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Tuesday, May 21, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Tour riders up in arms

Earpiece ban for 10th stage leaves many angry

A woman waves the French flag on Bastille Day as the Tour de France pack passes through Montgivray.  (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
A woman waves the French flag on Bastille Day as the Tour de France pack passes through Montgivray. (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
By Associated Press

ISSOUDUN, France – The tension is clear between teammates Alberto Contador and Lance Armstrong. That’s nothing, however, compared to the anger many riders feel toward Tour de France organizers.

On a day when Contador and Armstrong held their second and third spots in the overall standings and Britain’s Mark Cavendish won the 10th stage, the Tour took a giant technological leap backward Tuesday.

Riders were stripped of their customary earpieces, left to fend for themselves and denied contact with their teams during the 121-mile route. The decision to ban rider radios and TV sets in cars was made last month.

The Tour wanted to inject drama into the race by eliminating earpieces for the 10th and 13th stages. Many riders – Armstrong, Contador and overall leader Rinaldo Nocentini of Italy among them – were far from pleased with the experiment.

“The fact is for us it’s dangerous not to have them,” Nocentini said. “There are dangers on the road.”

Instead of drama, the Tour got a day of agonizingly slow riding. The only excitement came with Cavendish’s dash a few hundred yards from the finish for his third stage victory in this race.

Today’s ride covers 119 miles from Vatan to Saint-Fargeau and again favors sprinters. The next earpiece-free stage comes Friday, a tricky course featuring one big climb and possibly many attacks. Armstrong suspects there will be an electronic change before then.

“My impression is that we’ll have the radio on Friday,” he said.

Armstrong maintains that talk of a feud between him and Contador is hyped by the media.

Nocentini finished 34th Tuesday while Contador was 40th and Armstrong 46th.

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