July 31, 2003
Armstrong's fifth SI cover
Here's the cover of the new Sports Illustrated. None of the text content is online yet, but I'll post a link when it is...
July 30, 2003
Saturday's coverage from 9-11:30 a.m. EDT of the next-to-last stage of the Tour -- a time trial in which Armstrong beat runner-up Jan Ullrich by 11 seconds -- garnered a 1.5 rating, equal to about 806,000 homes, an all-time high for the network.
July 29, 2003
Eurosport offers a terrific Tour wrapup, handing out a number of prizes:
Best prediction:Gilberto Simoni , boasting to Italian reporters he'd wear the yellow jersey on the evening following the team time trial (his team finished 17th out of 21). If not then, the winner of the Giro promised the lead would be his atop l'Alpe d'Huez. He finished 45th that day, 6:10 behind Iban Mayo.
Most sporting gesture: the handshake initiated by Fabio Sacchi at the conclusion of his successful escape with Jakob Piil in the long straightaway leading to the finish in Marseille. The Dane would prevail some 800m laters.
Sign of Zorro, sort of: another toss up as first there was the Toulouse finish and Juan Antonio Flecha simulating Robin Hood with a bow and arrow (his name means arrow in Spanish), then not to be outdone by his fellow Spaniard, on the next stage, Carlos Sastre's pacifier in the mouth - in honour of his baby.
Definitely check it out....
BBC Sport has analyses from the other 5-timers on Lance Armstrong's chances of winning a 6th Tour next year:
- Eddy Merckx:
Merckx, winner in 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972 and 1974, said he could even see Armstrong winning a seventh Tour.
"He can win a sixth and, why not, a seventh Tour, if he concentrates solely on that one race," the Belgian told the Le Parisien newspaper.
"He knows how to prepare himself and with his drive and talent a sixth win is forseeable."
"When you know how much he suffers in the heat you have to recognise how intelligently he raced this year."
"If Armstrong is motivated, perfectly prepared and avoids bad luck, he can win again."
- Bernard Hinault:
"It's not mission impossible. He can do it," he said. "But the opposition will be even tougher. The margin will be even slimmer."
- Miguel Indurain:
"I hope he can do it again. But if nobody has done it so far it shows how hard it is," said the Spaniard.
"When you get to 32, the years count double. I found out in 1996 when the Tour was going through my hometown at Pamplona.
"I was desperate to win but the legs had gone. That was the year I was 32."
July 28, 2003
The "big four", as they are dubbed in cycling circles, have all failed in their quest for a sixth success, mostly because they were beaten by an up and coming young rider.
Indurain lost to Dane Bjarne Riis in 1996, but the star of the Tour that year was young German Jan Ullrich.
Hinault was beaten in 1986 by young American Greg LeMond, while Merckx discovered his limits against Frenchman Bernard Thevenet.
Armstrong has pledged he will be better prepared next year than he was in this Tour, calling his condition "unacceptable".
"I'll return next year and not to finish second," he warned.
He said: "I had thought about changing but never really negotiated with another team. The way we worked in Le Tour suited me." Millar, 26, has now won three stages on the Tour after he won the prologue in 2000 and the stage to Beziers in 2002.
Somewhat oddly, the length of the extension is not mentioned. Both Tyler Hamilton's CSC team and Lance Armstrong's USPS squad had been mentioned as other competitors for Millar's services.
Update: This version of the story, in The Scotsman, says the extension is through 2005.
July 27, 2003
Sally Jenkins takes us beyond what Lance Armstrong has done to what does Lance Armstrong mean? Was his success, even in the face of cancer, predetermined by his genes, or is there something more at work?
She compares Lance's stage win with the way he fought his cancer:
He fought like that on the climb up Luz-Ardiden to victory in the Pyrenees, after crashing last week. The thing you can't know about Lance on a climb, until you've seen him do it in person, is that the effort is so severe that his eyes become completely bloodshot from burst capillaries.
"Why do you do it?" I asked him once. "What's the pleasure in riding a bike up a mountain for six hours?"
"I don't understand the question," he said.
"Well, there has to be some pleasure in it," I said. "I mean, your back hurts, your neck hurts, your butt hurts. What's the payoff?"
"I still don't understand the question."
I went away baffled -- and convinced that unless I could get him to talk to me on the subject, I'd never understand him. After a couple of days of thought, I realized I'd been asking the entirely wrong question.
"You don't do it for the pleasure," I said. "You do it for the pain."
"That's exactly right," he said.
If you want to know to what extent Armstrong's success comes from being a mutant, and to what extent it results from pure will, check out this column.
At right, Armstrong with Bernard Hinault, Eddy Merckx, and Miguel Indurain, the other living members of the 5-Timers Club.
Some shots of the Tour's publicity caravan, which precedes the riders along the Tour route.
I can't speak for Tyler Freaking Hamilton, who completed a tremendous feat of arms today, made worse by the cobbles of the Champs Elysees. I'll let the man speak for himself:
"The way you deal with the low points in your life is what makes you a person," Hamilton said Sunday, "and I think I dealt with a difficult situation the best I could."
He wound up fourth in the overall standings, 6 minutes, 17 seconds behind five-time champion Lance Armstrong.
"I'll always look back and think, 'What if?"' said Hamilton, speaking on the train taking cyclists to the outskirts of Paris for Sunday's final stage.
"But that's life. Life is a roller coaster ride."
Update: We need a Tyler Hamilton picture, so here's one. As always, click through to see the source, in this case Yahoo! Sport's AP photo gallery.
The illegal US Postal jerseys are in the picture at left.
Big Jan was philosophical about his 2nd overall, for the 5th time:
"After all that I've been through, to be in the Tour de France this year was a reward and, overall, I cannot be sad," said the 29-year-old.
"I challenged Lance Armstrong as I was only 15 seconds behind him after the Ax-3 Domaines stage but I'm a little surprised everything went so well.
"I only came to the Tour hoping to prepare for 2004."
Check the footage for the gray USPS jerseys. The official Tour website reports that the gray jerseys "are the same as the original colors of the US Postal Service". The team was fined 4500 Swiss francs (about $3350), and each rider 200 Swiss francs (about $148.50).
Armstrong's purse for the Tour win was 400,000 euros (about $459,500).
Over at NYTimes.com, Samuel Abt offers probably the best 2003 Tour wrap-up so far.
At a news conference afterward, Armstrong, the leader of the United States Postal Service team, returned again and again to the problems, mainly physical and tactical but including two crashes and one near-crash, he had encountered. Some, like sickness, struck him even before the three-week race began on July 5.
"I think this year I had to rely more on strategy than on physical gifts or physical fitness,'' he said. "I think I can improve over my best, but certainly improve over this year. This year was not my best.
"We're very lucky to be in this position now. In many ways, it felt like an eerie Tour. This race should not have been this close.'' He won his previous four Tours by not less than six minutes.
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."
Tour de France director Jean-Marie Leblanc said he could not have hoped for a better race to celebrate the centenary of cycling's biggest event.
"It was better than my expectations. What was unexpected was the quality of the race," he said on Saturday, the penultimate day of the Tour.
"It was superb, the best race in 20 years or at least since 1989 when I took over as the Tour director."
Leblanc said he thinks the popularity of the race may justify tighter control of the crowds in the future:
"This popularity is a little frightening, we must try to channel it," he said. "The time has come to say stop."
"Now I've got both feet square on the ground. Before the Tour started I was very confident I'd win but I won't be so confident before next year's Tour," Armstrong said Sunday.
"Now I know that guys like (Jan) Ullrich and (Joseba) Beloki are strong, if not stronger than before and I've learned that anything can happen in the Tour de France.
"Fortunately I think it has set me up perfectly for an attempt for win number six."
The Texan, a personal friend of U.S. President George W. Bush, had not exactly been France's most-loved athlete in recent years and was booed on the climb to the Mount Ventoux last year.
But despite Franco-American tensions over the Iraq war, there was no animosity whatsoever from the crowds this year, and fans seemed won over by Armstrong's struggling and suffering in this year's race.
The American, who made himself available to sign autographs and always spoke a few words on French television at the end of stages, said he had felt the difference.
"There were a lot of American flags this year," he said. "They scream and it's a French person - Allez Lance! It's a little bit strange, but it happened many times."
Tour headline du jour: Lance Has A Chat With Television Crews
14 H 43 - Lance Has A Chat With Television Crews
At the moment, the only point worth discussing is the coversation Armstrong is having with a few television crews on the road. The rider in the yellow jersey has dropped back to sip from a glass of champagne with his team director, Johan Bruyneel who is driving the team car at the back of the peloton.
From the official Tour website.
Cooke and McEwen, who were chasing the green jersey awarded to the winner of the points competition, were touching shoulders as they crossed the line.
And it was Cooke who was awarded second place by little more than an inch, giving him the green jersey by just two points from McEwen.
Alexandre Vinokourov, who finished third overall, was the most aggressive rider during the race.
Stage 20: Nazon takes stage, Cooke takes green, Armstrong takes yellow
Jean-Patrick Nazon secured another stage win for France, beating the other sprinters to the line on the Champs-Elysees. The win should help to salvage the Tour for the Jean Delatour team, which many commentators felt didn't deserve to be in the Tour.
Baden Cooke, who had held the sprinter's green jersey for much of the Tour, then lost it during Stage 18, was second (in a photo finish) at the line, just ahead of fellow Aussie Robbie McEwen of Lotto-Domo, to take the overall green jersey, joining McEwen as the only Australians to take the points prize. Cooke and McEwen split the two intermediate sprints on the day.
Lance Armstrong finished well back in the peloton, which was cracked by the high tempo set by the sprinters' teams. As a result, Armstrong lost 15 seconds to Jan Ullrich, riding in the first group. Armstrong's final margin of victory was 1:05 in his 5th Tour de France victory. Armstrong joins Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault, and Miguel Indurain as 5-time winners. Only Armstrong and Indurain have won 5 consecutively.
As expected, Richard Virenque won the King of the Mountains jersey, and Denis Menchov of iBanesto.com took the white jersey for outstanding young rider.
OLN good, CBS bad, last day
If you're wondering why there's no live OLN today, it's because CBS takes precedence on the broadcast rights. CBS has a sponsorship that allows them to show the Sunday stages as part of their weekend sports telecast, and part of that contract allows them to broadcast them before other American outlets (i.e., OLN).
OLN will be doing a full broadcast tonight at 8. The heavily abbreviated CBS coverage is this afternoon, between 2 and 3 p.m. (both Eastern time).
Samuel Abt talks to a number of riders and former riders on the team radios used by riders and team managers in the Tour. Perhaps not surprisingly, almost all the retired racers oppose the system, while all the current riders favor it.
Hennie Kuiper, a Dutch rider and team director, is an outspoken opponent of the system:
"A true professional doesn't need to be told about his every move," he said. "The radios do more harm than good."
Frankie Andreu, the former Motorola and US Postal pro who is working with the OLN TV Tour crew, thinks the radios have made an important contribution:
"The best thing about the radios is that the race is safer. That overrides everything else. You don't have team cars coming up to the pack when you're going 40 miles an hour and telling the riders to move to the front or move back.
"Not having the cars coming up is a huge difference. It used to get scary."
The rider's name hasn't been released, pending a second test.
[S]ources close to the Tour organization said it was not a "major" rider and that his team had been advised of the result Thursday.
Urine tests to detect EPO have been organized on the Tour since 2001 and only one rider, Spaniard Txema Del Olmo, has been found positive, in 2001.
Between 80 and 90 riders had been tested for EPO on this Tour, organizers said.
cyclingnews.com looks at the Tour's finishing promenade today down the most famous street in Paris:
Closing the Champs-Élysées to traffic was not so easy but after long negotiations, the then-Mayor of Paris Jacques Chirac (now President of France) said yes and the first finish on the Champs-Élysées took place in 1975.
The avenue goes from La Concorde to the Arc de Triomphe, is 1,910m long and 70m wide and is closed only twice a year: for the for the military parade on Bastille Day and for the Tour de France. The tightly packed crowd on 'Les Champs' are part of the atmosphere of the Tour's last stage and the race finale also sees the publicity caravane, team parades and award ceremonies.
July 26, 2003
www.cyclingnews.com presents the 90th Tour de France, 2003.
cyclingnews.com has a good wrap-up of some of the continuing Tour news: quotes about the Time Trial from Armstrong, Ullrich, both their coaches and others; discussion with Robbie McEwen on his strategy to win the green jersey he currently holds; a look at Michael Rogers's Tour, and an update on Uwe Peschel (he may have a punctured lung).
My favorite, though is a look at Lotto-Domo rider Hans de Clerq, the overall last-place rider (aka the lanterne rouge) in his second Tour:
"I have this title now and I'm not giving it to someone else," he continued. "Nobody dreams of being the very last rider in the Tour, but once you're there you've come to like it. Conquering the title is easy, keeping it is much more difficult: the ideal Lanterne has to finish every day on time, but not earlier than strictly necessary. I really want to reach Paris, only to prove that the so-called 'kermesse riders' can do it."
"It is only my second Tour and I love riding it, but I always have to feel useful. I told Marc Sergeant that I was candidate as long as he would go with a sprinter like McEwen, but if he went with a top climber, he could better leave me home as I am useless at climbing. Working for Robbie, that's why I'm doing it for: Robbie in green on the Champs Elysées and my Tour is a total success.
BBC Sport reports that Armstrong has confirmed his intention to race next year's Tour, in pursuit of a record sixth Tour victory.
"I'll be back next year, and I'm not coming back to get second or to lose," he said.
"Definitely I feel like I have dodged a lot of bullets, and haven't necessarily been on top of my game," he said.
But he added: "I've learned a lot this year, and when I come back it won't be back with the same level.
"This year I was just totally unacceptable."
cyclingnews.com talked to Stage 19 winner David Millar on his winning ride during the treacherous time trial stage:
"I seem to have a remarkable ability to keep my head cool in difficult situations." Millar said. "During the stage I was careful not to take any risks, and when I fell I just thought 'Oops, I fell!' I got back up and waited for my mechanic, and when we saw that the chain had broken, he got me a new bike and I went on with it. Thinking of the circumstances today, I figure probably 50% of the peloton crashed. I saw Jan Ullrich in the first kilometre, and said to myself; Man, he'll go down today!"
Lance on his strategy on the course today: "Johan told me after a kilometer-and-a-half that I'd lost six seconds, and then I brought it back to three, and then two, and then even, and then went up by six or seven or eight or ten seconds. Then at that point I just went, 'I'll just go my pace.' Then I heard he [Ullrich] crashed, and from then on it was just a little tour of Nantes."
Lance on win number five: "This has been a very hard Tour for me, for a lot of reasons, some of which people know, some of which people don't know. It's just been very tough, and I'm glad it's over. Almost over."
I'll be very curious to hear what the reasons people don't know will be -- maybe lingering effects of Lance's crash in the Dauphiné Libéré, or the spill on Stage 1? It's a good thing Armstrong has a talent for the poker face.
The Texan praised his rival [Ullrich] afterward. "He gave us a lot of problems,’’ he said. "He’s still the biggest challenger.
"I like Jan a lot and nobody makes me more motivated. He’s a great champion.’’
Ullrich will finish in 2nd for the 5th time, in addition to his win in 1997. Joop Zoetemelk holds the record for 2nd-place finishes with 6; he
had the misfortune to race the Tour against Eddy Merckx and Bernard Hinault. Zoetemelk finally won the Tour in 1980.
He later won an astounding World Championship in 1985, at 38!
Armstrong forced his rival into taking too many risks and the German slid and crashed with 15 km left after the two had been clocked at almost the same time throughout.
The Texan had checked the course twice before the start while Ullrich had not, and the decision probably cost him his last chance to upset the four times Tour champion.
"My plan today was to start slowly and to race at my own tempo. I was confident, knowing that with a minute lead over Jan, with the rain and the wind, I had no reason to take risks," Armstrong said.
"When I heard that Jan had crashed, I took even fewer risks. I told myself to slow down. The stage was not important as the finish was extremely dangerous.
"The last 10 kilometres, I had checked them out and I saw there were lots of corners, lots of painting on the road. It was too dangerous," he said.
BBC Sport has 2 pictures of Ullrich's fall, as well as a shot of Armstrong crossing the finish line.
Having been denied victory in the Prologue by a problem with a chain and after struggling to stay in the race as it crossed the Pyrenees, the win was particularly welcome for Millar, whose contract expires at the end of the season. The 26-year-old has been linked with a move to CSC, managed by former Tour winner Bjarne Riis, and the US Postal Service team of Armstrong who now looks set to clinch an historic fifth successive Tour win.
The stage was won in 54:05 by Briton David Millar, who crashed but still was the fastest on a course made slippery by constant rain.
A crash also ruined Ullrich's hopes of overall victory. The German slid out of contention at a roundabout 15 km from the finish and lost his confidence, finishing 25 seconds behind Millar.
American Tyler Hamilton was second in the stage, nine seconds behind Millar, and Armstrong third, 14 seconds adrift.
At the point where Ullrich crashed, he was 6 or 7 seconds ahead of Armstrong on the road.
Stage 19: David Millar takes the TT, Armstrong confirmed in yellow
The battle royal between Armstrong and Ullrich didn't come off quite as expected, as a midcourse crash by Jan Ullrich led to tentative cornering, and a much slower pace by the German.
Britain's David Millar won the stage in 54:05, for the 2nd-fastest time trial in Tour history. Tyler Freaking Hamilton was 2nd, at 54:14. Combined with the finishes of Mayo and Zubeldia, Hamilton's time trial moves him up into 4th on the overall classification.
1) David Millar (Cofidis) 54:05.14
2) Tyler Hamilton (Team CSC) 54:14.27
3) Armstrong (US Postal) 54:19.66
4) Ullrich (Team Bianchi) 54:30.45
5) Laszlo Bodrogi (QuickStep) 54:31.73
Armstrong will be up by about 1:15 at the start of the final stage tomorrow. He's almost certain to win the Tour.
1) Armstrong (US Postal)
2) Jan Ullrich (Team Bianchi) @ 1:16
3) Alexandre Vinokourov (Telekom) @ 4:29
4) Tyler Hamilton (Team CSC) @ 6:32
5) Haimar Zubeldia (Euskaltel-Euskadi) @ 7:06
6) Iban Mayo (Euskaltel-Euskadi) @ 7:21
7) Ivan Basso (Fassa Bortolo) @ 10:12
8) Christophe Moreau (Credit Agricole) @ 12:43
9) Carlos Sastre (Team CSC) @ 18:49
10) Francisco Mancebo (iBanesto.com) @ 19:30
Ullrich took a corner too fast, lost the rear end of his bike, and slid across the wet road into haybales.
Afterward, Ullrich has been taking it easy, and repeatedly gesturing for his team car to back off, rather than trailing him so closely.
If Tyler Hamilton keeps up his pace, he'll be in 4th place tonight.
LeMond's record time trial
A lot of people are talking about the possibility that today's time trial might break the record for fastest Tour time trial.
Greg LeMond set the record, 54.54 km/h, back in 1989.
What most people aren't mentioning is that LeMond set the record in a 24.5-km time trial, where Armstrong and Ullrich are racing twice that distance today.
If one of them sets that record today, they've earned it.
German cyclist Uwe Peschel broke a rib on Saturday during the 19th stage of the Tour de France as he raced in the individual time-trial.
The Gerolsteiner team rider fell twice during the 49km from Pornic which was run in torrential rain.
I wouldn't be surprised to see the Tour come down to a crash in Nantes. I hope it doesn't.
At this point, Armstrong and Ullrich are very nearly stroke for stroke, with Ullrich just past the first checkpoint.
David Millar, above, set the best time among the early riders. Sherwen and Liggett reported that Millar, who crashed in Nantes, felt that the conditions over the last 15 kms were too dangerous to ride, and that race officials should neutralize the race over that section.
BBC Sport will update the gallery linked above as the stage continues.
cyclingnews.com completes their series of profiles on the Tour's 5-time winners with a look at Miguel Indurain, currently the only rider to have won 5 consecutive Tours.
Tour Today: Pornic - Nantes time trial
This is it. "You put down your rock, and I put down my sword, and we face each other, man against man, as God intended."
Looks like the weather will be rainy and windy, with some forecasts of 70-km/h gusts. Lance Armstrong takes off three minutes after Jan Ullrich, around 10 a.m. Eastern, and they should both cover the 49 kms in about an hour.
This one is for all the marbles. Armstrong would like to win the stage, stamp his mark on this Tour, and get to take it easy on Sunday. Ullrich would like to ride in yellow on Sunday. One of them is going to be mighty unhappy tonight.
Also keep an eye on Tyler Hamilton, who has a chance to move up from 6th to 4th in the overall classification.
Today's stage and Sunday's both count toward the 100,000-euro Centenaire competition, currently led by Baden Cooke. The winner will be the rider with the best average finish in the six cities that were on the 1903 Tour.
Lance Armstrong Robbie McEwen Richard Virenque Denis Menchov
Samuel Abt offers his Stage 19 time trial preview:
Referring to the race against the clock on Saturday, he said: "I'm tranquil, I'm confident. In my head, I'm calm." Armstrong was second to Ullrich in the Tour's first long individual time trial, a 29-mile race on July 18. Ullrich won that day by 1:36.
Armstrong has handily won the last time trial of the Tour in each of his victories; twice Ullrich was the runner-up, in 2000 and 2001. But Armstrong had a much larger lead — never less than five minutes — going into the final time trial the past four years.
I hate to see this one end, but I so want to know how it's going to turn out....
Over at VeloNews, John Wilcockson offers a look at the battle royal later today.
The Tour is up for grabs. And to add to the drama, a storm is blowing in off of the Atlantic.
Just in time for the battle between Lance Armstrong and Jan Ullrich in their stage 19 duel on Saturday. It will take place in conditions that Méteo France is predicting will be wet and windy.
At the 4 p.m. start times of the American and German (they will be separated on the road by three minutes), the forecast calls for heavy rain, tail winds averaging 15 mph with gusts up to 45 mph. The only good news is that the rain might let up before they finish.
Wilcockson notes that Greg LeMond still holds the record for fastest Tour time trial at 54.545 kph (33.892 mph). Armstrong has already said he thinks it will take a pace close to the Tour record to win the stage.
Ullrich has revealed that he intends to push a 56 (!) x 11 across much of the race course.
But the duel between the top two is the story. Ullrich has to make up 65 seconds on Armstrong, and his Bianchi team is sure he can do it. They argue that the German beat Armstrong by 1:36 in the stage 12 time trial, but that was in heat-wave conditions that cause Armstrong to dehydrate.
Armstrong rides well in the rain though, and he has the motivation to defeat his opponent. Perhaps by as much as a second a kilometer, to take his fifth consecutive Tour victory.
Times Online has a good profile on Jan Ullrich, and what an amazing comeback he's made to be back at this level of competition.
This afternoon, however, ten million Germans are expected to tune into television coverage of Ullrich’s effort to reverse his narrow deficit on Armstrong in the most gripping finale to the Tour in memory. The fact that Ullrich, 29, is racing at all is unexpected, but a decisive victory over the American, who has won all the final time-trials in his four-year reign, would be unforgettable.
Twelve months ago, Ullrich’s career was in freefall. Scorned by Telekom, his sponsor, and deserted by the German public after years of excuses for poor performances, the final humiliation came early in July. As Armstrong left Luxembourg en route for a fourth successive Tour win, Ullrich faced the press in Frankfurt and hesitatingly tried to explain how he had found himself in a nightclub taking Ecstasy.