Lance saga frustrates Wiggins

Tour de France champion Bradley Wiggins is frustrated the present generation of riders have been left to answer questions about the state of cycling in the wake of the Lance Armstrong affair.

Speaking at the launch of the 2013 Tour, Wiggins said: “I think there is a lot of anger from most people within the sport, it is a sport I love and have always loved.

“It is a shame that cycling is being dragged through this again really, not a shame that he has been caught — when you get older, you start to realise Father Christmas doesn’t exist and it is the same with Lance.

“But it is a shame that us riders here now, we are the one picking the pieces up and having to convince people.”

Tour director Christian Prudhomme is adamant the race and the sport can survive the scandal which has discredited both. “The Tour belongs to those who love it,” Prudhomme said.

“It will be stronger, stronger than doping and stronger than cheating, the enemy is the doping, it isn’t the cycling. There is no war between cycling and other disciplines, just the good on one side and the bad, the cheats on the other.”

Meanwhile, three-time winner of the Tour, Alberto Contador, has expressed his sympathy for Armstrong, who has been banned for life and stripped of his seven Tour de France titles for systematic doping offences.

Contador decried the Texan’s treatment, claiming there was “no new proof” against the American.

“In my opinion, at certain times, there has been a total lack of respect for Lance,” Contador said, according to the EFE news agency. “From my point of view, he was been humiliated and lynched. He has been destroyed. If cycling is popular in the United States, it’s thanks to him. If they know the Tour, it’s thanks to him.

“People talk about Lance but there is no new proof against him, nothing,” Contador said. “They’ve relied on testimony that dates from 2005. I respect the choice of every rider, but I would have preferred if they been a bit earlier.”

Meanwhile, next year’s Tour de France is set to be a balanced affair, with two individual time trials offset by four mountaintop finishes and a testing final week in the Alps.

While rumours of a final stage to l’Alpe d’Huez proved untrue, the Alpine climb does feature in a novel way in next year’s race, with the peloton set to scale it twice during stage 18. That other enduring summit finish of Tour lore, Mont Ventoux, also features on the route, while there is a tough foray into the Pyrenees at the end of the opening week.

There is novelty, too, in the final stage of the race as the peloton will reach the Champs-Elysees as night falls, with the stage finish in Paris set for 9.45pm. For the first time, the peloton will go all the way to the top of the Champs-Elysees and around the Arc de Triomphe as part of the finishing circuit, as Paris showcases itself as the City of Lights.

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