July 23, 2004
Armstrong gets new bike, and all the frosting he can eat
Lance will get a new bike for the last day. It’s a TREK, but it has gold leaf wrapped around the down tube and seat tube. It’s says “Livestrong.” The gold and black colors really make the bike stand out and it will be interesting to see what the rest of the team will get.
Tour of Britain teams finalized
The first Tour of Britain runs September 1-5. Signed up to race:
Along with national squads for Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and Great Britain.
Armstrong: frosting by the fistful?
From the home office in Wahoo, Nebraska:
Top Ten Signs Lance Armstrong Is Getting Cocky
10. Race starts at 9, Lance rolls out of bed around noon.
9. Has already figured out that the trophy can hold a 3-gallon margarita.
8. He eats frosting by the fistful.
7. For the last leg, he rode one of those crazy 1920s bikes with the big front wheel.
6. Deliberately crashing into things to get more air time on SportsCenter.
5. Making a couple extra bucks delivering pizzas during the race.
4. After the starter pistol is fired, he hangs around hitting on French babes.
3. Turns to the other riders and says, "Oooh, I'm sooooo scared."
2. Instead of training, spent last 2 months pimping his bike.
1. Has started selling ad space on his ass.
Spotted at VeloNews.
Does OLN's coverage earn a maillot jaune?
NPR's Morning Edition talks to New York Times sports columnist Richard Sandomir about OLN's Tour coverage and its audience.
Graham Watson Stage 18 photo gallery
Armstrong and Simeoni chat about getting Simeoni one of those yellow wristbands everybody's wearing.
Armstrong leaves doors open to ride, not ride 2005 Tour
In favor of Armstrong going for a 7th win:
"I'm not saying I won't do it again," added the 32-year-old who has previously declared that he thought he would end his career after a Sixth Tour win.
"On the other hand, it is fair to say there are still a lot of things I still want to do in cycling like the classics and the hour record and other things that would require a different kind of focus."
"However, I also understand I have a new sponsor and that the Tour de France is the biggest race in the world so I have to discuss it with them.
And it sounds like Johan Bruyneel's vote is clear:
"We haven't yet discussed our program for next season but one thing is sure, he will ride next season and it would be very difficult for Lance to motivate himself without the Tour de France," the Belgian said on French television.
Of course, whether it's next season or 5 years from now, at some point, Armstrong will step aside. I wonder if he's thinking about riding the 2005 Tour in support of a new team leader, while focusing on perhaps the Giro and the hour. He would make one hell of a domestique.
"He is doubtless the greatest rider ever in the Tour de France. He is proving that," said Patrice Clerc, president of the Tour. "Now does he want a seventh, or an eighth? I have no idea."
Armstrong's team still officially says Armstrong's schedule won't be decided until December. Dan Osipow at Tailwind Sports, which owns the Postal squad:
"To say he's out right now is way too speculative. He is going to race a full season, we just can't say what events they will be," he said.
"He's clearly insatiable. This race means more to him than anything (else) in sport," Osipow added."
For his part, Armstrong says he's definitely coming back:
"I would do it. I'm not saying I'd never do it again," he said after Friday's 18th stage. "I'll do it again before I stop. It's a special race. It's everything. You can't have this intensity in any other event."
Vande Velde: I am beat now
Christian Vande Velde gets my vote for the most entertaining race diarist (2nd to Gilberto Simoni's adventures in Itanglish for Bicycling).
He gives a great idea of what it's like to be one of the guys in the peloton, and man he's ready to get out of the Alps.
Lance and the Postal crew hit the race with their usual wrecking ball again and left the field in rubble behind. I looked up at the bottom of the Forclaz, they had nine guys up there! We had two: Igor and me. Roberto went home this morning, as he hasn't really been feeling himself in the mountains.
He also offers a look at one member of US Postal who has seemed nearly invisible: Pavel Padrnos. Looks like Padrnos is doing yeoman's work during the early, pre-television sections of the stage:
U.S. Postal's Pavel Padrnos, or "the Butcher" as Robbie Ventura nicknamed him pulled the entire way up the Madeleine. It was quite impressive. He is a great climber as well as being a machine on the flats. He is probably the strongest guy in the peloton to win the fewest races. He looks intimidating but he's actually a mellow and easygoing guy.
Mercado gets the stage win
He was joined by Garcia-Acosta, and the pair worked well together to open a gap that reached 30 seconds before the chasing quartet began to make headway into that lead.
But they held an advantage to the finishing line where Mercado jumped off his rivals wheel to take a memorable first victory in the race, with Fofonov leading the rest of the breakway home 11 seconds down.
The BBC gallery has a picture of Armstrong riding with Simeoni, and another of him just in front of the T-Mobile led peloton.
Armstrong's message was apparently to both the breakaway: "Don't work with this guy," and to Simeoni: "Any break you get in is a doomed break."
Mercado takes Stage 18
Juan Miguel Mercado of Quick Step launched from a 6-man breakaway with a few kilometers to go, then sprinted by Vincente Garcia-Acosta for the stage win. Garcia-Acosta was second, while Cofidis rider Dmitry Fofonov led in 4 chasers.
Sandy Casar made an attack late in the stage to try to move up in the white jersey, but Illes Balear-Banesto shut it down in support of Vladimir Karpets.
An incredible field sprint today goes to Credit Agricole's Thor Hushovd, then green jersey Robbie McEwen.
1) Juan Miguel Mercado (Quick Step)
2) Vincente Garcia-Acosta (Illes Balears-Banesto)
3) Dmitri Fofonov (Cofidis) at :11
4) Sebastian Joly (Credit Agricole) same time
5) Marc Lotz (Rabobank) s.t.
6) Juan Antonio Flecha (Fassa Bortolo) s.t.
7) Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole) at 11:29
8) Robbie McEwen (Lotto-Domo) same time
9) Danilo Hondo (Gerolsteiner) s.t.
10) Stuart O'Grady (Cofidis) s.t.
McEwen hasn't quite locked up the maillot vert, but only Hushovd moved any closer.
1) McEwen 238
2) Hushovd 227
3) Erik Zabel (T-Mobile) 221
4) O'Grady 215
5) Hondo 201
The only points still available are on Sunday at 2 intermediate sprints and the finish line.
Complete results are available over at RoadCycling.com.
Stage 18 underway
No big surprises today, as a break of 6 men is 11 minutes ahead of the peloton with less than 20 kilometers/12 miles to race. Nobody in the break is a real threat, and it looks like they'll stay away.
Juan Miguel Mercado (Quick Step)
Vincente Garcia-Acosta (Illes Balears-Banesto)
Dmitriy Fofonov (Cofidis)
Marc Lotz (Rabobank)
Sebastian Joly (Credit Agricole)
Juan Antonio Flecha (Fassa Bortolo)
Flecha and Garcia-Acosta have won stages in the past (Flecha's last year). Joly was the last-placed rider for much of the race, and is 2nd-to-last now; if the move survives, he'll move out of contention for the lanterne rouge.
Joly makes a quick attack, is brought back, and Mercado goes for it; Fofonov, then Garcia-Acosta went after him. Only Garcia-Acosta gets across, and he and Mercado are a few seonds ahead. Joly fell off the back, then caught back up, so Fofonov, Flecha, Lotz, and Joly are chasing Mercado and Garcia-Acosta, who have about 25 seconds in hand.
Fofonov is falling off the chasers, who are 17 seconds behind with 1 kilometer to ride. Garcia-Acosta leads Mercado with 500 meters, Juan Miguel Mercado starts the sprint, and he holds off Garcia-Acosta at the line!
Fofonov 3rd, Joly 4th.
Back with the field, Sandy Casar is on the attack, with about 10 kms to ride, looking to move up in the white jersey, where he's 3rd behind Voeckler and Vladimir Karpets.
Lance Armstrong went on a little sight-seeing expedition this morning, when Filippo Simeoni, the rider who has said he will sue Armstrong for defamation, tried to bridge to the leaders. Armstrong went with him and the two rode across to the lead group, which then was only about 2 minutes ahead of the peloton. Once they caught the leaders, the two rode along briefly, then sat up and dropped back to the field.
Phonak's Nicolas Jalabert was in the break when it got away, but has fallen back through the field and is suffering at the rear of the peloton now.
Apparently, yesterday's abandon by Michele Bartoli of CSC was a little more colorful than reported. Bartoli, who will ride for Italy in the Olympics, got in the early break, but Bjarne Riis ordered him to come back to help protect Ivan Basso. Bartoli came back, but was so displeased he abandoned, and threw his bike in a ditch at the feed zone! As Liggett said, "Looks like he won't be back with CSC next year."
Stage 18: 166.5 km Annemasse to Lons-le-Saunier
The Tour works its way out of the high Alps, with the last significant climbs of the Tour.
There's a single 2nd Category climb, two 3rd Category, and two 4th category. It's the kind of stage that's friendly to breakaways. Intermediate sprint points are available at 43.5 km and 144 km on the stage.
Starting Stage 18, it's:
Armstrong and Virenque are seemingly locked in to their jerseys. Robbie McEwen could see a challenge today, if one of the stronger general riders who sprint (Zabel, O'Grady) could get on the front side of a split field.
Thomas Voeckler has got to feel like there's a big target right in the middle of the young riders' white jersey. He leads by 45 seconds over Vladimir Karpets, but it looks likely Voeckler will lose it in the time trial tomorrow.
Beloki signs with Saunier-Duval
Joseba Beloki will be back on the road in August, after reaching agreement with Spain's Saunier Duval team. The deal covers the rest of 2004 and 2005.
Look for Beloki in the Vuelta a España later this season.
More on Armstrong's last Tour rumors
This morning's editions of the New York Times and International Herald Tribune carry a story by Samuel Abt quoting an unnamed Tour official that Lance Armstrong won't ride next year's Tour.
Apparently, on Thursday, Armstrong said:
"At some point, I have to start to look at other races in cycling. There's still a lot of things I want to do in the sport," the 32-year-old said.
On Friday, after the story broke, US Postal spokesman Jogi Muller said:
"It's 50-50. There's a chance he won't come back. There is no decision yet."
"He will definitely race next year. He just needs to decide which races."
Diana Nyad on Lance Armstrong
An accomplished endurance athlete herself, Diana Nyad talked about Lance Armstrong and his TT performance on Alpe d'Huez during her Thursday KCRW edition of The Score:
Much has been written about the need for a great champion to have at least one worthy rival. Well, Lance Armstrong has none. There will be no guessing, betting, analyzing who might come into Paris wearing the signature maillot jaune. You might admire Lance for his courage in the face of multiple cancers. You might not like him for leaving his wife for Sheryl Crowe. You might suspect him of taking illegal performance drugs. All I know is I forgot any other opinions I have had about Lance Armstrong yesterday. Watching him clearly dominate both the talented field and the formidable L’Alpe d’Huez threw me into a new gear of appreciation. This man is not only the king of the climbs. He’s the king, period.
The ubiquitous wristband
How hot are they?
Niketown in Denver can barely keep them in stock. At 69 Foley's stores, they're selling "steadily," spokeswoman Priscilla Tinsley says, and the parent company for the five Bicycle Village stores in Colorado has ordered them in lots of 1,000 to keep its locations supplied.
"I way underestimated how many we would need," says Jon Jeunette, division merchandise manager for Specialty Sports, which owns Bicycle Village. "I originally ordered 100 for two stores and they were gone in five minutes. Then I ordered 500; then 1,000. We're supposed to get more tomorrow."
Apparently, 2 million of the wristbands have been sold ONLINE alone since they went on sale May 17th.
BBC Sport offers a paean to the Postals, who look almost certain to finish 9-strong with yellow on their captain on Sunday.
They've made the rest of the field look sluggish by pushing the pace from hard, up to harder, then all the way past hardest. Not even the strongest guys in the peloton think they can put any serious time into the Blue Train this year.
Armstrong was given an armchair ride by trusted lieutenants over succesive climbs.
Over the tortuous Col de la Madeleine, at 2,000m the highest peak in the race, Pavel Padrnos hit the pedals in a relentless routine at the front.
George Hincapie, who has ridden with Armstrong in each of his Tour victories, took his turn to set the tempo on the the day's shortest, but steepest slope, the Col de la Forclaz.
Jose Azevedo, who has been by Armstrong's side on all the Tour's long drags, was never far away, but when he fell off the pace on the Col de la Croix Fry, Jan Ullrich and co must have sensed an opportunity to pounce.
The only problem was that Azevedo fell off the pace that was being set by Floyd Landis, a "Postie" who prefers to leave climbing to Azevedo, Manuel Beltran or Jose Luis Rubiera.
But there he was, setting a tempo that reduced the field to five - a feat even Armstrong admitted he has rarely seen. He stayed with his leader until the bitter and brilliant end.
And as the US Postal team comes to its bitter and brilliant end, let's lift a few to the Blue Train.
If Bruyneel and Armstrong can keep most of these guys together, we can probably lift a few again next year, to the new Discovery Channel squad.
Tip for the other teams: Here's the strategy to finally beat them: Somebody's got to bring a team (not 2-3 guys, but a top-to-bottom team) that can ride US Postal right off their wheels.