Shake-down Tour

Is this what you get when a rapacious American capitalist takes U.S. bike racing for a spin?

Indeed, the race proceeded magnificently from a fan's point of view. The 2007 Tour of California may not have been a nail-biter; Santa Rosa's Levi Leipheimer led from beginning to end. But top European teams such as CSC, Gerolsteiner, T-Mobile, and the Quick Step-Inngergetic team of reigning world and Olympic champion Paolo Bettini dogged Leipheimer harrowingly along the way. An estimated million-plus fans made the Tour of California the state's most-watched-ever spectator event.

So the question looms: What do fans see in a sport tainted by doping, and now, accusations that Tour of California roster spots were up for sale?

I put this to Gianetti, the Saunier DuvalÐProdir team manager. He didn't miss a beat.

Cycling's "a beautiful sport; look at the amount of effort it requires. Cycling is a sport of truth, a real sport. It's a school for living. We don't see violence among racers. They're loyal to each other and to the public," Gianetti says. "It's a sport where one can enjoy it alone just by going for a bike ride. Or you can enjoy it with friends, or with a group of competitors. It's a sport you can join just by going out your front door."

Given that turn of mind — one any fan will describe given a moment to reflect — Phil Anschutz the profane profiteer takes on something of a sacred trust.

He should welcome this as an opportunity to transcend his old robber baron self, and make sure AEG doesn't require that teams must pay to play in next year's Tour of California.

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