July 28, 2004
Samuel Abt's Tour roundup
Samuel Abt offers his wrapup, focusing on Armstrong's preparations for the Tour.
Abt also offers an explanation for the disappearance of Armstrong's rainbow cuffs this year:
Just before his 22nd birthday in 1993, Armstrong won the world championship road race in Oslo. That gave him, like all world champions, the right in perpetuity to wear rainbow stripes on the short sleeves of his team jersey.
Wear them he did, until this year, when that badge of honor was replaced by two red stripes sandwiching a white one. Everybody on the team wore those stripes, which signify nothing.
Asked about this, Armstrong explained that the rainbow stripes clashed with the new ones. He implied that he had dropped the rainbow stripes as a fashion statement. Put another way, he no longer needed to remind other riders or spectators that he had been a world champion. That was the past.
In the present, he was riding for a sixth victory in the Tour de France, now achieved. He was saying, perhaps unconsciously, that there are many former world champions, but only one man on his way to a Tour record, and that is how he wanted to be perceived.
That finish line story? Puh-leeze....
The entire US press seems to be piling on to this story, suggesting that OLN blundered on the last day by not showing Armstrong cross the finish line during its live broadcast.
I've seen several comments that fall into the "typical French anti-Americanism" mold, but I think it's a lot simpler than that: There was a race going on, and Armstrong wasn't in it.
For the live coverage, OLN was given a TdF feed provided by French TV, which was focused on the action in the day's stage (and there was a surprising amount of that). In the tape-delayed broadcasts, OLN was able to supplement that footage with its own, and showed Armstrong's finish.
The sting of OLN's delayed finish was lessened somewhat when OLN executives learned Tuesday that Sunday's conclusion provided the nine-year-old network with its highest ratings ever. Three times during the race, OLN broke viewership records, according to Nielsen Media Research.
OLN was watched by 1.37 million viewers during the race's final stage, Nielsen said. On a typical day this year, the Outdoor Life Network is watched by an average of 56,580 viewers -- barely enough to fill a baseball stadium. The network is available in 60 million homes, a little more than half the country.
What will OLN do if Armstrong skips the 2005 Tour, or when he eventually retires?
Harvey says he doesn't necessarily wake up in a cold sweat thinking of future tours with Armstrong on the sidelines.
"We are the home of professional cycling on television," he said. "We love the fact that Lance has brought so many eyeballs and attention to the sport of cycling. But it's not just Lance."
OLN made a conscious effort this year to highlight some of the other American riders and explain the sport to viewers, he said.
"We're prepared" for a tour without Armstrong, he said. "We know the day is going to come."
Crazy Jane offers up her summary of the 2004 Tour, with special attention to all the, um, beautiful young riders in their, um, tight lycra.
One rider who gets a well-deserved callout is Jan Ullrich:
Andreas Klöden rode brilliantly while Jan struggled in the Pyrenees, and the deficit was too great for Ullrich to pull back, but on the podium you'd never know he's suffered any disappointment. Smiling broadly, his arm around Klöden, he looked as beautiful and angular as ever, with his long legs and freckles, and just as bright as the sunny weather in Paris. Jan fought like the Champion he is in that last week, digging as deep as he ever has for the best he has in him. He finished where he finished, and had the class to offer Armstrong the old Chapeau, saying that he has "great respect" for the way his rival rides this race. Jan Ullrich is a gentleman, an incredible athlete, and on top of all that, he's looking delicieux. And, for the record? Good Lord, how I love Le Tour!
July 27, 2004
Simeoni to laugh last?
Apparently, investigators want to determine whether Armstrong's on-the-road attacks to keep Simeoni out of an attack rise to the level of intimidating a witness.
The investigators grilled Simeoni for three hours about what happened when Armstrong chased down an early attack by the Italian on the 18th stage of the Tour earlier this month.
Investigators are considering whether to open legal proceedings against Armstrong for sporting fraud, violence, and intimidation of a witness.
Particularly damning, it would seem, was Armstrong's "zip the lips" gesture.
Daily Peloton offers an indepth look at Simeoni, his involvement with Michele Ferrari, and the lawsuit against Lance Armstrong. Careful -- you might wind up liking him.
More on Armstrong's Giro plans
Italian organizers are encouraging Lance Armstrong to race in the 2005 Giro d'Italia.
“To give more weight to his career, Armstrong absolutely must ride the Giro, also for the affection he has for Italy,” said Franco Ballerini, a former professional rider and current coach of the Italian national team.
Armstrong has never raced the Giro, because its scheduling, in late May and early June, makes it difficult to reach a fitness peak that includes the Giro and the Tour. Riders who compete in both, like Gilberto Simoni, often have very weak Tours de France.
Interestingly, following the Simeoni business at the Tour, not all Italians are so enthusiastic. The Globe and Mail quotes Claudio Chiapucchi, who finished on the Tour podium 3 times:
Chiapucci said Armstrong “behaved liked a baby” with Simeoni.
“The Texan leaves me indifferent and it would be that way also on the streets of the Giro d'Italia,” said El Diablo — the devil — as Chiapucci was known in his competitive days.
Italian cycling president Gian Carlo Ceruti also denounced Armstrong's treatment of Simeoni as “unsportsmanlike.”
However, 1984 Giro winner Francesco Moser said having Armstrong at the Giro “wouldn't be bad, especially since he lived in Italy when he rode for Motorola and he had a great friend like Fabio Casartelli,” referring to Armstrong's former team and teammate, who died in a fall at the 1995 Tour.
Alfredo Martini, Italy's national cycling team coach from 1975 to 1997, said Armstrong could ride both the Giro and the Tour.
“A champion like him, with a team as strong as his, could do it easily,” Martini said.
Armstrong has already done some research, riding the Mortirolo in the Italian Alps in May.
US vs. Them: The tiresome conventional wisdom on Armstrong
Susan Daniels checks in with a quick review of international coverage of Lance Armstrong's 6th Tour de France victory. She pulls four stories out of hundreds that she accuses of "sour grapes," explaining that with:
"Maybe it's not national but personal," speculated Alastair Campbell in the London Times. "[A]nti-Armstrongism, anti the fact that he keeps winning their game. They respect him. They admire the way he came back from cancer. They see in him a strong character who has devoted his life to their Tour. But Chirac's France wants French winners and, if it can't have them, other Europeans. But Americans? Non, merci."
I think this whole line, which I've heard repeated a lot over the last 3 weeks, is total, 100% hokum. There are many Americans looking for reasons to be pissed at the French right now, and they'll happily hoot and holler about what a fine stomping Lance Armstrong gave those Frogs, wooooooiiieeee!
As far as I can tell, French attitudes to Armstrong are as complex and nuanced as American fan reactions to baseball stars or other athletes. Nobody hates Roger Clemens because he's from Texas; if they do, it may because of his tantrum with Mike Piazza, or because he swiped a Cy Young from a pitcher they were pulling for.
If a French cycling fan wants to boo Armstrong because they think it's time for new blood in the race, well that's part of sports, and doesn't really mean squat in the geopolitical milieu.
Sally Jenkins online chat
Sally Jenkins was Lance Armstrong's co-author on both books. She's also covered the Tour de France for the Washington Post, where she did an online chat yesterday concerning Armstrong, doping, the future of US Postal, Sheryl Crow, Armstrong's kids, and what he'll do next year; all topics that have come up right here over the last few weeks. Jenkins (unsurprisingly, I guess) has no kind words for Greg LeMond.
Here's an excerpt on doping:
Crofton, Md.: Don't you think that Lance Armstrong's run in the Tour de France is more about his impact upon the sport because he really believes that "every second" does count. It is one heck of a motivator to be told you have the big "C" and your chances to become immortal are really tied to a defining memorable event as opposed to anything else. That is precisely why I do not believe that he uses any drugs - he is afraid of that image being tarnished. Do you agree? - CSP
Sally Jenkins: He once told me, two years out from chemotherapy, how poisoned the cancer and the chemo made him feel, and that he was just starting to feel "clean again." I've never forgotten that, and how seriously he said it. For that reason it's very hard for me to believe he'd put anything dangerous in his body. I've said it before and I'll say it again:
I believe in Lance Armstrong as a man and as an athlete. He beat cancer straight up, fair and square, and I believe he has won six Tours exactly the same way.
Also, I love him as a friend.
LA by AL
Annie Leibovitz did a photo shoot with Lance Armstrong way back in 1999. Above is the result, possibly not work safe though not indecent.
Seen at Fleshbot.
Ullrich will confront Godefroot
T-Mobile team director Walter Godefroot has publicly said what everybody else thinks, that Jan Ullrich lacks the commitment it takes to beat Lance Armstrong.
Ullrich finished fourth in this year's race, prompting Godefroot to say the German "cycled to live", while winner Lance Armstrong "lives for cycling".
Ullrich says he "cannot let that go."
"I will clear up what he has said. If he says it to my face then I will take the appropriate steps."
Hamilton: 'I swear on my wife's life and the grave of my dog' doping story not true
The claim that I, along with another teammate, approached a team doctor and asked him questions about doping products back in 1996 is absolutely false. I swear on my wife's life and the grave of my dog that I never asked that man about anything of the sort. If you know anything about me, you know this is as emphatic as I can be.
Hamilton also references a VeloNews article from 2001 that discusses the same allegations. Ironically, in the same 2001 article, Lance Armstrong's manager Bill Stapleton is asked if Armstrong has any plans to sue David Walsh over allegations that had recently appeared in the Sunday Times.
Hamilton says his recovery is coming along, but complicated by his swelling:
My back is on the mend. I've started riding again which feels good. The heat has been cranked up to high here in Spain, which is just what the doctor ordered. I'm seeing a number of specialists to design a good recovery program. So far the MRIs and X-Rays have been negative for fractures and tears. Damage can be a little difficult to detect when there is as much swelling as I have, so we are keeping a close eye on things, and will do follow up scans next week to confirm what we hope is true.
We'll see if he can recover in time for the August Olympics.
Millar: I'll work to warn young cyclists
David Millar wants to be the canary in the coal mine, helping cycling bodies understand how riders avoid testing positive, and helping young riders avoid pressure to dope.
"I made mistakes and am ready to learn. I'd like to explain the dangers to young riders," he told the Guardian.
"I am someone who can give reasons why cyclists should not take drugs."
TDFBlog.com light posting this week
If you think the Tour is hard on participants, you should see what it does to bloggers!
I'm spending the week recuperating in southwest Florida, which could be paradise if only it had widespread broadband connectivity.
Barring that, posting will likely be light this week. Thanks for all the compliments for the site's Tour coverage.
I'll be back next week, with news about Tour riders prepping for the Olympics, and all the post-Tour hoopla.
July 26, 2004
Looking at Lance Inc.
Bloomberg looks at Armstrong's empire off the bike. He'll make about $16.5 million in endorsements this year, behind only Tiger Woods, Lebron James, and Andre Agassi in the world of sport.
Cyrile Guimard, who was sports director for Bernard Hinault and Greg LeMond, says he's amazed at Armstrong's business success:
“Armstrong is on another planet,” said Cyril Guimard, a former rider and manager who guided Hinault and Greg LeMond to Tour de France wins. “What he's made from a poor man's sport is incredible.”
Former Postal doctor alleges doping interest
Prentice Steffen, a US Postal team doctor in 1997, is alleging that he was sacked for refusing to supply drugs to Tyler Hamilton and Marty Jemison. US Postal maintains that Steffen, an emergency room doctor, "didn't have the expertise to be a cycling team doctor."
"[A]t that time, we were a small team with average ambitions. Everyone was clean. But one day, Marty Jemison and Tyler Hamilton came to ask me whether I could supply them with illegal products. I got the impression that they were speaking for everyone and that they had come to test the waters...To get to the top level, the team leaders were convinced that only doping would allow the team to obtain good results. From there, I understood that the whole mentality was changing."
Lance Armstrong joined the team for the next season, 1998.
July 25, 2004
More photo galleries
FOXSports has more than 100 photos, in galleries on Stage 20, the overall Tour (the source for the photo above - click through for more), and Lance Armstrong with Sheryl Crow.
BBC: Armstrong's career in pictures
Armstrong to race post-Tour criteriums; Voigt stays with CSC
Traditionally, Tour riders can pad their pocketbooks by racing in criteriums around Europe, and demanding an appearance fee from the race sponsors.
Lance Armstrong will participate in two such races this week, in the Netherlands and in the Czech Republic. Armstrong's appearance fee is reportedly 110,000 euros.
Also, Jens Voigt has extended his CSC contract for another 2 years. The post-Tour period is traditionally a very active one for rider contract signings.
One signing I won't be expecting is Michele Bartoli re-upping with CSC.
Tour trivia take 1
Enough with the racing news. Here are a few items from William Fotheringham's list of Tour minutiae:
· Maddest fan of the race 1: an inhabitant of the Walloon village of Aywaille spent two years building a triumphal arch for the riders to pass through. It was made of 84,000 toilet rolls.
· Maddest fan of the race 2: choose from those dressed as aliens (complete with silver-foil spaceship) on the stage to Gueret; pink fluffy pigs at Plateau de Beille; a mad monk in Besançon; an angel who appeared for all the last week; Spider-Man, who turned up in the Alps; pantomime cows with syringes in the Pyrenees; and a Pope. And we won't talk of the devil.
· Cycling slang includes numerous terms for doping: "mess up the soup", "pissing violet", "having a magic suitcase", "not riding on mineral water", "loading the cannon" or "boiling the saucepan over" and "salting the mustard" and, in a reference to the eyes dilating when amphetamine is used, "lighting the headlights". Most recently, amateur cyclists have talked of "dining chez Virenque", a reference to the seven-times mountains winner banned after the Festina scandal.
Graham Watson Stage 20 photo gallery
Wristbands "must-have" accessory in New York
The New York Post reports that the LiveStrong wristband is "the must-have accessory of the moment.
Reported wearers are Ben Affleck, Matt Damon (who wore his on Letterman last week), Ashley Judd, Tom Hanks, and Sheryl (duh!) Crow.
It will be interesting to see if the Lance Armstrong Foundation expands the numbers of wristbands made, given the incredible interest in them.
Armstrong 3rd least popular in France
In a poll published Sunday in Le Journal du Dimanche, Armstrong ranked 3rd from least popular among athletes, ahead of F1 driver Michael Schumacher and soccer player Nicolas Anelka.
"They don't know what they want, what kind of champion they want," Armstrong said.
"Why do they stand there and boo me and cheer for a guy who's been involved in the greatest doping scandal in cycling history? It does not make sense," he added.
Rupert Guinness chimes in on the same subject:
He cited two previous five-time Tour champions as examples of riders who faced similarly hostile receptions – Frenchman Jacques Anquetil and Belgian Eddy Merckx.
"If Anquetil were alive today, he'd say they booed him all the time. Eddy Merckx was booed every day. If I'm in that company, I'm OK," Armstrong said.
"For me it's comforting to know that all the past champions were booed. We race in a country that sometimes likes the man who comes second a lot more than the one who comes first."
What makes Armstrong so strong in the Tour?
"I know it's a mix of talent and work," he said. "It's a question about not being 10kg overweight six weeks before the Tour. It's a full-year commitment. That's our secret."
Next Tour winner not named Armstrong?
Reuters takes a look at the young generation coming of age, and who might eventually win the Tour.
Obvious candidates are Andreas Klöden, 29, and Ivan Basso, 26, who rounded out the podium.
"My stage win was a clear sign of how I've improved and that I was as strong as Armstrong in the first two weeks of the Tour," said Basso.
"I'm only 26 and so I've got time on my side. I'll be able to ride at least eight more Tours and so there's a good chance I win at least one of them."
Reuters identifies Voeckler and Sandy Casar as the great French hopes of the moment.
Of Russia's white jersey Vladimir Karpets:
Very shy off the bike, Karpets transforms into a powerful all round rider who can climb, time trial and look after himself in the flat stages that are often affected by wind and rain.
This year he was 13th overall, more than 25 minutes behind Armstrong but as he matures and improves he will surely move up in the overall standings, perhaps becoming the first Russian rider to win the Tour.
And not even at the Tour this year were Giro d'Italia winner Damiano Cuñego of Saeco and Alejandro Valverde of CV-Kelme.
Another interesting question is "who will replace Armstrong as the outstanding American rider?"
Most Americans in the peloton are within a couple of years of Armstrong's 32, and so on the downhill side of the athletic curve. Leipheimer is 30, Vande Velde and Landis 28, Julich 32, and Hincapie 31.
One candidate is 26-year-old Tom Danielson, currently riding for Fassa Bortolo, but left off their Tour squad. He just took 4:10 off Mike Engleman's 12-year-old record in the Mt. Evans Hill Climb, and is prepping for the Vuelta a España.
I feel stupid for forgetting Michael Rogers of Quick Step, who had a disappointing Tour at 22nd overall. He demonstrated his time trialing prowess taking 2nd (soon to be 1st) to David Millar at last year's TT world championship.
Rogers, writing for BBC Sport, also tips Benjamin Noval of USPS as a rider to watch.
Bush to Armstrong: 'You're awesome'
Bush "congratulated him on behalf of the nation, and told him his country was proud of him and that he was an outstanding athlete," said White House spokeswoman Claire Buchan.
I note that Bush apparently couldn't be bothered to watch the live coverage, but instead spent the morning clearing brush, and "watched TV coverage after the race's finish."
Bush must have the brushiest ranch in Texas.
Graham Watson Stage 19 photo gallery
Graham Watson's gallery from yesterday's ITT are finally up. Above, the top 4 riders in this year's Tour de France.
More fun with Flippo
A little more detail on Simeoni's 4 attacks today, which earned him the most aggressive rider award for the stage:
Normally a procession until it reaches the first circuit of the Champs Elysées from whichever Parisian suburb gets the nod for the start, today’s concluding moments were hectic and controversial right from the first kilometre. The man responsible was Domina Vacanze’s Filippo Simeoni, who seemed determined to do whatever he could to rain on Armstrong’s parade after the American had so publicly chastised him on stage 18.
Simeoni’s attack caught the whole bunch by surprise, and US Postal’s immediate pursuit of the ltalian caused a split in the pack, most of whom assumed that the pressure would be off until the final few kilometres. Once caught, Simeoni was welcomed back to the bunch by a number of riders pointing to the side of their head to indicate what they thought of him, as he slunk to the back of the field.
Armstrong: Where among the greats?
The Texan's place in cycling's hall of fame will continue to be debated long after today. True, he has not won as many races as Eddy Merckx - who was also victorious in the Giro d'Italia and numerous classics - but then the great Belgian never underwent chemotherapy or brain surgery.
As well-worn as the tale of Armstrong's illness is, it remains a story as compelling as Muhammad Ali's return to glory, drawing in millions around the world who would never consider watching a bike race.
And that is Armstrong's achievement, like Ali, like Donald Bradman, like Pele, he has transcended the ultimately inconsequential world of sport.
Armstrong alone as 1st Tour six-timer
Armstrong said his US Postal team had an easier time delivering win number 6 than he imagined:
"We never had a sense of crisis, only the stress of the rain and the crashes in the first week," he said.
"I was surprised that some of the rivals were not better. Some of them just completely disappeared."
Stage 20: Boonen tops the sprinters, Armstrong wraps 6th Tour
Tom Boonen of Quick Step took his 2nd stage win of the 2004 Tour, beating the surviving sprinters over the line on the Champs-Elysees.
Boonen got a great lead-out from teammate Stefano Zanini after teammate Paolo Bettini spent several laps animating a 10-man breakaway that gained 40 seconds on the Champs-Elysees.
Lotto-Domo's Robbie McEwen will take the green jersey with a 4th place finish on the day.
Stage 20 Top 10:
1) Tom Boonen (QuickStep)
2) Jean-Patrick Nazon (AG2R)
3) Danilo Hondo (Gerolsteiner)
4) McEwen (Lotto-Domo)
5) Zabel (T-Mobile)
6) Casper (Cofidis)
7) Stuart O'Grady (Cofidis)
8) Baden Cooke (fdjeux.com)
9) Massimiliano Mori (Domina Vacanze)
10) De Groot (Rabobank)
In the GC, Lance Armstrong has closed out his unprecedented win number 6. His mother is on hand to see it in a beautiful yellow dress, Robin Williams and Sheryl Crow are there, and a big enthusiastic crowd is there to see it. Also on hand are Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith.
Richard Virenque has also set an all-time record, with his 7th King of the Mountains title.
Awarded the overall combativity prize for the entire Tour is also Virenque, so Quick Step has quite a day going. Filippo Simeoni doesn't finish empty-handed, as he was named the most aggressive rider of the final stage.
The white jersey goes to Russia's 13th-placed Vladimir Karpets of Illes Balears-Banesto, who won this contest last year with Denis Menchov.
The overall Top 10:
1) Lance Armstrong (US Postal)
2) Andreas Kloden (T-Mobile) at 6:19
3) Ivan Basso (CSC) at 6:40
4) Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile) at 8:50
5) Jose Azevedo (US Postal) at 14:30
6) Francisco Mancebo (Illes Balears-Banesto) at 18:01
7) Georg Totschnig (Gerolsteiner) at 18:27
8) Carlos Sastre (CSC) at 19:51
9) Levi Leipheimer (Rabobank) at 20:12
10) Oscar Pereiro (Phonak) 22:54
Complete overall standings are available over at RoadCycling.com.
T-Mobile goes home without a stage win, but did win the team standings, ahead of US Postal, then CSC.
Stage 20: the last lap
Thomas Voeckler led the pack across the line to start the last lap of the Champs-Elysees, and now Juan Antonio Flecha is going for the win on a solo break. He's got about 3 seconds on the pack.
Flecha is caught by the Quick Step team, trying to set up Tom Boonen. Could all the fast chases have taken the snap out of McEwen and Hushovd?
We're in the last kilometer of the 2004 Tour de France!
Fassa Bortolo has taken the lead, now fdjeux is bringing Baden Cooke forward.
Slicing and dicing to the line, Danilo Hondo, Erik Zabel, Robbie McEwen are all there, but in the center, Stefano Zanini leads out Tom Boonen, who takes the stage win ahead of Jean-Patrick Nazon, who took last year's final stage.
McEwen is in the top 10, and will take the final green jersey.
Stage 20 underway
US Postal is in all new jerseys with yellow trim, and new bikes. Armstrong's is yellow and black, commemorating the "LiveStrong" campaign, with gold spokes, and Armstrong himself is in a gold helmet.
At the first sprint, McEwen sends a teammate early, but Credit Agricole organizes a chase with Thor Hushovd in the rocking chair. McEwen sat in on his wheel, and Erik Zabel made the break, but Stuart O'Grady did not.
Coming to the line, McEwen showed his superior finishing speed, and took the 1st at the sprint, Hushovd 2nd, and Zabel 3rd. At the 2nd sprint on the Champs-Elysees, Thor Hushovd nips McEwen to drop the gap back to 11 points. O'Grady and Zabel didn't factor, so it's down to McEwen and Hushovd, and Hushovd will need to finish a few places higher than McEwen to take the green.
It sounded like Phil Liggett let out with a full Bob Roll-style "Tour day Frantz" during today's stage.
Filippo Simeoni has attacked 4 times, starting with less than 5 miles ridden. All his attacks have been reeled in quickly by US Postal.
Tyler Hamilton will be joining OLN's broadcast team during tonight's prime time coverage, providing commentary on today's stage.
There's a quality group away on the Champs-Elysees, with about 35 seconds on the peloton, which T-Mobile is now driving:
Paolo Bettini (Quick Step)
Nicolas Jalabert (Phonak)
Oscar Pereiro (Phonak)
Axel Merckx (Lotto-Domo)
Thomas Voeckler (Brioches la Boulangère)
Juan Antonio Flecha (Fassa Bortolo)
Mikel Astarloza (AG2R)
Scott Sunderland (Alessio-Bianchi)
Karsten Kroon (Rabobank)
José Ivan Gutierrez (Illes Balear-Banesto)
20 kms to ride, and the gap is at 32 seconds. Now it's dropping pretty quickly, with 17 kms to go, it's at 20 seconds. At 12 kms, it's down to about 9 seconds. As they get rabsorbed, Paolo Bettini relaunches, but Jan Ullrich comes to the head of the field, and the breakaway comes back in.
With a lap to go, there's another group off the front. There are 12-15 riders there.
Stage 20:163 km Montereau to Champs-Elysees
Let's wrap this one up. It's a fairly flat stage, full of photo opps and clowning, where the 147 riders who have survived all 3 weeks celebrate their achievement.
Lance Armstrong will be riding a new gold and black bike that recognizes the "LiveStrong" campaign. Last year, US Postal paid a fine for wearing grey jerseys on the last stage; they'll likely do something similar to commemorate Armstrong's 6th consecutive Tour championship.
Starting Stage 20, it's:
There will be no changes in the yellow, polka-dot, or white jersey contests; Armstrong, Virenque and Karpets can relax and enjoy their overall champion status.
McEwen, on the other hand, has an 11-point lead on Thor Hushovd, and Erik Zabel and Stuart O'Grady still have a mathematical chance at taking his green jersey. There are two intermediate sprints on the day, at 86.5 km and on the first circuit of the Champs-Elysees at 115.5 km. There are 35 points for the finish, so these guys will be dicing all day.
Jimmy Casper of fdjeux.com is the lanterne rouge for this year's Tour. He has now finished the Tour twice, and finished last twice. Talk about unstoppable!
Also to be awarded today is the new award for most aggressive rider in the overall Tour. Jens Voigt is a candidate here, but my vote goes to Thomas Voeckler, who scrapped his way through 10 days in the yellow jersey.
July 24, 2004
Hampsten voices support for LeMond
If you're a Lance Armstrong-era cycling fan, you may not be familiar with Andy Hampsten, and that's a shame.
If your only frame of reference for LeMond is as a kind of precursor to Lance Armstrong, I suppose you could think of Hampsten as the era's Tyler Hamilton. He was the first American to win a stage at the top of Alpe d'Huez, and he won a legendary, snow-blind stage through the Gavia Pass in his 1988 win at the Giro d'Italia. He also won the Tour of Switzerland and was best young rider at the Tour de France in 1986, LeMond's first win, when he was 4th overall, a placing he repeated in 1992.
Hampsten has sent an open letter in support of Greg LeMond to VeloNews. Hampsten was a 2nd-year pro when he rode with LeMond on the La Vie Claire team, and was a veteran with the Motorola team when Armstrong appeared.
Hampsten is dismayed that LeMond's comments have been taken as directed primarily at Armstrong, and that people are, as a result, ignoring LeMond's bigger point, that cycling is still a sport "rotten with drugs:"
Most of us will probably need to put aside our Tour time emotions and resist making the judgment that Greg is trying to gain something personal or is simply jealous of being eclipsed as the dominant American cyclist.
I saw Greg race as a champion through the '80s, and into the '90s when the cycling community as a whole turned a blind eye towards doping and consciously ignored the onslaught of EPO in the peloton.
Like Greg, I, too, saw what I believe were the effects of EPO when it entered pro cycling in the early '90s. In the first years it grew from a few individuals reaping obscene wins from exploiting its "benefits," to entire teams relying on it, essentially forcing all but the most gifted racers to either use EPO to keep their place in cycling, quit or become just another obscure rider in the group.
To those who say it's the wrong time to talk about doping, and that any such discussion distracts from the training and achievements of Lance Armstrong, Hampsten replies:
Why now? Remember that while the Tour de France is the pinnacle of cycling, it is also the leading force in fighting drugs in cycling. Right now, while public attention is still on the Tour, is a good time to address the problem of doping.
Hampsten notes that, like LeMond, he sponsors a junior racing team, and also that LeMond took a significant business risk in discussing Armstrong, the goose that lays the golden eggs for Trek bikes, the parent company of the LeMond line.
Dr. Michele Ferrari is known to have supported the use of EPO to increase his riders' performances. In '94, while his riders dominated the Ardennes Classics, he publicly ridiculed making rules against EPO saying it was safe to use and should not be made illegal in cycling. I believe behavior like this and the use of these products should not be tolerated. Violators should receive meaningful bans from the sport, bans that significantly outweigh any perceived benefits.
Many aspiring racers have confronted drug use as they rose through the ranks. Unfortunately, their silent answer to this insanity is often to quit racing at this level. Otherwise, they risk succumbing to the conventional wisdom that "since everyone takes drugs to be competitive, you should too." This must not continue to be the choice facing promising young racers.
Now, in his retirement, Greg LeMond is fighting to bring racing back to a natural level of honest riders racing to their limits and living a long life to talk about it. I am writing to support him in this fight.
I know a lot of people feel very passionately on either side of this issue, but to ignore the opinions of insiders and champions like Hampsten and LeMond is to stick your head in the sand. They are tuned in to the issue in a way that few of us could ever be.
I don't get it
Finally could Norwegians see one of their own in yellow at Tour de France as Bernt Myrer ran in front of Lance Armstrong all dressed in yellow, as a chicken no less.
According to the Norwegian paper VG, Myrer borrowed the costume from the Norwegian television channel NRK’s wardrobes, and took off to France. Millions of television viewers saw as the 28-year-old from Enebakk threw himself in front of Lance Armstrong and the rest of the Tour de France bikers.
Entertained tired Norwegians
Later Myrer entertained by Kurt-Asle Arvesen and Thor Hushovd, who both were having a hard time that day.
«I was running alongside Hushovd,» Myrer stated to VG. «He grinned, at least he didn’t growl. Arvesen held my friend’s hand.»
BBC Sport Stage 19 photo gallery
Armstrong's 5th win nails down 6th Tour
Armstrong stomped his name all over this Tour today, taking his 5th individual stage win and nailing down an all-time record 6th consecutive Tour win.
In the words of the local sportscasters, it wasn't even that close. Armstrong missed two other stage wins by less than a second, coming second to Fabian Cancellara in the prologue, and finishing less than a bike length behind CSC's Ivan Basso at La Mongie. His US Postal team also took the team time trial.
As for Basso, he was unable to hold off Andreas Klöden of T-Mobile, who looks certain to continue T-Mobile's string of 2nd place Tour finishes. Basso trails Klöden by 21 seconds, but didn't lose enough time to fall from the podium, and will finish 3rd overall.
Jan Ullrich, locked in 4th, will finally learn what it's like to finish off the podium; in 6 prior appearances, Ullrich has a win and 5 2nd-place finishes.
French hero Thomas Voeckler will have to content himself with a closet full of white and yellow jerseys earned during the Tour. Illes Balears-Banesto's Vladimir Karpets beat him by 6+ minutes in the time trial to take over the white jersey for best rider 25 or under.
US Postal looks ready to ride another week, as 5 Postal riders were in the top 11 on the day: Armstrong 1st, Floyd Landis 4th, Jose Rubiera 9th, Jose Azevedo 10th, and George Hincapie 11th. Only Rabobank and US Postal still have all 9 riders in the race.
Armstrong still hasn't completely put to bed the rumor that he won't be back for next year's race:
After Stage 19 Saturday, Armstrong admitted that next year's calendar had yet to be determined.
But he also said this: "The Tour de France is the race that matters the most. And it's the one that I love the most."
"I can't imagine not being here."
And how about Bobby Julich, 5th on the day?
Posted by Frank Steele on July 24, 2004 in Andreas Klöden, Bobby Julich, Floyd Landis, George Hincapie, Ivan Basso, Jan Ullrich, Lance Armstrong 2004, Stage results, Top Stories, Vladimir Karpets | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack
As the Wheel Turns: Armstrong-Simeoni soap opera
Rupert Guinness offers the definitive account of Lance Armstrong's contretemps with Filippo Simeoni from Friday, with after-stage comments from both riders, and both coaches.
Apparently, Simeoni was near tears after the incident and considered dropping out of the race.
Unstoppable Armstrong takes TT
Armstrong by more than a minute; Klöden up to 2nd overall, but Basso holds 3rd. Voeckler loses white jersey to Vladimir Karpets. More later.
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."