Thor Hushovd seizes overall lead
LES ESSARTS, France -- He's a 30-something American, a retired former rider and crowned with success at the Tour de France.
And Jonathan Vaughters is also a leading anti-doping crusader in cycling.
Sunday afternoon, Garmin-Cervelo riders hoisted Vaughters, their manager, in the air in glory after the nine-man squad won the Tour's team time trial in Stage 2, a flat 14 miles in and around Les Essarts in western France.
Competing in its fourth Tour, Garmin-Cervelo was popping the champagne after its first-ever stage win at cycling's greatest race.
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For Vaughters, the victory was especially sweet because Thor Hushovd of Norway -- a Garmin-Cervelo rider and former teammate years ago -- took the yellow jersey off Philippe Gilbert, a Belgian who won the first stage.
"This is an extraordinary dream, I'm very proud, I'm very happy to take the jersey -- and that the team won the stage," said Hushovd, who won the team time trial at the 2001 Tour with Vaughters when both rode for now-defunct French squad Credit Agricole. "This is a great day, we did a really good team effort, everything worked perfectly."
The Norwegian leads teammate David Millar in second, with the same time. Cadel Evans of Australia is third, 1 second back.
Vaughters calls Garmin-Cervelo "an anti-doping team. We are not an anti-ex-doper team," pointing to Millar, who served a two-year doping ban.
The 38-year-old and former teammate of seven-time Tour champion Lance Armstrong is one of the most vocal opponents of doping in cycling and has sought to build a clean team. He said the sport has made important strides to rid drug cheats from the peloton, but the work isn't yet complete.
Some in cycling, Vaughters said, think "'if I talk about it, it's just going to be in the newspaper more, then it's going to give the public the idea that everyone is doing it' -- which in my opinion, is the exact opposite of what is true."
But when asked if he had been involved in doping himself, Vaughters declined to answer.
"A lot of the energy and the passion I have now that I put into anti-doping is derived from my past mistakes and my past experiences," he told The Associated Press. "Beyond that, I don't want to get into it."
"I want the focus to be on the riders who are racing today," Vaughters said.
Those riders, too, have a hard time deflecting questions about doping.
Defending champion Alberto Contador has been riding amid controversy. He tested positive for the banned muscle builder clenbuterol during the Tour last year, but has denied any wrongdoing. The Spanish three-time Tour winner could be stripped of his latest title if the Court of Arbitration for Sport rules against him next month.
Some Tour fans have been unforgiving: He again faced roadside boos on Sunday. Worse, he lost even more time.
After losing time because of a crash in Saturday's stage, Contador lost even more Sunday as his Saxo Bank team finished 28 seconds behind Garmin-Cervelo. He is 75th overall, 1:42 behind Hushovd.
Cycling's image has been battered by multiple doping scandals in recent years, and some linger still.
U.S. federal authorities are investigating whether Armstrong and his former U.S. Postal team participated in a systematic doping program. Armstrong, who won the Tour every year from 1999-2005, has steadfastly denied doping and has never failed a drug test.
Vaughters, a former member of the U.S. Postal team, said he has not been contacted by special investigator Jeff Novitsky but would abide by the law if asked to testify.
In recent years the International Cycling Union, responding to the ever present doping scandals, has put in place some of the most stringent anti-doping measures in sport -- in hopes of both catching those who dope now and dissuading young riders from doing so.
"That work has been good, and it needs to continue. It doesn't mean ... we're running up the victory flag or anything," Vaughters said. "It's gonna be a war. Every single year we have to keep on top of it, and as long we do that, I'm confident that clean riders can win big races."
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press