My excitement is rising as the Tour de France is fast approaching. Having enjoyed its warm-up act, the Critérium du Dauphiné libéré, I’m now looking forward to the real thing. And I’m not the only one. Journalists seem to be taking a totally over-the-top approach to a couple of topics.
The key one, not unnaturally, features Lance. Will he be riding the Tour de France in Astana’s colours? If not, will he be riding for another sponsor? If so, which one? Will the Kazakh government agree to the UCI’s demands and pay up? Will Astana still have a UCI licence at the start of the Tour? Can Contador and Lance peacefully co-exist on the same team: will each be prepared to ride in service of the stronger rider.
When you look at the proposed list of starters, there are more chiefs than Indians: never a recipe for success. Will there indeed be any Kazakhs riding the Tour for the Kazakh sponsored team? The fevered speculation is filling endless column inches in the press and on the internet. Although, at least one thorny question has been answered in recent days: Vino won’t be able to resume his professional career until 24 July, 2009.
Then there are the riders who have suspicious values in their UCI biological passports. How many are there? Are there any big fish on the list? What action is the UCI going to take against them?
Another, equally interesting discussion involves another “will he, won’t he” situation. Namely, will Messrs Boonen and Valverde be riding the Tour this year? The UCI have given Boonen the green light (for the moment) while they have yet to opine on the case of Valverde. If they say yes, might he be arrested by the Italians when the Tour ventures onto foreign soil? If he does ride, will Contador be collecting his dues for support during the Dauphiné libéré? If he doesn’t ride, will the whole team be riding for Bert? The next hurdle for both of them is the ASO who will be more interested in serving its own commercial interests by ensuring that Lance rides than perhaps unduly worrying about these two.
All these issues will be coming to a head in the next 10 days or so. Of course, this fevered speculation allows the other genuine contenders to go about their Tour build ups outside of the cauldron.
My Tour, like that of the riders, kicks off on Wednesday 1 July, when I’ll be working as a volunteer. I have been much impressed with the professionalism of the Monaco organising committee which, in all aspects, is second to none and who will ensure that this is a truly memorable Grand Depart for everyone, particularly the spectators. I’m going to be deployed in the port area. Great gig as this is where the prologue starts and finishes and is the site of the team paddocks, a device “borrowed” from F1. I can hardly wait, but we’re all going to have to!