With riders in the Tour de France set to begin the race's 100th edition Saturday, cycling is still coping with the fallout from doping scandals that have shaken the sport. But on the surface at least, much will be new about this year's race, which will lack last year's champion, Bradley Wiggins.
Instead of the injured Wiggins, his teammate Chris Froome, 28, is many people's favorite to win this year's Tour, particularly after he often seemed to be equal or perhaps even better than Wiggins in last year's race.
There's also something of a changing of the guard for American riders, foremost among them Tejay van Garderen, 24, who won the white jersey as the Tour's best young rider last year. Two other U.S. cyclists, Andrew Talansky, 24, and Ted King, 30, will ride in the Tour de France for the first time.
Other changes await when the race begins in Corsica, a first. Besides starting the race in Napoleon Bonaparte's birthplace, Tour planners also shook things up by spurning the tradition of a "prologue" day, instead choosing a flat, sprinter-friendly course for the first day. It's been 40 years since the race began with a pure sprinters' stage, says Velo News.
The overall impression is that of a tradition's caretakers who would like to hurry away from recent events, hoping to outrun the doping scandals that threaten to diminish the feat of racing on a bike for more than 2,000 miles.
Echoes of that long-entrenched side of the sport were heard Friday, when disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong told French newspaper Le Monde that it is "impossible to win the Tour without doping."
The 2013 race will also lack three of Armstrong's former teammates. Perennial Tour riders George Hincapie and Levi Leipheimer have retired. Both men testified in the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency's case against Armstrong. Another veteran, Chris Horner, is sitting out with an injured knee. We should note, Horner was not implicated in the USADA report.
The race will run from Saturday to July 21, a Sunday. Organizers say they expect 2 billion viewers worldwide to watch the Tour.
Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.