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89th Tour de France - Grand Tour
France, July 6-28, 2002
2002 Tour de France journals
John Eustice, Tour de France International Show host
New Yorker John Eustice is the host of the Tour de France's 2002 International Show, broadcasting to over 30 countries world-wide, with play by play by Phil Ligget. Eustice is covering his ninth Tour De France, his previous eight with ESPN and ABC Sports. In cycling, the 46 year old Eustice was the first-ever USPRO Champion in 1982. Originally from Ivyland, Pennsylvania, Eustice competed in the Giro d'Italia, Vuelta a Espana and World Cycling Championships. When he's not at the Tour de France, the father of two runs his sports event promotion company Sparta, organizers of the Housatonic Valley Classic and the Univest Grand Prix.
Stage 3 - Tuesday July 9: Metz - Reims, 174.5 km
Eric Zabel is back in green after today's team time trial and heading for his seventh consecutive Best Sprinter title. The German has, for the first time in his Tour de France career, a team completely devoted to bringing him to the finish line. Telekom is a powerful formation, that's certain, but, from my point of view, they've come up short and have blown several sprints.
The other day, Telekom performed a stellar job in chasing down their fellow German Jens Voigt through the Saar Land. Rudi Altig, the legendary German road and track star of the 1960's was practically in tears during a post race interview unable to understand the lack of some sort of national collaboration. The others came swarming to the front near the end as always, Robbie Hunter was terrific for Mapei and old man Ludo Dierckxsens plopped Bortogliati down in front to keep the kid out of the mess, and to show that the Yellow was on proper shoulders. All of this was just great for Telekom, Aldag took over from Bolts and blew down the road as only he can, then the trouble started.
There's a problem chez Telekom in the last kilometre, something between Hondo and Fagnini. Hondo led out well, pulled off and it was time for Fagnini launch his booster rocket. Fagnini started and, either he had no gas and was stuck or they had taken the lead out too close to the line and were running out of road. Either way, Zabel immediately popped around Fagnini and the surprised Italian could only throw a half hearted hook at McEwen - on whose wheel was a perfectly placed Oscar Freire. So while the world champion was riding McEwen to a stage win, Zabel was on the left, trying to accelerate into the wind and match the Australian. Maybe Zabel panicked when he saw McEwen pass on his right or Fagnini was "plante" (French racing argot - planted in the earth like a tree - not moving) but the last part of the lead-out that should have won him the stage - or at the very least given him second and the Yellow - didn't happen.
The Telekom team came into the Tour under the cloud of the Ullrich problems and the loss of Vinokourov. There is nothing to do about Vino, he crashed and that's life, but they are blowing it with Ullrich. I have my own opinions about the necessary walls between public and private life. But Ullrich dutifully underwent a humiliating international televised public confession, confessed that yes, after finding out that he could not do the Tour - the event he lives for - that he went out and partied with friends and he got into trouble. He went on to say in the conference that he was at the "very bottom of his personal crisis" and that he would come back much higher than he had gone down. Walter Godefroot, Telekom manager, responded to this by stating to the press that he did not think that Ullrich could ever come back. Nice, Walter, that's the way to support the champion who has brought you so much.
To add to the morale issues at Telekom is the fact that Julich, Guerini and Livingston are under strict orders to work for Zabel and that's it. No permission to go searching for a good mountain stage ride. They'll use them up in the next 10 days of flat Green Jersey hunting terrain. It's going to be tough for the trio because the Tour is the showcase and if a climber doesn't go in the mountains, contracts are hard to come by in the future. And the future is the question here because there are very strong signs out there that Telekom may be finished after this season. Their stock is tanking. The brilliant handling of the Ullrich nightclub issue has cast a pall over the sponsorship and it may have run its course anyway - they've been in the game for close to a decade at this point.
Telekom is looking to title the Bayern Munchen football squad next season, so Ullrich could go to CSC and let Bjarne Riis guide him if Telekom pulls out. If he does, Ullrich will win the Tour.