Tour of Cali-yawn-ia
This was going to be the Tour of California's year. The Giro d'Italia had the weakest field in years, and cycling megastars Lance Armstrong and Mark Cavendish had chosen cyclings New World over Old Europe. The race was supposed to stake its claim as the 'fourth Grand Tour'.
In reality, it was a pale imitation. Back in Italy, the Giro thrilled the /¡/bfl with more twists and turns than Riccardo Ricco's personal life, epic stages and an overall competition that went down to the wire. The racing in California foundered in comparison.
Stateside, there was predictable racing accompanied by crashes and bad weather. For another year, the overall hinged chiefly on a time trial, with the race's mountain stages to Santa Cruz and Big Bear Lake not doing nearly enough to separate the field.
Cavendish and Armstrong both left the race in very different fashions; the sport's star sprinter was eliminated, but not before winning the opener; in retrospect, they could have done with a sweary victory celebration for maximal publicity. Armstrong, meanwhile, crashed out hours after the Landis allegations landed.
And on that note, nothing can blunt a race's edge and divert attention quite like a doping scandal.
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