In 1996 Bjarne Riis, also known as The Eagle from Herning (Ørnen fra Herning), became the first Dane ever to be crowned winner of the legendary bicycling race Le Tour de France. It was a victory that has since been overshadowed by numerous cycling scandals, including Riis' own admittance to the use of performance-enhancing drugs during his peak years.
But now, at least, it seems the sport is heading in the right direction.
Despite its many downfalls and dramas – both on and off the road – with winners such as Marco Pantani, Rolf Sørensen, Lance Armstrong and Tyler Hamilton more or less admitting to having been under the influence of doping substances, this race still somehow manages to draw hundred of millions of fans each year. Whether it's on top of a French mountain or from afar via internet, TV and radio, all are eager to witness the spectacle from the front row.
This year's Tour de France will be no different, and despite even the most optimistic of optimists knowing that doping is still present in the sport, the faint hope lives on that this year's pack of riders will be slightly less doped than those of the previous year.
And even if/when someone will be found not-so-clean-as-a-whistle, this will only add to the drama that is such an integral part of this annual colorful road circus.
From a Danish perspective, most eyes will be on the 29-year-old rider, Jakob Fuglsang, who performed splendidly last year finishing seventh overall, but question marks still remain over whether he will actually be able to ride to win, seeing as teammate Vincenzo Nibali will expect his full commitment when the going gets tough.
However, a slight dip in form from Nibali will see Fuglsang (which means "birdsong" in Danish) spread out his otherwise clipped wings to improve last year's seventh. Apart from Fuglsang, Michael Mørkov, Tinkoff Saxo and Lars Bak, Lotto-Belisol, will also represent Denmark in this year's Tour.
Of course, the main focus of the event will be the battle between the Tour de France's reigning champion, the Kenyan-born Englishman Chris Froome and Spanish challenger and former winner Alberto Contador.
El Pistolero, the nickname of Contador – and also, incidentally, of red-hot footballer Luis Suarez – will look to push Froome to the very last hill of the race, exposing his pearly whites out of sheer effort, with pundits and fans alike expecting one of the greatest mano-a-mano duels the race has ever witnessed since Jan "Der Kaiser" Ullrich (it's a sport that likes a good nickname) locked horns with American Lance Armstrong back in 2003.
The Tour de France begins tomorrow, Saturday July 5th in Leeds, England, and will finish in Paris on the Champs-Elysées on July 27th. And once again, despite all the ups and downs, this writer at least, looks very much forward to another epic battle in the scenic and breath-taking landscapes that France – and their neighbours – has to offer.
Vive le Tour! Vive la France!