Monday, July 30, 2007
In the past few weeks, with all the stuff that has been going on with the Tour and the tons of stuff going on with work, I've been a pretty lousy blogger (outside of the Tour reports, for the most part). Lots has been going on within the blogging community that I am actually proud to be a part of. I've been tagged a few times and haven't been playing along, like I normally would. SO now I have some catching up to do...
Both Giandrea (my friend in Italy) and Becky Carroll (my friend in San Diego) tagged me with the "8 Random Things" meme that was going around, so now I have to come up with 8 things you might not know about me; (I actually think a few other people might've hit me with this too...)
1) I can no longer scream after I was run over by a car almost 3 years ago. The impact with the car/ ground did something to my vocal chords or the muscles in my neck. Since that time, I have been unable to raise my voice to scream. Bummer.
2) My nickname when I was growing up and playing baseball as a kid was "Leggs". I was the tallest (and skinniest) kid on my tee ball team and when I ran, my legs were a wacky whirlwind. My coach called me "Legs" and it stuck... all my life growing up in Alabama. He asked me, "how you wanna spell that?" And I said, "l-e-g-g-s"... because my mom's pantyhose were Leggs brand pantyhose and I just assumed that was the right spelling. Does that explain things or what?
3) I worked all kinds of odd jobs growing up as a kid, trying to earn money for bike stuff usually. One of my favorites was working in a pecan orchard. I was super skinny as a kid (I was 6' tall in 9th grade and finally reached 100 pounds that same year) so I got to climb out on the limbs of the pecan trees with a wooden baseball bat and beat the hell out of the limbs to shake out the nuts. Yeah, you heard me...
4) My first car was given to me by one of my uncles (my middle name sake- Vance). It was a 1960's Chevy Apache 100... it was my uncles old surf truck and we went on lots of epic surf outings in that truck. I was happy to get it too, even though it took some work to get it running. The master brake cylinder was blown and it ran on 4.5 of 6 cylinders. But it ran! It also had a busted fuel gauge, so I had to do accurate math to keep track of the mileage on each tank of gas. Yes, I ran out several times, so I kept a tank for gas in the bed of the truck and a couple bucks stashed in the glove box. The passenger side door didn't stay locked and would fly open on hard or fast left hand turns on occasion... like the time I was driving with a girlfriend of mine and she nearly slid out the door; she never rode in the truck again. Oh, and the gas tank was behind the bench seat and had a slight leak, so I frequently smelled of gas and was sometimes high as a kite when I drove more than an hour. But it ran!
5) I have a serious weakness for certain foods. Two of the biggest being fried chicken and beef jerky. I'm already salivating...
6) In light of #5 above, my entire family was shocked and amazed by the fact that I was once a vegetarian for about 9 months several years ago. I decided that I wanted to have a cleaner diet and better fuel source for racing. It was awesome! Except that when I was off the bike, I was frequently dizzy and lightheaded and walked into a lot of walls or fell over for no reason. Weird, I know... but I felt fantastic ON the bike. I rode super well and had great results, but it was really hard for me to plan my meals and eat properly. One night, on my usual ride home from work, like I did nearly every night... I rode by the KFC near my house. I rode home and showered and then rode back to KFC and got an 8 piece bucket of chicken- all white meat, half original and half extra crispy. I was sick for days. But I haven't been a vegetarian since.
7) The very first time I ever shaved my legs (I think I was 12), I shaved them completely dry and without any water or soap. Nothing went wrong- no nicks, no razor burn, no nothing. Ever since then, whether I shave in the tub, in the shower, with an electric, with a razor... I always get razor burn to some degree. Where is the justice in that?
8) I have had several fish hooks embedded in me in one place or another in my life. I grew up fishing- my first deep sea fishing trip was when I was just a few months old. I had sea legs long before I could even stand up on dry land. One of the best was when I was fishing after school- when I wasn't supposed to be- and I somehow managed to snag myself in the back of my head while casting. The lure was a big MirrOLure that I had borrowed from my uncle. With no other options and the lure firmly embedded in my scalp, I had to call my mom from the house of some people who lived next to the creek I was fishing in. Mom was pissed! I wasn't supposed to be fishing and I certainly wasn't supposed to be going to the doctor's office after normal hours so the doc could pull a lure out of my head! I was actually more upset thinking that the lure would be ruined by cutting off the hook. The good doc was able to push the hook out of my head without destroying the hook or ripping my head off... though my mom was willing to let him try. I fished with the same lure a couple days later.
Cam Beck, a blog buddy of mine in Texas, tagged me with his own version of a tagging meme; 5 Taglines about other blogs you read. So now I have to put on my marketer's cap and try to come up with some good one-liners...
Fritz- All the bike news fit to print.
CK- Who says smart can't be sexy?
Anne Handley- Bringing the brightest minds in marketing and one dim bulb (that's me) to one place.
Donna Tocci- "Feel Free to Stop" (Ok, so I stole that...)
Phil Gomes- The cycling way of life/ living.
Are you happy now, Cam?
Ok... I think that fulfills my immediate obligations, but I'll be back with more stuff soon.
More Masi World Domination News and other announcements coming soon, I promise.
Sunday, July 29, 2007
Evans was second.
Leipheimer was third.
Boonen took the green jersey.
Bennati won the final stage in Paris and took his second win of the Tour.
All in all, a good finish... let's just hope it all stays that way.
I wrote a bit more bike industry specific post over here- read it if you wish.
Long live the Tour. Seriously, my love for the race is still strong, I'm just burned out this year. Too many heartbreaks. I'll be back for it next year- as always- but I can honestly say that I am simply glad it's over this year. Sad, I know.
Thursday, July 26, 2007
My previous post was not my abandonment of the sport I have loved so very passionately for the past 25 years. It was the scream of somebody whose love has been tainted by the constant stream of bad news. I thank all of you who have emailed or posted comments during this really very hard time. It's bad enough to be a fan and watch this happen, but it's another level of hurt being somebody who relies on the sport to make a living. There have been lots of great commentaries about this problem and one of my favorites has been by Joe Lindsey. Joe writes a great piece about how painful this whole process has been for those of us who love this silly sport and this silly race so much. He asked the question of whether or not the Tour should be simply stopped and no winner declared. It's a compelling question full of personal debate and inner conflict- it stirs thought. And, honestly, I don't know the answer.
Here are a few other great thoughts about this terrible Tour;
BikeHugger has a great quote from Eddy Merckx.
Fritz at Cyclelicious points out that the pain is potentially good.
Rich Kelly at Interbike Times feels the pain of a father trying to explain the nonsense to his daughter.
Bernie at Panther City Bicycles asks "what are we going to do?"
Phil at Spinopsys reports on the chaos (and in other posts too).
Donna at Unbreakable Bonds has a great post full of hope- which we all need.
Sara Best, a friend of mine, posted a great comment here after my angry post yesterday;
Come on guys. We can't complain about what doping is doing to cycling and then turn our backs on it the minute they start to actually crack down and root out the cheaters.
The tests are getting tougher, the teams and race organizers are starting to take it seriously, and we're seeing the results at this year's Tour.
It had to get worse before it was going to get better.
If you weren't going to be there to support cycling as it went through the pains of cleaning itself up, then you shouldn't have complained about the problems in the first place.
Sara's comment spurred a great conversation between her and I and I told her that I still love this sport and the race itself.
So, here is my one and only lengthy commentary I hope to make about this situation... go get a drink, this'll take a while.
Dopers; they really do suck. Big time. They are killing my beloved sport. It hurts each time one of these jerks get caught and then deny the facts and then say, "oh yeah... I did it... sorry." I really like David Millar, but he lied and denied and bitched about his teammates on Cofidis when they got caught doping... and then he turned it around and confessed when they came after him. I'm glad he finally confessed, but I really lost respect for him for lying in the first place. Don't even get me started on Richard Virenque! He doped, he lied, he later confessed and then became an even bigger star in France. Please... what an idiot. And now this year we get the bulk of the T-Mobile (formerly Telekom) team confessing to years of systematic doping. Bjarne Riis confessed to doping when he won the Tour for Telekom in 1996. Even Zabel admitted to "trying" doping in 1996 (still think that's a pretty lame story though). If you get caught doping, just man-up and admit it and spare us all the histrionics. Please. I think it's great that dopers eventually confess, but I can't tell you how much more respect I have for them when they just "do the right thing" (thinking of you Shep).
The Tour; the race will go on, as it likely should, though I am not sure how I feel about it. Yes, I looked at the results today and saw that Contador started the day in his white jersey for best young rider before finishing the stage and receiving his first yellow jersey. I was glad that Bennati won too. He's a good rider. I just hope to hell he's clean. And, for that matter, Contador was linked to the Puerto doping scandal as well- though his name was later removed in July of '06. Did I have the same interest in the stage as I had a few days ago? Not at all. Hardly any, really. Sure, I still want to see who "wins" this dirtiest edition of the Tour ever, but my love for the race is gone... for this year. And that sucks because this has been a fantastic race, full of savage and brutal beauty. The epic battle of man and machine against the road- it's been a doozy.
The sport; I still love cycling now as much as ever and that is likely why all of this hurts so much. I mean, if I was just a casual fan, I'd be over this whole thing in no time... but that ain't me. At one point in my life, I actually believed I would race in the Tour. Then years later, that dream shifted to reflect reality a little better and I simply dreamed of racing as a pro here in the US. That later shifted to just being one of the local heroes here in SoCal. Yes, I'd still love to get back in shape and actually make a real stab at becoming a National Champion on the track maybe, or even try to compete at the Masters World Championships on the track. I'd love to get myself one of them fancy World Champion jerseys- the right way. But now I race (or try) for the simple love of competing and riding my bike as fast as I can against a bunch of other guys who feel at least a little the same way. As an industry guy, I still love the sport too. In fact, I still plan to support our boys on the A&F Pro Development Team and hope to finally land that women's pro team I've been looking for too. That said, my heart is really with the grassroots teams out there- the shop teams and clubs that race because they love to be on their bikes. The folks who race because they have that drive to compete and match their strengths against other people. They are the ones who really light my fire... and they always have been.
I worry for the sport, but I know it won't ever go away because there are simply too many of us who love it too much to ever let that happen.
The fallout; I think that cycling is going to take a BIG hit in the next year or two. We're likely going back to the days of teams relying on multiple small sponsors to keep them afloat, rather than huge title sponsors and big budgets. Riders are going to make a lot less money now and they are going to be happy to get it. Hopefully this will help to force most of the dopers out (they will never go away completely), as there won't be as much of a financial incentive. Plus, the other riders who are not doping will help self-police the situation- their livelihoods will depend on it. Teams and sponsors are going to end up with very comprehensive doping policies- teams will tell riders that if they dope they are fired immediately (and they should be forced to repay their salaries to the team) and the sponsors should tell the teams that if the riders dope then the team loses the sponsorship and has to repay all the money they have been given. Once you have the threat of the money going away completely, the teams will get better at fighting the scourge of doping. Look at Team Slipstream-Chipotle and their extensive doping controls. Bravo! More teams should be doing this... NOW! The European scene as we know it now, will be decidedly different very soon... and that's a good thing.
Why love a dirty sport? Well, because not all riders are dirty and because it's a beautiful sport. The roads of France were still lined today as the Tour rolled through their towns. Sure, many people booed and chided the riders, but they were still there to watch because of the amazing spectacle that is the Tour and cycling. Every time I see a kid riding on a bike, my heart skips a beat, I swell with hope and pride because I earn a living making and selling bicycles so that people can enjoy riding a bike as much as I do. I can't tell you how much I enjoy my simple one hour lunch rides during the week and the periodic rides on the weekends. Every single year, for the past several years, I tell myself I'm not going to get a racing license and worry about trying to train or be fit. I'm just gonna ride my bike for fun, I tell myself. But every year, I send my money off to the powers that be and I worry about the training I'm not doing (or planning to do). I still fret about races and get race day/ night jitters as I roll up to the starting line. And I smile from ear to ear. I love riding my bikes and I hope I always will. I sure plan to. And I hope you will too.
Don't give up on the sport of cycling. Take comfort in knowing that your sport is taking far more stringent steps to get doping under control than any other sport in the world. Smile sarcastically when Barry Bonds breaks Hank Aaron's home run record and know that the commissioner of baseball is going to smile and shake his hand when it happens- but our sport is better. We'll never be like "those sports"- we're better. Encourage that local hotshot junior you see on your next ride or at the races. Tell'em to stay away from drugs- in and out of sport- and give'em the help they need to grow in the sport. Be glad that you enjoy riding your bike- whether for the scenery, the thrill of speed, the competition or the basic act of getting to and fro. Just enjoy cycling because it IS worthy of that. It is... I promise.
Tim (still very much in love with cycling)
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
Monday, July 23, 2007
Vino has got balls the size of church bells! I mean, seriously. Now of course, the dope sniffers will be checking his scrotum for testosterone patches and crap like that, but how can you deny the elegant and brutal beauty of a man driven to redeem himself and repay his teammates for their belief in him. He may be a hard to understand and complexly stoic rider, but nobody can deny his sheer will power and determination. Though he won the Tour in 1980 after many tries, Vino often reminds me of Joop Zoetemelk for his perseverance and aggressive style. Joop happens to be one of my all-time favorite cyclists too, so Vino is in great company.
It wasn't just a Vino show either. A little further down the slopes, the Chicken and Alberto "the Conquistador" Contador were locked in another mano y mano battle for the final podium. Rasmussen was put into major difficulties by the kid, but managed to hang on and finish side by side with him. In the process, the two put some additional time into Evans, who struggled on the final climb. Evans, to his credit, battled bravely along, even after being left without teammates. You have to give the guy a ton of credit for his hard work. I surely hope he manages to finish on the podium in Paris, as he's been a worthy man. Levi Leipheimer still sits in 4th, but he too is now further behind than he was at the start of the day. Beyond all comprehension, Rasmussen could actually end up winning this Tour... but will the cloud of doping suspicion ever go away? Another winter of controversy looms ahead. Oh yeah, and now Patrik Sinkewitz is supposed to give a press conference in the coming days as well... which isn't likely to be good.
So tomorrow is the second and final rest day of the Tour. Guys need it too... because Wednesday is another day of pain and suffering. Stage 16 serves up big doses of "owie, owie, owie" for the remaining riders of the Tour. 5 rated climbs- 1 cat 3, and 2 cat 1 and 2 "above category" climbs. The final climb is one of the worst and the finish is on the climb... so it's a lot like the murderous stage 14 on Sunday. The lid could still blow off and Razmustard could still have that "bad day" in the mountains that every yellow jersey wearer has nightmares about. I'll make my picks after the rest day, after reading the tea leaves and sniffing the winds... and thinking a little.
Sunday, July 22, 2007
Rasmussen carried the yellow jersey up the Plateau de Beille almost faster than anybody else in the race and managed to actually add more time to his overall lead in the race. The day belonged to the amazing young talent on the Discovery team, Alberto Contador, who now sits in second overall, ahead of 3rd place Cadel Evans. Evans had a bad day that certainly could have been worse and is not out of this thing yet. The podium is still his to lose and he certainly has better TT skills than Rasmussen.
Contador and Rasmussen launched an impressive series of attacks out of a very elite lead group that contained the main favorites- save for Vinokourov, who blew to pieces on the lower slopes and eventually conceded more than 20 minutes and lost all hope of GC glory. The climbing duo ripped the field apart and rode away together to finish in a head to head battle. The two were seen talking/ arguing just before the finish- possibly because Contador was upset with Rasmussen for sitting in too much or for attacking him? Dunno... but it made for a good finish when Rasmussen tried to get Contador to lead and he wouldn't do it. AC then rode Razmuffin's bony butt to the finish and "sprinted" past him just before the line. A great win for the kid who is now poised to possibly win the race if Rasmussen falters. If not this year, he is likely to take the Tour one day- his talent is confirmed.
On the slopes below the two dueling bone bags, all the poop was hitting the fan. Mauricio Soler, who already won one stage for Barloworld, escaped from the shattered chase group to secure 3rd on the stage. 4th went to Leipheimer, who now sits in the same spot on GC. Kloden and Evans limped in 6th and 7th at a little under 2 minutes later... and then the straggling field began to limp in. Valverde lost another 3:45 today and Iban Mayo dropped a further 9:31. So much for those hopefuls. And Christophe Moreau? Yep, he lost another 34 minutes today. Podium? Not likely... at all... without 2/3 of the field suddenly getting thrown out of the race.
The GC picture should be much clearer now that we're in the Pyrenees, but even with El Pollo Loco in the lead and looking good, it is anything but clear. Can he actually hold the lead to Paris? Can Rabobank really defend the jersey that long? Will Disco, including Levi, be able to support Contador and try to put him in yellow by Paris? Will Evans mount a great comeback in the next few days and then take the lead in the final TT? Predictor-Lotto does not have the strength to defend the jersey, so Evans is mostly on his own to take the jersey using his own power. It's far from done folks...
Tomorrow is another dreadful day for guys who don't climb well or feel very good right now. 5 major climbs and the last two being the above category Port de Bales and then the category 1 Col de Peyresourde, just 12 km from the finish. It's downhill to the finish, but it isn't long enough to get away from a close chase or long enough to catch a break that has enough room. It'll be a furious finish... and interesting. I'd love to say that Vino will come back and win it... but he won't. Or even Mayo... but he won't. We're more likely to see Evans win or send his teammate Horner up the road to get the win and make the other teams chase. But... it's more likely to be another showdown between Contador and Rasmussen. Raz' needs as much time as he can get between now and the last TT and Contador wants to get even closer to the top step of the podium. So I think our winner will come from one of those two again. A battle Royale, if you will.
Ok Kittie... it's your turn to be wrong.
Saturday, July 21, 2007
Today was the Chicken's big day- would he cross the road to the other side, or would he end up in the frying pan, battered and served up for lunch?
Well, as much as I hate to admit it, Road-rash Rasmussen actually rode a very respectable TT today- likely the best of his life. It's amazing what the yellow jersey can do for you- it'll either weigh you down or give you wings. Raz-ma-taz finished an impressive 11th, only 2'55"behind a very resurgent Vinokourov. The Krazy Kazakh stormed across the finish line with the fastest time of the day to get his first stage win of this Tour and a taste of redemption. If nothing else, he's proven his worth and grit- you just gotta love it.
In a day highlighted by Michael (alleged doper) Rasmussen staying in yellow after a time trial, that he didn't crash even once in (who'da thunk it possible?), the lesser big news was who imploded; Valverde started the day in 2nd, but lost 6'08" and is now in 11th, Iban Mayo looked awesome sitting in 3rd but lost 6'04" and is now 12th. So much for the resurgence of the Spanish Armada... that ship has sunk. And what about Moreau? He slipped the other day in the Astana crosswind crusifiction and fell out of the main contender list, but today lost another 9'26" to finish the stage in 126th! Now he's no longer under pressure as the best placed French rider- sitting a dismal 23rd on GC. However, Cadel Evans, who was 4th, finished the stage in 2nd and now owns the same spot on GC behind Rasmuffin, at exactly 1 minute down. Discovery Channel youngster Contador rode a great TT to finish 7th and now sits in 3rd on GC... two spots ahead of Leipheimer (5th). Will Disco be dancing for Contador, or will he be shuffling his feet to the Leipheimer beat as an uber domestique?
Maybe it will all play out on the final slopes of the uphill finish tomorrow. Plateau de Beille has only seen a stage finish 3 times and each time the winner won the Tour overall (Armstrong twice, Pantani once). Will history four-peat itself? I dunno... I don't think so anyway. I'm thinking that legs will be tired and GC guys will spend too much time watching each other. Maybe Mayo or Valverde will try to regain some lost time by attacking, but I doubt it will work. I really think it'll come down to a less prominent rider. Discovery needs to do something... anything... so maybe they'll throw some muscle at the stage. But I doubt it. They are a conservative bunch. My guess is that we'll see the Euskaltel guys try to torch things because they haven't done a dang thing all Tour. They need to show that they deserve their Pro Tour position. It's kind of a rag-tag band of no-names this year, but I'm gonna take a big blindfold stab at this and call out Haimar Zubeldia, since Mikel Astarloza is in 8th and too dangerous. Outside of Zubeldia, I'm gonna take another dumb guess with Manuel Beltran with Liquigas. He's got the climbing credentials, so maybe he can go fast enough to win... we'll just have to see. I'm sure I'll be totally wrong, as this Tour has been nothing if not unpredictable.
I doubt it...
So, first commenter to accurately guess the number of times he crashes wins a pair of Masi socks.
Thursday, July 19, 2007
Other stuff happened, but... blah, blah, blah... the big stuff is really Hunter/ Barloworld, Moreau's blunder and Vino coming back from the grave with the help of his team- still willing to work for their beat-up leader. Still, I didn't pick up any points and I'm beginning to learn to live with it because this has been a great Tour this year. I mean, sure, without the rampant drug use, it's a little slower... but who the hell cares when the racing that is happening is so good? (Oh yeah, and now it is being reported that current Tour leader, Rasmussen, is being kicked off the Danish National Team for failing to cooperate with their doping controls.) Tomorrow looks like it should be an ok stage... but it does have one cat 2 climb with less than 50km to go to the finish. It might be an interesting stage for a true headbanger. I'm gonna go with Flecha, 'cause he's due, and Fabian Wegmann... I just got a feeling about these two.
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Bob Stapleton, the American who is the team director of the team was quoted on CyclingNews as saying;
"We knew this [anti-doping project] was going to be a tough fight when we started it, but it was something that we felt was possible. We're going to stay and fight. The [team's] riders were informed by the media right as they were leaving today. They were obviously shocked, but they headed for their bikes and wanted to show that they believe in what they're doing," Stapleton said.
If that doesn't give you hope for the sport, then I sure as hell don't know what does or should.
Thank you Bob!
Cedric Vasseur wins the stage and Sandy Casar takes second on the stage today, after a very long break away. My main pick for the stage win, Jens Voigt, was apparently reading this blog and followed my advice and went out for the win today, but was sadly foiled in the end by the two French riders. However, I have a feeling that Jens will be back at it again at some point... I just have a feeling.
Tomorrow's stage is about as flat as you can get without going to Kansas. I mean, one cat 4 climb and then it's all flat and fast. Did somebody say Sprinter's Delight? Yes, yes they did. Since the Kittie hasn't posted her picks and I was closest to having a rider score points today... I'm making my picks for tomorrow now; Boonen and Hushovd. May the wind be at your backs boys!
Oh yeah, Rasmussen stays in yellow for another day or so- no more time trials until Saturday (stage 13), so he has a couple days in yellow left. Valverde's looking better and better all the time.
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
Mauricio Soler rode a brilliant stage today and captured a beautiful win. Previously, Soler had only ever won a stage of the Tour of Columbia. Now he moves into the pantheon of great climbers in Tour history. Michael Rasmussen rode a very smart race and the Rabobank team shepherded their climbing phenom to the finish and protected his lead. Rasmussen can climb better than nearly any rider alive, but even I can out time trial the guy. He's not going to protect his lead in the TT's, so he has to do all he can to solidify his lead now. The Discovery team, quite possibly for the first time in their history (certainly post Lance), went on the offensive. Disco actually made the race more exciting for a change. Popovych and Contador both rode very aggressively and made the race happen, as opposed to sitting in like Disco normally does. The other major GC contenders all rode strongly and cemented their positions... except for poor Vino. The guy has just had a shitty Tour, the Tour that was supposed to be his. It's hard to not like the guy and watching his race fall apart is just kinda painful.
Tomorrow is a relatively flat day, with just a couple cat 3 and 4 climbs. Compared to the past few days, it should be an "easy" day. I'd expect to see long breaks going up the road, especially riders who are way down the GC- guys like Jens Voigt, maybe Chris Horner (though he should be watching his boss, Cadel Evans), Patrice Halgand or even Stefan Schumacher. My pick is Voigt and Horner. I think both could get into the right move and make it work... at least I hope, because I need the points.
Ok... go Horner!
Sunday, July 15, 2007
The Age of Conversation is a book with 103 co-authors. It's a book that is about the new world of communication that we live in. It's written largely by a group of marketers, but it reaches way past simple marketing. I personally can not wait to see this book and give it a read... and fortunately I won't have to wait long, since it is officially being released on Monday, July 16th.
Here's the thing with this book- it is the proverbial gift that keeps on giving, since the proceeds from the book go to Variety the Children's Charity and the book is also dedicated to the loving memory of Sandra Johnson Kerley (our dear friend CK's momma). The giving doesn't stop there either because the book gives great knowledge that will, in turn keep giving to all who read it. It's really a magnificent thing.
Each of the 103 writers contribute a chapter, including me. It's probably the one and only time I've kept my writing brief and (hopefully) to the point. It was a stretch, but I made it through the process.
I hope that you will give the book some consideration and buy a copy for yourself and maybe even for anybody who you think might benefit from such a book. Heck, just buy a copy because the money goes to a great cause! Really, you can't go wrong.
I know that I am really looking forward to seeing exactly what all the other authors have to say- I've been waiting far too long since the project began. The anticipation is killing me!
Here are all the authors; (I swear I can't believe I'm on the same list as these folks...)
Roger von Oech
Tony D. Clark
Kimberly Dawn Wells
John La Grou
Dr. Graham Hill
S. Neil Vineberg
Again, please buy a copy of this book- it'll be worth it... I promise!
Rasmussen got away fairly early in the day and was joined, and then left alone, by other riders along the way. Another small group had gotten away earlier and built a sizable lead, but Rasmussen slowly and methodically picked them off as he cruised to the summit finish with a big enough lead to take control of the race. Given his terrible time trialing performance in the 2005 Tour, when he was assured of a podium spot but crashed so many times he lost the podium and nearly had training wheels mounted to all of his TT bikes... his yellow jersey days could be very numbered. Still, you have to give him this day, as he was simply the world's best climber today.
The other GC riders managed to not lose so much time that their chances are ruined. Even though Kloden lost time today when he dropped back to nurse Vinokourov to the finish line, the two still remain within reach of the podium. Other contenders, such as Evans, Valverde, Moreau, Sastre and Leiphemer all managed to finish strong enough to stay in the hunt. One contender who didn't fair too well was T-Mobile's Michael Rogers. Rogers crashed hard on a descent and tried in vain to get back on the bike. It didn't take too long to realize that he'd separated his shoulder and racing any further would not be possible.
Now that we're just one full week of racing into the Tour, the picture is getting clearer, but it still remains a pretty wide open race. Nobody has stamped their authority on the race yet... and the pundits (including me) are all scratching their heads. Is this what a "clean" Tour looks like? Tomorrow is the first rest day of this year's race, so I predict that there will be no winner. That said, guys like Vino and Kloden will be happy to get a day to rest a bit and heal a little further. Tuesday brings a day of leg breaking climbs- two Haute Categorie climbs- the Col L'Iseran and the fabled Col du Galibier. Even with the Galibier summit being 37km from the finish... it's gonna be a hard slog to the line.
Rest up boys! You're gonna need it...
Saturday, July 14, 2007
The Banged-up Boys, Kloden and Vinokourov, soldiered on bravely through the obvious pain. Both finished safely in the pack with the main GC contenders. All in all, almost all of the GC contenders seemed to be biding their time and riding very conservatively. Though it was Bastille Day, none of the French riders seemed to be up for the fight today. National champion Moreau rode safely in the GC pack and kept out of trouble, rather than going for the win or flying the tri-color jersey for the French fans along the route. He's obviously planning to be in the fight when it really matters.
Tomorrow is a day where it really matters. The stage rolls through many painful climbs, concluding with three category 1 climbs in succession. The stage finishes on the tough slopes of the Monte de Tignes... and should prove to be a very decisive day for the GC contenders. Either a group of non-contenders will be allowed to spend the day out front, or the GC contedners feeling good will try to shatter the other riders. My prediction? Dang, I really don't know... but I'm gonna go way out on a limb and say that Leipheimer might take a stab at things- whether for the win or just to get time on the other GC riders. Outside of Levi, I'm gonna go with Haimar Zubeldia. Levi may want to show he's the same rider who won the Tour of California and Zubeldia could be the only hope that Euskaltel-Euskadi has of getting a stage win.
We'll see what the Squirrel and BK have to say about things...
The Tour said au revoir to Oscar Freire. The fragile Spanish sprinter had been very close to getting a stage win this year, but his butt was not in the mood... his subcutaneous cyst has returned and got him... in the end.
Tomorrow could be a very big day; we'll see what happens on the slopes of the Alps. (Maybe even Rasmussen will take a shot at things.)
Friday, July 13, 2007
Yes, Terrible Tom finally got his stage win. I knew it would happen, or at least hoped... but I hadn't planned for it to be today. Lame, Tom... really lame.
Yes, Tom Boonen won a relatively uneventful stage today. Bradley /Wiggins spent much of the day on a solo break and was caught by the charging field just before the line... with just 7km remaining, meaning he spent about 190km all alone on the front of the race... just to get caught. There were rumors that Brad was allowed the time off the front in honor of the 40th anniversary of the tragic death of fellow British rider Tom Simpson on the slopes of Mount Ventoux in 1967. True or not, for fans of the Tour, it serves as a monument in the sport. God rest your soul, Tom.
The Astana duo of Vinoukorov and Kloden managed to finish the stage with the field and without furthering their injuries. Both were said to be sore, but doing ok. Kloden has the more complicated injury of the two, since it is awfully painful to sit on a cracked tail bone and tomorrow is a long day of climbing in the Alps. Needless to say, his ass will be sore. Vino will likely be taking it easy tomorrow as well, since his muscle soreness will be kicking in. You know how it is- two days after a crash, or other injury, is when the muscle pain really sets in. Tomorrow is gonna suck.
Speaking of tomorrow... the sun will come out, tomorrow, bet your bottom dollar... no... wait. What I meant is that tomorrow is the first day of real climbs as the Tour enters the Alps and the real race begins. After today's relatively easy stage, expect plenty of fireworks tomorrow.
Not that you can see from the image I stole from VeloNews... but tomorrow has the Col de la Colombiere as the final climb of the day, with the summit less than 15km from the finish. Sure, it's a downhill run to the finish... but what an uphill before you get there! I am going to venture a guess here... and it is really a guess... and make Cyril Dessel and Nicolas Portal my top picks for the day. Why two French riders? Well, tomorrow is Bastille Day (the French version of July 4th) and the French riders will be seen as national heroes if they can pull off the win. So expect them all to be seriously flogging themselves to try and get the win. Both of these guys can climb and are both down the GC far enough to not really worry the rest of the GC contenders. Expect fireworks all day, but the real GC riders will be riding to protect their positions on the first day of real climbing. It's a long Tour and tomorrow could prove decisive... but it won't most likely. It's just too soon. That said- I could easily be wrong (again).
So there you have it!
Thursday, July 12, 2007
Pozzato is a very classy young rider, only 25 years old. He's already got wins under his belt that other riders would wait an entire career to have... and his best years are easily ahead of him. This young man could prove to be one of the best Italian classics riders to show up since Franco Ballerini or Michele Bartoli... and that's saying something.
The day, though exciting enough for the winner, was probably more exciting for the drama prior to the finish when Astana riders were caught up in crashes. Andreas Kloden kissed the asphalt with his ass cheeks a little more than 100km into the race, but (butt?) was able to chase back into the field and finish with the main group. Sadly, it looks like he may have fractured his tail bone and is now in question for tomorrow's stage. With about 25km to go, Vinoukorov hit the deck when he had problems with his chain. He went over the bars and landed hard- ripping open his shorts (and exposing his ass cheek) and really banged up his knee as well. Vino in a moment of need, called for his team to come to his aid to help him catch the field. The break up the road was being chased hard by the field, so Vino and the Astana team had to essentially time trial to minimize their leader's losses. In the end, Vino lost a minute and a half and is going to have a hard day tomorrow with his sore knee and other muscles problems that follow a hard crash. Could his Tour hopes be dead? They could be, but it is certain that he will not go down without a fight... you can bank on that.
Neither BK or myself had a particularly good day with our predictions... so the score remains the same and now I have to try and pick a winner. Since tomorrow's stage is nearly flat, with just two cat 4 climbs and then a 45km nearly flat run to the finish line, a sprint is all but assured. With that in mind, I'm gonna go out on a limb and pick Hushovd and Napolitano for tomorrow. One of the two should be in the top four tomorrow... please. (I can't let Jessi win...)
Fun stuff (marginally Tour related); go read this little gem by Bob Roll, over at the Kryptonite blog. Pure poetry... Bobke style.
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
Tomorrow's stage is a pretty tough one, the hardest one so far this Tour. There are several categorized climbs, 4 category 4, 3 category 3 and 1 category 2 climb. It's been compared to Liege-Bastogne-Liege, so expect breaks all day long and a likely winner from a break and no field sprint. I'm picking a tough guy to win the stage and hopefully I won't be let down. I'm picking Stuart O'Grady, who wants to redeem himself after his disastrous opening prologue, and also Michael Boogerd. Boogie is retiring after this season and this is his last Tour. He'd like a win and he certainly could pull one off- a fitting end to a great career. So we'll see what happens.
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
I swear, I missed my calling.
Yes, today's longest stage was one [won-Ed] by current Time Trial World Champion, former Paris-Roubaix winner and current yellow jersey wearer Fabian Cancellara. After a breakaway dominated much of the day, the longest stage of the Tour, Fabian Cancellara launched an impressive attack in the final meters of the race to hold off the rest of the field. The sprinters were all caught sleeping as Fabian stormed across the cobbles (um, hello... he's a winner of Roubaix) and yanked victory away from the dumbfounded sprinters. I'm not sure if I'm more stupified by the actions of the sprinters or the four riders from the break who screwed themselves out of the victory by making tactical errors (playing cat and mouse with the field chasing them down). These four had the day wrapped up and they let it go by thinking of the win too soon, rather than sticking together and working a little longer. Sorry fellas... but that was a dumbass move.
Oh well, this just means that now BK is ahead of me by one point and I get first stab at tomorrow's winners; Boonen and Stefan Schumacher. Tomorrow's stage has several category 4 climbs and is otherwise fairly hilly, in a rolling way. Nothing big or difficult, but lots of rolling hills to keep things interesting. If it comes to a sprint, then I'm picking Boonen. Otherwise, I'm picking Schumacher to sneak off the front or sprint out of a small group and take the win. I'm gambling, but I'm a gamblin' man by nature.
Today was a great stage and the right man won. It's always great to see the Yellow Jersey attacking and making the race come alive. Cancellara continues to impress with his sheer class and aggressive riding (man, I hope he isn't doping and I end up regretting those words). So far, this Tour has been a good one.
Ok, BK... time to make your picks.
Monday, July 09, 2007
Today's stage was great, not for the usual crashes that might have put an end to a few races for folks, but because Tom Boonen (directly or indirectly) did the right thing and allowed his teammate to take his first ever Tour stage win. Gert Steegmans is one of Tom's most valuable leadout men during the season and he flogs himself day in and day out to get Tom to the line first. Today, whether Gert was simply faster or Tom was just being nice, Steegmans got the win instead. A Belgian winning a Tour stage in Belgium is about as good as it ever gets in a professional cyclist's life. Whether Tom simply got outsprinted by his leadout man or not, I am happy to see the finish today. It isn't often, regardless of the reasons why, that a domestique gets the big win. To me, I think it rocks!
Not much else really happened, other than it rained like hell and riders ate pavement again and got all beat up. Hincapie didn't look good, nor did yellow jersey Cancellara. The stage was damned near board flat. Tomorrow's stage is only slightly hillier with 1 rated Category 4 climb. Shouldn't be too hard for David Millar to keep the polka dot jersey another day. The big news about the stage tomorrow is that it is the longest of this year's race- 236.5km! I'm picking either McEwen or Hushovd to win (even though some people think I always pick Boonen- his initials are Chuck Cowan... no wait, that's not initials... um... Behind Bars... dammit... that's not right either...). Robbie, if his wrist and knee hold up, should be in good shape for the stage win again- he's just too plucky. If not, expect to see Hushovd with the win. He's a great Classics rider and tomorrow will seem a lot like a Classics race. The race finishes with a short section of cobblestones near the finish line.... expect to see carnage there. It comes just before the finish and many riders will be fighting for position. Expect their "position" to be sprawled out across the pavement. It should be ugly- especially if it is raining again.
God I love this race!
Sunday, July 08, 2007
First up- here's the first sample of the new color of the Speciale Fixed (minus the new fork)-
I wish I coulda captured just how awesome that metallic green is. Those panels are a nice, creamy beige- even the one on the seat tube that is placed too high (it'll be fixed by production).
While we're on the whole track/ fixed theme... here's the long awaited (by me anyway) Coltello frameset-Another gorgeous metallic! My flash is just too darned bright, so it kinda washes out. But the color is insanely good.
I admit that I have a penchant for metallic paint. The previous version of the frame uses a metallic red that I will find a home for again on another model soon... it's just a sweet color. I just love it when a bike sparkles in the sunlight.
So anyway, there's your first round of samples to slobber over. Ok, I'll leave you alone to salivate.
Hats off today, to McEwen though. In the closing stages of the race, 21km from the finish, McEwen was caught in a pile-up of riders and had to rely heavily on a few teammates to help him regain contact with the race. At the front, Lampre-Fondital and Quickstep were drilling it for the finish line and to catch the remaining riders of a long break that contained David Millar (who managed to gain enough time bonuses to move up to third overall and enough points to become the race's first KOM- bravo Dave). The fast moving field wasn't quite fast enoug hto drop McEwen altogether and he managed to catch back on with 5km to go, after an all out chase that would have left most riders too thrashed to be able to even consider contesting the sprint. But, with his usual uncanny sense of timing and bike handling, McEwen made it to the front and blasted out of the field with 150m to go. Robbie launched like a missile and quickly put 2 bike lengths between him and the rest of the flailing field. Seriously, nobody in today's peloton can match his speed in a short sprint. In a long drag race with either Hushovd or Boonen, Robbie might have a disadvantage, but at 200m or less, he's simply unbeatable.
David Millar rode a brave race today, getting out early by himself and then working with a few other riders who decided to get some TV time. No doubt, all of England would have been rooting for David today. Short of getting the win today, slipping into the Polka Dot jersey of the KOM and third place overall was decent consolation.
Now the Tour returns to the European continent for a few hours in France before finishing in the city of Ghent, Belgium. Robbie will be very motivated to take a second stage, as his European home is very near Ghent. Boonen, the Golden Boy of Belgium, will be the most motivated rider in the field though and will have his team working its spandex-clad asses off to get him to the line. McEwen's fall has given him reason to worry about his chances for the rest of the Tour and may prevent him from the win tomorrow. If there's a rider in this race who can ride with pain, it's Robbie, but a wrist injury is a real problem for a sprinter. Having control of your bike is of paramount importance and Robbie is world famous for his control skills. With that in mind, I'm afraid to say that Boonen would have the edge on the stage tomorrow.
The roll into Ghent is largely board flat with zero rated climbs, so Millar won't have to defend his maillot pois. The final run in to the finish is relatively tame... but this is the Tour and nerves will be stretched thin and all of Belgium will be on hand to see if Boonen can grab the stage win. It should be an exciting finish and well worth watching.
Until tomorrow! A bientot.
Saturday, July 07, 2007
I admit I was a little surprised to see Wiggins in 4th, Millar in 13th and Rogers in 20th... but that's a prologue for you. The times are so close, if you simply hold your head a little too high for 1Km, you lose enough time to drop several places. That said, as I think about it, I am surprised to see that McEwen rode the prologue like a weekend training ride, finishing 148th and 1:09 down. That'll make it damned hard for him to steal the yellow jersey- even for a day. We'll just have to see what his plans are over the next couple days.
Tom Boonen sprinted to finish his prologue today, to keep from losing more time and keep himself in the hunt for the yellow jersey. Since the Tour enters Belgium in two days, Tommy-boy would like to have the yellow jersey on his back when he hits his native roads. I expect him to be riding very aggressively tomorrow.
Speaking of tomorrow (and kicking BK's butt)... I am putting my money on Boonen to win and McEwen to take second. BK's got the same picks, but in the wrong order. It's ok though, she's got 3 weeks to figure out how all this stuff works. You see, BK made the mistake of starting a little contest with me about predicting stage winners. So far, I'm beating her. We'll see what happens by the time the race arrives in Paris... won't we BK? You can also expect to see a little cross-posting going on between the two of us this year. Last year, BK didn't have her own blog up and running full steam, so she was contributing on mine. This year we're gonna post back and forth on the blogs and try to offer up the same love as last year.
Anyway... on to tomorrow; the stage is a good roller, with small hills and easy climbs. It should prove to be a good stage, but the first road stage of the Tour is always a nervous affair and people end up eating lots of pavement in all the goofy riding that happens. Hopefully none of the contenders will be injured this year. With the finish being nearly board flat, it should easily come back together and end in a field sprint. Many people will try to get away, but it ain't gonna work. The sprinters' teams will want the stage far too badly to let a break succeed... sorry... but they'll still try. Look for my boy Boonen to just edge out McEwen and maybe even take the yellow jersey, since he is only 48 seconds back.
Ok, until tomorrow...
Friday, July 06, 2007
The 2006 event was marred just days before starting when numerous riders were tossed out of the event, including the pre-race favorites Ivan Basso and Jan Ulrich, due to the Operation Puerto drug scandal. The effects of that scandal are still being felt as riders continue to be implicated in doping. Just days after the event last year, the winner- Floyd Landis- tested "non-negative" for steroids with abnormal testosterone levels. The fallout and pending suspension or acquittal is still being awaited. In 1998, the Tour almost didn't happen due to the Festina Affair doping scandal that rocked the event and lead to rider protests of the way they were being treated by the race organizers and the French police. The winner of that edition was Marco Pantani, who was later found guilty of doping and sporting fraud and who later committed suicide via a drug overdose, after suffering years of depression after his doping troubles.
Needless to say, things are a mess at the moment. Erik Zabel, 6-time winner of the sprinter's green jersey, admitted to doping during his time with the T-Mobile team (when it was called Telekom). Oddly, he claims to have only doped in 1996- the year that CSC team director Bjarne Riis won the Tour while also riding for Telekom. Riis has since confessed to doping during his career and doping to win the Tour. Obviously, the fallout caused by all of this doping is casting quiet a dark cloud over the event and the sport of cycling itself. Hell, the current winner of the Giro d'Italia, Danilo DiLuca, is now in the middle of a doping controversy and the Giro sprinter's jersey winner, Alessandro Petacchi, is not riding the Tour due to an investigation into alleged doping as well. It would be another striking understatement to say that the Tour and the sport of cycling needs this year's edition to be drug free. Here's to hoping that the winner is squeaky clean.
With no returning winner and other contenders out of the event due to doping links, this year's race looks to be wide open. A few riders stand out as contenders, but there is no one rider who looks like a sure bet. None of the teams look likely to dominate the race either. So, many of the classifications of the event (Overall Winner, Best Sprinter, Best Climber, Best Young Rider and Overall Team) should actually be a contest.
21 teams with 9 riders each will be taking to the streets of London for the Prologue. 189 riders will start, but many will abandon along the way- either due to fatigue, injury or having done their jobs for their team leaders. Of those 189 riders, only a few stand a chance of winning the race or one of the classifications, let alone even winning a stage. As the race has become the most important event in all of cycling, the pressure is extremely high and the nerves are worn extremely thin. Entire seasons (and careers) are built for the next three weeks... in short, this is about to get really good!
A complete list of the teams and their riders can be found here- I'm just gonna cover the important riders and contenders. So, in order of their race numbers during the event... here we go:
Caisse d'Epargne- This is the team of last year's surprise runner up, Oscar Pereiro. Sadly for Oscar, he's likely to be playing a supporting role to the team's true star, Alejandro Valverde. Valverde, though a little lacking in the time trial department, can climb well and is a very good sprinter from out of a small group. He has the punchiness and the nose for the win that a true champion must have. Valverde has been heralded as the next Indurain since he stormed on to the world stage. He's a classy young rider, but has so far never finished a Tour. He nearly won the Vuelta last year, though faded in the mountains and lost to Vinokourov. Can he pull off the Tour win? It's really hard to say, but a lot of Spanish fans will be screaming his name either way. The team has plenty of stength, with riders like Karpets, Arroyo and Portal, so they could actually defend the yellow jersey if they get to... IF.
T-Mobile- The team of former Tour winners and embattled doping scandal riders Bjarne Riis and Jan Ulrich, T-Mobile does at least know how to win the race, but has often fallen victim to poor race tactics and fighting among the numerous team leaders. This year, the team comes to support the GC ambitions of Australian Michael Rogers. Rogers is a three time Time Trial World Champion, so the TT's will be no real problem for him. However, he's not known as a great climber. He's gotten tons better and is now riding for himself and not in the service of another leader. Unfortunately, he doesn't have the best team to support him now. T-Mobile lost Andreas Kloden to Astana, the team of Vinokourov, and lost a few other riders to the Puerto doping scandal (including climbing specialist Oscar Sevilla). On paper, the team looks like it is strong, but not strong enough to win or defend. My money is on T-Mobile trying to sneak a stage win or two while Rogers, 27 years old, tries to find out if he can really contend for the yellow jersey.
Team CSC- CSC is owned and directed by Bjarne Riis, who has said he will not be present during the Tour, to keep the focus on the riders and not on him, after his doping confession. CSC used to employ Ivan Basso as well, but he is serving a racing ban for involvement in the Puerto case and left for Discovery Channel after getting fired by CSC when he was first implicated in the scandal (seems kinda hypocritcal now though, doesn't it). CSC now, like T-Mobile, lacks a true leader for the troops to rally behind. The team is very close knit though, so whoever is doing well will get full support. Carlos Sastre is the team's official leader, but Dave Zabriskie has stated he aims to be a contender in the event as well. With outstanding support riders like current and former Paris-Roubaix winners Stuart O'Grady and Fabian Cancellara (also current TT World Champion) and the always agressive Jens Voigt, CSC is still likely the strongest team in the race. Full of high power riders and fully cohesive, CSC is the team to watch... but not likely for the yellow jersey in Paris.
Predictor-Lotto- The boys in pink are one of the best teams in cycling. With Robbie McEwen as their speed demon, they are sure to take a few stage wins and likely the Green Jersey of best Sprinter. What they lack, and alwways have, is a true contender for the final GC. The team will be riding for Cadel Evans as their GC guy. Cadel is top 10 material and can climb with the best, but he's so far not shown that he can find the legs to last for three weeks. American riders Fred Rodriguez and Chris Horner (originally from the San Diego area and a former co-worker of mine many years ago), will be splitting their time in support of McEwen and Evans. Both riders are also capable of grabbing a stage win, if the chance arises, so keep an eye on them too. The rest of the team is very strong support riders, but it will be hard to see them defending the yellow jersey. Their best hope is for Cadel to take the jersey late in the race, when the other teams are also tired. However... I don't see Evans doing it, as much as I would like to see the likable Aussie win. Instead, look for the team to turn green with McEwen again.
Rabobank- Rabobank is one of the most likable teams, but they do not have a GC threat in their ranks. Instead, they have Michael Rasmussen, the former MTB World Champion (while riding for Haro), gunning for his third climber's jersey. The rail thin Dane is one of the most feared climbers in the racing world, so he will surely be on the hunt for the jersey again. Along with Rasmussen, the team employs 3-time road World Champion Oscar Freire. Sadly though, word is that Oscar is not feeling well with the return of a cyst that sidelined him for most of the year in 2005. Oscar is one of the smartest and cagiest sprinters in the game, but he is also the most fragile. If he can ride strong, he'll be a threat, if not... he won't likely be in Paris. The entire team is strong though, and could contend for the Team Classification. Thomas Dekker, the promising young rider, is set to start his first Tour and is being touted as a possible contender- if not now, then one day. He can climb well, TT with the best and has shown an aggressive style that could take him far. This year? Prolly not.
AG2R Prevoyance- The team of newly crowned French champion Christophe Moreau. Moreau has been the best French rider of the Tour for years now- seemingly the past few decades- but he's not been on the podium. Outside of Richard Virenque, he's been the only French contender in a long, long time. And that's sad. This year, many have him pegged to win. Well, French fans anyway. Here's the God-honest truth: Moreau will NOT win the Tour. The rest of the team, though good, is not great and does not really stand much of a chance to do much more than contend for a stage win. Young Aussie Simon Gerrans might be their best hope of a stage win. Keep an eye on the kid.
Euskaltel-Euskadi- Sponsored by the Basque region of Spain, this team is among the most loved in cycling, especially in Spain and even more especially in the Basque region of Spain. The orange clad riders and fans can be spotted in greatest numbers on the mountains. The team is built largely for climbing and really hurts a lot of other teams and riders with their climbing power. The team is made up of riders that almost nobody knows outside of Spain. That said, people will know their names better when the race hits the toughest climbs. No GC contenders, no sprint contenders, no contenders for much of anything... but they will animate the mountain stages and might even defy the odds and grab a win. Hey, anything can happen (except for Moreau winning the Tour).
Lampre-Fondital- The team of Damiano Cunego... who isn't racing at the Tour. Without Cunego, the team stands a snowball's chance in hell of winning the GC, so they will be putting all their hopes into formidable sprinter Danilo Napolitano. The team actually has a few strong riders who can sprint well, so look for them at the front of the race when the sprint trains are setting up. Napolitano is fast, but then again, so is Alessandro Ballan or Daniele Bennati. The team will be looking for stage wins in the sprints and the rest of the time will likely be keeping their heads out of the wind and resting for the chance to set up a sprint. Napolitano could prove to be McEwen's biggest threat.
Gerolsteiner- The "other German team" in the Tour. Made up of great one-day event riders and Stefan Schumacher. Schumacher is the team's only real hope for anything, but is not a GC threat. He can take a win or two, but that's about all. Though I like the team, I wouldn't expect to see too much of them. Maybe a stage win or two... but that's about all they can hope for.
Credit Agricole- Thor Hushovd, the huge Norwegian, will be looking to win another green jersey and hopefully a stage or two (he won two last year). Hushovd is one of those sprinters who is neither the fastest from far away or up close, but he manages to get his nose over the line somehow. He's a big boy and takes up a lot of room on the road. On top of that, he's a good guy, even if he looks like he might kill you. Unfortunately, if McEwen is on form, Hushovd will be left to chase him and pick up the points left over. Still, I expect him to take a stage. Outside of that, the team really doesn't have much else going on. Building a team for the Tour with 5 French riders is just a bad idea... but hopefully Thor can do the job.
Discovery Channel- The team of former 7 time Tour winner, Lance Armstrong. Life after Lance has been really hard for the team. Last year was a bit painful for the team, though they fought hard and tried. Even without Lance, the wins come to the team... just not at the Tour. Johan Bruyneel is probably the best team director in the sport, at least one of the best. He was able to shepherd Lance to all of his wins and even Lance said it would not have been possible without Johan. Still, Johan can't make just any rider win. Sadly for him. The team is now being led by Levi Leipheimer, since Ivan Basso is now serving a ban for doping. Levi, though I like the guy and he's been in the top ten before, is still not likely to win. He could, if he has damned good legs, make the final podium. His climbing, though sometimes spotty, is superb and his TT riding has become very good as well. Unfortunately, Levi seems to struggle from either that dreaded "off day" or crisis of confidence every year at the Tour. He's won the shorter Tour of Germany in the past, along with the Tour of California this year. He can contend in the shorter stage races, for sure, but can he do it for three weeks? Even he doesn't know that answer. George Hincapie returns again with the team to try and get a stage win and maybe even try to better his maiden attempt at the GC last year. George went to the Tour as a hopeful leader and came up way short. This year, the pressure is gone and he is able to return to his faithful lieutenant role. That means he can go for a stage win, if given the right conditions. The team also has other strong riders in the young gun Alberto Contador and the potential-laden Yaroslav Popovych. Can this team win? Not the GC probably, but maybe the Team Classification.
Bouygues Telecom- Even more French than Cerdit-Agricole and with even less of a chance to win the Tour. Maybe, just maybe, they can take a stage win... but I dunno. Thomas Voeckler is on nearly everybody's likable-guy list, after riding in yellow for several days during the 2004 Tour. He fought his ass off to stay in yellow and won the hearts of cycling fans around the world. The team always seems to find a way to get the team kit on TV and did take a stage last year. For a bunch of ho-hum riders, they do ride with heart. However, heart only takes you so far and these guys will be working hard.
Agritubel- One of the wildcard teams from the Continental Pro Tour ranks, these guys ride with heart too, but this is the Tour. I'd love to see them take a stage win, but this is going to be the hardest three weeks of the season for this team... just to survive. Last year they actually got a stage win and this year's team looks a bit stronger. Can they do it with a team of mid-level Euro pros on the big stage again? Maybe. Maybe not. At least you know they will be trying.
Cofidis- Here's another great team of riders who will fight it out and contend for stage wins, but they lack a GC threat. Packed with strong riders, they should be able to take a win. If nothing else, Brad Wiggins is the odds-on favorite to win the prologue in London. Outside of Wiggins, the team hopes rest with very classy rider Sylvain Chavenel. He's been touted as one the great French hopes to win... but he won't. He's a strong all around rider, but he's lacked the necessary talent to pull off the big win- especially in a three week race. He's a favorite among the French fans, but he's not gonna win.
Liquigas- Home to embattled Giro winner Danilo DiLuca, Liquigas is going to be racing the Tour for stage wins. The team's best hope is for a stage win from Filippo Pozzato. Other than that... long, doomed breakaways for camera time for the sponsors. I love these guys, but they are not going to be able to do too much. The team is not weak, but they are tired from the Giro and fighting off doping allegations. Look for them to race bravely and hopefully try to get a stage win.
Francaise des Jeux- Another French team with riders who are great and all... but they will be fighting for scraps. Once a great team, and still a really good team, the team this year will be looking for opportunities. Directed by former Paris-Roubaix winner, Marc Madiot, the team has great tactical sense and might actually grab a win. Look for them to animate the race with some of the other smaller teams. Sandy Casar could still surprise a few folks... they sure need him to.
Quickstep-Innergetic- This is the team of Tornado Tom Boonen. Tom is the peloton's most feared sprinter when he is on form. He says he that he is and that he is super motivated for the battle with McEwen for the green jersey. Tom is the Belgian national hero and will be doing all he can to take the yellow jersey and wear it when the Tour enters Belgium. Without Tom, the team really has no hope of doing anything. This team is built 100% around protecting Boonen and his blistering sprint. If he gets to the finish line in good position, he's nearly unbeatable. As a winner of many of the toughest Spring Calssics, including Roubaix, Tom is no stranger to suffering it alone and in hard conditions. If he has the legs, he'll hurt people with them. I expect a darned good battle between Tom and Robbie. It should be too close to call until we get to Paris.
Milram- Without Petacchi, thanks to doping problems, the team is now relying heavily on confessed doper and much-loved German veteran Zabel. The aging star still has great speed, but can he find enough speed to contest the sprints with the new young guns? Not likely. Maybe Brett Lancaster will pop out of his leadout roll and move up to main sprinter. He's plenty fast and certainly knows how to get to the front. Outside of possible sprint stage wins, the team doesn't have much to do at the Tour. With the cloud of doping over the team and Petacchi out, they will be riding to protect their image. Hopefully they do that.
Astana- This is the team to watch! If anybody has a shot at winning the Tour and has a reason to try, it's Vinokourov. Thrown out last year because he didn't have enough riders to field a team, Vino went on to win the Vuelta and prove that he could win a 3 week race. He's also brought over former T-Mobile teammate Andreas Kloden- who was third last year and second in 2004. Also on the team is former Giro winner Paolo Savoldelli. This is the team that could truly challenge for the yellow jersey as well as the Team Classification. Kloden wants to win the Tour, though he says he'll be working for Vino, unless he falters. With two major contenders at the helm, the team will either slaughter the field or implode loudly. I expect that Vinokourov will ride as he always does- attacking, attacking, attacking. He seems to race with reckless abandon, yet it works. Kloden is far more methodical, much like his friend, mentor and former teammate Ulrich. Regardless, Astana is going to be the team to beat.
Saunier Duval-Prodir- This team is fresh off of winning the Team title at the Giro, along with 4 stage wins with 4 different riders. However, this is not the same team- outside of Iban Mayo. Mayo seems to be finding some of his former form, so he could be a dark horse. That said, he's never finished a Tour and once said that he felt the race just was not for him. Oh well, he's back to try again. Also coming for the ride is the very popular long-time fighter of doping allegations and later confessor of doping, Robert Millar (I meant DAVID Millar- Ed). Something about Millar keeps him a popular rider and he is finding ways to win again- he says clean now. He should be more than a little motivated to win the opening prologue in London, so look for his time to be among the fastest on the day. The team is packed with climbing talent, so the mountain stages will be fought out between the yellow Saunier jerseys and the orange of Euskaltel-Euskadi.
Team Barloworld- The other wildcard Continental team, Barloworld should help animate things and will likely pin all its hopes on fast man Robert Hunter of South Africa. Hunter can win with the big boys, when he's at his best, but can his team get him into position? That's going to be the big question. The rest of the team is made up of very capable riders, but their best hope is to get into a longshot breakaway and hope that the real GC contenders are willing to let them get away. Otherwise, they are going to be hoping to get Hunter into the right place at the right time. Expect to see them in long suicide breaks... but not necessarily on the podium.
And that's the team break down. (Damn that took forever!)
It's almost time now! Vive le Tour!