German Grand Départ may be an omen for tightest Tour de France in 28 years | William Fotheringham

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Froome, Bardet, Quintana, Contador, Porte, Aru and Pinot could all make a decent case for winning the 104th Tour, which gets under way in Düsseldorf

Ten years ago, it would have been hard to envisage the Tour de France starting here, or anywhere else in Germany. The 2007 Tour is remembered by British fans for the hugely successful Grand Départ in London but for German cycling it was a different kind of landmark: when the country’s broadcasters turned their backs on the Tour after a year-long rash of doping scandals and confessions involving the country’s flagship team T-Mobile.

The telecom company pulled out that November. It was followed by the backers of the country’s other two top-level professional teams after more doping cases and in 2009 the successful Deutschland Tour also ceased to exist. That seemed to mark the end of the German love affair with cycling, which had blossomed in the mid-1990s with the rise of Jan Ullrich and T-Mobile, whose distinctive pink kit remains one of the sport’s most recognisable outfits.

Related: Tour de France 2017: full team-by-team guide

Related: Tour de France 2017: stage-by-stage guide

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Sportblog | The Guardian

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