The second Tour De France, in 1904, set a precedent for cheating that cyclists have tried to match for years. The event was marred by a series of brawls, fans forming packs to stop riders, nails scattered across the course to puncture tires and masked men in cars knocking bikers off the road. There were allegations that some riders were poisoned. The winner, Maurice Garin, was later stripped of his title after reports that, for part of the race, he took a train.
And while the greatest cheater in Tour de France history, Lance Armstrong, was exposed for years of doping after his record seven wins, it seems the propensity to cheat is as much a part of “La Grande Boucle” as it was a century ago. While the United Cycling Federation has taken measures to limit doping in the sport, it’s been forced to adopt an aggressive approach to combating another creative form of cheating: motors. “This problem is worse than doping,” France’s sports minister, Thierry Braillard, told the press in June. “This is the future of cycling that’s at stake.”
I guess none of this should be surprising, but it is disappointing. Then again, Le Tour has a way of disappointing fans. For all it could be, it seems to always have a shadow looming over it.
Still, I’ll probably catch some of it, there’s nothing like the views of the peloton crossing the Alps or the French countryside!