Checkout the throwback jerseys US Postal wore today:
Checkout the throwback jerseys US Postal wore today:
The first was "The Comeback," the second was "The Confirmation." No one seems to have a good term for the third or fourth (Armstrong called the fourth "The Year of the Team;" I have a cool t-shirt that says "4-titude"). I prefer to call this year "The Ascendency" b/c he's finally climbed the ranks to join Indurain, Merckx, Hinault, and Anquetil as the elite set of tour riders that have one five tours. Also, he and Indurain are the only riders to have the dominant ability to win five years in a row.
This year has also set the stage for the future of Tyler Hamilton and Alexandre Vinokourov. Both will certainly figure in future TdF battles. Euskatel, with Mayo and Zubeldia, should also be a fun team to watch in the coming tours. Finally, let's hope that this year's performance that Ullrich will continue to come to play in TdF's and have less written about him in the offseason.
In other tour news:
* Hamilton's efforts helped secure CSC's team win over Ibanesto.com.
* Cooke beat out McEwen on the line to take the green jersey
* Virenque kept his king of the mountains with his dominant lead of 137pts.
* Menchov also had a dominant lead in the youth jersey competition with a gap of 42'29". * In the jersey no one cares about, O'Grady gets to don the "Centenaire" jersey for this year's 100th Tour de France
-- My Summary -- The stage is set for a dramatic stage today. Millar currently has the fastest time but has said that the last portion of the race should be neutralized as the conditions are glacial and not safe for Armstrong and Ullrich. There have certainly been several crashes already on the day with the road looking extremely slippery in the rain.
Checkpoint 1: Ullrich and Armstrong dead even at 15'41" (Ullrich has the fast time check overall)
Approaching the second time check: Ullrich has now gained time on Armstrong and the gap is at 1'02"
Checkpoint 2: Ullrich (35'19") is 2 seconds ahead of Armstrong (35'21"). Ullrich still has the fastest time check
Hamilton finishes with the second fastest time so far at 54'14", 9 seconds behind David Millar
ULLRICH DOWN! Going through the second half of the roundabout he slips his wheel (it didn't seem like he was taking it too steep) on slippery pavement and sparks fly up from the rear wheel. Ullrich's bike slides into the protective bales on the side of the road. Ullrich quickly gets up and is on his way again.
Armstrong comes through in the same area and manages to fishtail a bit while accelerating but it okay
Checkpoint 3: Ullrich has really lost his pace. He now slips into third behind Millar for the stage. Ullrich's 45'39" is 22" behind Millar. Armstrong seems to have slowed as well - he comes in at 45'29"
Mayo loses 2'02" to Hamilton at the finish line, HAMILTON IS NOW IN 5th PLACE IN THE GC
Zubeldia finishes but not fast enough -> HAMILTON IS NOW 4th PLACE IN THE GC
Vinokourov finishes and loses time to Hamilton, but still retains his third place overall in the GC
Ullrich finishes at 54'30" behind Millar and Hamilton. Armstrong' yellow jersey is almost certainly confirmed
In less than eight hours the climatic finish to a great Tour de France will begin. In the overall GC, Ullrich will be chasing Armstrong's lead of 1'07", but on the ground it will be Armstrong chasing Ullrich with the two slated to be the last two riders off the ramp.
Weather predictions call for early rain that may subside, with tail winds pushing the riders towards the finish in Nantes.
Ullrich will be steaming along in a beefy 56x11. This race is all set to be sickeningly fast, with Armstrong predicting a record time for this TT. Regardless, this TdF will go down in the books: * Stage 1-5: Petacchi dominating the early stages, then dropping out in the first mountain stage * Stage 4: US Postal getting their first ever TTT win, with all nine riders crossing the line * Stage 8: Dramatic attacks all the way up Alpe d'Huez that dropped Ullrich but ultimately gave the stage to Mayo * Stage 9: Beloki's awful crash followed by Armstrong's offroading * Stage 12: Ullrich beating Armstrong in the first Time Trial with the only sub-hour performance on the day * Stage 15: Luz-Ardiden - Attack, Attack, Attack, Crash, Slip, Attack * Stage 16: not content to merely finish the TdF, Hamilton picks up a stage win (staying in front for 140km) and is now in position to shoot for a top five overall finish tomorrow * a green jersey competition that will come down to the last day (again) * possibly the fastest TdF ever (not a bad feat for the 100th TdF)
A relatively flat stage still managed to provide it's mix of drama. In the first sprint of the day Armstrong and Ullrich followed McEwen out - McEwen predictably won the sprint and picked up six sprint points to move into a tie with Cooke, Ullrich took the 4" time bonus and Armstrong the 2".
From then on it was a sixteen rider breakaway of no one particularly important, but it provided an interesting contrast to yesterday's breakaway. Quick-Step tried to repeat the antics of yesterday's stage win of Knaven. The breakaway group split in two with 20km to go, and with around 10km to go Quick-Step sent Ca�ada off the front. As the chase group did a better job of organizing itself than yesterday, but Ca�ada managed to hold the gap at 5-7" up until 1km to go. With 100m to go and Ca�ada still up front, Da Cruz closed the gap with Nardello and Lastras following. Lastras then outsprinted Da Cruz and Nardello to take the stage.
With Cooke and McEwen tied for the green jersey, the last bit of excitement came in the sprint for 17th place and the final sprint points on the day. Zabel had the early lead in the sprint, but McEwen came off his wheel and took the points. Cooke rode on McEwen's wheels but didn't have the legs to win it out.
Ten got away at the starting line and stayed away. Luttenberger was the only GC threat in the breakaway, and the peloton only gave chase long enough to prevent him from jumping into the top ten.
With 16km to go Knaven went off the front. The rest of the lead group broke down into a series of individual attacks from the likes of Garcia Acosta and Van Bon, but in the end no one could bridge the gap and the chase group remained too disorganized to close the 20-35 second gap that Knaven was maintaining and Knaven got the stage win.
The last big battle of the day was for the final three sprint points. McEwen took two and Zabel took one - both riders are within very close striking distance of Cooke, which should provide the main excitement in the coming stages.
Today was Super Hamilton's day. After the peloton split and Hamilton fell into the back group, five of his teammates came back and bridged him back to the peloton.
With about 140 kilometers to go in the race Hamilton launched went off the front of the peloton to chase down the lead group. His teammate Sorenson, who up in the lead group fell back to bridge Hamilton into the lead group.
Hamilton joined the lead group on the first big climb (Col du Soudet) and never looked back. With Sorenson helping him along he was able to drop the other riders on the second big climb. He broke out a 5 minute lead on the peloton with about 30 kilometers to go, at which point he pretty much had the win sealed up. Despite possibly needing the seconds for the GC, he took the time to point at his team manager, Bjarne Riis, shake hands, and then cross the finish line. Armstrong even came up and gave him a hug as headed into the trailer to change for the podium.
Update: for those of you looking for 2005 Tour clips, you can go to OLN's Daily Video page
I went through my server logs tonight and there seem to be several people looking for a video of Beloki's crash in stage 15, and somehow my site seems to come up in Google's search engine. That being the case, my advice to you folks is to visit OLN's 2003 Tour de France Video Clips page, and they have a clip of most of the important moments of he tour. Unfortunately, they only have streaming clips.
If this annoys you, you can try using Stream Down to save the video to your machine. The procedure is a bit complicated: * you need to right click on the video link (I suggest using the Windows Media version) * select "save link as" * open the saved file in a text editor * snarf the URL starting with mms:// * paste this into Stream Down
(I just got back from Comic-Con this morning - which I'll have plenty of posts from. Trusty TiVo recorded the TdF for me while I was gone, but I've only had time to catch up on the Individual TT and this morning's Stage 15)
Stage 15 was simply awesome. If you thought the attacks on Stage 8 had drama, this morning's stage had all of that and then some.
The drama first started on the Col du Tourmalet (site of last year's Armstrong-Heras-Beloki train). Ullrich attacked 3/4 of the way up, but Armstrong was able to contain the attack. However, damage was being done to Vinokourov who was dropped and did not catch back up until Luz-Ardiden. With neither able to assert an advantage, Armstrong and Ullrich both waited for their teammates to return to the group for the final ascent.
They didn't get to use their teammates for too long as Mayo launched an attack which Armstrong caught up with and continued. Vinokourov was dropped again and wouldn't recover. And then came the watercooler moment of the ascent: Armstrong was leading the attack with Mayo on his back wheel. As he came around a turn, a fan's musette caught his right brake lever and dropped the bike to the group, with Mayo falling on top. CheChu led Armstrong back into the chase group, and Ullrich and Hamilton slowed the chase group to wait for Armstrong's return. As Armstrong bridged back up to the chase group his right foot slipped out of the pedal, making everyone wonder what sort of damage had been done to his bike.
However, rather than pause to switch bikes, Armstrong caught up to the chase group and then launched the final attack of the day, leaving Ullrich unable to respond. Armstrong caught up to Chavanel, gave him a respectful pat on the back, and then continued his climb to the finish line on Luz-Ardiden. Armstrong finally gets his individual stage win of the tour, and on a stage that people hoped he would leave his mark on.
Congrats to Chavanel who dominated the mountains today, but was caught in the final kilometers of Luz-Ardiden.
I didn't get to watch this one as my TiVo didn't pick it up, but here's what I gather from the various summaries out there:
1) Ullrich is the man and is back in form. He was the only rider to break the hour barrier at 58'32". He is also good at finding air conditioning.
2) Armstrong lost only his second time trial out of eight due to Ullrich's truckin' performance. Armstrong finished second at 1'36" behind. Apparently he lost about 8% of his body weight due to dehydration. He is not as good at finding air conditioning, but probably will be in the future (as he is also much better at eating now).
3) Vinokourov loses 30" to Armstrong.
4) How the hell did Tyler Hamilton pull on his handlebars (and ignore his back pain) long enough to finish 5th? I look forward to seeing him leading his team in future tours at full strength.
Vinokourov gets his first tour win but the real news from this stage was the crash. On the final descent Armstrong, Beloki, and others were bombing down in pursuit of Vinokourov, who was less than a minute ahead. The heat had actually melted the tar on the road and as Beloki headed into a minor right turn his tire blew out. His bike slid and Beloki hi-sided in the concrete hard right on his hip and right elbow. Armstrong, who was right on Beloki's wheel, dodged left into an open field, crossed to the other side of the switchback, swiftly dismounted and jumped down a drop-off, and then remounted to join the pursuit group. Armstrong's instincts were amazing to watch. It just goes to show that anything can happen to anyone, even a rider as good as Beloki. (video)
The other stories of the day were:
Today was an awesome race to watch:
I'm really looking forward to the individual time trial a couple of days as well as the finish at Luz-Ardiden in Stage 15.
Virenque gets to finish with two jerseys on his shoulders, which is a nice gift for his countrymen. He gunned through the stage and picked up both the Maillot Jeune (02' 37" in front of Armstrong overall) and the King of the Mountain.
Today was most interesting for me in who didn't finish, namely Petacchi who dropped out very early in the race after winning four of the previous six stages. With Petacchi dropping out so early I wish that they had let Cipo into the race so that the two sprinters could have duked it out. Also interesting was Botero and Simoni being broken on the climb, and Tyler Hamilton (broken collarbone) NOT being broken and gunning through.
Petacchi is the king of the sprint stages winning yet another stage. The mountain stages I've been waiting for finally start tomorrow. This is where we will get to see if Ullrich really is going to attack this year, and if Botero has gained any consistency.
Petacchi continues to dominate the stage wins with his third victory. US Postal's Pena gets to keep the maillot jaune for another day.
Woot! Woot! An awesome day for US Postal. They avoided a spill like last year and dominated the team time trial winning by 30" over ONCE. I was surprised to see Bianchi in 3rd place at 43" back - this may mean that will get to see Ullrich this tour. Today's race puts Armstrong 32" in front of Beloki, 38" in front of Ullrich, and 1'32" in front of Botero. Simoni who was talking trash before the TdF is now 3'8" back. Armstrong's teammate Pena will get to wear the yellow jersey tomorrow on his birthday.
Will Swetnam had mentioned this a couple of days in his blog, but I couldn't find the photos that he was mentioning. He's now followed up with details and a link to actual photos. Accordig to Swetnam's description, the bike is only 1/10th of a pound lighter than the 5900, but it's been re-engineered for much better airflow.
and for comparison, the 5900:
Petacchi won his second stage (not bad three stages into the race), and Tyler Hamilton is still in the race. The standings are still bunched, but tomorrow's team time trial should shake things up nicely.
The Tour de France started yesterday with today being the first real stage (Saint-Denis/Montgeron - Meaux). It sounds like it was a doozy. Alessandro Petacchi took the sprint but plenty of top contenders crashed behind. Armstrong crashed with a bunch of other bikers but appears fine. Tyler Hamilton, unfortunately, is not, so we won't get to see him try to challenge his former boss. I'm currently missing all of this, so I think I'm gonna go to Circuit City tomorrow and get me a DirectTiVo to supplement my basic cable TiVo, as American sports bars simply don't appreciate the Tour de France (nor the fact that it's at 7 in the morning).