While Miguel Indurain, Bernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain stood on the final podium of the Tour de France in Paris on Sunday evening as the race celebrated the end of its 100th edition, the absent Lance Armstrong haunted proceedings like Banquo's ghost.
The festivities on the Champs-Élysées included an invitation to (almost) all of the living riders to have finished the Tour but Armstrong – stripped last year of the seven Tour titles he doped to win between 1999 and 2005 – was, of course, persona non grata.
The only allusion to Armstrong's years of excess came from 2013 winner Chris Froome (Sky), whose performances have been met with no little scepticism during this Tour. In his speech atop the podium on the Champs-Élysées, Froome responded to the suspicions surrounding his display with a pointed reference to Armstrong's stripped titles.
"This is one yellow jersey that will stand the test of time," Froome told the crowds who had gathered for the novel dusk finale to the Tour.
Froome and his Sky team have expressed their frustration at the repeated comparisons that have been drawn between their dominance and that of Armstrong and his US Postal squad. Speaking to the television cameras before he stepped onto the podium, however, Froome said that he welcomed the questions that his pre-eminence has raised.
"I'm glad I've had to face those questions after all the revelations of the last year [regarding Armstrong and the US Postal team.] I'm glad that's been channelled towards me," Froome said. "I've been able to deal with it. Cycling has changed – the peloton is standing together."
In a bid to allay some of the murmurings regarding Froome's Tour victory, Sky released power...
As Joaquím Rodríguez (Katusha) racked up another grand tour podium finish, he was already zeroing in on the Vuelta a Espana which begins in just over a month's time.
Rodríguez finished third overall in the 2013 Tour de France, behind winner Chris Froome (Sky) and runner-up Nairo Quintana (Movistar). It was yet another top performance for the Spaniard who was second overall at the 2012 Giro d'Italia and third overall at the 2012 Vuelta.
"I'm so happy about this podium it's really something special, considering the first week,” Rodríguez said. "I know this result is very important for Katusha, for Russia and especially for Mr. Igor Makarov: it's thanks to him if I can take these kind of results, so this podium it's also dedicated to him. I have to thank also my teammates: their huge work helped me to recover the gap in general classification.”
Rodríguez's Tour got off to a slower-than-optimal start, with the 34-year-old struggling to make an impact through the Pyrenees. By stage 9, there were signs of life in his campaign, finishing fifth in Bagnères-de-Bigorre. The stage to Mont Ventoux saw Rodríguez finish just off the podium in fourth but his intentions were made clear during the stage 17 individual time trial where he finished third, just 10 seconds back on the winning time of Froome.
It was just his second appearance at the Tour de France, having finished 7th overall in 2010.
"I think I proved once again my continuity: it's the third podium in a row in a Grand Tour, the fact I took it in 'Tour de France' after the...
Froome scored 200 UCI WorldTour points for his overall win. He also scored others points for his stage victories and placings and so leads the individual ranking with a total of 587 points.
Previous rankings leader, Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack Leopard) slipped back to fifth given he did not ride the Tour.
Maillot vert Peter Sagan (Cannondale) retains second position courtesy of his stage win with 409 points while 2012 WorldTour rankings winner Joaquim Rodriguez is third up five places, having claimed this third-straight grand tour podium finish in Paris. Colombian Nairo Quintana (Movistar) rocketed to fourth place from 13th.
Team Sky has dominated the team rankings of the UCI WorldTour and extended its lead in the UCI WorldTour team ranking. Team Sky now has a total of 1360 points. Movistar is second with 1055 points and Katusha is third with 941 points.
Spain kept its lead in the nations ranking, ahead of Great Britain and Colombia. Spain has a total of 1171 points. Great Britain has 964 points and Colombia 950 points.
The UCI WorldTour continues with the Tour de Pologne, starting on Saturday July 27
Directeur sportif departs morning after the Tour de France
BMC Racing Team has announced that directeur sportif John Lelangue is leaving the squad effective immediately.
In a press release, it was said that Lelangue was departing "for personal reasons."
The announcement comes the morning after a disappointing Tour de France for BMC where Cadel Evans was the team's designated leader. The 2011 Tour de France winner finished 39th overall off the back of his third at the Giro d'Italia which was a shock last-minute addition to his schedule. Entering Evans in the Giro was said to be at the team's insistence. Fifth overall and winner of the youth classification in 2012, Tejay van Garderen also failed to live up to expectations in terms of the general classification but did manage to finish second on stage 18 to Alpe d'Huez.
Lelangue has been with BMC for the past six-and-a-half years.
"We respect John Lelangue's decision," President and General Manager Jim Ochowicz. "He will be pursuing other opportunities and challenges. We thank him for his contributions to the development of our team, and wish him the best in the future."
Would consider another proposal or closing out the year with another team
Fränk Schleck has rejected an offer from RadioShack-Leopard team owner Flavio Becca to ride out the remainder of the season with the team. He said that he did not consider the offer to be fair, and indicated that while he was open to a counter-proposal, he would also consider riding for another team for the rest of the season.
Becca has sold his WorldTour licence to Trek. Andy Schleck has confirmed that the brothers will ride for Team Trekas of the coming year, and Fränk said that he would be “happy to ride with Andy in the Trek jersey next season.”
"With my lawyers, we have made an offer to Mr. Becca,” Fränk Schleck told Lessential.lu. “In response, he made what he believed to be an offer but which we do not feel to be fairt. For us, this proposal is not one. We can not consider it. That is where we are at the moment.”
He added that he had not yet “renounced the Vuelta a Espana and rolling out the end of the season. Schleck has not “closed the door to a (further) proposal”, and that it is also “technically possible to ride with another team until the end of the season.”
Speaking to French television after Chris Froome (Sky) claimed the maillot jaune in Paris, Contador admitted that chasing the Kenyan-born Brit's lead was draining.
"When you are behind you suffer more," he said. "And now we just have to analyse what has happened. Outperforming Froome is a new motivation to continue."
That chase, however, may well have resulted in Saxo-Tinkoff's blitzing of the competition when it came to the team classification with Bjarne Riis' outfit finishing 8:28 ahead of AG2R – La Mondiale. Contador's lieutenant, Roman Kreuziger finished fifth overall, with Michael Rogers the next best from the team in 16th place.
The penultimate stage brought an end to Contador's podium ambitions, with the 30-year-old slipping from second overall to fourth after Team Sky put the pressure on the Spaniard on the final climb up to Semnoz.
"Defending a second place is not the same as defending the leadership," said Contador. "It is always better to finish second, but the goal was to finish first. It was not possible this year. There was a stronger rider than everybody else."
Saxo-Tinkoff directeur sportif Fabrizio Guidi had similar sentiments.
"We never tried to hide our goal of the Tour and we kept our focus throughout the race showing that we won't give up so easily," he said. "We tried every opportunity there was and we launched attacks in terrains rarely seen before in the Tour and I honestly think our team made the...
How the two organisations will continue to work as co-sponsors is said to be at the heart of the delay from Tinkov.
"We have said that we are ready to continue in 2014," Christensen told bt.dk. "It is a decision we have to make every year, and we have also taken this year. Now we need to find a solution that Oleg Tinkov is just as pleased with as we are.
"This must be resolved within a few days, otherwise we do not know where we stand and what we can operate with," he continued. "We must begin to organize situation for next year, so it can not be unduly protracted."
Tinkov said earlier this month that he was likely to up his stake in the team which would result in the squad being named Tinkoff Bank-Saxo Bank.
Numerous WorldTour teams interested in Dutch rider
Laurens ten Dam, who finished 13th overall in the Tour de France, has contract offers for the coming year from a variety of teams – but not from his current one, Belkin. The Dutch rider said that he was surprised by that, but the team says it is confident things will work out.
Ten Dam's contract with the team expires the end of this season, and according to ad.nl, he has offers from numerous WorldTour teams. It “surprises me quite a bit,” that Belkin has not made an offer, he told the Dutch newspaper Saturday.
"I have become a permanent fixture in grand tours and other teams see that too,” he said. “I've become more popular through the Tour. The newspapers have already said that I am going to Astana, but there is still more interest, if I can believe my manager. But it only seems to be to be fair to wait for an offer from Belkin.”
He shouldn't have long to wait. After the race ended on Sunday, Belkin manager Richard Plugge said that “We are now in talks with Laurens. My expectation is that it will all go well.”