July 12, 2011

NBC Sports All Access iOS app gets on-demand stages

I typically watch Tour stages with one display on Versus, and a second showing the English-language video stream they provide, with commentary by Matt Keenan, then Phil and Paul once the on-air broadcast is underway.

I have paid for the Flash-based video stream to my Mac, but last year, I used the Versus iPhone app on my iPhone and iPad (using the iPhone app double-sized) to track the race during broadcast commercials or when I was away from a TV. Updated iOS Tour app

This year's app is much better, with far more video, at least a dozen good quality photos per stage, full iPad support, and fewer crashes. In one way it was worse, however. Last year's app allowed (and still allows, if you've got the 2010 Tour app installed) you to go back and watch the full video of the stage, while this year's offered only highlights (typically, crashes and finishes) once the live video was done.

Until today, that is. There's a new version 1.2.0 of the iOS app that allows subscribers to go back and watch previous Tour stages in their entirety. For now, the full stream goes back to Stage 6, but it's promised that previous stages will be available soon. It's done through a browser window, launched by the app, and allows you to scrub through the video to look for your particular highlight. Stage 6 and Stage 8 have about 3:20 of video, Stage 7 and Stage 9 around 4:15. As I write this at 7:25 Eastern on Tuesday, Stage 10 hasn't yet appeared.

Video quality may be a bit lower than the initial stream -- I'm not in a position to test it with a good quality broadband connection right now.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 12, 2011 in About the Tour, Television, Top Stories, Tour Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 02, 2011

Where are they from, 2011 edition

Each year, I take a look at where the Tour's riders are from, with special attention to the traditionally English-speaking countries.

Here's this year's rundown:

Australia
Cadel Evans, BMC
Simon Gerrans, Sky
Matthew Goss, HTC-High Road
Stuart O'Grady, Saxo Bank-Sungard
Richie Porte, Saxo Bank-Sungard
Mark Renshaw, HTC-High Road

Australia had 11 riders in the 2010 Tour, but returns to 2009's total of six this year. The addition of HTC-High Road's Matt Goss and Saxo Bank's Richie Porte means 7 Ausies who rode in 2010 aren't here: Adam Hansen, Brett Lancaster, Matt Lloyd, Robbie McEwen, Luke Roberts, Mick Rogers, and Wesley Sulzberger.

US
Brent Bookwalter, BMC
Tom Danielson, Garmin-Cervelo
Tyler Farrar, Garmin-Cervelo
George Hincapie, BMC
Chris Horner, Radio Shack
Levi Leipheimer, Radio Shack
Danny Pate, HTC-High Road
Christian Vande Velde, Garmin-Cervelo
Tejay Van Garderen, HTC-High Road
David Zabriskie, Garmin-Cervelo

Climbs from 8 to 10, with Armstrong retired, and the addition of Tejay Van Garderen and Tom Danielson, both in their first Tours, and Danny Pate, returning with HTC-High Road. Van Garderen, Farrar, and Bookwalter are the only Americans under 30 in the Tour.

Canada
Ryder Hesjedal, Garmin-Cervelo

With Michael Barry out, Ryder Hesjedal is truly carrying the Weight of a Nation for Canada.

Great Britain
Mark Cavendish, HTC-Columbia
David Millar, Garmin-Cervelo
Ben Swift, Sky
Geraint Thomas, Sky
Bradley Wiggins, Sky

Great Britain had eight riders last year, but 5 this year, with Cummings, Hunt, Daniel Lloyd, and Wegelius not here, but Ben Swift starting for Sky. Cavendish chases green, and Wiggins hopes to rebound from 2010 to go at least Top 10.

New Zealand
Julian Dean, Garmin-Cervelo

Dean returns to lead out Hushovd and Farrar for Garmin-Cervelo.

Ireland
Nicolas Roche, AG2R-La Mondiale

Again, Roche repeats as the only Irish rider.

South Africa is again shut out, with Robbie Hunter watching from home.

Other countries (2010 in parentheses):
40: France (35)
26: Spain (31)
15: Italy (17), Belgium (12)
12: Germany (15), Netherlands (8)
10: USA (8)
9: Russia (6)
6: Australia (11)
5: Denmark (5), Kazakhstan (3)
4: Switzerland (5), Slovenia (4)
3: Lithuania (1), Poland (1), Ukraine (3)
2: Colombia (0), Luxembourg (2), Norway (2), Portugal (3)
1: Austria (3), Belarus (3), Canada (2), Costa Rica (0), Czech Republic (1), Estonia (1), Ireland (1), New Zealand (1), Slovakia (0)

Shut out from last year are four countries that each brought one rider: Japan, Moldova, South Africa, and Sweden.

Also:

TdFblog.com | Where are they from, 2010 edition | Where are they from, 2009 edition | Where are they from, 2008 edition

Posted by Frank Steele on July 2, 2011 in About the Tour | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 03, 2010

Where are they from, 2010 edition

Each year, I take a look at where the Tour's riders are from, with special attention to the traditionally English-speaking countries.

Here's this year's rundown:

Australia
Cadel Evans, BMC
Simon Gerrans, Sky
Adam Hansen, HTC-Columbia
Brett Lancaster, Cervelo
Matthew Lloyd, Omega Pharma-Lotto
Robbie McEwen, Katusha
Stuart O'Grady, Saxo Bank
Mark Renshaw, HTC-Columbia
Luke Roberts, Milram
Michael Rogers, HTC-Columbia
Wesley Sulzberger, Française des Jeux

Eleven! Up from 6 last year, and it's largely a return of the “Lone Australian” phenomenon -- only HTC-Columbia, with Hansen, Renshaw, and Rogers has more than one Aussie on the squad. Every 2009 Aussie returns, and add Gerrans and Hansen, alternates last year, plus Roberts, Sulzberger, and perennial sprint threat McEwen.

US
Lance Armstrong, Radio Shack
Brent Bookwalter, BMC
Tyler Farrar, Garmin
George Hincapie, BMC
Chris Horner, Radio Shack
Levi Leipheimer, Radio Shack
Christian Vande Velde, Garmin
David Zabriskie, Garmin

Eight is up from seven last year, and four in 2008. First-timer Bookwalter is here, Garmin's Danny Pate is not, and Chris Horner returns. The excellent showings of both Farrar and Bookwalter at today's prologue are great news for US cycling, which has a glut of over-30 Tour riders, essentially everybody else on the list above.

Canada
Michael Barry, Sky
Ryder Hesjedal, Garmin

Canada climbs from one to two, and long-suffering Michael Barry finally gets a Tour start at 34.

Great Britain
Mark Cavendish, HTC-Columbia
Stephen Cummings, Sky
Jeremy Hunt, Cervelo
Daniel Lloyd, Cervelo
David Millar, Garmin
Geraint Thomas, Sky
Charlie Wegelius, Omega Pharma-Lotto
Bradley Wiggins, Sky

Great Britain doubles up, with eight riders versus last year's four. Cavendish and Wiggins have dreams of winner's jerseys.

New Zealand
Julian Dean, Garmin

Hayden Roulston wasn't invited by HTC-Columbia, Greg Henderson wasn't invited by Team Sky.

Ireland
Nicolas Roche, AG2R-La Mondiale

Roche repeats as the only Irish rider.

South Africa
Robbie Hunter, Garmin

Up from an unusual zero last year.

Other countries (2009 in parentheses):
35: France (40)
31: Spain (doesn't count Florencio, pulled by Cervelo before start) (28)
17: Italy (16)
15: Germany (15)
12: Belgium (11)
11: Australia (6)
8: Netherlands (11), USA (7)
6: Russia (8)
5: Denmark (3), Switzerland (3)
4: Slovenia (1)
3: Austria (2), Belarus (2), Kazakhstan (1), Portugal (2), Ukraine (2)
2: Canada (1), Luxembourg (3), Norway (2)
1: Czech Republic (1), Estonia (0), Ireland (1), Japan (2), Lithuania (0), Moldova (0), New Zealand (2), Poland (1), South Africa (0), Sweden (1)

Also:

TdFblog.com | Where are they from, 2009 edition

TdFblog.com | Where are they from, 2008 edition

Posted by Frank Steele on July 3, 2010 in About the Tour, Bradley Wiggins, Cadel Evans, Chris Horner, Christian Vande Velde, Danny Pate, Dave Zabriskie, David Millar, George Hincapie, Lance Armstrong, Levi Leipheimer, Mark Cavendish, Michael Rogers, Robbie Hunter, Robbie McEwen, Top Stories | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 13, 2009

Leader 1: Now you're Bjarne Riis

Wired.com | Leader 1 is the Tour de France in Your Living Room

Over at Wired's Geek Dad weblog, Jonathan Liu, reviews Leader 1, a game published in 2001 that simulates bike racing on a reconfigurable “Game of Life”-style track. The road segments can be rearranged to set up different race courses, including a track finish in a velodrome, with the color beside the road denoting the slope of the that part of the course.

The game puts you in control of up to 3 riders, and you have to use the energy levels of your team to put one of your riders across the line first.

Liu's verdict: “If you’re a cycling fan and you want to play a truly incredible board game about bikes, you should check out Leader 1.”

Also:

Ghenos Games | Leader 1, also showing a pink Giro d'Italia variant

CyclingBoardGames.net | LEADER 1

BoardGameGeek | Leader 1 - Including details on the “Leader 2” variant, with new rules to make the game more realistic. There's also a Leader 3 variant with doping controls. I kid you not.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 13, 2009 in About the Tour, Games, Links, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 07, 2009

Tour de Twitter

Slipstreaming
JV on the Crackberry,
originally uploaded by Frank Steele.
This is the third Tour de France I've Twittered. In 2007, it was pretty lonely. Last year, we had a core group of fans using the service. This year, Twitter has exploded. Lance Armstrong has been one of the top celebrities to adopt Twitter, alongside Stephen Fry, Ashton Kutcher (I almost typed “Astana Kutcher”), and Barack Obama.

I've developed quite a list of riders, journalists, bloggers, and photographers in preparation for the Tour, and thought I would share it with you.

I started with Carlton Reid's massive, 600+ strong list of “Bike Trade Tweeps”. As I've found more, I've been adding them. I left off a few that appear inactive, like @carlossastre, who has nearly 4,000 followers awaiting his first tweet (what pressure!); likewise Denis Menchov and Robert Gesink, and a few fakes.

Also, these are all in English. Please send me additions, either on Twitter (@TdFblog) or by commenting this post. Thanks!

Riders/Teams

Astana

Garmin-Slipstream

Columbia-HTC

Silence-Lotto

Cervelo Test Team

Quick Step

Skil-Shimano

Saxo Bank

Rabobank

Press

VS broadcasters

Photographers

Pros not racing this year

Bloggers

Posted by Frank Steele on July 7, 2009 in About the Tour, Andy Schleck, Bradley Wiggins, Cadel Evans, Carlos Sastre, Chris Horner, Christian Vande Velde, Danny Pate, Dave Zabriskie, George Hincapie, Ivan Basso, Janez Brajkovic, Kurt-Asle Arvesen, Lance Armstrong, Levi Leipheimer, Mark Cavendish, Michael Rogers, Robbie Hunter, Robbie McEwen, Tour news, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

July 04, 2009

Sastre prevented from racing in yellow

VeloNews | Sastre couldn't wear yellow jersey to start

Tour officials refused to let defending champion Carlos Sastre race today's Stage 1 in Monaco in the yellow jersey.

For years, defending champions could choose to wear the yellow jersey during the subsequent Tour's first stage. Lance Armstrong sometimes did (2003), and sometimes didn't (2004, 2005).

Since Armstrong's retirement, there was no returning champion in 2006 (Armstrong retired), 2007 (Landis banned, Pereiro not yet named champion), or 2008 (Contador and the rest of Astana barred from racing).

Sastre has been the Rodney Dangerfield of GC candidates, and would probably have liked to remind teams and fans that he was good enough to win this race last year, but the ASO decided the tradition had run its course.

Hood quotes Tour spokesman Mathieu Desplats:

“We decided to stop this tradition,” said Tour spokesman Mathieu Desplats. “It was a tradition, not a rule. It’s a new race, with a new start and new contenders. There’s no reason why to wear the yellow jersey.”

Armstrong's 2003 prologue start looks to stand as the last initial Tour stage with a rider in yellow.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 4, 2009 in 2009 Stage 1, 2009 Tour de France, About the Tour, Carlos Sastre, Lance Armstrong | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Beginner's Guide to the Tour de France for 2009

If you're interested in the Tour de France, but you don't really get what's going on all the time, this is the post for you.

The Tour de France is the biggest event in bicycle racing. It's a three-week race, starting on the first Saturday in July, that includes about 20 daily stages, and two rest days. There are two other 3-week Grand Tours in cycling, the Vuelta á España in September, and the Giro d'Italia in May, but the Tour draws more fan and sponsorship interest than either of those.

Even though an individual wins a bicycle race, the sport is really contested by teams. Having a team to shelter the leader, from the wind, from mechanicals, and from having to chase every attack up the road, can make all the difference in a team leader's chances.

One of the things that makes a stage race unique in sports is the variety of different contests going on at the same time. Twenty teams and 180 riders will take the start today in Monaco, but only one will take the overall victory, and many teams have only faint hopes of even competing for the overall. Recognizing that, Grand Tour organizers run a number of different competitions within their races.

Most obviously, there's a stage winner each day. Usually, that's simply the rider who crosses the stage's finish line first. In a time trial, riders make a staggered start over a set course, with the rider who finishes in the least time declared the winner. In the team time trial (this year, that's Tuesday's Stage 4), the winner will be the team whose 5th rider crosses the finish line in the least time. Why 5th? To discourage teams from resting riders or sheltering them from the maximum effort of the team time trial.

Winning a Tour stage is a highlight of many riders' careers. Only 10 Americans have ever won Tour stages, from Jeff Pierce back in 1987 to Levi Leipheimer in 2007. Lance Armstrong has 25 career stage wins.

Each day, race officials also name a “most agressive rider”. This should be a rider who shook things up on the stage, by riding away from the main group of riders (called the “peloton” for “ball of wool”) or, often, a French rider who participated in a breakaway group. That rider gets special red race numbers (a “dossard” in French) to wear during the next stage. At the end of the overall race, a rider is named “most agressive” for the Tour.

There are also 5 parallel competitions being contested through the entire Tour. The most famous is the yellow jersey (maillot jaune), or overall leader's jersey. The rider with the lowest elaspsed time over all the stages run is awarded a yellow jersey to wear during the next stage. Sometimes, a rider is referred to as the “yellow jersey on the road” – that means that this rider is the best placed rider in a breakaway group that leads the previous race leader by more time than that rider's previous deficit. In other words, if conditions held as they are, that rider would take over the race lead. Five Americans have worn the yellow jersey at some point during the race: Greg Lemond, Lance Armstrong, George Hincapie, Dave Zabriskie, and Floyd Landis. Note that there's no requirement for a yellow jersey to have won a stage. If he can make the lowest overall time by staying close to stage winners, that's good enough, and Greg Lemond, among others, won a Tour without winning a single stage. Yellow jersey candidates must be good in the mountains and on the Tour's time trials, the two venues that create most of the time gaps between riders.

Probably the next most prestigious is the green jersey, which is awarded to the rider who amasses the most points at sprint lines throughout the course. Many teams carry specialist sprinters, sometimes with one or more “lead-out men,” who are fairly strong sprinters themselves, and give their all to put a teammate at the front of a bunch in the last 200-300 meters of a stage. Points are awarded for the top finishers in flat stages, with the stage winner taking maximum points, and a sliding point scale that may go 20 riders deep. There are also intermediate sprints in the middle of many stages, which work the same way. The first rider to the sprint line receives maximum points, decreasing by place down to one point. Last year, the green jersey was won by Oscar Freire of Rabobank, but this year, 2007 winner Tom Boonen and Columbia phenom Mark Cavendish look like more likely candidates.

The King of the Mountains jersey is white with red polka-dots. Riders receive points for being among the first to reach mountain summits on the Tour's mountain stages. Again, the first rider to the summit receives maximum points, tapering to 1 point, with more points on climbs deemed hors categorie, or “beyond classification,” and fewer at lower categorized (in decreasing order: HC, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th Category) climbs.

The white jersey goes to the rider under 25 who is highest placed in the overall standings. Last year, Saxo Bank's Andy Schleck won the white jersey competition, and he's a candidate for the overall win, and to repeat in the white jersey.

Finally, each day, organizers total the times of each team's first three finishers, and the team with the lowest overall total leads the Team Classification. Note that each day can feature different riders, but the first three from that team are totalled for this competition. The leading team each day is awarded race numbers with a yellow background, instead of the usual white.

Unofficially, fans also track the overall last-placed rider in the Tour, who is called the lanterne rouge in comparison with the red lantern that used to hang from the caboose of a train. Wim Vansevenant of Silence-Lotto was the Tour's lanterne rouge a record three times consecutively from 2006 through 2008, but retired after last season, making room for a new red lantern.

It's the ad hoc alliances and shifting rider and team strategies that make a stage race fascinating.

Strategies

The existence of all these competitions and stages makes for many alliances on the road. Different teams have different Tour objectives, and so adopt different strategies. During the flatter stages, teams with outstanding sprinters like Tom Boonen, Mark Cavendish, and Thor Hushovd, are likely to work to reel in any breakaway, setting up a sprint finish that favors their fast men.

As the race progresses, responsibility for chasing down breakaways typically falls to the team of the leader, or sometimes to teams who will see a rider in the breakaway as a threat to their well-placed riders. Late in the Tour, for instance, a team with a 3rd-place rider will tear its lungs out to keep the 4th-place rider from getting up the road, and endangering their man's podium placing.

Teams without good prospects in the overall will find other goals: Stages that might favor their best climber, breaks where they can get a disproportionate number of riders from their own team, or a chance to launch a climbing specialist on a day-long solo expedition, where he can collect a jerseyful of King of the Mountain points.

The rate of success in a breakaway is low, but it's better than that for a rider in the peloton. If you get a rider in a 5-man break, you've got a one-in-five chance if the break succeeds, while you've got a one-in-twenty (20 teams riding this year) chance in the pack.

Also:

TdFblog | Beginners guide to the Tour de France (updated 2003)

This is the original version of my “Beginner's Guide,” with answers to a lot of questions from readers.

Wikipedia | 2008 Tour de France Prize Money

Tour de France Lanterne Rouge - A blog dedicated to the fight for last place in the Tour

Posted by Frank Steele on July 4, 2009 in About the Tour | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 02, 2009

Fantastic Netherlands Archive set on Flickr

The National Archive of the Netherlands has posted 28 images of past Tours de France.

There's inaugural winner Maurice Garin, Eddy Merckx with Joop Zoetemelk in 1973, Anquetil in '63, a podium girl with winner, circa 1928, and 20-something more.

These are just 10 kinds of awesome. Take some time, and browse through them slowly.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 2, 2009 in About the Tour, Photo galleries | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Where are they from, 2009 edition

Every year, I run down the riders' countries of origin, with special attention to the English-speaking countries. Here's last year's, for comparison.

USA
Lance Armstrong, Astana
Tyler Farrar, Garmin-Slipstream
George Hincapie, Columbia-HTC
Levi Leipheimer, Astana
Danny Pate, Garmin-Slipstream
Christian Vande Velde, Garmin-Slipstream
David Zabriskie, Garmin-Slipstream

Seven is up from four last year. Gone is Will Frischkorn, left off the Garmin team, but back are Armstrong, Zabriskie, and Leipheimer. Tyler Farrar starts his first Tour. Not just more riders, but riders with more chances -- 3 guys with Top 5 hopes, and Farrar stage-hunting.

Australia
Cadel Evans, Silence-Lotto
Brett Lancaster, Cervelo
Matthew Lloyd, Silence-Lotto
Stuart O'Grady, Saxo Bank
Mark Renshaw, Columbia-HTC
Michael Rogers, Columbia-HTC
Allan Davis, Quick Step

Down from 9 last year, with Robbie McEwen recovering from surgery, Baden Cooke riding for the Continental Vacansoleil team, Trent Lowe home, and Simon Gerrans and Adam Hansen alternates. Michael Rogers is back. Matthew Lloyd makes his first Tour start. 7/3 Update: With Tom Boonen back in the Tour, Allan Davis stays home, reducing Australia's count to 6. And a half, given Heinrich Haussler, who lives and trains in Australia.

Great Britain:
Mark Cavendish, Columbia-HTC
David Millar, Garmin-Slipstream
Bradley Wiggins, Garmin-Slipstream
Charly Wegelius, Silence-Lotto

Chris Froome's Barloworld squad is not in the Tour this year, back is Bradley Wiggins, and Wegelius returns thanks to Dekker's EPO positive. Cavendish has to be the pre-Tour favorite for green, and his success or failure will be one of this Tour's major plotlines.

New Zealand
Julian Dean, Garmin-Slipstream
Hayden Roulston, Cervelo

Tour rookie Roulston joins the returning Dean.

Ireland
Dan Martin, Garmin-Slipstream
Nicolas Roche, AG2R

With Martin's tendinitis, Roche will be the first Irish participant since Mark Scanlon in 2004. Roche is reigning Irish road champion, having dethroned Martin last weekend.

Canada
Ryder Hesjedal, Garmin-Slipstream

After ending a 10-year Canadian drought last year, Hesjedal returns.

With no Barloworld participation, Robbie Hunter and John Lee Augustyn won't make the start for South Africa.

All nations breakdown:
40: France (2008 count in parentheses: 40)
28: Spain (30)
16: Italy (21)
15: Germany (16)
11: Netherlands (10)
11: Belgium (12)
8: Russia (4)
7: USA (4)
6: Australia (9)
4: United Kingdom (3)
3: Denmark (1), Luxembourg (2), Switzerland (4)
2: Austria (2), Belarus (2), Colombia (3), Japan (0), New Zealand (1), Norway (2), Portugal (0), Ukraine (2)
1: Canada (1), Czech Republic (1), Finland (0), Ireland (0), Kazakhstan (1), Poland (1), Slovakia (1), Slovenia (1), Sweden (2)

Posted by Frank Steele on July 2, 2009 in About the Tour, Bradley Wiggins, Cadel Evans, Christian Vande Velde, Danny Pate, Dave Zabriskie, David Millar, George Hincapie, Julian Dean, Lance Armstrong, Levi Leipheimer, Mark Cavendish, Michael Rogers, Robbie Hunter, Robbie McEwen, Stuart O'Grady, Top Stories, Tour de France 2009, Will Frischkorn | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 05, 2008

Where are they from?

I always review the nationalities breakdown for the Tour, with a special eye toward the English-speaking countries. Here's last year's, for comparison.

USA
George Hincapie, Team Columbia
Christian Vande Velde, Garmin-Chipotle
Will Frischkorn, Garmin-Chipotle
Danny Pate, Garmin-Chipotle

This is the least in years, with Freddie Rodriguez riding in the U.S., Bobby Julich not selected, Chris Horner and Levi Leipheimer barred with Astana, and David Zabriskie nursing a back injury.

Australia
Baden Cooke, Barloworld
Cadel Evans, Silence-Lotto
Simon Gerrans, Credit Agricole
Adam Hansen, Team Columbia
Brett Lancaster, Milram
Trent Lowe, Garmin-Chipotle
Robbie McEwen, Silence-Lotto
Stuart O'Grady, CSC-Saxo Bank
Mark Renshaw, Credit Agricole

Baden Cooke is back; Adam Hansen, Trent Lowe, and Mark Renshaw are new, and Michael Rogers is out.

Great Britain:
Mark Cavendish, Team Columbia
Christopher Froome, Barloworld
David Millar, Garmin-Chipotle

Out are Geraint Thomas, Bradley Wiggins and Charlie Wegelius. I've got Christopher Froome as being from Kenya, which isn't in the list below. Put him there, and Great Britain drops to just a pair.

New Zealand
Julian Dean, Garmin-Chipotle

As last year.

South Africa
Robbie Hunter, Barloworld
John-Lee Augustyn, Barloworld

Adds Augustyn.

Canada
Ryder Hesjedal, Garmin-Chipotle

First Canuck since 1997. Maybe Michael Barry will join him one year.

Here's the official breakdown, according to the Tour website:

40: France (2007 count in parentheses: 35)
30: Spain (42)
21: Italy (18)
16: Germany (19)
12: Belgium (13)
10: The Netherlands (7)
9: Australia (6)
4: USA (6), Russia (6) and Switzerland (5)
3: Colombia (3), Great Britain (5) and Luxembourg (2)
2: South Africa (1), Austria (3), Belarus (2), Norway (2), Sweden (1) and Ukraine (2)
1: Brazil (1), Canada (0), Denmark (1), Kazakhstan (4), New Zealand (1), Poland (0), Czech Republic (0), Slovakia (0) and Slovenia (1)

Spanish representation drops from 42 riders last year to 30 this year, with France jumping from 35 to 40.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 5, 2008 in About the Tour, Baden Cooke, Bobby Julich, Bradley Wiggins, Cadel Evans, Chris Horner, Christian Vande Velde, Danny Pate, Dave Zabriskie, David Millar, Fred Rodriguez, George Hincapie, Julian Dean, Levi Leipheimer, Mark Cavendish, Michael Rogers, Robbie McEwen, Stuart O'Grady, Tom Danielson, Top Stories, Will Frischkorn | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 04, 2008

Google brings Street View to entire Tour route

Google Maps - Tour de France 2008

Google is taking Street View on the road.

The 3D panorama view for Google Maps is already available in dozens of US cities, allowing you to fly through stitched-together photos of San Francisco's Lombard Street, Broadway, or Ocean Drive in South Beach, Miami.

Now, Google is taking the tech outside the United States for the first time, offering Street View for not just the cosmopolitan parts of this year's Tour, but the entire route, from start to finish. Combined with a Google Maps .kml file of the route, you can fly through the entire route, viewing photos of any spot on the course at any time.

There's also an official introduction video on YouTube.

Also:

Google Earth Blog

Google Sightseeing | Tour de Street View

Posted by Frank Steele on July 4, 2008 in About the Tour, Links | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 26, 2007

Laughing past the graveyard

I seem to remember a time when the Tour was fun. And after the last couple of days, I thought we could all use a little bit of the Tour's lighter, dare I say more whimsical, side.

Snark first: Elden at FatCyclist offers 5 Questions About the Tour de France Thus Far, including: Question 2. How come people keep sending Iban Mayo to the Tour?

The video above (which I saw first at QuickRelease.TV) has French accordion music and a setup worth of Punch & Judy or Itchy and Scratchy. It also reminded me of a site that tracks the Tour's publicity caravan and scale models of the caravan vehicles (and speaking of Itchy and Scratchy, here's the elaborate rolling Les Simpson, Le Film diorama in this year's caravan), mostly in French (also here).

And nobody uses model cyclists and race vehicles better than Anthony Pope, with his Plastic Peloton People, where he's put up a “print-out-and-keep momento” of the London Grand Depart. Here's an interview with Pope in PezCyclingNews in June.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 26, 2007 in About the Tour, Iban Mayo, London | Permalink | Comments (1)

July 24, 2007

Tour will continue after Vino bombshell

VeloNews.com | Tour will continue despite doping cloud

Tour director Christian Prudhomme and ASO president Patrice Clerc addressed Alexandre Vinokourov's positive doping test in a press conference in Pau.

Asked whether the Tour should just be canceled, Clerc seemed to think it inconceivable:

“We have started a war on doping, and unfortunately in war there are losses, but it is out of the question to quit,” Clerc said. “There was never a question the Tour would stop. Then the cheaters would win.”

Clerc also said that neither Astana nor race leader Michael Rasmussen should have been invited to the 2007 Tour. Clerc said of Rasmussen, leading the race by 2:23:

“In a period of crisis such as we are living in at the moment, a champion must be a good example,” said Clerc. “His attitude, his lack of respect shown to the administrative rules, which is unacceptable, should be made known to us and we would have refused his participation, because he is not a good role model for the others in the peloton.”

No news yet on the reassignment of Vinokourov's stage wins.

Also:

Yahoo! Eurosport | Tour de France - Tour "winning war on drugs"

Prudhomme blamed the UCI:

“The system is a complete failure. It does not protect the greatest cycling race. We have to blow this system,” he said.

He added that organisers had been informed of Vinokourov's positive test by Astana, not the UCI.

leTour.fr | Le Tour de France Obtains the Withdrawal of the Astana Team

Posted by Frank Steele on July 24, 2007 in About the Tour, Alexandre Vinokourov, Doping, Michael Rasmussen, Top Stories | Permalink | Comments (14) | TrackBack

July 20, 2007

Rodriguez blames Stage 11 crash on poor Tour planning

Active.com | Tour de France: Fast Freddie Rodriguez: Stage 11...Where Do I Start?

Freddie RodriguezThree-time US champion Freddie Rodriguez has been vocal about his concerns that Tour organizers should give more weight to rider safety when choosing the finish line of Tour stages.

Rodriguez says the crash that took him out of Stage 11, along with Tom Boonen, Francisco Ventoso (still hurting), Julian Dean, and Fränk Schleck, was clearly the planners' fault:

Once again, they’ve proven to have little respect for the rider’s health in this race. As a pro for over 10 years, I just don't get their ignorance in thinking that the peloton, coming in at 65 km/hr, was going to make it in one piece through an S-turn like that. I would have bet money that a crash would have happened in that corner.

What the organizers keep forgetting is that we have no idea how dangerous the road is ahead at many points. We again put our lives in their hands, and again they have let us down. I guess the saddest part is that I have been trying to be vocal about their mistakes, but they seem to just choose to ignore.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 20, 2007 in About the Tour, Frank Schleck, Fred Rodriguez, Julian Dean, Tom Boonen | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

July 07, 2007

L'Equipe becomes "The Team" for London start

IHT.com | French sports daily speaks English for London start of Tour de France - International Herald Tribune

The French sports daily L'Equipe commemmorated the Tour's visit to London with a Saturday edition that featured two front pages -- one in English.

With Marion Bartoli in the women's Wimbledon final and Richard Gasquet facing off with Roger Federer later today, the eyes of the French sports world are in London today, and both covers featured the headline “God Save le Tour!”

Only the cover was in English, although interestingly, the paper's web page is surveying its readers today on whether they speak English, with 73 percent so far answering, “Oui.”

VeloNews has posted a photo of the two covers (scroll down to “Latest photos”).

Posted by Frank Steele on July 7, 2007 in About the Tour, London, Tour de France 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 02, 2007

Tour organizers to skip No. 1

VeloNews | No No. 1 at '07 Tour

Proving there's no symbolic gesture organizers will skip in their get-tough-on-doping attitude, the Tour will, for the first time in its history, not have a rider wearing the number “1”.

Defending champions are generally accorded the honor of wearing the lowest race number, with their teammates getting numbers 2 through 9, but Floyd Landis is out of cycling and fighting a doping ban.

ASO will merely skip the single digits, and will assign the numbers 11 through 19 to Oscar Pereiro and his Caisse d'Epargne teammates, and 21 through 29 to CSC. Pereiro was the runner-up at last year's Tour.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 2, 2007 in About the Tour, Floyd Landis, Oscar Pereiro, Tour de France 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 26, 2007

Unibet.com sues for Tour place

Yahoo! Eurosport UK | Unibet to take ASO to court

Unibet.com is filing suit against ASO, the organization that runs the Tour de France, over their exclusion from the race.

Unibet.com is a ProTour team, but seemingly in name only. They've been denied entry into all three Grand Tours, initially because of complaints by organizers that the ProTour had expanded too far, preventing GT organizers from inviting wild card teams.

ASO has a stronger basis for preventing Unibet.com from racing, because their title sponsor is an online bookmaker. French law that prohibits the advertisement of foreign gambling concerns in French events.

Also:

cyclingnews | Unibet launches new action against ASO

Posted by Frank Steele on June 26, 2007 in About the Tour, Tour de France 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 18, 2007

Monaco kick-off for '09 Tour

ABC News | Tour de France starts in Monaco in 2009

Looks like the Tour will start in Monaco in 2009. Le Parisien reported today that the '09 prologue will be 15.2 kilometers through Monaco's streets.

Tour director Christian Prudhomme has said he wants to shift to more international starts, moving from 50-50 foreign/French to 3 international for every 2 French starts.

Next year's race starts in Brest, in the northwest Brittany region of France.

Posted by Frank Steele on June 18, 2007 in About the Tour, Top Stories, Tour de France 2009 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 13, 2007

Preride the prologue with BBC Sport

BBC SPORT | Win Tour de France tickets and kit

The prologue of this year's Tour is a 7.9-kilometer (4.9 mile) circuit of central London. It will probably take the pros something like 10 minutes to complete the circuit.

But what if a reasonably fit cyclist tried to do the same course without benefit of road closings and barricades? Check out this video to see how the prologue route rides on a normal day:

BBC Sport is running a contest to guess how long it took “the most athletic person in the office” to ride the prologue course (in a T-Mobile jersey) during London rush hour.

Winner gets VIP tickets to the Skoda hospitality tent and a signed T-Mobile team jersey. A runner-up will win a second autographed jersey. E-mailed guesses must be received by midnight, London time, this Sunday, June 17th.

“I'd just like to point out here that I'm not actually a professional cyclist.”

Posted by Frank Steele on June 13, 2007 in About the Tour, London, Tour de France 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 29, 2007

Zabel to continue racing for Milram

CNN.com | Zabel allowed to ride on by Milram

Erik Zabel's Team Milram announced today that Zabel will continue to race for the team, despite admitting last week that he used EPO during the 1996 Tour de France, while racing for Telekom.

Zabel won't be sanctioned for his admission, since the doping happened more than 8 years ago. Zabel is a 6-time green jersey winner with 12 career Tour stage wins (two in 1996 -- Stage 3 and Stage 10).

“I am grateful that I can continue riding for Milram," said a relieved Zabel. "It was important for me to reveal my past. After I apologized to the public on Thursday, I wanted to apologize to the management and my colleagues, as well as to our main sponsor. I am grateful they appreciate my honesty and they have decided that I am allowed to continue to ride for the team.”

Posted by Frank Steele on May 29, 2007 in About the Tour, Doping, Erik Zabel | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 25, 2007

Riis confesses to 1996 doping

VeloNews | Riis confesses to having doped in winning Tour

The biggest wins of the mid-90s Telekom team were the back-to-back Tour de France wins by Bjarne Riis in 1996 and Jan Ullrich in 1997. With the admissions by much of that squad -- Erik Zabel, Rolf Aldag, Udo Bolts, and others -- that they were using EPO and other banned substances throughout the period, it was harder and harder to believe the team leaders were riding clean.

Today, Bjarne Riis admitted he was doping when he won the 1996 Tour, and said he doesn't feel like a worthy Tour winner:
"My jersey is at home in a cardboard box," he said. "They are welcome to come and get it. I have my memories for myself."
Riis had long suffered the nickname “Mr. 60 Percent” on the internet, a reference to a hematocrit that reportedly once hit a superhuman 64 (source: Telekom soigneur Jef D'Hondt, on Panorama), where 50 is the current legal limit.

Riis said he was speaking out for his current team, CSC, where he is the team director, and where he said attention on his possible involvement in doping while racing was an ongoing distraction. The team, he claims, is completely behind him.

So, who's next?

Also:

Cyclocosm | I Have Doper Mind Control, Bruseghin wins Giro HTT

Endless Cycle | Riis admits to EPO use

Team CSC Press Release

Posted by Frank Steele on May 25, 2007 in About the Tour, Doping, Erik Zabel, Top Stories | Permalink | Comments (1)

January 15, 2007

British portion of 2007 Tour route detailed

BBC SPORT | Tour unveils detailed 2007 route

If you're planning on checking out the Tour this year as it visits London and southeastern England, you can start planning the best locations for viewing. The course details for the prologue, around central London, and Stage 1 out to Canterbury, were published today.

tourdefrancelondon.com | Details of the route

BBC | Detailed Stage 1 through Kent | Even more detailed Stage 1 road maps

Posted by Frank Steele on January 15, 2007 in About the Tour, Tour de France 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 23, 2006

Vansevenant takes the Lanterne Rouge

IHT.com | In slow motion, an epic battle is lost at last

Samuel Abt profiles Wim Vansevenant and Jimmy Casper, the Stage 1 winner who has twice been the lanterne rouge, or last-placed rider in the Tour. The two were head-to-head yesterday, as Vansevenant finished 11:26 back, in 131st, but Casper topped (bottomed?) him, 138th at 13:37, closing the gap to only 16 seconds.

Vansevenant got some bonus time at the day's second sprint, but he still managed to finish 138th (out of 139) today, losing another 1:54 on the day to cement his hold on the 2006 Tour's lanterne rouge.

Vansevenant finished 4:02:01 behind Floyd Landis.

“Lanterne rouge is not a position you go for,” Vansevenant said. “It comes for you.”

Also:

Tour de France Lanterne Rouge weblog

Posted by Frank Steele on July 23, 2006 in About the Tour, Floyd Landis, Tour de France 2006 | Permalink | Comments (2)

July 20, 2006

"L'Alpe d'Huez will kill you"

Slate.com | The Tour de France almost killed me, by Andrew Tilin

I know I already posted about l'Etape du Tour, the amateur ride that traces one stage o the Tour, this year Stage 15 up l'Alpe d'Huez. Normally, I would just paste this on to the bottom of that story, but I enjoyed it so much, I wanted to spotlight it separately.

It's by Andrew Tilin, who sets off on l'Etape with friend Peter, “a high-level amateur racer.” If you want to find out what this ride is like for someone who rides about as much, maybe a little more, than you do, here's your chance. The author has experience in marathons and long triathlons, but says nothing has left him as “stuporous” as the climb up l'Alpe d'Huez.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 20, 2006 in About the Tour, Links | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 18, 2006

Davitamon leading Tour prize money list

VeloNews | Tour prize distribution thus far

VeloNews notes that Davitamon-Lotto leads all teams in prize money so far (through Sunday's Stage 14), at 49,060 euros, on the strength of Robbie McEwen's three stage wins.

Rabobank is 2nd, T-Mobile 3rd, with Lampre and AG2R rounding out the top 5.

Dead last, behind even Agritubel, is Phonak. I'm starting to think they'll find a way to close that gap.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 18, 2006 in About the Tour, Robbie McEwen, Tour de France 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 30, 2006

Photos from Tours gone by

There's an absolutely gorgeous slideshow of Tour images from the '30s to about 1990 available here. It's a collection of mostly black-and-white images from the Magnum photo gallery. There are a few shots of racers, but more of the fans, announcers, and setting of the race.

I can't make out head or tail of the commentary, but it appears to be provided by Danish director and Tour commentator Jorgen Leth.

I'm pleased and very honored that TdFblog gets a link at the end.

Coincidentally, the Magnum in Motion podcast series (RSS/XML subscription link | direct movie link) is currently featuring a similar presentation by Larry Towell on Mennonites, which may be of interest if you would like to learn more about the culture in which Floyd Landis grew up.

Posted by Frank Steele on June 30, 2006 in About the Tour, Floyd Landis, Photo galleries | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 21, 2006

LeTour Goatse?

LeTour Goatse?
LeTour Goatse?,
originally uploaded by Frank Steele.
If you visit the Tour de France webpage, you're taken to a landing page where you can choose your language.

This year's edition bears more than a passing resemblance to one of the most famous Internet gross-out images of all time, Goatse.cx (Wikipedia link).

Posted by Frank Steele on June 21, 2006 in About the Tour, Links, Top Stories, Tour news, Tour Tech | Permalink | Comments (1)

18-year Tour director looking forward to being ordinary spectator

International Herald Tribune | Tours of a lifetime - Peaks and valleys

One veteran approaching his last Tour is Jean-Marie Leblanc, the Tour's director emeritus. Christian Prudhomme has taken over the primary duties of director, but Leblanc will assist this year with carrying special guests of the Tour in the 2nd official's car.

Samuel Abt talked to Leblanc about the high and low points of his 18 years as director and his advice for the riders and spectators. Leblanc is looking forward to one stage in particular next year:

“I don't know where exactly, perhaps in the mountains - I'll be with the race as a tourist, an ordinary spectator.

“I'll be at the side of the road with a picnic, a cooler, a hat, my grandchildren and dark glasses so nobody will recognize me. And I'll see the whole Tour - because I don't know it. The publicity caravan, the press cars, everything.

“For 18 years I've been at the front of the pack and I've never had a total vision of the race. That's what I want: to explain to my grandchildren, 'That's the publicity caravan, those are the journalists.'

“And those are, of course, the riders,” he can say. “I was one of them myself," he can explain. “In 1968, I finished 58th in the Tour de France and in 1970 I was 83rd. Then my life changed.”

Posted by Frank Steele on June 21, 2006 in About the Tour, Tour de France 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 30, 2006

Tour de France intro makes Fortune magazine

FORTUNE | Pack mentality

Paul Hochman, familiar to OLN's regular Tour viewers as “that guy with the glasses,” has a Tour preview in the current issue of Fortune magazine, of all places.

In keeping with the neighborhood, he explains the Tour as a commodities marketplace, where the various players buy stage wins at the expense of GC placing, buy TV time for the price of a suicide break, and even dominant champions find themselves allying with opponents when the situation is right.

Hochman quotes Bob Roll, who says it's less corporate than that:

"It's basically a penitentiary," says Bob Roll, a former Tour rider and an anchor for OLN TV. "You've got your walking boss, you've got that sneaky little bastard who was in "The Longest Yard," you have the honorable veterans, and then the guys who are just doing time, which is most of them. Nobody wants to be anybody's boy, but sometimes you have no choice."

If you're a regular, most of this won't be news for you, but it's definitely worth keeping around for friends and coworkers looking for an introduction come Tour time.

Posted by Frank Steele on May 30, 2006 in About the Tour, Tour 2006 previews | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 08, 2006

Tour's devil builds World Cup bike

Reuters UK | Big bike for a big fan

The Red Devil of the Tour de France is branching out.

Didi Senft, who appears annually dressed as a devil at many of the Tour's toughest stages, wants to be a part of the publicity surrounding the upcoming soccer/football World Cup, kicking off in June in Germany.

He's built a giant, rideable tricycle using regulation soccer balls as tires. It looks to be a modification of his world record bicycle, since it shares some dimensions: 7.8 meters long, 3.7 meters high. That's about 26 feet long. Check out the video above to see Didi take it out for a little ride.

Seen at Bikeforall.net.

Posted by Frank Steele on May 8, 2006 in About the Tour, The Tour Devil | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 16, 2005

Tour will commemorate Casartelli tomorrow

ESPN.com | Sunday course passes spot where Casartelli died

As if doing well on the Tour's last uphill finish, gapping the field on the Tour's longest day, and denying other riders from moving up for one more day weren't enough, Lance Armstrong has another reason to mark tomorrow's stage.

Stage 15 will pass the spot on the descent from the Porte d'Aspet where, in the 1995 Tour, (correction) Motorola's Fabio Casartelli died when he crashed and hit his head on a low concrete wall. The white jersey competition has since been named the 'Souvenir Fabio Casartelli' in his honor.

Perhaps the greatest legacy of Casartelli's death is the UCI helmet rule, which has gradually been strengthened to the point that this year, riders can be fined for riding without helmets at any time during the race (last year, they could remove them on finishing climbs).

Casartelli's family will attend Sunday's stage, which looks to be the hardest of the 2005 Tour.

Related:

GORP | A Cyclist's Pilgrimage: The Chapel

Raid Pyrenean | Martin Newstead

An account of a bike Tour of the Pyrenees, including a photo gallery with pictures of the Casartelli memorial.

BHSI.com | The hard truth behind a waste of life

Posted by Frank Steele on July 16, 2005 in About the Tour | Permalink | Comments (3)

July 06, 2005

More on the yellow jersey disruption

MSNBC.com | Lance starts in blue, but switches after start

Z, LA
Zabriskie and Armstrong
AP Photo/ESPN
Apparently, it was Jean-Marie Leblanc (the top of the food chain for race officials, he's the race director) who stopped the race and ordered Lance Armstrong into the Tour leader's yellow jersey during the neutral start today:
“There was no problem, just a little confusion in the beginning, having not started in the jersey,” Armstrong said. “I didn’t feel that it was right to start in the jersey.”

Tour director Jean-Marie Leblanc got strict about the rule book, which states that the overall race leader “must wear” the yellow jersey.

“There was no negotiation,” Armstrong said. “Jean-Marie said: ‘You don’t start in the jersey, and you don’t start tomorrow.’ So I said ‘OK.’ ”

Posted by Frank Steele on July 6, 2005 in About the Tour, Lance Armstrong | Permalink | Comments (3)

October 28, 2004

2005 Tour route unveiled; Armstrong "50-50" to race

cyclingnews.com | One for the team - 2005 Tour de France route unveiled - Armstrong still "50/50", says Bruyneel

Jean-Marie LeBlanc introduced the 2005 Tour this morning in Paris. It's a route that limits the individual time trials and mountaintop finishes where 6-time winner Lance Armstrong has traditionally earned (and padded) his race lead.

Instead of a prologue, the '05 Tour kicks off with a 19km indivividual time trial on the Atlantic coast, then heads east, briefly visiting Germany. The second time trial is Stage 20, in Saint-Etienne. The team time trial survives (no word on whether the time gap rules also survive) and will be Stage 4.

Johan Bruyneel was on hand, and cyclingnews.com asked whether the 6-time winner would likely race the '05 Tour, and how the course matched up with his strengths.

"...the possibility that Lance (Armstrong) will ride the Tour (de France) is still 50/50. It's a good course for Lance but there has been a lot of pressure on him over the past six years," he said.

"It's not necessarily how difficult the course is, but how motivated he is."

Only three stages end on a mountaintop, but riders will ride through the Vosges, the Alps, the Pyrenees, and the Massif Central.

Also:

BBC Sport | Tour bosses announce 2005 route:

Despite a tough stage to Courchevel, in which the peloton will tackle the Cornet de Roselend climb that ended Miguel Indurain's reign in 1996, the Alps stages look less gruelling with two valley finishes, in Briancon and Digne.

The Briancon stage will, however, include the famous Galibier and Madeleines passes.

The Pyrenees look set to be more decisive with two finishes at high altitude in Ax Trois Domaines and a gruesome 17th stage to Le Pla d'Adet.

BBC Sport also claims Armstrong's decision to ride or not isn't expected until February or March.

Yahoo! Sport | Tour offers Armstrong rivals glimmer of hope:

Germany's former Tour de France winner Jan Ullrich, who finished off the podium for the first time in his career in July, stayed away from the presentation.

And Bruyneel admitted that even if Armstrong stuns the world of cycling by shunning the event, they have another ace up their sleeve in the shape of Portuguese talent Jose Azevedo, who finished in fifth place this year after helping Armstrong to his sixth victory ... "If Lance decides not to do it, we'll have to centre things around Azevedo. I think that someone who finishes the Tour in fifth place could hope to go further."

VeloNews | 2005 Tour route announced

The VeloNews page includes the individual climbs and their difficulty on each stage.

LeBlanc's presentation at LeTour.fr

Posted by Frank Steele on October 28, 2004 in About the Tour, Lance Armstrong, Top Stories, Tour news | Permalink | Comments (1)

July 28, 2004

That finish line story? Puh-leeze....

ESPN.com | Tour de France boosts little-known network, but must explain blunder on final day

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."

Posted by Frank Steele on July 28, 2004 in About the Tour, Lance Armstrong 2004, Television | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

July 25, 2004

Tour trivia take 1

Guardian Unlimited Sport | Fotheringham's Tour de France Trivia

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.

--snip--

· 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.


Posted by Frank Steele on July 25, 2004 in About the Tour | Permalink | Comments (1)

Next Tour winner not named Armstrong?

Yahoo! Sports | Observers looking to Armstrong's successor

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.

Basso:

"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.

Also:

BBC Sport | The Tour's stars of the future

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.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 25, 2004 in About the Tour, Tom Danielson | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 21, 2004

Leblanc: Alpe d'Huez TT 'not a good idea'

Eurosport | Bike Shorts: Chaos on Alpe d'Huez

Tour de France director Jean-Marie Leblanc is echoing Lance Armstrong's opinion that a TT up Alpe d'Huez is not such a great idea.

"There were lots of aggressive fans surrounding the riders," Tour de France race director Jean-Marie Leblanc said after Stage 16's finish.

"I even saw two idiots spit at Lance Armstrong."

ASO had tried to ensure rider safety by placing barricades on both sides of the top 7 kilometers of the climb, and assigning 650 policeman with 90 motorcycles to patrol the course.

Don't look for an Alpe d'Huez TT to become a regular part of the Tour:

"Until [Wednesday] morning, everybody thought this time-trial was a good idea," race director Jean-Marie Leblanc said.

"It was not a good idea."

Also:

VeloNews | Vande Velde's Tour: Switchbacks, drunk fans and road art

The crowds were insane from the start of the climb all the way to the top. At times it was scary, as I didn't really know if I would make it through the crazy screaming fans. By the time we started racing the fans had finished their lunches, finished their bottles of red, cans of beer and topped it all off with shots of grappa. When people are drunk, reaction times are slow and the noise is deafening-good and bad when you're racing up a hill with sweat in your eyes.

Christian Vande Velde says the peloton is concerned about tomorrow's stage, the last mountainous stage of the Tour, and that many riders were conserving energy today to charge up for tomorrow.

Also, he wants to know who's painting all those penises on the road: "I get a little chuckle every time I roll over one."

Posted by Frank Steele on July 21, 2004 in About the Tour, Christian Vande Velde, Lance Armstrong 2004, Top Stories | Permalink | Comments (3)

Armstrong coach on Alpe d'Huez TT

Roadcycling.com | Dissecting The Alpe d'Huez Time Trial

Over at RoadCycling.com, Chris Carmichael gives an overview of the Wednesday time trial up Alpe d'Huez, the first in Tour de France history.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the top three riders were within 30 seconds, and the top five with one minute. Since the individual climbing abilities of the top riders are somewhat similar, the most critical task on Stage 16 may be avoiding having a bad day. If the scenario from the Stage 13 individual time trial last year had occurred on Alpe d’Huez, Lance Armstrong would most likely have lost five minutes or more. He is in better condition this year, and he is not suffering from chronic dehydration either, so I expect him to finish in the top three on Stage 16 and ride faster than several of his main rivals in the process.

Carmichael details Armstrong's pre-TT eating and warmup (including a special vest developed by Nike to "pre-cool" Armstrong), then covers the tactics Armstrong will use on the ride, considering the steeper lower part of the climb and the geography of the switchbacks.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 21, 2004 in About the Tour, Lance Armstrong 2004, Tour news | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 20, 2004

Awesome photo of L'Alpe d'Huez

VeloNews: 2004 Tour de France Special Coverage

Forgot to link an amazing aerial shot of L'Alpe d'Huez that accompanied the Christian Vande Velde diary entry today. I didn't see it anywhere else on the VeloNews site. The switchbacks count down from the top, so switchback 1 is the last one near the top.

Click through to see the full-size shot.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 20, 2004 in About the Tour, Photo galleries | Permalink | Comments (0)

Meet the podium women

USATODAY.com | Women of the Tour deliver kisses, jerseys

USA Today quickie on the "pecking order in the world of professional kissers."

First, Credit Lyonnaise, the yellow jersey women, who also take on a variety of other promotional duties before working up to the podium.

Next, Champion's polka-dot podium women, who do some other meet-and-greets, as well.

Third, PMU's "racier" green jersey podium women, who also do "wild dance routines ... in the publicity caravan."

Finally, Aquarel's white jersey podium women, who also help pass out the company's bottled water.

None should be confused with Podium Girl Gone Bad.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 20, 2004 in About the Tour, Podium Girls | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Intro to L'Alpe d'Huez

USATODAY.com | Tour's legendary ascent has new twist

USA Today offers a nice intro to L'Alpe d'Huez, including Andy Hampsten's legendary win there in 1992, and Pantani's and Armstrong's records on the mountain: Pantani - 37:35, Armstrong - 38:01.

It's going to be interesting to see how times are tomorrow, when riders will start the climb comparatively fresh, but will ride alone almost the entire way.

It is the race's best-attended segment and draws the most rabid fans. Even the grand finale on Paris' Champs-Elysees draws a crowd half the size.

And for all of Paris' romance and glamour, L'Alpe d'Huez's mountain setting may be the Tour's most dramatic. In addition to the scenery, fans along the route, a two-lane, asphalt road, are within touching distance of the riders as they pass. In some sections of the course, riders appear to be laboring through a tunnel of humanity.

Also:

Eurosport | Alpe d'Huez: Time to climb

Posted by Frank Steele on July 20, 2004 in About the Tour | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

What are Semences?

Seattle Post-Intelligencer | Early morning is prime time for a Tour de France primer

John Levesque runs down the sponsors of all 21 Tour teams, and what they do.

Even if you've followed the Tour for years, you'll probably learn something; I didn't realize that Credit Agricole now owns Credit Lyonnais, the yellow jersey sponsor.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 20, 2004 in About the Tour | Permalink | Comments (1)

July 18, 2004

Klöden given free rein, Mancebo seeks podium

cyclingnews.com | First Edition Cycling News for July 19, 2004

More from cyclingnews.com:

Jan Ullrich reports that T-Mobile teammate Andreas Klöden is free to ride his own ride:

"For me 'Klödi' has been a revelation in this Tour. I hope he can maintain his current level all the way to Paris. He was clearly the better man in the Pyrenees, so I've given him 'Carte Blanche' in the Alps. I certainly won't split hairs over who works for whom."

"Use 'Klödi' just as a helper when he's in the form of his life? No way! For a start, I know he is currently capable of leaving me in his wake. That's not a good thing for my morale. Secondly, I don't want to make the mistake of using him to pace me in the Alps. I need to ride at my own rhythm."

"In all truth, I was quite content to plough my own furrow on the climb to Plateau de Beille. It will only make sense to enlist Klödi's help in the Alps if its to our mutual benefit. If I think he has the stronger legs, then he not only should, but must, go for it alone."

Also, Francisco Mancebo of Illes Balear-Banesto discounts his chances at overall victory in this Tour:

"From this point on, the Tour will be decided between Armstrong and Basso," Mancebo told L'Equipe. "There's only third place to fight for, for which I am a candidate just like Klöden, Totschnig and don't forget Totschnig and Azevedo. I tried to attack and test Armstrong's group with the hope that some riders would follow. Unfortunately, nobody wanted to, or nobody could. The key to this stage and no doubt for the Tour is the collective strength of US Postal. If Armstrong wins, it's clear he owes that to his team."

Also also, Lance Armstrong and Johan Bruyneel are giving race director Jean-Marie Leblanc the silent treatment, apparently because the Tour organization tried very hard to get US Postal's Pavel Padrnos excluded from the race:

"Armstrong doesn't greet me any more, but that is up to him."

Posted by Frank Steele on July 18, 2004 in About the Tour, Andreas Klöden, Francisco Mancebo, Jan Ullrich, Lance Armstrong 2004, Tour news | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 17, 2004

Armstrong: 'Lucky to make it through' Basque fans

VeloNews | Armstrong's biggest worry: Basque fans

Lance Armstrong said the huge Basque crowds on Plateau de Beille Saturday were exceptionally loud and agressive.

"We just passed a section of people, mostly Basque people that were pretty amazing, very loud and aggressive, though not all bad," said Armstrong.

"I understand they expected big things from Mayo. We looked at each other and said, 'Man, it's unbelievable that we went through that without being killed.' We were lucky to make it through that section."

Someone claimed on rec.bicycles.racing that fans at the mountaintop finish cheered when Armstrong was shown flatting on the descent before the day's final climb.

And, to forestall charges of anti-Americanism, I'll point out that France's Richard Virenque, the current King of the Mountains, expressed similar reservations.

"For the first time, I was frightened on a bike," joked Virenque, who is bidding for a record seventh polka-dot jersey on his 12th Tour. "I was afraid I might get kidnapped."

Above, a Casey B. Gibson photo proving that some gestures are nearly universal.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 17, 2004 in About the Tour, Lance Armstrong 2004, Richard Virenque | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

July 16, 2004

Taking care of personal business

Eurosport | Bike Shorts: Biological business

Eurosport offers the definitive answer to The Question: How do all those guys go to the bathroom during a stage?

Short answer: very, very carefully.

Long answer: Check out the Eurosport article.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 16, 2004 in About the Tour | Permalink | Comments (3)

July 15, 2004

VeloNews editor: sport still rife with doping

NPR audio | Tour de France Riders Ousted Amid Doping Charges

NPR's Eric Niiler talked to Charles Pelkey, news editor of VeloNews, about cycling and doping. Pelkey quotes riders that EPO can make a 10-15% difference in performance.

"On a mountain, when they're climbing at a steady rate, they're probably putting out 350-400 watts. If you boost that by 60 watts, suddenly you've got the difference between winning and losing."

Said Pelkey, "I think the sport is still rife with doping problems, I think that enforcement is still a big question, and I don't think that testing is as effective as people would like."

They also discuss the riders already banned this year, and the riders who weren't even allowed to start the race.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 15, 2004 in About the Tour, Doping | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 13, 2004

Don't tell Jane: Hincapie snags a podium girl

sfgate.com | Armstrong teammate finds love at Tour de France

George Hincapie is engaged to a Credit Lyonnais girl he met at last year's Tour:

"I was mesmerized by her," he said. "I needed to talk to her or find her phone number.

"When I first saw her I thought, 'Wow, she's beautiful!' and I wanted to ask her out on a date to have this beautiful girl with me. But that was it, I didn't think it would go anywhere."

Hincapie sent Melanie Simonneau a note by way of CL officials. The two are expecting their first child in November.

"We found out three days ago that it is a girl," the soft-spoken Hincapie said.

Thanks, John!

Posted by Frank Steele on July 13, 2004 in About the Tour, George Hincapie, Podium Girls | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

July 10, 2004

The Tour's youth movement

Bicycling.com | Daily Scoop (Stage 7)

Joe Lindsey chimes in on the rise of the young lions in the 2004 Tour de France, and how the torch is beginning to be passed to a new generation of riders.

The Tour's first week is always one of freshness and exuberance. The race is young and full of hope; everyone is the next yellow jersey or stage winner. But soon the injuries and fatigue begin to set in, and then it falls to the veteran hands to assume control.

But for now, it's Tommy Voeckler basking in his yellow jersey like a sunflower in the fields; it's "Pippo" causing the tifosi to say "Alessandro who?"; it's Boonen making the retirement of Johan Museeuw a little easier for Belgium to take.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 10, 2004 in About the Tour | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 09, 2004

Flecha's failed flight

VeloNews | The beauty of tactics - Flecha's brave gamble

At 5km, the effort finally appeared to be futile and the riders started to sit up... all of them except for Flecha. He attacked. It was a great move. Flecha jumped hard from the left side of the road and gave it all he could. He was racing towards the finish hoping that the pack behind would be satisfied with gobbling up his three compatriots for just long enough. All Flecha needed was for the pack not to notice for a few moments that [the] group they caught was missing one rider.

VeloNews has former USPRO champion Thomas Prehn writing on race tactics, and he looks at today's failed break, and Flecha's last-ditch attempt to hold off 170 other riders.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 9, 2004 in About the Tour | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 06, 2004

TTT limits on time lost

There's been a lot of discussion of new rules in the team time trial this year. Strong time trialists Lance Armstrong and Levi Leipheimer are both on record against it, but it's the Tour, and what can you do?

Essentially, each team gets one of two times: either the time when the team's 5th rider crosses the line, or a calculated time based on 10-second gaps starting 20 seconds slower than the fastest team, whichever is fastest. If Team 1 wins the stage, 8 minutes in front, Team 2 gets a 7:40 second time bonus, Team 3 is placed 10 seconds behind that, etc.

This has been widely reported as limiting time lost to 2:30, but the maximum difference between 1st and 21st place is actually 3:00 (Here are the rules in English - PDF). It seems like a better way to limit the time lost on the TTT would be to shorten the route.

The four strongest teams in the TTT are likely to be US Postal, CSC, Phonak, and possibly T-Mobile. Fassa Bortolo moved ahead of CSC on Tuesday in overall team classification, so Postal has the advantage of going last, 5 minutes after FB, 10 after CSC, and can compare time splits and adjust effort appropriately.

There's also a good discussion of this from rec.bicycles.racing in late June.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 6, 2004 in About the Tour, Top Stories | Permalink | Comments (2)