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CYCLING

World cycling body backs Armstrong ban

Disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong's fate was sealed in Geneva on Monday, as the sport's under-fire world governing body decided to back a life ban for doping and strip him of his record seven Tour de France titles.

World cycling body backs Armstrong ban
Lance Armstrong answers questions at a 2009 news conference in Australia (Photo: Paul Coster)

The International Cycling Union (UCI) said it supported a decision by the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) to erase the Texan's career and his place in the sport's history.

"We will not appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport and we will recognize the sanction that USADA has imposed," UCI president Pat McQuaid told a news conference.

"The UCI will strip him of his seven Tour de France wins. Lance Armstrong has no place in cycling."

Earlier this month the US body released a devastating dossier on Armstrong, detailing over 202 pages and with more than 1,000 pages of supporting testimony how he was at the heart of the biggest doping programme in the history of sport.

The revelations, including evidence from 11 of Armstrong's former team-mates, plunged a sport which has been working hard to rid itself of its murky doping past into crisis.

McQuaid succeeded Hein Verbruggen as president of world cycling after Armstrong's seventh and final Tour victory in 2005 and is credited with boosting the body's anti-doping programme, notably with the pioneering blood passport programme.

The Irishman was under pressure to answer how Armstrong and his teams managed to dope for so long without being detected. But he rejected calls to quit.

Armstrong's sporting reputation as the cancer survivor who fought back to win cycling's most gruelling and celebrated race has been shattered since the revelations, leading to sponsors leaving him in droves.

There has also been fears of a wider withdrawal of financial backing for the sport after Dutch sponsor Rabobank said it was ending the sponsorship of its professional cycling team after a 17-year association.

The sponsor described professional cycling as "sick" to its core and unlikely to recover in the foreseeable future.

The strongly-worded comments went to the heart of claims of failings at the UCI and in particular to McQuaid, who has been criticized for failing to see the extent of doping within the sport.

Verbruggen, who stepped down in in 2006 but remains honorary president, ran the UCI during Armstrong's golden era — a time when USADA's report says Armstrong and team-mates evaded dope tests either by hiding or being tipped off in advance.

The Dutchman has also been accused of protecting Armstrong — even accepting a donation to cover up a positive dope test.

The cyclist's cancer backstory and Tour triumphs from 1999 to 2005 were seen as key to restoring cycling's tattered image after a string of high-profile doping scandals in the 1990s.

Armstrong's Tour victories are unlikely to be re-awarded, the race's director Christian Prudhomme has said. The void avoids further headaches, given that the majority of riders who finished on the podium have also been implicated in doping.

On the eve of the UCI decision, Armstrong spoke for about 90 seconds to a record 4,300 bikers at the Livestrong Challenge charity benefit, a 100-mile (160-kilometre) race in his hometown of Austin, Texas.

"I've been better, but I've also been worse," Armstrong told the riders.

"Obviously it has been an interesting and difficult couple of weeks."

Since the USADA report, sponsors have fled Armstrong and he was forced to resign as chairman of the Livestrong cancer-fighting charity he founded in 1997 over concerns his tarnished reputation could hurt the cause.

Armstrong, who overcame testicular cancer that had spread to his brain and lungs to achieve cycling stardom, inspired more than $500 million in donations to Livestrong and pushed other cancer survivors to battle the condition.

No criminal charges were filed against Armstrong from an 18-month US federal probe that ended earlier this year and evidence from that case was not given to USADA.

But Armstrong could yet face court cases from former sponsors who accepted his assurances that his legacy was not aided by banned substances.

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TRAIN

What are the rules on taking your bike on the train in France?

The French government is keen to encourage cycling and has published a decree relating to bike commuting, but travelling on a train with a bike can still be quite complicated.

What are the rules on taking your bike on the train in France?
Photo: Jacques Demarthon/AFP

Can I commute with my bike? 

The French government is keen to encourage ‘multimode’ commuting – or people who cycle part of the way to work and take the train or bus for the rest.

On June 10th 2021, it published a decree which makes it mandatory for SNCF train stations and Paris’ RATP stations which have high numbers of passengers to provide secured parking spaces for bikes by 2024. This obligation concerns 1,133 train stations, which represent 37 percent of all train stations in France. 

How can I carry my bike on the train?

When it comes to taking a bike on longer train journeys, the rules vary depending on the type of train you are using. 

You can bring your bike, without having to disassemble it, on every TER (regional train) for free and without having to make a reservation, but keep in mind that space is limited. Since March 2021, every new trains or trains that are being renovated must have at least 8 spaces for bikes on board. 

Some TGVs (high-speed trains) and most Intercités (non high-speed national trains) offer a possibility to take your bike aboard, and in those where you can, you must make a reservation online or at the train station when you buy your ticket. 

THIS MAP allows you to check all the main long distance train lines that allow bikes on board.

When to take the train with your bike? 

In TERs, spaces for bikes are available on a first-come, first-served basis and cannot be booked, therefore it’s better not to travel during rush hours. 

You’ll find special information about when and how to travel with your bike on TGVs and Intercités on the SNCF website. 

How to reserve a spot for your bike?

For TERs, making a reservation is not possible. 

For TGVs and Intercités, if you want to travel with an assembled bike, you must make a reservation for a dedicated spot when you buy your ticket on the website Oui.sncf . The price to add a bike on a TGV starts from 10€ and from 5€ on an Intercités. Adding a bike after you bought your ticket is not possible. 

Also, it’s important to note that you won’t be able to reserve a space for your bike when you  make a reservation from your phone on the app Oui.sncf. You can add a bike from your phone with the app Trainline

How to carry a disassembled bike?

You can carry your bike in every SNCF trains as long as it is disassembled in a bag which dimensions doesn’t exceed 90x120cm. In this case, it is considered hand luggage. 

Are trailers, tandems and cargo bikes allowed? 

Only regular bikes are accepted on trains. Carrying recumbent bikes, tricycles, tandems or trailers is not allowed. Only one train makes an exception during summer: the train Loire à Vélo, a train that goes from Nevers in the Center of France to the Atlantic Coast

Special info and tips if you want to travel by train with your bike this summer 

On the line Bretagne / TER : From June 7th to September 30th 2021, making a reservation for your bike to travel on a TER in the Bretagne région is mandatory. You will have to pay 3€ per bike and you can only reserve a ticket that includes a bike on the website

Travelling with the Train Loire à Vélo : This train that goes from the city of Orléans to Le Croisic on the Atlantic Coast is back on track. The ride is free and you don’t have to make a reservation for your bike. 

The Nouvelle-Aquitaine / La Vélodyssée service : In the Nouvelle Aquitaine region which includes Bordeaux and Biarritz, a special TER service with bikes allowed will be working from mid-July to August 2021. It will be free and without reservation, you can find some info on this map

On the line ViaRhôna / TER Lyon – Avignon : From July 3rd to September 19th, it will be possible to travel between the cities of Lyon and Avignon by train with your bike but only during week-ends and bank holidays. You must make a reservation and the price per bike will be of 3€.

La Véloscénie :  is a special itinerary for people who want to cycle between Paris and the Mont Saint-Michel and visit different places along the journey. From May to September the line from Paris to Pontorson Mont Saint-Michel embarks your bikes for free. 

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