July 14, 2006
The Race to Save Face
Discovery finds itself in the unexpected position of racing to save face, instead of to replace Lance with lots of explaining to do. Besides being critical and saying, "don't believe your own hype" or podcast, I'd like to know what happened in the team dynamic to have them perform so poorly when there's so much promise on that team.
Note, I don't want them to do bad, and I know there are fans in a deep funk right now (like mine over Jan, which is getting worse), but I'm reminded of Fortune's Pack Mentality article that analyzed the peloton's org chart and team-crew symbiosis. Are they reeling because no one is in charge, like a ship without a rudder, or troops without a general?
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I think Johan's comments at VeloNews (video) and The Paceline are a good analysis of the difference without Lance. Perhaps summed up best by his comment that when Lance was there, no one on the team ever felt tired, riders or crew, no matter how much sleep they had gotten. I think the thing with very special athletes, like Lance, like Gretzgy, like Jordan, is that it's much more than just their own great ability, they have the aura and energy about them that lifts an entire team to do things beyond their normal capacity. Johan couldn't stress enough how different it is without that sure thing leading you.
As he said, I think Johan's learning a lot this Tour, and he's a smart guy, so I think he'll use it well in the future. As for Popo, good on him, he reminds me of a puppy dog, getting back in the master's good graces. We shall see if he grows from puppy to master, I think the jury is still out.
Posted by: Julie at Jul 14, 2006 12:33:46 PM
Nice to see Popo get the win.
Based on Bruyneel's pre-Tour comments, I was hoping to see some of this "attack-happy" strategy in Week 1 - send Hincapie out, send Popo out when Hincapie gets reeled in, then send someone else out...
I can't imagine anyone is really looking forward to Armstrong's arrival!
Has Hincapie talked to anyone (after losing 20 minutes or whatever!) yesterday?
- A slowly recovering Discovery fan.
Posted by: Rex at Jul 14, 2006 12:53:59 PM
I heartily agree re: ullrich. I wanted him to get the second win to bookend his career and blunt the "choker" critics.
Posted by: Jason O'Connell at Jul 14, 2006 2:11:21 PM
Hincapie stated in an interview that he spoke with Armstrong last week. Otherwise Lance has been out of touch, ostensibly preparing for the ESPYs.
I think it's a combination of being leaderless as Bruyneel noted, and beyond that, of simple overhyping of the present riders. I feel a bit bad for Hincapie since he was slotted as the successor, but that had to do more with his being American and being immensely marketable relative to guys like Popo, Azvedo, Noval and Salvodelli.
Still, I'm surprised how hard Hincapie was dropped on 11. Perhaps the downtime after Paris-Roubaix had much more of an impact than anyone let on.
Posted by: Erik at Jul 14, 2006 2:14:05 PM
There's a good video clip of George at VeloNews.com talking about the bad day. (I'm starting to sound like an ad for velonews TV, but really, they have some great clips there!)
Posted by: Julie at Jul 14, 2006 3:30:22 PM
How about this slant I haven't seen anywhere in the press: "Two-time Giro winner Salvoldelli out of Tour because he's too dumb to keep his helmet on after the stage finishes"??
Posted by: Nancy Toby at Jul 14, 2006 4:47:49 PM
Way to go Disco! L'Equipe calls them out after Stage 11 and Johan & Popo stick it to the French on Bastille Day. Still would have liked to see Phonak exert a little more control over a GC contender in the lead group.
RE: Nancy -- I have to agree. Riding down from the Pla de Beret, exhausted, and the road covered with drunken fans? Wear your helmet.
Posted by: Mike at Jul 14, 2006 6:22:45 PM
Thanks for the Hincapie video tip. Unfortunately, it's WINDOWS only and I'm the Mac guy.
I did read, on VeloNews, that Popo and that group attacked in the feed zone.
What's with that? Is that true? Geez.
Posted by: Rex at Jul 14, 2006 7:49:35 PM
Try Flip4Mac. It's a free plugin that renders WMV as quicktime and it works well.
Posted by: DL Byron at Jul 14, 2006 10:44:15 PM
Nice shot, DL Byron. Thanks.
Posted by: Rex at Jul 14, 2006 11:40:47 PM