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Sounds of Silence

It's been almost exactly a week since the most dramatic off-bike story in recent memory broke, and threatened to shatter the first Tour de France of the post-Lance era. Suddenly the Tour which we'd been waiting for, where competition would flourish with the Boss out of the picture, was deprived of last year's numbers two, three, four and five. Suddenly drugs, or at least suspicion of drugs, had decapitated the peloton. It seemed like the Tour was going to become a sideshow to the drug squad action.

But a week later, things seem pretty different. Sure, it's hard not to forget the drug story, and details keep trickling out here and there. But the vast majority of the conversation is on the race, and in some profound way the drugs story has slipped into the background. Every day stages are contested by the McEwens, Boonens, etc., stars whose images are untainted by drugs. Next up the ITT will feature the GC guys, the remaining ones, none of whom is caught up in any real suspicion, let alone evidence of doping. Is it naive to think the scourge has been eradicated? Sure, but however much may be hanging over the sport in general, nothing seems to be hanging over the Tour itself.

The Tour is bigger than the drugs story, simple as that. Cut out the top five riders, and you still have a beautiful race. Not only is the race carrying on, it's as wide-open and competitive as ever.

[That's the good news; the Vuelta, meanwhile, is in deep trouble.]