Thursday, November 30, 2023

Le Tour de France 2006 – Day 1: The Operation Puerto Bombshell!


HomeDiariesLe Tour de France 2006 - Day 1: The Operation Puerto Bombshell!

The Operation Puerto bombshell has gone off – we just received a communiqué!

“Tour organisers defy Court of Arbitration in Sport and Astana Wurth DO NOT start 2006 Tour de France.”

If you are ever asked at a pub quiz how far it is from Kirkcaldy to Strasbourg, the answer is 915 miles – if you go via Calais, Reims and Metz that is.

I left Kirkcaldy at 7.30 pm last night and was waiting to board my ferry out of Dover exactly eight hours and 527 miles later.

I managed a bit of sleep on the boat, jammed in the corner of the cafeteria. I woke-up with a guy staring at me: ‘must be the ship’s drunk,’ he was thinking.

The pain of the tolls, called ‘peage’ on the autoroute are eased somewhat by the lack of traffic and it was good to leave the flat landscape and bings of Northern France behind and watch the country begin to roll and take on a rich green colour.

Operation Puerto
Ivan Basso is in trouble.

Some folk give the French a bad press, but a drive through France is a story of conflicts and it’s maybe not surprising they are a bit suspicious of foreigners.

German V1 and V2 bases, the remnants of the ill-fated Maginot Line and the ‘peace town’ of Verdun, where the armistice of ‘the war to end all wars’ was signed, were all on the agenda today.

I found the press centre here in Strasbourg without too much hassle and thought to myself; ‘I’ll just get my accreditation and slip away for a shower and a good sleep’ but as always with creds, there was a drama and I had to go away for an hour then come back to get them.

I took the opportunity to look at the press room, it’s enormous with space for five or six hundred journalists.

It was also the usual hassle to get my laptop configured to access the wi-fi network in the building, a bargain at 40 euros per day, or a mere 760 for the whole race.

Operation Puerto
Chester Kyle.

I just met Chester Kyle.

He’s an American journo, ‘auld as gress’ as we say in Fife, but a character and the author of many books on the sport.

He proceeded to tell me that there’s a drug scandal breaking, and it’s a biggie’.

The Spaniards have released the findings of the police raid — Operaçion Puerto, which saw the end of the Liberty Seguros team and it doesn’t make good reading with 58 riders named, among them some real big stars.

Names whizzing about here as I sit here and write are:

  • Jan Ullrich
  • Ivan Basso
  • Denis Menchov
  • Oscar Sevilla
  • Francisco Mancebo

In addition Tyler Hamilton’s pleas of innocence are looking a tad hollow now, given some of the information entering the public domain.

Operation Puerto
Tyler has protested his innocence vehemently. Time will tell…

A press conference is to be held tonight when the organisers will announce what the implications are for the race.

If the organisers stick to their guns and prevent ‘tainted’ riders from starting then this could be a very unusual Tour.

That said, the Astana/Wurth team which morphed-out of the disgraced Liberty team have just had a ruling in their favour at the Court of Arbitration for Sport that they can ride Le Tour, despite the strong desire of the organisers to keep them out.

All this and yet more drugs allegations thrown at Lance this week.

On the eve of the Tour I should be writing about who’s in form and who’s got the neatest hardware – maybe tomorrow…

Talk to you then.