August 2, 2005

Y'all really like Armstrong

I've been using mybloglog to try clickstats on my blog in order to figure out what content you, my audience, enjoys. For the past several months the answer has tended to point towards MythBusters as being a popular content destination, but it's never been a consensus, and the rest of the results have been far from elucidating.

This past month delivered a clear and resounding answer: YOU DIG LANCE ARMSTRONG. I used to consider seven clicks on a single link in a single day a high number. During the Tour de France, I regularly saw twenty, even forty clicks, and while the links you clicked on changed throughout the month, the man behind them was always the same: Lance.

It's been a week since the end of the Tour and the traffic has died down, but photos of Lance are still running hot. Here's the rundown from the past week:

1) 172 clicks


2) 143 clicks


3) 134 clicks


4) 130 clicks


5) 129 clicks


6) 119 clicks


7) 116 clicks


8) 99 clicks


9) 98 clicks


10) 97 clicks


July 24, 2005

Stage 21: Corbeil-Essonnes - Paris

vinoVino, wow. It was first Vino vs. 4 Gerolsteiners (including Leipheimer) at the first intermediate sprint bonus, a battle that Vino won through pure power. That little victory pulled him within hundredths of a second of fifth place behind Leipheimer, but then the rain struck, and Team Disco had a little crash. The race organizers decided fresh rain and the cobblestones of the Champs-Élysées were too treacherous and announced that the end of the race was going to be neutralized: the finishing time would be taken on the first circuit of the Champs-Élysées and there would be no more sprint bonuses. Bad news for Vino, who just need one more bonus to move up a place.

Perhaps annoyed that he thought his shot at fifth place was ruined by the rain, Vino's next act was to start stirring things up on the Champs-Élysées. He helped get the pace moving as the sun started to dry the cobblestones, and with about 2 miles to go he made his final move. He duked it out with McGee, darting back and forth across the wide Champs-Élysées boulevard, and with a final sprint he took the stage win. To win on the Champs-Élysées is honor enough, but the judges thought better of the stage neutralization and awarded Vino the time bonus, moving him into the top five, where he certainly belonged after a great Tour showing: two stage victories and aheckalotta attacks on Armstrong for T-Mobile.

The Tour was over long before Vino crossed the finish line. With the race neutralization, Armstrong's victory was official as soon as they hit the Champs-Élysées, which had to calm Team Discovery's nerves after Hincapie and Popovych crashed on the way in, and with Armstrong narrowly avoiding the same crash.

armstrong armstrong leaders armstrong armstrong

(AP Photo/Prevel/Trovati/Dejong/Papon/Dejong)

This was it folks. Armstrong's farewell ride. A parade into Paris. Glasses of champagne. Half a million people along the course to wish him goodbye -- wow the cheering was loud. Some bumps and scratches for his teammates and some momentary stress, but otherwise full of smiles, holding up 7 fingers, shaking hands, and mugging for the camera.

champagne champagne seven seven seven seven

(AP Photo/Trovati x 4/Dejong x 2)

For the first time in a couple years, Armstrong's team was successfully challenged. Armstrong called his fourth victory the Year of the Team, and since then his opponents had found Armstrong+8 an impenetrable wall. This year's team was considered by many to be the strongest team ever to support Armstrong: the current Giro di Italia winner, Armstrong's hand-picked successor, etc... T-Mobile, though, had Team Disco figured out, repeatedly putting in the one-two-three attacks with Vino, Kloden, and Ullrich, and it was up to Armstrong to deal with his opponents without the domestiques.

photoArmstrong, by himself, never gave his opponents an opening. He started by passing Ullrich in Stage 1, psychologically eliminating his hand-picked rival on the very first day. There seemed to be a couple minutes during Stage 14 when it seemed that he was going to be attacked succesfully as his major opponents put some road between them and Armstrong. The chink in the armor was illusory: Armstrong, patient, stood up on his pedals and stomped his way back to the front, in control, and, as was his way this Tour, led all his contenders uphill. He was The Boss.

It's hard to imagine another athlete with such a dominating legacy. Jordan ruined his by coming out of retirement and showing the weakness that came with age. Gretzky was great, but even in his Oilers heyday never dominated for seven consecutive years. Joe Montana? Nope? Tiger Woods once seemed that he might, but that no longer looks possible. And then, of course, there's the whole cancer thing. Most legacies end on such a note; Armstrong's began.

armstrongIn terms of other ways to view this year's Tour, I think this could be deemed the Year of the Americans. From stage 1, with Dave Zabriskie's time trial victory into the yellow jersey, Americans have made their presence felt: the yellow jersey spent all but one day in the hands of an American, Hincapie got a stage victory, and Leipheimer and Landis rode high in the overall standings. Horner and Julich also made good showings and Freddie Rodriguez led out McEwen for his victories. I cannot recall so many American riders riding so prominently in a Tour, and I hope the upward trend will continue. I expressed some worry about the future of cycling in America with Armstrong leaving the sport, but this year's Tour shows that Armstrong has left a positive national legacy in the sport. Now Armstrong's off to be a father and the rest of the American riders will have to ensure this legacy on their own.

Continue reading "Stage 21: Corbeil-Essonnes - Paris" »

July 23, 2005

Stage 20: Saint-Etienne Individual Time Trial

armstrong armstrong armstrong armstrong armstrong armstrong

(AP Photo/Ena/Ena/Ena/Dejong/Trovati/Ena)

Armstrong's final victory, first of this Tour, and a great conclusion to his career. It looked like it would be a close one at the first check, with Basso in front of Armstrong and Ullrich, but by the next check there was no doubt: Armstrong was going to win this one and he would get the stage victory he needed to legitimize his yellow jersey. Armstrong will win this tour by 4:40, not his biggest margin, but a huge margin nevertheless.

Today's victory by Armstrong was all about preparation. While all the other riders were struggling through the technical course with their aerodynamic, rear disc wheels, Armstrong was nimbly picking apart the turns with a much more maneuverable three-spoke rear wheel. The equipment choice seemed to hurt Basso, who looked hesitant on the technical second leg of the course, dropping from seven seconds up in the first time check to 34 seconds behind Ullrich through the second check.

Top 8 finishers (four Americans!) and their gear choices: Hincapie, Evans, Landis, Basso, Julich, Vinokourov, Ullrich, Armstrong

hincapie evans landis basso julich vino ullrich armstrong

The course was treacherous enough to cause 3rd-now-7th place Rasmussen to disintegrate, crashing twice and switching bikes 4+ times. Rasmussen was the real disaster story of this stage, and I can't ever recall seeing a worse performance by a rider in an individual time trial. Rasmussen wasn't going to hold 3rd place against Ullrich, but his collapse pushed him out of the top five overall. People will remember this stage for both it's great and horrible performances: Armstrong's dominating farewell and Rasmussen's catastrophe.

The Tour may be all but over for Armstrong, but some of the other GC contenders will duke it out tomorrow. Leipheimer broke into the top 5, but Vino had a great performance today and is now only 2 seconds behind him. It should make some of the intermediate sprints more interesting.

Continue reading "Stage 20: Saint-Etienne Individual Time Trial" »

July 22, 2005

Stage 19: Issoire - Le Puy-en-Velay

arm break g

T-Mobile's Guerini wins in yet another long breakaway for the Tour. With a mile to go he sprinted away from the other three riders in his break, who were all frozen in indecision as to who would give chase. Guerini's victory looked easy.

Tomorrow will be the big individual time trial. No more long breakaways to predict. We've had the opportunity to see who is strong this year, and tomorrorw should be the Lance Armstrong show. Ullrich has looked good enough to put in a strong performance, but Armstrong will get to start behind him and find out all of his splits. It won't be as embarassing as stage 1, where Armstrong passed Ullrich in the short time trial, and sadly there will be no Zabriskie to light up the course, but the performances should be fun to watch as we try to figure out what a Lance-less Tour will look like.

Stage profile and my stage log in the extended.

Continue reading "Stage 19: Issoire - Le Puy-en-Velay" »

July 21, 2005

Stage 18: Albi - Mende

serrano basso/arm

(AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

Serrano takes the victory, attacking on the final climb and beating out his fellow riders in the breakaway of the day. This is Liberty Seguros' first stage victory of the Tour, a big lift for a team that's been doing bad enough that their own director has publically criticized his team leaders. Team Discovery gave up it's lead in the team classification to T-Mobile after T-Mobile's rider Kessler made it into the break. Disco have to make up 11 minutes in the time trial or send another rider on a break tomorrow if they want continue their domination of the various classifications.

Some minor reshuffling was done in the GC after Rasmussen and Vino each lost about half a minute to Ullrich and Evans. CSC and Discovery blew apart the peloton on the final climb and the various overall contenders tried to duke it out to move up position in the top ten. Armstrong was strong as he has been throughout, with him and Basso crossing the line ahead of all the other overall contenders (but far, far behind Serrano).

Continue reading "Stage 18: Albi - Mende" »

July 20, 2005

Stage 17: Pau-Revel

sprint paolo v

(AP Photo/Ena/Trovati/Trovati)

A great Tour for Team Discovery as another Armstrong teammate, Paolo Savoldelli, gets a stage win after getting into a very large breakaway and attacking on the last small climb. That attack whittled the breakaway down to four riders. Arvesen attacked with a little over a kilometer to go and Savoldelli chased him down, passing him just before the finish line.

Team Discovery/USPS must be trying to make up for the dearth of non-Armstrong stage victories in the past as lieutenant Hincapie got Stage 15 and now Giro winner Savoldelli gets Stage 17. Armstrong still has no stage victory for himself this Tour, but there's always the Stage 20 time trial.

Team Disco has had plenty of success this Tour and at the end of Stage 17 they now are:

  • First in the General Classification (Armstrong)
  • First in the Young Rider Classification (Popovych)
  • First in the Team Classification
  • Three stage victories (Team Time Trial, Hincapie, Savoldelli)

Their lead in the team classification is slim (37 seconds over T-Mobile), and it will be largely dependent on the Stage 20 time trial, which T-Mobile will have to race without Kloden (abandoned due to wrist injury).

Continue reading "Stage 17: Pau-Revel" »

July 19, 2005

Old News and Future Thoughts

The Tour backposting is 'complete' (Stage 12 13 14 15). My writeups aren't up to my desired level of detail or illustrated with as many photos as I would like, but concessions must be made, especially with the new Harry Potter in my possession.

My elation at watching Armstrong succeed in this year's Tour is already starting to get that twinge of foreboding that come July 24th, Armstrong will no longer be competing. The big mountain stages are now done, and all that's left is to see if Armstrong can put in a dominating time trial performance in Stage 20.

I am not sad that Armstrong is retiring. He chose the right time to retire, at the top of his sport, with no more accolades worth being an absent father. There will be seven years, 147 stages of Tour de France DVD footage of him riding his way to victory in Paris.

When I do worry it's when I think about the void Armstrong's retirement will leave in American cycling. I worry that this is my last opportunity for awhile to try and dissect each Tour stage because OLN will no longer carry daily coverage of future Tours. I worry that the fledgling San Francisco Grand Prix and Tour de Georgia will lose public support. Someone, an American, will have to carry the banner of American cycling forward.

There are many more American riders having success in the Tour than when Armstrong first arrived: Dave Zabriskie won stage 1, George Hincapie won stage 15, Chris Horner nearly won Stage 13, and Levi Leipheimer and Floyd Landis have stayed high in the overall. None of them have quite the brand of "Lance ARMSTRONG, Cancer Survivor," but I have high hopes nevertheless. My memorable highlight from this year will not be of Armstrong, but of his teammate Hincapie. After being there for Armstrong in each of his Tour victories, I've waited for Hincapie get a TdF distinction all his own.

Several years ago, I would have said that Armstrong was my favorite rider. Today I would say that it's Dave Zabriskie. It's not because Armstrong in anyway fallen in my view, but now there are so many more American riders to choose from, riders with more to gain from future accomplishments. That is part of Armstrong's legacy, and for that, Thank You Lance Armstrong.

Stage 16: Mourenx - Pau

arm pereiro finish

(AP Photo/Ena/Edme/Trovati)

Pereiro loudly complained about Hincapie's victory yesterday -- Hincapie had sat on Pereiro's wheel on the final climb and came around at the end to take the victory. That was uphill, where drafting doesn't matter as much.

Today, Pereiro and two other riders sat on Evans wheel on a flat stage sprint, letting Evans pull for the final 5k or so. In the final sprint Pereiro jumped around Evans' wheel and took the stage victory. Evans did all the work because he wanted to jump into the top ten in the overall standings, so he had no time to lose time and play games.

This is not to say Pereiro didn't deserve to win today -- he more than earned this finish after riding himself into the "Most Aggressive Rider" designation and doing his work for teammates Botero and Landis. He also nearly soloed his way to victory on this stage but was stopped short by a rock in his wheel that forced him to wait for repairs. Perhaps he should be more careful, though, about what he chooses to complain about, lest people like me make these snarky comparisons.

Despite not getting the stage victory, it was a big day for Evans who climbed all the way into seventh place, with Landis and Vino right behind him. It should make for a good time trial performance by all three. The Tour from here on out is about the sprinters green jersey competition and a time trial to determine who places in the Top Ten, or rather, in 2nd-10th place, as everyone has long conceded that Armstrong is The Boss. Rasmussen is probably in the toughest spot right now: he's riding in a podium position right now (3rd), but sitting in 4th place in Jan Ullrich who can tear the cranks off his bike when it comes to the time trial. Rasmussen has already accomplished all of his goals for this Tour -- King of the Mountains and a stage win -- but those suprise accomplishments are always welcome.

Stage profile and my stage log in the extended.

Continue reading "Stage 16: Mourenx - Pau" »

July 18, 2005

I'm back

I'm back. It's 2am. I arrived home about 4 hours ago. Since then I've watched three of the four Tour de France stages I've missed. One more stage and I'll finally be able to take the media blinders down.

Our Internet connection in San Diego ran out Saturday evening soon after we got back to our hotel room. You may have to wait a day or two for the dramatic conclusion to Tour de Comic-Con.

July 17, 2005

Stage 15: Lézat-sur-Lèze - Saint-Lary Soulan

stage15.hincapie.jpg Hincapie! Since 1999 Hincapie has ridden for Armstrong in the Tour, helping Armstrong to many victories but never taking one for himself. With this being Armstrong's final Tour, it's about time that Hincapie gets his just rewards for his hardwork. It probably wasn't in the playbook for Hincapie to take the stage, but as things shaped up on the penultimate climb things just got better and better for Discovery. The other riders isolated Armstrong again, but the attacks were less spirited. Eventually it was just Armstrong and Basso, while up the road Hincapie's breakaway kept getting smaller and smaller. Hincapie didn't have to do any work in the breakaway, which left him with fresher legs with which to easily outsprint Pereiro for the victory.

This was the 'queen' stage of the Tour -- no stage has quite as many leg-punishing climbs. Discovery sent Hincapie in the early breakaway of 14 riders, which was slowly whittled down over each of the day's big climbs. Discovery probably wanted to put Hincapie in the break for two reasons: 1) to force other teams to chase the breakaway and 2) to have an extra teammate for Armstrong available if the breakaway was chased down -- with all the isolation attacks on Armstrong, a good way to counter them is to just place a teammate further up the road. The strategy worked better than planned. CSC and T-Mobile did give chase and they did repeat their isolation attacks on Armstrong on the Col de Val-Louron Azet. After those attacks was Armstrong, Ullrich, and Basso. Some riders caught up on the descent, but it was quickly those three again as they attacked up the Pla d'Adet. Ullrich looked good, but eventually he could hold on no longer, and it was just Armstrong and Basso.

Continue reading "Stage 15: Lézat-sur-Lèze - Saint-Lary Soulan" »

July 16, 2005

Stage 14: Agde - Ax-3-Domaines

bas whittle arm/bas totsch

Totschnig left it all on the road and took the stage victory, collapsing to the road after the effort. Not even the theatrics behind him could reel him in.

T-Mobile successfully derailed the Discovery Train, but Armstrong showed that he was worth more than the three top T-Mobile riders combined. Vinokourov launched multiple attacks, and Ullrich and Basso got away up the road. Armstrong bided his time, either waiting for Popo to catch up or for the group he was with to pick up the tempo. Neither happened, so Armstrong kicked hard and quickly got back up to the Ullrich and Basso group. He went to the front of that group, set his own tempo, and ended up dropping Ullrich and Basso in the final kilometers of the final climb.

Armstrong's opponents must be demoralized at this point. T-Mobile had a good plan of attack that knocked off Armstrong's helpers, and everyone who mattered was able to get some distance on Armstrong, but it didn't matter. Armstrong was better. He was patient. He took back control. He put everyone back behind him. It helped that Kloden and Ullrich seemed to have it in for their own teammate, Vino: they pulled back both of Vino's big attacks, perhaps angry that Vino is shopping his contract to Team Disco.

Continue reading "Stage 14: Agde - Ax-3-Domaines" »

July 15, 2005

Stage 13: Miramas-Montpellier

American Chris Horner was close -- really, really close -- but it just goes to show how important tactics are to road cycling. Horner was part of an early break of riders that were slowly gobbled up one by one. Chavanal managed to jump over to the breakaway with around thirty kilometers to go, and he and Horner made a go for the win as it appeared that the sprinter teams couldn't get enough organization at the front to reel those last two riders in. With 5k to go it appeared that they were holding them off -- 5k 0:16, 4k 0:14, 3k 0:14, 2k 0:10 -- but it was in the final kilometer that the crucial mistake was made.

Horner was much more tired than Chavanal as Chavanal spent much more of the day sitting in the peloton shielded from the wind. He probably figured that in a straight sprint Chavanal had a big advantage, so he pressed his luck by trying to sitting on Chavanal's wheel instead of coming through to do a pull. Chavanal obviously didn't like the idea of Horner nicking him at the line and with the peloton closing in he needed a bit of effort from Horner to help hold them off. Instead, Horner sat on Chavanal's wheel until about 300m to go, where he made a sprint for the finish. It was too late: American "Fast" Freddie Rodriguez was already leading out Robbie McEwen, and Robbie McEwen was launched like a rocket around Horner and across the finish line.

A 173.5km stage. Horner spent 150km in the lead. Horner and Chavanal were caught in the final 200m. That's road cycling.

Continue reading "Stage 13: Miramas-Montpellier" »

July 14, 2005

Stage 12: Briancon-Digne-les-Bains

victoryIt was Bastille Day, and perhaps if I had thought about this I would have picked differently, because Bastille Day is the day that the tardy French riders show up for national pride. Virenque gave the French a victory last year and this year that duty fell to David Moncoutie. Moncoutie attacked from a breakaway up the climbs. The chase group tried to pull him back in, but couldn't, and eventually started fighting amongst themselves to see who would cross the line in second. This gave Moncoutie plenty of time down the final straightaway to savor his well-earned victory.

The big news in the sprinter's competition today was that Boonen, leader in the green jersey competition, abandoned due to one too many injuries. That put the green jersey back into competition, and perhaps McEwen is wishing he hadn't so publically given up on the competition after getting relegated. Hushovd, O'Grady, and McEwen will now be fighting it out to see who ends up in green in Paris. McEwen has a lot of ground to cover to jump from third into first, but he has the advantage in the bunch sprints. Today he was able to win the peloton's bunch sprint at the end, but that was for 14th place, not first.

Continue reading "Stage 12: Briancon-Digne-les-Bains" »

Protective Tour Googles

Courtesy of Hogue, I now have this greasemonkey script to shield my eyes from inadvertent Tour revelations. I've pasted the code below for those who may find themselves in similar situations requiring selective news display.

As for real world news filters, Team Uni is doing a great job protecting me already. At dinner tonight parakkum told me to keep my eyes on my plate and not look up -- Stage 11 was on TV. The alarm was unnecessary as I'd seen Stage 11 this morning, but it shows that the team is on form today and ready to go.

// ==UserScript==
// @name No Tour
// @description pop up an alert on any page containing Tour de France info
// @include *
// ==/UserScript==

var badness = new Array(6);
badness[0] = 'armstrong';
badness[1] = 'tour de france';
badness[2] = 'cycling';
badness[3] = 'yellow jersey';
badness[4] = 'lance';
badness[5] = 'tdf';

function check() {
	var body = document.getElementsByTagName('body')[0].innerHTML.toLowerCase();
	for (var i = 0; i < badness.length; i++) {
		var index = body.indexOf(badness[i]);
		if (index > 0) {
			var temp = document.getElementsByTagName('body')[0].innerHTML;
			document.getElementsByTagName('body')[0].innerHTML = '<div 

align="center"><h1>SHIELD YOUR EYES</h1></div>';
			alert("The goggles, they do nothing!");
			alert(badness[i]+" is mentioned on this page");
			document.getElementsByTagName('body')[0].innerHTML = temp;

window.addEventListener('load', check, true);

July 13, 2005

That's all folks (til Sunday)

I'm heading off to the Tour de Comic-Con. Tonight is the prologue. I expect big crowds and mad dashes across the convention floor, but the shorter day today should keep plenty of energy in the legs for tomorrow.

This means: no more Tour de France updates until Sunday night. (some of my regular readers may celebrate).

As you might have read in the Tour de Comic-Con entry, I am going to do my best to maintain radio silence while away. I may allow myself some Internet time, but I will need the help of my teammates to screen for spoilers. The Tour de France is simply too big nowadays that even political sites like Daily Kos have updates. A lotta newsstands may have to be kicked to the ground and there may be some heroic dives to cover my eyes/ears, but I think my teammates are up to the task :).

I redeemed my prognostication skills picking Vino today, so I can leave now pretending that I know what I'm doing. I'll undo my success by attempting to pick the upcoming stages for which I'll be away: I expect to see Armstrong win a stage either Saturday or Sunday, and eventually Basso is going to have to earn his team leader title. Basso's never broken Armstrong, but he might be able to jump off Armstrong's wheel on one of those stages for a win. Those will be stages where the overall contenders show themselves, even if Armstrong looks to have this one sewn up. Rasmussen will probably need some time if he wants to finish on the podium, so I wouldn't be surprised to see him winning one of those weekend stages. If Voigt has anything left in the tank, which he might not, he could go for a win Thursday or Friday. Either way, I expect to see a CSC break in the next two days (possibly with Sorensam if Voigt can't) as they have been notably silent since winning the yellow jersey for a day. I also hope for Horner to finally leave his mark as Valverde did, but of the two Valverde seems more likely.

LazyWeb Request: I need an anti-spoiler newsreader, i.e. I need a feature that filters any news story that mentions "Armstrong, Tour, cycling, yellow jersey, etc..." and buffers those away for another day.

Stage 11: Courchevel-Briancon


(AP Photo/Alessandro Trovati)

Vino's simply too good to let a bad day on Stage 10 keep him down. The time he lost yesterday also worked to his advantage: unlike previous attacks Armstrong no longer had any reason to respond. He attacked with a group on the Col de la Madeleine climb, whittled it down to just him and Botero, and outsmarted Botero for the finish in Briancon. He had dropped Botero on the Col du Galibier climb, taking the prize for winning the highest climb in the Tour, but Botero caught him on the descent and they rode together into Briancon.

This shouldn't matter too much for Armstrong and Discovery. Vino lost too much time yesterday to be a threat, so Armstrong could afford to give Vino the minute of time. Discovery rode in a defensive mode today and managed to keep a team of five riders all the way from the top of the Col du Galibier climb to the finish. With that many riders at his side, there was no way that any of the contenders could hope to attack -- their own teammates had already fallen away.

Moreau made a go for some King of the Mountain points. He did well over the first two climbs, but Rasmussen took the remaining points on the final climb. Moreau also took the third place sprint bonus to move into third place overall.

Continue reading "Stage 11: Courchevel-Briancon" »

July 12, 2005

Stage 10: A tactical view

I haven't done any specific entries regarding stage tactics, but this is a good stage to analyze in this regard.

If you're interested in how Stage 10 unfolded tactically, read on, though note that I'm not a cycling expert, and my prediction that Armstrong wouldn't attack today was completely wrong. (update: according to Armstrong's trainer, Discovery wasn't going to attack, but the order was given when they saw Vino weaken during Disco's high tempo up the final climb).

Continue reading "Stage 10: A tactical view" »

Stage 10: Grenoble-Courchevel

armstrong ullrich valverde armstrong

(AP Photo/Fife/Trovati/Dejong/Dejong/Ena)

Boom! I guess Armstrong couldn't bear to be without the yellow jersey for more than a day. Armstrong and Team Discovery put down the hammer on all of his contenders in a single stage. I thought that Armstrong was just going to try and contain today and save the big effort for the Pyrenees, but boy was I wrong. Discovery set an amazing pace through the valley towards Courchevel, announcing that Armstrong had loftier goals for the stage. They picked up the pace on the final climb and many major riders were dropped even before the slopes really started kicking in. With Popovych as his last paceman, Armstrong had Popo accelerate and launched his final attack. Ullrich and Vino were quickly dropped, along with Landis, Botero, or just about everyone else that might have a claim to the overall. Basso was the only contender able to follow, but even he was eventually dropped by the fast pace.

Armstrong whittled the group down to Rasmussen, Valverde, and Mancebo, and it was Valverde who was too good for Armstrong to drop. Armstrong attacked in the final 500m and Valverde jumped onto his wheel and then around to take the stage win. Given that Valverde is a rookie, it's easy to see that he may have a big future ahead.

Popo gets a lot of credit for today. Earlier in the stage he was still brushing off the dirt from a run in with an embankment, yet he was the one who put in the final kick that sent Armstrong's opponents off the back. Mancebo also gets a lot of credit for his teammate Valverde's victory -- two teammates in a breakaway of four is a big advantage, especially with Armstrong doing so much work to try and keep up the pace. Mancebo's pulls at the end helped put Valverde across the line first.

A sampliing of some of today's damage:

Basso: 1:02
Ullrich: 2:14
Kloden: 2:14
Landis: 2:14
Vinokourov: 5:18
Heras: ~10:00

Maps and stage log in the extended.

Continue reading "Stage 10: Grenoble-Courchevel" »

July 10, 2005

Stage 9: Gerardmer-Mulhouse

armstrong in yellow CheChu Voigt breakaway Rasmussen Finish Voigt in Yellow

Armstrong gave up the yellow jersey today, but it was actually a great day for Team Discovery. Armstrong said he wanted to get rid of the jersey to take off some of the pressure and he found an able recipient in CSC's Jens Voigt. While Voigt attacked up the road with Moreau, trying to catch up to Rasmussen, Team Discovery controlled the peloton with a high tempo up the final big climb, Le Ballon d'Alsace. Armstrong had five of his teammates this time up the final climb, no one was able to attack, and Rubiera was earned teammate-of-the-day awards by setting a pace up the whole climb that caused riders to fall off the back left and right.

The big rider on the day was Rasmussen of Rabobank. He won every climb and solidified his lead in the King of the Mountains competition. Not content with that, he soloed his way to victory, with none of the chasing groups behind able to bring him back. I think he'll be needing tomorrow's rest day.

The bad news on the day is that Zabriskie has dropped out. After finishing dead last yesterday, the mountains were too much for his multiple injuries. Maybe we'll see him again in the Vuelta adding another stage victory there.

Maps and live notes in the extended.

Continue reading "Stage 9: Gerardmer-Mulhouse" »

July 9, 2005

Stage 8: Pforzheim-Gerardmer

photo photo photo

(AP Photo/Christophe Ena/Alessandro Trovati/Ena)

Under Pressure. Big first mountain stage to break in the legs. The GC contenders mostly held together, but the final climb demonstrated that T-Mobile is ready to put the smackdown on Discovery. Vino soften up the yellow jersey by relentlessly attacking Armstrong up the final climb. Ullrich sat on Armstrong's wheel while Kloden launched an attack. Armstrong didn't respond to Kloden's move, and Kloden, catching up to a breakaway by Weening, was able to tag team his way to the finish and gain 0:27 on Armstrong.

photo finishWeening nicked the stage on the line by sitting in Kloden's slipstream for the final kilometer and doing no work. Kloden had more to gain because he would get time in the overall classification, so Weening could play that to his advantage. I would think it's a litle embarassing for Weening to only win by a hair under those circumstances, but you wouldn't be able to tell with Weening jumping onto the stage to celebrate.

Armstrong probably won't be worrying too much about Kloden's 0:27 time gain as much as (1) T-Mobile has a stronger one-two-three punch than thought with Kloden suddenly on form and (2) his Discovery team disintegrated: after Vino's initial volley there were no teammates left.

Armstrong looked strong and responded as necessary to the attacks that mattered, but he will have to hope his team puts in a better performance in the coming stages or there are going to be some long, lonely climbs ahead. Armstrong is mentioning some "talking" that his team is going to have to do tonight; he also said that he wasn't strong today (coulda fooled me).

The overall standings were cleaned up by this stage. No major riders dropped, but the non-contenders moved down. Also, Discovery lost the white young rider's jersey as Popo gave it over to Karpets, who is a favorite in the competition.

1 Lance Armstrong
2 Jens Voigt 1.00
3 Alexandre Vinokourov 1.02
4 Bobby Julich 1.07
5 Ivan Basso 1.26
6 Jan Ullrich 1.36
7 Carlos Sastre
8 George Hincapie 1.47
9 Andreas Klöden 1.50
10 Floyd Landis (USA) Phonak Hearing Systems

Continue reading "Stage 8: Pforzheim-Gerardmer" »

July 8, 2005

The Mountains are Coming!

According to Ullrich, "Now the Tour really starts and we are ready!"

In celebration of the end to the boring sprinter's segment, I've put together a preview of the mountainous stages to come using my trusty Google Earth. The satellite imagery that it provided for my earlier stage writeups wasn't very exciting, but, now that there's some terrain to behold, I can actually tilt the maps to show you some 3D.

Stage 8 will break the riders in, but they'll have plenty of time to rest up before it's final category 2 climb. Stage 9 and 10 have the first category 1 climbs of the Tour, but I'm most looking forward to the classic Hors Category climbs of Stage 11.

We'll have several good stages to see Armstrong, Vino, and Basso on the move, and maybe Jens Voigt will finally take that breakaway that I've been waiting for. We'll also get to see if the Spanish climbers (Heras, Mayo, Beloki, etc...) have any form this year.

Keep reading on if you want to see the pretty maps (warning: large file sizes ahead)

Continue reading "The Mountains are Coming!" »

Stage 7: Luneville-Karlsruhe

mcewen photo

(AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

keyhole.stage7.jpgMcEwen x 2

The finish line was in Karlsruhe, Germany, and the German rider Wegmann made a breakaway that lasted for about 150k on the long stage, but the peloton lazily pulled him back for the sprint at the end.

It was a messy sprint finish as it was a wide open boulevard finish with multiple sprint teams fighting for control. No team was strong enough to hold the leadout and there was a crash in the final sprint. Boonen couldn't find a wheel and McEwen sprinted up the side barrier to take the win.

Continue reading "Stage 7: Luneville-Karlsruhe" »

July 7, 2005

Stage 6: Troyes-Nancy


Bernucci of Fassa wins the stage in a rainy, crash-filled final kilometer. Five people were in a breakaway and hometown boy Mengin managed to sprint away as the rest of the breakaway was being caught. Vino and Bernucci attacked from the peloton and were nearly catching Mengin when, just after the 1km banner, Mengin crashed on a wet ninety-degree turn. Bernucci scooted around but Vino had to slow up and take a foot out of his pedal. They both rode on but many riders at the front of the peloton slid through the turn behind them straight into poor Mengin, who suffered a black eye from one of the sliding bikes. The 3km crash rule applied, but the sprinters were taken out of the main event.

The smart attack by Vino means that he gained 16 seconds on Armstrong (12 second time bonus for finishing second) and now sits 1'05" back.

Continue reading "Stage 6: Troyes-Nancy" »

July 6, 2005

Stage 5: Chambord - Montargis

photoMcEwen finally takes a stage win, getting revenge for his stage 3 relegation. I switched my sprint pick from McEwen to Boonen today, so just my luck McEwen finally beats Boonen to the line. Boonen is still in the green jersey lead, but at least it looks like there's going to be some good battling to the line in the sprint stages to come. McEwen is still griping about his relegation and loss of sprint points, but he's still going to battle it out for the stage victories. (photo: AFP)

Zabriskie raced today with some bandages but otherwise okay. Armstrong tried to honor him and the yellow jersey by not wearing the jersey at the start -- following in the tradition set by Merckx and Lemond that the jersey should not be taken by a crash -- but he was told by the race officials, "If you don't start with that jersey you're not starting tomorrow at all," so Armstrong raced with a hastily pulled on yellow jersey.

Stage profile and live stage log in the extended.

Continue reading "Stage 5: Chambord - Montargis" »

July 5, 2005


Zabriskie's out of yellow after his terrible crash today, which is now being blamed on a skipped chain. Less than one mile from the finish he fell to the pavement, slid, and hit the barrier. He rode a replacement bike in, slowly, and with his head down. If he hadn't fell, he would at least be tied for the overall, and more likely be in the yellow jersey. (Update: Zabriskie is saying he doesn't know what happened, and team manager Riis' speculation is that DZ's knee hit his elbow, but this is one that will probably never be known)

I hope this isn't a dramatic conclusion to what has been an amazing start by Zabriskie in this year's Tour -- the news is reporting cuts and bruises but no broken bones. His performance on stage 1 was beyond even Armstrong and he's major reason why Team CSC is a match for Team Discovery this year. He's won a stage in all three Grand Tours and his interviews, by far, are the most entertaining, involving topics like using the Credit Lyonnais stuffed lions (prize for the overall leader) as pillows and the difficulties of finding a place to go to the bathroom when all eyes are on you.

I've posted some more photos from Zabriskie's win at Morgan Hill to commemorate his three days in yellow. He won't have the chance again this year, but everyone's taken notice of him now, and with Armstrong retiring Zabriskie will be one of the young American cyclists carrying the banner of American cycling forward.

Morgan Hill Grand Prix-30 Zabriskie-1-1 Zabriskie-1-2 Morgan Hill Grand Prix-17 Morgan Hill Grand Prix-15 Zabriskie-1-3 Zabriskie-2 Zabriskie-3 Zabriskie-1

Stage 4: Team Time Trial, Tours-Blois

(photos: Alessandro Trovati/Ena)


DISCOVERY CHANNEL! Armstrong is in yellow after the fastest Tour team time trial in history.

It came right down to the wire with an amazing finish: CSC had the lead by two seconds at the final checkpoint, but Discovery was accelerating throughout. CSC would have had to do the last two kilometers in two minutes to keep the yellow jersey, but that ambition and the stage win were lost when Zabriskie crashed with 1.5km to go. T-Mobile was also in the mix: Discovery and T-Mobile were matching each other's times through the first two checkpoints by a second. T-Mobile had posted the fastest time on the day, but Discovery was much faster than the on the last segment and finished 0'36" ahead (which will get reduced to 0'30" due to the recently new kooky Team Time Trial rules).

Armstrong has a 0'55" lead in the overall -- on his own teammate Hincapie. American Bobby Julich is sitting in 4th place at 1'07" back, but the nearest serious competitor is Vino at 1'21" back. Basso and Ullrich are both about a minute and a half back, 1'26" and 1'36" respectively.

1 Discovery Channel Team 1.10.39 (57.324 km/h)
2 Team CSC 0.02
3 T-Mobile Team 0.36

Continue reading "Stage 4: Team Time Trial, Tours-Blois" »

July 4, 2005

Stage 3: La Chataigneraie-Tours

keyhole.stage3.s.jpgHappy Fourth of July! Today's stage started with an American rider in yellow and with this being a sprint stage the overall standings weren't going to change. The course was 212km (~San Diego to Los Angeles), which means that there would be about 200km of mostly boring riding followed by an exciting sprint setup and finish. There was some action on the day that came from a breakaway. There were two baby climbs near the end of the course that the breakaway managed to survive until, and Dekker took both and along with them the King of the Mountains jersey from Voeckler.

photoBoonen took the sprint again, jumping out from fairly far back to power through the messy field of riders. He's so strong this year that I'd do much better with my predictions just to keep picking him. My pick Robbie McEwen got boxed in behind Boonen and tried to push aside Stuart O'Grady, a move that got McEwen relegated to last place.

Tomorrow is the team time trial, which I love watching. The Tour is a team race, even if an individual gets the glory, and tomorrow is a reminder of that. The riders will have to drill in military-like formations trying to best cut through the wind as well use their collecive strength to power through. The forecast says rain, which means that there will probably be crashes and flat tires that will cause teams to have to decide whether or not to leave a man behind or wait up.

Stage profile and my live stage log are in the extended.

Continue reading "Stage 3: La Chataigneraie-Tours" »

July 3, 2005

Stage 2: Challans-Essarts


photoToday was a sprint stage, which means their weren't any big climbs to break apart the pack and the finish line is relatively flat. The sprint teams will take control of the race as it approaches the finish so they can launch their appointed rider to the finish line.

There was a breakaway that lasted until the final 4 miles, but as with all breakaways on sprint stages, it was pretty easy to catch. On these flat sprint stages, it's just a matter of organization: there are more riders in the main pack than in the breakaway, so there are more riders to take turns at the front in the wind while the riders behind you ride in your slipstream. One of the reasons why breakaways always seem to be caught in the final kilometers is that the sprinter teams plan it that way. They know how far ahead the breakaway is, they know how many kilometers it would take to catch them, and they don't start working until they need to. Of course, sometimes they mess up, or sometimes the main pack has trouble cooperating, but for the most part a breakaway is a long shot, or just an opportunity to get your sponsor's jersey and equipment on camera, or an effort to get points/time in one of the mid-race sprint competitions.

photoMy prognostication skills weren't as good today. I picked McEwen for the win, but McEwen attacked too early in the sprint finish and got overtaken by Tom "My tooth aches but my legs don't" Boonen. McEwen said, "I made a bit of a tactical mistake... I just went from too far and practically gave the rest of the guys a lead out. I'll just have to do better next time." Boonen's been having such a great season, including winning huge races like Paris-Roubaix, the Tour of Flanders, and two stage of Paris-Nice.

Armstrong's quote for today: "The faster I pedal, the faster I retire."

Zabriskie's shared some important thoughts on what it means to be in the yellow jersey. Asked if he slept with the yellow jersey on, he answered, no, he slept "in the buff." Zabriskie was also asked what it was like racing on the road today in yellow. "It was exciting, a happy good feeling. It was unbelievable how many people there were on the roads. I could only find one place to go to the bathroom throughout the whole day and.... I took it."

Stage profile and my live log in the extended.

Continue reading "Stage 2: Challans-Essarts" »

July 2, 2005

Stage 1: Fromentine - Noirmoutier-en-l'Ile ITT


stage1.z.jpg stage1.z.jpg stage1.z.jpg

keyhole.stage1.c.jpgThe opening stage may not matter too much in the long run in terms of time, but in terms of gamesmanship, it's all about showing who's on form and who's not. Riders often hold back on their performances in the races leading up to the Tour, relying on them for training instead. Armstrong, for example, rode the 2005 Tour de Georgia in support of Tom Danielson and he made no serious attempt at the win in the Dauphine. Ivan Basso hasn't been seen in a race since the Giro, so his condition was an even bigger unknown. A strong performance by one of the contenders, namely Armstrong, can easily demoralize the rest of the field and cause them to shift their goals. This year's Tour, in particular, offered a bigger chance than usual to make a big statement. While most Tours start with a short 5-10km prologue, where the end-of-day time gaps are small, this year starts with a mini time trial of 19km, which even allows for the chance the a rider could wear the yellow jersey from start to finish.

So what were today's statements?

photoThe opening time trial was a great win for American cycling: Dave Zabriskie, who started too early in the day to even be featured on TV, set a fast mark that most of the field couldn't even get within a minute of. One exception was Lance Armstrong, who finished two seconds back and at this point already looks set to win his seventh Tour de France. Zabriskie, while not contending for the overall, earned the special distinction of having won a stage in all three grand tours (Tour, Giro, Vuelta) -- all in the past year.

Ullrich started a minute ahead of Armstrong, but things stated to look bad for Armstrong's rival when the referee started pulling away Ullrich's support car to make room for Armstrong's advance. Armstrong caught sight of Ullrich around the first time check and then easily caught and passed him. Despite having the fastest time at the second time check, Armstrong wasn't able to win the stage, so he loses his chance at making history by wearing yellow from start to finish. However, Armstrong will go into Stage 2 with a 1'06" lead on Ullrich and a 1'24" on Basso. Although Ullrich ceded less time than Basso, it had to be the most demoralizing to him as he watched Armstrong easily zoom past him.

Of Armstrong's big rivals, Vino looks the best at only 0'51" back. Given this performance, future stages may have Ullrich working for Vino.

Another American with a big day was George Hincapie. He stayed on form from his Dauphine time trial win and came in 4th, 0'57" back of Zabriskie. Discovery Channel overall did very well, with four riders finishing in the top 20 (even their 'climber' CheChu Rubiera). CSC also did well with four riders in the top 20, but their top man Basso was #20.

  1. Zabriskie David, CSC, USA
  2. Armstrong Lance, Discovery, USA 0'02"
  3. Vinokourov Alexandre, T-Mobile, KAZ 0'53"
  4. Hincapie George, Discovery, USA 0'57"
  5. Bodrogi Laszlo, Credit Agricole, HUN 0'59"

Stage profile and my live stage log from the stage are in the extended.

Continue reading "Stage 1: Fromentine - Noirmoutier-en-l'Ile ITT" »

July 1, 2005

Real Tour Coverage

I'll be doing write-ups on every stage, but I do it for fun, to synthesize, and for memory; for real coverage of the Tour de France here are my recommendations:

  • VeloNews: Stock coverage of the Tour de France, with additional interviews and rider diaries.
  • CyclingNews: The site I go to when I don't want spoilers (and the coverage is good). The text-based site is carefully laid out such that you can visit the front page and access results from previous stages without the mots recent results spoiled for you (in case you're catching up on TiVo).
  • Daily Peloton: I've become addicted to their Daily Jambon report. It's cheesy, but fun, and they try to celebrate the achievements from the entire field, not just the big names.
  • Graham Watson: Pro photographer that will be out there on a motorcycle taking photos of the riders every stage. Most of the photos I use in my entries are Watson's.
  • TdfBlog: the only cycling blog that I read regularly (both during and after the tour). A good spread of news from various sites.

June 30, 2005

Tdf2k5 Preview: The Riders

In preparation for the deluge, I'm going to try and be a little more responsible and explain what I'm writing, starting with the riders. You all know Armstrong, or at the very least you've worn the yellow Livestrong bracelets as fashion accessories, so I'll save my efforts by writing about the contenders.

The anointed challenger: Ullrich

ullrichTour de France finishes:

  • 1997: 1st
  • 1998: 2nd
  • 1999: did not race (Armstrong's first Tour win)
  • 2000: 2nd
  • 2001: 2nd
  • 2002: did not compete
  • 2003: 2nd
  • 2004: 4th

It is my opinion that Armstrong perenially names Ullrich as his one and only "challenger" in order to stick a big target on the guy's back. If Ullrich is "The Challenger," it makes him a marked man -- all other contenders have to beat Ullrich first. Not only does this make it harder for Ullrich to get away from the pack, but it also means that all the contenders are fighting for second place -- only after they have beaten Ullrich can they fight for first place.

Ullrich rides on strength: he's often riding in a much bigger gear than the other riders, which makes it difficult for him to respond to mountain attacks, though he's very fast in the time trials.

Biggest weakness: Armstrong. Ullrich may have won the Tour, but that was before Armstrong's reign, and last year Ullrich couldn't even manage his perennial second place.

Silver lining: Ullrich's failures are often blamed for his off-season antics, which basically involve getting fat and doing party drugs. He claims he's more mature now, though he said the same last year.

The Top 3 Challengers

The three main challengers (according to Johan Bruyneel, Armstrong's team director): Ullrich, Vinokourov, and Basso



Vinokourov is one of my favorite riders -- he's performed well in the Tour de France (3rd in 2003, missed 2004 due to injury), and he makes stages exciting. He's not afraid to attack on the big climbs, and when he attacks he often wins. Few top riders are as aggressive as he is, so he'll keep some excitement in the mix.

Biggest Weakness: notice the same pink jersey as Ullrich? Ullrich is the anointed one, and Vino will be riding in support of Ullrich. This didn't stop Ullrich's teammate Kloden from usurping him last year, but it does make it more difficult: Armstrong has 8 riders riding for him, Vino (for the moment) has none.

Silver lining: Riding for Ullrich leaves Vino unencumbered. He can relish putting some pain into Armstrong, sacrificing his own chances at the overall.


bassoBasso is another one of my favorite riders. Unlike Armstrong, he tried to go big this year and race both the Giro di Italia and Tour de France. His grand ambitions already took a hit -- a stomach bug during the Giro knocked him out of the leader's jersey when he had seemed unbeatable. Despite being sick and having the embarrassment of going from race lead to 50+ minutes back, Basso stayed in the competition and went on to win two stages.

Basso was glued to Armstrong's wheel last year throughout the tough mountain stages when all other competitors were failing, but Armstrong's superior time trial ability kept Armstrong out of reach.

Silver lining: Basso won the Stage 18 time trial in the Giro. He's been working on his time trial form so he be able to close that gap.

Biggest weakness: He cracked in the Giro, he could crack again. Also, it's hard to get in top shape for two three-week races, so it's hard to know whether or not Basso will be peaking going into the Tour or on the decline.

Other big names

Floyd Landis: A former teammate of Armstrong and a big part of his 2004 victory, he's now promoted to a leader position on Team Phonak. It's a shared title, and from his VeloNews interview he sounds like a rider going for stage wins, not the overall.

Santiago Botero: Landis' teammate, Botero does well in the time trials and in the mountains. That's a killer combination for the Tour, one that Armstrong wields with impunity, but he has to share the leader's title with Landis.

Levi Leipheimer: He's American, he's good, and he's been a top ten contender. The main question is whether or not he's a top three contender. He placed third in the Dauphine Libere, which is the Tour de France tune-up, so he could put in a good performance.

Roberto Heras: Another former teammate of Armstrong, and one who has performed big in the grand tours, including three Vuelta a Espanas. His main strength is climbing up mountains very, very fast, but he wasn't on form last year, and he hasn't been notable this year, so who knows if he's playing coy, saving his efforts for the Vuelta, or just plain off. Heras' co-captain Joseba Beloki hasn't seemed to have recovered from his horrific crash in the 2003 Tour, so it wouldn't seem that Beloki has regained a contender status.

Iban Mayo: he'll be the guy in orange flying up the mountains, if he's on form. He may have some bold attacks like he did last year, but that may leave him open to his big weakness last year: losing 37 minutes on lucky Stage 13.

Morgan Hill Grand Prix-15Dave Zabriskie: He actually has no chance of winning the Tour, but I put him here because:

  • Two blistering time trial performances in the Giro, winning one and finishing second to his teammate Basso in the other
  • He's the only pro rider I've taken decent photos of
  • He's an American rider, and there aren't that many at that level
  • His hilarious Web site, including his "One Question Interviews" done on the road, during the race, like this one with Charlie Wegelius of the Liquigas Team:

    DZ: Charlie have you ever actually had Liquigas?
    CW: You mean like when the s*#t comes out of your ass in a Liquid?
    DZ: Sure.
    CW: I had to quit the Giro in 2003 because of it.
    DZ: Thanks for the interview.

This will be your last warning

The Tour de France starts in less than two days. For three weeks, entries on this blog will almost exclusively be devoted to course elevations, stage summaries and anything else that involves climbing up French mountains -- with a brief San Diego Comic-Con 2005 interlude.

I won't be pulling off the Tour de France/Comic-Con/Artificial Intelligence Conference triple attack of yesteryear that lead to my all-time peak of 89 posts in one month. Going to an academic conference the day after four days of Comic-Con crashed my brain, so I am looking forward to the reduced mental exertion in favor of more physical exertion.

I'm thinking of getting a stationary stand for my bicycle so that I can get in shape while watching other people bike; I'll need all the conditioning I can get to bust through packs of Stormtroopers at Comic-Con. I want a stand that can sync with the Tour coverage and adjust the elevation of the bike accordingly. Then I could sit on the couch, look at my upward-tilted bike and say, "Man, that MUST be a steep hill -- pass me some more beer."

So this is your final warning: unsubscribe now, or prepare for the onslaught.