The UCI-funded Cycling-Anti-Doping Foundation (CADF) and the Agence Française de Lutte contre le Dopage (AFLD) – the national anti-doping organisation of France – have announced that eight riders will face anti-doping tests on each day of the 2018 Tour de France, with some controls done early in the morning or late at night to limit the window of opportunity for possible micro-dosing.
As per tradition, riders underwent a pre-race blood test on Thursday morning. Many probably faced pre-race tests as part of the UCI Athlete Biological Passport programme. During the next three weeks, riders can be tested at the finish line and in the hotels before and after stages. The race leader and stage winner are automatically tested each day, with the other six athletes selected on a daily basis by the CADF and the AFLD. Tests can be either urine, blood or a matrix of both.
Samples will be stored for 10 years and can be re-analysed at any time to detect possible new substances identified, new methods of detection or after intelligence-gathering.
Some of the testing will be targeted based on intelligence information, with the French authority OCLAESP (Central Office for Combatting Damage to the Environment and Public) also providing information and support.
Van Avermaet keen to confirm future as BMC doubts continue
The future of the BMC Racing team remains unclear, with team manager Jim Ochowicz desperately trying to find new sponsors to keep the team afloat in 2019. However, some of the team's key riders no longer appear to be waiting, preferring to reach new deals with other teams for the 2019 season.
Contracts cannot officially be announced until August 1, but Richie Porte has been linked to Trek-Segafredo, and Rohan Dennis is expected to join Bahrain-Merida, while Tejay van Garderen could head to rival US WorldTour team EF Education First-Drapac. Olympic champion and Classics winner Greg Van Avermaet has been linked to several teams, most lately the Dimension Data team that is set to ride on BMC bikes in 2019. Van Avermaet and his brother own one of the biggest retailers of BMC bikes in Belgium, and this could be one of the reasons behind his move.
Van Avermaet promised he would decide his future before the start of the Tour de France. A final decision is expected in a week or so.
"There are still two days to go until the start of the Tour de France," Van Avermaet joked when Cyclingnews asked him about his future after the BMC Racing press conference in the Vendée.
"I'm kind of waiting for BMC still, but I have a few offers. During the Tour I’ll make the decision where I’m going to go. I think it's pretty important for me to not have this going on anymore."
Security beefed up with 30,000 police officers to protect the race
Security at the 2018 Tour de France has been beefed up after recent terrorist attacks in France, while Chris Froome will have extra security due to fears of negative sentiment against the Team Sky leader.
Twelve million spectators are expected along the route of the three-week race, with 30,000 police and fire officers placed along the route to protect the riders and the crowds. As in recent years, the entrance to the start and finish areas will be strictly controlled, with armed police at key points and roads blocked with heavy vehicles.
Froome will be escorted by a personal Team Sky security guard, with French police providing extra protection at the start and finish of stages and in team hotels.
Gallopin in AG2R-La Mondiale squad as final start list confirmed
Tony Gallopin lined-up with his AG2R La Mondiale teammates at the official team presentation on Thursday evening in La-Roche-sur-Yon, confirming he will start the Tour de France despite a nasty crash at last Sunday's French national championships.
Cyril Gautier was on standby, but Gallopin underwent a final test ride on Thursday morning and was deemed fit. He was confirmed in the AG2R La Mondiale roster to help Romain Bardet take on Chris Froome (Team Sky) when the final riders in each eight-man team were registered with race judges. A total of 176 riders are set to start the Tour de France on Saturday.
"It's true that there were doubts until the very last moment, but the tests were rather conclusive," Gallopin said.
"There is still some pain, but it's bearable for a few days. I really hope to be much better in the second part of the Tour. We're here to win with Romain. It's an incredible experience, so it was really hard for me to imagine not being here."