The organisers of the Tour de France have thumbed their nose at the controversy surrounding cycling and laid out their vision for the historic 100th running of the great race.
Appropriately, they have put together a totally French race starting in Corsica and staying within their own borders, in a bit of a break from the detours to neighbouring countries that have become a feature of recent races.
It will showcase France in a three-week travelogue that would be the envy of tourism promoters the world over.
While the scenery will be stunning, the riders themselves may not be quite as enamoured with what’s on offer. They will get to see the fable L’Alpe d’Huez twice on the same day, the Grand Bornand and Mont Ventoux amongst a host of monster climbs. You can see the map on the letour.fr website.
Organisers will be hoping for a clean race, as will the leading riders.
2011 winner Cadel Evans this week wrote in a diary entry on his website;
Behind the news, hysteria and sensationalism, I hope that people remember that the events being uncovered mostly occurred seven or more years ago, amongst a minority of those involved in a sport which has already changed and moved on.
Whilst these events are difficult and confronting to deal with now, both for those directly involved in the sport and for many around the world who follow cycling, let's commend the authorities who are succeeding in the battle against doping; learn from these events which are the driving forces behind major changes and clean-ups in cycling, and have bought the sport to where it is today—not on the front page of tabloid newspaper—but to a level playing field where the hard work, meticulous equipment preparation and natural ability are winning the big beautiful prestigious races.
Organisers have used recent big names Bradley Wiggins, Mark Cavendish and Evans in the launch to underline that the sport has changed and that the new breed of champions are untainted by the Lance Armstrong era and the use of performance enhancing drugs.
Also there was Chris Froome, who was pivotal in helping Wiggins seal his victory. Rumour has it that the roles will be reversed for the 2013 race. We’ll see.
Curiously, however, Alberto Contador was up on stage despite missing this year’s race while serving a doping suspension—talk about mixed messages.
It will be fascinating to see how crowds respond to the race in the wake of the controversy that has mired the sport for the past few months, but it will still be huge.
The race is bigger than the individuals—no matter how big they think they are.