That is one crazy Tour route!

Lance Armstrong leading George Hincapie and Jan Ullrich over the pavé the last time they appeared on the Tour route in 2004.

The route for the 2010 Tour de France was unveiled last week by Tour director Christian Prudhomme. The major talking points are that there is no team time trial, the Col de Tourmalet will be climbed twice and there will be 13.2 kilometres of cobbles on Stage 3. Despite there being some interesting aspects to the route, I can’t help but feel a little disappointed. Too many of the mountain stages end in a long descent to the finish, which usually neutralises the specialist climbers and doesn’t really do enough to shake up the General Classement. The route needs more mountain top finishes. In last year’s Tour, of the road stages it was only those with finishes at a summit where the favourites gained and lost significant time.

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Who’s gonna test the testers?

Just some of the many, many authorities who attempt to control doping within cycling.

In 2003, Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand failed to appear for an out of competition drugs test and received a global ban of 8 months and a £50,000 fine. In 2001, Lazio player Jaap Stam tested positive for the steroid nandrolone and was banned for 4 months. Last month, basketball player Rashard Lewis of Orlando Magic in the NBA was found to have abnormal levels of testosterone in his blood and he was banned for a laughable 2 weeks. In cycling, any of these misdemeanors leads to a 2 year ban from the sport. In addition to the ban, the rider must then deal with trying to return the sport. When the suspension has been served, the rider is not welcomed back easily to the peloton. He is now a former doper, a disgrace. It is not easy to find a new team, and if the rider does succeed in finding a team, he faces into a career of trying to convince the fans and the media that he can be considered a credible rider again. So are the UCI and cycling as a sport in general doing enough to rid the sport of the cancer that is doping? The answer is yes and no. Yes, they are actively doing more than any other sport to eradicate the cheats. No, cycling is an embarrassing melee of organisations who have been doing more harm than good in the last few years.

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‘Tis a long aul’ winter.

In 1998 Pantani won both the Giro and the Tour, the last time that feat was achieved.

The cycling season is coming to a close now, there are only two major races left to be decided. Namely, Paris-Tours on October 11th and one of the five monument classic races, the Tour of Lombardy taking place the following weekend. For the cycling addict out there, there’s not much else between now and the dawn of Team Sky and The Shack at the Tour Down Under next January. Although, the ‘off-season’ has gotten steadily shorter over the last few years. There was a time when the first major race of the season was Het Volk, now known as Het Nieuwsblad at the end of February. Now, races in January and February like the Tour Down Under, Tour of Qatar and the Tour of California are all televised and provide cycling fans with some very early tasters (although the California stage race has since been moved).

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Rainbow Jersey: Blessing or a curse?

Cadel Evans on the top step of the podium with Australia's first ever gold medal in the World Championship Road Race

Congratulations must go out to Cadel Evans for winning the World Road Race Championship with an uncharacteristically aggressive attack on the final lap in Mendrisio last Sunday. He crossed the finish line solo and claimed the gold medal for Australia. The importance of having a strong team was evident with the Australians. They placed Michael Rogers in the major break of the day who sat on and didn’t contribute, then eventually it was the Aussies themselves who pulled back the dangerous 29-rider break of the day with Stuart O’ Grady, Adam Hansen and Matthew Hayman all doing their fair share of work at the front of the chasing pack. This set up Evans to make his move towards the end of the race. The smaller nations (including Ireland) just wouldn’t have been able to exercise such control over a race like this. It wasn’t to be for the Irish riders who all fell by the wayside before the final selection was made. Roche, who it seems had perhaps over-trained in the run up to the race, was dropped after only 100 kilometres or so and abandoned not long after. Martin managed to stay with the main favourites until about 2 laps to go, and Deignan fared slightly better only getting dropped when Cancellara decided enough was enough and put the hammer down on the final lap.

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Ireland at the World Championships

Philip Deignan and Nicolas Roche will be two thirds of Ireland's team for the World Road Race Championship this sunday.

The World Road Race Championships takes place this Sunday in Mendrisio, Switzerland. As Stephen Roche said in a recent interview, this is the first time in a long long time that Ireland will have a good team with strength and depth. That there is strength within the Irish team, I don’t think there’s any doubt. But depth? I’m not so sure. Ireland will have 3 riders take to the start line at 9:30 Irish time on Sunday, Nicolas Roche, Philip Deignan and Daniel Martin. Having only three riders will be a major handicap when compared to the big cycling nations like Italy, Spain and Belgium who will all have 9 riders per team.

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Are sponsors singing in the rain?

Francisco Mancebo winning Stage 1 of the Tour of California. But what team does he ride for?

Cycling is a strange sport in that there are no entrance fees to view the professionals do battle. Spectators need not part with their money to view the mountain goats soaring through the Alps and need not reach for their wallets to see the fast men battling it out in a mad dash for the finish line. There are no season ticket sales, corporate suites or director’s box and there are certainly no prawn sandwiches.

No, cycling teams are funded by commercial companies willing to fork out the money required to run a professional outfit. In return, these companies get the privilege of having their corporate logos branded on every one of the riders’ team kit. The idea being that revenue will be generated from the advertising that this provides for the company. Sponsors want exposure, and they want success, because ultimately success leads to more exposure.

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