Concern is rising within the Tour de France organisation that for the first time in its history, the race will start this July with the battle for victory in the previous year?s Tour still unresolved – although for 2006, it will be the courtrooms of Europe and America which will finally decide the winner.

When asked recently if he was worried there would still be no Tour 2006 winner come this July, race director Christian Prudhomme (pictured) simply stated ?yes, I am afraid it will happen.?

Prudhomme pointed out that the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) will only have its first hearing in the Floyd Landis case in March. Further appeals could then make drag out the process until July.

?It?s way too long a process.? Prudhomme said. ?It?s not good for anybody in cycling. I don?t understand why we have to wait to so long. Maybe when we do the route book foir 2007 we?ll have to leave a blank space instead of the name of the 2006 race winner. But what can we do??

Amongst other consequences, should there be no Tour 2006 winner by this July, no rider will get to wear the yellow jersey on the day of the prologue in London. Traditionally, the previous year?s Tour winner had the right to start the prologue wearing the maillot jaune.

Prudhomme also remained extremely ambiguous over the possibility that Ivan Basso would be allowed to take part in the Tour 2007. Basso has recently been signed by Discovery Channel with the express aim of winning both the Tour and Giro this year – something which went against a ?gentlemen?s agreement? amongst the ProTour teams not to sign riders with links to Operacion Puerto.

?We have no problems with Discovery Channel.? Prudhomme insisted. ?But the riders are another issue and we can?t give an answer yet about Basso. We don?t know what will happen with Ivan, it depends on Puerto, which isn?t over yet. That?s what we?ve told [Discovery director] Johan Bruyneel and he?s understood it.?

Asked if Basso would be allowed to start the Tour should it start tomorrow, Prudhomme gave an answer bordering on the philosophical and said that he could not respond, because ?today?s truth isn?t the same as tomorrow?s truth.?