The first post-Armstrong Tour will also be missing several other huge names thanks to an enormous doping scandal, it was reported today. Armstrong’s friendly rival, 1997 winner and five time runner-up Jan Ullrich won’t be riding, nor will Ivan Basso. In all, more than fifty cyclists have been implicated in an Spanish doping scandal now several weeks old. Basso and Ullrich have been pulled by their teams (CSC and T-Mobile, respectively), as was Spaniard Franciso Mancebo, who came in 4th last year.
CNN is reporting that T-Mobile has in fact cut all ties with veteran Ullrich, and will require him to prove his innocence to ride for them again. If true, this is a terrible end to Ullrich’s career; in a non-Lance world, he would certainly have won the Tour more than once — as noted above, he was bested only by Lance in 5 of his trips to France.
Blessedly, Americans George Hincapie (Discovery Channel), Levi Leipheimer (Gerolsteiner) and Floyd Landis (Phonak) are thus far untouched. A field free of Ullrich and Basso makes American success more likely, of course, but by no means a certainty.