yesterday it was reported that a pre-Tour drug test on Lars Boom found low levels of cortisol, which can indicate abuse of cortisone. 

UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale) rules allow riders to continue with these low levels. However Astana signed up to the MPCC (Movement pour un Cyclisme Crébile) which has stricter rules and requires riders with low levels of Cortisol to stop competing for for at least eight days, and until their Cortisol levels have returned to normal so Boom under MPCC rules should not start the Tour.
MPCC's press release on Lars Boom yesterday.

Statement here by MPCC on Lotto leaving MPCC earlier this year and reiterating that their rules on low levels of Cortisol stand.          

Doubtless it suited Astana managed by Alexander Vinokourov, who was banned for doping on the Tour de France during his racing career, to add some credibility to their bedraggled reputation, especially when their racing licence was under question due a number of their riders failing dope tests. 

For the good of the sport's reputation and that of Astana, the MPCC's rules should have been accepted with Boom not starting. Instead what do Astana and Vinokourov do? They walk out of the MPCC, admittedly a voluntary body, so Boom can start.

Sadly Vincenzo Nibali, last year's Tour winner, is a member of the Astana team. Although he is a great and exciting rider, being a part of the Astana team inevitably casts a shadow over his achievements. 


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