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Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 June, 2003, 13:12 GMT 14:12 UK
Richard Virenque
VIRENQUE FACTFILE
Richard Virenque
DOB: 19.11.1969
Nationality: French
Best Tour: Second overall - 1997
Question marks were asked about whether Richard Virenque still had it within him to push the best in the mountains last year.

Although he struggled at times on some of the harsher ascents, he laid the doubters to rest with a superb win on Mont Ventoux - stage 14.

He followed that up with 16th overall and eighth place in the King of the Mountains competition.

Following the amalgamation of Lotto-Adecco and Domo-Farm Frites, he joined Quick Step-Davitamon where he hopes to be able to battle for contention once more in the mountains.

The Frenchman has done much to clear up 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 jersey Virenque came to regard as his own.

Mountain threat

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 King of the Mountains jersey.

And he showed on Mont Ventoux that he has lost none of his class and style.

He has walked away with the polka dot jersey on five occasions and has finished a best place of second in the overall standings.

Victory in the climbing competition would equal the record of king of the mountains wins in Tour history.





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