PERPIGNAN // This year's Tour de France has yet to be rocked by any doping scandals. But the Team Columbia boss, Bob Stapleton, says he is under no illusions that race will be completely clean. Cycling officials have cracked down massively on doping in the sport with the introduction of biological passports for all riders but there are still those who slip through the net.
"I'm a huge fan of the biological passport - it's the best way for pushing doping out of this sport," Stapleton said. "But sadly doping still goes on and will still be going on in this race. "Unfortunately we'll get some reminders of that in the remaining days of this race and when it happens - perhaps stupidly - I'm always disappointed. You never really get over that fact. Every time a drug cheat gets caught, it's like a slap in the face for the rest of us."
Stapleton, however, insisted that the situation was much improved from the past and that increasingly the testers were winning the battle with the drug cheats. And he said that cycling was no worse than other sports or other sectors of society. "Sport always shows the good and bad quarters of society," he said. "It has all the problems of society but they are simply magnified - it's an exaggerated view of life, and you see the very best and very worst of life in sport."
Stapleton will be hoping that the very best he has to offer, the sprinter Mark Cavendish, will once again come to the fore on today's 181.5-kilometre sixth stage from Girona to Barcelona. But with a stage littered with small climbs, and a slight incline into the finish in Barcelona, Cavendish is likely to be upstaged by a breakaway rider or one of the better climbing sprinters, such as Spain's Oscar Freire, the winner of last year's green jersey.
Cavendish has been one of the stars of this year's race to date and Stapleton said that the Briton never ceased to amaze him throughout the season. "He's the sort of guy that needs no introduction," said Stapleton. "He's really become a big, big name in cycling and he's only 24. Every time there's a sprint he just seems to get better and better, and there's few things better to watch as a team boss."
The obvious highlight for Stapleton so far has been the entire team leading a 27-man breakaway on stage three as they built up to giving Cavendish his second stage win of the race. And the American entrepreneur, who made his name in the telecommunications industry before moving into cycling, said he expected even greater things to come. "This team is not just about one rider, as good as Cav is. We've got a phenomenal roster of riders and we'll be going all out to win every day of this Tour."