Contador wins Tour de France
World’s most famous cycling race was marred by several doping scandals

              By   Amin George Forji 

 

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   Whenever we think of a cycling race in any corner of the world, one of the first things that immediately come to mind is inevitably the Tour de France. In place since 1903, the annual three weeks road-cycling race, traditionally covering a circuit of most areas around France, and occasionally some neighboring countries too, is in fact 104 years old.

The 2007 race which lasted from July 7th to July 29, 2007, actually started in London, with over a million people lined up on the streets to get a rare glimpse of the Tour’s heroes.

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  The 2007 came to a close today Sunday, July 29, 2007 with Italy’s Daniele Bennati winning the final stage into Paris. But it was the 24-years old Spain’s Discovery Channel team rider, Alberto Contador who crossed the finishing line in front of Champs-Elysees as overall winner. He won the race with a clear cumulative 23-second lead over his closest challenger, Cadel Evans of Australia and his American team-mate, Levi Leipheimer who came 31 seconds behind in third place. Tom Boonen of Belgium won the green jersey as the most consistent finisher, meanwhile the polka dot jersey, otherwise known as the king of the mountains was awarded to Juan Mauricio Soler Hernandez of Columbia.

The 2007 event was Contador’s second Tour de France. He made his debut in the race in 2005, and finished on 31st position. His margin of victory of just 23 seconds in this year’s event means he had the narrowest win both in the Tour’s history, and since 1989, when Greg Lemond beat Laurent Fignon by eight seconds in that year’s event. He also became the first Spaniard to win the title since Miguel Indurain’s five in 1995, who won five titles in all. Contador , a very unlikely winner was quick to describe how hard the win had come:

“There were hard times. Saturday’s time trial was very hard. I had to fight but it was worth it, it’s marvelous.” Contador speaking through a translator told anxious reporters after his decisive win.

Prior to the race, Contador had told French reporters that his greatest wish was to get the white jersey, reserved for the best young rider. But in the end he got both the white and the yellow jerseys.

“It’s an extraordinary joy,” he added, kissing his winner’s yellow jersey on the podium. Staffers then uncorked champagnes and sprinkled around to the merry-making of the enthusiastic crowd.

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   But this year’s event was characterized by one of the highest instances of doping scandals in the Tour’s history. The 2006 champion, , Floyd Landis was  one of the first to be ruled out of the competition because of doping charges. Two other key favorites, Alexandre Vinokourov of Kazakhstan and Cristian Moreni of Italy equally both failed doping tests. They were both forced out of the race together with their teams, and the French police raiding their hotels to find potential forensic evidence of doping products.

  One other competitor, Rasmussen, was later discovered to effectively be competing, although he missed out of doping controls in May and June. Another competitor, Vinokourov also last week tested positive for a banned blood transfusion. It also emerged that one German competitor, Patrik Sinkewitz had tested positive for the male hormone testosterone in June.

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Many French papers then organized polls with most of the respondents requesting that the whole Tour be suspended until its organizers clean up the mess.

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