It’s been one of those days when the press hardly focus at all on the racing at the Tour de France because they have got a taste for scandal. We got a feeling today was going to be a bit different to previous days in this year’s Tour when six of us were having dinner last night and all the phones started going off at around half ten as news came through on the wires that Tour leader Michael Rasmussen had been dropped by the Danish federation from the national team for the 2007 Worlds and 2008 Olympics.
Clearly, the Rabobank bus was going to be the place to be in Montpellier this morning, and everyone within a hundred miles in possession of a TV camera seemed to be there. When the bus pulled to a stop in Montpellier’s beautiful Place de la Comédie, a huge scrum formed on one side of it and for 20 minutes it looked like something for one of those ancient games of football that are played in the Derbyshire town of Ashbourne, where there is something going on in the middle of the melee, but it is not clear precisely what to anyone more than six feet away from the action.
When Rabobank staff eventually started appearing out of the bus, the mayhem only grew, assisted by the arrival of some solid-looking gendarmes. It could only end in tears and of course it did. One photographer got his nose split and finally the crowd parted, if only to let him out to have his wound treated.
Rasmussen came out of the bus with an Armstrong-like phalanx of police and security around him, and his progress to the signing-on podium only extended the chaos as cameramen fought to get footage of him being hassled by the press of which they were obviously part.
There was some racing after that, and Tom Boonen won again, but blood was on the menu again after the stage as Rasmussen was delivered a googly of a question, one that he couldn’t see coming and didn’t know how to deal with. You can get more details of that on our podcast, but suffice to say that Rasmussen may well need to call on the combined talents of Alastair Campbell, Karl Rove and Simon Cowell if he is going to finish this Tour.