April 26, 2005
The Lion King to roar no more
Cipollini retired and unretired in 2002, and said at the end of last season he was done, but raced through the spring with Liquigas-Bianchi, where he pulled off a satisfying victory over his spiritual successor, Alessandro Petacchi, at the Giro di Lucca.
"I would have liked to be at the start of the Giro d'Italia looking for victory again, fighting for the pink jersey," Cipollini said. "Maybe, an ‘old man’ like me, who has given a lot to cycling and has also received a lot, has to recognize when is the right moment to stop.
Over a 17-year career, Cipollini won 12 Tour de France stages and wore the yellow jersey for 6 days, despite dropping out every year when the race hit the mountains.
There's also this enigmatic bit from the AFP story on Cipo's retirement:
The Liquigas team announced that Cipollini, nicknamed the "Lion King" would reveal further details of why he has decided to retire at a press conference in Milan on Friday.
At left, Cipollini far from his native habitat, laboring up Brasstown Bald at the 2004 Tour de Georgia.
It's starting to feel like a generational shift, with Cipo's retirement, Lance Armstrong's announced retirement, and Andrea Tafi's retirement.
Samuel Abt offers a profile of Cipollini facing the onrushing dusk of retirement last year.
Lance Armstrong's last US racing miles
Velogal has a Stage 6 gallery up, that includes some touching pictures of Andrea Tafi taking a final bow while accepting the overall most aggressive rider jersey, in recognition of long breaks he animated during Stage 2 and Stage 6.
And the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has a photo gallery of Stage 6.
April 24, 2005
Ullrich will ride Tour de Suisse, Vinokourov Dauphiné
Jan Ullrich has confirmed that he'll skip the Dauphiné Libéré in favor of the Tour de Suisse.
That means the next, and last, time he'll face off against Lance Armstrong will be at this year's Tour de France.
Alexandre Vinokourov will ride the Dauphiné, presumably as T-Mobile's team leader, while Andreas Klöden is still working out his final preparations for the Tour, where he was 2nd overall last year.
April 23, 2005
Other Stage 5 blog reports
Judging by the picture HE took, Josh Hallett was about 200 meters down the road from me (although I think I would remember if I had seen the guy in the background without a shirt -- brrrrrr!). There are more shots at Josh's photostream on Flickr.
Dave Aiello was at the top, and got a great picture of Tom Danielson, Lance Armstrong, and Stage 5 most aggressive rider Christian Vande Velde at the post-race press conference (at right). He's got a running photo gallery covering the whole Tour, which you can also hit by clicking through the pic.
Not technically a blog, but the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has a good photo gallery for the stage, including this cool fisheye shot of Danielson and the crowd near the summit, and they sell reprints of anything on the site.
Danielson takes Brasstown Bald, overall lead at Tour de Georgia
Sorry for no "as it happens" updates: I've been out on the course, suffering from an unbelievably cold day for a Georgia April.
My vantage point: Hog Pen Gap, 17 miles from the finish, at the day's 3rd King of the Mountains line. We saw the very scattered snow flurry, and had a brief bout of sleet, just as the lead group arrived.
The crowds were incredible through the mountains; Dave from Operation Gadget said parking was gone for 5 miles approaching the spur road to Brasstown Bald. Where I was, at Hog Pen Gap, roadside spaces were gone by around 2, with the riders eventually coming through around 4:30.
In Gainesville this morning, Viatcheslav Ekimov predicted that Discovery Channel would take the stage and the overall lead today, but didn't name any names.
As the peloton rolled into the mountains, Jittery Joe's rider Tim Johnson took a flyer, and Discovery's Jason McCartney covered the break. The two would ride together over the day's first two climbs, building a lead of almost 2:30 at times. Discovery's José-Luis Rubiera took 3rd over each climb to defend his King of the Mountains jersey.
Shortly before reaching Hog Pen, Lance Armstrong launched an attack, and was covered by almost all of the stage and GC hopefuls, including yellow jersey Floyd Landis, Levi Leipheimer, Tom Danielson, Saul Raisin and Trent Lowe (fighting it out for the young rider's jersey), Saunier Duval-Prodir's Nicolas Fritsch and Marco Pinotti, and, by the Hog Pen summit, Bobby Julich and a teammate (picture at right - click for larger).
I say "and a teammate," because some sources say it was Andy Schleck, but just after the group passed Hog Pen Gap, Christian Vande Velde launched an attack that he sustained all the way onto Brasstown Bald. Reviewing the tape (wow, TdFblog video), I think it's Vande Velde riding with Julich. On the other hand, a couple of other CSC riders passed by maybe 30 seconds behind Armstrong's group, and could have caught up on the descent. At some point, this became a group of 15, adding Azevedo, Blaudzun, Schleck, Vandborg, Nathan O'Neill, and Justin England (with Vande Velde off the front).
Armstrong rode out in pursuit of Vande Velde, with Azevedo, then Danielson and Leipheimer attacked. This put pressure on Floyd Landis, and allowed Armstrong to ride in his slipstream with a teammate up the road. Danielson and Leipheimer rode much of the last 5 kilometers together, slowly gapping Armstrong and Landis. With Leipheimer placed 10 seconds ahead of Danielson on GC, Discovery's Danielson opened up a gap on Leipheimer in the last kilometer. At the finish, Danielson took the lead, with 5 seconds to spare.
Back with Landis, Armstrong was finally able to get a split at the summit, and finished 10 seconds clear of Landis, and (Dave Aiello notes) pointing defiantly back down the mountain.
At left, the once and future yellow jersey (click through for larger picture).
Stage Top 10:
1) Tom Danielson, Discovery
2) Levi Leipheimer, Gerolsteiner, at :15
3) Lance Armstrong, Discovery, at :59
4) Floyd Landis, Phonak, at 1:09
5) Bobby Julich, Team CSC, at 1:44
6) Marco Pinotti, Prodir-Saunier Duval, at 1:55
7) Trent Lowe, Jittery Joe's-Kalahari, at 2:10
8) Saul Raisin, Credit Agricole, at 2:10
9) Michael Blaudzun, CSC, at 2:33
10) Andy Schleck, CSC, at 2:33
Preliminary Overall Results:
1) Tom Danielson, Discovery
2) Levi Leipheimer, Gerolsteiner, at :05
3) Floyd Landis, Phonak, at :09
4) Bobby Julich, CSC, at 1:10
5) Lance Armstrong, Discovery, at 1:41
Lowe holds on to the white (under-23) jersey, while Rubiera will win the King of the Mountains, since there are no KoM points available tomorrow.
And, of course, barring a comet crashing into his helmet, it looks like Discovery Channel has a stage on which to introduce Tom Danielson, who is going to win the 2005 Tour de Georgia. Looks like I have to create a "Tom Danielson" category.
With all the tough stages out of the way, what have we learned about Lance Armstrong's fitness? Bobby Julich, who clearly targeted his fitness to the early season, lost 43 seconds to the six-timer, which must be encouraging for Armstrong. Was Armstrong going all out on the last climb, or biding his time, helping Danielson gap Landis while Landis marked the wrong Disco? I guess we'll know in July.
Also, Levi Leipheimer, ladies and gentlemen; what a gutty ride -- he was also isolated from any teammates for the entire last climb, and put 45 seconds into Armstrong, and almost a minute into Landis.
On the other hand, I wouldn't want to spend the night with the CSC's. Christian Vande Velde takes the "consolation prize:" most aggressive rider. They had the numbers in the break, but couldn't get up Brasstown Bald with the Discos, Landis, and Leipheimer. As a result, they'll miss out on the team prize, which they took last year, and Julich will finish in the bitterest position -- one step off the podium.
VeloNews wrap-up, with some good Casy Gibson photos.
Posted by Frank Steele on April 23, 2005 in Bobby Julich, Christian Vande Velde, Floyd Landis, Lance Armstrong, Levi Leipheimer, Saul Raisin, Tom Danielson, Top Stories, Viatcheslav Ekimov | Permalink | Comments (1)
Tour de Georgia Stage 5: Gainesville to Brasstown Bald
Today is the key stage of the 2005 Tour de Georgia. The GC leaders are all bunched within 2 minutes of Floyd Landis, and CSC has David Zabriskie and Bobby Julich looming within 30 seconds of the race lead.
Only 90 riders are left in the race, as 13 riders, including Jonathan Sundt and Ben Brooks, finished outside the time limit, and 14 others, including Discovery's Michael Barry, Ivan Dominguez, and Stage 1 flyer Dan Bowman, dropped out. Two Colavita riders, Mark McCormack and Juan José Haedo (who won a sprint on Friday's stage) were disqualified for unspecified reasons (anybody hear anything? Update: As you might guess, they were DQ'ed for drafting).
Weather is much cooler today than earlier this week, with temperatures this morning in the mid-50s and winds coming out of the west to northwest. The high is expected to be only about 60. Local weatherman says there's a wind advisory, with gusts of up to 25-30 mph expected.
The stage today just gets harder and harder, starting in poultry capital Gainesville, rolling through the only sprint line of the day, and then starting to climb. There are 4 categorized climbs on the day, spaced fairly evenly about 17 miles/28 kilometers apart.
The 3rd-Category climb to Dicks Creek Gap is a long, gradual climb, with some short descents worked in, and a feed zone just before the final climb of perhaps 800 vertical feet.
The 2nd-Category climb to Unicoi Gap is both taller and steeper, gaining almost 1000 vertical feet ahead of a long descent of almost 1500 vertical feet.
Next is 1st-Category Hogpen Gap, where riders will climb almost 2000 feet to 3518 feet above sea level. A very steep descent down the backside puts the riders at the base of the climb to Georgia's highest point, the Hors Categorie Brasstown Bald.
Brasstown Bald stands almost 4800 feet above sea level, and riders will suffer through about 2800 feet of that over just 7.5 miles.
Last year's winner, Cesar Grajales, now with Navigators, lives in Athens, about 75 miles away, and had a suspiciously low finish on yesterday's stage. He may have been resting up to try a big move today.
Jason McCartney and José Luis Rubiera showed yesterday, but Discovery Channel's other strong climbers, Tom Danielson and Jose Azevedo, stayed with Lance Armstrong in the chasing group all day. With Danielson, Ekimov, Armstrong, and Azevedo all within 2 minutes of Landis, who was isolated for the late stages of yesterday's stage, look for Discovery's strategy to be some tag-team breakaways.
CSC has three men in the top 10: Zabriskie just 19 seconds behind Landis, Julich at 28 seconds, and Stage 4 winner Brian Vandborg at 1:39.
Also highly placed is Gerolsteiner's Levi Leipheimer, sitting 50 seconds back.
April 22, 2005
Ag2R only wild card for 2005 Tour de France
France's AG2R squad will join the 20 ProTour squads in this year's Tour de France. The announcement leaves Agritubel and a few other hopefuls on the sidelines for this year's Tour.
It also leaves the Tour 9 riders shorter than in many recent years, when ASO has invited 22 squads.
Next month's Giro d'Italia will be a more democratic affair, with 24 squads competing, better representing Italian cycling.
Vandborg takes TdG stage 4
Coming into Dahlonega, there was a short steep climb up to the 1 kilometer to ride mark.
Marco Pinotti attacked, and Viatcheslav Ekimov followed, shadowed by CSC's Brian Vandborg and Jason McCartney, all of whom got a small gap on the field.
Vandborg led Ekimov across the finish line, with Pinotti back a bit, then McCartney, then the chasers' group of 20-22.
Rubiera takes over the King of the Mountains jersey.
Landis was in that group, and should lose time only to the top 4 riders of the day.
That means tomorrow will be THE crucial day for this tour. Organizers actually made the toughest stage of the TdG even tougher this year, with four King of the Mountains lines and a shorter route between the last three, so they come one after another.
I think it's pretty notable that neither Jose Azevedo nor Tom Danielson were unholstered today; look for them to factor heavily in the Disco strategy tomorrow.
Preliminary stage Top 10:
1) Brian Vandborg, CSC
2) Viatchdslav Ekimov, Discovery
3) Marco Pinotti, Saunier Duval/Prodir
4) Jason McCartney, Discovery Channel
5) Bobby Julich, CSC
6) Mauro Santambrogio, Team LPR
7) Lance Armstrong, Discovery
8) Floyd Landis, Phonak
9) Sven Krauss, Gerolsteiner
10) Daniele Contrini, Team LPR
Overall after Stage 4:
1) Floyd Landis, Phonak
2) David Zabriskie, CSC, at :19
3) Bobby Julich, CSC, at :28
4) Levi Leipheimer, Gerolsteiner, at :50
5) Tom Danielson, Discovery, at 1:00
6) Viatcheslav Ekimov, Discovery, at 1:13
7) Brian Vandborg, CSC, at 1:39
8) Lance Armstrong, Discovery, at 1:42
9) Jose Azevedo, Discovery, at 1:53
10) Danny Pate, Jelly Belly-Pool Gel, at 2:12
TdG Stage 4 in progress
Riders are contending not only with each other, but with thunderstorms and hail, as a cold front rolls through North Georgia, cooling the course, and possibly whipping up some wind. Dave at Operation Gadget has an enterprising on-scene weather roundup from Woody Gap.
Discovery put José-Luis Rubiera in an early break, and he's been pulling a group of initially 6, now down to 3, riders, at the head of the field. With the group's gap, Rubiera is the yellow jersey on the course -- he leads Floyd Landis on the road by more than Landis leads him in the overall classification. Of course, there's a lot of racing left today.
On Wolfpen Gap, Discovery's Jason McCartney broke from the pack, accompanied by Michael Blaudzin of CSC and Dalton's own Saul Raisin of Credit Agricole, and was joined by Jose
Azevedo (Discovery) and Christian Vande Velde (CSC). Up front, Rubiera managed to ride CSC's Andy Schleck and Gerolsteiner's Sven Krauss off his wheel, and is riding alone.
Rubiera and Krauss are just 50 seconds up on a very healthy chase group of 23, featuring Landis, Leipheimer, Julich, and Armstrong, among others. Landis is the only Phonak in the group, while Armstrong has Danielson, Azevedo, and Jason McCartney. Dave Zabriskie of CSC is alongside Julich, while Andy Schleck is in no man's land between the chasers and the leaders.
Rubiera, Krauss and Schleck are caught on the descent from Woody Gap, the last categorized climb of the day. Rubiera is likely to score the King of the Mountains jersey for his efforts today.
Overnight, Phonak's Jose Enrique Gutierrez abandoned the race with knee problems; today is not a day you would want to start with bad knees, with 19,000 vertical feet. The loss leaves Phonak with 6 riders in the race, defending Landis in the yellow jersey.
Mark Walters of Navigators crashed on the first descent of Woody Gap and left the course in an ambulance.
Tour de Georgia Stage 4: Dalton to Dahlonega
Today's stage is a near-repeat of last year's Stage 5, rolling from the carpet capital of the world to a Georgia gold-rush town set in the Appalachian foothills.
Last year, Jason McCartney, then riding for Health Net, put 53 seconds into the field on a stage with 19,000 feet of climbing and 5 King of the Mountains lines. VeloNews later named his stage the 2004 Ride of the Year, and it helped catapult McCartney onto Team Discovery Channel this year.
It's not a mountaintop finish, so the field will have 14 miles to regroup after the last climb of Woody Gap (the peloton climbs it twice today) near Suches.
The big question: Is Discovery riding for defending Tour de Georgia champion Lance Armstrong, who lost 1:46 to leader Floyd Landis yesterday, or do they try to break Tom Danielson, placed 42 seconds ahead of Armstrong, and get him some attention as the future of American cycling?
Also look for CSC and Phonak to fight it out, with CSC looking to place Bobby Julich and Dave Zabriskie, and Phonak trying to defend Floyd Landis' race lead. Meanwhile Levi Leipheimer sits 50 seconds back, about midway between Landis and Armstrong.
April 21, 2005
Armstrong gets underway
One of the motorcycle cameramen told us Armstrong wasn't really pushing the pace, but I don't see why Landis, Julich or the other strong guys in front of Armstrong would have taken a lot more risks than Lance.
Flickr photo set of today's ITTphoto set, where you can view pictures of today's stage individually, or as a slideshow.
I still may post a couple of the other shots individually.
Posted by Frank Steele on April 21, 2005 in Bobby Julich, Christian Vande Velde, Floyd Landis, Lance Armstrong, Levi Leipheimer, Photo galleries, Tour de Georgia | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Landis smacks the competition at Tour de Georgia time trial
Phonak's Floyd Landis "ran like he stole something" at today's Rome time trial.
Landis came in at 39:58 on a wet 18.6-mile course.
Lance Armstrong, who won this stage last year in 39:51, came in 9th on the day, at 41:44, trailing two of his own teammates, Tom Danielson, 7th at 40:58, and Viatcheslav Ekimov, at 41:19.
1) Floyd Landis, Phonak, 39:58
2) Dave Zabriskie, CSC, 40:17
3) Chris Baldwin, Navigators, 40:20
4) Bobby Julich, CSC, 40:26
5) Nathan O'Neill, Navigators, 40:41
6) Levi Leipheimer, Gerolsteiner, 40:48
7) Tom Danielson, Discovery, 40:58
8) Viatcheslav Ekimov, Discovery, 41:19
9) Lance Armstrong, Discovery, 41:44
10) Brian Vanborg, CSC, 41:45
The heat is on if Armstrong is to repeat as the overall winner. He's brought a very good climbing team, so he's not out of contention.
Pictures to come.
Tour de Georgia Stage 3: the ITT
Today's shortish (18-mile) time trial with a short steep climb up Rome's Mount Alto should provide an early-season fitness check for Lance Armstrong, Floyd Landis, and Levi Leipheimer -- the American Tour de France hopefuls.
Last year, Armstrong took the race lead during the time trial, as he finished up a morning-afternoon double victory, taking the morning road race and the afternoon time trial.
I'll be leaving for the race within the next hour, and should be posting from Rome this afternoon. I'm going to meet Operation Gadget's Dave Aiello, who is blogging from the race. Also blogging from the TdG is Velogal, who also has a smugmug gallery posted.
ThePaceline.com has members-only (free registration) diary updates from Tom Danielson (7th yesterday) and Michael Barry, who is sporting Hincapie shades, and a notebook by Dan Osipow, who notes Discovery Channel's start times for today.
April 20, 2005
Di Luca takes Flèche Wallonne
Danilo Di Luca rode smart and strong to win Flèche Wallonne today.
With CSC strongman Jens Voigt (2nd at last year's Tour de Georgia) whittling down a seven-man break, Di Luca's Liquigas squad, led the peloton in chasing Voigt, who had been with the leaders for 150 km, and spent 40 kms on his own. Voigt was reeled in with 4 kms to ride.
"It was only when we reached the foot of the last climb that I thought of winning," Di Luca finally said. "The strongest riders were all at the front and I knew what I had to do. I made a mistake last year on the steep [19 -percent] turns and I finished second to Rebellin."
1) Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas-Bianchi)
2) Kim Kirchen (Fassa Bortolo)
3) Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner)
4) David Etxebarria (Alkorta), at :04
5) Oscar Freire (Rabobank), at :04
Di Luca takes the ProTour lead away from Tom Boonen, who he now leads by 19 points.
Gerolsteiner's Wrolich takes TdG stage 2; Armstrong plays sprinter
Just as he did last year, Lance Armstrong figured in the finish in downtown Rome today.
Last year, Armstrong won in a bike toss, coming off the wheel of Ivan Dominguez.
This year, Gerolsteiner's Peter Wrolich took the sprint, with Saunier Duval's Manuel Quinziato 2nd, and Armstrong 3rd.
Team Discovery Channel powered through downtown Rome on the finishing circuits, closing down Saunier Duval-Prodir's Andrea Tafi, who was caught with about 5 miles/8 kilometers to ride. Tafi will take the early King of the Mountains lead for his trouble.
Preliminary top 10:
1) Peter Wrolich (Gerolsteiner)
2) Manuel Quinziato (Saunier Duval Prodir)
3) Lance Armstrong (Discovery)
4) Ivan Fanelli (LPR)
5) Bobby Julich (CSC)
6) Sven Krauss (Gerolsteiner)
7) Tom Danielson (Discovery)
8) David Canada (Saunier Duval-Prodir)
9) Juan Jose Haedo (Colavita)
10) Tim Larkin (Kodak Gallery/Sierra Nevada)
Wrolich takes the overall lead, so will start tomorrow's TT last. Health Net's Greg Henderson leads the sprint classification.
Tour de Georgia Stage 2: Tafi in the lead
Andrea Tafi, of Saunier Duval-Prodir, is nearing retirement. The 38-year-old was expected to exit the pro peloton after Paris-Roubaix, but here he is, two weeks later, riding around Georgia.
In Tafi's career he has won, to re-use a joke, everything but Italian Idol, including the Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix, the Italian national championship, two stages at the old Tour of the Americas, although never a stage win in a Grand Tour. He's started 6 Tours de France.
I'm going to pull for him because a) he's one of very few guys left in the peloton older than I am, and b) he shares a birthday, May 7, with my son.
It's going to be close for Tafi this afternoon -- the lead is about 4.5 minutes with 40 km to ride. The rule of thumb seems to be that a motivated peloton can put 1 minute per 10 kms into just about anybody, so Tafi is riding right on that ragged line.
April 19, 2005
Robbie Hunter takes Tour de Georgia stage 1
Phonak kicks off their Tour de Georgia with a win, as South Africa's Robbie Hunter wins a sprint finish in downtown Macon.
Dan Bowman of the TIAA-CREF team spent most of the day on a suicide break, while the peloton was cruising at tourist speeds.
Unofficial top 5:
1) Robbie Hunter (Phonak)
2) Ben Brooks (Jelly Belly)
3) Michele Maccanti (LPR)
4) Daniele Napolitano (LPR)
5) Greg Henderson (Health Net)
Tour de Georgia underway
Stage 1, Augusta to Macon, is on the road.
The only live coverage I see anywhere on the web is here at VeloNews.
Post in the comments if you find others.
Update: Bruce from AMD Pro Cycling's website suggested the Tour's own live updates page, which combines CyclingNews.com commentary and a peloton tracker from iTrak. As eye candy, the tracker rocks, but I'm not totally sold on the implementation just yet.
Hamilton will appeal racing ban
Unsurprisingly, Tyler Hamilton says he'll take his case up with the international Court of Arbitration for Sport after receiving a two-year suspension yesterday.
"The fight's far from over," said Hamilton ... "I'm certainly not a quitter and I'm not going to give up until I'm vindicated," he said. "My chances of racing in this year's Tour de France are slim to none. That's what got me out of bed every morning."
Update: Meanwhile, the Australian Olympic Committee will seek to have Hamilton's gold medal stripped, which would move Australia's Michael Rogers up to the bronze medal (and Viatcheslav Ekimov to gold and Bobby Julich to silver).
April 18, 2005
Hamilton receives two-year suspension
There's no deus ex machina for Tyler Hamilton: The US Anti-Doping Agency announced this afternoon that it was unmoved by his presentation, and he's been suspended for two years.
Date of the suspension is today, April 18, 2005, to continue through April 17, 2007. Given that Tyler's birthday is March 1, 1971, I don't see him coming back at 36.
Interesting to note that there's a lengthy dissent as part of the decision. One of the arbitrators, Chris Campbell, didn't sign on to the decision, and explains why.
I may work up another "What we know now" post about the case, but if you're really interested in the case, you owe it to yourself to read Campbell's dissent, pages 14-20 of the decision linked above.
It's official: Armstrong to retire after Tour
Lance Armstrong made it official on Monday: He'll bow out of pro cycling after this year's Tour de France.
That leaves just three stage races — this week's Tour de Georgia, the Dauphiné Libéré in June, and the Tour in July — in Armstrong's pro career, which has included 6 Tour victories, a world championship, and a number of other pro wins.
“If I was to win it this year, I would be the oldest champion in modern history and my dream is to go out on top.”
“We'll see if I can do it - no promises.”
“But this will be a different year for the Tour with Jan Ullrich looking better and a host of young riders coming up.”
Armstrong also said he might race again in the US after the Tour de Georgia, but suggested it would be more like his impromptu appearance in Ojai last week, where he showed up at a regional race.
Armstrong said he wants to spend more time with his children and rocker-girlfriend Sheryl Crow.
“My children are my biggest supporters but at the same time they are the ones who told me it's time to come home.”
Armstrong saddles up for the Tour de Georgia tomorrow through Sunday.
Open thread: Armstrong press conference
Of course, until 2:30 this afternoon, there's no reason to think their speculation is any better than yours, so use the comments link to go on the record with what you think Armstrong will announce.
Chris Horner will miss Tour de Georgia, Giro d'Italia
Saunier Duval-Prodir's Chris Horner, who won the 2003 Tour de Georgia and finished 3rd last year, will miss the 2005 edition of the race.
Horner fractured his left hip at Tirreno-Adriatico in early March, and had initially been told it would heal in time for this week's TdG. A follow-up visit suggested the risk was greater than initially thought, and Horner has been “confined to his couch.” He's expected to also miss the Giro d'Italia, and thinks he's missed his chance at the squad's Tour de France team.
“The Tour team is more or less picked out, but I'm planning on returning for [the USPRO championships in] Philadelphia and the Tour de Suisse. If I have a great Tour de Suisse, I could still make the Tour team.”
Horner said missing this year's Tour de Georgia is especially painful:
“This is going to be the showcase of the top Americans,” Horner said. “I'm sorry to miss it, but there's nothing I can do about it.”
Here's the CyclingNews final roster of Saunier Duval riders for the Tour de Georgia:
Juan Jose Cobo
Here's the preliminary roster listed at the Tour de Georgia site -- I'm pretty sure they'll have 8 riders, not 7:
Juan Jose Cobo
April 17, 2005
Tyler Hamilton doping case gets weirder and weirder
So the LA Times has gotten its hands on some of the documents from Tyler Hamilton's case before the US Anti-Doping Agency.
For those joining us late, Tyler Hamilton won the 2004 time trial gold medal, but his blood sample there, and at the Vuelta a España, tested positive for “mixed populations,” or the presence of someone else's red blood cells. His Phonak team dropped him, but he was allowed to keep his gold medal because his "B" sample couldn't be verified. His teammate Santiago Perez was caught by the same test, at the same race, and has been suspended for two years. Hamilton faces the same suspension.
Here's a few of the details that come out in the LA Times story:
Part of Hamilton's defense is that he had a “vanishing twin.” Somewhere around 8 percent of pregnancies start out as multiples, but in many cases, one or more fetuses will be reabsorbed by the mother and the other fetus or fetuses. Hamilton witness David Housman, an MIT professor, pointed out that “cells can pass from one twin to another during the time that they shared a womb together,” and that the vanishing twin might be the source for the other genetic signature found in Hamilton's blood:
“The truth of the matter is they can get there certainly from a fraternal twin who has a different genetic identity and bone marrow stem cells can persist for life. So that's the deal.”
Hamilton's test scores were suspicious. On April 24th, at Liege-Bastogne-Liege, Hamilton's “off score”, a formula based on hemoglobin and reticulocytes (immature red blood cells), was 123.8 (The UCI medical director says its riders average about 90). Then at the Tour de Romandie, only five days later, Hamilton's score had jumped to 132.9, doubly suspicious since the limit is 133. Above that, riders aren't allowed to start a race. His hematocrit was just about pegged, as well: 49.7, where 50.0 is an automatic disqualification, although no presumption of doping is attached to either limit.
UCI officials pointed out that the two numbers are incompatible: The low number of reticulocytes at LBL means that Hamilton was not producing that many new red blood cells, yet five days later, he had a significantly higher red blood cell count.
These results got Hamilton put on the watch list of riders that the UCI monitors more closely. It's worth noting, too, that the UCI didn't perform the test in question on these samples: The homologous blood doping test premiered during the 2004 Tour in July. I would love to know if Hamilton's blood was tested for doping before he dropped out during Stage 13, or if the Olympics were his first test.
USADA witness Ross Brown, who co-developed the doping test, said a transfusion or transfusions were the "only reasonable explanation" for Hamilton's test results, and suggested that he had one around the beginning of 2004, another sometime around midyear, and then might have topped up throughout the year.
Hamilton's legal attack on the doping test's validity rested on two points: 1) There's no threshold in the test: it only shows the presence, not the amount, of someone else's blood cells, and 2) That it proves only the presence of someone else's blood cells, not of a transfusion, and may be subject to false positives, as the “vanishing twin” argument suggests.
The Tugboat defense reappeared, as Haven Hamilton points out to the LA Times reporter that Tyler would never have risked a transfusion after Tugboat's death, which immediately followed a transfusion.
Occam's Razor doesn't look to be cutting Tyler's way here.
Update: Tyler addresses many of the issues of his case in his latest (April 18, 2005) diary entry.
Di Luca takes Amstel Gold
The Amstel Gold just finished up, with Danilo Di Luca of Liquigas continuing to move up the podium, edging Michael Boogerd for the overall win. Boogerd is second here for the third consecutive year.
Mirko Celestino of Domina Vacanze was third on the day. Last year's winner here, Davide Rebellin, was fourth overall, while Oscar Freire was back aound 10th. Discovery Channel's George Hincapie doesn't appear to have factored in the last two hours of the race, although race reports are a little sketchy because of heavy fog on the course.
April 16, 2005
OLN will carry Armstrong press conference live
Outdoor Life Network will be carrying live coverage of Lance Armstrong's press conference on Monday. They expect it will immediately follow their coverage of the Boston Marathon.
The local fishwrap quotes Phil "the man himself" Liggett on the press conference:
"Knowing Lance, I think [the news conference] will be very brief, 10 or 15 minutes," Liggett said. "Like everyone else, I'm thinking he's saying, 'At the end of the tour and the end season' [he will retire].
"I have no inkling at all. I think he's had a change of attitude. The sport is very hard. He said it himself since he turned pro in '92 that the pressures are different now."
The article also notes, erroneously I think, that Armstrong is under contract through the Tour. I believe his contract runs through 2006, but requires him to race the Tour in either 2005 or 2006.
Samuel Abt weighs in with a few quotes from people around the pro peloton, including Paul Sherwen, Bjarne Riis, Lars Michaelson, Rolf Sorensen, and George Hincapie.
"If I were to guess, he'll say he's running for governor of Texas."
I suppose Texas has had worse governors.
Update: I switched the link to the International Herald-Tribune version of the story, because, a) it has more sources, b) I don't think IHT expires its links, and c) it doesn't suggest the press conference is in Macon.
Tyler Hamilton to ride Tour de Georgia?
Looks like, even with no racing, Monday's going to be a big day for US cycling. Lance Armstrong will announce, well, something, in Augusta, at the pre-event press conference for the Tour de Georgia. Speculation is that he'll announce that 2005 will be his last shot at the Tour de France, with 2006 focused on the US calendar.
Now cyclingnews.com reports that the US Anti-Doping Agency is very likely to counter with a little announcement of their own: The long-awaited results of Tyler Hamilton's appeal of his suspension for blood doping.
Hamilton presented his case in the week of February 27th, and reportedly attacked the credibility of the homologous blood doping procedure, which was first used in cycling during the 2004 season.
Does the long delay mean the tribunal was swayed by Hamilton's case? The cyclingnews.com story quotes an unnamed but "prominent US rider" that Hamilton is expected to "get off" and to take the start at the Tour de Georgia on Tuesday.
Even if the USADA clears Hamilton, the UCI might take separate action, appealing the USADA action to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne, Switzerland.
April 15, 2005
Amstel Gold previews
Davide Rebellin is the returning Amstel Gold champ, the first in his 2004 three-run of Amstel, Fleche Wallone, and Liege-Bastogne-Liege. This season, he was second at the Tour of the Basque Country to Danilo Di Luca, both of whom bear watching on Sunday.
Discovery Channel DS Johan Bruyneel says George Hincapie is good to go:
"George is in great shape, both mentally and physically," said Discovery director Johan Bruyneel.
Other riders to watch include Paolo Bettini, Oscar Freire, and Michael Boogerd. Tom Boonen, who is seemingly winning at will, won't be racing, nor will Peter Van Petegem, who's hurt.
Update: VeloNews has posted a preliminary start list for Amstel Gold.
April 14, 2005
Hondo suspended, dropped by Gerolsteiner
Gerolsteiner sprinter Danilo Hondo, who twice tested positive for the stimulant carphedon at the Vuelta a Murcia, has been fired by his team.
Hondo's B sample, tested by a lab in Madrid, confirmed the initial findings. Gerolsteiner, a German mineral-water company, issued a press release (in German):
Gerolsteiner's statement added: "We're sorry that it has involved Danilo Hondo, but we support all measures against doping. It is one of the pillars of our contracts."
Hondo will most likely be suspended for two years by the Swiss cycling federation.
April 13, 2005
Bergman suspended 2 years for EPO
Former Jittery Joe's rider Adam Bergman, who (to keep the day's theme alive) finished 11th at last year's Tour de Georgia, had his 2-year suspension upheld by the Court of Arbitration for Sport today.
Bergman's sample was taken April 6, 2004, in preparation for last year's Tour de Georgia. His suspension is through July 22, 2006, and he loses his results at the Tour de Georgia, USCF time trial nationals (he was 5th) and the Olympic Trials, where he was 2nd.
Team CSC roster for Tour de Georgia
Christian Vande Velde
CSC won the Team award at last year's Tour de Georgia, while CSC's Jens Voigt took 2nd overall.
Reason number 537 the Tour de Georgia is so awesome: Above, the Team CSC squad standing around before Stage 7, while 150 people cluster around Lance Armstrong's motorhome about 75 feet to the left.
Discovery Georgia squad announced
With all the injuries and illness on the Discovery Channel squad, it's been a little up in the air who would be in Augusta for the start of the Tour de Georgia. Dan Osipow lists the likelys in his latest column:
Lance Armstrong (2004 TdG overall champ)
Jason McCartney (2004 TdG King of the Mountains)
This is a team that can climb with anybody. We'll see in a couple of months, but this looks like the core of the 2005 Discovery Tour squad, as well.
Missing will be George Hincapie, who lives just a bit up the road from Augusta in Greenville, S.C.
HealthNet, Phonak squads for Tour de Georgia announced
The stage is set for America's premier stage race, kicking off Tuesday, and Phonak and HealthNet have announced their squads.
HealthNet will be bringing 2004 TdG sprint champ Gord Fraser. The squad also took the King of the Mountains last year, with Jason McCartney, who is likely to race at Georgia for Discovery Channel, his 2005 squad.
Phonak (press release):
HealthNet (press release):
Peña doubtful for Tour
Victor Hugo Peña's freak accident in the neutral zone of Sunday's Paris-Roubaix may keep him out of the Tour de France.
Peña cracked two vertebrae, and abandoned soon after the race start. He's expected to wear a back brace for a month or so.
“I am worried about my preparations for the Tour de France,” he said. “I will have to rest the injury for two weeks and then we will see how much time it will take me to fully recover.”
Now riding for Phonak, Peña was one of Lance Armstrong's most reliable mountain specialists over the last few years at US Postal.
Armstrong press conference countdown
So, speculation continues as to what we'll hear Monday at the pre-Tour de Georgia press conference. Lance Armstrong told Euro journalists in March that he would “have something important to say” here.
What's the consensus on the announcement?
Andrew Hood, the European correspondent for VeloNews, looks at all the possibilities, and comes down on “This is my last Tour, and next year, I'll spend more time racing in the U.S.”
Graham Watson leans toward retirement, but in this week's installment, he mentions that Italian journalists are “praying he is to announce a ride in this year's Giro,” and adds “I feel sure Lance has one more surprise up his sleeves for all of us.”
Klöden modifies Tour prep
Andreas Klöden, runner-up at last year's Tour de France, is tweaking his training with an eye toward this year's Tour.
He'll still race the same races he had pencilled in, including next weeks's Fleche Wallone and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, but his abandon at last week's Tour of the Basque Country showed that Klöden's program wasn't where it needed to be. Physical testing on Monday confirmed that Klöden is behind in his fitness:
Klöden said he simply didn't feel good at the demanding Basque Country tour and opted to abandon rather than push too hard.
"It wasn't yet the way I imagined it to be," Klöden said. "So, to be on the safer side, I abandoned the race in Spain. I'm glad the test is behind me. Now I know on what I need to work on."
Next to go: Hondo or Hamilton?
Shouldn't be long now -- results on Danilo Hondo's B sample are expected by week's end. He twice tested positive for Carphedon, a stimulant that increases endurance and cold resistance.
By the way, here's a Google search for Carphedon: The Hondo story is the subject of the top 10 links, all in German. About the only link that's not directly sports-related is this journal abstract, which is looking for a urine test for carphedon.
Tyler Hamilton still doesn't have the results of his hearing conducted back in February. He, too, is expecting news soon.
April 11, 2005
Paris-Roubaix in pictures
Boonen takes Paris-Roubaix, Hincapie second
Tom Boonen was the odds-on favorite going into Paris-Roubaix, but in a bicycle race, like a golf tournament, the favorites are never prohibitive. On a day when Tiger Woods took his fourth Masters championship, Boonen showed why they both were favored.
As with Tiger, this Paris-Roubaix went the distance, with Boonen just edging out Discovery Channel's George Hincapie and Fassa Bortolo's Juan Antonio Flecha.
Boonen, who also won the Tour of Flanders earlier this month, takes over the lead of the ProTour from Alessandro Petacchi, who has never started the Hell of the North. The 24-year-old, formerly a US Postal rider, has firmly established himself as one of the world's best one-day riders.
Sunday's big move had 2004 winner Magnus Backstedt, Boonen, Flecha and teammate Fabian Cancellara, Hincapie, and CSC's Lars Michaelsen -- everything but a big sign that said "Winning break departing now."
Cancellara flatted, then as the pace increased, Michaelsen and then TDFBlog favorite Magnus Backstedt were dropped about 16 km out. From Yahoo! Sport:
"I was on the last wheel and as we went round a corner Mickaelsen swung out and left a bit of a gap," explained Backstedt who finished fourth. "I tried to close it but just couldn't. The front three were just far too strong for me."
Boonen said he had most feared Backstedt and Michaelson in a finishing sprint over the roleurs Hincapie and Flecha. Left with Hincapie and Flecha, Boonen picked their pocket, holding third position into the Roubaix velodrome, choosing his attack, and outkicking Hincapie for the win.
Hincapie becomes the first American to make the Paris-Roubaix podium.
1) Tom Boonen (Quick-Step), 6:27:31
2) George Hincapie (Discovery Channel), same time
3. Juan Antonio Flecha (Fassa Bortolo), same time
4. Magnus Backstedt (Liquigas), at 1:09
5. Lars Michaelsen (Team CSC), at 2:43
6. Leon van Bon (Davitamon - Lotto), at 3:49
7. Florent Brard (Agritubel), same time
8. Fabian Cancellara (Fassa Bortolo), same time
9. Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole), same time
10. Arnaud Coyot (Cofidis), same time
CSC's Andrea Tafi, who won Paris-Roubaix in 1999, made his last career start, but withdrew early, as did Peter Van Petegem, among others. Former US Postal rider Victor Hugo Peña crashed in the neutral zone, before racing even got under way, and DNF'ed.
With his early season goals achieved, Boonen said he'll concentrate on the Tour de France green jersey and the World Championships in Madrid:
“This is a dream for me,” said Boonen. “Flanders and Roubaix are the two races I’ve wanted to win the most, and I’ve now won them both. This gives me a huge amount of confidence for the rest of the season. I’m going to go on holiday now and try to find new motivation for my remaining two goals this season, which are to win the points title at the Tour de France and the Worlds.”
Fassa Bortolo's supersprinter, Alessandro Petacchi, has previously announced he won't ride the 2005 Tour, to focus on worlds, and Oscar Freire is bound to target world's, since they're in Spain, so it looks like the stage is set for a major showdown in Madrid.
"I'm satisfied, yet disappointed at the same time," said Hincapie, who couldn't counter when Boonen shot away high off the final turn in the velodrome. "This gives me even more motivation to come back here and win next year."
Why did Hincapie let it go to a sprint against Boonen?
[Discovery assistant DS Dirk] Demol added, "it wasn't possible to attack in the final 20 kms." On Boonen, he added, "every kilometer closer to the finish, we kept thinking 'how can we beat him?'"
The second place finish moved Hincapie up into fourth place in the ProTour standings.
CyclingRevealed.com offers a look at the Belgian Classics, and Johan Museeuw, who won Paris-Roubaix three times.
April 06, 2005
Mattan wins Ghent-Wevelgem; will he keep it?
At Ghent-Wevelgem today, Davitamon-Lotto's Nico Mattan took the win, but the win is still being examined by officials.
Mattan led by 20 seconds with a little more than 5 miles to ride, but was caught by a small group including Fassa Bortolo's Juan Antonio Flecha. Flecha took advantage of the letdown that usually happens when a break is caught to launch his own attack, and Mattan dropped his compatriots to try to chase back on to Flecha over the last few kilometers.
During that chase, Mattan reportedly drafted two cars and two motorcycles, part of the race caravan. He caught and passed Flecha in the final 300 meters, to win, at least for now, on a circuit he rides as part of his everyday training.
"Any sportsman couldn't be happy with this," said Fasso Bortolo director Giancarlo Ferretti. "I saw the pictures on television and I said to myself: what on earth is going on here!"
Mattan denied receiving any unauthorized help.
"You can't say it was down to the motorbikes that I won the Ghent-Wevelgem. I did the pedaling," he said.
Sometimes during big races with crowds in the streets, it's almost impossible for the riders to stay completely clear of the draft coming off the leading motorcycles. Here, it sounds like the support crew may have been complicit in helping local boy Mattan take the race.
VeloNews also reports that Discovery Channel's former Ghent-Wevelgem winner, George Hincapie, dropped out of the race with about 50 kilometers to race. In an interview in CyclingNews, Hincapie mentions:
"In years past, I might have done too much [at Gent-Wevelgem] and not saved enough energy for Paris-Roubaix. But hopefully I'm getting my form back after being sick, so I'm going to race hard [at Gent-Wevelgem] and do what I can there."
Cycloblog mentions that Discovery's Roger Hammond, who crashed and broke his arm on the race, and that one of Shimano's "neutral" service drivers was fined 400 Swiss francs for not clearing the course at the end of the race.
Gerolsteiner confirmed for Tour de Georgia
Race organizers announced the final team roster (.pdf file) for this month's Tour de Georgia, kicking off April 19th.
The biggest addition is Levi Leipheimer's Gerolsteiner squad.
Recapping, the 6 ProTour teams in the field are Discovery Channel, Gerolsteiner, Phonak, Team CSC, Saunier Duval-Prodir, and Credit Agricole.
Navigators Insurance, Team LPR, USA Cycling's national team, HealthNet-Maxxis, Jittery Joe's (the pride of Athens), Jelly Belly-Pool Gel, Colavita-Sutter Home, TIAA-CREF, Symmetrics, and Kodak EasyShare Gallery/Sierra Nevada (and doesn't THAT roll right off the tongue) will round out the field.
The stage is set for the top US riders to face off wheel to wheel, with Lance Armstrong, Bobby Julich, Floyd Landis, Chris Horner, and Levi Leipheimer all on hand. The only other American I would have loved to see in the field who isn't is Freddie Rodriguez.
April 04, 2005
Armstrong suing Anderson again
I waited to post this, since I wasn't sure if the story referred to Armstrong's initial suit against his former assistant Mike Anderson, or a new suit. It's a new suit, for $125,000, for harassment, inconvenience, legal fees, and other expenses, in response to Anderson's Thursday filing (.pdf file).
Anderson claims to have seen banned substances in Armstrong's Girona apartment, and to have seen two Armstrong associates help Armstrong avoid an unannounced drug test when Armstrong was unexpectedly away from his house (he's supposed to keep the anti-doping folks apprised of his movements, for just such a situation). Anderson says he never saw Armstrong take anything illegal.
It's getting to the point where I'd like to put up a site just to track Armstrong's ongoing lawsuits, but I only get 5 gigabytes of transfer a month. Let's see, there are libel cases still active in France and England, the Simeoni affair in Italy, a possible drug inquiry in France, Armstrong's initial suit against Anderson, Anderson's countersuit, and now, Armstrong's second suit against Anderson.
Anything I'm forgetting, or have any of these cases been officially closed?
GrahamWatson.com Tour of Flanders photo gallery
Homeboy Boonen wins Flanders in a breakaway
Tom Boonen won perhaps the biggest race of his stellar career Sunday, and established himself as more than Belgium's outstanding sprinter in a dramatic win at the Tour of Flanders.
At the first Belgian classic of the year, Boonen animated a six-man breakaway group, then rode away from a class bunch, including two-time Flanders winner Peter Van Petegem, Erik Zabel and his T-Mobile teammate Andreas Klier, Fassa Bortolo's Roberto Petito, and Lampre-Caffita's Alessandro Ballan, the only survivor of an earlier break, to which the strongmen bridged with less than 40 kilometers to ride.
Boonen has won race after race in his 3-year pro career with a killer finishing kick, but Sunday, he didn't want to risk dicing it out with Zabel, Klier, and PVP:
“I didn’t want to wait,” he explained about his late attack. “I couldn’t win against Zabel and a team-mate, I had to attack. I simply couldn’t risk a sprint with Zabel and Van Petegem.”
Instead, Boonen countered one of Van Petegem's attacks, and immediately got a 10-second gap on the breakaway, which pretty quickly started racing for second, letting Boonen win by 33 seconds.
Team Discovery Channel has to be a little disappointed. Lance Armstrong flew the flag in a late but futile chase of the leaders, and George Hincapie, Stijn Devolder, and Viatcheslav Ekimov were in the chasing group in the last 10 kilometers, but none of the Discos covered Boonen, van Petegem, and Zabel's decisive move. Hincapie led the field sprint, taking 7th on the day, but that's small comfort. CyclingNews has Johan Bruyneel telling "Belgian TV tersely that 'for the team, it was a big disappointment.' "
TDFBlog favorite Magnus Backstedt was in the longest break of the day.
1) Tom Boonen (QuickStep), 6:22:49
2) Andreas Klier (T-Mobile), at :35
3) Peter Van Petegem (Davitamon-Lotto), at :40
4) Erik Zabel (T-Mobile), same time
5) Roberto Petito (Fassa Bortolo), same time
6) Alessandro Ballan (Lampre-Caffita), same time
7) George Hincapie (Discovery Channel), at 1:42
8) Leon van Bon (Davitamon-Lotto), same time
9) Sergei Ivanov (T-Mobile), same time
10) Vladimir Gusev (Team CSC), same time
April 02, 2005
Danilo Hondo positive for stimulants, awaits B sample
Gerolsteiner sprinter Danilo Hondo tested positive -- twice -- for as-yet-unnamed stimulants at the Tour of Murcia last month.
The team has suspended him pending results of the B samples.
Hondo won two stages at the Tour of Murcia, and came second at Milan-San Remo. He'll be suspended for two years if the B sample comes back positive.
Armstrong: 'not going to pay blackmail'
Lance Armstrong's lawyer has responded to charges made by a former personal assistant to the six-time Tour winner, calling them "blackmail or extortion money on something that's not true."
Mike Anderson's filing in the case is online (.pdf file), and offers a few surprises I haven't seen covered elsewhere.
Anderson claims Armstrong was still working actively with Dr. Michele Ferrari in the 2004 preseason, and that Ferrari accompanied Armstrong to the Canary Islands when Armstrong unexpectedly shifted training there soon after Anderson saw the box in the bathroom.
Anderson's discussion on doping occurred after Johan Museeuw tested positive. According to the filing, Armstrong's attitude toward Anderson changed when Anderson didn't reassure Armstrong that he was cool with Armstrong saying "Everyone does it," which Anderson took to mean that Armstrong was doping.
And you get a look at what it's like to ride with Lance:
The Guardian story is based on this story in the Austin American-Statesman (free reg. required), where Tim Herman says the assistant, Mike Anderson, "should have worn a ski mask" when he asked for $500,000. "It's precisely what they threatened to do, unless we paid them the money."
Anderson's lawyer countered, saying the $500k was a settlement proposal, not a demand.
Suzanne Halliburton, the Austin reporter, also interviewed a University of Texas professor, John Hoberman, who pooh-poohed the utility of androgens:
"It's not a drug you find turning up in the hotel rooms of professional cyclists," Hoberman said, referring to drug raids police have frequently conducted in Europe during big cycling events, especially the Giro d'Italia.
The banned drug of choice with cyclists is artificial erythropoietin, or EPO, which is used to increase the number of red blood cells carrying oxygen. Cyclists have used testosterone, a naturally-produced male hormone, to better recover during long stage races such as the 23-day Tour.
That, to me, is total crap. Obviously, strength is one component in racing; that's why riders lift weights. If you were going to use steroids, you would do so early in your training program, which is when Anderson claims he saw them. When Stuart Stevens used performance-enhancing drugs for a story in Outside, he said the steroids helped him recover faster, and kept him from feeling joint pain, both a big help on big-mile days.