By Daniel Friebe, Procycling's Features editor
The Tour de France is different this year, and it's different because no one's mentioning the Great Unmentionable. You know the one. Cyclist's oldest taboo. Or maybe its newest. The elephant in the room. Sport's equivalent of the Scottish Play. Those fingers tightly crossed now? Okay, sod the consequences, I'm going to say it: the Tour is different this year because no-one's talking about d-d-d-doping.
It's not just me - everyone's noticed it. And we like it. We like it not because talking, writing, pontificating about doping isn't stimulating or important, but because there's been precious little reason to broach the subject on the first few days of the race, and that's mighty encouraging. It's also a novelty. Once the "D-word" never alighted on Tour journalists lips because they were either too naive to realize what was going on, or too pious to acknowledge it; then came the Festina scandal and a decade when we talked about little else. This week we haven't bothered simply because, well, it's starting to seem as relevant as the new Coldplay album my colleague Ellis Bacon keeps playing in the car.
Now don't get me wrong. At least two stages and their winners this week have elicited their fair share of sniggers and sarcasm (I don't need to tell you who they are). On the whole, though, the atmosphere in the press room has been worlds away from the cynical, rabid, Robespierrian fervor of last year. Soon we'll be logging on to Youtube, wistfully reliving those press conferences where Michael Rasmussen looked one nasty question away from bursting into tears. We'll be pining for Alex Vinokourov and his blood transfusions. But for now we're just fine. Even Paul Kimmage seems to be enjoying himself.
Read the rest of Daniel Friebe's blog at BikeRadar.com.