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Tour de France Letters Special - July 16, 2004
I was really sorry to read that Tyler's dog Tugboat is so ill, and will need to be put to sleep. I worried that it might be something serious when Tyler first mentioned him becoming ill in his journal.
Tyler's open admission of his love for his dog confirmed again what so many of us know -- his incredible athletic ability is only overshadowed by his thoughtful and caring character.
Contrast this to so many egomaniac athletes who possess little compassion or maturity, and whose athletic prowess is the only reason they're not a complete and utter waste of DNA.
Just one more reason I (and my faithful Rottweiler) are hoping this is the year Tyler wins the Tour -- for Tugboat!
How does T-mobile management justify the exclusion of Cadel Evans from their 2004 TdF lineup in the wake of comments made by teammate Santiago Botero reported 11 July on Cyclingnews?
One week into le tour, Botero confesses "since my condition now isn't 100 percent, but more like 75-80 percent, for me this is not easy...yes, my condition has been slowly improving all season, but to be in a big race like the Tour De France and on a big team like T-Mobile without being top isn't the best."
No Santiago, it certainly isn't the best, particularly when you consider the quality and form of the excluded T-mobile riders left behind to watch the great race from the comfort of their lounge rooms.
As a condition of Tour de France selection T-Mobile reportedly asked Evans to 'prove himself in the mountains in Austria', which he promptly did by winning a mountain stage and overall GC in that country's national tour. Soon afterward Cadel gets the cold shoulder treatment, with team management opting to name him as 1st reserve for the Tour squad, citing Evans' lack of experience as the overriding concern. In summary: a struggling Santi in, an on-the-way-up Evans evicted.
It's a display of logic on a par with the new TTT rules. Is it possible the same person is responsible for both of these brain explosions?
Jokes aside, the fact is that in 2004 the tour is one race Evans should be riding. He isn't, and maybe given all the chutes that have occurred this past week his collarbones have probably been done a favour. But the credibility of T-mobile's 'brainstrust' has hit rockbottom as far as I'm concerned and they cannot be genuinely committed to winning the race. Would USPS gamble on taking a rider to the tour who wasn't 100% (or thereabouts)? Hmmm.....maybe Floyd Landis last year, but even then he was recovering from a hip injury and probably better than 75-80%.
Botero may well smoke the field over the next fortnight and make me look ridiculous. Good luck to him if that's the case, but I can think of another rider who'd have a lot better chance of doing it - if only given an opportunity to do so.
T-Mobile's choices #2
I still can't believe Santiago Botero's quote from July 11:
"Since my condition now isn't 100 percent, but more like 75-80 percent, for me this is not easy," he said. "Yes, my condition has been slowly improving all season, but to be in a big race like the Tour De France and on a big team like T-Mobile without being top isn't the best. I just have to wait and go day by day to see some improvement."
As much as I want the Jan / Lance showdown to continue to the wire, I have an uneasy feeling that T-Mobile are messing up fundamentals like having two many goals and bringing name, but understrength riders to the Tour.
Real team spirit seems to be absent from this ubersquad - what better way to bring the whole organisation together than to step forward and acknowledge the other riders who plainly are in better condition than you / or are better suited to assisting the team leader, and give up your place so the goal of victory is better served. Such loyalty and commonsense you would think should be well remembered by a responsible team management for years to come, and certainly when they're directing the rest of this season's races.
Bet Turbo Guerini wishes he had Evans beside him in the coming mountains, when he's outnumbered by US Postal/Phonak/CSC/Liberty lads. If Ullrich wins his second, which I would be really glad to see, it will be certainly be an against the odds triumph.
I just wanted to voice that I think it is incredible at how many staff, riders, and fans have been wearing the LAF yellow wristbands. Anyone from medical staff to Thor Hushovd and Cipollini. Is nike handing these out in the start houses? Its great to see such an outpouring of support for a fellow rider's cause. Who knows maybe we'll see a pic of Lance handing one to Ullrich. When I first heard of the bands, I thought it was a great idea and immediately sent in my donation, but I never thought you would see them in so many places. Hopefully this trend continues and the LAF foundation raises a lot for cancer research.
What was the proclaimed rationale for excluding Mario Cipollini from the TdF every year? "The guy never finishes the Tour!" I believe it was three years ago when JML's reasoning for including Ag2r (probably at least indirectly at the expense of Cipo's team) was: they've got Jaan Kirsipuu! (Who did go on to win a stage, & then drop out for the for the 7th or 8th time, also without ever reaching Paris.) We'll never know how many stages Mario might have won in '01 or '02 (prior to probably dropping out), but there's a fair chance it would've been more than one. I'm not advocating more bashing against Jaan, he seems to be a great guy (even if he's now dropped out of all 11 Tours he's ever started), but it's not hard to understand why Mario was so let down (& how unfair the double standard and criticism directed his way has always been).
"If the winner of this edition of Le Tour wins on virtual time, the credibility, integrity and dignity of the greatest sporting event in the world will be tarnished", says Mr Strange from Nevada.
I don't agree. You win according to the rules... if Lance Armstrong, who Mr Strange sees as the potential victim here, won a minute in time bonuses throughout the race and ended up beating, say, Jan Ullrich by ten seconds on the overall, would the Tour be irreparably damaged?
Guys have often been elevated to the podium by virtue of time bonuses...in fact, races have been won like that. Big races. In the 1981 Giro d'Italia, Giovanni Bataglin stood atop the podium, but if there had been no time bonuses that year, Bianchi's Swedish captain Tommy Prim would have won.
Unfair? It sure felt that way. But Tommy Prim knew what he was signing on for when the Giro started.
And this is the other way around, sure, but the idea is the same. It's just
one more thing you have to take into consideration....you can't go around saying
Anders P. Jensen
It has been interesting to read the mainly negative comments about Robbie McEwen. Just to confirm - yes he is aggressive - yes he is competitive - yes he plays to win - yes he wears his heart on his sleeve - yes he shoots from the hip. And these are just his good points! But he is a fantastic rider who possesses a temperament in the same mould as John McEnroe (love him or hate him - but pay due respect to a champion).
McEwen was justified to complain about René Haselbacher who is more a danger to other riders than Robbie. Anybody who was placed in such a dangerous situation as Robbie and Cookie were by the same rider last year, would have harsh words upon a repeat performance. Sure as the facts emerged, Haselbacher's handlebars (allegedly) broke in two but what was he doing there in the first place? I read with interest the diary of Floyd Landis and his comments about Haselbacher and Robbie were welcome and hopefully reflected the feeling in the peleton. What he said about Haselbacher ie. if you are not in a position to win you should drop off, reflect some pretty basic rules and it seems the Americans have a basic understanding of the etiquette required.
Being an Aussie it is great to see Stuey O'Grady back where he belongs and these guys along with Cookie and the other countrymen make me extremely proud. I am sure we will see the green jersey go to one of the Aussies again this year - although I have an obvious soft spot for McEwen and O'Grady, I will throw in Zabel as the ones to beat for green in Paris. Thor Hushovd has been impressive but he can't handle the mountains so I'm sure we will not see too much more of him.
On Zabel, there was also some recent criticism of Eric Zabel with talk of him being washed up and of being a liability to T-Mobile. Well I hope these "experts" who contributed this rubbish now have renewed respect for the true (and humble) champion that he is. A marvellous 6 time winner of the green jersey and yes he is being pressured by the new breed but at least unklike Petacchi and co he finishes the races and can handle the mountains!
We are extremely lucky with the advances in communications that we can experience this great race live on the web - keep up the good work at both Cycling News and SBS TV here in Oz.
Riis was the deserving winner in 1996, as Ulrich had a lot to learn. He was strong, but unschooled. He learned some of the ropes that year.
And Ulrich's 1997 Tour victory was truly a team effort, with the team led by Riis as soon as he knew he wouldn't win himself. In '97, I remember watching Ulrich descending the Col de Glandon where he almost lost it on several of the turns and then got stabilized and pulled back from disaster on the following Col de Madeleine by Riis and the other Telecoms. Jan had a lot to learn then, and maybe he didn't learn well--he's had trouble on several descents, not the least being when he landed in the ditch and Armstrong waited.
I notice that the Glandon/Madeleine double is back on the route this year. It will be interesting to see how Jan handles it. I was lucky to ride down the Glandon a couple of years before the '97 tour, and I was reminded how tough a descent it was when I watched Ulrich on TV nearly losing it on several of the tighter corners. Very unforgiving.
Editor's note: Last week's and the following is enough letters about stage 3, I think.
I can't believe I'm hearing all of the whining about Lance not waiting for Mayo. You know who else didn't wait? Tyler Hamilton and Jan Ullrich, among others. Lance waited for Ullrich in 2001, Jan waited for Lance in 2003. Do you know who didn't wait for Lance in 2003? That's right, Iban Mayo. He tried to attack. And then do you know what he did? He stole second place from Jan Ullrich on that very stage, after he and Zubeldia forced Ullrich to do ALL of the pacemaking up the mountain, and then jumped ahead of him at the finish. Now that is not very sportsmanlike, is it? Iban Mayo has few friends in the peloton. He got what was coming to him.
Stage 3 #2
I have read all the letters with regard to Lance's Postal squad cranking up the pace on Iban Mayo after his fall. I must have missed something, but I am sure I was watching the same live coverage as everyone else, and I saw at least 5 to 6 other teams, or team members putting the hammer down at the front, why pick on US Postal??
I remember watching the Paris Roubaix THIS YEAR where riders behind the leaders were in all sorts of trouble (one unfortunate rider had a spectators flag wrapped up in his back wheel causing him to come to a standstill) During this time Magnus Backsted, Johan Museeuw and others in front rode the hardest they had ridden the whole day!!
I know this is a one day classic, but surly the final goal in the end is the same ... WIN THE DAMN RACE!
I doubt very much had the tables been turned that Iban Mayo (ore any one else for that matter) would have sat up and waited for Lance. Especially if all the other teams around him were using the opportunity to put time into there challengers.
I have seen accidents in the last 5 km's in just about every stage so far in this years Tdf and I never once saw the winners on the day sitting up and waiting for there fellow sprinters to catch up so they could contest the sprint. No, on the contrary they ATTACKED AND WON THE RACE.
Stage 3 #3
I believe they were right to continue on. Even before the stage, riders - including USPS and other team riders - were talking about not crashing before or on the cobbles, because you could lose the race there. They all new the only way to stay safe is to get to the front and stay there by pushing the pace hard. Any other tactic would put their Tour in jeopardy. Before the race I heard several interviews and commentaries about not crashing before or on the cobbles because the other teams will not wait for you. It was known to all the riders before going into the stage, and there shouldn't be any belly-aching afterwards.
Stage 3 #4
There are subtle differences between Stage 3 and Luz-Ardiden:
Lance getting clipped by a spectator was unexpected, the cobbles were not. The cobbled sections were announced last October. Every rider knew the dangers before hand and was hauling ass to try and beat a crash that they were all expecting.
All the favorites, including Mayo and Armstrong, were saying the night before how they expect crashes to take place on Stage 3 and how they planned on reaching the cobbles at the front.
Postal had already started their wind-up and the other teams were trying to squeeze in behind the Postal train when the crash took place. This is different than if a race favorite were out in front, crashed and another team cruised by him.
Thor indeed had the yellow jersey on Stage 3, but he was never considered a GC rider. That's why nobody waited.
Mayo acknowledged that he was unlucky; he never complained that the other riders were unsportsmanlike.
Stage 3 #5
RE: Attacking after Mayo's crash. Could you imagine if the peloton paused after every crash? If the peloton waited for Mayo, they would have also let several dozen others riders catch up. Actually, the peloton was already going full tempo across the pave before the crash even happened to drop those who were having difficulty. In Paris Roubaix etiquette, those who go down are never waited for -- they are usually attacked, thus Pairs Roubaix typically ends with a small, surviving group. That's bike racing. It may seem like the same when Ulrich, et al. waited for Lance last year but it's not that black and white, the circumstances were radically different thus the pace making at the front.
Stage 3 #6
I must admit to being amazed at the tone of letters regarding Mayo's crash on stage 3. Has everyone forgotten how the incident occurred? All of the main contenders were being escorted by their teams to the front of the peloton so as to hit the cobbles first ,this included Euskatel and Mayo. Everyone including Mayo was going full on, when the crash occurred, that also involved a member of USPS, Noval. The tone of letters would suggest that good sportsmanship would have been for USPS, T-Mobile and Phonak to hit the brakes and wait up for Mayo while going at those speeds? One can only imagine the chaos and subsequent injuries to many in the peloton had they done that, it was truly unfortunate for Mayo but he was racing for the same position as the others, which is inherently risky. I think the criticism of Lance, Jan and Tyler is not justified in this instance. I am so looking forward to the mountains to see all the contenders do battle, I have a feeling Lance has a surprise in store for everyone!
Stage 3 #7
It seems i missed all the fun on stage 3 by actually being over there. However, i was somewhat shocked to read of the tactics employed. After all of the bleating of Lance after last year's crash and the did-they or didn't-they wait (well, they certainly didn't attack) we see that the USPS don't have any regard for morals of sportsmanship.
Sure, there were attacks when Zulle crashed on the causeway a few years back, but, if i recall correctly, it was more to do with the Spanish teams at war than the anything else. This time, it was all the USPS doing the damage, not only to Mayo and the Yellow Jersey, but to any chance of Lance winning with honour.
There may be a record 6th title on the cards, but this victory will be soured by that attack. It seems Lance wants people to honour and respect him, but doesn't extend that courtesy to any of his rivals. No doubt stage 3 of the 2004 Tour will be rewritten when the next chapter of Lance's autobiography hits the bookshelves, but people will remember and his legacy tarnished.
Stage 3 #8
The difference is plain: with Jan and Lance it was mano-a-mano, in stage three it was team vs team, not just one but several.
It seemed to me that EE gave up the case after a while, do you think USPS would have stopped chasing? I'm no USPS fan but they are ready for that type of bad luck.
The other point to remember is that the pave was a known obstacle at a known distance, all the leaders knew they should be at the front before it started, maybe some waited too late to move up? It wasn't an accident caused by a spectator.
Stage 3 #9
You're absolutely right. No one should attack when any rider who is not already deemed to be weak or insignificant has suffered any misfortune whatsoever. Better yet, if a racer is hurt in some unfortunate circumstance, he should be able to continue via computer simulation. Weaker riders, of course, can (and should) be attacked at any time, for any reason. Really, otherwise you're just cheating the 'fans'.
In this case, USPS should have deputized Pavel Padrnos and Vladimir Ekimov to drop back to pace Mayo to the front of the race. Maybe they could have enlisted a couple of Phonak and T-Mobile riders to help out. Perhaps MrBookmaker.com can help us determine which riders should and should not be attacked on any given day of the Tour and each rider can have a list of protected riders taped to their stem.
Stage 3 #10
It seems the fans like the unwritten 'waiting' rule more than the riders do. In all fairness though consider: 1) Mayo and his team were responsible for their own crash,not a flat tire or a Postal guy, 2)Mayo was back in the field when Hink attacked, but the field had split in the narrow cobbled section, 3) Every team knew the cobbles could decide the fate of the race. The split initially formed a 2:00 gap. Mayo and the second group lost 3:55 because they did not race hard enough. For that 1:55, we should not feel sorry.
Lastly, to win the Tour you must soundly defeat your opponents without crying over a time loss.It seems the fans complained but I have yet to hear the riders cry. Chris Moreau ,in fact, said he will just have to make it up in the mountains.
Stage 3 #11
I too was troubled by the merciless acceleration before the pavé after Mayo et al crashed. But after some thought I now understand. The "do not attack" rule only applies to a small group of individuals, and not to the peloton. The peloton has a mind of its own and does not, nay, SHOULD not stop or slow down every time a GC contender crashes/punctures or for whatever reason loses contact. It is unreasonable to suggest that Postal should have waited because they couldn't possibly be expected to exert their influence over the remaining peloton (more than 100 riders remained). Contrast this with the '01 and '03 Ulrich and Armstrong (respectively) situations where it is not only proper but smart to wait, and one person could more easily influence the behavior of the other 5 or 6 riders in the group.
Further examples of this: In the same stage 3 Jens Voigt stopped more than once for mechanical issues. The breakaway he was a part of sat up and resumed upon his return. But in stage 6 Armstrong crashed and his team had to drop to bring him back to a peloton that was indifferent to his misfortune. Today (Stage 9) Ulrich stopped for nearly a minute to fix his seatpost. I didn't see the peloton sit up for his mechanical difficulties.
So the rule does not, and cannot apply to the peloton. If you lose contact from the peloton for whatever reason you're simply out of luck as the race continues. If a small group loses a rider it is a misfortune for the entire group, and waiting is often prudent.
Besides, isn't that the whole reason everyone was trying to be in the front in stage 3? If Armstrong and Ulrich knew that the entire peloton would slow in the event they crashed, why bother spending so much effort trying to lead before the cobbles? I regret Mayo lost such time, but he should have been battling harder for the positions that the other GC contenders were fighting over. He will win one day, and he will draw on this experience when he does.
When I initially heard that the Team Time Trial would limit losses to 2:30, I thought that was a bad idea.
It got worse.
I couldn't believe it when I learned that the teams would be graded on a curve, and there would be no reward for any type of performance, but only reward for beating other teams that knew that they would be graded on a curve. Does that sound like racing to you?
Let's look at some numbers. In 2003, the last year the TTT was run like a race, the first team finished about 5 minutes ahead of the last team, and twelve teams finished within 2 minutes of USPS on the day. The range of average speeds for all teams was about 3 km/hr. This year, as an exhibition, on a shorter course, only six teams finished within 2 minutes of USPS, and some teams rode as much as 5 km/h slower, and it wasn't even that nice a day to enjoy the scenery!
To me, any effort any rider put in Stage 4 this year has to be applauded because the rules encouraged teams to treat it as a rest day. We can only hope the result of this makes for a more compelling race later on (of course, nobody really gained any time), but if anyone out there believes that team time trials are an important element of a grand tour, well, the Tour de France doesn't agree with you.
I think that you should understand that for Lance to allow that 12 minutes was a great strategy. Now E-E, T-Mobile and Phonak will have to lend their own not inconsiderable strength to catching the five front men instead of merely waiting to watch what Lance does. If Lance sprints away on a hill top finish it could end up with him just making it into the Yellow while Ullrich, Hamilton and Mayo are stuck in 7 and back placings.
I don't really think that it would pan out that way but it is a really interesting strategy from the likes of Johann Bruyneel who has always shown us that he is as smart off the bike as on.
Thomas H. Kunich
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