The week before, riders started in a 100 degree hot valley to climb a different mountain, to Arcalis in Andorra, only to find a cold storm at the top of the mountain, dropping the temperature into the 40s and peppering the riders with penny-sized hail.
Tomorrow is the last mountain day and the last day where big changes to the final lineup are a real consideration: Megève to Morzine-Avoriaz. This is almost in Switzerland, so after the stage the teams will be flown to Chantilly, outside Paris for Sunday's almost ceremonial ride into the city and the sprinters' race down the Champs-Élysées. It appears Chris Froome will win his third Tour, putting him into a rarefied group of cycling legends - that haven't been kicked out for doping.
Shifting gears radically (see what I did there?), this year is the first year that Tour officials are monitoring bikes with infrared cameras for signs of cheating by embedding small motors in the frame to give the cyclist extra power. They're calling this "mechanical doping".
Infrared camera guns, developed by the CEA (the French Atomic Energy Commission) were being used to capture the thermal envelop of each bicycle. Peculiarities in the envelopes would reveal whether or not a micro-motor was embedded in the cycle’s frame. The motors could be used to enhance the cyclist’s performance ― his hill-climbing ability or his speed on a straightaway ― but, used in a competition, it would be considered cheating.As surprising as this might sound, it's not hypothetical. This past January, the women's under-23 world cyclo-cross world championship had a competitor's bike seized by the UCI (competitive cycling's governing organization) - for being suspected of having a motor assist.
It was later confirmed that her bike did contain a motor and the 19 year old rider was given a six year suspension for cheating. She was also fined 20,000 Swiss francs and ordered to pay legal costs.UCI inspectors had been examining bikes during the event, and the bike of European under-23 champion, Belgian Femke Van den Driessche was detained after something suspicious was found.
Professional athletics is a domain of tiny differences between competitors. In this year's Tour de France, Chris Froome currently has less than 5 minutes over the second place rider, after 82 hours of racing - 0.1% difference in time. While that EE Times piece talks about 300 watt motors and using them for long periods, I don't think that's the scenario at all.
The consistent testing of athletes for doping chemicals hasn't eliminated cheating, it just pushed the cheating out of their bodies and into the bikes. It's probably better for the riders' health, but it's still cheating. While the UCI originally addressed cheating at the bike by mandating a minimum weight that bikes can't go under, this is a new frontier. It never ends.