The 12th stage of the Tour de France started as scheduled in Lavelanet but with only 159 riders left in the race after Riccardo Ricco and his Saunier Duval team pulled out of the race.

The peloton lined-up for the start with yellow jersey Cadel Evans on the front row. Ricco should have been with him in the polka-dot jersey but with the Italian in police custody, nobody wore the special jersey.

Many riders did not want to speak to the press but George Hincapie and Kim Kirchen from Columbia talked to Eurosport television.

?I was definitely shocked. He?s one of the big riders in peloton. It?s a disappoint for sure,? Hincapie said.

?It?s a clear disappointment but you got to look to the future and say we?re catching the cheats. Maybe other sports aren?t, I think our sport doing more than any other sport to clean up its act.?

?I think we?ve got to focus on the teams that are doing what they can to have clean teams and hope that every team will have their own individual doping programme. Sadly I think there will always be people who will cheat.?

Hincapie insisted it is possible to win clean.

?In sports some days you wake up and feel super good but now you don?t know. You question amazing performances but it is possible to feel super good and do super things on the bike being clean.?

“I think we have to look on the positive side. More people are being caught in cycling because we?re doing more than any other sport.?

KIRCHEN CALLS FOR TOUGHER PUNISHMENT
Kim Kirchen was less diplomatic and admitted he had been suspicious of Ricco?s performances during the Tour de France.

?We heard the news on the team bus. I?m happy that the frauds are being caught and sent home. But the punishment is clearly not tough enough,? he said.

?I can?t say it?s a surprise. There?s a high level at the Tour and when you see a rider cycle away like that you always get suspicious. You can?t prove it but there was a feeling that his performance was incredible.?

Mark Cavendish (Columbia) admitted to French news agency AFP that it was difficult to think about racing even if he has an excellent chance of winning the flat stage to Narbonne.

?I?m shocked. It?s difficult to think about racing even if today it?s a stage that suits me and the other sprinters.?



TOUR DE FRANCE 2008: STAGE REPORTS

Stage 11: Arvesen wins
Stage 10: Evans takes yellow jersey by one second
Stage nine: Ricco wins in the Pyrenees
Stage eight: Cavendish wins again in Toulouse
Stage seven: Sanchez takes action-packed stage
Stage six: Ricco storms to win
Stage five: Cavendish takes first Tour win
Stage four: Schumacher wins TT and takes race lead
Stage three: Dumoulin wins stage from break
Stage two: Hushovd wins chaotic sprint
Stage one: Valverde wins

TOUR DE FRANCE 2008: NEWS

Analysis: Tour de France rest day summary
Cavendish battles through Pyrenees
Evans suffers but takes yellow jersey [stage 10]
Analysis: Hautacam shakes up 2008 Tour
Ricco silences critics with solo attack in Pyrenees [stage nine]
Cavendish talks about his second stage win [stage eight]
Beltran heads home but doubts remain about other Tour riders
David Millar: the dope controls are working
Manuel Beltran tests positive for EPO at the Tour
Comment: How the Tour rediscovered its spirit
Doping back in Tour de France headlines
Millar: close but no cigar in Super-Besse [stage six]
Super-Besse shows form of main contenders [stage six]
Millar to go for yellow [stage six]
Team Columbia’s reaction to Cavendish’s win [stage five]
Cavendish talks about his Tour stage win
Tour comment: Why Evans should be happy [stage four]
Millar: Still aiming for Tour yellow jersey [stage 4]
Who is Romain Feillu?
Cavendish disappointed with stage two result
Millar too close to Tour yellow jersey
Stage 2 preview: A sprint finish for Cavendish?
Millar happy after gains precious seconds in Plumelec
Valverde delighted with opening Tour stage win
Comment: Is Valverde’s win a good thing for the Tour?

TOUR DE FRANCE 2008: PHOTOS

Stage 11
Stage 11
Stage 10
Stage nine
Stage eight
Stage seven
Stage six
Stage five
Stage four
Stage three
Stage two
Stage one

TOUR DE FRANCE 2008: BLOGS

Life at the Tour part three
Life at the Tour part two
Life at the Tour part one

TOUR DE FRANCE 2008: GUIDE

Tour de France 2008 homepage>>
News and features>>
All the riders (start list, list of abandons)>>
Day by day summary>>
Route & stages>>
Teams and riders>>
About the Tour>>