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Letters to Cyclingnews - July 22, 2005
At this year's Tour de France we are being treated to a great show by the usual top GC men, but we are also witnessing some spectacular surprises from the Peloton's underdogs, as well as some puzzling disappointments from riders/teams who are just not living up to their overdog star status yet again.
On the underdog surprises list we've had Zabriske's TT win; Horner's great breakaway effort and near miss (and also staying with the leaders for much of the mountainous stage 15), Rasmussen's fantastic climbing, Valverde's win and confirmation of future greatness and Cadel Evans' consistent top 12 riding (top 10 by Paris?) There was also Totchnig's stage win, Freddy's spirited lead-out efforts for Robbie, George's unbelievable mountain-top win on the Tour's hardest day plus a few other notable mentions as well.
On the overdog disappointment side, we've seen Voeckler and some other higher-profile riders way out of shape and getting dropped daily, but even worse we have the much-hyped Spanish GC "favorites" and climbing specialists like Mayo and Heras totally off the back due to poor preparation, finishing the mountain stages down in 70th or 80th place, or even worse. Their seemingly irrational team directors are either making excuses for them, or blaming them publicly, but now it appears more than ever that these old-school "directors" have only themselves to blame.
Men like Manolo Saiz (and his supporters) always have a lot of over-emotional and negative things to say about other teams and riders and their methods, but judging by their own teams' results, it is clear that they have completely contradicted themselves by failing to employ any semblance of method, science or discipline in preparing their "stars" for the Tour. I hope for the sake of Spanish cycling that their sponsors and fans demand better results, and push for new leadership at the top. It's tough to watch the likes of Mayo and Heras underperform so horribly.
Laguna Niguel, California USA
George Hincapie is going to catch some grief from cycling fans this week, for not working in the break and then "cruising" to the victory on the back of Oscar Periero. I guess these are the same "fans" who complain about OLN's Tour coverage, because there's too much Lance or too much Sheryl, but who seem to have forgotten that except for the grace of OLN we Yanks could be watching 30 minutes of coverage a week on broadcast TV, of which 28 minutes would be scenic shots of the peloton against a backdrop of blue skies, sunflowers, and new age music, while the emcee mixes metaphors of warriors and gladiators, followed by the last 500 metres of the race.
So I won't even try to explain the tactics that GH was following, that it would have been insane for him to have worked with the break on the toughest day of the Tour, knowing that Lance might need him later on. For the sake of argument, let's say that Johann gave George the okay to race his own race at the 1km mark. Even if that was the case, George still deserves our respect and accolades for the win just for the way he raced the last 20km. Working or not, pulling or not, he still covered every single move on the last climb. I counted seven moves, and who knows how many there were when the cameras were on the chase groups. Yes, Oscar carried him the last few kilometres, but George didn't get in that position by accident - he got there by being smart, by having the strength to stay in the right position, and never drifting any further back than fourth wheel for the last two hours of the toughest day of the Tour.
Congrats and salute, well deserved victory.
Peachtree City, Georgia
I am extremely surprised that I have seen little acknowledgement of the fine victory by George Hincape in Stage 15 of the TDF. Mate, this bloke tries his guts out day in and day out and rarely gets any recognition whatsoever and I am genuinely stoked for him, especially on such a special day. Now this praise may seem strange coming from an Aussie; however, I delight in watching this guy ride so loyally for his team and leader and there is something about him - maybe it is the sunglasses which never leave his face (he did take them off for the presentation though)! Where is the support from his countrymen? There is more than one US cyclist in the Tour guys.
Now I know some readers may be critical of the way in which he achieved this victory but the score is on the board so let's not go into that debate please. This guy is consistent, selfless and dedicated to his team so let's simply give him the credit he deserves. Bravo George!
Cannot go without wishing good luck to Cadel for a high finish in his first Tour (yes, T-Mobile got that one wrong didn't they). Also to Stuey and Robbie in their quest for green - you can sort the elbowing and head butting issues out later guys (this is just an Aussie mateship gesture for those who don't know)…finally, thanks Cyclingnews for the usual great coverage.
My wife and I have both been big fans of George Hincapie for a while now. There is something about the big, quiet guy that goes about his work and never seems to complain. Seeing George win at Pla D'Adet, a mountain top finish on arguably one of the toughest stages in the Tour, was great fun. It's a tough break for Pereiro, who rode brilliantly all day only to tow Hincapie up to the finish and get beat soundly in the final 200m.
It's interesting to read the comments of Pereiro and his management in Cyclingnews, as one would expect an emotional reaction when someone worked so hard and came up short. Having watched George work hard and come up a bit short many times, I can understand. I hope to read about many future victories by both these competitors on your website in the future. Thanks for the excellent coverage, not just during the Tour, but all year!
San Diego, California - USA
In the post stage 16 interview, Cadel Evans stated that this was his first Tour and his first third week of a stage race. Though this is his first Tour de France, I for one would find it hard to forget his emotional donning of the maglia rosa in the 2002 Giro during the last week of that race.
Though he was to crack the next day and lose the pink jersey on the road to Folgaria, he certainly went on to finish the race. Another thing he may wish to forget would be his performance in the final time trial on stage 19 where he finished 11th compared to his third place in the ITT on stage 14.
I'm sure he's in much better shape now to defend, or even improve, his seventh place on GC in the time trial on Saturday.
After Stage 15, Discovery should go after the team competition. Would somebody on the team or media try to make this happen?
They are in second spot with a mountain stage and a time trial to go. If Discovery just put 2-3 guys in a break who are farther back in the GC (Azevedo, Rubiera, and Salvodelli would be murder for a long break on a mountain stage, and none of them within 17 minutes of the top 20 GC) for the last mountain stage, they could probably take some serious minutes out of T-Mobile. And if the prologue was any indicator, Discovery could take the rest out in the last TT if they actually set their boys to the task.
T-mobile and CSC could not afford to defend against this, as they would need all their guns to fire at Rasmussen. Rabobank wouldn't cover it to defend Rasmussen, plus not doing so would guarantee them the mountains jersey (if that hasn't occurred already). Lance and Popo could just sit on the T-Mobile, CSC, and Rabobank led Peloton to defend their respective leads (plus they still have Hincapie and each other to help out if the going gets tough).
That would be an impressive Tour: the team time trial, the white and yellow jerseys, and the team classification, and at least one stage win. What could possibly be better for Discovery than a photo at the end of the tour with the team on the podium with two jerseys and one or more stage winners. And it's within reach if they would just go for it!
Urbana, IL USA
I'm a big fan of Jan Ullrich. Every year that he rides, I hope that he'll win, but I'm resigned to the fact that he won't win. Losing to Marco Pantani when he got cold and bonked, employing questionable tactics in the mountains over the years, and then this year, chasing down Vino, pulling Armstrong along with him. Ullrich may not be the most savvy tactician in the bunch, but surely some of these failures must be placed at the feet of Godefroot.
Can you imagine Johan letting Lance get cold, wet, and bonk on a climb? Have you ever heard Johan tell Lance that he just "doesn't have what it takes" or "lacks professionalism" to win? I've read Godefroot making very similar comments about Jan over the years. I'd suggest that's not a good motivational technique for anybody, let alone a top notch racer.
It's hardly a coincidence that Ullrich's best performance against Lance came without Godefroot at the "helm".
Nobody can doubt Ullrich's physical talent and abilities. He may lack that extra tactical nous that Armstrong and Bruyneel have, but Godefroot is supposed to be the brains of the operation, no? Riis would have done wonders for Jan's career.
The difference between Boonen and Hincapie at Paris-Roubaix: s.t.
When will teams learn when to speak and when to keep it down? Questioning Hincapie's win on a sporting level? Just because he sat in and did very little work with the break?
Last I checked he rode the entire stage, got in the break and chased across to Pereiro in the last kilometres of the stage. That's work enough for me. It's not like he held the window frame of the team car to make it over the climbs. It's sour grapes and poor sportsmanship on Phonak's part. Since when are there "rules" in a two up break? You get to the end and it's every man for himself, period. Hincapie's ethics were fine.
Remember when Cipo won the World's? A stacked team and he NEVER saw the front until the last 200 meters. Now that I think of it, I can only remember Cipo chasing a break and working in the break once in the past ten years. Petacchi never hits the front. Or Milan-San Remo 1995 - Fondriest dragged Jalabert to the line and Jalabert popped him in the finale. No one questioned that!
Don't question George's want and desire to take the biggest win of his life! If Pereiro wanted it, he should have attacked Hincapie.
Remember - don't hate the player!!
South Carolina, USA
Quote from Phonak team manager John Lelangue after Peirero loses to Hincappie:
"If you want to get into a fight, you have to be a warrior. Either you ride
and you're able to win, or you don't ride and you leave the win for others."
One day later, same manager, same rider, different set of standards; "Finally,
Pereiro stopped working under orders from team director John Lelangue with around
5km to go, leaving Evans to do everything."
I found the finish of stage 15 rather disappointing. Hincapie had been hiding in the group all of the day (except a very short time to catch back Brochard). Not just when it was 14 or 12, but also when it was six, four, two riders. The only time he got off Pereiro's wheel was to spurt away. Pereiro on the other hand had been working hardest of all ever since Kroon allowed himself to drop off the group. And then Hincapie comes and takes the win.
But then, two days later, next stage, Pereiro is gone again. And this time he wins. Unbelievable and fantastic. That's the right answer, that's the spirit. My new cycling hero is called Oscar Pereiro Sio.
If you haven't noticed yet, U.S. Postal/Discovery's tactics, however enraging to some, seem to be working. I'll admit I'm new to the sport so this is probably a simplistic way to look at this, but haven't Lance and co done well for themselves over the years? We have been shown (in jaw-dropping style) the way a team is crucial to their leader's success in the tour.
It may not have been so in the past, but the last seven years have shown it is true. The eight-guys-ride-for-one approach would make team sponsors happy, and fans would begin to see more riders who train with only the Tour de France in mind (sounds familiar, doesn't it?) The question is whether Lance's success is due to his skills can be answered with a 'YES'. Is Lance a great rider (and forget how you hate seeing him win all the time)? Yes. Was/is US Postal/Discovery a great team? Yes.
For good or bad, everyone riding a la Lance and Disco would undoubtedly change the way the tour is raced. I'm not arguing the fairness of Lance having an all-star cast on every mountain finish, nor am I claiming that he would not still win without them, nor am I expounding on how this affects the future of the tour etc, etc. No one can know that. I think it's generally accepted that it can't be won by one rider on his own. It's clear, however, that Discovery's strategy produces good, consistent results. Maybe not for the whole team, but at least the team leader finds his way to the podium. Discovery has found the right recipe for winning the Tour de France. So, when are other teams going to catch on to Bruyneel's genius? That's the only question I have.
Again, I'm a novice here, but maybe other teams aren't embracing what could be a changing tide, or at least a lesson in how to get their rider to the top of GC. Perhaps, there are too many riders battling for their own stage win. That's fine if they do. I'll still enjoy the race. I like variety as much as anyone else. The fact is, Discovery is doing something right and getting exactly what they're looking for: the whole shebang (instead of the occasional stage win for their best riders).
Interestingly enough, not only did Big George have a great spring and win a big-time mountain stage, but Savoldelli is having an incredible year also. Eki is an Olympic Medalist. They have three consecutive TTT wins. Floyd's stint with US Postal landed him a co-leading role with Phonak this year. So a team of all-stars can ride for just one guy in the Tour and still make waves in other ways. Also, notice how Bruyneel and Lance both continually praise the hard work of their team.
Just think, if Hincapie and Savoldelli wore Gerolsteiner, instead of Discovery Blue, how many Yellow Jerseys would Levi have by now?
Although I admit that Lance has done a lot for cycling coverage in North America, I feel it's a pity that OLN don't cover the Tour properly. Come and visit Quebec during the Tour and you will get live (almost uninterrupted) images direct from France 2/3 on Canal Evasion for the last two hours every day with ex-coureurs that actually talk sense and correctly predict the outcome of the race.
Why should Lance get special treatment? Perks? Advantage?
I guess the flip side of your question is "why don't other riders have to endure threats on their lives and those of their families?" Or, "why aren't other riders at risk of 'trolls' who lurk in crowds trying to sabotage their lives and careers?"
Though I am sure that the police escorts and the helicopters are a convenient and faster way off a hill, the time, effort and energy spent on dealing with the very things that catalyze their need, I am sure, level the playing field. Plus, the limo rides from the helipad sometimes do take a while (joking!)
Three major differences between a US crit and a TdF stage:
1) TdF riders are in a whole other category. I'd wager the peloton at the end of a TdF stage is capable of much greater speeds than the lead group at a US crit.
2) Those 6-8 sharp corners on a US crit course serve as a speed limiter of sorts. The TdF boys have a long, relatively straight shot into that final corner. Coupled with point number one, I'd wager the speed at which the TdF bunch approaches that last corner is significantly higher than the riders diving into the final corner at a US crit.
3) The TdF guys have a lot more on the line. The stakes are higher and so riders are going to be more aggressive and take more risks. This increases the odds of someone exceeding the limits of physics.
Add all three together and mayhem ensues.
Well, it's pronounced Lee' kwee gas (with "a" like that in "mamma"). The Italian race commentators, Davide Cassani and Auro Bulbarelli, make a big effort to learn the correct pronunciation of all the riders' names, and do an excellent job with those of the Aussies and Americans. They will often say, "Excuse us for pronouncing so-and-so's name incorrectly; we've learned that it should be…" I cringe when I hear Phil Liggett pronounce an Italian name or word. The public deserve to hear names pronounced correctly - how are fans supposed to know the right way, otherwise? I've known Americans who insisted that their erroneous pronunciation of Italian names was correct, because that's the way Phil says them!
April Pedersen Santinon
Wes, from Perth pointed out that "Salvatore Commesso (Lampre-Caffita), had an attachment protruding from the rear of his seatpost."
You will find the answer on this website: http://2peak.com/tools/alpe.php - you'll be able to read his heart rate, power, speed, etc.
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