Less than 48 hours before the Tour starts, director Christian Prudhomme says he is upbeat about the race?s chances of getting back on the right tracks – hopefully for good.

In an extensive interview with French newspaper Ouest-France, Prudhomme says that ?Everything possible has been done to avoid what happened in the Tour last year, when the race suffered serious damage in the second half.

The AFLD [the French anti-doping authorities responsible for the testing in the Tour] are efficent, and I think that both riders and teams have realised what they have to do.?

Asked about the Tour’s current chronic lack of reference points in terms of favourites – given the absence of last year?s winner Alberto Contador and third-placed Levi Leipheimer because their team, Astana, are not allowed to take part following last year’s doping scandals – Prudhomme argued that ?The Tour can create heros very quickly, above all thanks to the television.?

?I remember in 1973 Eddy Merckx opted out of the Tour – and the race was still great. I can understand that Contador?s supporters are angry, but we have nothing against him.?

?The problem was with his team, Astana.” – which Contador and Leipheimer joined at the end of last season.

Prudhomme also mentioned the fact that the teams have an ?economic interest? in a scandal-free Tour – a reference to the fine they have all agreed they will have to pay if there are any problems.

“Cycling has become more human this year. I can remember [Rabobank race leader] Robert Gesink?s face in Paris-Nice last year, his mouth wide open and looking exhausted.?

?Cycling is on the point of rediscovering a facet of itself that it should never have lost.?

As for the race itself, Prudhomme said he was “hoping the race will be very interesting from the word go.”

“There is no prologue and there are no time bonuses. It’s going to be an unusual first week.”

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