The Tour de France is more than a sporting event: It’s a three-ring circus at which the race must often compete for attention with the clowns and freaks on its midway.
Yes, July is a time for colorful characters, big egos, and big stories — with some stemming from the Tour’s own dramas (both on and off the road) and others carefully timed to coincide with its spotlight.
So gather around, circus fans, it’s time for today’s updates from Under the Big Top. …
Tacks deflate stage 14
Last week saw at least two notable examples of roadside idiocy. First, on Friday, Sky’s Bradley Wiggins suffered mild burns after being chased by a fan holding a lit road flare on the Col du Granier. (Mistaking the device for an Olympic torch, Wiggins’ teammate Mark Cavendish avoided injury by instinctively swooping out from his team leader’s slipstream and sprinting to the finish.)
Sunday’s stage 14, meanwhile, saw carpet tacks scattered across the road near the summit of the Mur de Peguere, causing as many as 30 punctures and at least one significant injury. In the tradition of race patrons past, Wiggins slowed the pace, allowing BMC’s Cadel Evans — who reportedly punctured at least three separate times — to rejoin the race leaders.
Now let’s get something straight — making a fool of oneself during the Tour is my job. Back off. (And best wishes for a speedy recovery to Astana’s Robert Kiserlovski, who suffered a broken collarbone in the mayhem.)
Armstrong seeks injunction against USADA
Facing a looming deadline for his response to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, Lance Armstrong filed suit last Monday to block USADA’s case against him. The seven-time Tour de France champion, who has devoted his retirement to studying constitutional law at the University of Kona, alleged in an 80-page complaint that the body is violating his right to religious expression by suggesting he may not be a deity. That same afternoon a U.S. District Court judge struck down the filing on the basis of procedural errors, requesting that Armstrong’s lawyers re-file their complaint after deleting extraneous references to “the Apostle Floyd.”
Ferrari has no knowledge of USADA case
The controversial Dr. Michele Ferrari was one of three physicians associated with the former U.S. Postal team to receive a lifetime ban last week as part of USADA’s ongoing investigation into alleged doping within the squad. The doctor, who is already banned for life in his native Italy, is alleged in part to have distributed a mixture of testosterone and olive oil that would later serve as the inspiration for “Jersey Shore.”
Ferrari continues to deny the charges against him and claims never to have received notice of the case against him, despite USADA’s insistence that the relevant paperwork was hand-delivered to his house.
Wiggins, Froome ponder divorce
Tensions appear to be growing within Team Sky following Chris Froome’s unexpected attack near the finish of Thursday’s stage 11. While Froome was quickly reeled in by team directors, the move was enough to set tongues WAG-ging that Froome may, in fact, be stronger than team leader Bradley Wiggins.
In an interview published Sunday in the French sports daily L’Equipe, Froome suggested that he “could win this Tour, but not at Sky.” Still, Froome insists he will stick by Wiggins’ side for the remainder of the race — adding that he hopes the team will ride for him next year should the course suit his abilities.
Asked to respond to the growing debate over Sky’s best rider, current world champion Mark Cavendish — last week named by L’Equipe as the greatest Tour de France sprinter ever — was philosophical.
“Hey, do you think you might want to take a few of these bottles?” the Manxman asked.
Dan Wuori is the author of Velo’s monthly column, At the Back. For more of Dan’s commentary and humor, follow him on Twitter at @dwuori.