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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 4 - Wednesday July 10: Epernay - Château-Thierry TTT, 67.5 km
Ass Caught Between Two Chairs
Eric, my cameraman, and I took the TTT race course from the Village to the finish yesterday. Sometimes you think that France was built with a world class bicycle race in mind. The course was spectacular: smooth, fast with swooping turns through the beauty of the Champagne region - vineyards on both sides of the race. The villages were packed and quite obviously in competition with one another for the title of best decorated town of the Tour.
The Champagnois raised the bar yesterday with their efforts and were clearly raising many flutes of the local fizzy pop. We drove though 67 kms of decoration and imagination. There were balloons, flags, all sorts of bicycle motif constructions made out of hay bales, old plumbing and whatever else could be found and formed into a celebratory Tour piece. The Devil (the crazed East German performance artist who has staked out the last 20K mark since about 1995) may have started the craze, but he has his competition now as the Tour race route, already an artistic effort, serves as am long art gallery hosting all sorts of creative energy.
Yesterday, Laurent Jalabert may have lost the last chance in his career to wear the Maillot Jaune. CSC was ahead at both time checks when untimely Sandstød's puncture threw the team into disarray. Riis, surprisingly indecisive, waffled on the team's original decision to leave dropped riders to the wolves and wind.
The team is estimated to have lost a minute in the confusion, finally leaving Sandstød when he was only 200 meters from rejoining them after the wheel change They could never regain their momentum and finished 3rd, to the fury of Jalabert, who, with his prologue performance and consistency, truly deserved the Yellow Jersey.
Now the French star is in 15th place, 37" down on Gonzalez de Galdeano and in an impossible position. "Caught with my ass between two chairs" as he put it, using the old French expression: too far out of the Yellow Jersey to gain enough time in the points sprints (and no longer willing to risk his life in the field sprints-his horrific crash at Armentiers in 1995 put an end to his sprinting career) and too close to the front of the GC for the ONCE to let him escape. Trapped in purgatory.
Doubly galling for Jalabert is that ONCE won. He changed to CSC in 2001, having left ONCE in anger, feeling as though he'd been over-raced, over trained and badly guided, never able to properly prepare for the Tour.
"Suffocated and forced into an inflexible system with no place for any individual needs. My last three years with ONCE were a lost time, a period of depression."
When Riis got a hold of Jaja at the end of 2000, he had him take a full seven weeks completely off the bike. "I'm recovered but am still not the same. There is a degree of physical freshness that is forever gone after what Saiz (ONCE director) put me through", Jalabert stated in a recent interview.
Ironically, this is the second time that ONCE has cost him the Maillot Jaune. In 2000, ONCE won the TTT, putting Jalabert in Yellow - for a day. Saiz refused to allow the team to defend it, thinking that they would get it back in the mountains. Jalabert could only helplessly watched the jersey disappear into the distance onto Alberto Elli's shoulders. ONCE never saw the Yellow Jersey again.
Until yesterday that is. Jalabert must be wondering what his old team is going to do today. Repeat the events of 2000? Or defend. Either way, a simple flat tire has cost the Frenchman what should have been a crowning moment of glory, capping an exemplary career. The cruelties of cycling never cease to amaze me.