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Letters to Cyclingnews - February 13, 2004
It was a dark winter night in the Canadian snow-packed Laurentian mountains. From the star-studded sky came a small but clearly visible light beam. It hit the snowdrift in front of my log cabin and began melting it. I was afraid at first, but then I saw that the beam was merely writing something in the snow... Here's what it said.
Predictions for the 2004 Tour de France.
The big news about the TdF 04 happens before the Tour. In early March at the Vuelta à Murcia, Armstrong and Ullrich meet in a heavily media-covered event. Before the start of the first stage they look at each other and decide that sportsmanship should be the order of the day. When the stage finally begins, both decide that it would be unsportsmanlike not to wait for the other guy, so both refuse to turn a pedal before the other. Reports from Spain in early July have both riders still standing at the start line at Murcia, five-month beards on their chins, surrounded by empty musette bags and drink bottles, still giving each other "The Look" and waiting for the other guy to move.
Another story breaks just before the prologue. Jean-Marie Leblanc (in an unprecedented move) decides to ban all Spanish riders that are not riding on a French team or a French bike, finally proving Pascual Llorente's point. Somewhat interestingly, ASO forgets to ban Roberto Heras, thinking that he is still riding for USPS.
The prologue is won by Joseba Beloki, with David Millar close second. Millar has to carry his ride across the last part of the 6 km course after both pedals, his saddle and the handlebars come off. Tyler Hamilton breaks his collarbone after being hit by Millar's left pedal. He will continue the Tour.
The first three stages are decided by mass-sprints and are all won by Sandro Petacchi.
The team time trial is nullified after it is discovered that theoretically an entire team could lose sufficient time for the leader to lose the TdF. After checking the race's history, Leblanc discovers that a lot of Tours were decided by less than a five-minute margin.
Stage 5, 6 and 7 are all won by Petacchi but he crashes after his sixth win while trying to having to raise six fingers to point at the camera and not noticing Graham Watson, who wanted to take one of his famed snapshots at the finish line. Petacchi retires, Watson is okay, his camera is not. Tyler Hamilton breaks his second collarbone after being hit by Watson's camera lens. He will continue the Tour.
Stage 8 is won in the rain by David Millar after a solo break away of 171 km, which starts after the first kilometre of the day. Millar is happy but tells everyone that the course is too dangerous and the race should be stopped.
After the rest day it's time for the sprinters again. O'Grady and Zabel battle it out on the Stage 9 finish line, only to find that they mistook the "flamme rouge" for the finish. Cooke and McEwen sprint to the real line and cross it at the exact same time. The photo finish proves it. They share the podium, the ceremonial handshakes, the flowers, the podium girls... Both fail to go on to stage 10 and open a flower shop in the center of Guéret, which is a nice city for settling.
Stage 10 is won by Axel Merckx. His dad is so proud that he knocks over a couple of spectators on the way to the podium. He also runs into Tyler Hamilton who falls and breaks his left arm. He will continue the Tour.
Stage 11 sees a 20-man breakaway getting caught by the peloton with only 50 meters to go. O'Grady wins the sprint but is later disqualified after it is found that "the bulge" he was packing in his shorts on the podium is actually an aluminum-wrapped cucumber.
Stage 12 is a classic mountaintop finish. Botero wins the stage in front of Heras, who gets the yellow, Virenque is third but gets the King of the Mountain in the process. Virenque fails to start Stage 13 as during the night he develops a rash as a result of sleeping in the polka-dot jersey. He now has permanent polka-dot scars all over his upper body.
Stage 13 is won by Beloki in front of Heras. Beloki breaks down in tears at the finish line. A minute later Tyler Hamilton passes the finish line, not noticing the puddle of tears. His front wheel slips and he crashes, breaking his right arm. He will continue the Tour.
Stage 14 is won by Vinokourov, who takes along his one year old baby in a bike trailer for the stage. He literally "rocks the baby" over the finish line.
Stage 15 is won by Basso in front of Sastre and Bettini. In fact all riders in the front group are Italian. They are all disqualified as a raid by French police allegedly discovers receipts for drugs of a total of over €600 million in their luggage (but no drugs). Six months later French police quietly abandon the case for lack of evidence.
Stage 16 is the long-awaited time trial up Alpe d'Huez. Beloki wins by three seconds over Botero and five seconds over Heras (still in yellow). Leblanc is stunned that no Frenchman has yet won a stage and decides to ban all non-European riders from the rest of the Tour. After protests by the US state department, Leblanc reverses his decision and decides to leave US and Canadian riders in. Tyler Hamilton is so happy that he tries to do a wheelie on his TT bike only to fall and break his neck. He will continue the Tour.
Stage 17 is won by Floyd Landis after replacing his radio earpiece with headphones and listening to ZZ Top all day. However, Floyd will not continue the Tour as he does not notice the finish line and keeeps on going. Rumors have it that he is now on tour with the little ol' band from Texas.
Stage 18 is won by Beloki - who promptly breaks down and cries again - in front of Heras who remains in yellow. Joseba will however not go on with the Tour as the entire La Boulangère team is stricken with diarrhea after eating some bad brioches for dinner.
Stage 19 is won by David Millar, again in the rain. He is very happy and thanks all his friends during the podium ceremony, including a tribal medicine man from Mozambique who was seen before the stage in the start area performing a rain dance. Heras stays in yellow.
Stage 20 gets underway with a dispute between Manolo Saiz and Johann Bruyneel after Johann tries to hand out champagne to the reporters at the start line. Manolo accuses Johann of "backstabbing" after which Bruneel punches Saiz in the face. Both roll on the floor fighting and screaming. Leblanc sees the scene and fines them both one symbolic Swiss franc before he bans them both from the final stage.
At the finish line there is a mass-sprint of the peloton which is won by George Hincapie. However George does not believe he won and refuses to go to the podium. Heras rolls in with the main pack, proudly displaying the yellow. At the podium he receives the final yellow jersey of the 2004 TDF with... a USPS logo on it! Some rumors have it that he never left the "blue train", others claim that Bruyneel has offered him a new contract to rejoin the USPS squad. The contract is backdated to January 1 2004.
Epilogue: After reading this message in the snow, I realized that this could only mean that I either had too much eggnog for Xmas or that I have been reading too many Cyclingnews.com reader letters. Either way, I'm waiting for the Tour 2004! Only 135 days left!
Eddie, that's a pretty nice list you got there! Not sure I think Beloki would be able to beat Ullrich up the hill but he might. And I agree that, based on 2003, Mayo should be considered the favorite for the Alp d'Huez ITT. I think we'll probably see Mayo and Lance at the top battling for first, with Heras/Ullrich trying to hang for third. One of the other contributors was correct in noting that Ullrich lost more time on Alp d'Huez than Luz Ardiden, but watch the stage and you'll see he got gassed very early on in the climb up l'Alpe. He's an asthmatic and once he gets into trouble he has no prayer of recovering well. I know: I'm a racing asthmatic, too. I also enjoy strudel, but there ends the comparison!
Raymond F. Martin
Tour de France 2004 #2
I think the reality of this year's TdF is that if Armstrong comes prepared everyone else is in serious trouble. Last Year Ullrich did so well because of all his rest because; he really didn't ride much last year with Coast/Bianchi. He rode himself into form and had fresh legs. Ullrich can't put time into Armstrong in the mountains. Mayo and Heras cant time trail well enough to threaten GC. Hamilton and Beloki will be top seven but not major threats. Lance is in the top three in TT and climbing. You can't say that about anyone else in the Tour and that is what makes him so tough to beat. Ullrich can get time on Armstrong in the TT, but in the mountains it's different. Mayo or Heras could gain time on Armstrong climbing but in the TT they lose time. Armstrong is well-rounded: good climber, good in the TT, good tactician, big heart....6 in a row.
Top 3 TT: Millar, Ullrich, Armstrong
Tour de France 2004 #3
Armstrong moves ahead of Heras and maybe Mayo on l'Alpe d'Huez just on the basis of the police escort he had up that climb in Arizona. Our club is putting in for an escort on our next training ride.
Do ya think?
Tour de France 2004 #4
Eddie, I sure hope you are enjoying winter in the Bahamas! I'm watching it snow right now wishing I had one of those high dollar computerized indoor training systems that make indoor riding 'fun'.
I have ridden l'Alpe d'Huez several times and although it is no easy climb it is much easier than say, the Mortirolo, which is a similar distance. I think it is a TT that favors Armstrong over most of the other GC contenders. I don't think I am good enough to rank them in their exact finish order but here's my best guess, assuming all those below both ride the tour, and are in good form.
Top 3: Armstrong, Hamilton, Ullrich
The next eight: Millar, Mayo, Beloki, Leipheimer, Heras, Simoni, Zubeldia (Haimar, not Joseba)
And a tie for the 11th place between Danielson and Evans
All I know for sure is I really can't wait to see it!
Tour de France 2004 #5
In response to Mr. Bethel’s picks for the Alpe TT.
Interesting choices. I agree that Mayo and Heras are likely top candidates, although I would argue that Heras is probably the better uphill TT specialist. While Mayo did a great climb last year in the TdF, he relies on tempo changes to break down his opponents. Having said that, the climb of the Alpe dictates many tempo changes as there are some flatter sections (the switchbacks) and some vertical sections. Heras has proven that he can TT uphill like no body’s business, a la the Vuelta last fall. While I am a huge Ullrich fan, I doubt that he can pull off a top 10 finish, as he hates tempo changes – he’s at his best when he can grind away in a big gear at a constant pace.
I won’t offer a complete list, but I’ll pick Heras to win and venture that Armstrong, Mayo, and Hamilton will be in the top 10.
Good luck on your picks... I can’t wait to find out who has guessed right!
Marion's diary entry was the most interesting piece I have read from any rider ever. In simple, direct language she describes the challenges and difficulties of a top-flight athlete in training. In similar style she also matter-of-factly describes the challenges of someone with a neurological disorder, and one way to meet them - with total aplomb. Sure, it doesn't hurt that she has contacts at the highest level of the sport who are enthusiastic about having Marion along for a ride, and that Renault, with a simple phone call, hands over the keys to the van. But Marion has to do the 150+km per day, with the guys, in the rain, herself. No one can do that for her, and she clearly doesn't expect anything less from herself.
That her prose is at once terse and articulate, makes for an unexpectedly elegant read. Keep it coming, Marion, and good luck at Moscow.
The 2003 Tour de France finished over six months ago and the debate still rages on about whether or not Jan waited and was Lance really dehydrated. The 2004 edition does not start for almost another six months but already we're treated to predictions and analysis.
Though the TdF is a great race, this overriding obsession with it overshadows the many great races and riders that make up the other 11 or so months of the European racing calendar. Where are the letters discussing who will win the 2004 WC? Why can't cycling fans put aside the TDF for a couple months and discuss the upcoming spring classics? How many people even follow bike racing after the TDF finishes? How many people even knew who won last years Giro di Lombardia? How many care?
The Happy Little Vegemites team. Brilliant.
Could be named The Happy Little Vegemites presented by Two Pieces of White Bread.
Teams & sponsors #2
In the discussion of companies that would make absolutely fabulous team sponsors for Australian teams, one needs to consider whether there is any high up executive at any of them who has an interest in cycling, as more often than not, that is the way to get an "in." If there's any big executive types who read cyclingnews.com, could you please speak up?
As an experienced road racer and mountain biker, I know my share of gear info. As such, I am slightly embarrassed to ask this question: What is the reason for deep-section (aero) rimmed wheels seen so often on bikes of top 'cross racers? I'm only assuming it is because the carbon rims that are prevalent are more durable and less likely to come out of true or round. This is purely a curiosity because I can't think that aerodynamics in cyclocross are quite as important as in, say, time trials. Having never actually seen a cross race, I could be wrong.
As the years roll on and the scandals continue I keep asking myself can bicycling really be continuing as the dirtiest of all sports, or are we just under the most vigilant scrutiny? Any ideas? (By the way in either case I believe every effort should be made to clean up cycling, but my pride in my sport wishes others would do the same).
One can not debate the lean technique without accounting for leg weighting and arm pulling. Davis Phinny’s book has a good chapter on this. The three techniques steering (bike upright body leaned more), leaning (body same as bike), and counter steering (bike leaned more body less). Steering is the lease effective in general because the front wheel is turned in the direction of the corner making it prone to “wash out”. Counter steering is the most effective and is the actual technique you see a motorcyclist use in a race. The front wheel is actually turned in the opposite direction of the turn so the when the wheel “washes” the bike tries to go upright thus saving the crash. The moto guys lean more because of the weight ratio.
The attitude of the front wheel and the weight of the riders legs are different for each technique making it impossible to remove from the debate. Here is a good experiment for you to try. Get an old bike tie a string to the both sides of the bars and around the seat post and make the tension unequal. Roll the bike down the hill. The bike will lean opposite of the tension every time.
I recently noticed that Bob Roll (whose middle name could be 'Jelly', 'Dinner' or 'Rockin') is co-hosting the WCP Vuelta '03 DVD with premier English language announcers Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwin. I wonder if Mr. Roll is being groomed for the retirement of Mr. Liggett. Based on various comments, I figure Phil is in his 50s, so perhaps he's looking to hang up his hat? If anyone has information to share, I would appreciate it.
For the record, I think Phil and Paul are great announcers. Even though many riders often "dig deep into the suitcase of courage and suffer like they've never suffered before", their commentary adds insight, energy and a bit of humor to the sport of cycling. It is my most sincere hope that whomever (eventually) replaces Mr. Liggett can continue the tradition of excellent commentary.
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