5 things to know about Tour de France

  • July 5, 2013 - 2:30 AM

MONTPELLIER, France — Here are five things to know as the Tour de France enters its seventh stage on Friday:


1. LOTTO'S LOTTERY: Thursday provided mixed fortunes and emotions for the Lotto-Belisol squad. The morning mood was despondent after team leader Jurgen Van den Broeck, fourth overall last year, pulled out after injuring his knee in a crash a day earlier. The Belgian also had dropped out in 2011 after a brutal downhill spill left him with broken ribs and a fractured shoulder. But after a bus pep talk by team manager Marc Sargeant and a skillful ride, Lotto shared hugs of joy at the Stage 6 finish after burly German Andre Greipel bulldozed his way to a sprint victory at the end of a flat 110-mile ride from Aix-en-Provence to Montpellier. Mused Greipel: "Sometimes happiness and sadness can be so close together."


2. MORE MISERY: Flat stages often elicit tense, high-speed racing as riders jostle for position in the pack. Thursday's hot, windy conditions didn't help — and bad luck bore down on the Astana team. Team leader Janez Brajkovic of Slovenia, who won the Criterium du Dauphine in 2010, dropped out with a chin injury, a broken bone in his left hand and a deep gash in his knee after crashing into a traffic island during the stage. The spill left him dazed and sitting on the asphalt. He eventually got up and finished, but the damage was done. Teammate Fredrik Kessiakoff of Sweden also abandoned the race when he couldn't keep up because of painful injuries to his elbows, right forearm, chest and left knee from a crash a day earlier. The team from Kazakhstan is down to six of its original nine riders: Andrey Kashechkin dropped out earlier in the race.


3. HISTORICAL REVISIONISM: With its many revisions, names and feats that have been crossed out, the Tour's official history guide is starting to look like a second-grader's homework: a complete mess. The reason? Doping. Organizers have gone through the tome with a pen and ruler. Lance Armstrong's name and all seven of his wins from 1999-2005 have lines through them. So do 20 of his stage wins. Lines also have been drawn through the names of George Hincapie, Levi Leipheimer and David Zabriskie, who testified to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency that they were involved in doping while riding with Armstrong. Authors of the "historical guide" already had rewritten history before Armstrong was exposed last year as a serial doper. There's an asterisk next to the name of Bjarne Riis. More than a decade after Riis won the 1996 Tour — past the statute of limitations for penalties — the Dane admitted to doping. Tour historians' erasers may soon be busy again: A French Senate panel later this month is expected to name other riders who doped in the 1998 Tour.

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