July 22, 2004
Bobkeism of the day
Credit my wife, who noticed Bob Roll commenting that Armstrong's performance "leaves us out of expletives."
Rock on, Bobke.
Six and out for Armstrong?
In a story that will also appear in tomorrow's New York Times, Samuel Abt quotes an unnamed Tour official that Lance Armstrong will NOT return to the Tour de France next year.
If he wins for a record sixth consecutive time, as seems certain, Armstrong will not return next year, the official said, but will focus instead on at least one of the two other big Tours, the Giro d'Italia in May and the Vuelta a España in September, plus many one-day classics.
Armstrong's camp says that's not so. Bill Stapleton, whose Tailwind Sports owns the Postal team, says next year hasn't even been discussed.
"It would be definitely incorrect to say he won't be back next year," he insisted.
Dan Osipow of Tailwind provides a few details on the new Discovery Channel sponsorship:
Osipow added that, under the new sponsorship by Discovery Channel next year, the team was obligated to ride in the Tour de France, although he was unsure whether Armstrong was.
The unnamed Tour official said Armstrong didn't want to seek a 7th Tour win, "out of respect for the four other riders who have won five times," and that he plans to participate more fully in the UCI's Pro Tour.
Armstrong didn't comment for the story, while Johan Bruyneel confirmed only that Armstrong would race next year: "A lot of things can change," Bruyneel told Abt.
Spectator dies on Alpe d'Huez
The body of a 64-year-old Tour de France spectator was found Thursday by the roadside leading up to the L'Alpe d'Huez ski station, police officials said.
The man appeared to have fallen about 130 feet to his death during Wednesday's 16th stage of the Tour, when hundreds of thousands of fans packed a winding Alpine route during a time trial.
Tyler Hamilton offers probably his longest diary entry ever, on the death of his dog Tugboat during this year's Tour. It's worth reading in full, both for the quick recap of Hamilton's life, and the insight into how close his relationship with Tugboat was. A short excerpt:
He was a truly special dog, who supported me through thick and thin and was by my side all through the 2003 Tour. He knew I was hurting and he comforted and protected me in a way that was nearly human.
My wife and I spoke that night, and decided that Tugs had one last road trip in him. I needed to say good-bye and thank you to my trusty companion face to face. Haven brought Tugboat home Monday night and set out for Limoges, France, the next morning. Tugs made the final journey in good form. He was heavily sedated, so he never walked again, but he was alert enough to know he was with the two people who cherished him the most.
Tugs and I slept side by side that night. Ironically, one year after he had done so for me, I was comforting him at the Tour de France. Before the start of stage 10, I said my good-byes.
At the end, Haven tucked my jersey from stage 9 under one of Tugs's legs and his last Credit Lyonnais Lion under the other. He was a bike racer's dog from start to finish.
Hamilton would abandon during Stage 13 to La Mongie.
Leipheimer diary updated
Subtitled, "Rest day and stages 97 and 98 and 99"!
Leipheimer made his presence known today, and has moved Top 10 in the GC.
I made it into the small group of six in the end. Floyd was unbelievable to say the least. I couldn't believe it but he dropped me with three kilometers to go on the final climb. He was riding such a fast tempo on the front for Lance. Then he had to wait for everyone on the descent. It was crazy how strong he was today. I was able to recover some on the descent in order to sprint across the line. I moved up one spot in the GC which is encouraging. Now I'm in ninth and Paris is around the corner. I have two more opportunities before the final ride into Paris. I'm ready and I hope my legs are on the same page.
Rumors have him rejoining US Postal next year, but you have to wonder in what role? With the new Pro Tour, Postal will need more team leaders than before, since they'll need to compete in all the national tours, but it's hard to imagine Armstrong skipping the Tour with a new sponsor on his chest.
I can't link to it, but check out Leipheimer's rider page at the official Tour page. They've got him abandoning after the first stage, with a picture that looks remarkably like Alessandro Petacchi -- Levi hasn't had that much hair in years.
Graham Watson Stage 17 photo gallery
Virenque to set KoM record with 7th title
By going to the front early today, and leading the race over several climbs, Richard Virenque has ensured that, if he makes it to the Champs-Elysees, he'll win an all-time record 7th polka-dot jersey.
"That jersey means a lot to me. My first was in 1994 and it's ten years ago already. It's been ten years and I'm still around. I won a stage again, like I did last year and the year before."
"I rode in the [Miguel] Indurain era and now in the Armstrong era. When I saw Armstrong win the Tour the way he started winning it, I knew my chances of overall victory had gone."
"I reverted to that polka-dot jersey which is a great satisfaction and it suits me just fine."
"I don't know if I'll do this again next year. The more the years go by, the more difficult it gets. I'm getting old. We'll see."
Virenque's other 6 wins came in 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1999, and 2003.
BBC Sport Stage 17 photo gallery
Armstrong dedicates stage to Landis
Armstrong had nothing but praise for Landis, who really put on a show today, and is rumored to be in discussions to leave US Postal and head his own team next season:
No gifts - though perhaps a hint of regret as he dedicated the win to Landis, whom he called "the man of the day."
"I hoped he could ride a fast descent and win the stage. But it did not happen," Armstrong said. "Floyd seems to be getting better and better every day. Today was his best day ever. That's why I really wanted him to win the stage, I think he wanted it and needed it.
"For me he deserved to win, and for that matter I should dedicate this win to him."
Full results are over at RoadCycling.com.
Quote of the day
From the official Tour site:
Lance Armstrong to Floyd Landis, as they crested the day's last climb, with 8 miles to ride:
“How bad do you want to win a stage of the Tour de France?”
“Real bad,” came Floyd’s reply.
“How fast can you go down a hill?”
“So,” concluded Armstrong, “run like you stole something!”
Armstrong his 4th win; mark this one over
An incredible finish, as the hard climbs eliminated all but the contenders, and they had to shoot it out on the run-in to the finish.
Landis was the 1st to go, but the T-Mobiles saw a chance to gain on Basso, and pounced with 1 km to go. At 500 meters, Klöden sprinted for the line, but Armstrong was too strong, as he has been for the entire field, and took him at the line.
4) Basso at :01
5) Landis at :13
6) Merckx at 1:01
7) Leipheimer at 1:01
8) Sastre at 1:02
9) Rasmussen at 1:02
10) Totschnig at 1:02
11) Azevedo at 1:02
2) Basso at 4:09
3) Kloden at 5:11
4) Ullrich at 8:08
5) Azevedo at 10:41
Thomas Voeckler, at 21:12 back, has 45 seconds on Vladimir Karpets in the white jersey competition.
Based on the strong finish by Azevedo, Landis, and Armstrong, US Postal is now 2nd in the team competition to T-Mobile, who took over the lead from CSC, now 3rd, after yesterday's time trial.
There's also a new lanterne rouge, as Jimmy Casper of Cofidis now trails Armstrong by 3:43:48, slipping behind Credit Agricole's Sébastian Joly, who is 3:42:24 back. That's a closer race than for the race lead...
The selfish patron: Armstrong yet again!
Lance Armstrong chased down a late-stage attack by Andreas Klöden to take Stage 17; more soon.
Update: To everyone who doesn't like the headline, it was intended to convey Armstrong's dominance of this race; it seems like he's not even leaving crumbs for the other riders. Pretty much like Petacchi's Giro d'Italia run this year.
The very idea of a race "patron" is one rooted in noblesse oblige: The patron is a sort of an overlord with obligations (to those weaker than himself) that come along with the position. In the same way that Merckx was branded a "cannibal" for essentially eating his opponents alive, we've seen an Armstrong that just won't play defense: they're all mine.
To many of us, it's great to see Armstrong playing it a little more passionate, and less calculating.
Stage 17 on last climb of day
Sastre attacked and brought in the early leaders, but has been reabsorbed.
Ullrich, Klöden, Leipheimer, Armstrong, Landis, Azevedo, Basso, Pereiro, Totschnig, Rasmussen, Karpets and Merckx were the early leaders.
Klöden and Leipheimer started to fall off, with 3 km to the summit. Klöden faught back on, but Leipheimer is dropped. Floyd Landis is still driving the train at full steam.
Down to Armstrong, Landis, Ullrich, Kloden, Basso, and Sastre in the lead. Sastre falls off, leaving the 4 top riders in the Tour, and Floyd Landis, the world's fastest Mennonite.
Over the top, it's Landis 1st -- Now Floyd goes on the attack, in search of a going-away present from the US Postal team.
After the last summit, there's a 13-km descent to the finish.
Stage 17 underway
Gilberto Simoni (Saeco), Ludovic Martin (RAGT), Filippo Simeoni (Domina Vacanze), Michele Bartoli (CSC), and Rolf Aldag (T-Mobile) went off the front almost immediately today.
They were the first 5 over the Col du Glandon, with Simoni taking max points, AG2R's Mikel Astarloza taking 6th place in no man's land between the leaders and peloton, and Richard Virenque defending the polka-dots and taking 7th at the front of the peloton. His teammate, Paolo Bettini, denied 8th-place points to any of Virenque's competitors.
Heading up the 2nd big climb of the day, the Tour's highest, Richard Virenque and Christophe Moreau bridged up to the leaders on the climb to the highest point on the 2004 Tour
When Moreau couldn't close the gap fast enough, Virenque rode at an incredible pace to close down the four leaders, and sat on Simoni's wheel, looking for the summit points. As they approached the summit, the pace increased, until Simoni and Virenque were sprinting it out for the points at the top of the Col de la Madeleine! Simoni pipped Virenque, and took 5,000 euros in the process.
On the Col de Tamie:
On the Col de la Forclaz:
With that, Virenque has pretty much sewn up a record 7th King of the Mountains title.
Virenque, Simoni, and Moreau are about 2 minutes ahead of Armstrong's group. They've crossed through the 2nd intermediate sprint, to the relief of Robbie McEwen, whose rivals won't get any points there.
Armstrong's group is growing: a few riders, including Michael Rogers and Thomas Voeckler have chased back in. Armstrong has Rubiera, Hincapie, Landis and Azevedo; Basso has Sastre and Julich; and Ullrich has Guerini, Klöden, Aldag, and Ivanov. Levi Leipheimer and Mikael Rasmussen are in there, and about 8-10 others.
Bartoli has abandoned just before the feedzone.
The autobus is the group of riders seeking to avoid elimination, and it's formed very early this morning, including early yellow jersey Thor Hushovd, Matthew Wilson, Jimmy Casper, Jean-Patrick Nazon, Frederick Finot, Salvatore Commesso, Filippo Pozzato, Robbie McEwen, Tom Boonen, and Laurent Brochard.
Janeck Tombak of Cofidis abandoned on the road this morning, after cutting his fingers in his rear spokes while trying to adjust his bike's yellow timing sensor.
Heras drops out before Stage 17
Liberty Seguros leader Roberto Heras, who many saw as a race favorite with the preponderance of climbs in the last week of the Tour, didn't take the sign-in this morning.
"We haven't been able to get him back to full fitness," said team chief Manolo Saiz before the stage start.
"We've had to take a decision that isn't to our liking, but we're professionals and life must go on."
Alessandro Bertolini of Alessio-Bianchi also didn't take the sign-in, and Laurent Lefevre of Brioches La Boulangere signed in but didn't start the race.
Stage 17: 204.5 km Bourg d'Oisans to Le Grand Bornand
This should be a day full of fireworks, as it's the last really mountainous stage, and the last real chance to make up big time gaps.
I believe Ivan Basso's grip on 2nd is tenuous, and he could easily fall off the podium if he doesn't put some time into T-Mobile's Andreas Klöden and Jan Ullrich. Remember, Armstrong was looking to put 4 minutes into Ullrich before the long time trial, and Basso currently leads the resurgent Jan by 4:07.
Keep an eye on the other specialist jerseys, as well. Richard Virenque hasn't yet nailed down the King of the Mountains, but didn't lose points to anyone who is likely to compete for it (Armstrong moved up to 2nd in the competition, 40 points behind Virenque).
Robbie McEwen is likely to finish today in the gruppetto, the bunch of riders trying to survive without getting eliminated, so his rivals could gain a few points at the last intermediate sprint of the day.
Thomas Voeckler is in white, but needs to keep an eye on Vladimir Karpets and Sandy Casar. Karpets looks to be a threat to take the white jersey in the last time trial on Saturday.
Starting Stage 17, it's: