During the doping scandal that plagued last summer's Tour de France, it seemed no one in cycling was clean. Now comes the Linda McCartney Pro Cycling Team, which bills itself as "the world's first all-vegetarian professional squad."
The Linda McCartneys, as the team is known in cycling circles, is a 14-man outfit committed to qualifying for the Tour de France within three years while—like Sir Paul—sticking to a strict vegetarian diet. "If any of the riders is caught eating meat, he's off the team," says team p.r. man John Deering.
Julian Clark, a former motocross driver from Britain who had taken up cycling, hatched the idea for the team while strolling through a supermarket in 1997. "I saw some Linda McCartney vegetarian frozen dinners, and it just seemed right," he says. "The McCartneys are an eco-friendly family, and cycling is an eco-friendly sport."
Since Linda's death in April 1998, only a month after she launched the team, her riders have been supported by the company she founded with Paul. Linda McCartney Foods will spend $3.2 million over four years on the cyclists. Paris fashion designer Stella McCartney, Paul and Linda's daughter, created the uniforms. The team's bikes—at Paul's request—are emblazoned CLEAN MACHINE, a reference to the fire engine in the Beatles song Penny Lane. "This 'clean machine' proves that vegetarians aren't all carrot-munching weedy freaks and keeps alive the memory of our beloved Linda," said Paul in January.
The Lindas will invade the U.S. in June for three stops on the Saturn USPRO Cycling Tour. British fans were overjoyed when the team finished third in its debut race, the Tour of Langkawi, in Malaysia in February. In a congratulatory fax to the team, Paul said, "Linda would be over the moon."