Troubled Tour de France Grinds to Finale

This year's Tour de France reaches its end on the Champs d'Elysees on Sunday. The scene near the finish line is merry and upbeat despite general misgivings about doping allegations.

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REBECCA ROBERTS, host:

Today's sport section reads more like a crime blotter. You can read about a football star accused of sponsoring a dogfighting operation. Turn the page for the latest on a former NBA referee who allegedly bet on games. And there's the article about the home run king or rather the federal grand jury that's investigating him. And you'll find no relief in that story on the next page, the one about the Tour de France. Cycling's biggest event ends today but it's likely to be remembered less for who won than for who doped.

Anita Elash is near the finish line on the Champs-Elysees in Paris. Good morning, Anita.

ANITA ELASH: Good morning, Rebecca.

ROBERTS: So where does the winning rider likely to cross the finish line?

ELASH: If everything goes as expected, it should be in about two hours from now.

ROBERTS: And who is likely to be?

ELASH: Well, we think it's going to be Alberto Contador, the Spanish rider, who's riding for Discovery Channel. But that's not actually a given. Generally, this last stage of the Tour de France is the formality. Nobody is racing anymore. It's sort of a victory lap for the winner.

ROBERTS: So set the scene for us. What's going on around you while people are waiting?

ELASH: Well, right now there are about - people are lined up along the Champs-Elysees, about five or six deep and the pre-finish entertainment have started. There are floats going back and forth, up and down the Champs-Elysees, trucks with advertising, lots of music playing. I see that there's an inflatable cyclist in a yellow jersey that's just gone by. And it's really a party atmosphere today.

ROBERTS: And as you talk to folks, what are people saying about this doping shadow?

ELASH: I was expecting to hear something different than I've been hearing today because in the last few days along the tour, people have been booing the riders as they've gone by. People have been coming to the race dressed up as syringes.

ROBERTS: Wow.

ELASH: So (unintelligible), yeah. The French have a good sense of humor, I think. But today, you don't see any of that. And the people that I've spoken to so far say that they're really excited about the race, that they love the Tour de France, they know the riders are doped. They are a little bit disappointed, but that doesn't take away from the greatness of the race. And that there's still a magic about it that they think will never be lost.

ROBERTS: You were there last year?

ELASH: Yes, I was here last year.

ROBERTS: How does this year compare?

ELASH: Well, believe it or not, it seems to me there are more people here this year than last year. And I think people are somehow more excited. I think one of the reasons is that it's - we're not sure actually who's going to win at this point. And so last year, everybody was in love with Floyd Landis and they were all here cheering for him and they were glad to see him win.

This year, we've got three contenders possibly and you see pockets of people cheering on their different teams. You see signs for Australia, signs for Norway, signs in favor of France. And so it just somehow seems to me, in fact, a little bit more exciting this year than it was last year.

ROBERTS: Reporter Anita Elash, speaking with us from the Champs-Elysees in Paris. The Tour de France wraps up there in a couple of hours. Thanks, Anita.

ELASH: Okay. Thanks, Rebecca. Bye. Bye.

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