July 27, 2003
Perhaps the brightest spot of the Tour for the French was the polka-dot jersey won by Richard Virenque, formerly of the banned Festina team:
Virenque's victory equals the six best climber's wins of Belgian Lucien Van Impe and Spain's Federico Bahamontes.
It also completes his redemption as a former doped rider who was at the centre of the Festina doping trial in October 1999 where, after months of denials, he finally admitted to systematic doping with his team.
The fall-out from the 1998 Tour brought shame on the sport and almost brought the race to its knees.
Virenque, who many feel was made a scapegoat for practices that were said to be widespread in the peloton, was banned for six months and his career hit the skids.
Although a seventh polka dot jersey looks to be within his reach, Virenque - who also wore the yellow jersey for a day this year after his seventh stage win - is in no hurry to get started.
"I want to appreciate the moment. We'll see after if the polka dot jersey is an objective," added Virenque who said he is not yet ready to retire.
"As long as the flame is still burning inside me, then I'll still be on the bike."
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