The Pit Bull's battle to salvage U.S. cycling

Garmin's Andrew Talansky, of USA, celebrates after winning the 66th Dauphine cycling race in Courchevel, French Alps, June 15, 2014. AP

LONDON -- Almost like a badly behaved child running away from home, the Tour de France -- the world's greatest bike race -- tainted by the doping scandal that smeared the sport and its most celebrated rider, began this year in England.

Monday's stage will finish in front of Buckingham Palace, in the heart of London. CBS News correspondent Mark Phillips reports the riders aren't just racing for glory now -- they're racing against disgrace.

On Saturday, superstar royals Prince William and Kate were there for the big ceremonial start, or Le Grand Depart, as they call it.

British royals at start of Tour de France, in Leeds, England
Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, his wife, Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry, pose in front of the pack of riders at Harewood House in Leeds before the start of the first stage of the Tour de France cycling race, from Leeds to Harrogate, July 5, 2014.
REUTERS

Massive crowds lined the route across the picturesque northern English county of Yorkshire, delivering what the race's French organizers declared the greatest start the 112-year-old race has ever witnessed.

And as Phillips notes, it was just as well. The riders are not only beginning perhaps the toughest athletic event on Earth; cycling 2,200 miles over three weeks in stages across England and all around France, they're competing to prove the race can be run cleanly.

The race, and all of cycling, was tainted by the revelation that Lance Armstrong, America's seven-consecutive-race winner, used a sophisticated doping regime that fooled the authorities until -- after years of denial -- he was forced to admit he had cheated all along.

Now there's a new American hope in Andrew Talansky, a rider from Florida who's remained among the leaders in the early stages of the race.

His win in the run-up event, the prestigious Dauphine, where he dragged the leaders into a ferocious final sprint, solidified the reputation implied in his nickname; the "Pit Bull."

Garmin's Andrew Talansky of USA, winner of the 66th Dauphine cycling race, reacts as he crosses the finish line of the last stage
Garmin's Andrew Talansky of USA, winner of the 66th Dauphine cycling race, reacts as he crosses the finish line of the last stage, in Courchevel, French Alps, June 15, 2014.
AP

"I like to think that it refers to my tenacity on the bike," said Talansky. "The way I ride, the way I am in races. I never give up. When I set my mind to something, a goal or an objective to achieve, I generally don't stop until I've reached it."

The sport -- like Armstrong -- has admitted its sins. But Talansky admits it still has to win back the public's confidence.

"It's our... I like to use the term 'responsibility,' to give the people back in the U.S. something they can believe in and get excited about and cheer for and really get behind, and know that they can trust us 100 percent," said the racer.

Talansky, and all the other riders, know they're not just racing against each other. They're competing against public skepticism, and as Phillips reports, over three so-far glorious days in England, they've made a good start.

Comments

Follow Us

Watch CBSN Live

Watch CBS News anytime, anywhere with the new 24/7 digital news network. Stream CBSN live or on demand for FREE on your TV, computer, tablet, or smartphone.

The Newsroom