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Letters to Cyclingnews - August 15, 2003
Here's your chance to get more involved with Cyclingnews. Comments and criticism on current stories, races, coverage and anything cycling related are welcomed, even pictures if you wish. Letters should be brief (less than 300 words), with the sender clearly identified. They may be edited for space and clarity. We will normally include your name and place of residence, but not your email address unless you specify in the message.
Please email your correspondence to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contracts, transfers & negotiations
I don't understand why the industry allows athletes to negotiate for the upcoming year when it is still so far away.
Day after day we hear reports about riders negotiating with other teams for the new season. Doesn't that upset the current sponsor? Doesn't it affect the flow of the team? How can a rider sign for one team, while riding for another, and then honestly compete for the remainder of the season? So Dufaux is going to ride for Quick Step next year. What happens if he is alone with a Quick Step in a break this year? Where do his loyalties lie? Is there anybody that can explain why there isn't a freeze on negotiations until say, after the World Championships in October? That would still give the athletes and management ample time to negotiate, and allow for the sponsors to get an honest full year out of the money they spent.
Any insight would be appreciated.
Michel van Musschenbroek
It sure will be interesting to see how Telekom perform next year. They have spent megabucks in recent years and seem to have had a few problems keeping their top riders in good health. Here are some of my thoughts on them:
1. Will they be so tolerant of Botero's unorthodox training methods next year? OK, he can't help he had a stomach virus in the Tour, but really, 2003 has been a disaster for him and if he has another late start to the season next year (as he usually does), then he will have been hired by Telekom for 2 years and competed for effectively half a season. With consideration as to the length Telekom went to get him, surely they must be wondering if they can let him have another shortened season next year. Also, he hasn't once won in his world champions jersey and in fact, only got to wear it a few times in total. A shame, as I think he has so much talent.
2. Will Vino be given leadership status next year? Telekom have spent millions on Evans, Savoldeli, Botero, Aerts etc while Vino has been under their nose the whole time! I am glad he finally got to show what he is capable of in a grand tour, having always been overshadowed by the big names like the aforementioned and Ullrich et al. No other Tour challenger (from any team) has had so much success with world cups and HC stage races as him, so I wonder if Telekom will let him concentrate on the Tour more next year. It should be interesting, as his performances this year certainly warrant special treatment but by that time, the other 'big 3' will be back to full strength...
3. Will Zabel focus solely on bunch sprints in the future, since many believe he is not as quick as he once was? Also, the fact that Telekom don't seem to have the big train to lead him out as they used to indicates he may well find he has to aim for smaller events or sprint from a small group.
These are just a couple of issues I see Telekom facing, sure they will sort them out and it will be intriguing to see how.
I have watched the Luz Ardiden crash several times and it is clear that Ullrich eases up. You don't have to look at Ullrich, just take at look at the others: when Armstrong crashed Ullrich had outdistanced several of the other riders, but when Armstrong is back it is to a much larger group. How come? Ullrich eased up and in the process the other riders caught up with him! Regarding Ullrich's posture, expression etc: It didn't change very much throughout the Tour, so why should it suddenly change when Armstrong went down? (I mean, it didn't even change when he crashed himself at the ITT!)
Also; even though I didn't see Armstrong's statements on the OLN they seem to prove yet again that ''The world's best Tour de France cyclist of all time'' (I mean that) will never be a true champion in the eyes of the (except from some American) fans. This unless he starts behaving like a champion and treat his fellow competitors, fans and media with at least some amount of respect.
Did Ullrich wait? #2
It's been a bit of a thorn in my side since Stage 15. As a few have now brought up in letters, and apparently Lance himself suggested in a post Tour interview(which I did not see). The fact is that Jan initially did not wait or sit up for Lance/ Mayo.
If you look closely at the live coverage (not the somewhat edited, primetime version) of the climb of Luz Ardiden. You can clearly see as Lance and Mayo are down - Jan, after swing wide to avoid them, makes a series of very hard stomps on the pedals to distance himself. As the coverage continues, Jan does look back to see the "state of affairs" behind him, but he has clearly not slowed in the least. If you continue to watch you can see the group reforming somewhat and Tyler approaching from the rear and calling out for them to slow. It's well before he's able to get to the front and give his arm waive to the group. As the coverage is not exclusively on Ullrich during this time, it is difficult to determine when it was he did indeed "sit up".
My own opinion is, he was either told to wait (his D.S.? or another racer?) or he realized the greater ramifications of not waiting and had a somewhat delayed change of heart after his initial acceleration.
One thing is clear if you look at the coverage with an impartial eye - Ullrich's first inclination was to continue the attack.
Did Ullrich wait? #3
Without passing judgment, I offer the following: Lance Armstrong, in an interview with Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwin at Lance's home in Girona (shown on OLN in the U.S.) said he wasn't sure Jan waited. That statement was certainly an interesting tidbit. While watching the live version on OLN, my wife had said it didn't look like Jan was waiting. Only when Tyler came up to put his hand out did she think they really slowed. I had dismissed her comment as uninformed since Phil and Paul's commentary took the standard line that they would wait.
The only thing I know for sure is they went slow enough that Lance could catch them, although with the sprint-like effort into the red zone Lance used to catch back on, to further attack is amazing, not easy or unfair as some people seem to imply... as if his momentum--and not 450+ continuous watts--just swept him up the mountain as easy as sitting at home on the couch watching TV.
Did Ullrich wait? #4
In the discussion about Ullrich and Armstrong on Luz Ardiden, I have heard some people say that Ullrich didn't wait until Tyler Hamilton went to the front and told everyone to ease up. Well, it depends on what one means by wait. does wait mean slow your pace or just mean not speed up and attack? It appeared to me that Ullrich was more or less keeping his pace after Lance crashed and that he slowed a bit when Tyler went to the front. That sounds like waiting to me. So Ullrich didn't accelerate to take advantage of Armstrong's misfortune. In my book, that is an honorable thing to do. Some people may not agree with me, but they are allowed their opinion.
Did Ullrich wait? #5
This is in response to Mr. Donald Blades' letter. I too am an Armstrong fan. I'm also an Ullrich fan. This is my opinion on the entire debacle. I was in the U.S. Air Force once and I was stationed in Texas for a while. I can tell you this, Texans (maybe not all, but allot) have a tendency to be cocky and this usually tends to insult people. Most of the time they do not even intend to insult anyone but it happens anyway. Lance is from Texas and once in a while those Texas tendencies slip out.
I would've hoped that after so many years in the European peloton, he would have learned but I guess not. His comments about Ullrich were totally unnecessary. Even if what he says is true and Ullrich did not wait, he won the Tour so let it be. Why try to start more controversy. In my humble opinion Ullrich did not slow down until Hamilton said so, but he still slowed down. So who cares! I DON'T EVEN think he SHOULD have waited! The way that Ullrich operates in the mountains he couldn't have picked up the pace enough to do serious damage anyway... but he could have pulled back those 16 or 18 seconds. He had the right to in my opinion.
Armstrong fell because of something HE did wrong on the bike (by his own admission). It wasn't a mechanical problem, he didn't get a flat, the spectator didn't run out and knock him down. In his own words he rode to close to the spectators. SO.... that was a technical mistake, a mistake of judgment and in my opinion. Those kinds of mistakes should lead to you losing some time. Just like you would if you are slow during technical descents because your line isn't the best.
Again, I am an Armstrong fan but after winning his 5th Tour, he didn't need to insult the intentions of Ullrich. Oh well.... that's Texas for ya'.
Did Ullrich wait? #6
Lance's comments to OLN strike me as being in much the same vein as Merckx's comments after L-B-L. Unnecessary. Not to mention eerily reminiscent of comments made after Pantani's win on the Ventoux a couple of years back. Ullrich did the right thing. If he wanted to attack he would have done so immediately Armstrong hit the deck. If he has any common sense he won't even rise to Armstrong's comments.
This is what happened: The lead bunch, including Ullrich slowed. Armstrong began to be paced back by Beltran. The lead group and Armstrong/Beltran were separated and those in the lead group (understandably) grew anxious - where was Armstrong? Had his crashed caused a mechanical? Maybe he had broken something? Maybe he was out altogether a la Beloki? It didn't look like a long time on TV, but for those in that front group it must have seemed like an eternity. Then the Euskaltel boys - under a lot of pressure for a Basque win in the Pyrenees - began to get restless. Ullrich couldn't afford to let them go: whether or not he wanted to wait for Armstrong was about to become immaterial. And then Tyler came from the back of the front bunch (he would have been in eye contact with a returning Armstrong/Beltran first in that position) and got them to calm down again.
Armstrong has made a lot of his waiting for Ullrich coming off the Peyresourde some years ago, but unless my memory serves me incorrectly (and it may, I concede), the relative position of the two at the time of Ullrich's crash was nowhere near as critical as it was on the way to Luz Ardiden (subtext: stop looking for some kind of "equivalence", just say "thanks" and be done with it, already. You are not weaker for acknowledging somebody else's sportsmanship).
Armstrong is the best Tour cyclist of his generation and anyone who knows anything about cycling (and even those who don't) cannot but be in awe of his achievements. But maybe there's a psychology term paper in trying to work out why (a) Armstrong always needs an enemy (Pantani/Ullrich, even Halgand and the entire Jean Delatour team, McEwen - jeez, it's a long list getting longer) and (b) he seems incapable of showing gratitude (of course, I waited for Jan on the Peyresourde so he owed me).
I am a big fan of Lance and I watched the same show on OLN and loved the fact that he called Ullrich out, and Ullrich's team out for not relaying vital information to Ullrich about the TT course (how he knows this is questionable though). I put myself in Lance's shoes during that interview with Paul and Phil stumbling over their questions for Lance, and how they went on and on about Ullrich and how he waited, I would have said the same things. Ullrich did not sit up, slow down, swing wide, until Tyler slowed them down. I have seen OLN's coverage and I have seen European coverage of the incident and none of them show Ullrich slowing down, heck from my view right after it happened I saw Ullrich get into a more aero position and look back to see if Lance was coming, not a sit up, hands on the tops, easy spin like he should have.
For the TT comment made by Lance about Ullrich's team...I am not sure how or who told him this, but if it is true that Ullrich's team did not relay information to him then that is just plain stupid. On top of that, Ullrich crashed in a corner that brought down 4 other riders on the day and 2 of which where his teammates!!! Hincapie told Lance all about that section of the course right after his ride. Lance said right after his ride he was going all out at the beginning to gain time and then would cruise through the last 10k as it was like an ice rink. Ullrich obviously did not know that as he went screaming through that section like a train.
Did Ullrich wait? #8
I have to disagree that Ullrich didn't slow after the crash. What did your American readers want to see? Him to get off his bike and had Lance a water bottle? It was the middle of the final climb! He had to keep his legs going. I've watched the tapes several times already as I play the stages while I work out on my turbo trainer during the week and on several turns Ullrich can be clearly seen looking back as well as being towards the rear of the group. It was Mayo who is trying to maintain the pace.
Armstrong is a great athlete but has never been much for diplomacy. Remember his lap of honour with the American flag? No foreign winner had ever done such a thing and it showed a high degree of immaturity on Armstrong's part or at least a lack of respect for the culture of both France and the race. Perhaps it's an 'American' thing? Remember the posturing of the US relay team at the Olympics? Quite pathetic. Lance also seems to have a very selective memory. He moaned about a few people booing him on Ventoux (so just why were the Posties dumping all those garbage bags so suspiciously?) but neglects to mention the fabulous support he received as people did a 'Mexican' wave during the climb in the final time trial last year.
I think he is a fantastic rider and trains incredibly hard but he got lucky with the result of the team time trial and that there was such a strong tail wind in the final time trial that effectively nullified the stage. His team fell apart in the mountains this year and the days of watching the Posties ride tempo, dropping off one by one, until it's just Heras and Lance are over. Next year he'll be attacked continually and remorselessly by Beloki, Mayo, Evans, Telekom etc etc.
A great rider but as a person he sometimes makes it very difficult to respect him. Still, bring on 2004 which is surely looking like it will be the greatest ever Tour!
I'd like to respond to Stewart Taylor's letter. "You can't compare this year to the causeway incident in '99. Zulle was way down the bunch, and should really have known better on such a risky stretch of road. If he was serious about the GC he should have been up the front with team mates around him, like Lance was. There's nothing wrong with taking advantage of someone's casual attitude to safety and tactics."
I think it is interesting to compare and contrast what happened in 99 with this year's Tour. In general I support the notion that the top riders need to be attentive but you seem to be especially critical of the riders, including Zuelle, who where caught up in, or delayed by, the crash.
Tour organisers always like to talk about rider safety and it is recognised that the first few days, in particular, are more dangerous as the riders are more nervous. However that year I believe the organisers were only paying lip service to the issue. The inclusion in the second road stage of the Passage du Gois, a narrow causeway, underwater for most of the time, rocks on both sides, with the expectation that a bunch of 200 nervous riders would pass over it without incident almost beggars belief. The only people with a casual attitude to safety and tactics on that occasion were the organisers.
So Lance got across the road by surrounding himself with team-mates. The most notable rider to crash, suffering serious injuries, that resulted in his immediate abandonment of the race was Jonathan Vaughters, who rode for, er, U.S.Postal at the time.
Coming off the causeway onto the regular road, the likes of Zuelle etc were only a handful of seconds behind the front group, but I didn't see any rider telling the others to slow down because there'd been a crash and one of the likely podium riders was delayed by it, in fact quite the contrary, as cyclingnews.com reported at the time:
"once the crash occurred and it was realised who was being delayed by it, the teams went into action to maximise the loss."
Call me a cynic but I certainly didn't see any of the "unwritten rule of the peloton" in action.
This year there has been a lot of talk about sportsmanlike behaviour at the Tour. We certainly didn't see any of it in this stage in 1999. Maybe it was because in 1999 there was no clear "Patron", maybe now the riders are a bit more enlightened and less selfish, or maybe they realise that bad crashes can happen to any of them, and they should abide by the unwritten rule.
Do other correspondents think there has been a change of attitude in the bunch? It will be interesting to hear your views.
BTW - Ullrich definitely DID wait for Armstrong after his crash, even before Hamilton told everyone else to wait.
I think Rick Watson misses the irony and the point of the letter regarding the team time trial.
The TTT is unfair on the majority of the lower budget teams from Spain, Italy and indeed France. No question about it.
Point one, is that most of their riders are smaller and have less power and less body mass that makes the TTT favour bigger powerfull riders like Hincapie, Ekimov and Armstrong.
Point two is the general move towards increasing home grown riders in those teams. There is just not the pool of suitable riders to pick from to get a team capable of competing on the relatively flat TTT courses.
Point three is that they simply do not have the budget to buy the riders they need to win in this discipline, so the TTT will remain the domain of the bigger budget teams like USPS who can afford to buy the riders they need.
Regarding having George Hincapie on a USPS Mountain TTT team? Great rider though he is. I can't quite see him in the finishing group at the top of Mont Ventaux somehow and the way Heras rode this year....... he is not possibly a favoured candidate either.
After hearing Javier Pascual Llorente's response to the EPO accusations, I started thinking: what if there is more than just a campaign? What if it is a "conspiracy"? Now bear with me and think about it. Why would a country let the sun shine at such intensity that the asphalt actually melts and bring the number one Spanish TdF contender down? Think about it - it's crazy man! Also, why would a country allow "Yankees" and "Boches" into the country, and even (albeit former) Soviets? Just so that they can place better than the Spanish in the TdF? (Hey I am onto something!) Maybe there really is a conspiracy here; I am scared, man!
All fun aside, I deeply respect the Spanish cyclists (although they sometimes make bad decisions when it comes to strategy, especially in the Tour) and I can just laugh at Llorente's comments.
Two points in response to James Darlow's comments:
1. He wrote: "Don't be too excited about those numbers on OLN vs. ESPN however. Remember that not all cable/satellite subscribers in the U.S. have OLN yet and that nearly 99% of the subscribers DO have ESPN."
My thoughts: I think you have the math backwards. OLN beat ESPN in actual viewership despite having about one tenth the market penetration. In rough terms, nearly everyone with OLN was watching the Tour, but very few of those with access to ESPN were watching ESPN. Since it's doubtful that folks interested in cycling specifically moved to a particular area just because OLN was available there, then you must conclude, were OLN and ESPN to have an equal number of subscribers, that cycling would thrash baseball in the daily ratings.
2. He wrote: "In terms of marketability, please keep in mind that the numbers presented to the advertisers are done so on a "cost per hit" basis. In other words, how cheaply can I hit people over the head with my product. Conversely can I hit 10 million people or 10 thousand people. This is why Budweiser pays so much to advertise on the largest single-day sports broadcast in America. For $10 million they can reach far more people than they could sponsoring a cycling team that is seen by 100 people. And those billions of people are going to buy a lot more Bud than the 100 people watching the Grand Prix Cycliste du Industrial Park."
My thoughts: It's all how you sell it. Budweiser can reach out and touch billions of people by buying Super Bowl air time, but their message will be blurred in the background of the hype of the event. By comparison, for the same price they could sponsor a bike team for a full year. While no one racing event could possibly compare to the Super Bowl, I'd argue that over the course of the year their brand could be exposed to the same number of potential customers (or more), with a more lasting impact due to the uniqueness of the event. Two examples: Starbucks, who to this day has never advertised through typical radio, television, or magazine mediums, but who has sponsored numerous low level events; and Red Bull, who only recently began advertising on TV but has always sponsored the odd extreme adventure event.
Oh please, Carmichael Whining Systems, give it a break already. Your boy lost a time trial, period. Then you floated a fib to the media to spin the fact that Lance got whupped and possibly was on the verge of losing the Tour. Lance and Bruyneel have even admitted as much. Exactly how much would you like us to believe your boy lost? 6 liters? 7? We've even heard Lance say it was 8 liters. Come on. It grew more grandiose as time went on....I think two days hence Lance was telling us it had been "near-fatal" and "virtually lethal", and that he "was lucky to be alive". Oh yeah... Even if your boy REALLY woke up and forgot to drink the entire day leading up to the TT and the hour he was actually on the bike, who's fault is that? What is he paying you guys for?? Well, great story fellas, but it's interesting to note that neither Lance nor Bruyneel offered up any excuses immediately following the TT. It was only the next day that we learned the Postal spin doctor's version. Geez, some of us merely thought Ullrich had cranked out an amazing ride. Thanks for setting us straight. You guys are brilliant.
In the real world of cycling, not the one that is controlled by the sponsors , advertisers, marketers, etc. etc., it would be great to see someone like Lance Armstrong lead his team in at least two of the major tours. Or at least after winning the big major, the Tour, move over to Spain in the early fall to support and ride for the teammates who basically win the big one for him.
First, a reason why the Tour in general is getting quicker. I live in the Pyrenees and so see the preparation for the Tour. Many of the roads are resurfaced or repaired prior to the Tour passing. Each region, and departement sees the Tour as a showcase and the last thing they want to show is that their roads are awful. (Unfortunately this didn't extend to the two 'little' hills on the approach to Gap, one of which led to Beloki's crash).
And a reason as to why this one was quick - simply because there was competition up front. Those aspiring to dethrone Armstrong have at last realised that they must try to exhaust his team before attacking him. They were partly successful and, next year, there may well be at least two teams equipped to do this from the start. Thus there were no 'idling' days with the lead team ambling along.
A third reason may be the lack of rain. I suspect that rainy, blustery conditions have a greater slowing effect than heat.
On this last point maybe one of the technical experts could tell us how much is the effect of thinner air as the temperature increases. Air resistance is so important at the speed those guys go that this effect may be more significant than one might imagine. Apropos, I decided to do a Google search and found this site:
Is the Tour clean? #2
In response to worthy replies sent by Ruaraidh Gillies and Jay Dwight concerning my initial letter, they both make valid points concerning the increased speed of this years TdF. However, I think that the point that the modern Tour is shorter, therefore the speed should increase, cannot justify the increase in this years race speed. To exemplify the point, I have compared two modern tours and their respective average speeds over similar distances.
Take 1989 Tour distance 3285km and compare it to this year's Tour, 3368km. The profile of this years TDF was much tougher with more days being spent in the Alps and Pyrenees, than in the 1989 TDF. The average speed for 1989 was 37.59kph whereas this year's average speed was 40.32kph. That's an average of 2.73kph higher speed for every kilometre cycled, year on year!
Are Ruaraidh and Jay really contending that the cyclists are that much better now than they were back in 1989? Can this increase in speed be put down to better technology, better training, better nutrition?
Given what was exposed during the Festina affair, given the fact that speed of the '03 Tour has increased to an all-time high compared to the so-called "EPO, HGH-Fuelled 1990's", I think that it is logical and reasonable to assume that the peloton is not clean.
Jeez, ease up. I didn't really agree with Landis either, but then, I don't read Cyclingnews for the political editorials. And I imagine I'd also be a bit chippy and prone to outburst if some folks kept me from doing my job in the service of their fringe cause...especially if my job involved a whole lot of physical torment on top of that aggravation. Anyhow, Cyclingnews, keep publishing Floyd. His insights into pro life are a pleasure to read.
I'm sure that if USPS's target audience watched other races, they would contest those just as much. Unfortunately, the best bang for their buck comes by winning the Tour, because Joe Public USA does not care about the Giro, the Vuelta, the Spring Classics. However, let's not forget that Heras barely lost the Vuelta last year, George was out-Domo'd in Paris Roubaix, Lance won several races leading up to the Tour over the last several years (Suisse etc), or placed highly.
Last week I was on an organized ride here in the USA. I saw a rider drop a tablet into his water bottle and it began to fizz (effervesce). Upon inquiry, he said it was a product available only in Europe that fights cramping. He popped one into my bottle and rode away. It was tasty, slightly sweet with a fruit flavor.
If any European readers know what this product is and where I might get some, please email me: email@example.com.
If I remember correctly, George Hincapie has been on the US Postal Tour de France team for all five of Lance Armstrong's wins. I was just thinking about this recently, and wondering how many other domestiques have been on the winner's team five (or more) times. I figure that the other five-time winners might have also had loyal teammates who were there for all five wins, but I can't name any off hand. Does anyone out there have that info?
I was also thinking about what riders (not just domestiques) have been on the winner's team the most often. Obviously, the five-time winners have each been on the winning team at least five times, with Hinault making it six with LeMond's win in '86, and Indurain six with Delgado's '88 win. LeMond has also been on the winner's team five times (his three, Fignon in '84 and Hinault in '85). Does anyone know of a rider who's been on the winner's team more than six times?
I would agree that the slur of Ceruti on UK and Australian track riders being far superior to the road riders is true but unfair.
The Australians (and there are a few of them in the Tour now) had a better Tour than the Italians (yellow jerseys, some stage wins, green jersey battle - yes, the Aussies can make it through the mountains - and O'Grady won the Centenaire competition). And there may only be one UK rider, but David Millar is an inspirational leader of Codifis.
Road racing has been a minor sport in Australia and by Australian sporting standards they have a way to go. But is taking off so you will see more Australians (men and women) creeping up on the road scene and well end up being the force that they are on the track.
Australia was a little disappointed with their 1 Gold (but what a Gold it was) and 7 Silver track medals but even so Italy would be very happy to have Australia's Worlds track results and Tour performance.
People in glass houses?
On behalf of most right-thinking New Zealanders I would like to inform you that NONE of us refer to Lance Armstrong as "GI Joe"... I'm not sure where Michael picked that nickname, but if Lance is called anything by Kiwis it's "The Boss", or maybe "that guy is a frickin' legend!"
Fox News reported: "This was never anything more than a traffic incident. It was resolved as a traffic infraction. Jack acted responsibly in this, as he always has," said Cafferty's attorney, Seth Rosenberg.
It figures that a lawyer would define "responsibly" as "fleeing from the scene, ignoring the directions of the traffic officer on the scene, running at least two red lights in the process of fleeing, and running other vehicles off of the road as he fled."
The fact that once again the Cadillac trumps the Cannondale is a sad commentary on our legal system.
Regarding CNN's Jack Cafferty #2
I agree with Richard Adams. Jack Cafferty's being allowed to plead down the charges to a misdemeanor is an example of celebrities getting a pass from law enforcement and of bicyclists getting short shrift from the American legal system. The man hit Mr. Maldonado, dragged his bicycle through two red lights, and injured Mr. Maldonado's right elbow. The original charges of leaving the scene of an accident, reckless driving, assault, and harassment were appropriate. What was inappropriate was Cafferty's plea agreement, which was a function of his being a celebrity and of prejudice against cyclists. The judge probably thought that Mr. Maldonado was at fault for having the effrontery to ride his bicycle on a public road.
Just a minor correction - It was Kevin Livingston, not Bobby Julich, who towed Ullrich back to Armstrong's group.
Jerrold A. Grecu
I have to say I completely agree with Perry McGuire regarding the actions of Mayo and Zubeldia. I can really understand Ullrich being mad to have so-called Spanish climbers sitting on his wheel for about 8 miles and to come and sprint for bonus seconds at the end of the race. I just saw this as a cheap shot from Mayo and Zubeldia. I think it also showed the lack of strategy on the part of the Euskaltel team in the Tour. They had every reason to work with Ullrich because Vinokourov was struggling at that time and they would have taken some time on him by working with Ullrich. I'd also say they probably would have caught Armstrong by working together. He won the stage by only 43 seconds.
Sprint at Luz Ardiden #2
I lost a little respect for the orange-clad boys from Spain that day. Some, like Andrew from down under, think it was good strategy for the Euskaltel boys to sprint past Jan the Man and get a few extra seconds for themselves. But watch the tape Andrew! Sure Mayo attacked earlier, but Jan did ALL THE WORK after Lance took off. Iban & Co. sucked Jan's wheel so hard I'm surprised it was still round. Andrew's comment about a hollow victory had Jan won the Tour by a few seconds is double-edged. What if he had lost it by a few seconds?
Sprint at Luz Ardiden #3
Granted that Iban Mayo and Haimar Zubeldia definitely animated the Tour, on the stage to Luz Ardiden they showed less than expected class. Had Ullrich not gestured for them to share the work for the balance of the climb (which he did several times) then they would have been completely within their rights to continue sitting in and contest for the second spot. However, as Ullrich did request help and the Spaniards just sat in they showed absolutely no pundanor in going for the sprint.
All the other 5 times winners tried for six with Hinault and Merckx coming the closest. Anquetil started in 66 as far as I know, more for preventing Poulidor winning than for him gunning for his sixth. I'm not sure if he started any more Tours after that.
Merckx was defeated in '75 by a combination of Thevenet's power, a broken jaw from a crash and a cracked rib received from an over-patriotic French fan on Puy de Dome. Never one to say die Merckx started in 76 or 77 also to finish 6th.
Hinault overestimated himself in 1986 and was overcome by LeMond and Indurain succumbed to the cold and wet weather of the first week of the 96 Tour, not to mention the attacking ride of Bjarne Riis. I'm not sure if all the above figures are correct but am sure that they all tried for a sixth. It will be interesting next year as Lance will be 32, Ullrich will be at his peak, as will Beloki, and as Indurain has said on many occasions he reckons that 6 is beyond physical bounds. Roll on Tour 2004!
Trying for number six #2
Indurain tried for 6 and was soundly beaten by Bjarne Riis. Maybe Riis is the one who will end another string of Tour victories by coaching Tyler Hamilton to victory next year. I still believe Tyler would have won it all had it not been for his collar bone.
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