By Brecht Decaluwé in Castelsarrasin with additional reporting from John Trevorrow
While awaiting the peloton's arrival, Tour director Christian Prudhomme stepped out of car number one and talked with the press about yesterday's events at Thursday's stage finish in Castelsarrasin. The Frenchman was just as surprised as everyone when he heard of Rasmussen's withdrawal in Pau. "The yellow jersey left the Tour at midnight with only three days separating us from Paris; it was a big surprise that we didn't expect - although he shouldn't have been at the start anyway. There is a rule in the UCI's antidoping book that a rider can't start in the Tour de France if he missed a doping test in the 45 days before the start, it would have been good if the rule had been applied" Prudhomme said to Cyclingnews.
"Today we also talked about what happened with team Cofidis, we would like them to stay them in cycling," Prudhomme said about the French team that left the Tour de France after the positive doping test from their Italian rider Cristian Moreni. "I'd like to express my confidence in team manager Eric Boyer. We saw some of their riders like Stéphane Augé at the start this morning and we need them and the others in the Tour next year. We need big sponsors who want to fight doping together with us. They [Cofidis] are gone now. They paid for a cheater in their team, but there are still lots of people along the course who believe in the sport and they applauded us today," Prudhomme remained optimistic.
The people along the course love the Tour. There were so many people here in Castelsarrasin but also in London - with a two million crowd - and everywhere we went. The Tour is a social happening, it is something so beautiful that we need to keep and protect it together with the public and the antidoping agencies."
Prudhomme continued, "The cyclists aren't the enemy, doping is the enemy. It's unfortunate that now every cyclist in the peloton is under suspicion, but with this situation with Rasmussen yesterday, it has made it clear that it is not just ASO but also the sponsors are serious about cleaning up the sport."
"We will be contacting all sponsors and informing them of the risks to their brand if riders are involved in doping." Prudhomme also said that new race leader Alberto Contador had been cleared of any involvement with Dr Fuentes but there is evidence of phone calls regarding his race results.
Cyclingnews' recent coverage of the ProTour-Grand Tours split
October 4, 2008 - New ASO chief to maintain values
September 26, 2008 - UCI declares peace, appoints new VP
August 30, 2008 - UCI re-signs five ProTour races
August 22, 2008 - ProTour: Bouncing back or lame duck?
August 19, 2008 - Stapleton analyses 'world calendar'
August 18, 2008 - Feedback on 'world calendar'
August 18, 2008 - UCI announces 'world calendar'