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rustyjaw
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Any other TDF fans here? I've been watching it since the early 80s just before Lemond rose to power. I still vividly remember the final time trial of the 1989 Tour, when Lemond did what everyone assumed was impossible...making up a 50 second deficit over something like 25 miles - to me that was the most amazing moment in sports that I've experienced.

 

But this year could come close, if Armstrong is able to pull off his 6th victory, something never before done. He will go down in history as arguably the greatest cyclist ever.

 

This year's route would appear to be favorable to Lance:

 

parcours.gif

 

the counter-clockwise progression means that the mountain stages will come in the last half of the race, and Lance is a fearsome climber. Even if he falls behind in the first half, only a handful of other challengers can keep up with him in the Alps and Pyrenees.

 

But it will undoubtedly be an agonizingly tough race for Armstrong, or more agonizing than usual because of the enormous pressure. In Europe, cycling is a huge sport, and this is it's ultimate test. Four riders have won 5 Tours, but each and every one has either retired or failed to win their 6th. I suspect his opponents will be very motivated by history, both because it's never been done and because it's their chance to be the spoiler and steal Armstrong's thunder.

 

Armstrong's main opponents are Lars Ullrich and Joseba Beloki, last year Beloki was knocked out of the race due to a crash that nearly took out Armstrong too, but Ullrich and a previously unknown (or lesser known) rider Alexander Vinokourov, gave Armstrong a very strong challenge last year, and while Lance prevailed, he won by just 1 minute (imagine a 1 minute margin of victory in a 2000+ mile race!). it was the first time in his 5 victories that he won by less than 6 minutes...and definitely his least commanding performance.

 

If Beloki is healthy he's probably Armstrong's greatest threat. Ullrich is getting a little old now, but then so is Armstrong.

 

It will also be interesting to watch American Tyler Hamilton, who broke his collarbone early in last year's TDF, but incredibly he went on not only to finish the race, which is hard to fathom, but place 4th overall!! If this guy can do that with a broken collar bone, I'm afraid to see what happens when he's healthy.

 

The 2004 TDF starts this Saturday, July 3rd!

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I'll be tuning in whenever I get a chance. SI had an article about Lance and how the French press is out to smear his name with doping allegations, despite testing clean.

 

I would love to see Lance get a 6th victory, and since he's not from Philly, he's got a great chance ;)

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I'll ride that airplane part -no problem. (or do they have to pedal a stationary bike while flying?)

 

It's an amazing physical challenge. If he can win 6 he should go down as one of the greatest atheletes of all time...not just cyclists.

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I'll be tuning in whenever I get a chance. SI had an article about Lance and how the French press is out to smear his name with doping allegations, despite testing clean.

 

I would love to see Lance get a 6th victory, and since he's not from Philly, he's got a great chance

 

Yea I'll be watching. I remember back when Miguel Indurain tore up the competition and the SportsCenter anchors kept saying he's soo far ahead that he could ride his breaks through the rest of the race and still easily win. (I was still pretty young)

 

The SI article was pretty good. It mentioned that Lance had lost the race right before the TDF (forgot the name) and that his competitors "saw a weakness" in Lance that they might go after)

 

I'm rootin' for him to win it this year.

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From what I understand, Armstrong (and most pros at the top) focuses almost solely on the Tour and nothing else, he definitely doesn't win every race, none of them are as important as the Tour. He's even in a race once a year here in SF, and he hasn't won it yet, it's all just preparation for the TDF.

 

This is one of the reasons that many cyclists, like Indurain, are reluctant to name Armstrong as the greatest ever (even if he wins 6), because he focuses one the one race...whereas the old-schoolers, like Eddy Merckx, Jacques Anquetil, and Bernard Hinault all raced in (and won) major events throughout the year, like the Giro D'Italia or Vuelta a Espana.

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OLN is carrying the TdF live, with repeat coverage during the day and evening. Add in the daily preview shows and there will be about 13 hours daily. WOOOOOT!

 

I will be TIVOing every stage and will be sick during the Alpe Duez time trial to watch that stage live.

 

Haven't missed a stage of the Tour, Giro or Vuelta in 4 years.

 

Joseba Beloki is out of the Tour this year as he quit his current team (Brioche la Boulangerie) and wont be on a new team.

 

Lance's top leutenent from the last few tours (Roberto Heras) will be riding against Lance for a new team. Should be interesting as he is not very good at time trialing but a superbe climber.

 

Can't wait.

 

In related news, a team riding recumbents won the over all at the Race Across America, RAAM. They did not beat the record set in 1989, also be guys on recumbents. THe average age of the riders was 42.5 years old. Go old farts.

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I will be TIVOing every stage and will be sick during the Alpe Duez time trial to watch that stage live.

 

Only at this time of year do I wish I had cable...I'll be relying on the web and CBS for my coverage...

 

Joseba Beloki is out of the Tour this year as he quit his current team (Brioche la Boulangerie) and wont be on a new team.

 

Wow, this I didn't know! Big news.

 

I also didn't know about Roberto Heras, this might be even bigger news. IIRC last year he really helped Armstrong when he was teetering on the edge of falling way off the pace. Who is Heras's replacement?

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(Speaking of Lance, I loved his cameo in Dodgeball.)

 

I came across this article on the Tour de France. Some interesting stuff in there including this:

 

Racers cannot consume enough food to replace the 6,000 or so calories burned off by each day?s stage. Most finish the race with less muscle mass than they began with.) The race?s founder, Henri Desgrange, wanted it to be so tough that there would be only a single finisher. He never got his wish, but the sport he set in motion takes such a savage toll on its riders that studies show that the life expectancy of a professional cyclist is barely more than fifty years. [emph. added]

 

The cite for these items appears to be from the book footnoted in the article.

 

Oh, and I came across the article's link on the outstanding Arts & Letters Daily.

 

-j

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Great article/review Jay, thanks for posting it! I may have to get that book, despite the reviewers qualms it sounds good. I didn't know a lot of the details about the Tour's beginnings.

 

I was struck by a few things in the article:

 

The names of the most difficult climbs have real evocative power: l?Alpe d?Huez, Tourmalet, Galibier, Mont Ventoux, Col d?Izoard, Hautacam, Puy-de-D?me.

 

So true. Those names are awe-inspiring, especially Ventoux and l'Ape d'Huez, which have figured large in many races that I've seen.

 

...with the advent of regular teams came the team leader. Racers like Magne and Leducq would be paced and aided?with water, food, wheels, tires, etc.?by teammates, whose goal it was to get and keep their man in the lead.

 

Which continues to this day. I remember being shocked when I first became interested in cycling to see the hierarchy of teams, I always thought of cycling as an individual sport, but at the high-end, teams are ciritical...you cannot win the Tour without a good team. And only one guy on each team is even attempting to win, the rest are essentially servants, putting their bodies on the line for the team captain.

 

In the last seven decades the Tour has been won by a dominant climber only four or five times; most of the victors have been dominant time trialists.

 

There's an interesting twist in this year's race. The organizers have combined the fearsome l'Aple d'Huez hillclimb and time trialing. Stage 16 is a 15km time trial up the peak...the grade averages 7.9%! This is unusual as TT's are typically on flats. This stage has all the hallmarks of a race-decider.

 

BTW, I found a good overview of the stages here

 

And the official Tour website has good info too.

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I've been keeping a close eye on the Tour after Lance won the first one.

 

Lars Ullrich ... :lmfao: ... that's a good one. Let's try Jan Ullrich.

 

Hard to say how Heras is going to factor in ... how strong is his Liberty Seguros team? I've only heard of Igor Gonzalez Galdeano. There are a good number of Spaniards, typically great mountain cyclists, on his team but that won't help on the individual time trial.

 

A few years back, I tried to guess the official website and went to tourdefrance.com ... i might have typed it wrong though. It took me to this website w/ naked women advertising bicycles :tu: ... almost bought one ;) .

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That's what the Yahoo site suggests ... "The mountain stages begin with the Limoges to Saint-Flour trek. The stage climbs an 8 percent gradient to Col du Pas dePeyrol."

 

Bob Roll seems to think so too .. "Tomorrow, however, the Tour de France begins for real, and it could not come at a better time. The weather seems to be clearing and the riders seem ready to rumble."

 

Tomorrow's Stage 10 is the longest stage, 237 km, and involves some mountain climbs. A Cat 1, a couple Cat 2s, and many Cat 3s.

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Now it's getting interesting! As usual, the mountains are sorting out the field. Armstrong is looking incredibly good at this point, he's in second place overall 22 second behind the leader. He has regained 9 minutes in 2 days. But here are still 7 stages to go, many of those are gruesome climbs, one bad day can mean you lose the race. The pre-race favorites are in surprisingly bad shape, Ullrich is off 7 minutes, Hamilton dropped out today, Iban Mayo is off 45 minutes, Heras is off 20 minutes.

 

It looks like Armstrong's main challenger will be Ivan Basso who has finished with Armstrong on the last two stages, and is only 1 minute behind Armstrong overall. Basso can clearly climb with the best, which will keep him in contention.

 

Stage 16 on Wed, an individual time trial up one of the most legendary climbs in the Tour's history (L'Alpe d'Huez)...this will likely be the pivotal stage. No team strategy, just each rider against the mountain. Armstrong may very well lose this stage, and possibly the lead, to Basso. But stage 19 is another individual TT on flat ground, where Armstrong is one of the best in the world. The entire race could come down to this next-to-last stage, much like Lemond's win in 1989.

 

A great Tour for Lance so far, a really awful one for Hamilton. After last year's heroic 4th place finish with a broken collarbone, he seemed almost invincible. But he couldn't overcome a back injury this year and is out, the first time in 8 TDF races that he has resigned.

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Today's stage was something else. A long mountain stage and Jan Ullrich attacks early, he's over 6 minutes behind Armstrong overall, an clearly wanted to get some of that time back...but the plan backfired. Because he attacked so early in a tough stage, the main group of riders had time to catch up. the US Postal and CSC teams (who's members include Armstrong and Basso, the number 1 and 2 riders overall) worked together to catch Ullrich.

 

Armstrong ended up in very good position as a result and won the stage, but Basso is still nipping at his heels finishing second and losing only 8 seconds. He's only 1:25 behind Armstrong.

 

Tomorrow is the big day, the brutal uphill L'Alpe d'Huez time trial. If Lance wins this, he will all but seal his 6th TDF victory.

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I found this guy's diary about his experience riding up L'Aple d'Huez, it includes photos of the road. Think of this climb as the Nurnburgring of cycling.

 

Here are 7 of the 21 hairpin turns on the route

aerial01.jpg

 

And here is a diagram of the climb:

alpeduez.gif

 

The record for time for climbing L'Alpe d'Huez is 37:35 set by Marco Patani in 1997. There's a good chance that record will fall tomorrow.

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FreakTornado,

 

Thanks for finding the diary and posting it, that was interesting.

 

I am relieved to see Lance in the yellow jersey finally. Ullrich helped to shed Voeckler with his attack. You CANNOT say enough about the Posties, or the Blue Train. They have been outstanding, leading Lance out as far as they can while putting so much pressure on the other riders, forcing them to fall back time and time again. Azevedo has been awesome filling in for Heras.

 

Have you been reading the comments by the broadcasters and Lance's coach, Chris Carmichael? I like Chris' comments b/c he gets so detailed.

 

Erik

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I have been reading his daily articles, as well as Liggett's and the rest. I enjoyed Carmichael's comments about the various ways that the information in the Race Bible gets used.

 

I thought this was an interesting tidbit from today's entry:

 

There are a several added pressures and responsibilities placed on Lance?s shoulders now that he possesses the yellow jersey. While Jan Ullrich quietly rode back down the finishing climb to get to his team bus this afternoon, Armstrong had to go to doping control, the jersey presentation, and a press conference. All three of these things are required of stage winners and the holder of the yellow jersey, and they delay a rider?s ability to get away from the finishing area and back to his bus and hotel to continue the recovery process.
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