Legends reflect on topsy-turvy Tour

There are plenty of past Tour de France heroes on this year's race, and most of them seem agreed thi

There are plenty of past Tour de France heroes on this year's race, and most of them seem agreed thi


It's been one of the most unpredictable Tours for years, with seven different riders holding the yellow jersey - just one short of the record of eight - and more changes likely in the coming days through the mountains. Among the press pack following every twist and turn are some of the race's legendary riders, who told L'Equipe what they thought of the race so far.

Five-time winner Bernard Hinault: "It's an uncontrolled race, no one has a grip on the reins. I like that because it makes things very unpredicatable. At Pla de Beret a few riders should have taken control, like Landis, who does not have a great team. They could have put a lot of riders out of the picture, but they let Popovych and Pereiro back in, which is like letting wolves into the chicken coop. Just because Popovych lost minutes in the Pyrenees doesn't mean his performance won't improve. A lot of things could still happen in the heat and the Alps. I'm not making any forecasts."

Two-time winner Laurent Fignon: "It's the first time for seven years there's been no reference point. Armstrong is no longer around to control things, so the race is being run any old how. We're going from one surprise to another, like in 1983 when Hinault was not riding (and Fignon won his first Tour). Who is going to win? Phonak aren't a great team and Landis could well face a coalition of Discovery Channel with Rabobank. And you can't count out Sastre or Evans. The winner will be the rider who deals with the pressure best."

1988 winner Pedro Delgado: "At the start, the cycling world was depressed, especially the Spanish. The first week it was like the Tour hadn't even started because the sprinters dominated. Then, the Rennes time trial gave some indications, but the Pyrenees just increased the uncertainty. There is no logic, but that doesn't damage the level of interest. The sport is perhaps moving into a different era."

Seven-time King of the Mountains Richard Virenque: "It's a very open Tour, which has given some great opportunities to the French riders, who've been regularly out front. Overall, there's still all to play for. I thought that after the Spanish [Operacion Puerto] affair the ambiance would be leaden, but that isn't the case at all, it's just helped make this Tour different. Without Armstrong's expected successors things have become more complicated, which isn't a bad thing from the point of view of spectacle. Ultimately, I guess, it's a Tour for opportunists."

Two-time winner Bernard Thvenet: "I think it's a beautiful Tour. Some say there are no stars, but that doesn't bother me. I prefer to see young riders come through like [Marcus] Fothen. Landis seems well set, but he's a long way from having won it. The winner could come from as many as five or six riders. Strategically, no team is controlling the race, so that means it could go any number of ways. I prefer that kind of race. We are no longer seeing [Lance Armstrong's] blue train going like a TGV. Now the teams are like steam trains."

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