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BBC Sport's Simon Brotherton
answers your Tour de France questions
 real 14k

banner Tuesday, 3 July, 2001, 15:09 GMT 16:09 UK
Brotherton on Le Tour de France
BBC Sport's Simon Brotherton answers your questions on the Tour de France
In the build up to the great sporting adventure that is the Tour de France, you quizzed BBC Sport's Simon Brotherton on the famous cycling race.

Click here to hear your questions answered


The riders are in gear for the most demanding race in the calendar and BBC Sport's Simon Brotherton is joining them on them on the road.

As the Tour de France title holder, American Lance Armstrong, shoots to the top of the world rankings, who are the leading contenders?

From past and present yellow jersey legends to the ins and outs of the race stages, you emailed your questions to Simon Brotherton.

Click here to hear your questions answered


Anthony Cunningham, UK

Now that Channel 4 have stopped showing the Tour on terrestrial television, is there any hope that the BBC might pick up the rights and restore it to our screens?

Unfortunately, it seems that BBC Television doesn't appear to share the same enthusiasm that BBC Radio does when it comes to the Tour de France. They decided in the winter that they weren't going to go for the Tour. I think the coverage would have been available to them if they had chosen to go after it. As I understand though, all is not lost because there is a strong rumour here in France that another terrestrial channel in the UK will show highlights of this year's race on Saturday afternoons for about an hour.


David Sheppard, UK

Can the Tour survive another drugs scandal, following the events of 1998, and the recent drug busts at the Giro d'Italia?

Well David, I don't think I would survive another drugs scandal like the Tour in 1998 because it was an extremely busy and hectic race. So from a selfish point of view I wouldn't want that to happen again! But it would be hard for the Tour to live though another year like 1998 without losing sponsorship both in terms of the race and the sport in general. But all the time the organisers of the Tour are seen to be taking a lead in trying to beat the doping problem, I think they should retain public sympathy.

Begnat Robichaud, UK

Can anyone else win Le Tour apart from Armstrong and Ullrich? Who are the team leaders of the other major teams? Surely they must be contenders?

In any Tour de France there are only an extreme percentage of riders who have any chance or ambition at all of winning the race. Barring unforeseen problems or a young star that suddenly comes through, it is hard to see beyond Armstrong and Ullrich Every so often you do have a young star emerging like Laurent Fignon in 1983 winning the Tour the first time he raced. Ullrich was the last one to make that sort of impact in 1996 and 1997.

As for other team leaders to look out for, Joseba Beloki is one - he was third last year overall. The best French rider is Christophe Moreau, and there's Francesco Cassagrande and Roberto Haras, a team mate of Lance Armstrong, who won the Tour of Spain last year. Should Armstrong falter, look out for Haras to do particularly well.

There are s a few riders who might make an impact but it's certainly not the case that all of the teams that go to the Tour are actually providing a team leader who they hope will win the race. Different teams have different types of riders and different levels and ambitions within the race.


Darren, Manchester

Where would a third straight win for Armstrong place him in the pantheon of cycling greats?

It would put him right up there. It would put him alongside three other riders who won the Tour three times; Philippe Thys many decades ago, Greg LeMond, a fellow American, and Frenchman Louison Bobet. Above those three you only have Anquetil Merckx, Hinault and Indurain who have won it five times. Nobody has ended up with four wins overall in their career. Armstrong would certainly be in exalted company but, of course, his comeback from cancer gives his performance an added dimension anyway.


Albert Williams, UK

Simon, did Indurain win any individual stages during his five-year dominance in the Tour, apart from time trials and prologues?

Yes he did, but not many! Most of his victories came from time trials and prologues. He won 12 stages over the years in the tour, two of them prologues and eight against the watch. That leaves two stage victories on the open road, which were early in his tour career.


Bob Jones, Germany

Which of this year's stages promises to be the most gruelling?

It's likely to be stage 13 this year in the Pyrenees. It's from Foix to Saint-Lary-Soulan. The reason I think it will be the most gruelling is partly because there will be a lot of climbs all following one another very rapidly. And when you consider that's coming towards the end of the mountain stages there will be a lot of tired legs.


Christiane Soullain, France

What's your favourite stage of the Tour de France and why?

I think I have to say it's L'Alp D'Huez in the Alps. On a good day there's nowhere like it when the sun is shining, the sky is blue and there's up to half a million people on the mountainside. It's a great natural theatre. For the history of it, for the atmosphere and the sunshine, it takes some beating.


Nigel Ward, UK

What do you feel about the selection process in the Tour de France? Should the process be the same for all the big tours or are they right to chose who they want to enter?

There are trying to get a uniformed selection for the three big tours. The UCI will apply the criteria used for the Tour de France to the Giro and the Vuelta from next year. What happens a the moment is you get the team of the previous year's winner, the overall winner of the team classification from the Tour de France, the Giro and the Vuelta from the previous year. You get the team winner from the previous year's World Cup, the first ten teams of the world governing body's classification and there are also four wild cards but the Tour de France have chosen to make that five.

It does provide an element of discretion. I suppose if you're organise a race it's not a government thing it's a private thing. So to a degree, you can argue that, it's your race and you can decide who rides in it.


Charles, Hull

With the absence of so many of the leading teams has the Tour lost some of its edge this year?

I think it possibly has. Having said that some discretion is not necessarily a bad thing. I'm not convinced the tour has done the right thing with it this time around. The fact that Mario Cipollini is not here is disappointing for me personally because of his charisma and flair- he really adds something to the race. The sport does need characters and he has been one of the biggest characters in recent years.

Marco Pantani was seen by the organisers as the saviour in 1998 when he won the Tour. That was the Tour with all the drug problems. And I also think there's a strong case to be made for the Mercury team riding in the Tour this year because I think I'm right in saying they had nine of their riders in the top 200 in the world this year, so they ought to deserve a place in the line up. I think we are missing something here this year but hopefully the riders that are here will create a fine spectacle for us.


Sarah Christie, UK

Is David Millar a realistic hope for the Yellow Jersey?

Yes, he is a realistic hope to hold the Yellow Jersey on the first day when they have the individual prologue time trials near the seafront in Dunkirk. He won the prologue in the Tour last year at Futurascope. That was his first ever day in the Tour de France - a great way for him to start his Tour career. It won't be easy for him to win again this year as the competition is tough. A couple of names that spring to mind as challengers are the tour champion himself, Lance Armstrong, and also the Australian rider Bradley McGee. Rik Verbrugghe, a Belgian rider, won the prologue to the Giro so he'll be up there.

Millar is in pretty good form, he does have a chance but a lot will depend on how he gets his head around the pressure because he will be expected to do well this year. As for overall, there is no way in a million years he will contend for the Yellow Jersey in the Tour de France. But don't look on that as a bad sign, he's a really promising young rider and was 62nd overall last year. If he can do well in the prologue and a couple of time trials, improve in the mountains and make it to Paris again, he will have had a decent Tour.

Matt Slater, UK

We all know about David Millar, but what other Brits are coming through? Can we ever expect to see a British team in the Tour?

There are always one or two British riders coming through but in terms of the immediate horizon there is nobody pushing. Millar is still very young himself, he's still eligible to ride in the young riders competition at the Tour de France. So, all being well, we should have several years of Millar to look forward to.

As for a British team in the Tour de France, it has happened before because for a while the Tour was organized on National team lines. But at the moment there are no British teams pushing to join the big squads abroad or pushing to gain entry into the Tour de France. There's no rule to say it can happen but it's not imminent.


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