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Tour de France Stage 6

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July 6, 2016 – History sometimes repeats itself. The distance of this Thursday’s stage 6 of the 103rd Tour de France (#TDF2016) from Arpajon-sur-Cère to Montauban is 190.5 kilometers. That’s exactly the same stage distance as the only other time the Tour visited Montauban, in 1998, when the stage started in Brive-la-Gaillarde.

AFP/Yuzuru Sunada

Brive is where the ’98 Tour, and the sport itself, virtually disintegrated when race director Jean-Marie Leblanc came to the Brive media room not long before midnight on July 15 to announce that the world’s No. 1-ranked team, Festina, including its leading French riders Richard Virenque and Laurent Brochard, was being thrown out of the race.

That day, the team manager confessed to French police that the drugs seized from a Festina team car a week earlier were on their way to the Tour start as part of the team’s systematic doping scheme. This image was shot at an impromptu news conference made by the Festina team leaders—(left to right) Brochard, Virenque and Laurent Dufaux. Though they protested their innocence, claiming they were being made scapegoats, they were still hauled in by the police for questioning and spent a night in jail—action that resulted in a sit-down protest by the peloton at Tarascon-sur-Ariège.

By the way, that Tour stage into Montauban 18 years ago saw a breakaway group stay clear to the finish, with a near eight-minute margin. Frenchman Jacky Durand won the break’s six-man sprint ahead of the Italians Andrea Tafi, Fabio Sacchi and Eddy Mazzoleni. And it happened on a day of stifling 90-degree heat—identical to this Thursday’s forecast! It’s also likely that Thursday’s transitional stage, preceding three climbing stages in the Pyrénées, will also see a winning breakaway. History does repeat itself: same stage town, same distance, same heat-wave temperatures…but nobody wants another major doping scandal.