Tour De France: Armstrong Ready To Ride The Tour de France starts Saturday in Monaco and finishes July 26 in Paris. The race's image has been severely damaged by numerous doping scandals in recent years. Seven-time champion Lance Armstrong is back for this year's race. Armstrong has been fighting doping allegations for years.
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Tour De France: Armstrong Ready To Ride

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Tour De France: Armstrong Ready To Ride

Tour De France: Armstrong Ready To Ride

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DAVID GREENE, Host:

We'll have two reports. In a moment, we're going to hear from U.S. bikers who are keeping close tabs on the Tour from afar. But first, Eleanor Beardsley has our preview from Paris.

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY: Unidentified Man: (French spoken)

BEARDSLEY: Gilles Simon(ph), editor-in-chief of L'Equipe newspaper's cycling coverage, says this year, Tour organizers are determined to revive the good old days of the race.

GILLES SIMON: (Through Translator) We all have nostalgia for a Tour De France when doping didn't exist and there was fair competition between riders and Romanesque gestures of sportsmanship. Those are the memories of our youth.

BEARDSLEY: French anti-doping officials will also be cracking down. For the first time, each rider will have what is known as a blood passport from samples taken throughout the year. That blueprint will allow officials to detect fluctuations from the norm. Michel Rieu is a scientific advisor to the French anti-doping agency. He says another main concern has been that doping techniques are always ahead of detection efforts.

MICHEL RIEU: (Through Translator) So for the first time this year, we will be able to conserve blood and urine samples for eight years and test them retrospectively. That way, we'll be able to take away cheater's titles years later.

BEARDSLEY: There is a great deal of excitement this year over the return of Lance Armstrong, even though some now view his seven wins suspiciously. Nevertheless, says L'Equipe cycling writer Pierre Callewaert, the French are glad to see him back, and despite his age, think he has a real chance to win again.

PIERRE CALLEWAERT: He's got the strongest mental will to win. The story of his comeback illustrates that very deeply, when he fall in Spain, broke his collarbone, and then he came back.

(SOUNDBITE OF CLANKING SOUND)

BEARDSLEY: At the Cafe de l'Esplanade in Paris' 7th Arrondissement, the Tour will soon be blaring from a small TV that sits in the corner. Waiter Michel Bausjeau(ph) says he can't wait to see Armstrong ride again.

MICHEL BAUSJEAU: (Through Translator) I like his style. He's beautiful to watch in action, whether it's in time trials or up the mountains. He's something different.

BEARDSLEY: For NPR News, I'm Eleanor Beardsley in Paris.

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