The start of today’s 16th stage from Orthez to the Col d’Aubisque was delayed as part of the peloton staged a protest against dopers following news of Alexandre Vinokourov’s positive test.
When race director Christian Prudhomme dropped the flag at 10.40am (French time) no one moved.
The strike, instigated by the six French teams and two German teams in the race to protest at the continuing scandal afflicting the Tour de France, was not the show of solidarity they had hoped though.
After around ten minutes, Tom Boonen of Quick Step became the first to roll away from the start line, followed by Alejandro Valverde of Caisse d’Epargne. They were joined by a steady trickle of riders who picked their way past the Agritubel, Francaise des Jeux and Ag2r riders who stood firm at the front.
But it’s not even fair to suggest that those who moved do not support the anti-doping effort as a couple of riders from teams such as T-Mobile and Cofidis broke the strike. Riders who picked their way past the strikers included Bradley Wiggins, David Millar and Charly Wegelius.
Even on the blackest day of the 2007 Tour, the peloton cannot decide on a single clear message but instead is split into factions divided by team, nation and personal opinion.
The strike breakers were booed by large sections of the public. When those who stayed put finally rolled out, they were cheered.
Credit Agricole rider Thor Hushovd explained the reason for the action. He said: “We the riders decided we had to do something. It’s mainly the new association of riders, the six French teams and the two German teams. We decided we had to do something to say that doping cannot continue. My bosses at CA agreed with me because we can’t carry on this way.”
Of course had the entire peloton stood firm it would have proved nothing – certainly not that this is now a clean race – but what ensued did nothing to clarify an increasingly desperate situation in the sport.