The Tour de France hadn’t even started and already there was a hint of the absurd. Just after midnight on Saturday, half an hour after the UCI had already issued a statement confirming that it was too late for Astana to replace Lars Boom in its nine-man selection, the team’s two press officers distributed a batch of photocopied statements to the journalists who had assembled outside the lobby of the Carlton President Hotel on the outskirts of Utrecht.
Boom had returned low levels of cortisol in a pre-race test and, according to the voluntary rules of the Movement for Credible Cycling, Astana would have to withdraw him from their Tour selection and withhold him from racing for a minimum of eight days. One contingency plan involved substituting Boom with reserve Alessandro Vanotti, though manager Alexandre Vinokourov had already made it clear to L’Équipe that he would not countenance starting the Tour with just eight riders.
“Alessandro Vanotti will arrive in the Netherlands Saturday morning to undergo physical and blood tests and await a UCI decision on the matter,” read the Astana statement handed out early Saturday.