Lausanne, Switzerland, July 19 2000 – Swiss rider Alex Zulle
– a two-time Tour de France runner-up – retired from this year’s race during today’s
17th stage from Evian-les-Bains to Lausanne ending what has been a dreadful Tour.
The 32-year-old, runner-up last year and in 1995, called a halt after 50km of the
stage having started the day in 47th place nearly an hour-and-a-half adrift of overall
leader Lance Armstrong.
Zulle, who was a member of the Festina team thrown out of the 1998 Tour for systematic
drug taking and served a suspension (unlike team leader Richard Virenque who has
always denied taking any substances) has toiled badly throughout the mountain stages.
The bespectacled Swiss, who is a two-time winner of the Tour of Spain, made a brief
challenge on the first mountain stage to Hautacam before slipping back and by the
time they reached the Alps he was a spent force.
His suffering – along with other pre-race favourites riding for Spanish teams such
as Laurent Jalabert and Abraham Olano – contrasts starkly with the strong showings
of his former Festina teammates.
Virenque, who faces a trial in November on flouting French drugs laws relating to
the Festina affair, lies fifth overall and won the 16th stage. Christophe Moreau,
sixth overall and a revelation in the mountains, and 36-year-old Pascal Herve, ranked
11th and who set up Virenque’s win on Tuesday has been riding like a maniac.