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"Bad boy’ back in yellow

Andrew Hood

Richard Virenque, 33, France’s “bad boy” of cycling, actually was once the country’s cycling darling until the 1998 Festina “affaire” that revealed the depth of doping within the ranks of professional cycling. Virenque ultimately served a seven-month racing ban, but bounced back to win two Tour stages since 1999. Nothing since then has compared, however, to his return to glory Saturday.

After a week of rolling, flat stages, the 2003 Tour hit the first of three difficult climbing stages in the Alps. Virenque held on a long breakaway and floated into Morzine with the stage win, the yellow jersey and enough points to grab the best climber’s polka-dot jersey.

“Eleven years after wearing the yellow jersey, now I can stop my career without regret,” Virenque said. “Now I will fight to win the polka-dot jersey. I know I will pay a price for my efforts today. I spent a lot of energy, but it was worth it.”


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