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Tour Titbits 1: What's happening off the bike at the Tour de France

Watches, cats, dogs, twins, passports... and an irony bypass

While most of the focus at the Tour de France is on the racing and its aftermath, cycling's biggest race plays host each year to any number of rumours and snippets of news related to the pro peloton. Here's the first of our regular round-ups of some of the ones you may have missed.

Caisse d’Epargne boss in irony bypass

Caisse d’Epargne team manager Francis Lafargue has bemoaned his difficulties in lining up a new headline sponsor for the team from next season to replace the French savings bank.

With an apparently total lack of irony, Lafargue told Reuters: "What with cycling's degraded image because of doping and the financial crisis, it's getting more and more difficult. The future is very uncertain."

The presumably unintended humour in that statement was seized upon by Cervélo’s co-owner, Gerard Vroomen, who tweeted: “Really? You stretch the Valverde case 4yrs against common sense, then complain cycling's image hurts your sponsor search?”

Lance watch: Contador finds fitting gift for ex-team mate

The last place you’d expect to find Alberto Contador during this year’s Tour de France is aboard the Team RadioShack bus, but that’s exactly where he was yesterday as he followed the maillot jaune winner’s tradition of presenting some of his team-mates last year with a gift – and heaven knows, with half of last year’s Astana squad following Lance Armstrong to his new outfit, it was the obvious place for Contador to go to catch up with some of his old muckers.

In fact, Contador had already dished out the goodies last year to all but two of those who "helped" him to his second Tour de France title - those missing out were Armstrong, and former Astana team manager Johan Bruyneel, a situation that has now happily been rectified.

Coincidence of coincidences, Armstrong himself wasn’t there to receive his gift in person – he was busy signing on for Stage 5 – but we’d like to think that Contador’s present of a watch carried a suitably personalised message engraved on the back.

5’24”, perhaps – the margin by which the Spaniard finished the race ahead of the Texan who occupied an unaccustomed third place on the Champs Elysées podium last year following a race in which any pretence at cordial relationships between the pair was dropped as they vied for the maillot jaune.

Aussie! Aussie! Aussie! Ja! Ja! Ja!

Cervélo TestTeam’s Heinrich Haussler missed the Tour de France due to aggravating an old knee injury in the Tour of Switzerland crash that race officials decided had been caused by HTC-Columbia’s Mark Cavendish as both riders fought for the sprint win.

His enforced spell off the bike appears to have given Haussler a chance to catch up on some paperwork, and the rider, born in Australia to a German father and Australian mother, giving him dual nationality, has now decided to renounce his German citizenship.

In future, he will race under an Australian license, giving him the chance to represent the country of his birth in international competition, starting hopefully with the World Championships in Melbourne in October.

In a statement on the team website, Haussler, who will continue to be based in Germany, said: “It was not an easy decision to give up my German citizenship, but I came to a point in my life where I decided to follow my feelings. I had the lucky situation that I was the owner of two passports, but I feel more Australian and therefore I made the final decision to ride in the future for the country where I grew up."

Hausssler’s decision was announced on Wednesday afternoon, a few hours before Germany were knocked out of the World Cup by Spain, suggesting that he has powers of prediction similar to those of the now famous Paul the Octopus.

We’re going to give Haussler a call to ask who we should transfer into our Fantasy Tour de France team for the stages in the Alps and Pyrenees, and don’t forget, if you haven’t selected a team already, it’s never too late – just head here to get started.

Celebrations Chez Kirchen – Kim goes home, and twins set to join him

Another cyclist missing from this year’s Tour de France is Katusha rider Kim Kirchen, who was placed into an induced coma after suffering a cardiac arrest during the Tour of Switzerland.

While Katusha’s Tour de France campaign hasn’t quite got going yet – Robbie McEwen has been up there in the sprints, without actually winning any – they will no doubt have celebrated the news that the Luxembourg cyclist has now been discharged from hospital.

If that wasn’t enough to get the Champagne corks popping, the news that Kim isn’t the only member of the Kirchen family due to be welcomed home this week, with wife Caroline yesterday giving birth to twins Liam and Mika. Chapeau, Madame, and congratulations to all the family!

And finally…

Talking of the patter of tiny feet, the dog that got off its lead and into the peloton on Stage 1, causing a crash that brought down Giro d’Italia champion Ivan Basso and Britain’s David Millar is said to be recovering well from its ordeal.

Millar had told ITV4 afterwards that he thought the crash had been caused by a cat, but can be forgiven for his error – after all, it’s easy to confuse a chat from a chien mid-chute...

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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Tony Farrelly | 13 years ago

So he learned something from his time with Lance then…

handlebarcam | 13 years ago

Excellent mind-game play by Contador there.

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