Maillot Jaune Kirchen To Face First Pyrenean Test
Luxemburger Kim Kirchen could learn the full extent of his abilities, and his team's commitment to his cause in the first real climbers' stage of this year's Tour de France on Sunday. Kirchen on Thursday became the first cyclist from his country to wear the yellow jersey since the legendary Charly Gaul last wore it in 1959. But on the mammoth 224km stage from Toulouse to Bagneres to Bigorre at the foot of the Pyrenees, he will find out if he has any of the climbing abilities which allowed Gaul to win two 'King of the Mountains' titles.
The race's ninth stage looks impressive although it will be easy compared to the climbs on Monday's 10th stage. On Sunday a total of eight climbs dot the profile, the most difficult of which is arguably the Col de Peyresourde. With an average gradient of 7% and some passages reaching 8.5%, the 13.2km climb is the Tour's first category one climb. But with more climbing to come, it is likely to be too early to host a battle between the big contenders for the race's yellow jersey, namely Australian Cadel Evans and Alejandro Valverde. Instead, a break could go early in the stage and, depending on who gets involved, it could be allowed some freedom before the peloton decides whether or not to give chase.
After the long, 20km descent from the summit of the Peyresourde, a pass which features regularly on the race, the peloton will tackle the Cat. 1 Col d'Aspin, a 12.3km climb which averages a 6.5% grade and
is followed by a 26km descent to Bagnerres de Bigorre and the Stage 9 finish. Despite holding on tightly to the Maillot Jaune so far, Kirchen has yet to prove his credentials as a major Tour contender. His best result is seventh overall, in 2007. But Kirchen may be a little more motivated than his rivals on Sunday, having won the 15th stage of last year's race when it crossed over the Peyresourde. Only this time, he might want to win fair and square. Kirchen was awarded a 'technical' victory from last year's stage to Loudenvielle after the original winner, Alexandre Vinokourov, was disqualified after testing positive for blood doping.Vino, Mayo, Moreni To Face Criminal Charges in France
Former Astana team leader Alexandre Vinokourov is among three riders set to face criminal charges following the discovery of drugs at last year's Tour de France, a report said on Friday.
According to France's Sud Ouest newspaper, Vinokourov, kicked off last year's Tour along with his former Astana team, will face the charges along with Spaniard Iban Mayo and Italian Cristian Moreni.
French police charge in a report, which relates to the discovery of banned substances, believed to have belonged to Vino, Mayo and Moreni at last year's Tour when it passed through the city of Pau. Town prosecutor Erick Maurel said he would "neither confirm, nor deny" the report concerning the three riders, neither of whom are competing at this year's race.
According to the Sud Ouest paper, Vinokourov, who is based in Nice, France where he is set to open a training and health centre, is being charged with the "illegal use of banned substances or methods in a competition" - a crime in France - after bags of blood relating to the rider were found. Three days after his positive test for blood doping at last year's race, police raided Vinokourov's hotel.
Iban Mayo tested positive for the banned blood booster EPO (erythropoietin) at the end of last year's race but has since been cleared by the Spanish cycling federation. The paper said Mayo will face charges of "acquiring and possession of doping substances".
Moreni tested positive for testosterone, forcing his Cofidis team to depart the race early despite him admitting he had acted on his own. He has since been banned for two years. Moreni will reportedly face similar charges to Mayo. The hotel where his team were staying last year near Pau was also raided by police when the news of his positive test was revealed.