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Tour de France riders challenged to regain trust

Doping shadows cycling’s showcase

PORTO VECCHIO, Corsica — They grew up watching Lance Armstrong win the Tour de France every year. Now American riders like Andrew Talansky and Tejay Van Garderen carry a burden.

Talansky and Van Garderen are 24 years old and the pick of the six Americans in this year’s 100th Tour, which begins Saturday in Porto Vecchio. They will be contending for the white jersey awarded to the best young rider.

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This is the first Tour since Armstrong acknowledged doping. Cycling may well be much cleaner because of aggressive anti-doping measures, but the stigma persists. Van Garderen thinks it will be hard to fully regain the trust of home fans that was broken by Armstrong.

‘‘I mean, we can try, but what can you really do? You have to just make a decision to ride clean, which I have, and hope people start taking an interest again,’’ Van Garderen said.

There are relatively few Americans in this year’s race. On the 1999 Tour — the first of the seven consecutive wins Armstrong has been stripped of for doping — seven of the nine riders on the US Postal team were Americans.

After years of strong denials, Armstrong told Oprah Winfrey in January that he doped on all of his Tour wins. The confession followed a scathing 200-page report compiled by the US Anti-Doping Agency on systematic drug use by Armstrong and his teams.

Armstrong said Friday in an interview with French newspaper Le Monde that it was ‘‘impossible’’ during his era to win the Tour without doping. Armstrong told Le Monde that he still considers himself the record-holder for Tour victories.

Pat McQuaid, president of cycling’s governing body, called the timing of Armstrong’s interview ‘‘very sad.’’

‘‘The culture within cycling has changed since the Armstrong era and it is now possible to race and win clean,’’ McQuaid said in a statement.

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