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Entries in Cycling (29)

Sunday
Jul232006

Floyd Landis: Tour de France Champion

Today was the day, Floyd rolled into Paris and claimed his rightful place as the Tour de France champion for 2006.

I've been reflecting on the tour, and Floyd's comeback, trying to capture a sense of a feeling for the past 3 weeks.

Amazing is the one word answer to that reflection.

To me, it is indeed amazing that Floyd could lead, crack, then attack and win back the Tour within 4 days time. Amazing that he could come back from his monumental cracking on Alpine stage 2 and drive so hard that nobody could stay with him in the very next stage.

I think the fact that Landis' chances of winning an attack on Stage 17 were so utterly impossible was part of why his audacious move worked. Once ideas were planted in the heads of other riders, like "nobody can overcome 8 minutes" or "he can't stay away long enough before he's caught" the chance of Floyd doing just those things could work.

The impossible seems to have worked in two ways from my perspective: first, the peleton was lulled into believing that Floyd's attack was full of folly, doomed and impossible. But secondly, these thoughts by his peers likely gave Floyd the drive to prove them wrong and that he could do the impossible. A dangerous combo, once you see Floyd's history of pulling off the impossible. Today, I also found myself utterly pleased for Floyd.

This year's Tour was indeed wild, unpredictable and emotionally challenging, but I've come to see how wonderful this is. After 7 years of Lance predictability, a Tour where anything can and seemed to happen, has made cycling exciting again.

Along with this, I will miss the daily flow of events from Europe: Phil and Paul on OLN, stats from the Daily Peleton and daily fixes of Martin Dugard's excellent road trip Tour blog. I do hope some of these wonderful resources will return in 2007.

Fellow Tour fans, thanks for the comments and emails. I hope you enjoyed this wild Tour as much as I have and are pleased at Floyd's improbable win. I'm so very happy for him and wish him the best as he heads toward hip surgery and recovery for 2007.

Until 2007, au revoir, Tour de France!

Photo: AFP

Updates: After some contemplation shortly after the original posting, I felt my comparison between Landis and Armstrong seemed a unfair to Lance. I still admire both Floyd Landis and Lance Amrstrong — what I realize is that knowing neither man personally I've decieded to step back a bit — each man is different while in some ways the same.

Also: shortly after winning the Tour this year, Floyd Landis has been accused of having an abnormally high testosterone level. At this point we're awaiting results of a B sample from Floyd, and there are some questions about the change in ratios from 6:1 to 4:1, connections between the Tour organization and L'Equipe and other confusing details. So now we wait for the results and Landis' defense.

"Dick Pound's recent defamatory and absurd public comments - in the midst of a process where the highest ethical standards should support a fair and just outcome - highlight the dramatic and systematic problems with global anti-doping enforcement and adjudication,"

"Absolute testosterone levels are not even part of the allegations. The LNDD (Laboratoire National Depistage de Dopage - the French lab that tested Landis's sample) tested a clearly contaminated sample of my urine, against WADA rules, and even then my testosterone levels fell into the normal to low range."

Link: Landis hits back at Pound

Related Links:
Official Floyd Landis Blog
The Floyd Fairness Fund
Floyd Landis' Defense Documents
Free Floyd Landis Website

Thursday
Jul202006

Floyd Attacks!

Turned on OLN this morning and WOW! Landis jumped off the front and is attacking like an angry, angry man today.

Seems that Chris Carmichael's words from yesterday have come true:

Relieved of the pressure of carrying the yellow jersey, and perhaps even the expectation of being a podium contender, Floyd Landis might well be reborn tomorrow during Stage 17. He's still a strong rider who has shown himself capable of climbing away from everyone in this year's race. Given a night to eat, drink, rest, and reflect, he can recover from today's bad day and have a great ride to Morzine tomorrow.

At this very moment Landis is snapping the pedals over and climbing to and past that 8:08 deficit he amassed in yesterday's stage!

The Yellow Jersey group of Pereiro and the main rivals are not gaining ground as Floyd prepares to descend and then climb Côte de Châtillon and the killer: Col de Joux-Plane. They cannot seem to rally to reel Floyd in.

Just heard on OLN a quote Landis told Bernard Hinault:

"I was bad yesterday, I'm going to be great today and prove it to you all..."
— Floyd Landis

Will Landis pull this off? I think he could! I'm certainly rooting for him and am incredibly inspired by his attack.

Be careful of that rebellious former Mennonite boy...

WOW!

What an inspirational, incredible ride by Floyd Landis!

"I came here to win the tour. That's what I still want to do, and I'm not done fighting yet."

"I told everybody last night that if somebody wants to win this race they're going to have to earn it."

— Floyd Landis

Floyd nearly destroys his 8:08 deficit, now sitting in 3rd position only 30 seconds behind Pereiro! Amazing. It seems nobody else thought Floyd could pull this off, but I sense he has that killer instinct of the greats. He wants not only this stage but the win in Paris and I believe he can do it.

Wow.

The time trial is not to be missed fans of the Tour... it's going to come down to the time trial.

GO FLOYD GO!

Photo: Eurosport

Wednesday
Jul192006

Tour de France 2006: Landis' Terrible Day

I was stunned to hear that Landis was floating around the back of the lead group in today's stage in the Alps, which turned to disbelief when Phil and Paul called out the attack and Landis fading further and further back... cracking!

Landis cracks? Wha?!

By the end of the day Floyd had lost 10 minutes to the stage winner, 8 minutes to his former rivals. I would never have envisioned this for today.

Today was a tough day for Floyd. I can't imagine how disheartening it must have been as Floyd watched his rivals ride away, while he lacked the power to even maintain contact. It must have been sheer mental and physical torture.

As I reflect tonight on the Tour, the pattern seems clearer — most of team Phonak seemed to disappear on the mountain stages, leaving Floyd either alone or with only a single teammate.

Landis allowed Pereiro to gain 30 minutes in a "controlled fumble" to take pressure of his tired team, and ends up looking at Periero, his former teammate in 1st place, while he sits in 11th. But really, if Floyd and Phonak hadn't given up the Yellow Jersey, would he have even survived yesterday's climb?

Now we are seeing just how tired out they were, including Floyd. It makes me wonder if Phonak had really been built for the mountains, as both T-Mobile and CSC seemed quite strong in comparison.

The best writing today on the Landis collapse is at Martin Dugard's blog:

Landis ...

Landis looked tired and hopeless, incapable of turning the pedals a single bit faster. In those moments, the yellow jersey was lifted from his back. The collective gasp that shot around this ski resort as fans watched the collapse on a jumbotron was unparalleled. It was Landis's race to lose and, more than likely, he did.

Now it will be interesting with Floyd "out of it" how he will react (if he can) tomorrow. Will he aim to just finish, or like Levi Leipheimer, attack like a wild man, even though there may seem no point? Or will he do it for pride? Chris Carmichael has some excellent points to consider about Floyd in todays post, Bad Days Happen:

Relieved of the pressure of carrying the yellow jersey, and perhaps even the expectation of being a podium contender, Floyd Landis might well be reborn tomorrow during Stage 17. He's still a strong rider who has shown himself capable of climbing away from everyone in this year's race. Given a night to eat, drink, rest, and reflect, he can recover from today's bad day and have a great ride to Morzine tomorrow.

Whatever happens, this is the most exciting, gut-wrenching, confusing, unpredictable, crazy Tour de France I've seen. Even wilder than Lance's challenging 2003 Tour — and I'm loving (nearly) every moment of it.

Photo: Eurosport

Thursday
Jul132006

Wild & Crazy Tour de France '06

Wow, what a wild Tour de France we have on our hands. I had an inkling that this year would be a wild one, but nowhere near as wild as it's turned out.

Operation Puerto eliminates several contenders, including Jan Ullrich and Ivan Basso. One of my favorites to win, Alejandro Valverde was knocked out with a broken collarbone. Iban Mayo, so strong in 2003, abandons the Tour on today's mountain stage. Bobby Julich wipes out in the time trial, breaks his wrist. Floyd Landis reveals a hip ailment on rest day. George Hincapie gets dropped on today's killer mountain stage and loses 23 (TWENTY-THREE?) minutes to the leaders!

What the heck is going on?!

I certainly won't complain that the Tour isn't exciting this year, but this is something else. I think it's due in part to the sudden change from the relative stability of Lance's 7 wins to the free-for-all we're seeing this year. But this year is just freaky... weird.

Some Clarity, Finally!
Today finally provided a relative level of clarity, with the contenders for the Yellow Jersey separating themselves on the last climb of stage 11. I about fell out of my chair when I saw today's route profile —what a set of killer climbs. Maybe it's no wonder guys were falling like apples from a tree. :-)

Impressed and Dissapointed
I was impressed today with the race leaders: Floyd Landis and his control of the situation, Menchov staying with the lead group to sprint for the stage, Levi Leipheimer for hanging in and fighting right to the top of the mountain stage. Even Cadel Evans and Carlos Sastre, who each lost a a few seconds to the leaders, are still considerable threats for the Yellow Jersey.

It would seem T-Mobile may have burnt themselves out over the past several days. Klöden was dropped a bit at the end of the day, and his teammates were left hanging after hammering a good way through the stage. Will Klöden be able to recover for the Alps? I think he still has a shot.

Discovery seems to have imploded, with the exception of Azevedo, who at least kept close. Hincapie and Savoldelli lost over 20 minutes each today — how the heck does that happen? George is now so far back he'll need half the tour to ride off of a mountain pass to have a shot at 3rd place! It would seem the loss of a strong leader has hurt Discovery more than anyone had realized.

Hincapie pulls a Houdini
What was most odd today was the lack of comment about Hincapie from the OLN crew — its as though once he was dropped he ceased to exist. The invisible man. He wasn't mentioned at all in the final stage or GC wrap-up today on OLN, almost as if he wasn't in the race. Now I know why — 23 minutes lost on a single stage! Ouch!!

I actually feel quite bad for George, because I know how much he wants to win, and how hard he worked to get Lance his 7 Tours. He also seems a genuinely good guy. Its difficult to see George struggling so suddenly, especially on a stage where it would seem he's able to at least maintain contact. I hope he hangs in there.

Just found an interview with George on VeloNews: Down but not out: Discovery moves forward. Sounds like George's body and mind just failed him. Check out this quote:

"I was really tired and finished empty," said Hincapie. "I don't think I bonked. I just didn't have it. I don't have an excuse for what happened, it just wasn't there. I don't think [it was the crash at Paris-Roubaix]. I arrived [at the Tour] better than ever. I almost won the prologue and I grabbed the yellow jersey, so the crash is already in the past. I just couldn't change rhythm. Once I saw I couldn't go, I didn't see the point to keep going. Yesterday was maybe one of the toughest days of my career, just because I had a lot of hope to do well. Once I saw that wasn't going to happen it was really hard."

That's too bad. Maybe the pressure for George to change into the Lance replacement was just too much to expect of him, or any of the Disco boys right now.

I'm actually enjoying the Tour, but am never sure what to expect from day to day. Maybe that's not a bad thing. It sure has been exciting! :-)

Must-Visit Tour Resources
I've already created a page with all sorts of resources on the Tour, however of those, I'm finding 4 to be must-visits for my daily dose of the Tour:

OLN TV — I listen (and sometimes watch) to the live coverage of the Tour with PHil Ligget and Paul Sherwin each day on OLN. If you can't get these guys covering live, there is an online viewer with highlights from each day. In the evenings the stage is re-run, though with Bob Roll and Al Trautwig's overdubbing of the action (not even in the same league as Phil & Paul in my opinion). If you can't get near a TV, Eurosport's streamed coverage is also quite good.

The Daily Peleton — Here you can read live coverage of each stage, standings and the Jambon Report, with perspectives on the "Golden Hams" and "Ham Gazers" of the day's stage. Great info and analysis.

Martin Dugard's Weblog —Martin is a best selling author of several books, including his most recent about Lance Armstrong, Chasing Lance. I love Martin's reports from the Tour, because he provides description of his experience outside of the stats and action, adding depth, color and analysis from someone on the ground. Check out Martin's blog for some excellent daily posts.

TDFBlog — Frank Steele's most excellent resource for news and analysis. Every year I make this blog one of my stops and am never disappointed. Frank always seems to find the best stories on the Tour, saving me lots of effort. :-)

Enjoy the Tour!

Photo: AFP/Franck Fife

Friday
Jun302006

Tour de France 2006: Ullrich, Basso, Mancebo, Beloki Out!

Looks like recent scandals related to the Spanish report "Operation Puerto" have now knocked out Jan Ullrich, Ivan Basso, Francisco Mancebo and more...

Operation Puerto: The list (Eurosport)
UCI add names to official list (Eurosport)
Spirit of '98? Surely not (Eurosport)
Basso and Mancebo out of Tour (ProCycling)
Ullrich out of the Tour de France (ProCycling)
More riders suspended: Basso and Mancebo out (Cycling News)
Operation Puerto: Yet Another Doping Scandal (Centripedal Blog)
Black Friday: Basso, Mancebo, Ullrich all withdraw from Tour (TDFBlog)
Doping Scandals Throw Tour de France Into Chaos (NY Times)

Updated Rider Listing (Tour de France site)

One final quote from the Ullrich story to give you an idea how serious this is:

"The only thing I can tell you is that the information is clear enough and didn't leave any doubt."
— T-Mobile PR Luuc Eisenga

I guess this year will be quite interesting indeed.

Looking for the latest Tour 2006 info?

Visit my entry for Tour de France 2006