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Last Updated: Friday, 25 June, 2004, 14:27 GMT 15:27 UK
Richard Virenque
VIRENQUE FACTFILE
Richard Virenque
DOB: 19.11.1969
Nationality: French
Best Tour: Second overall - 1997; six King of the Mountain jerseys
Question marks were asked about whether Richard Virenque still had it in him to push the best last year.

Although he struggled at times on some of the harsher ascents, he laid the doubters to rest with a superb win from Lyon to Morzine - stage seven.

He followed that up with the King of the Mountains jersey - the sixth time he has won the top climber's prize.

Virenque ended the competition with 324 points, well clear of Laurent Dufaux's tally of 187.

Following the amalgamation of Lotto-Adecco and Domo-Farm Frites at the start of last season, he joined Quick Step-Davitamon where he seems to have recaptured his best form.

The Frenchman has done much to clear his name and his image but the fact remains he has been one of the most controversial cyclists in recent seasons.

After being kicked off the 1998 Tour, when drugs were found in his team's vehicles, he denied involvement for more than two years.

But he finally confessed all in a French courtroom, and served a belated ban - months after former team-mates such as Alex Zuelle had taken their punishment.

That kept him out of the 2001 Tour, when old rival Laurent Jalabert stole the hearts of the French fans and the King of the Mountains jersey Virenque came to regard as his own.

The darling of the French public retains his popularity with most, although he is lampooned by some for his melodramatic 18 months of denial.

But he remains a major threat for his favoured polka dot jersey and showed on Morzine that he has lost none of his class and style.

Victory in the climbing competition would give him the outright record of King of the Mountains wins in Tour history.





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