Editor’s note: Dan Wuori is one of the funniest Twitter bards in the cycling world (follow him at @dwuori). This month, he will be expanding a bit beyond 140 characters to share periodic journals during the Tour de France. Today’s is the 19th.
In May of 2009 Katusha’s Christian Phannberg returned a doping positive that would lead to the rider’s lifetime ban. Frustrated by the result, team officials took their anti-doping efforts to a whole new level — adding contract language that requires any rider testing positive to compensate the team in an amount equal to five times his annual salary.
Though derided by some as an unenforceable window dressing, Katusha’s anti-doping clause may have found its first test case in Alexander Kolobnev. The 30-year-old Russian withdrew from the Tour after stage 5 after a routine control returned positive for Hydrochlorothiazide (a forbidden diuretic often used as a masking agent). With Kolobnev’s B-sample now also confirmed positive, the rider’s formal termination is all but assured. Only time will tell whether Katusha ever collects its $43.26.
After two weeks of watching and waiting, a bike race broke out Thursday as Andy Schleck took the most important stage of his career. The boyish Leopard Trek captain launched an audacious 60km solo attack after being informed that a Build a Bear Workshop had been installed at the summit of the Col du Galibier.
Schleck began the final climb with a gap of four minutes over his GC rivals. While gutsy riding by BMC’s Cadel Evans and Europcar’s Thomas Voeckler managed to keep both in contention (and Voeckler in yellow by a scant 15 seconds), the GC momentum shifts clearly to Schleck — who many expect to snatch the maillot jaune on Friday.
Not snatching a thing will be Schleck’s much-hyped rival Alberto Contador. The Saxo Bank-Sungard leader (still awkwardly sporting yellow sunglasses) faded from contention on the final climb, finishing 3:50 behind Schleck — and dropping to seventh overall (4:44 behind Voeckler).
Friday’s stage 19 may prove decisive as the peloton ascends L’Alpe d’Huez. The climb – a fan favorite – features 21 switchbacks and 13.8km of profane graffiti. Expect its narrow roads to be lined, as always, by tens of thousands of men in Borat bikinis, Viking helmets and lacy lingerie.
Dan’s pick for stage 19: Epic-ness. And Cadel Evans.