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August 24, 2003

Bike.com | German Squad Rings In The Changes For 2004 Season

Among the riders who won't be back for T-Mobile (formerly Telekom) next year is American Bobby Julich, fourth in the 1998 Tour.

Danilo Hondo has already signed with Garolsteiner. Five other riders were also dropped for next year.

Posted by Frank Steele on August 24, 2003 in Tour news | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 20, 2003

KRT Wire | Tour de France is for dopes

Finally they caught one. It has been announced that Pascual Llorente, a sorry Spaniard, was the only cheater who used banned performance-enhancing drugs among all those superhumans who bowed, for the fifth consecutive time, in front of semi-god and king of the Tour de France, cancer survivor Lance Armstrong. Ouf!, as the French say. An oustandingly loud sigh of relief was breathed throughout the ever-growing planet of pedaling humans and adoring fans.

So they are all clean and healthy sportsmen. All of them - Armstrong and his group - who, not so long ago, were engulfed in one doping scandal after another. All of them, that is, except poor Pascual Llorente, a 32-year-old suddenly unworthy rider whose career is drawing to an undignified end.

Supposedly the sole con man among hundreds of riders, he was caught using EPO, a growth hormone that brings more oxygen to your blood, letting you go faster and longer on your two wheels. The only cheater? Really? It took no less than three weeks for the nomenclature of professional bicycle racing to go through the hundreds of tests run throughout the Tour and announce their verdict: one poor Spanish journeyman. …

From a sports column, originally in the Providence Journal, by Jean Liseur.

Now, we are told, the sport has been cleaned up. All the riders run on pure water, sound training, hard work…

So how come they are going so much faster than when they were all cheating?

I think it's fair to believe that many, even most, Tour riders take every legal advantage within the UCI (cycling's international sanctioning body) rules. I don't necessarily agree that a faster Tour means that riders have to be doping, which seems to be Liseur's reasoning.

After all, a decade ago (hell, for Jan Ullrich, 2-3 years ago), it was common for riders to take as much as 3 months off the bike a year. They would gain some weight and lose some fitness, but it was thought that they would come back fresher and more motivated. Today, if you're not motivated all year long, you're off the back.

The widespread use of hyperbaric chambers gives endurance athletes the combined advantages of living at altitude and training at sea level.

And, of course, there are the supplements. Creatine, BetaGen and others have moved from bodybuilding into endurance athletics like cycling.

Add to improved training methods and supplements the greater emphasis on the Tour (compared to the World Cup and classics), and you can see why the average Tour speed is up. Think of all the stages this year that were contested almost from the gun. All of them contribute to the higher overall average speed.

Of course, it's possible that some riders are using drugs. EPO is effective partly because its effects linger after the drug is no longer measurable in an athlete's bloodstream. As a result, the UCI's approach has been focused more on regulating the effects of EPO (by banning riders with a high red blood cell ratio, or hematocrit, for whatever reason) than its use.

Posted by Frank Steele on August 20, 2003 in About the Tour | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

August 17, 2003

BBC SPORT | Virenque extends deal

2003 Tour de France King of the Mountains Richard Virenque signed a one-year contract extension with QuickStep. Virenque, 33, was one of the high points for France during this year's Tour.

"I still don't know if 2004 will be my final season. As long as I stay enthusiastic and in form I'll continue," he vowed.

QuickStep also announced the re-signing of Laurent Dufaux of Switzerland.

Posted by Frank Steele on August 17, 2003 in Tour news | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 16, 2003

Florida Today | Grueling 744-mile event tests cyclist

The quadrennial randonee called Paris-Brest-Paris kicks off tomorrow morning. Like the Tour, it starts and ends in Paris, and is uniquely French, but unlike the Tour, the riders are regular cyclists. They leave Paris in three groups (the 90-hour, 84-hour, and 80-hour groups), and must complete the 1200-km (744-mile) event within the time limit of their group. The clock is ticking from the moment a rider starts, so careful planning of stops, sleeping, and spares is crucial.

I've thought about doing this ride in the past, and think I could do it, but the longest ride I've ever done was 170 miles (and that was Cross Florida, very flat).

Posted by Frank Steele on August 16, 2003 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 12, 2003

VeloNews | Five!

The VeloNews Tour wrap-up edition is available now. This one's a keeper.

Posted by Frank Steele on August 12, 2003 in Tour news | Permalink | Comments (0)

theage.com.au | McGee ailment a mystery

Doctors have been unable to determine the cause of Bradley McGee's problems with the bonk in the late stages of the Tour, and McGee withdrew from the track world championships, where he was defending individual pursuit champion:

"The first round of blood tests has not revealed too much information," McGee said on his official website. "But we are all confident we will find the problem . . . The next step is likely to be a personal visit from my doctor's (sic) on a training ride. "My doctor . . . will actually come out on a training ride with me and wait until this 'thing' happens and then bingo! The testing begins."

Posted by Frank Steele on August 12, 2003 | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 11, 2003

NYTimes.com | Stopping for Spill Draws the Second-Guessers to Ullrich

Still more August-morning quarterbacking of the "did-he-or-didn't-he" variety regarding Jan Ullrich's pause after Armstrong's fall in Stage 15, in Sunday's New York Times.

Having watched the footage, Armstrong now claims Ullrich didn't really wait after the fall, at least before Hamilton rode to the front:

"If you look at the minute before that, or the half minute, I saw Ullrich on the front — in his normal position, with his normal face, going," Armstrong said. "That's what I saw," he added, shrugging.

The author suggests that Ullrich threw away the Tour by waiting, and a few commentators he talked to agreed, but I told my wife the night of Stage 15, when we watched the fall for the second time, that it didn't look like Ullrich was soft-pedaling. Certainly José Luis Rubiera was doing some serious work to pull Armstrong back, and Lance didn't take long getting back onto his bike.

I think Paul Sherwen is onto something, when he says:

"Ullrich might have been thinking about getting a breather," Sherwen said, who added that he believes Ullrich did wait and had a responsibility to do so.

I still disagree that Ullrich waited (at least before Hamilton came forward, at which time Armstrong was on, or nearly on, the back of the leading group).

Interestingly, the article mentions Pantani waiting for Ullrich in 1998, but doesn't mention Armstrong waiting for him in 2001. It also points out that nobody waited for Beloki after his crash, but that's different for a couple of reasons: Beloki was pretty obviously going to need medical attention, and Alexandre Vinokourov, a serious GC threat, was away in a breakaway with a good chance to make up time (as, in fact, he did).

Posted by Frank Steele on August 11, 2003 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 04, 2003

BBC Sport | ONCE withdraw sponsorship

The sponsor for the current team of Joseba Beloki, the Gonzalez Galdeanos, Jorg Jaksche and José Azevedo, and former team of Alex Zulle and Laurent Jalabert, will exit cycling after this season, after 15 years sponsoring a team.

"It's the end of an era," admitted ONCE communications director Fernando Mendi.

"We've been providing sponsorship for 15 years and 98% of Spaniards recognise the ONCE brand."

The organisation will continue to support grassroots ventures in the run-up to the 2004 Paralympic Games in Athens, which Mendi said were "closer to the organisation's social aims."

Saiz will now have to seek other sponsors. Supermarket chain Eroski have said they would continue, but only in partnership with a larger backer and not as the main sponsor.

Posted by Frank Steele on August 4, 2003 in Tour news | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Mirror.co.uk | TOP CYCLIST'S STRUGGLE TO SAVE MARRIAGE

In their typical understated way, the British newspaper the Daily Mirror talks about Lance Armstrong's marriage problems, claiming Armstrong's break after the Tour is at least partially to mend fences with Kristin.

The couple reunited in April but now, with the season almost over, they will take the first tentative steps to rebuild their relationship at their flat in Gerona, in northern Spain. Kristin, 31, says: "We're going to take the month of August and play, spend some time alone. Have some fun. I think it's going to be OK."

Her only fear is that it may be impossible to rediscover the love they had when they first met and Armstrong had yet to receive the all-clear from the testicular cancer that spread to his brain.

Posted by Frank Steele on August 4, 2003 in Rider profiles | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 03, 2003

About TdF 2003's enabling tech

If you've followed the site, thanks!

One of the reasons I started TdF 2003 was to try out the new hosted service from MovableType, called TypePad. If you're curious about weblogs, you may be interested in a fairly quick review I've posted over at my regular weblog.

Posted by Frank Steele on August 3, 2003 in About the site | Permalink | Comments (1)