I found this photo in the loft recently and it reminded me that before Mat and I were cyclists, we were into cycling.
The photo was taken on the shores of Lake Annecy, during the 17th Stage (Albertville - Aix Les Bains) of the 1998 TdF. This Tour was infamous for the Festina Affair and became known as the 'Tour Du Dopage'. Festina's masseur had been caught with drugs in his car and had said they were for the riders on the Festina Team( which included Richard Virenque). Pressure mounted on the Festina Team throughout the tour. Another team, TVM were implicated too.
The day before this photo was taken, Pantani and Ullrich had raced from Vizille to Albertville, over the Col De La Madeleine, with Ullrich securing the stage win. Overnight, two Festina riders confess to doping and TVM are met in Albertville by the police. TVM's Jeroen Blijlevens and 5 others are taken to hospital to provide samples. Their team manager is arrested, belongings are seized and later, the rest of the team is escorted to hospital.
Stage 17:The riders decided to protest because they felt they were being treated like criminals. They stopped twice: once in Albertville and then again in Annecy. In the afternoon there was a raid on Team ONCE , Team Polti, La Française des Jeux, Lotto and Casino. Team managers Marc Madiot (La Française des Jeux), Vincent Lavenu (Casino) and the rider Rodolfo Massi (Casino) are arrested. It was also announced that Coca-Cola, a major sponsor of the Tour de France, decided to withdraw from sponsoring the race.
Mat and I had left our campsite and strolled down to the PMU sprint sign. We had no idea what was going on. As the Peloton approached, they just stopped, right in front of us. So we started snapping.
The photo shows Jean Marie Le Blanc in discussions with the instigator of the 'strike', Lauren Jalabert. I have identified some of the others. And what a bunch...
41 - Lauren Jalabert - rider on the Once team. This team were investigated/implicated in the scandal.
King of the Mountains, 68: Rodolfo Massi. Hours after this photo was taken, Massi was arrested after Steroids were found in his hotel room (Chargers were later dropped).
Casino- AG2R 62 - Christophe Agnolutto
The Polti rider addressing Le Blanc: I think this is Luc Leblanc? In 2000, at Richard Virenque's trial, he admitted using EPO.
The BIgMat rider 201 - Pascal Lino - later implicated in an EPO trial.