Crime+Fashion=Fashion Crime

Dedicated to bringing our dozens of readers only the highest-quality deep insights into the workings of the Tour de France (or TOURdafrance, as Frankie Andreu likes to say), we turn now to podium fashions. Specifically, the migraine-inducing outfits sported by the models condemned to presenting the daily trophy knick-knacks to the leader of the King of the Mountain competition. As the whole world knows, the KOM leader wears a red-on-white polka-dot jersey. Here’s renowned Tour non-winner Michael Rasmussen, without the jersey …


… and with it:


We’d start our fashion advice to Michael with an urgent plea for god’s sake keep your shirt on. But he’s not the focus of today’s essay. No, it’s the apparition below we want to address.


Yes, the model is comely as all get out. She almost pulls it off, even with the thing that’s been stuck to her head. But in the world of high cycling fashion, as in the world of cycling, almost doesn’t cut it. Why? Let’s face it, outside a measles ward or a drunken company picnic, polka dots are always a tough look to carry off. But even if the mass of red spots doesn’t put you off, the lady cummerbund tied in a flouncy red bow and the parachute-style skirt should. Maybe you can only appreciate this work of fashion after seeing the podium models trying to manage it in a 20 mph wind. After watching the presentations this year, we theorize that the women presenting the King of the Mountain tchotchkes are guilty of something–maybe shop-lifting from Carrefour, the store chain that sponsors the KOM competition–and this is their punishment.

[Note: All three pictures here were uncredited and are used without permission. In order from top to bottom, they were found here, here, and here.]

And the (2006) Tour Winner Is …

Only six more days at the most and we’ll know who won the 2006 Tour de France. That’s because the doping cops’ largely inscrutable process of deciding whether Floyd Landis is a doper or not has finally come to an end — there are many good blog takes on this, including ones at Rant Your Head Off and Trust But Verify — and the verdict will be announced by next Sunday. So, Landis will either pull off a win even more stunning than his famous escape in the final week of the ’06 Tour or, more likely, he’ll be found guilty of cheating and some guy named Oscar will belatedly get the now faded and much besmirched yellow jersey.

(And why do I say it’s more likely he’ll be found guilty of cheating? Just this: As shown time and time again, the anti-doping “system” in cycling is a “system” the same way a neck-tie party was a system in the Old West: It has shown itself to have no concern for due process. Landis is a cause celebre here in the States, but arguably much worse has happened to other riders at the hands of doping and cycling and team officials who feel compelled to act before all the evidence is in. The world will little note nor long remember Michael Rasmussen, but any time you yank the leader of the nearly certain winner of the Tour off the road and tell him to pack his bags, you’ve administered a cure that’s far worse than the disease.)

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Rasmussen: He’s (Nearly Back)

BBC SPORT: Rasmussen hopeful of fresh start.

A month after he had the Tour de France yellow jersey torn off his back — they should have had a ceremony, like the one with Chuck Connors at the beginning of “Branded” — Michael Rasmussen might sign on with another team and race again this year. One can only imagine the hand-wringing from the anti-doping people about this blackguard being allowed to ride a bike again. In other news, another cycling entity disgraced during the Tour, Alexander Vinokourov’s Astana team, is also getting ready to race again.

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Hell of a Race

We got up Wednesday morning with the rest of the cycling fans and Tour de France geeks — we noble, perplexed few — to watch what everyone knew would be the climax of the 2007 race: a fantastically difficult climbing stage in the Pyrenees during which Michael Rasmussen, the Dane wearing the yellow jersey of the overall race leader, would try to fend off a last spate of attacks from the handful of riders who still had a chance to beat him. And putting aside my feelings about Rasmussen, a racer with no charisma who was riding under a cloud of suspicion because he had missed several random doping tests, there’s no other way to describe his day: He rode a hell of a stage.

On the slopes of the day’s final climb, he was left alone to contend with his three closest rivals, Alberto Contador (Spanish) and Levi Leipheimer (a Yank), both of the U.S.-based Discovery Channel team, and Cadel Evans, an Australian riding for Belgium’s Predictor-Lotto squad. The battle came down to Rasmussen, who rides for Rabobank of The Netherlands, and the two Discovery riders as Evans just struggled to hang on. Contador and Leipheimer didn’t spare their foe. They repeatedly tried to break him by charging off the front of the tiny group and challenging him to follow. But time after time, Rasmussen slowly caught them and waited out the next attack. Finally, with 1,000 uphill meters to go, he stood up and accelerated himself and easily outdistanced his opponents. He won the stage and increased his lead. He was a lock to be this year’s Tour champion, and he looked like he’s won it the hard way, by facing down his strongest rivals and outperforming them when it counted.

And then something happened — something not entirely unforeseen in a race and sport that is making a habit of throwing out its top performers over actual or suspected illegal doping: Rasmussen’s team fired him and withdrew him from the race over the issue of the missed tests; he not only failed to tell team and testing officials where he’d be in the month before the Tour, he lied about his actual whereabouts.

There’s no exact parallel I can think of in U.S. sports, though pro basketball and pro football are getting close with their aggressive discipline against lawbreakers and on-court/on-field miscreants. But in the Tour, it’s not just individuals players who are taking the fall. To date,, two full teams have pulled out of the race because individual members have reportedly tested positive for doping. In a few hours, Rasmussen’s team might become the third to quit. Imagine the New York Yankees folding their entire season because it was discovered Jason Giambi and friends had been juicing, and you come close to the enormity of what’s happening.

So what now? This year’s race might remain interesting as a freak show, though maybe the remaining 19 teams and 140-some riders might rise above what’s happened and put on a serious performance for the four remaining stages. But whatever happens between now and Sunday, this Tour is a race without a champion, and a race like that is hardly a contest at all.

Lots more to be said: about how much of what’s happening now is driven by hysteria and overreaction, about whether the notion of due process should be thrown entirely out the window, and about whether the international sports drug cops are really up to the job of keeping games and contests clean in an evenhanded, just, disinterested way.

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Nose of a Champion

Key moment from today’s Tour de France stage, as described by Versus announcer Phil Liggett, MBE:

“A bit of a runny nose for the yellow jersey.

Or was it sweat?

But he hasn’t put a wheel wrong yet today.

And I’m sure that he’s going to try to hurt these boys on the climb.”

The yellow jersey, Michael “Cow’s Blood” Rasmussen, did hurt all but one of the boys on the climb. Discovery Channel’s Alberto Contador easily won a short sprint-ette to cross the line ahead of the Dane. But Rasmussen and Contador had long before left the rest of the contenders struggling up the mountain behind them, so Rasmussen’s second-place finish was a huge victory.

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