January 10, 2007

Taking the DeLorean back to 1998

Peleton 3
Peleton 3,
originally uploaded by conibonjovi.
Somebody posted photos from the Tour's 1998 visit to Ireland today. That was, of course, the Tour made infamous by the Festina affair, and eventually won by Marco Pantani.

I see a few recognizable faces here, and in shots of the body of the peloton here and here. It would be very cool if you could tag the photo with notes of riders you recognize.

Also, does anyone know which stage this is? I think that's Chris Boardman in yellow, which means it's Stage 1 or the beginning of Stage 2, when he crashed out. The pictures are marked as “March 2004”, which is obviously wrong.

Some help: the 1998 review from letour.fr, including team rosters.

I promise no more games like this once there's some actual racing...

Posted by Frank Steele on January 10, 2007 in Bobby Julich, Erik Dekker, Erik Zabel, George Hincapie, Jan Ullrich, Jorg Jaksche, Magnus Backstedt, Marco Pantani, Mario Cipollini, Photo galleries, Robbie McEwen, Tyler Freaking Hamilton, Viatcheslav Ekimov | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 23, 2006

Ekimov: “My last Tour de France”

Eurosport.com | Video: Ekimov's last words

Ekimov at '06 Tour de GeorgiaIn a video clip on Eurosport.com, Discovery Channel's hard man Viatcheslav Ekimov said he closed his Tour de France career today.

Ekimov, an Olympic champion in the time trial and track pursuit and winner of stages in the Tour de France, Tour de Suisse, Vuelta a España, and overall winner at the Tour du Pont, Three Days of De Panne, Championship of Zurich and other races, finished his 15th Tour in 15 starts.

He had previously suggested he wanted to go for Joop Zoetemelk's record for Tour participations, 16, next year.

“Actually, I can say that today was my last Tour de France, so 15 participations...I wish to do more, but I think it's pretty much done.”

Ekimov led the field onto the Champs Elysees, and waved to the crowd lining the course.

Discovery Channel's fan site, ThePaceline.com, reports that Ekimov will retire in September and become an assistant director for the team.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 23, 2006 in Viatcheslav Ekimov | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Stage 19 ITT photo galleries

Honchar flies to stage win Cunego defends white jersey with strong TT Pereiro battles for yellow Landis speaks

Honchar strikes, Cunego surprises, Pereiro survives, Landis speaks, from Stage 19 photo gallery, by Caroline Yang.

Ekimov 6th in ITT at 40 Klöden 2nd on the day Landis back in yellow

Ekimov rocks the TT, Klöden claws back to the podium, and Landis is back in yellow, from Stage 19 photo gallery by Graham Watson.


CyclingNews.com | Stage 19 photo gallery

Posted by Frank Steele on July 23, 2006 in Andreas Klöden, Damiano Cunego, Floyd Landis, Oscar Pereiro, Photo galleries, Tour de France 2006, Viatcheslav Ekimov | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 22, 2006

Honchar takes ITT, Landis takes the Tour

I'm hesitant to predict anything in this unpredictable Tour, but Floyd Landis will win the 2006 Tour de France.

Ukraine's Sergei Honchar took his 2nd time trial stage win of the Tour, ahead of teammate Andreas Klöden, while overnight 2nd-place rider Carlos Sastre couldn't hang, and dropped to 4th overall.

Overnight yellow jersey Oscar Pereiro did the fleece proud, finishing 4th on the day, ahead of scads of time-trial specialists, to keep 2nd place, only 59 seconds behind Landis, and 30 seconds ahead of Klöden.

But the big story was Landis, who rode his own race, setting the fastest time at the first time check and taking 3rd on the day. He'll be the 3rd American to win the Tour, following 3 by Greg Lemond, and the last 7 by Lance Armstrong.

Damiano Cunego solidified his hold on the white jersey, now 36 seconds ahead of Gerolsteiner's Marcus Fothen, with a 10th-place finish on the day.

T-Mobile, with the top 2 finishers and world time trial champion Michael Rogers in 19th, moves 17:20 ahead of CSC in the team competition, which they'll most likely win for the 3rd straight year.

Top 10:
1) Sergei Honchar, T-Mobile, Ukraine, in 1:07:45
2) Andreas Klödën, T-Mobile, Germany, at :41
3) Floyd Landis, Phonak, USA, at 1:11
4) Oscar Pereiro, Caisse d'Epargne, at 2:40
5) Sebastian Lang, Gerolsteiner, Germany, at 3:18
6) David Zabriskie, CSC, USA, at 3:35
7) Viatcheslav Ekimov, Discovery Channel, Russia, at 3:41
8) Cadel Evans, Davitamon-Lotto, Australia, at 3:41
9) Bert Grabsch, Phonak, Germany, at 3:43
10) Damiano Cunego, Lampre, Italy, at 3:44
Full results

1) Floyd Landis, Phonak, USA, in 85:42:30
2) Oscar Pereiro, Caisse d'Epargne, Spain, at :59
3) Andreas Klöden, T-Mobile, Germany, at 1:29
4) Carlos Sastre, CSC, Spain, at 3:13
5) Cadel Evans, Davitamon-Lotto, at 5:08
6) Denis Menchov, Rabobank, Russia, at 7:06
7) Cyril Dessel, AG2R, France, at 8:41
8) Christophe Moreau, AG2R, France, at 9:37
9) Haimar Zubeldia, Euskaltel-Euskadi, Spain, at 12:05
10) Michael Rogers, T-Mobile, Australia, at 15:07
Overall standings

Posted by Frank Steele on July 22, 2006 in Andreas Klöden, Carlos Sastre, Damiano Cunego, Dave Zabriskie, Floyd Landis, Michael Rogers, Oscar Pereiro, Sergei Honchar, Stage results, Top Stories, Tour de France 2006, Viatcheslav Ekimov | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

July 13, 2006

Stage 11 on the road

Today's a legbreaker; 5 major climbs, which are likely the reason the peloton was somewhat passive yesterday.

First up is the Col du Tourmalet, one of the Tour's legendary climbs.

CSC's Giovanni Lombardi withdrew low on the climb of the Tourmalet, and Iban Mayo sits almost 3 minutes behind the main field, gesturing angrily at the race motorcycle, hovering nearby in case he drops out.

AG2R and Phonak are leading the peloton, with Merckx, Perdiguero, and Robbie Hunter (!) leading Landis. Saunier Duval's David de la Fuente, Gerolsteiner's Fabian Wegmann, Rabobank's Juan Antonio Flecha, and Euskaltel's Iker Camano are 5:11 ahead of the field. Wegmann apparently wasn't joking earlier in the Tour when he went out grabbing king of the mountains points, and he's doing most of the work in the leading quartet today.

Rubiera is off the back for Discovery, Thor Hushovd, Samuel Dumoulin. Gilberto Simoni is off the back. Boonen, Brard and Voeckler have reportedly also fallen off the pace. Chris Horner is reportedly dropped, and Paolo Savoldelli (!). Some of these guys will chase back on, but they've got 4 more 1st-Category climbs to go. Sandy Casar is off the back.

Zabriskie is maybe a minute back, and three Discovery riders are sitting together at the back of the leading group. Egoi Martinez finally falls off the back, and Ekimov and Noval work back up into the field. AG2R still has 6 riders in the front, doing their yellow jersey proud.

As the leading quartet approach the summit, they all are climbing out of the saddle, and De la Fuente marks Wegmann. Wegmann keeps the pace low, and finally, De la Fuente launches an attack. Wegmann sits on his wheel, looking for the summit points and cash prize, but De la Fuente has the inside line and gets the prize. As the main chase group approaches the summit, Rasmussen attacks, joined by Voeckler, and Voeckler outscraps the skinny Dane for 5th place points. Yellow Jersey Dessel takes 7th, good for 8 points.

There was a split in the front group, but they're back together now, approaching the base of the Col d'Aspin, our next climb. The peloton is growing on the descent, and Voeckler attacked over the Tourmalet and has more than a minute on the field, sitting about 4 minutes behind Camano, Wegmann, De la Fuente, and Flecha.

Col d'Aspin is not splitting the field like the Tourmalet. The peloton is still 70-80 strong. Casar is off the back, and Benjamin Noval, among a few others. Voeckler is 2:20 behind the leaders, and more than 3 minutes ahead of the field. Zabel and Garate have fallen out of the field; Rinero, David Millar, Philippe Gilbert, Chechu Rubiera are also dropped. Voeckler is closing fast on the leaders.

Wegmann launches with more than 300 meters to the summit, and De la Fuente wasn't ready to contest it, so Wegmann takes the 18 points over the top, ahead of De la Fuente, Flecha and Camano. Voeckler 5th at 1:30, and Michael Boogerd leads Rasmussen up to the line for 6th place points at 4:05.

Next, the Col de Peyresourde.

Voeckler continues to close, 35 seconds to the leaders, while the peloton is now 3:49 back as the leading quartet pass the "10 kilometers to the summit" sign.

Camano is falling off the lead group as Voeckler approaches from behind. They're about 15 seconds back. Flecha is laboring hard, and he's dropped. Voeckler goes by Camano.

Egoi Martinez and Stefano Garzelli have fallen off the field. Klöden is right up front, with Michael Rogers on his left shoulder. Pereiro is off the back for, and Popovych is "stretching the elastic" at the back of the pack.

Wegmann and De la Fuente are riding alone for the summit, gaining time on Voeckler and Flecha. Flecha's 1:00 back, Voeckler's at 1:39. The sweat is dripping out of his helmet.

Leaders are 1k to the top; let's see how the games go. De la Fuente is trying to get Wegmann to come around. They're side-by-side. De la Fuente hits the afterburners from pretty far out, and Wegmann couldn't match him. De la Fuente may be cramping, but he's the new leader of the King of the Mountains competition, for now at least. Camano is caught by the main field. Flecha is 3rd to the summit at 2:10, but Voeckler is caught, and Rasmussen gets 4th over the top at 3:00.

Popovych is 40 meters off the back, and looking for the team car.

I'm going to start a new post for the Portillon and the Pla de Beret.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 13, 2006 in Gilberto Simoni, Michael Rasmussen, Michael Rogers, Paolo Savoldelli, Thomas Voeckler, Thor Hushovd, Tour de France 2006, Viatcheslav Ekimov, Yaroslav Popovych | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 10, 2006

Awesome Race to Replace posters

Le Tour
Le Tour,
originally uploaded by Telstar Logistics.
I was going to banish these cool “hero of the proletariat” style posters to the sidebar, but just couldn't.

These are posted in San Francisco to promote Discovery Channel's “Race To Replace” in Indianapolis. There's at least one more, probably of Hincapie: That light blue below Savoldelli's poster has a Race2Replace logo at the top.

Has anybody seen a full set? Are the posters available anywhere?

Posted by Frank Steele on July 10, 2006 in Paolo Savoldelli, Viatcheslav Ekimov | Permalink | Comments (22) | TrackBack

July 01, 2006

Discovery Channel prologue report

Discovery Channel clearly wants Hincapie to look like the team leader here. “Friend of Lance” Bob Roll is touting him, and Graham Watson touts him in his prologue analysis at ThePaceline.com (the Discovery Channel's fan club). We'll find out in a couple of weeks if that's the plan or just the bluff. Liz Kreutz has two (1 | 2) great galleries of Discovery Channel riders prepping for and riding the prologue; my favorite is the portrait of Ekimov at right. Procycling.com has Page 6-worthy dish on Hincapie:
It has been suggested that Armstrong-acolyte Hincapie needs to develop a nasty streak if he’s ever to fill the Lance-shaped void in the Discovery Channel ranks. Judging by George’s bike and helmet-throwing antics beyond the finish-line today, that search can be considered over. Not since Robbie McEwen last sprinted has a bicycle been wielded with such menace.
The Houston Chronicle offers an interview with Johan Bruyneel and George Hincapie on Discovery post-Armstrong, as well.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 1, 2006 in George Hincapie, Paolo Savoldelli, Viatcheslav Ekimov | Permalink

June 27, 2006

Hamilton's Athens gold upheld

BBC SPORT | Banned Hamilton keeps Athens gold

Tyler Hamilton can keep his 2004 Olympic gold medal, after the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled today that the Russian Olympic Committee and Viatcheslav Ekimov have “no standing to file an appeal with CAS” because Ekimov is not “the athlete who is the subject of the decision being appeled from” or the IOC, the UCI, or WADA.

Ekimov was 2nd in the Athens Olympic time trial.


Full ruling | CAS Press release

Posted by Frank Steele on June 27, 2006 in 2004 Olympics, Doping, Tyler Freaking Hamilton, Viatcheslav Ekimov | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 16, 2006

Discovery Channel names Tour team

Discovery Channel named its Tour squad today. With Lance Armstrong out of the picture, Discovery has 4 different riders who could finish highly: George Hincapie, Yaroslav Popovych, Paolo Savoldelli, and Jose Azevedo.

Their metamorphosis is going to be one of the big storylines of the 2006 Tour.

    Discovery Channel 2006 Tour squad:
  • George Hincapie
  • Yaroslav Popovych
  • Paolo Savoldelli
  • Jose Azevedo
  • Viatcheslav Ekimov
  • Egoi Martinez
  • José-Luis Rubiera
  • Benjamin Noval
  • Pavel Padrnos
  • Vladimir Gusev
  • Michael Barry

There's a special announcement webisode available on the Team Discovery Channel webpage; I can't link it directly since the site is all-Flash. ThePaceline.com (free registration required) has the full press release.

Posted by Frank Steele on June 16, 2006 in George Hincapie, Paolo Savoldelli, Viatcheslav Ekimov, Yaroslav Popovych | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 15, 2006

Lindsey: Race to Replace has "excellent disaster potential"

Mountain Bike | There’ll Never Be Another Lance

Joe Lindsey is afraid that the gimmick casting/reality show that is Discovery Channel's Race to Replace is a bad, bad, idea.

In case you've been under a rock, here's the basic idea: Team Discovery needs to find the next Lance Armstrong to lead the team. Contestants will sign up online, and on August 12th, some group of contestants will race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The contest winner will line up with the team at the US Pro Championships in Greenville, SC, in September.

Says Lindsey:

Details at this time are, as they say, sketchy. Is it mass-start or a time trial? Will there be categories? Is it part of any official USA Cycling program? Will pro racers like Danielson, or even USAC-licensed elite amateurs, be allowed to compete?

We don’t know. Here’s what we do know: This has excellent disaster potential.

What if the winner's a Fred, and wipes out half the field? What if he's dropped 500 yards into the race? Lindsey thinks the whole thing belittles the long monastic struggle most riders face before they can line up with the elite pros.

I'm a little more sanguine about the whole thing. The whole idea still isn't fleshed out, but I'll bet there's no intention for somebody with zero pack racing experience to actually race the full pro championships in September. I'm betting the winner will either a) be part of the U23 team Discovery sponsors (or another national-level amateur), or b) some member of Joe Public. If it's “A”, this is a great chance for the Discovery networks to showcase the talented young racers out there. If it's “B”, I imagine he'll get to ride with the pack through the neutral start, then, with loud cheers and plenty of media attention, be escorted off the course.

And it may yet wind up that the contest is only for “team leadership”: The team has promised a series of “webisodes” looking at candidates to replace Armstrong as the leader of Team Discovery starting today. They're pretty much who you would expect: Danielson, Popovych, Hincapie, Ekimov, Rubiera, Savoldelli, and Azevedo. How this “contest” links to the other contest is anybody's guess.

In any case, the ads (featuring personalities from Discovery shows) are cute and memorable, any interest in the contest is a plus for US cycling awareness, and the whole project should help maintain Discovery's image as the leading American cycling team.

For now, there's this teaser, a free iTunes version of the RtR's TV ad (All the other ads are available free, as well), and “raw footage” from the making of the webisodes here.

Posted by Frank Steele on May 15, 2006 in George Hincapie, Lance Armstrong, Links, Paolo Savoldelli, Television, Tom Danielson, Viatcheslav Ekimov, Yaroslav Popovych | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 11, 2006

So what happened to Discovery?

VeloNews.com | Basso gets big boost as CSC storms TTT

ThePaceLine.com (free reg. required) | Graham Watson: Stage 5 TTT Analysis

ThePaceline.com | Giro d'Italia Stage 5 TTT Report

Maybe the biggest surprise today was the subpar showing from Discovery, which has been dominant in recent Tour TTTs, and finished 3rd, 39 seconds back, or to make it sound worse, 3 seconds in front of Liquigas.

The Paceline's TTT wrapup noted that the team wasn't using aerobars across the board, with only the first 3 riders tucking. Graham Watson points out that Savoldelli wasn't taking many pulls, which he says “hints that the team was saving his legs and energy for a forthcoming stage.” Danielson, on the other hand, was “doing long, long turns on the front of the train, a demonstration imitated by Jason McCartney as well.” Somebody wasn't pulling through, though, because Ekimov got so cooked he was dropped on the finishing straight.

My guess, from seeing the web stream and the photographs, is that the team's inexperience in the discipline is what cost them. Neither Danielson nor McCartney had ever done a TTT before. The squad lost most of their time on the front end, dropping 24 seconds in the first 9.7 kms, 9th best. From then on, Discovery was a solid 3rd at each time check. Danielson told VeloNews he had trouble grabbing a wheel after his pulls, and perhaps the team wasn't as coordinated as in past years, when Discovery reportedly practiced the TTT with an eye toward the Tour.

And hey -- maybe it was just bad luck. Sean Yates is running the team here, and rode in the Giro's last team time trial in 1989. Near the finish, a black cat ran onto the course, catching Yates's wheel and causing a chain reaction in the 7-Eleven squad.

Either way, the damage was slight, and Danielson also told VeloNews, “I feel like I'm getting stronger every day of this Giro.”

Jan Ullrich's teammate, race leader Sergei Honchar, says the team is focused on July, not May, and that it was all he could do to stay with the squad when Ullrich and Rogers reached full boil: "In the last 5k I was having trouble breathing, they were pulling so hard."

Of course, mad TTT skillz won't mean diddly come July -- the Tour won't feature a team time trial this year.


cyclingnews.com | Driver's seat: Scott Sunderland's Giro diary 2006

Posted by Frank Steele on May 11, 2006 in Giro d'Italia 2006, Giro d’Italia, Michael Rogers, Paolo Savoldelli, Sergei Honchar, Tom Danielson, Viatcheslav Ekimov | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 20, 2006

How I spent my Wednesday

Popovych works the crowd
Popovych works the crowd
Frank Steele/tdgblog.com
Flickr.com | Tour de Georgia 2006 Stage 2

My father and I spent the day chasing the racing, and caught up with the peloton 3 (almost 4) times. We missed the race finish, but caught Popovych at the bottom of the Rome finishing straight, and made our way up to the finish line to see the race interviews and presentations.

Alejandro Acton deservedly took the “most aggressive rider” jersey, and came right by us, when I got this shot. Look how totally wiped he was after that breakaway; he put everything into his nearly 100-mile escape effort.

I got three portraits I was especially happy with: Ekimov with “certified badass” shades, Landis goofing with the crowd, and Juan José Haedo at the post-race ceremonies.

Cross-posted from TdGblog.com, where I find out “will the Specialized Angel be in Georgia?” and link to other Tour de Georgia content from around the web.

Posted by Frank Steele on April 20, 2006 in Floyd Landis, Fred Rodriguez, Photo galleries, Tour de Georgia, Viatcheslav Ekimov, Yaroslav Popovych | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 11, 2006

Hamilton loses appeal; suspension to run through September

ESPN.com | Cyclist Hamilton's two-year doping ban upheld

It's pretty anticlimactic, but Tyler Hamilton received word today that his 2-year suspension from racing has been upheld. Hamilton was the first rider implicated by a new blood-doping test, and he has fought the suspension and the test since his blood test results turned up positive in September 2004.

His original suspension date was in April 2005, but the CAS ruled that Hamilton voluntarily accepted a suspension when he withdrew from the Vuelta upon being notified of the positive blood test, so he can return to racing in late September of this year.

Still on the table is an appeal by the Russian cycling federation, which wants to see Hamilton stripped of his 2004 Olympic gold, and Viatcheslav Ekimov, currently the silver medalist, elevated to gold.

Posted by Frank Steele on February 11, 2006 in 2004 Olympics, Doping, Top Stories, Tyler Freaking Hamilton, Viatcheslav Ekimov | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 18, 2006

Discovery in training camp; Ekimov healthy and strong

ThePaceLine.com | Solvang Camp: Day 1 (free reg. req.)

Discovery Channel's team leaders are already in camp in Solvang, with the balance expected tonight.

Hincapie, Danielson, Savoldelli, Ekimov, Popovych and others did some velodrome laps to improve their TT form.

Bruyneel says Ekimov has no residual problems from the bad back injury that kept him out of last year's Tour, and didn't really need the time on the velodrome:

Bruyneel also noted that even though last year was Eki’s first time in the wind tunnel ever, the Olympic TT champion was close to dead-on just through his own personal set up. And today bore that out once again; Eki did his first test with his old set up, then after trying a couple of tweaks here and there the numbers said it all – his best run was with his original set up and leave it alone.

Sammarye "Velogal" Lewis is on the scene, and trying an interesting experiment: She's audioblogging from Solvang. As usual, she's also got a training camp photo gallery up at SmugMug, including some shots of Michael and Dede Demet Barry's son, Liam.

Posted by Frank Steele on January 18, 2006 in George Hincapie, Paolo Savoldelli, Tom Danielson, Viatcheslav Ekimov | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 07, 2005

Lands of the Tour hard men

espnstar.com | Eastern promise eye Tour de France success Agence France Presse's Justin Davis profiles the current crop of eastern European stars, and looks at who might take eastern Europe's first yellow jersey. At the moment, of course, the favorite has to be Kazakhstan's Alexandre Vinokourov of T-Mobile. There's also Ukraine's Yaroslav Popovych, currently wearing the white jersey for Discovery; last year's white jersey, Russia's Vladimir Karpets of Illes Balears, and Kazakhstan's Andrey Kashechkin of Credit Agricole. Missing, is one representative of the earlier round of eastern European riders: Discovery's Viatcheslav Ekimov of Russia, who's been riding in the European peloton since 1990. In Lance Armstrong's War, Daniel Coyle talks about "the Eastern Bloc goombahs", a group that includes Ekimov and Vinokourov, but also Jens Voigt and Jan Ullrich, Discovery's Pavel Padrnos, and the late Andrei Kivilev. Coyle offers a terrific capsule introduction of Ekimov:

The third parable ... was the Story of Eki. Thirty-seven-year-old Russian Viatcheslav Ekimov was the only rider on Postal -- indeed, perhaps the only person in Armstrong's world -- whose work ethic was beyond question. This status was underlined frequently, most of all by Armstrong's assertion that Eki was “nails.” Which raised the question: what does it take to be “nails”? This is what it took. When Eki was fourteen and living at a sports club in St. Petersburg, he rode 38,000 kilometers in one year, an average of 450 miles a week. In 1996, as a professional, he nearly doubled it ("That's not possible for a human," Landis said incredulously). But it was true -- Eki had twenty-five notebooks full of training logs to prove it. Eki had ridden thirteen tours and finished every one. Eki never missed a training day. Eki was never late or unprepared. Eki coached himself. Eki was Eki.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 7, 2005 in Alexandre Vinokourov, Andrey Kashechkin, Viatcheslav Ekimov, Vladimir Karpets, Yaroslav Popovych | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 22, 2005

Discovery announces final TdF team

Yahoo! Sport | Armstrong Confident Despite Ekimov Blow

Armstrong @ TdG ITT
Armstrong at Tour de Georgia.
Photo by Frank Steele.
Discovery Channel's final Tour squad:

Lance Armstrong
George Hincapie
Jose Azevedo
Yaroslav Popovych
Paolo Savoldelli
José Luis Rubiera
Manuel Beltran
Benjamin Noval
Pavel Padrnos

"I think we have fielded our strongest team ever with this formation," said Armstrong.

"It has many consistent elements from years past, like the Spanish armada for the climbs, strong guys like George, Pavel and Benjamin, the Giro winner in Savoldelli plus a guy like Popo (Popovych) with a very bright future."

Armstrong regrets the absence of ageless wonder Viatcheslav Ekimov, injured training near Austin in April, but says he "plan[s] on riding the race with all the toughness he (Eki) has shown over the years."


VeloNews.com | No surprises - or controversy - in Discovery's Tour line-up

team.discovery.com | 2005 Tour de France Team Announced

Posted by Frank Steele on June 22, 2005 in George Hincapie, Lance Armstrong, Paolo Savoldelli, Top Stories, Viatcheslav Ekimov, Yaroslav Popovych | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 04, 2005

Discovery makes Tour pre-selection

ThePaceLine.com (free reg. req.) | TdF finalists Announced

Discovery Channel announced the 11 riders with a shot to make its 2005 Tour squad today. The only possible surprise is that Leif Hoste, from the team's classics squad, is on the list. All 11:

Lance Armstrong
Jose Azevedo
Manuel Beltran
George Hincapie
Leif Hoste
Benoit Joachim
Benjamin Noval
Pavel Padrnos
Yaroslav Popovych
José-Luis Rubiera
Paolo Savoldelli

Looks like the speculation in the Ekimov post's comments was pretty much on-target. The 7 remaining 2004 Tour riders are all here, plus Joachim, Hoste, and new Discos Popovych and Savoldelli.

Also, RoadCycling.com quotes Johan Bruyneel that Ekimov has no intentions of retiring as a result of his accident last week.

Posted by Frank Steele on May 4, 2005 in George Hincapie, Lance Armstrong, Viatcheslav Ekimov, Yaroslav Popovych | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 01, 2005

Ekimov crash ends '05 Tour hopes, threatens career

Eki, Stage 6, 2005 TdG
Ekimov's last stage? Eki @ TdG, Stage 6, 2005
Photo by Christy Steele - more TdFblog photos.

Eurosport.com | Ekimov out of Tour de France after crash

Discovery Channel's ageless wonder Viatcheslav Ekimov crashed while training with Lance Armstrong near Austin on Thursday. Ekimov suffered "several fractures in his chest and a broken vertebra" (Eurosport says 'a broken vertebrae', but 'vertebrae' is plural).

He remains in the hospital in Austin, but is expected to be flown to St. Petersburg, Russia, as soon as tomorrow for further treatment.

Eurosport quotes Discovery's Dirk Demol:

"In the best case scenario, he'd be back in August or September, but he won't ride the Tour, that's for certain."

Ekimov was expected to ride his 15th Tour de France in July, closing in on all-time leader Joop Zoetemelk, who won the Tour in 1980 at 33, and raced 16 Tours without ever abandoning. At 39, Ekimov has three career Tour stage wins, and took silver at last year's Athens Olympics in the time trial.

Ekimov and Hincapie are Discovery's all-round strongmen. With Eki out, Discovery will have to at least consider bringing Tom Danielson to the Tour. Post your Disco Tour lineup ... I'm thinking:


Seven returnees, minus Landis and now Ekimov, so at least 2 spots to fill from {Danielson/Joachim/Popovych/Savoldelli}. Longshots: Barry or Hammond. Joachim hasn't made the Tour squad since 2002, but he's a similar rider to Ekimov. It feels like Savoldelli is 100 percent focused on the Giro, but he might be able to contribute in July. If they're worried about Danielson being too young for the Tour, then what about Popovych, who's only 25?


ThePaceline.com (free reg. req.) | Eki Hurt in Training Crash (older info than Eurosport, details crash)

Posted by Frank Steele on May 1, 2005 in 2004 Olympics, Tour news, Viatcheslav Ekimov | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

April 23, 2005

Danielson takes Brasstown Bald, overall lead at Tour de Georgia

Sorry for no "as it happens" updates: I've been out on the course, suffering from an unbelievably cold day for a Georgia April.

My vantage point: Hog Pen Gap, 17 miles from the finish, at the day's 3rd King of the Mountains line. We saw the very scattered snow flurry, and had a brief bout of sleet, just as the lead group arrived.

The crowds were incredible through the mountains; Dave from Operation Gadget said parking was gone for 5 miles approaching the spur road to Brasstown Bald. Where I was, at Hog Pen Gap, roadside spaces were gone by around 2, with the riders eventually coming through around 4:30.

In Gainesville this morning, Viatcheslav Ekimov predicted that Discovery Channel would take the stage and the overall lead today, but didn't name any names.

As the peloton rolled into the mountains, Jittery Joe's rider Tim Johnson took a flyer, and Discovery's Jason McCartney covered the break. The two would ride together over the day's first two climbs, building a lead of almost 2:30 at times. Discovery's José-Luis Rubiera took 3rd over each climb to defend his King of the Mountains jersey.

Shortly before reaching Hog Pen, Lance Armstrong launched an attack, and was covered by almost all of the stage and GC hopefuls, including yellow jersey Floyd Landis, Levi Leipheimer, Tom Danielson, Saul Raisin and Trent Lowe (fighting it out for the young rider's jersey), Saunier Duval-Prodir's Nicolas Fritsch and Marco Pinotti, and, by the Hog Pen summit, Bobby Julich and a teammate (picture at right - click for larger).

I say "and a teammate," because some sources say it was Andy Schleck, but just after the group passed Hog Pen Gap, Christian Vande Velde launched an attack that he sustained all the way onto Brasstown Bald. Reviewing the tape (wow, TdFblog video), I think it's Vande Velde riding with Julich. On the other hand, a couple of other CSC riders passed by maybe 30 seconds behind Armstrong's group, and could have caught up on the descent. At some point, this became a group of 15, adding Azevedo, Blaudzun, Schleck, Vandborg, Nathan O'Neill, and Justin England (with Vande Velde off the front).

Armstrong rode out in pursuit of Vande Velde, with Azevedo, then Danielson and Leipheimer attacked. This put pressure on Floyd Landis, and allowed Armstrong to ride in his slipstream with a teammate up the road. Danielson and Leipheimer rode much of the last 5 kilometers together, slowly gapping Armstrong and Landis. With Leipheimer placed 10 seconds ahead of Danielson on GC, Discovery's Danielson opened up a gap on Leipheimer in the last kilometer. At the finish, Danielson took the lead, with 5 seconds to spare.

Back with Landis, Armstrong was finally able to get a split at the summit, and finished 10 seconds clear of Landis, and (Dave Aiello notes) pointing defiantly back down the mountain.

At left, the once and future yellow jersey (click through for larger picture).

Stage Top 10:
1) Tom Danielson, Discovery
2) Levi Leipheimer, Gerolsteiner, at :15
3) Lance Armstrong, Discovery, at :59
4) Floyd Landis, Phonak, at 1:09
5) Bobby Julich, Team CSC, at 1:44
6) Marco Pinotti, Prodir-Saunier Duval, at 1:55
7) Trent Lowe, Jittery Joe's-Kalahari, at 2:10
8) Saul Raisin, Credit Agricole, at 2:10
9) Michael Blaudzun, CSC, at 2:33
10) Andy Schleck, CSC, at 2:33

Preliminary Overall Results:
1) Tom Danielson, Discovery
2) Levi Leipheimer, Gerolsteiner, at :05
3) Floyd Landis, Phonak, at :09
4) Bobby Julich, CSC, at 1:10
5) Lance Armstrong, Discovery, at 1:41

Lowe holds on to the white (under-23) jersey, while Rubiera will win the King of the Mountains, since there are no KoM points available tomorrow.

And, of course, barring a comet crashing into his helmet, it looks like Discovery Channel has a stage on which to introduce Tom Danielson, who is going to win the 2005 Tour de Georgia. Looks like I have to create a "Tom Danielson" category.

With all the tough stages out of the way, what have we learned about Lance Armstrong's fitness? Bobby Julich, who clearly targeted his fitness to the early season, lost 43 seconds to the six-timer, which must be encouraging for Armstrong. Was Armstrong going all out on the last climb, or biding his time, helping Danielson gap Landis while Landis marked the wrong Disco? I guess we'll know in July.

Also, Levi Leipheimer, ladies and gentlemen; what a gutty ride -- he was also isolated from any teammates for the entire last climb, and put 45 seconds into Armstrong, and almost a minute into Landis.

On the other hand, I wouldn't want to spend the night with the CSC's. Christian Vande Velde takes the "consolation prize:" most aggressive rider. They had the numbers in the break, but couldn't get up Brasstown Bald with the Discos, Landis, and Leipheimer. As a result, they'll miss out on the team prize, which they took last year, and Julich will finish in the bitterest position -- one step off the podium.


VeloNews | Danielson wins stage, seizes lead at Georgia

VeloNews wrap-up, with some good Casy Gibson photos.

procycling.com | Armstrong: "Danielson's something special"

ThePaceline.com (free reg. req.) | Stage 5 Race Report

Posted by Frank Steele on April 23, 2005 in Bobby Julich, Christian Vande Velde, Floyd Landis, Lance Armstrong, Levi Leipheimer, Saul Raisin, Tom Danielson, Top Stories, Viatcheslav Ekimov | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tour de Georgia Stage 5: Gainesville to Brasstown Bald

Today is the key stage of the 2005 Tour de Georgia. The GC leaders are all bunched within 2 minutes of Floyd Landis, and CSC has David Zabriskie and Bobby Julich looming within 30 seconds of the race lead.

Only 90 riders are left in the race, as 13 riders, including Jonathan Sundt and Ben Brooks, finished outside the time limit, and 14 others, including Discovery's Michael Barry, Ivan Dominguez, and Stage 1 flyer Dan Bowman, dropped out. Two Colavita riders, Mark McCormack and Juan José Haedo (who won a sprint on Friday's stage) were disqualified for unspecified reasons (anybody hear anything? Update: As you might guess, they were DQ'ed for drafting).

Weather is much cooler today than earlier this week, with temperatures this morning in the mid-50s and winds coming out of the west to northwest. The high is expected to be only about 60. Local weatherman says there's a wind advisory, with gusts of up to 25-30 mph expected.

The stage today just gets harder and harder, starting in poultry capital Gainesville, rolling through the only sprint line of the day, and then starting to climb. There are 4 categorized climbs on the day, spaced fairly evenly about 17 miles/28 kilometers apart.

The 3rd-Category climb to Dicks Creek Gap is a long, gradual climb, with some short descents worked in, and a feed zone just before the final climb of perhaps 800 vertical feet.

The 2nd-Category climb to Unicoi Gap is both taller and steeper, gaining almost 1000 vertical feet ahead of a long descent of almost 1500 vertical feet.

Next is 1st-Category Hogpen Gap, where riders will climb almost 2000 feet to 3518 feet above sea level. A very steep descent down the backside puts the riders at the base of the climb to Georgia's highest point, the Hors Categorie Brasstown Bald.

Brasstown Bald stands almost 4800 feet above sea level, and riders will suffer through about 2800 feet of that over just 7.5 miles.

Last year's winner, Cesar Grajales, now with Navigators, lives in Athens, about 75 miles away, and had a suspiciously low finish on yesterday's stage. He may have been resting up to try a big move today.

Jason McCartney and José Luis Rubiera showed yesterday, but Discovery Channel's other strong climbers, Tom Danielson and Jose Azevedo, stayed with Lance Armstrong in the chasing group all day. With Danielson, Ekimov, Armstrong, and Azevedo all within 2 minutes of Landis, who was isolated for the late stages of yesterday's stage, look for Discovery's strategy to be some tag-team breakaways.

CSC has three men in the top 10: Zabriskie just 19 seconds behind Landis, Julich at 28 seconds, and Stage 4 winner Brian Vandborg at 1:39.

Also highly placed is Gerolsteiner's Levi Leipheimer, sitting 50 seconds back.

Posted by Frank Steele on April 23, 2005 in Bobby Julich, Dave Zabriskie, Floyd Landis, Lance Armstrong, Levi Leipheimer, Tour de Georgia, Viatcheslav Ekimov | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 22, 2005

Vandborg takes TdG stage 4

Coming into Dahlonega, there was a short steep climb up to the 1 kilometer to ride mark.

Marco Pinotti attacked, and Viatcheslav Ekimov followed, shadowed by CSC's Brian Vandborg and Jason McCartney, all of whom got a small gap on the field.

Vandborg led Ekimov across the finish line, with Pinotti back a bit, then McCartney, then the chasers' group of 20-22.

Rubiera takes over the King of the Mountains jersey.

Landis was in that group, and should lose time only to the top 4 riders of the day.

That means tomorrow will be THE crucial day for this tour. Organizers actually made the toughest stage of the TdG even tougher this year, with four King of the Mountains lines and a shorter route between the last three, so they come one after another.

I think it's pretty notable that neither Jose Azevedo nor Tom Danielson were unholstered today; look for them to factor heavily in the Disco strategy tomorrow.

Preliminary stage Top 10:
1) Brian Vandborg, CSC
2) Viatchdslav Ekimov, Discovery
3) Marco Pinotti, Saunier Duval/Prodir
4) Jason McCartney, Discovery Channel
5) Bobby Julich, CSC
6) Mauro Santambrogio, Team LPR
7) Lance Armstrong, Discovery
8) Floyd Landis, Phonak
9) Sven Krauss, Gerolsteiner
10) Daniele Contrini, Team LPR

Overall after Stage 4:

1) Floyd Landis, Phonak
2) David Zabriskie, CSC, at :19
3) Bobby Julich, CSC, at :28
4) Levi Leipheimer, Gerolsteiner, at :50
5) Tom Danielson, Discovery, at 1:00
6) Viatcheslav Ekimov, Discovery, at 1:13
7) Brian Vandborg, CSC, at 1:39
8) Lance Armstrong, Discovery, at 1:42
9) Jose Azevedo, Discovery, at 1:53
10) Danny Pate, Jelly Belly-Pool Gel, at 2:12


ThePaceline.com (free reg. required) | Tour de Georgia, Stage 4 Race Report

Posted by Frank Steele on April 22, 2005 in Dave Zabriskie, Top Stories, Tour de Georgia, Viatcheslav Ekimov | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

April 21, 2005

Landis smacks the competition at Tour de Georgia time trial

Phonak's Floyd Landis "ran like he stole something" at today's Rome time trial.

Landis came in at 39:58 on a wet 18.6-mile course.

Lance Armstrong, who won this stage last year in 39:51, came in 9th on the day, at 41:44, trailing two of his own teammates, Tom Danielson, 7th at 40:58, and Viatcheslav Ekimov, at 41:19.

Top 10:
1) Floyd Landis, Phonak, 39:58
2) Dave Zabriskie, CSC, 40:17
3) Chris Baldwin, Navigators, 40:20
4) Bobby Julich, CSC, 40:26
5) Nathan O'Neill, Navigators, 40:41
6) Levi Leipheimer, Gerolsteiner, 40:48
7) Tom Danielson, Discovery, 40:58
8) Viatcheslav Ekimov, Discovery, 41:19
9) Lance Armstrong, Discovery, 41:44
10) Brian Vanborg, CSC, 41:45

The heat is on if Armstrong is to repeat as the overall winner. He's brought a very good climbing team, so he's not out of contention.

Dave at Operation Gadget has a stage recap up, as well, with quotes from some of the riders. He told me afterward that Landis will have a press conference this evening, as well.

Pictures to come.

Posted by Frank Steele on April 21, 2005 in Bobby Julich, Floyd Landis, Lance Armstrong, Levi Leipheimer, Top Stories, Tour de Georgia, Viatcheslav Ekimov | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 19, 2005

Hamilton will appeal racing ban

CBC Sports | Cycling's Tyler Hamilton to fight doping ban

Unsurprisingly, Tyler Hamilton says he'll take his case up with the international Court of Arbitration for Sport after receiving a two-year suspension yesterday.

"The fight's far from over," said Hamilton ... "I'm certainly not a quitter and I'm not going to give up until I'm vindicated," he said. "My chances of racing in this year's Tour de France are slim to none. That's what got me out of bed every morning."

Again, if you really want to get into the new test, and the potential for it to be incorrect, you should check out the summary by Jeff Jones at CyclingNews.com.

Update: Meanwhile, the Australian Olympic Committee will seek to have Hamilton's gold medal stripped, which would move Australia's Michael Rogers up to the bronze medal (and Viatcheslav Ekimov to gold and Bobby Julich to silver).

Posted by Frank Steele on April 19, 2005 in Doping, Tyler Freaking Hamilton, Viatcheslav Ekimov | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 13, 2005

Discovery Georgia squad announced

team.discovery.com | Midweek Musings - Tour de Georgia Roster Announced

With all the injuries and illness on the Discovery Channel squad, it's been a little up in the air who would be in Augusta for the start of the Tour de Georgia. Dan Osipow lists the likelys in his latest column:

Lance Armstrong (2004 TdG overall champ)
Viatcheslav Ekimov
José Azevedo
José-Luis Rubiera
Antonio Cruz
Tom Danielson
Michael Barry
Jason McCartney (2004 TdG King of the Mountains)

This is a team that can climb with anybody. We'll see in a couple of months, but this looks like the core of the 2005 Discovery Tour squad, as well.

Missing will be George Hincapie, who lives just a bit up the road from Augusta in Greenville, S.C.

Posted by Frank Steele on April 13, 2005 in Lance Armstrong, Tom Danielson, Tour de Georgia, Viatcheslav Ekimov | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 16, 2004

Abt: 'possible rendezvous with meaningful action'

IHT | Tour plays a waiting game, with big challenges near end

Add Samuel Abt to the long list of people who aren't happy with this year's race route.

The Tour de France stopped dithering in the Massif Central on Thursday and headed southwest toward the Pyrenees and a possible rendezvous with meaningful action, a missing ingredient in the race so far.

And to make sure we didn't miss it, that's the lead!

Abt points out that today's win by Moncoutie was the first in 30 years by a French rider from the same département (sort of like a US state) as the stage finish.

Returning to his main theme, that most of the race so far has suffered a "lack of overall significance," Abt mentions the six cows (and no one has posted or sent pictures of the cows!) that briefly stopped the chase:

While comic, those cows, and others decorated with yellow, green and polka dot blankets to mimic the Tour's leader jerseys, failed to lift the overall morosity that has gripped the race. Everyone is wondering when something important will happen.

Blame for this falls on the race organizers, who have packed the last week of the race with the big challenges that will determine the winner and that usually occur far earlier. These are the uphill time trial at Alpe d'Huez on Wednesday and another individual time trial on the flat July 24.

Abt quotes Alessio-Bianchi's Scott Sunderland, who says he doubts that tomorrow's anticipated stage to La Mongie, or even Saturday's stage to Plateau de Beille, will see the big boys facing off.

Even Armstrong, he says, believes the difficulties of Friday's stage "are overrated."

Sunderland says, "The big guys are saving it for Alpe d'Huez," naming Mayo, Carlos Sastre, Oscar Sevilla, and Igor Gozalez de Galdeano as the riders most likely to attack in the Pyrenees.

"They have nothing to lose," Sunderland said. "The big guys won 't let them gain that much time and so they really won't be dangerous to Armstrong, Ullrich and Hamilton.

"And those guys won't be going after each other quite yet, I think.

"For them, it's a waiting game, and there's plenty of time left to wait."

Abt mistakenly identifies Sunderland as the oldest rider in the Tour, but he's 9 months younger than US Postal's Viatcheslav Ekimov.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 16, 2004 in David Moncoutié, Tour news, Viatcheslav Ekimov | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 07, 2004

US Postal takes team time trial; Armstrong in yellow

US Postal took the team time trial. Armstrong is in yellow, and the real leaders will start to emerge on GC.

Phonak finished 2nd on the day, 67 seconds back, but that will be capped at 20 seconds.

Illes Balears-Banesto, at 1:15, are capped at 30 seconds, and so on.

Top 10:
1) US Postal                    1.12.03
2) Phonak                       at 1:07 adjusted - :20
3) Illes Balears                at 1:15 adj - :30
4) T-Mobile                      at 1:19 adj - :40
5) CSC                            at 1:46 adj - :50
6) Rabobank                    at 1:53 adj - 1:00
7) Liberty Seguros            at 2:25 adj - 1:10
8) Euskaltel - Euskadi        at 2:35 adj - 1:20
9) Saeco                         at 2:37 adj - 1:30
10) Alessio - Bianchi            at 2:57 adj - 1:40

Early reports are that this puts US Postal in the Top 5 on the general classification (GC), much as last year:

1. Lance Armstrong (USP)
2. George Hincapie (USP) at 10"
3. Floyd Landis (USP) at 16"
4. Jose Azevedo (USP) at 22"
5. Jose Luis Rubiera (USP) at 24"
6. Jose Enrique Gutierrez (PHO) at 27"
7. Viatcheslav Ekimov (USP) at 30"
8. Tyler Hamilton (PHO) at 36"
9. Santos Gonzalez (PHO) at 37"
10. Bert Grabsch (PHO) at 41"

Looking at the team leaders, and anyone else I'm keeping an eye on, it's:

1) Armstrong (USPS)
2) Hamilton (Phonak) at 36"
3) Jens Voigt (CSC) at 43"
4) Ullrich (T-Mobile) at 55"
5) Bobby Julich (CSC) at 1:00
6) Francisco Mancebo (Illes Balears) at 1:01
7) Levi Leipheimer (Rabobank) at 1:08
8) Ivan Basso (CSC) at 1:17
9) Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano (Liberty Seguros) at 1:29
10) Roberto Heras (Liberty Seguros) at 1:45
11) Carlos Sastre (CSC) at 2:02
12) Fabian Cancellara (Fassa Bortolo) at 2:25
13) Robbie McEwen (Lotto-Domo) at 2:29
14) Laurent Brochard (AG2R) at 2:30
15) Richard Virenque (Quick Step) at 2:39
16) Sylvain Chavanel (Brioches la Boulangere) at 2:45

Gilberto Simoni (Saeco) at 3:22
Iban Mayo (Euskaltel-Euskadi) at 5:27
Haimar Zubeldia (Euskaltel-Euskadi) at 5:33
Christophe Moreau (Credit Agricole) at 5:58
Michael Rogers (Quick Step) at 6:16
Magnus Backstedt (Alessio-Bianchi) at 9:09 (and the roads haven't turned up yet!)
Benjamin Noval (US Postal) at 22:37
Bradley McGee (Fdjeux.com) at 22:49

And our new lanterne rouge:
Davide Bramati (Quick Step) at 27:51

Bramati and a few others were dropped by their teams during the TTT, and had to straggle in alone (or in one pair's case, with a teammate). Eddy Seigneur of RAGT was also dropped, but couldn't finish within the time limit, and was eliminated.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 7, 2004 in Bobby Julich, Bradley McGee, Christophe Moreau, Fabian Cancellara, George Hincapie, Gilberto Simoni, Iban Mayo, Jan Ullrich, Jens Voigt, Jose Enrique Gutierrez, Lance Armstrong 2004, Levi Leipheimer, Magnus Backstedt, Robbie McEwen, Roberto Heras, Stage results, Top Stories, Tour news, Tyler Freaking Hamilton, Viatcheslav Ekimov | Permalink | Comments (12) | TrackBack