Le Tour Wrap-up
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By jank - Last updated: Thursday, July 31, 2003 - Save & Share - 2 Comments

Sweaty, skinny men wander around France for three weeks bumping into each other and breathing heavily. Every morning they wake up with sore asses but still ask for more. Paris celebrates when an American named Lance rides up the Champs Elysees before some German (History repeats itself?)


HA! Honestly, this tour was the best of the five I’ve really followed (Since 99). It had everything – crashes, redemption, serious challenges, trash talking, etc. The Texan won, but by 61 seconds. Imagine that – you race over 2,000 miles and finish within 61 seconds of the next fastest guy. Good stuff. Murph at the Cooler on Page 2 has a good write up on the Tour from a non-cyclist’s point of view. Granted, he’s a Bay area type, but writes well.

It’s kind of hard to put this into historical perspective. Armstrong winning 5 tours puts him into cycling’s Pantheon. Next to guys like Miguel Indurain, Eddy Merckx, etc. Merckx, a huge fan of Armstrong, thinks Lance has the stuff to win 6 in a row. However, unlike Mig, The Cannibal (Merckx), or even Jacques Anquetil and Bernard Hinault, Armstrong has focused almost entirely on the TdF in his annual plan. Merckx, a Belgian, was known for winning everything from spring Classics (imagine 250 miles or so in a day in conditions from bad to worse) to the Giro d’Italia. Armstrong will, IMO need to win a sixth tour to be held in as high regard as the other four five-timers.

There’s a bunch of good to come out of this TdF. First, the French have finally warmed to Armstrong. He’s done some, giving interviews in french, and generally speaking well of the frogs. But the French Government has finally dropped their investigation into allegations that US Postal was doping in the ’99 tour. And the French fans didn’t yell ‘Dope!’ at Armstrong as he climbed.

(Sidenote on doping: Cycling’s got a long tradition of performance enhancers. Cocaine, Amphetamines, you name it, it’s been used. The ’98 TdF ended in scandal, and almost killed professional cycling when the Festina Team was caught with a pharmacy’s worth of steroids, EPO (a cancer drug that boosts the blood’s oxygen carrying capacity), and other illegal substances. The UCI, cycling’s governing body has fought doping fiercely since the Festina affair. Much more seriously than MLB, the NFL, or any other sports governing body. Period.

So much so that when Jonathan Vaughters was stung by a wasp during the 2001 tour, he couldn’t get a cortisone shot to reduce the swelling in his face so he could ride the next day.

In any case, this Tour had more than its share of big names getting knocked out of the race. In the crash in stage 1 not only broke Tyler Hamilton’s shoulder, but it also knocked out Levi Leiphemer, another USPS alumnus who was the contender on the Dutch Rabobank team. Stage 9 saw Joseba Beloki take a huge crash, and Armstrong do a little off-roading.

It also had some huge suprises. Lance Armstrong had done extremely well in the time trials at previous tours. (A time trial is a race against the clock. All of the riders ride the same course, one at a time. You can’t draft anyone, you can’t see how your opponents are doing – it’s all about who is fastest). This year, he placed no higher than second (with the exception of the team time trial). In the last trial, he was beaten by a guy with a broken shoulder, and an Austrailan (David Millar).

My favorite story of the tour was Tyler Hamilton. Broke his shoulder (click for x-ray), but hung in enough to finish a strong fourth overall (6:17 behind, which is less than Armstrong’s winning margin in his other four wins). Stage 16 featured Hamilton going off the front of the Peleton early in the stage and riding 50 KM solo for a stage win, then turning around three days later to get second in the final time trial. Honestly, if Lance weren’t a Texan, and weren’t rewriting European dominance of cycling, I’d have pulled for Tyler this year.

There are two jerseys besides the yellow jersey (three if you count the white jersey for best young rider) that are chased through the Tour. The polka-dot jersey goes to the best climber, with points awarded based on what order the riders make it over various mountains and hills. Richard Virenque blew away the competition this year, winning huge props from the French fans. In years past, this was much more closely contested, but there haven’t been many young climbers making it through the ranks lately.

For the Green Points (Sprinter’s) jersey, the competition came down to the last sprint down the Champs Elysees, and the competition was between two Australians, Baden Cooke and Robbie McEwen. Another sign that Europe may be the place to watch cycling, but it’s not producing riders who love to race.

So the stage is set for next year. Armstrong has worked out his marriage, gotten endorsements from several of the greats to make a run for a record sixth win. Will he get it? Ullrich will be back. Hamilton will be back. Beloki may be back. Iban Mayo, the young Basque rider who was dogging Armstrong in the mountains will be back. Levi Leipheimer may be back. 61 seconds ain’t much folks. And Armstrong isn’t getting any younger. Shiners and easy chairs will be calling in Austin this winter, as will playing with three younguns. Will Lance have the desire to go out and hump out to Fredricksburg and back with regularity? Or will he be content to dominate the Austin Cyclocross series?

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2 Responses to “Le Tour Wrap-up”

Comment from etrigan
Time August 9, 2003 at 11:02 am

I’m not sure of the validiity of this search, but here it is for what it is.

Comment from jank
Time August 11, 2003 at 9:00 am

Cool. Very cool.

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