July 04, 2011

Updating the list of Americans with Tour stage wins

Depending on how you count Floyd Landis, Garmin's Tyler Farrar is the 10th or 11th American to win a Tour stage, and the first on July 4th.

    The list (alphabetically):
  • Lance Armstrong
  • Tyler Farrar
  • Andy Hampsten
  • Tyler Hamilton
  • George Hincapie
  • Floyd Landis *
  • Levi Leipheimer
  • Greg LeMond
  • Davis Phinney
  • Jeff Pierce
  • Dave Zabriskie

* Landis, of course, had his victory in Stage 17 of the 2006 Tour vacated after testing positive for an elevated testosterone-to-epitestosterone ratio.

(I also added Farrar to the category so he shows up on the associated Wikipedia page.)

Posted by Frank Steele on July 4, 2011 in 2011 Stage 3, Dave Zabriskie, Floyd Landis, George Hincapie, Lance Armstrong, Levi Leipheimer, Tyler Farrar, Tyler Freaking Hamilton | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 11, 2010

Stage 8: Le Morte d'Armstrong

July 11, 2010 - Station Des Rousses, FRANCE - epa02244899 Radioshack team rider Lance Armstrong of the US cycles during the eighth stage of the 97th Tour de France 2010 cycling race between Station Des Rousses and Morzine-Avoriaz, France, 10 July 2010.The first big mountain stage at the Tour is always revelatory. The early time trials and lower climbs allow classics and TT men to sit at the Tour's grown-up table for a week or more, but those names begin to fall off the leaderboard when the race moves to the mountains.

Sunday's Stage 8 ran true to form, and then some. Sky, Saxo Bank, and Astana spent miles at the front, keeping the pace high enough to shed rider after rider, until on the day's final climb, only a dozen riders still had a chance for the stage win, including Cadel Evans, Alberto Contador, Andy Schleck, Ivan Basso, Carlos Sastre, and Levi Leipheimer. With teammate Daniel Navarro taking a pull worthy of Amtrak, Contador looked safisfied to ride to the line with that group.

With less than 2k to ride, Roman Kreuziger of Liquigas was the first man to launch, covered quickly by Contador. Just inside the last kilometer, Andy Schleck sprinted away from the group, and only Euskaltel-Euskadi's Samuel Sanchez matched him. Behind, a move from Gesink was covered, but Contador was content to let Sanchez and Schleck sprint it out for the stage win. The sprint, reminiscent of Barredo-Costa in its precision and ferocity, went to Schleck, his first Tour de France stage win.

World Champion Cadel Evans takes over the yellow jersey for the first time since 2008, when Evans lost it after being isolated on the climb to Prato Nevoso.

Seven-time winner Lance Armstrong suffered a key accident a few kilometers before the day's first big climb, chased back to the field, but was dropped on the Ramaz and lost almost 12 minutes on the day. He's in 39th place, 13:26 back of Evans. If Armstrong's announcement that this will be his last Tour is true, this was the end of his last chance to win the race. Armstrong says he'll stay in the race and work for the team, which is good news for Levi Leipheimer, sitting 8th overall.

The team that did most of the damage to Armstrong's chances also badly damaged their own leader's Tour hopes. Sky set a blistering pace on the Ramaz, shedding teammates, and their Bradley Wiggins was dropped on the climb out of Morzine, the day's second big challenge. He would finish at 1:45, and now sits 14th at 2:45 on the overall.

Evans becomes the first world champion to wear yellow since Boonen in 2006 and if he could win, would be the first world champion to win the Tour since LeMond in 1990.

Also:

VeloNews | Lance Armstrong: 'This Tour is finished for me'

CyclingNews.com | Armstrong's Tour challenge collapses

Posted by Frank Steele on July 11, 2010 in Alberto Contador, Andy Schleck, Bradley Wiggins, Cadel Evans, Lance Armstrong, Levi Leipheimer, Top Stories | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Stage 8 Preview: Station des Rousses to Morzine-Avoriaz

Today's a guaranteed barn-burner, with two 1st-Category climbs, including the mountaintop finish on the Morzine.

With Sastre and Basso, two of the best pure climbing GC contenders, more than 4 minutes back on the GC, we should get a look at the team leaders' climbing fitness that could give us a major shakeup in the race standings.

Storylines to watch: Can Chavanel hold yellow to the rest day on Monday? Can Ryder Hesjedal hang with the GC group on a hard Alpine stage? Can Armstrong and Wiggins ride even with the best climbers, or are they limiting their losses on the final climb?

It's 189 kilometers in all, with two early 4th-Category climbs and two sprints before the day's first 1st-Category climb, the Col de la Ramaz. It's followed by a 3rd-Category climb and a sprint before the finishing climb to Morzine-Avoriaz, which is about a 14-kilometer/9-mile climb. KoM points are doubled on the final climb, so this is a crucial stage for the potential Kings of the Mountains, as well.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 11, 2010 in Bradley Wiggins, Lance Armstrong, Sylvain Chavanel | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 05, 2010

Stage 2: Chavanel survives to yellow

SPA, BELGIUM - JULY 05: After assisting injured cyclists, a medic cleans his case of blood along stage 2 of the Tour de France July 5, 2010 in Spa, Belgium. The 201km route with six categorised climbs travels from Brussels to the city of Spa. France's Sylvain Chavanel won the second stage, taking the overall leader's yellow jersey from Fabian Cancellara. The iconic bicycle race will include a total of 20 stages and will cover 3,642km before concluding in Paris on July 25. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)It must have seemed like a great idea to organizers. Run a stage of the Tour over some of cycling's hallowed ground, using parts of Liege-Bastogne-Liege for today's Stage 2, and 7 cobbled sectors that feature in Paris-Roubaix tomorrow.

Throw in rain, and the generally squirrely nature of a first-week Tour peloton, though, and you've got the recipe for a demolition derby. One of the riders who might reasonably have feared the day's profile was Sylvain Chavanel, who fractured his skull on this course a little more than 2 months ago.

Instead, Chavanel rode away from the field with only about 15 kilometers ridden on the day, joined by teammate Jerome Pineau, who would take max points over each of the day's climbs to take over the polka-dot jersey, Marcus Burghardt, Matt Lloyd, Reine Taaramae, and 3 others.

Behind, the descent of the Col de Stockeu looked like the train station scene of “Gone with the Wind,” with riders all over the roadside. Some reporters estimated 70-80 riders went down, and there were reports of soigneurs climbing out of cars to help their riders, then falling down themselves. Some riders (and Eddy Merckx) have suggested there must have been some sort of oil on the road (leading to my favorite tweet of the day), because the road seemed so much more treacherous than when it's been raced in LBL in the past.

Both Andy and Frank Schleck, Alessandro Petacchi, Robbie McEwen, Alberto Contador, George Hincapie, and Lance Armstrong spent time on the tarmac, with the largest crash occurring at around 30km to ride, when a photo motorcycle trying to avoid a downed rider became the first domino. With confusion reigning in the peloton, Chavanel's break, which had appeared doomed, had new life.

July 05, 2010 - 06134192 date 05 07 2010 Copyright imago Panoramic 05 07 2010 Tour de France 2010 2 Stage Brussels Spa Sylvain Chavanel FRA Quick Step Photo News PUBLICATIONxNOTxINxFRAxITAxBEL Cycling men Wheel Road Tour de France Award Ceremony Single Vdig xkg 2010 vertical Highlight premiumd o0 Stage victory cheering happiness Yellow Jersey Emotions.Armstrong and Contador found themselves allies on the road, as they were dropped from the yellow jersey group, but rode together back into Cancellara's company, as Cancellara and Riis calculated whether it was better for Cancellara to hold the yellow jersey, or to sit up and wait for the Schlecks. With Cancellara off the gas, the group mostly came back together, with a few notable exceptions.

Caught up in the many crashes were seemingly the entire Garmin-Transitions team, with Christian Vande Velde having to withdraw with two broken ribs, continuing his disastrous season. Nearly as bad were Tyler Farrar's injuries -- a fractured wrist, sprained elbow, and scratches and bruises suffered in two separate crashes. David Millar may have a broken rib, but didn't have x-rays. Julian Dean and Robbie Hunter also went down.

Cancellara spent a fair amount of time in discussion with the race director, apparently trying to get the day's GC losses neutralized. Barring that and apparently with the consent of other riders, Cancellara went to the front of the pack at the end of the stage, and decreed that no one would contest the sprint. Chavenel took the stage by 3:56 ahead of a 6-wide pack, which led race officials to withhold sprint points from everyone but Chavanel. This didn't sit too well with Norwegian champion and defending green jersey winner Thor Hushovd, who had apparently targeted today's stage, and hoped to improve in the points competition:

"I've been riding all day for the stage win and the green jersey and I end up with nothing," Hushovd continued. "This is not fair. Will the same thing happen tomorrow? Will the times for GC be taken before the pavés sections? If Alberto Contador or another big rider crashes tomorrow on the cobblestones, he's entitled to ask for the race to be neutralised too! So when will we race, really?"

Posted by Frank Steele on July 5, 2010 in 2010 Stage 2, Alberto Contador, Andy Schleck, Christian Vande Velde, David Millar, Fabian Cancellara, Frank Schleck, George Hincapie, Julian Dean, Lance Armstrong, Sylvain Chavanel, Top Stories, Tyler Farrar | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

July 03, 2010

What's past is prologue: Cancellara, Armstrong star in Rotterdam

The Tour de France is all about control. Riders pre-ride key stages. Teams bring multiple spares for their protected riders, who have spent months tracking every calorie to make sure they're at their best race weight.

July 03, 2010 - Rotterdam, NETHERLANDS - epa02235688 Saxo Bank team rider Fabian Cancellara of Switzerland cycles during the prologue of the 97th Tour de France 2010 cycling race in Rotterdam, 03 July 2010. The 198 riders begin the 2010 Tour de France with an individual lap of the 8,9km circuit around Rotterdam.So it's always revealing when the uncontrollable rears its head. For Saturday's Prologue, it was the weather that shook things up. Many riders with overall hopes opted for early starts to try to beat expected afternoon rains, but the rain started earlier than expected, and cleared before the last riders started, so the strategy seemingly backfired for some of the early starters.

Not so for HTC-Columbia's Tony Martin, who was the 11th rider to start, and covered the 8.9-km course in 10:10, a time that wasn't even approached for more than three hours. Other outstanding performances early were Garmin-Transition's David Millar, in 10:20, Garmin's sprinter Tyler Farrar, whose 10:28 would place him 7th on the stage, and Sky's Geraint Thomas, who would wind up 5th on the stage.

On the other hand, Sky's Bradley Wiggins, who was once a prologue specialist, rolled in with a 10:56, while former teammate Christian Vande Velde clocked in at 11:00 flat. For Wiggins, especially in a Tour with only one long TT, that's a worrying result.

ROTTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - JULY 03: Tony Martin of Germany and Team HTC - Columbia won the white jersey for the best young rider after finishing second in the 8.9km Prologue for the 97th Tour de France on July 3, 2010 in Rotterdam, Netherlands. (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)Organizers managed a very TV-friendly end to the Prologue, with Armstrong, Cancellara, and Contador leaving consecutively as the day's final riders. At the first time check, Armstrong was just 5 seconds slower than Martin. Less than a minute later, Cancellara would obliterate Martin's time, 6 seconds faster than the young German. When Contador came through, no one expected him to rival Cancellara, but could he match Armstrong? Contador was laboring even on the short stage, but at Time Check 1, he was just 1 second behind Armstrong.

At the finish, Armstrong was a whisker slower than Millar, finishing in 10:22, with Cancellara closing. Spartacus would trip the guns at 10:00, leaving only Contador to finish, battling up the long final stretch. Contador would finish in 10:27, ceding 5 seconds to Armstrong, but making time on every other GC contender.

And among GC contenders, perhaps the most disappointing ride was Andy Schleck's, newly crowned TT champion of Luxembourg, who finished in 11:09, and effectively summed it up on his Twitter feed.

Nobody wins or loses the Tour in the prologue, but those small gaps over a short distance are a pretty good indicator of who has brought their best time trialing legs to the party, and more generally who is rocking the highest power-to-weight ratios in the peloton. First indication is that we might get the Armstrong vs. Contador battle that I'm sure Versus is hoping for.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 3, 2010 in 2010 Prologue, Alberto Contador, Andy Schleck, Bradley Wiggins, Christian Vande Velde, David Millar, Fabian Cancellara, Lance Armstrong, Top Stories, Tyler Farrar | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Shades of gray

Landis preparingThere are a lot of cycling fans who still believe in black and white.

Some rider or another, they'll say, has never tested positive, or is the most tested athlete in the world. Team X, they'll say, has the strictest anti-doping program in the peloton. Sure, there used to be a lot of doping in the sport, they'll say, but no sport has such extensive athlete testing, and the sport today is clean.

I've been following the sport for 25 years, through the mysterious deaths while riders slept, the 60 hematocrits, and now the biological passport, and I'm convinced the sport has never in that time approached clean. I don't believe in black and white.

The way I've come to see modern cycling is that every rider exists in a Heisenberg bubble, balanced somewhere on a scale between pure as the driven snow white and Floyd Landis “hell yeah I doped” black. As a fan, we all calculate the likelihood a particular rider is juicing, and all most of us have to go on is the rider and his team's public pronouncements, and the rider's race performance. How much you like a rider has to be balanced against how likely you think it is a) that he or she has doped, and b) that he or she will get caught. This is why I and many others breathed a sigh of relief when Vinokourov lost the maglia rosa at the Giro. I believe Vino's failed dope test was accurate, and I fear he has likely returned to his previously successful ways. You, of course, may disagree, or feel just as fearful about Giro winner Ivan Basso, who was ultimately banned for his involvement in Operación Puerto, and now says he's gunning for a podium spot at the Tour. One of the things about the bubble is that every fan's is slightly different. Maybe you assume that everyone who came out of the sports mills of Eastern Europe is tainted. Maybe you believe that the recent popularity of Spain as a training center was a direct result of tighter French anti-doping laws.

Tyler Hamilton & David MillarOccasionally, especially in the case of a superstar rider, there may be other information, from former teammates, employees, trainers, or other people in the rider's circle. In the absence of positive dope tests, which it still appears can be manipulated without a great deal of trouble, all we can do is take the data and put it together with our own prejudices and preferences to decide who we believe is clean and who's not. If an ex-teammate says you've doped, that moves you 3 spaces to the right. Coming out of nowhere to contend for the climber's jersey at the Tour? Move 10 spaces to the right. If you get caught, suspended, then come back as an anti-dope crusader, that might move you a space or two to the left.

It's apparent that there's a continuing arms race in cycling, and the enforcers are losing. Like any arms race, the advantage goes to those with money and technology, and those belong to the teams.

ROTTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - JULY 01: Cyclist Lance Armstrong pauses at the start of the team presentations for the 97th Tour de France on July 1, 2010 in Rotterdam, Netherlands. Following a prologue time trial in Rotterdam on Saturday, the iconic race will include 20 stages and will cover 3,642km. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)Far be it from me to identify where I think any particular rider falls on the 0-to-100 scale. Clearly, though, the recent Landis revelations, outlined in detail in the Wall Street Journal today, push Armstrong farther to the right, and at least nudge Zabriskie, Hincapie, and Leipheimer in that direction. Sure, it's easy to impeach Landis' credibility, but it's clear to me that Landis didn't come up with the sophisticated doping program he's described, and he's far from the first person to allege that Armstrong has relied on more than spring water in previous Tour wins.

Let's run through the allegations in the WSJ article by Reed Albergotti and Vanessa O'Connell. First and foremost, there are dates and details of blood transfusions during the Tour de France itself in 2004, and a partial list of riders who received them, including Armstrong. Next most damaging is probably Landis' claim that Armstrong himself was the source of his first collection of testosterone patches. Finally, there is the allegation that as many as 60 team bikes were sold for cash to support the Postal doping program. For me, mentions of Armstrong's possible visits to strip bars and cocaine use are just distractions; my interest is in Armstrong as an athlete or a cheat.

According to Albergotti and O'Connell, three other U.S. Postal riders confirmed doping while Armstrong rode for the team, and one admitted he himself doped.

Frankie AndreuLooking through the article, though, I don't see anything that's going to change the mind of rabid Armstrong fans, or of people who have believed he's a doper since 1999. We already know of former teammates who have alleged doping, including Frankie Andreu, who admitted his own EPO use in 2006. The claim that team bikes were improperly sold to pay for the doping program can't be proven by the mere appearance of team bikes on eBay: Someone would have to connect their proceeds to a doping program to really make something of it. Otherwise, those frames could just as easily have gone toward Armstrong's Shiner Bock habit as toward dope. I can see no way to tie Armstrong to the foil-packeted testosterone Landis claims he was provided.

But the addition of FDA special agent Jeff Novitzky adds a new dimension to the sport's doping problem. Teammates and staff who don't hesitate to cover for a rider with the media may feel differently when a federal agent starts threatening purgery charges and deploys subpoena powers. Novitzky seems unlikely to tolerate the shades of gray we as fans have grown to accept.

Also:

ESPN.com | Lance Armstrong: Crunch Time

Posted by Frank Steele on July 3, 2010 in Dave Zabriskie, Doping, Floyd Landis, George Hincapie, Lance Armstrong, Levi Leipheimer, Top Stories | Permalink | Comments (12) | TrackBack

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 02, 2010

Welcome to 2010

Once again, it's time to clip in and ride. If you're a longtime reader of the site, thanks for coming back. I love the Tour, and I love chronicling the Tour every year here on TdFblog.

If you're new to the site, welcome. I've been yammering about the Tour de France here since 2003, and following the race since the late '80s. In addition to long-form summaries and commentary here, I also do a multitude of race updates on Twitter, at @TdFblog. This year, I'm going to extend the empire even a little farther, with a Tumblr site for that content that's too long for Twitter, too short for the main site, and that's at tumblr.tdfblog.com. Don't be too surprised if that site is in rapid flux for the next few days, as I figure out what goes where, and figure out how to do things with Tumblr.

Even though I'm tremendously depressed at the continuing scourge of doping in the sport, I'm really looking forward to this year's Tour. Last year's battle between Alberto Contador and the Schleck brothers looks to repeat. We'll see if Bradley Wiggins can fulfill the promise he showed finishing 4th last year on the new Team Sky. Cav's back, and brash as ever. And it looks like Big Tex is serious about retirement this time around, so it's the last shot for Lance Armstrong to win an 8th Tour.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 2, 2010 in About the site, Alberto Contador, Andy Schleck, Bradley Wiggins, Frank Schleck, Lance Armstrong, Mark Cavendish, Top Stories | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 25, 2009

Stage 19: Cavendish takes five on day for breakaway

Tour de France 2009 Stage Nineteen

Columbia-HTC's Mark Cavendish got schooled on Thursday, with Thor Hushovd launching a long solo attack that netted 12 points in the green jersey competition. Hushovd looked to be reacting to comments from Cavendish that a Hushovd green jersey would be stained after Cavendish was relegated back in Stage 14.

Saturday, Cavendish responded, as his squad shepherded their sprint ace over the day's biggest climb, the 2nd Category Col de l'Escrinet, despite losing Michael Rogers and Mark Renshaw to the fast finishing pace. Cavendish launched his sprint from a long way out, but held off Hushovd and Gerald Ciolek all the way to the line, to take his 5th stage of the 2009 Tour. No sprinter has won 5 Tour stages since Freddy Maertens in 1981, and Cavendish still has a chance in Sunday's Stage 21 to the Champs-Elysees in Paris. Cavendish also becomes the all-time British leader in stage wins, surpassing Barry Hoban with his 9th career stage win in just two Tour starts.

The day started like a typical transitional stage, with a large group of strong riders away, including Yaroslav Popovych, David Millar, Cadel Evans, José Gutierrez, Leonardo Duque, and 15 others. Rabobank did most of the chasing, since they were one of the teams absent in the break, and first 5 riders, then just Leonardo Duque, would escape the break in an attempt to stay clear of the peloton, riding way ahead of the projected arrival times along the route.

On the day's final climb, the Col de l'Escrinet, Laurent Lefevre launched from very low on the climb, and was matched by world champion Alessandro Ballan, who would survive until the final 2 kilometers, before being reeled in by the surviving 3 Columbia-HTC riders, trying to set up Cavendish, who survived the climb, shadowed by Hushovd.

Hushovd's 2nd place finish limits the damage to his green jersey lead, where he leads Cavendish now 260-235, with 35 points to the winner in Paris on Sunday. Even if Cavendish wins there, Hushovd will be safe in green if he can finish in the first 10 or 15 riders at the finish.

Lance Armstrong was attentive at the finish, and picked up 4 seconds when a gap formed in the field, with Klöden, Wiggins, both Schlecks, and Contador on the wrong side. It's unlikely that 4 seconds will make a difference, but it points up how Armstrong rides this race, always aware of every chance to make or lose time.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 25, 2009 in 2009 Stage 19, Alberto Contador, Andreas Klöden, Andy Schleck, Bradley Wiggins, Cadel Evans, David Millar, Frank Schleck, George Hincapie, Lance Armstrong, Mark Cavendish, Michael Rogers, Thor Hushovd, Top Stories, Yaroslav Popovych | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 23, 2009

Team Radio Shack apparently new Armstrong, Bruyneel team

Ever since the Giro d'Italia in May, there have been rumors about a new U.S. based team, apparently to feature and be owned by Lance Armstrong and to be run by Johann Bruyneel.

In June, Joe Lindsey ran a story on Bicycling.com detailing contingency plans he said were in place for an Astana financial meltdown, which was narrowly avoided when Kazakh and US sponsors came up with $6 million to guarantee support through the end of this season. Lindsey said the team would have been called the “Livestrong-Nike” team.

Just before the Tour, Alexandre Vinokourov had a press conference, where he reminded everyone that Astana was a team built around him, and that he intended to return to the team when his suspension ended July 24th (tomorrow).

Tuesday, Bruyneel announced he would not return to Astana after this season, and Armstrong tweeted about an upcoming announcement of a new sponsor “for 2010 and beyond.”

Speculation immediately returned to “Livestrong-Nike,” but reporters who had talked to Armstrong's management team said that wouldn't be it, apparently with the knowledge that the new sponsor is to be a Ft. Worth, TX-based company.

This morning, Bonnie D. Ford of ESPN tweeted that someone in Capital Sports and Entertainment registered “teamradioshack.com" this week. CSE is Armstrong's management team, overseen by Bill Stapleton and Bart Knaggs, and ran the Discovery Channel team. I've verified the domain registration to CSE Cycling, LLC, and that it was set up on Monday. Currently, www.teamradioshack.com brings up only a default Apache web server page.

The official announcement is reportedly set for noon Eastern.

Update
The team website, Twitter ID (@teamradioshack), and Facebook page are up.

Livestrong.com has a video by Armstrong announcing the team, while Radio Shack offers a standard press release.

Note that no other riders have been officially announced for the team, nor has Bruyneel been officially named the DS.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 23, 2009 in Lance Armstrong, Top Stories | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 22, 2009

Schlecks climb onto podium with Stage 17 win

Tour de France 2009 Stage Seventeen

Stage 17 is one that will be remembered for three things: The Schleck brothers finishing together with race leader Alberto Contador more than 2 minutes clear of the field, Thor Hushovd going out on an audacious solo Alpine attack to grab the green jersey by the throat, and a probing attack by Contador late on the stage that triggered an absolute Twit-storm.

Mark Cavendish has criticized Hushovd, who protested the Stage 14 finish, leading to a Cavendish relegation for irregular sprinting. This is nothing unusual -- Hushovd lost the jersey in 2006 partially as a result of a relegation in Stage 4, and won the jersey in 2005 partially due to Robbie McEwen's relegation in Stage X. Cavendish, who features in a Nike campaign that declares “green is my yellow,” said the green jersey would be stained if Hushovd won it through Cav's relegation.

So Hushovd set off on a little jersey-cleaning mission, attacking with Thomas Voeckler over the top of the Col de Roselend to join an early break, then setting off solo over the Col des Saisies and the Côte d'Araches, more than 70k alone, while Cavendish was getting unhitched from the back of the field. With the 12 points collected, Hushovd moves 30 points clear in the green jersey competition, with 35 available in Paris on Sunday. I wouldn't be surprised to see Hushovd off the front again on Friday.

The end of Hushovd, early on the Col de Romme, was the end of the break as well, with Saxo Bank stringing out the field for the inevitable attack by Frank and Andy Schleck. Carlos Sastre was the first to attack, but was soon reeled in, with Andy Schleck still sitting near the back of the GC group.

When Frank Schleck attacked, he was quickly joined by Armstrong, Wiggins, Contador, and Andy Schleck, who attacked again, gapping Wiggins, Vande Velde, Armstrong and Frank Schleck. When Schleck launched a bridge move, Armstrong and Wiggins followed. Andy Schleck pushed the pace again, and Wiggins was gapped, with Armstrong alongside. Once again, Frank Schleck jumped the gap, this time alone. The lead group on the road was Contador and Klöden for Astana, and the Schleck brothers for Saxo Bank.

Behind, Christian Vande Velde fought back up to Wiggins, Nibali, and Armstrong, setting pace for several kilometers, but slowly losing ground to the fearsome foursome up front, before Vande Velde fell away. With the gap to Wiggins, Armstrong, and Nibali over 2:00, and 2k to climb on the day's final climb, Contador launched an attack. Klöden, who had been sitting on the back of the group for several kilometers, didn't have the legs to match, and was suddenly 20 seconds back. Contador came off the attack, and spent the rest of the climb looking back for Klöden.

It was a testing attack, one that we would usually see 100 times in a normal Tour, but the Twitterverse exploded. Suddenly, Andreas Klöden was the most popular rider in the peloton and Contador was screwing a beloved teammate. Bruyneel would say after the stage he didn't want Contador to attack, and Armstrong would immediately question Contador's move on Twitter, as well, but it seems like the math is pretty simple: “I've got gas in the tank, most of my rivals are losing time, and if I can drop these two guys, I might take a stage in the yellow jersey and put time in everybody.”

The Schlecks covered and pushed the pace enough to guarantee Klöden wasn't coming back. Meanwhile, Armstrong was on full boil, 5th on the road, riding hard toward Klöden, and towing Vincenzo Nibali of Liquigas. They would catch Klöden near the finish, with Nibali taking 4th on the stage.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 22, 2009 in 2009 Stage 17, Alberto Contador, Andreas Klöden, Andy Schleck, Frank Schleck, Lance Armstrong, Mark Cavendish, Thor Hushovd, Top Stories | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 21, 2009

Armstrong attack highlight of Stage 16

Lance Armstrong looked exhausted at the end of Sunday's Stage 15. After his teammate Alberto Contador launched what would be a winning attack, Armstrong couldn't follow attacks through the gap by Wiggins, Nibali, Sastre, or Evans, and finished 9th at 1:35, hanging onto 2nd place, but by a bare 9 seconds.

What a difference a (rest) day makes! On today's Stage 16, when Andy Schleck went off the front, Armstrong was again dropped, this time by teammates Contador and Andreas Klöden, the Schleck brothers, Bradley Wiggins of Garmin-Slipstream, and Vincenzo Nibali of Liquigas.

Armstrong rode within himself, and found shelter briefly in a group of GC hopes, including Vande Velde, Sastre, Evans, and Kreuziger. With a little less than 5k to ride, Armstrong launched a very 2003-era Armstrong attack. Kim Kirchen and Christian Vande Velde briefly tried to follow, but couldn't. When he flew by Frank Schleck, Schleck gave it just about one second's thought before he thought better of it.

With Armstrong back alongside Contador, Astana had 3 riders in a 6-man group, and once again, they were content to conserve energy and wait for Schleck or Nibali (or Wiggins, but he doesn't really need the time) to attack, but neither wanted to take on Contador, Armstrong, and Klöden. At the lower pace, all the GC candidates but Cadel Evans rejoined, and then coordinated to put serious time into Evans.

Astana continues to ride a very smart race, running out the clock for the climbing specialists, with just two big Alpine climbing stages left.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 21, 2009 in Andy Schleck, Bradley Wiggins, Cadel Evans, Carlos Sastre, Christian Vande Velde, Frank Schleck, Lance Armstrong, Top Stories | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 20, 2009

Contador takes Stage 15, race lead

Tour de France 2009 Stage Fifteen

Alberto Contador showed why he's the dominant stage racer of the moment on the climb to Verbier Sunday.

On the day's final climb, Saxo Bank and Garmin came to the front and Saxo Bank took charge. Jens Voigt did a withering 1.5 kilometers, forcing a major selection and putting the yellow jersey of Rinaldo Nocentini in jeopardy.

When Voigt was caught, Fränk Schleck came to the front, but soon after, the contenders reached Saxo Bank's Fabian Cancellara, part of the day's breakaway, and Cancellara pulled so strongly that he briefly shattered the GC group, dispatching Nocentini. When he was done, he was really done, and there were only 5 men left standing: The Schleck brothers, Astana's Cane and Abel Lance Armstrong and Alberto Contador, and Bradley Wiggins. That's what I said, Bradley Wiggins.

After a couple of quick feints, Contador did his thing, almost instantly putting 10-15 seconds into the chasers. Andy Schleck set out in pursuit, while Armstrong tended Wiggins and Fränk Schleck. As Contador pushed his lead, some of the other GC hopefuls started to come back onto the Armstrong group, including Cadel Evans, Christian Vande Velde, Andreas Klöden, Vincenzo Nibali and Roman Kreuziger. Noticeably absent was Carlos Sastre, who was riding at his own pace well behind the leaders.

Vande Velde struggled at the rear of this elite group, and as he fell off, he was passed by none other than Carlos Sastre! Sastre, looking recovered now, bridged up to Armstrong's group.

By now, Contador had :45 on the Armstrong group, and Bradley Wiggins was the first to try to join Andy Schleck up the road. Frank Schleck bridged, matched by the rest of the Armstrong group, then attacked toward his brother. Contador was getting a little too much love from some of the fans, and swatted at them with about 2.5 kilometers to ride.

Wiggins was still feeling strong, and attacked out of the Armstrong group, with Nibali on his wheel. When they caught Frank Schleck, the three rode together, with Wiggins (Wiggins!) doing the majority of the work.

Sastre then attacked out of the Armstrong group, and Evans, who later said it was his worst day ever on the Tour de France, followed, leaving Klöden and Armstrong behind. Sastre would catch what protocol demands I call “the Wiggins group” in the final k, but nobody was going to pull back significant time on Contador on today's course.

He would cross the finish line in 5:03:58, enough to put him more than 90 seconds clear in the overall. As the stage winner, he also won a Saint Bernard.

Afterward, Lance Armstrong said Contador had shown he was the strongest rider in the race, and that Armstrong and Klöden would ride in support of Contador for the rest of the Tour.

Top 10:
1) Alberto Contador, Astana, 5:03:58
2) Andy Schleck, Saxo Bank, at :43
3) Vincenzo Nibali, Liquigas, at 1:03
4) Frank Schleck, Saxo Bank, at 1:06
5) Bradley Wiggins, Garmin-Slipstream, same time
6) Carlos Sastre, Cervelo Test Team, s.t.
7) Cadel Evans, Silence-Lotto, at 1:26
8) Andreas Klöden, Astana, at 1:29
9) Lance Armstrong, Astana, at 1:35
10) Kim Kirchen, Columbia-HTC, at 1:55

General Classification after Stage 15:
1) Alberto Contador, Astana, in 63:17:56
2) Lance Armstrong, Astana, at 1:37
3) Bradley Wiggins, Garmin-Slipstream, at 1:46
4) Andreas Klöden, Astana, at 2:17
5) Andy Schleck, Saxo Bank, at 2:26
6) Rinaldo Nocentini, AG2R-La Mondiale, at 2:30
7) Vincenzo Nibali, Liquigas, at 2:51
8) Tony Martin, Columbia-HTC, at 3:07
9) Christophe Le Mevel, Française des Jeux, at 3:09
10) Fränk Schleck, Saxo Bank, at 3:25

Posted by Frank Steele on July 20, 2009 in 2009 Stage 15, Alberto Contador, Andreas Klöden, Andy Schleck, Bradley Wiggins, Cadel Evans, Carlos Sastre, Christian Vande Velde, Fabian Cancellara, Franco Pellizotti, Frank Schleck, Jens Voigt, Lance Armstrong, Rinaldo Nocentini, Top Stories | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 12, 2009

Jetting to Limoges

videozone | Grapjes uithalen op het vliegtuig (commentary in Flemish)

The Belgium Sporza network had cameras on the plane flying half the Tour riders to Limoges this afternoon. The commentators are speaking Flemish, but they turn their cameras on Johan Bruyneel and Lance Armstrong, then Levi Leipheimer, then Dave Zabriskie, all of whom are speaking English, so you don't need to speak Flemish to enjoy their comments.

Here's a little context for Armstrong's comment (“Hey, Johan, Sporza!”):

CyclingNews.com | Bruyneel, Astana boycott Sporza

Posted by Frank Steele on July 12, 2009 in Dave Zabriskie, Lance Armstrong, Levi Leipheimer | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Armstrong says he'll probably return for 2010

Universal Sports | Armstrong: This Tour ‘probably not’ last

Seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong told French television on Sunday that the current Tour is “probably not” the last we'll see of him in the Tour. “Maybe one more Tour,” he said.

The Associated Press article mentions hints that Armstrong might launch his own team for the 2010 season.

Armstrong also said he understands the unwillingness of challengers to attack the Astana squad in the Pyrenees:

“Honestly, if I was Cadel Evans, or Andy Schleck, or Carlos Sastre, I would be waiting,” he added. “I would wait for my moment in the Alps, on Ventoux, whatever, and I would stick it in as hard as I could. I would just pull the knife out and go.”

Posted by Frank Steele on July 12, 2009 in Lance Armstrong, Top Stories | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Stage 9: Fedrigo makes it three for France

Sanchez
Getty Images Photo by Jesper Juinen

Pierrick Fedrigo outkicked Franco Pellizotti in the last 200 meters in Tarbes to take Stage 9 of the Tour de France.

Fedrigo and Pellizotti were all that remained from a big breakaway that had swelled to 9 riders, including Jens Voigt, Egoi Martinez, David Moncoutie, and others. The pair were well clear at the summit of the Col du Tourmalet, but a chase by Columbia-HTC, then by Caisse d'Epargne and Rabobank, pulled back all but 34 seconds of their lead by the line.

Yellow jersey Rinaldo Nocentini had no problems with the pace, and will hold the yellow jersey through tomorrow's rest day and Tuesday's Stage 10.

New King of the Mountains Brice Feillu, on the other hand, lost his polka-dots to Egoi Martinez, who was 5th on the Col d'Aspin and 7th over the Tourmalet.

Stage 9 Top 10:
1) Pierrick Fedrigo, Bbox Bouygues Telecom, 4:05:31
2) Franco Pellizotti, Liquigas, same time
3) Oscar Freire, Rabobank, at :34
4) Serguei Ivanov, Team Katusha, same time
5) Peter Velits, Team Milram, s.t.
6) Jose Rojas, Caisse d'Epargne, s.t.
7) Greg Van Avermaet, Silence-Lotto, s.t.
8) Geoffroy Lequatre, Agritubel, s.t.
9) Alessandro Ballan, Lampre, s.t.
10) Nicolas Roche, AG2R-La Mondiale

General Classification after Stage 9:
1) Rinaldo Nocentini, AG2R-La Mondiale, 34:24:21
2) Alberto Contador, Astana, at :06
3) Lance Armstrong, Astana, at :08
4) Levi Leipheimer, Astana, at :39
5) Bradley Wiggins, Garmin-Slipstream, at :46
6) Andreas Klöden, Astana, at :54
7) Tony Martin, Columbia-HTC, at 1:00
8) Christian Vande Velde, Garmin-Slipstream, at 1:24
9) Andy Schleck, Saxo Bank, at 1:49
10) Vincenzo Nibali, Liquigas, at 1:54

Posted by Frank Steele on July 12, 2009 in 2009 Stage 9, Alberto Contador, Christian Vande Velde, David Moncoutié, Egoi Martinez, Jens Voigt, Lance Armstrong, Pierrick Fedrigo, Rinaldo Nocentini, Top Stories | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 11, 2009

Assessing the GC threats

VeloNews | Inside the Tour - Marginalizing the Tourmalet

John Wilcockson dismisses the Tour hopes of Carlos Sastre, in an article explaining how race ornanizers have taken the sting out of the Pyrenean stages by adding long descents (which encourage regrouping) after the marquee climbs.

To me, It seems like this works to Sastre's advantage, since, if he survives Stage 9 on Sunday, he's got almost a week to find his best legs before the stage through the Vosges on Friday.

It also complicates Alberto Contador's efforts. His best opportunity to make time is an uphill finish, and there are just two left: Verbier on Stage 15 and Ventoux on Stage 20. I think that's the main reason Contador decided to go on Stage 7, because he doesn't want to be in a position where everything rides on the Ventoux climb.

I may disagree that Sastre's out after his problems Saturday, but it's impossible to disagree with Wilcockson's list of top GC threats:

  • Andy Schleck
  • Fränk Schleck
  • Alberto Contador
  • Lance Armstrong
  • Levi Leipheimer
  • Andreas Klöden
  • Christian Vande Velde
  • Bradley Wiggins
  • Cadel Evans
  • Tony Martin
  • Vincenzo Nibali

With Pereiro's exit from the race today, it will be interesting to see if Caisse d'Epargne turns to Stage 8 winner Luis Leon Sanchez, who sits 11th at 2:16, or if they hunt stages.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 11, 2009 in Alberto Contador, Andreas Klöden, Andy Schleck, Cadel Evans, Carlos Sastre, Frank Schleck, Lance Armstrong, Top Stories | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Flickr'ing the Tour

Lean in
Lean in,
originally uploaded by vivid tangerine.
Working through the Tour de France tag on Flickr, I found this nice shot of Lance Armstrong back in the Stage 1 time trial in Monaco.

Also nice:



Posted by Frank Steele on July 11, 2009 in 2009 Stage 1, Lance Armstrong | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 08, 2009

Ben Stiller: Armstrong's Achilles heel?

So the other day, Astana signed in late, reportedly because Lance Armstrong was hanging out with Ben Stiller, in France with his wife. Astana paid a fine for the late sign in, but Tuesday, Stiller struck again, as the Versus video above demonstrates.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 8, 2009 in Lance Armstrong | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 07, 2009

Stage 4 TTT: Astana firing on all cylinders

If yesterday's Stage 3 was The Columbia Show, today was Astana Hour. Whatever the situation on the team bus, they worked as a single cohesive unit on the twisties around Montpellier, and built time gaps on many of the Tour's GC threats.

Early on, some big names hit the pavement, including Rabobank's Denis Menchov and Lampre's Alessandro Ballan. Four Bbox Bouygues Telecom riders misjudged a bend, and wound up in the rough. Later, Skil-Shimano's Piet Rooijakers broke his arm and left the course, leaving 178 riders in the race.

After the stage, many riders complained that the course was too technical for a TTT.


Saxo Bank's Jens Voigt, one of the hardest men in the sport, said he saw Quick Step take a spill even before they had reached the start line:

“We have bikes worth 10,000 Euro, and in the end we can't use them properly because we're just busy trying to hold balance instead of putting our power on the pedals."

Cadel Evans, who has made a point in the press how much more relaxed he is in this year's Tour, sprinted away from his squad as they approached the finish, leaving his teammates struggling to the line in 49:05, which would be 13th best on the day.

Garmin lost 4 riders in the first 12k, but were left with their five best TT men, who set new best times at the final three intermediate checkpoints, and finished in 46:29.

Saxo Bank, with yellow jersey Fabian Cancellara doing long, draft-horse quality pulls, turned in a very strong 47:09.

Columbia, possibly feeling the effects of that 30k race to the line on Stage 3, came in with a respectable 47:28, but trailed Garmin, Liquigas, and Saxo Bank at every intermediate check.

And then there was Astana. Leading the team competition, they were last to start, and they rotated smoothly with big pulls from Klöden, Leipheimer, Contador, and Armstrong. At the first time check, they were a little slower than Caisse d'Epargne, which had kicked the day off with a jackrabbit start they couldn't maintain, but Astana led at every later checkpoint. Once Saxo Bank finished, everyone was looking toward 46:29, the time that would put 7-time Tour champion Lance Armstrong back into yellow.

In the last few k, it became clear it would be pretty close. In the final k, it looked very close. In the last meters, it looked insanely, ridiculously close, until Astana came through in … 46:29. The Tour's offical website put Armstrong into yellow (and I followed suit), but not so fast. That 46:29 put Cancellara and Armstrong in a tie, so officials looked at the fractions of a second in Stage 1, and found that Cancellara had held the race lead by .22 second.

Officially, the leaderboard shows Cancellara first, with Armstrong second “at :00.” There was a suggestion (notably from Robbie McEwen via Twitter) that Armstrong sat up to leave Cancellara in yellow; I've watched it a couple of times, and can't see why you would go that hard to the line if you were that close to taking a yellow jersey you didn't want.

Of note: Liquigas was 4th, a big boost for Roman Kreuziger; my apologies to the Euskaltels, who were middle of the pack, finishing 10th at 2:09. Sastre ends the day 29th at 2:44, Evans 35th at 2:59, Pereiro 40th at 3:03. Menchov, who looked invincible in May, is in 72nd, 3:52 back.

Top 10:
1) Astana, in 46:29
2) Garmin-Slipstream, at :18
3) Team Saxo Bank, at :40
4) Liquigas, at :58
5) Team Columbia-HTC, at :58
6) Team Katusha, at 1:23
7) Caisse d'Epargne at 1:29
8) Cervelo Test Team, at 1:37
9) AG2R-La Mondiale, at 1:48
10) Euskaltel-Euskadi, at 2:09

GC after Stage 4:
1) Fabian Cancellara, Team Saxo Bank, in 10:38:07
2) Lance Armstrong, Astana, at :00
3) Alberto Contador, Astana, at :19
4) Andreas Klöden, Astana, at :23
5) Levi Leipheimer, Astana, at :31
6) Bradley Wiggins, Garmin-Slipstream, at :38
7) Haimar Zubeldia, Astana, at :51
8) Tony Martin, Columbia-HTC, at :52
9) David Zabriskie, Garmin-Slipstream, at 1:06
10) David Millar, Garmin-Slipstream, at 1:07

Posted by Frank Steele on July 7, 2009 in 2009 Stage 4 TTT, 2009 Tour de France, Alberto Contador, Cadel Evans, Carlos Sastre, Denis Menchov, Fabian Cancellara, Garmin-Chipotle, Jens Voigt, Lance Armstrong, Levi Leipheimer, Top Stories | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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

Andreu and Armstrong: the history

Frankie Andreu
Frankie Andreu,
originally uploaded by Frank Steele.
There's one Tour plotline that's playing out right in front of our eyes on Versus every day that may not be noticed by many viewers. Lance Armstrong is being interviewed by Frankie Andreu.

Andreu, an ex-pro and ex-teammate of Armstrong's at US Postal (through 2000), does almost all the Versus rider interviews, but he and Armstrong have sparred in the media and in court over allegations by Andreu's wife that when Lance Armstrong was undergoing treatment for cancer, he admitted to a history using a variety of performance-enhancing drugs (NPR story, Armstrong's response).

Armstrong maintained that Betsy Andreu might have misunderstood a discussion with his doctors, and denied (and has consistently denied) that he ever took any banned drugs.

This accusation is also a big part of the feud Armstrong has had with Greg LeMond, who claims to have heard from another woman who was in the hospital room that day that Armstrong admitted to using banned substances. Stephanie McIlvain has maintained in court that she was in the room, did NOT hear Armstrong make any such admissions, and she has refused to speak to the press about the case.

Armstrong, who won the case for which Andreu was subpoenaed, has seemed personable with Andreu on air so far this year. Anyone with further insight?

Also:

forums.cyclingnews.com | Lance speaking to Frankie Andreu?

Cyclismag.com | Frankie Andreu: L'ennemi public No 1 (in French)

LeMonde.fr | Lance Armstrong prend un malin plaisir à s'entourer de ses meilleurs ennemis (in French)

NY Velocity | As the Toto Turns 143

VeloNews | Armstrong, Andreu back on speaking terms - Added July 8



Posted by Frank Steele on July 7, 2009 in 2009 Tour de France, Lance Armstrong | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Armstrong documentary filming at Tour

LA Times | Sony shifts gear with Lance Armstrong documentary

Sony Pictures has long been working on a film adaptation of Lance Armstrong's book It's Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life. That's the movie that rumors linked to Matt Damon in the Armstrong role.

Armstrong's return to racing this year has the company working on a documentary focused on the comeback.

The documentary's director is Alex Gibney, who directed Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room and Taxi To the Dark Side. Gibney told the L.A. Times, “I wanted to understand Lance and what makes him tick. And the more I know, the more compelling the story gets.”

Producing the new documentary is Frank Marshall (who produced the Bourne, Indiana Jones, and Back to the Future series).

Also:

IMDB.com | Untitled Lance Armstrong Project (2010)

Posted by Frank Steele on July 7, 2009 in Lance Armstrong | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 06, 2009

Stage 3: Columbia puts on a show

Columbia-HTC showed off Mark Cavendish's new green jersey on Monday, shelling most of the race's GC men with a powerful 20-mile effort that culminated in a 2nd straight victory for Cavendish.

Early on, the stage showed all the cliché elements of the early-Tour sprinters’ stage. A four-man breakaway featuring two French riders was allowed to take more than 12 minutes out of a field that didn't want to chase. Samuel Dumoulin would end the day with the “most agressive” red race numbers for his hours in service to this break and 4th place at the finish.

Finally, with 50 miles/80 kilometers to go, the field started slowly reeling in the break. With the expectation of a sprint finish and the prospect of a difficult team time trial tomorrow, few teams were willing to cooperate with Columbia, which was heavily favored to take the stage. It looked like a formula chase, with the capture to come in the final 10 kilometers, unfolding to another sprint showdown.


But steaming along the Mediterranean coast in the Camargue, the winds can be stiff, and with about 20 miles to ride, a crosswind forced a gap near the head of the peloton. Ahead of the break was the entire Columbia squad, which hit full gas to widen the breach. Michael Rogers said after the stage he asked his teammates to give “5 kilometers as hard as they could,” and by that point, Carlos Sastre, Denis Menchov, Frank and Andy Schleck, and Alberto Contador were almost 30 seconds off the pace.

Not so Lance Armstrong. Armstrong found himself with 26 other riders ahead of the split, with longtime teammate George Hincapie and current teammates Yaroslav Popovych and Haimar Zubeldia. Also in the lead group was yellow jersey Fabian Cancellara, whose Saxo Bank team initially chased, then seemed satisfied to hold the Columbia bunch at around 30 seconds.

When it was time to deliver the goods, Thor Hushovd kept it close, but Cavendish found that green suits him, and took his second straight stage win. Matching last year's four wins looks in reach for Columbia's sprinter, and he may not have enough top tube for all the “kill” decals he's going to need on that frame.

The field rolled through 41 seconds behind the escape, and the contenders who were caught out commented to a man that this is a three-week race, and that a small gap on the road like this won't make a difference in the overall. We'll know in 3 weeks.

So Columbia, like Nuke LaLoosh, has announced its presence with authority. To show for a ton of effort, they have a second stage win, and the white jersey, which moves over to Tony Martin, after Roman Kreuziger was also caught out. We'll see tomorrow what those cost them.

Stage 3 Top 10:
1) Mark Cavendish, Columbia, 5:01:24
2) Thor Hushovd, Cervelo Test Team, same time
3) Cyril Lemoine, Skil-Shimano, s.t.
4) Samuel Dumoulin, Cofidis, s.t.
5) Jerome Pineau, Quick Step, s.t.
6) Fabian Cancellara, Saxo Bank, s.t.
7) Fabian Wegmann, Milram, s.t.
8) Fumiyuki Beppu, Skil-Shimano, s.t.
9) Maxime Bouet, Agritubel, s.t.
10) Linus Gerdemann, Milram, s.t.

General Classification
1) Fabian Cancellara, Saxo Bank, in 9:50:58
2) Tony Martin, Columbia-HTC, at :33
3) Lance Armstrong, Astana, at :40
4) Alberto Contador, Astana, at :59
5) Bradley Wiggins, Garmin, at 1:00
6) Andreas Klöden, Astana, at 1:03
7) Linus Gerdemann, Milram, at 1:03
8) Cadel Evans, Silence-Lotto, at 1:04
9) Maxime Monfort, Columbia-HTC, at 1:10
10) Levi Leipheimer, Astana, at 1:11

Jussi Veikkanen holds the polka-dots of the King of the Mountains, Martin takes over the white jersey, Cavendish holds green, and Astana hangs onto the team classification lead.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 6, 2009 in 2009 Stage 3, Alberto Contador, Andy Schleck, Bradley Wiggins, Cadel Evans, Carlos Sastre, Fabian Cancellara, Frank Schleck, George Hincapie, Haimar Zubeldia, Lance Armstrong, Levi Leipheimer, Mark Cavendish, Michael Rogers, Tony Martin | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 05, 2009

Stage 2: Cavendish strikes first for green

Mark Cavendish delivered the goods Sunday, easily outsprinting the field in Brignoles.

Cavendish won four stages in last year's Tour, but didn't win the overall green jersey because he dropped out to concentrate on the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. That didn't work out so well. Cavendish has said his goals for the Tour are just to win a stage and make it to Paris, but wearing the green jersey tonight, he's got to be thinking bigger.

The victory was Cav's 15th this season, and continues the Columbia team's amazing run -- they won 6 stages of the Tour de Suisse (with 5 different riders) in June.

Garmin-Slipstream's Tyler Farrar played the sprint just right, finding and holding Cavendish's wheel, but just couldn't find the terminal velocity to stay with the Manx Express. Romain Feillu was 3rd, Thor Hushovd 4th, and Bbox's Yukiya Arashiro, one of two Japanese riders making the start this year, was 5th.

No sign of Tom Boonen, who may have been caught by a crash in the final kilometer, and was 174th on the stage.

For much of the day, four riders: Jussi Veikkanen of FdJeux; Stef Clement of Rabobank; Stéphane Auge of Cofidis; and Cyril Dessel of AG2R, rode alone, and Veikkanen collected enough King of the Mountain points to take over the lead in that competition. That makes him the first Finn ever to wear the polka-dots in the Tour.

Stage 2 Top Ten:
1) Mark Cavendish, Team Columbia-HTC, 4:30:02
2) Tyler Farrar, Garmin-Slipstream, same time
3) Romain Feillu, Agritubel, s.t.
4) Thor Hushovd, Cervelo Test Team, s.t.
5) Yukiya Arashiro, Bbox Bouygues Telecom, s.t.
6) Gerald Ciolek, Team Milram, s.t.
7) William Bonnet, Bbox Bouygues Telecom, s.t.
8) Nicolas Roche, AG2R La Mondiale, s.t.
9) Koen de Kort, Skil-Shimano, s.t.
10) Lloyd Mondory, AG2R La Mondiale, s.t.

General Classification, after Stage 2:
1) Fabian Cancellara, Team Saxo Bank, 4:49:34
2) Alberto Contador, Astana, at :18
3) Bradley Wiggins, Garmin-Slipstream, at :19
4) Andreas Klöden, Astana, at :22
5) Cadel Evans, Silence-Lotto, at :23
6) Levi Leipheimer, Astana, at :30
7) Roman Kreuziger, Liquigas, at :32
8) Tony Martin, Team Columbia-HTC, at :33
9) Vincenzo Nibali, Liquigas, at :37
10) Lance Armstrong, Astana, at :40

Also:

VeloNews | Cavendish wins second stage; Cancellara keeps lead

Posted by Frank Steele on July 5, 2009 in 2009 Stage 2, Alberto Contador, Andreas Klöden, Bradley Wiggins, Cadel Evans, Lance Armstrong, Levi Leipheimer, Mark Cavendish, Romain Feillu, Stage results, Tom Boonen, Top Stories, Tour de France 2009 | Permalink | Comments (2) | 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

Stage 1 preview: 15.5-km Monaco TT

Well, we're certainly going to kick things off with a bang. Today's course is both longer and harder than a Tour prologue, with about a 5-mile/7.5-km incline on the front end, and some technical bits on the back end. The climb to 205 meters is officially a 4th Category climb, so we'll get a King of the Mountains for tomorrow, as well.

To claim the race's first yellow jersey, riders will need to put out the power to get up that rise, without going anaerobic, or they'll find themselves losing time on the flatter, power-friendly final 4 kilometers.

You can't run a Tour time trial without anointing Fabian Cancellara the favorite, but it takes a lot of watts to drive Cancellara uphill, so maybe he'll leave an opening for another rider. TTs with climbing tend to reveal the GC threats, so Alberto Contador's got to factor in. Bradley Wiggins has made his career out of shorter TTs, so keep an eye on him, as well. I'll be pulling for David Zabriskie, whose climbing has improved tremendously in the last 4 years, sometimes to the detriment of his TT'ing; here, that could make for a competitive combination.

And it's not a given that everybody lines up as expected. In 1989, defending Tour champion Pedro Delgado missed his prologue start time, finally leaving the starthouse 3 minutes behind schedule. In 2004, current Garmin-Slipstream director Matt White, then a Cofidis rider, broke his collarbone in a spill while warming up on the morning of the prologue, and had to be replaced by Peter Farazijn.

VS broadcaster picks:
Hummer - Cancellara
Sherwen - Contador
Roll - Armstrong
Liggett - Evans

Also:

VeloNews | Andrew Hood pre-rides the Monaco TT with Bobby Julich

CyclingNews.com | Armstrong and Leipheimer to start early

LeTour.fr | Stage 1 - Monaco -> Monaco 15.5 km

Posted by Frank Steele on July 4, 2009 in 2009 Stage 1, 2009 Tour de France, Alberto Contador, Bradley Wiggins, Cadel Evans, Fabian Cancellara, Lance Armstrong | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 02, 2009

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

June 28, 2009

So what's Lance Armstrong's endgame for 2009 Tour?

Chris Horner
Astana's Chris Horner,
originally uploaded by Frank Steele.

Like a lot of folks, I was surprised to see Chris Horner left off the Astana Tour squad, but I completely understand why Johan Bruyneel did it. Certainly, after publicizing his desire to get out of his contract and race the Tour with another team (despite 2+ months of racing season still to come after the Tour), I wouldn't look for Horner back with Astana next year. Of course, given the financials, it doesn't look like anyone will be riding for Astana next year.

Bruyneel's made a career (as rider and DS) out of playing the percentages, and the percentage in the hand that he's got is to ride Contador to a 4th Grand Tour title (VeloNews story shows gamblers agree). There are plenty of teams that would let a rider with his pedigree and palmares stack the team with those teammates he feels give him the best chance at wearing yellow in Paris. If the Garmin rumor is true, Jonathan Vaughters was going to sign not just Paulinho but also Noval to support Contador.

You could make an argument that it's not Paulinho's selection that left Horner out in the cold, but Muravyev's, or even Armstrong's, both of which are for political reasons. Muravyev is a hat tip to the team's Kakakh registry, while Armstrong is here for the publicity and excitement he brings to the team's coverage, and in recognition of his enormous place in cycling history.

A bigger question, though, is “What's Armstrong riding for?” I don't know exactly what his goals are for this Tour, but I don't think he will be riding for the overall win. Certainly, he's showing up in great condition, and as a competitor, he's got to believe that he could win, if certain things happen on the road. But this Tour lines up better for the climbers than the TT men, and Contador has shown he's an extraordinary climber. That said, I have a hard time believing Armstrong will be happy carrying bottles for anyone, even the 2009 Tour winner. So what could Astana carve out that would satisfy both Contador and Armstrong?

Other than the maillot jaune, the only other jersey that Armstrong could reasonably contend for is the polka-dot jersey, but no sane team is going to let Armstrong ride off on a multi-peak points hunt, unless he's already down by tens of minutes, and that's how recent maillots pois have been won.

Armstrong certainly could find himself in position to chase stage wins, and there are even a couple of stages that might further polish Armstrong's reputation. Most obvious is Stage 20 up Mont Ventoux on the penultimate day of the Tour, which looks like the biggest stage of this year's Tour. As the marquee stage, there will be a lot of riders eyeing this one, and my guess is it will go to somebody who's more of a pure climber than Armstrong, like Andy Schleck, Robert Gesink, or Carlos Sastre, depending on the race situation. Armstrong himself, though, has expressed his regrets over Mont Ventoux, where he feels he “gifted” Marco Pantani a stage in 2000, and where he was beaten by Richard Virenque in 2002. “I left unfinished business there,” he told Versus.

So, sure, maybe Armstrong's got a circle around Stage 20 on his calendar, but I think his presence here is more about the other half of the “Contador to Garmin” rumor: The 2010 Livestrong-Nike team. Presumably, Johan Bruyneel will be trying to match his UCI license to a sponsor after this season, and Livestrong and Nike are already close partners, with a new “It's About You” ad campaign that launched over the weekend and events planned in conjunction with the Tour. Would Armstrong be the uncontested leader on the road of that team, or did he come out of retirement to launch it with maximum fanfare, after which he'll return to retirement? We'll all know soon enough.

Armstrong spent today pre-riding Stage 16 (and here's video -- note that he's training in Livestrong gear, not Astana), one of 6 stages he's pre-riding.

So what do you think? What's Armstrong looking to take away from this Tour? You can comment here, or on Twitter, where I'm @TdFblog.

Also:

Cyclocosm | Astana's Tour Selection is a Ticking Bomb

Spelling out the worst-case scenario for Astana: a T-Mobile like glut of teammates riding for the win, domestiques who will only ride for “their guy”, dogs and cats living together, etc. Should be an interesting three weeks.

Posted by Frank Steele on June 28, 2009 in 2009 Tour de France, Chris Horner, Lance Armstrong, Top Stories, Tour de France 2009 | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

June 25, 2009

Astana finalizes Tour squad

Astana - Tour de Georgia 2008

Astana named the final three riders to its Tour squad this morning: Gregory Rast, Dmitriy Muravyev, and Sergio Paulinho.

It's the first Tour for Muravyev, a pro since 2002, and 3-time Kazakhstan TT champion. He's Astana's only Tour rookie.

Left off the Tour roster were Chris Horner, Jani Brajkovic, Thomas Vaitkus, and Benjamin Noval. Versus should do whatever it takes to get Horner in the booth as often as possible; he could be the next Bobke.

With Lance Armstrong apparently planning a new team for 2010, and Alberto Contador, one of five men to win all three Grand Tours, the stage is set for a potential Lemond-Hinault style intrateam rift.

The full Astana squad:

  • Lance Armstrong
  • Alberto Contador
  • Andreas Klöden
  • Levi Leipheimer
  • Dmitriy Muravyev
  • Sergio Paulinho
  • Yaroslav Popovych
  • Gregory Rast
  • Haimar Zubeldia

The team is presented in a very professional Flash presentation that would have made a great introduction for a Livestrong-Nike team, currently running in place of the team home page.

(Click through for a larger version of the photo above, which I shot at Stage 4 of last year's Tour de Georgia, at Road Atlanta).

Also:

VeloNews | Horner left off Astana Tour roster

Posted by Frank Steele on June 25, 2009 in Alberto Contador, Andreas Klöden, Chris Horner, Haimar Zubeldia, Lance Armstrong, Levi Leipheimer, Top Stories, Tour de France 2009, Tour news, Yaroslav Popovych | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 16, 2008

New website urges Armstrong investigation

investigatelance.org | INVESTIGATE LANCE ARMSTRONG FOR DOPING AND LYING UNDER OATH IN THE SCA PROMOTIONS TRIAL.

Presented with minimal comment -- Byron at Bike Hugger forwarded a new site called investigatelance.org, that urges Congress to open an investigation into whether 7-time Tour winner Lance Armstrong lied under oath at the SCA Promotions lawsuit (some background from Outside Online here).

Who's behind the website? I can't tell -- it's been registered through an outfit that anonymizes domain registrations -- but it's interesting the site went live just a week after the Trek/LeMond split and references the SCA Promotions suit, where Greg and Kathy LeMond both testified (as did Betsy Andreu) against Armstrong, who won the suit, and received the $2.5 million bonus at issue.

Posted by Frank Steele on April 16, 2008 in Doping, Lance Armstrong, Top Stories | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

July 27, 2007

Lance in France: Armstrong headed to Saturday TT

The Statesman | Armstrong to cheer on team Saturday

Lance Armstrong will be attending Saturday's individual time trial and Sunday's race into Paris.

Discovery Channel currently has riders in 1st, 3rd, and 8th, and leads the team competition and the white jersey competition.

A dose of publicity from the team's co-owner, the 7-time Tour champion, could also help land a new sponsor. Discovery Channel's sponsorship runs only through the end of the season.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 27, 2007 in Lance Armstrong | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

March 18, 2007

Armstrong's "separated at birth" partners

TMZ.com | Lance's Ladies Look Alike

Most of us have noticed the physical similarities between Lance Armstrong's ex-wife, Kristin, and his ex-fiancee, Sheryl Crow.

TMZ.com notes that the pattern continues with Armstrong's latest girlfriend, designer Tory Burch.

TMZ doesn't mention the, um, more Freudian aspect of the story -- Armstrong's mother, Linda Armstrong Kelly.

Posted by Frank Steele on March 18, 2007 in Lance Armstrong, Sheryl Crow | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

February 09, 2007

Discovery Channel's '07 season to be its last

Discovery celebrates TdG team win

Discovery wins '06 Tour de Georgia team prize
Originally uploaded by Frank Steele.

USAToday.com | Discovery Channel ending its sponsorship of pro cycling

The Discovery Channel team will spend at least some of its 2007 season seeking a new title sponsor, after a management shakeup at the network, according to Sal Ruibal at USA Today.

With Monday's departure of Discovery Network president Billy Campbell, a longtime supporter of the team, the network decided not to extend a 3-year contract that started in the 2005 season. That's when Lance Armstrong won his 7th consecutive Tour de France. The team was previously sponsored by the U.S. Postal Service, which left the sport after negative publicity about the cost of its team sponsorship.

The AP quoted a Discovery Channel statement, which said the company “decided to aggressively shift our focus and resources to support our core business goals and objectives.”

With US national champion George Hincapie, defending Giro champion Ivan Basso, Levi Leipheimer, Yaroslav Popovych, and Tom Danielson, Tailwind Sports general manager Bill Stapleton should be well positioned to find a replacement sponsor.

On the other hand, the team has traditionally been sponsored by U.S. companies, which may be less likely to sponsor the team with Armstrong out of competition. The sport's continuous doping scandals may also discourage sponsors.

Also:

VeloNews | Paper reports Discovery to pull sponsorship plug

New York Times | Discovery to End Sponsorship of Team

Posted by Frank Steele on February 9, 2007 in George Hincapie, Ivan Basso, Lance Armstrong, Levi Leipheimer, Tom Danielson, Yaroslav Popovych | Permalink | Comments (0)

Armstrong and Crow: We're not back together

contactmusic.com | CROW AND ARMSTRONG SLAM REPORTS THEY'VE REUNITED

Sheryl Crow and Lance Armstrong have gone to some lengths to deny the pair are back together, after Crow stayed in the same hotel in Solvang during a visit with the Discovery Channel squad last week.


Posted by Frank Steele on February 9, 2007 in Lance Armstrong, Sheryl Crow | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

December 19, 2006

Landis vs. Lance in Leadville?

Tour de France Champion Floyd Landis to Race 2007 Leadville Trail 100

According to the linked PR Newswire release, Floyd Landis has accepted an invitation to race at the Leadville Trail 100, a 100-mile mountain bike race in Colorado in August 2007.

Landis raced mountain bikes until 1998. His hip resurfacing, in mid-September, went well, and he's been back on the bike, including at a charity event on Sunday remembering his father-in-law and five firefighters who died fighting the Esperanza fire in October.

Former Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong has already committed to the 2007 edition of the race.

If the release is on the level, and Landis hasn't been cleared of pending dope charges and resumed road racing, it would be Landis's first race since the 2006 Tour.

It would certainly pump up interest in the race to have two former Tour winners fighting it out on dirt.

Go Clipless was one of the first to report this rumor.

Posted by Frank Steele on December 19, 2006 in Floyd Landis, Lance Armstrong, Top Stories | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 05, 2006

Armstrong hits marathon target

Newsday.com | Lance Armstrong finishes NYC marathon

Armstrong in New YorkSeven-time Tour champion Lance Armstrong finished his first race since retirement today, pulling on (Nike) running shoes instead of cleats at the New York City Marathon.

Armstrong, who said he was looking to finish in less than 3 hours, met the goal, turning in a 2:59:36 while running alongside 3-time NYC Marathon champion Alberto Salazar and Joan Benoit Samuelson.

Interest in Armstrong's first marathon led to the inclusion of a LanceCam, a dedicated camera on a press vehicle that led Armstrong along much of the course. Viewers could watch the LanceCam for $4.99 on the web.

Samuelson said the hardest thing about running with Armstrong was the constant throng of people who wanted to run alongside:

“I have never used my elbows like I had today in road racing, but there were a lot of groupies out there, a lot of roadwishers,” Samuelson said. Samuelson said the ex[h]aust from the press vehicle carrying the LanceCam also caused some problems.

“It was very difficult,” she said.

Armstrong finished 869th (824th among men) of around 37,000 participants. Latvia's Jelena Prokopcuka repeated as the women's champion (in 2:25:05), while Marilson Gomes dos Santos of Brazil took his first overall NYC win in 2:09:58.

Posted by Frank Steele on November 5, 2006 in Lance Armstrong, Top Stories | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 14, 2006

Armstrong responds to Andreu story

IHT.com | Armstrong dismisses doping confessions

VeloNews | Armstrong issues statement regarding Andreu claims

So the Lance Armstrong media machine might have thought it was permanently parked once he retired. On Tuesday, it roared out of the garage and back up to top speed. The mission? A story in the New York Times which didn't even claim Armstrong had ever used anything illegal, but quoted Frankie Andreu and another former Armstrong Tour teammate that both had used EPO while racing as pros.

Armstrong called the story “distorted sensationalism.”

“My cycling victories are untainted; I didn't take performance enhancing drugs, I didn't ask anyone else to take them and I didn't condone or encourage anyone else to take them,” he said. “I won clean.”

Armstrong also claims that a court has considered Andreu's allegations and rejected them, when Armstrong won his case against the insurance underwriters back in 2005. Obviously, that doesn't cover Andreu's claim that he used EPO; presumably Armstrong isn't denying that Andreu's admission is for real.

Also:

SI.com | E.M. Swift: Smoking gun may be catching up with Lance

<Eurosport | Bruyneel: Andreu 'pitiful'

Posted by Frank Steele on September 14, 2006 in Doping, Lance Armstrong | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

September 12, 2006

Two former Armstrong teammates admit doping

NYTimes | 2 Ex-Teammates of Cycling Star Admit Drug Use

Armstrong warmup, 1996 OlympicsFrankie Andreu and an anonymous US Postal rider from the 1999 squad have told the New York Times they used EPO and other banned substances to help deliver Lance Armstrong's first Tour victory.

Andreu was already off the Armstrong Christmas card list after his wife testified last year that Armstrong told his cancer doctors he had used performance enhancers.

    Here's the US Postal Tour squad for 1999:
  • ARMSTRONG Lance, USA
  • ANDREU Frankie, USA
  • DERAME Pascal, FRA
  • HAMILTON Tyler, USA
  • HINCAPIE George, USA
  • LIVINGSTON Kevin, USA
  • MEINERT-NIELSEN Peter, Denmark
  • VANDEVELDE Christian, USA
  • VAUGHTERS Jonathan, USA

If you put a gun to my head, I would speculate about Source No. 2, who “did not want to jeopardize his job in cycling” -- I don't think it's Tyler Hamilton or George Hincapie.

Both riders said they never saw Armstrong take anything illegal, but Andreu saw him sorting white pills before a race, which Armstrong said were caffeine.

Armstrong refused comment, but one of his attorneys pointed out that Armstrong won the SCA case, where an underwriter sought to deny him a bonus for his 5th consecutive Tour because they claimed he had doped to win them. Betsy Andreu testified in that case about Armstrong allegedly admitting drug use during his cancer treatment, and Sean Breen, the attorney, says “Like her testimony, I think her motives are completely unexplainable.”

To me, on the other hand, the story makes Betsy Andreu's apparent enmity toward Armstrong more, rather than less, understandable, if it's true.

Quoting:

“I remember Frankie saying: ‘You don’t understand. This is the only way I can even finish the Tour,’ ” she said. “ ‘After this, I promise you, I’ll never do it again.’ ”

Betsy Andreu said she grudgingly watched her husband help Armstrong traverse the mountains at the Tour that year. Later, she said, she was angry when her husband said he had once allowed a team doctor to inject him with an unidentified substance.

To this day, she blames Armstrong for what she said was pressure on teammates to use drugs. Her husband, she said, “didn’t use EPO for himself, because as a domestique, he was never going to win that race.”

“It was for Lance,” she said.

Stephen Swart, an Armstrong teammate in the Motorola days (pre-1999), also testified in the case, and said he and other Motorola riders discussed EPO in 1995, and that Armstrong thought there was “only one road to take” to compete at the sport's highest level.

Swart said one clear sign of the drug use in 1994 and 1995 was the omnipresent rider thermoses, filled with vials of EPO, and riders “every night at the hotel...running around trying to find some ice to fill up their thermos.”

Also:

Fears for Sport Made Cyclist Come Clean

Sidebar on Andreu specifically, including his recent dismissal from managing the Toyota-United team.

Boulder Report: Frankie's Courage

VeloNews | Andreu issues statement

Andreu points out that he used EPO before it was banned, and explains why he's speaking out now:

If anything I hope that my words help other riders, especially young riders, to not get caught up in doping. We need to make some steps to make things better. If DNA sampling and testing is required then that is the way we should move. I understand the invasion of privacy and no other sport requires this, but if you put the truth out on the table then perhaps something good will come from it.

Posted by Frank Steele on September 12, 2006 in Christian Vande Velde, Doping, George Hincapie, Lance Armstrong, Top Stories, Tyler Freaking Hamilton | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

August 13, 2006

Race to Replace run as planned, Earth still on its axis

Indianapolis Motor Speedway | Florida Cyclist Wins 'Race to Replace' at Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Race to Replace winner AJ Smith with Lance ArmstrongA.J. Smith, of Ft. Lauderdale, FL, won the right to race at the US Pro championships September 1, by leading the 25-34 age group at Discovery Channel's “Race to Replace” Lance Armstrong at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Saturday.

Smith did 10 laps of the Brickyard in 52:42.4, an average of nearly 28.5 MPH. Smith and 364 other riders rode in the competitive half of the day, while perhaps 1,000 riders took the opportunity to do a “Lap with Lance.” Crowds were somewhat smaller than expected at the home of the Indy 500, where Armstrong drove the pace car in May.

The event raised money for the Indiana University Cancer Center and the Lance Armstrong Foundation.

Bikes at the BrickyardIowa's Tim O'Brien proposed to his girlfriend, Chris Gade, during the event.

Some commentators had suggested the mass-start Race to Replace would lead to total carnage, or that a rider selected through such a race might be dangerous at the US Pro Championships in Greenville, SC, next month, but there were no incidents reported on Saturday.

Also:

VeloNews | Ex-trackie wins Race2Replace

WTHR - Indianapolis News and Weather | Race to replace

Indianapolis Motor Speedway | Photo Gallery

Posted by Frank Steele on August 13, 2006 in Lance Armstrong | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 29, 2006

Landis on Larry King

Travel day today, so I'll be slow to approve comments, but I wanted to point out a couple of things from Landis on “Larry King Live” last night.

Maybe we need to come up with a different word than “suspended,” but it seems to me that if you can't race, and face possible dismissal, you've been suspended. Landis wouldn't cop to that -- he said something like that he had voluntarily stopped racing until this was cleared up -- but I believe UCI regs prohibit him from racing until then.

Landis hadn't yet approved the B-sample test, but he said that was just a matter of trying to work out his options, and to find an appropriate expert to be his representative, and that he expected to notify USA Cyling later Friday night or this morning.

Lance Armstrong called in, and was somewhat supportive, taking the opportunity to note that this is the same lab that tested those infamous samples from 1999. Armstrong says he doesn't think there's any anti-American bias behind the test: “I wouldn't say that that's the reason Floyd's going through this.”

Dr. Brent Kay is Landis's doctor, board-certified in sports medicine and internal medicine. He said it's “crazy to think a Tour de France rider would be using testosterone in the middle of the race ... It's a joke.” A member of WADA has pretty much said the same thing.

Landis said he was tested 6 times before Stage 17 (I've also heard him say 5 times), but that he isn't provided with results from negative tests, so he's not sure what his TE ratios or other values were on any of those.

Dr. Kay noted that the TE ratio test itself “is the original test that was put into effect 25 years ago,” and that WADA's website “says this is a poor test.”

Looks like the offensive may be working -- the Today show just teased the story without using the word “dope” (they used “cheating” instead).

NPR also had a 15-minute interview, which you can download as an MP3:

NPR.org | Awaiting Test Results, Landis Fears for Reputation

Posted by Frank Steele on July 29, 2006 in Doping, Floyd Landis, Lance Armstrong | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

July 26, 2006

Landis lifts OLN live ratings 77 percent

MediaDailyNews | Tour de France Proves Nielsen Tour de Force

The incredible comeback ride by Floyd Landis during Stage 17 also brought back OLN's drooping ratings.

Live viewership of Stage 17 was 77 percent higher than the battle on l'Alpe d'Huez the previous day. Overall viewership on the day rose 50 percent to 1.3 million for the day.

Through the balance of the race, the numbers stayed up, with viewership among men in three key demographics up by more than 90 percent.

The 2005 Tour, Lance Armstrong's last, averaged 1.6 million combined viewers per day, with an OLN-record 1.7 million tuning in for live coverage of the race's final stage.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 26, 2006 in Floyd Landis, Lance Armstrong, Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 23, 2006

Armstrong: “We would take Floyd back”

SI.com | Armstrong impressed with Landis' effort

Seven-time Tour winner Lance Armstrong said Sunday he was impressed by Floyd Landis' Tour victory, and that Discovery would like to sign the Phonak captain:

“We've always been interested in Floyd, he's a damn good rider,” Armstrong said Sunday. “We would take Floyd back. We've pursued him for some time now.”

In my opinion, Landis doesn't want to go back to Discovery. I think he would be concerned about going back into Armstrong's shadow. Even retired, Armstrong is everywhere, making pronouncements to reporters from the top of l'Alpe d'Huez and the Hotel Crillon, publicly mending fences with Jean-Marie Leblanc, riding RAGBRAI, hosting the ESPYs.

I think that tactically, Discovery would have provided better support than Phonak for Landis, but I also suspect that if Landis stays with the team, iShares will want to protect their investment by signing a few strong support riders to bolster the returning Phonak squad.

Also:

ThePaceline.com (free reg. required) | Lance's thoughts on Floyd

Armstrong from Saturday:

His ride on Thursday was epic. He showed a champion's resolve. I look forward to seeing him up on the podium in Paris. If it couldn't be one of my guys from Discovery Channel, th[e]n I am thrilled to see Floyd continue the success of American cycling.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 23, 2006 in Floyd Landis, Lance Armstrong | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack

July 18, 2006

Tale of the teammates

Today's stage was a beautiful show of cycling as a team sport. Everywhere you looked, there were riders making moves or countering moves through the assistance of teammates who sacrificed their own chances for the team or team leader.

The best and biggest example was Jens Voigt, who got to contest two different races today. After a long tempo ride at the head of the break, then crashing while roasting the breakaway, Voigt chased back on and took a few more pulls, until he couldn't pull any more. Zabriskie took over escort duties for Schleck, who noted the work they put in to set up his victory.

Voigt, though, wasn't finished. As the GC contenders came by, he took up lead duties for Carlos Sastre, helping pace Sastre up toward Klöden and Landis, and setting a pace that Davitamon-Lotto's Cadel Evans couldn't match. He finally shuffled in 13:52 behind winning teammate Schleck.

Mazzoleni leads KlödenLandis had Axel Merckx, who was also in the early break, and looked unprepared to jump in amongst the race's strongest riders when Landis, Klöden, Leipheimer, and Sastre came alongside. Ready or not, he pulled without relief for more than a kilometer up the Alpe.

Similarly, Andreas Klöden had Eddy Mazzoleni, who pulled almost to the line after dropping (or falling) off the break with Cunego and Schleck.

Rasmussen paces MenchovDenis Menchov is being labeled the day's big loser, but he could have lost more time if not for his arachnoid teammate Michael Rasmussen, who caught his leader from behind to set pace and offer support and a water bottle Menchov couldn't spare the strength to take.

David Arroyo paced yellow jersey Oscar Pereiro for miles, and Mikel Astarloza likewise gave his all to protect Cyril Dessel's tenuous 3rd place for at least one more day.

That was an awesome stage. I wouldn't want to be chasing Landis tomorrow, when they give him back that yellow bicycle.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 18, 2006 in Andreas Klöden, Dave Zabriskie, Denis Menchov, Floyd Landis, Jens Voigt, Lance Armstrong, Michael Rasmussen, Tour de France 2006 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Armstrong on the Alpe

VeloNews | Meet the Press: Armstrong speaks to reporters in Gap

Armstrong faces the press on l'Alpe d'HuezLance Armstrong spent Monday back-pedaling on l'Alpe d'Huez, explaining that his line about the French World Cup soccer team testing positive “for being assholes” was a joke in a monologue, however weak.

Armstrong said this morning he could see the race “turned on its ears” by Thursday.

Q: If you were a betting man, who would you put money onto win this Tour then?

LA: You know I'm not going to ... I don't know. I would love to see the jersey stay in America. I think Floyd is clearly the favourite here. He doesn't have the jersey now (at stage 15 start) but obviously we know that that was a bit of a tactical decision. I think he is still the favourite. I would be happy with that victory.

Asked to demonstrate his affection for the country by speaking directly to its people, Armstrong refused to speak French, claiming he'd “lost” the language.

Rupert Guinness, who interviewed Armstrong, also briefly spoke to Armstrong buddy Jake Gyllenhall, who rode l'Alpe d'Huez with Armstrong yesterday.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 18, 2006 in Lance Armstrong, Tour de France 2006 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 13, 2006

Live with Daniel Coyle

Daniel Coyle will be live on Gather.com on Friday, July 14, 2006, from 2-4pm ET to discuss Floyd Landis in yellow, his recent feature articles about Floyd in the NYTimes and Outside Magazine, and his bestselling book, Lance Armstrong's War.

Posted by Byron on July 13, 2006 in Floyd Landis, Lance Armstrong, Tour de France 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Armstrong takes on new role as host of ESPYs

People.com | Lance Gets Bawdy at the ESPY Awards

Last night was the taping of the ESPN ESPY awards, where Lance Armstrong served as master of ceremonies. Billy Crystal he apparently wasn't, mostly relying on cheap Brokeback Mountain jokes at the expense of Jake Gyllenhall, with whom Armstrong recently went cycling.

Armstrong won the ESPY for male athlete of the year, his 4th consecutive win in the category. The awards will be broadcast Sunday night, of course on ESPN, at 9 pm Eastern.

ESPN says it tabulated 12.1 million online votes in the competition.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 13, 2006 in Lance Armstrong, Television | Permalink | Comments (1)

July 08, 2006

Tour Salad: Stage 7

VeloNews | Stage 7 by the numbers

VeloNews sheds light on the day's most important question: “How do you spell the stage winner's name?”

VeloNews says the man himself prefers “Sergei Gontchar,” insisting it's misspelled on his passport, and therefore on Tour result sheets, as “Serhiy Honchar.” As recently as the Giro in May, VeloNews was using Sergei Honchar. OLN also goes with Sergei Gontchar. But interestingly, the T-Mobile team website uses “Serhiy Honchar.” To add to the confusion, there's an NHL player named Sergei Gonchar. CyclingNews asked the rider, and will switch to “Serguei Gonchar.” I'm going to stick with Sergei Honchar for now, no disrespect to the man who smoked the field today.

rec.bicycles.racing | Tour de France stage 7 summary

Bob Martin's daily summary points up what a dominant performance Honchar put on: He's the only person who gained time on the race leadership today. Landis lost the least: He's just 24 seconds farther from the race lead than he was last night. Most of the day's big losers were sprinters, but Levi Leipheimer dropped 37 spots. Jens Voigt will be looking for a friendly break tomorrow, as the CSC strongman finished DFL on the day, clearly looking forward to a better day.

Eurosport | Tales from the Tour: Lance on his way

Seven-time Tour winner Lance Armstrong will be in France for the Tour's final week. He told Suzanne Halliburton at the Austin American-Statesman:

“I'm not gonna run and hide like some other former champs might. With all that happened before the start, I feel as if the sport and even the event needs fans and supporters right now. It's not the time for me to run and hide. I need to stand up and say how great cycling and the racing is.”

rec.bicycles.racing | Chung Charts for stage 7 TT

The “Chung Chart” is a graph of rider performance over segments of a time-trial, traditionally with first-half speed on one axis, and second-half speed on the other. Robert Chung has traditionally posted these charts to rec.bicycles.racing, and they can sometimes show how the race broke down. The time checks weren't at the halfway point today, but the concept is the same. It's pretty clear: Honchar was about 2 kms/hour faster than everybody else over the whole course. That's a dominant performance.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 8, 2006 in Floyd Landis, Jens Voigt, Lance Armstrong, Levi Leipheimer, Sergei Honchar, Tour de France 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 07, 2006

OLN's Tour ratings off by almost 50 percent post-Armstrong

NYTimes.com | OLN Sizing Up Impact of the Post-Lance Era

The New York Times looks at early ratings for OLN's Tour coverage, and we can now quantify the Lance Effect. So far, it's 50 percent.

OLN's ratings are down just about 50 percent in a Tour that's already had an American leader, but which hasn't yet hit the mountains, where it seems like more viewers might tune in for longer time periods, boosting ratings.

It's also worth noting that even at the current levels, that represents about a 20 percent gain on OLN's coverage in 2002, with 207,544 average viewers in 2006 against 171,975 in 2002.

OLN says not to worry, that the decline “is within the range of where we thought it would be.”

(Via PodiumCafe.com.)

Posted by Frank Steele on July 7, 2006 in Lance Armstrong, Television, Top Stories | Permalink | Comments (17) | TrackBack

July 06, 2006

Armstrong drops defamation proceedings in France

AOL Sports | Armstrong Drops Defamation Lawsuits

Lance Armstrong is dropping his defamation suits in France against publishers of “LA Confidential: The Secrets of Lance Armstrong,” the 2004 title that quoted a variety of Armstrong's former teammates and support staff who claimed they had seen evidence the 7-time Tour winner used performance-enhancing substances.

Armstrong last week won a preliminary round in the case against the UK's The Sunday Times, and subsequently the sides settled the case.

Armstrong's French lawyers say they've dropped the case because of that decision, the Vrijman report of earlier this year, and the February decision that an insurance company couldn't deny Armstrong a $5 million bonus for winning a 6th Tour de France.

“Mr. Armstrong considers that his honor and reputation have been re-established for all people who examine the facts in good faith, and that no further purpose is served now in pursuing other actions in defamation,” the lawyers' statement said.

Had the case gone forward, the defense lawyers would likely have had to try to make the case that Armstrong used performance enhancers, since truth is an effective defense against defamation.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 6, 2006 in Doping, Lance Armstrong | Permalink | Comments (1)