By Shane Stokes in London
One regular who will be missing the Tour this time round is CSC manager Bjarne Riis. After years of rumours, he confessed early this summer to doping during his career riding for Telekom in the 1990s. Under pressure from Tour de France organisers ASO, and not wishing to increase the tension on the team members, he decided to give the race a miss. (Read: Riis responds to Jaksche and removes himself from Tour)
"We talked about it quite a lot yesterday at the press conference in the CSC headquarters," Jens Voigt explained. "Bjarne had already explained it to us, saying that we deserve all the support he can give us but that he didn't have the energy to support team the way it deserves to be. He said that he doesn't want to be a destructive force [with regard to CSC's chances]."
"We just hope that we are not asked this question time and time and time again," said Voigt. "That is why Bjarne is not here, so that we can concentrate on riding our bikes as quickly as we can. I'm sure that when the Tour is over we are going to see him back in action again like before."
Riis' admission has brought extra stress to the team. But, whatever he did in the past, the rigorous anti-doping policy introduced this season has done a lot to help people believe that the CSC riders are riding clean.
Costing hundreds of thousands of euro, the independent programme is run by Danish anti-doping expert Rasmus Damsgaard and the results are sent to both WADA and the UCI. The latter has given it a solid thumbs up and perhaps because of this, the team was well received by the media. This contrasts with the rigorous questions those from Astana and Caisse d'Epargne faced during their own press conferences, due to perceived ambiguities in their stance.
Twelve months after last year's turmoil-torn Tour, which started under the shadow of Operación Puerto and finished with winner Floyd Landis testing positive in a testosterone doping test, there is still no final winner. But this year, CSC is doing their part in the hopes of a Tour more focused on riding than doping.