July 03, 2004
NPR's Tom Goldman talks to VeloNews, and features clips from Armstrong and OLN in his story about Armstrong's difficult challenge: To be the first 5-timer to win ... at 32 years of age.
July 02, 2004
Cipollini handicaps sprinters' chances
Mario Cipollini was, for a time, the best sprinter in the world. "Super" Mario has 12 stage wins in the Tour, and a record 42 stage wins at the Giro d'Italia. This year was the first time Cipollini was shut out at the Giro, as a bad crash knocked him out early.
Cipollini's crown has been challenged by Alessandro Petacchi, who had an amazing Giro, winning 9 stages this year alone. Cipollini hasn't ridden the Tour in 5 years, while Petacchi won 4 stages of last year's Tour.
Cipollini is marking Petacchi, Tom Boonen, and Erik Zabel in the sprints.
Petacchi, for his part, is downplaying his chances at multiple sprint wins, and pooh-poohing the overall green jersey competition:
“It doesn’t really interest me,” said the Fassa Bortolo sprinter in his pre-Tour press conference. “I want to concentrate on getting stage victories. It might surprise but my aim is the very reasonable goal of a stage win during the first week. I won’t be thinking about any more than that initially. If I was thinking about the green jersey from the start I would then have to dispute the intermediate sprints, which would be a sure way of missing out on what really counts, the last sprint of the day.”
The Tour will be the first head-to-head meeting between Petacchi, and Belgium's Tom Boonen, who has 13 victories so far this season.
Jalabert: Armstrong to win; he's like "Terminator that never dies"
Laurent Jalabert says Lance Armstrong will win his 6th consecutive Tour de France this year, but expects it to be tight.
Jalabert, who won both the green and polka-dotted jersey in his career, now does cycling commentary for French TV.
“[I]t is going to be very difficult to beat him. However, this year there are several riders who are aiming to beat him, whereas last year most were just thinking of coming second to him.”
Jalabert discounted Armstrong's difficulties last year as springing from his fall in the preparatory Dauphiné Libéré. Asked to compare Armstrong and Indurain, the two five-timers he raced against, Jalabert at first refuses, then says:
“I preferred riding against Indurain because of his manner – less provocative, more discreet, he had more class… Armstrong seems as if he doesn’t feel pain, he’s like a machine, like the star of an American film, a Terminator who never dies.”
Vaughters picks Mayo
Jonathan Vaughters rode for US Postal and Credit Agricole in 4 Tours, 1999-2002. His guest column at the Denver Post predicts:
- 1. Iban Mayo
- 2. Lance Armstrong/Jan Ullrich (not sure, sorry)
- 4. Unheralded rider who sneaks away to a huge advantage in the first week
- 5. Tyler Hamilton
- 6. Roberto Heras
He predicts that Mayo will put time into everybody on the mountains, and take yellow at the Alpe d'Huez time trial. One of the TT specialists (Armstrong or Ullrich) will count on being able to take the necessary time back in the long TT, but Mayo will keep it close there to win with one of the narrowest margins in history.
Roche tips Ullrich
Stephen Roche, 1987 Tour de France champion, says Jan Ullrich will finally get his 2nd yellow jersey in the 2004 Tour.
"I would be really surprised if Armstrong won," Roche told BBC Sport.
"He may be mentally tougher than he's ever been and tactically more astute, but I don't believe he's the same rider physically anymore."
He added: "If I were to pick it, I'd go Ullrich first, Tyler Hamilton second and Armstrong third."
Roche gives a lot of weight to Armstrong's performance at the Dauphiné Libéré, and to Ullrich's strong Tour de Suisse, and the tighter Tour de France from last year.
"Last year, the cracks started to show," said Roche. "Those cracks are only going to get wider."
June 29, 2004
The Tour for Americans
It's a nice little intro, that hits all the storylines that Outdoor Life Network hopes to capitalize on.
Along with the story, they're running an interactive poll, "Do you believe Lance Armstrong has used illegal doping during his 5-year Tour de France win streak?"
Voting is currently running 82 percent NO, 18 percent YES, which I found a little surprising.
Who will wear the green?
Eurosport offers a preview of this year's green jersey competition. One of the major races within this race will be Alessandro Petacchi's efforts to survive the mountains without being eliminated for going over the time limit. If he can survive the full Tour, he has to be the favorite for the sprinter's jersey, based on his record 9 stage wins in this year's Giro.
This has been an Australian stronghold the last few years, with Baden Cooke winning in 2003, Robbie McEwen taking 2002, and Stuart O'Grady factoring in the green jersey competition the last few years, holding the jersey until the last day of the 2001 Tour.
Other sprinters to watch: Tom Boonen (Quick Step), Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole), and 6-time green jersey winner Erik Zabel.
Abt previews 2004 Tour
Samuel Abt offers his Tour de France preview. He quotes Lance Armstrong:
"I think Mayo will be good," he said then. "The course suits him. I think Ivan Basso is going to have a good Tour. Yeah. I'm quite sure about that. I think he's got new motivation, new morale.
"Tyler will have a good Tour," he continued. "I don't know about Roberto, but the Tour this year suits the climbers," and Heras is one of the best.
I'm looking forward to Abt's coverage; I know now to follow it on IHT.com, since the New York Times expires its coverage, and edits Abt down to what Americans are interested in.
June 28, 2004
Provisional Tour start list
Cycling4all.com has a provisional start list with every team on a single page, and notes when teams haven't yet officially named their Australian, as with Liberty Seguros.
Daily Peloton posts GC preview
Daily Peloton's Jambon Report is consistently the most entertaining review of daily action at the Tour. DP's Locutus kicks off the 2004 edition with a GC preview.
Predicting not the predictable Armstrong cruises storyline, Locutus instead predicts the unpredictable predicate, with Tyler Freaking Hamilton ascending the top step:
Tyler "Nails" Hamilton (Phonak). Yes, Tyler. The "Master of Disaster" got 2nd in the 2002 Giro d'Italia and 4th in the 2003 Tour de France with fractured bones. This year, I've got a feeling that Tyler will keep the rubber side down, stay injury free, and show us what he is truly capable of on the roads of France. Everyone talks about Jan Ullrich and Roberto Heras and Iban Mayo, but Tyler is the one who is really Lance's worst nightmare: he's a pure climber who can time trial with the best of them. Also, he rode next to Lance during his first three Tour victories, and so he knows his old boss well. Did you see the ass-whupping he laid down this year in the Tour of Romandie? How about that ride in the Dauphiné Libéré last month, where he was the closest man to Mayo in the time trials despite still not being at his peak? His team also looked extremely strong in the Dauphiné, and they will be united for one purpose in France: get Tyler to the podium. He won't win in a walk-over, but he'll squeek out enough time to make this one of the closest and most memorable Tour victories of all time.
Read it all: It's a good rundown of all the top riders, and a few of the dark horses, taking the start line on Saturday.
June 22, 2004
Daily Peloton publishes Tour preview
As the team lineups continue to be announced, The Daily Peloton offers a roundup of the teams they think can make a run at the overall GC for this year's Tour de France.
As expected, they give props to USPS and T-Mobile, but the author predicts that Phonak won't be able to hang during the 3rd week, isolating Hamilton on the last mountain stages.
Euskaltel-Euskadi gets rated an enigma. What's Zubeldia's job this year? Can Mayo do enough in the mountains to cover for the time he'll lose on the long and team time trials?
Looking at results so far, I think the author gives particularly short shrift to CSC, which has been arguably the strongest team in the world through the spring. Like him, I'm not sure how to rate the Liberty Seguros team riding to support Roberto Heras just yet.
June 14, 2004
Armstrong gives Tour preview
Lance Armstrong sat down with cyclingnews.com's Time Maloney to discuss Armstrong's preparations for this year's Tour, his Dauphiné time trial results, being a Jeopardy clue, and what's on his iPod.
Looking ahead to the Tour:
You referred to the last week of the Tour de France as being like "Hell Week"; l'Alpe d'Huez time trial, the difficult stage to le Grande Bornand and the final TT in Besancon. Which one will have the most impact on the outcome of the Tour?
LA: It's too early to say now, because whatever happens in the Pyrenees will condition what happens in the Alps. First we finish in Villard de Lans and then l'Alpe d'Huez TT and the day after. l'Alpe dHuez is very hard. Long stage, long in terms of hours as well because it's a lot of climbing. [Then] perhaps what happens... the time people gain in l'Alpe d'Huez... the riders that would typically gain time in l'Alpe d'Huez would lose time in Besancon. A guy like Mayo gains a minute [on l'Alpe d'Huez], he's going to lose that and some in Besancon. Sixty kilometres is the longest [TT] that I've ever personally done, I think. And it's a challenging course... it's going to be a struggle.
[In the 2000 Tour the Fribourg-Mulhouse TT was 58.5km; in 2004 the Besancon TT is 55km. - Ed]
Ullrich has also said he's focused on the Besancon time trial, which comes on the 2nd-to-last day of the Tour. That makes it key since it's very hard for a contender to get away on the flat last day, which traditionally is one for the sprinters.