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Entries in Cycling (29)

Monday
Jul212003

Le Tour Tidbits: Wild Action, Crashes & Sportsmanship

Incredible! Today's tour stage 15 was another wild one, with Lance Armstrong, Jan Ullrich and Alexander Vinokourov all within mere seconds of each other at the start of the race. Well, it didn't stay that way very long. Ullrich attacked on the climb up Col du Tourmalet, which was much earlier than expected. But it would seem Jan played his hand a bit too soon, and was caught by a cool, calm Armstrong.

On the last climb up Luz-Ardiden, the leaders made another break, separating from Vinokourov who struggled to keep up. By the end of the day, Vino's 18 second gap would widen to over 2 minutes. I was surprised to see Vino fall so far behind in one stage, but these are the killer mountains that separate the champions from everyone else.

In the midst of the climb up Luz-Ardiden, Armstrong was involved in an accident with a fan and his bag, which wrapped onto Lance's handlebar and threw him to the ground, along with Iban Mayo. Ullrich managed to avoid the spill but amazingly stopped and waited with the group of riders, while Armstrong and Mayo got back up.

Lance was pumped with adrenaline after the spill and once the small lead group started out again, he attacked and separated from Ullrich on the climb. Wow!

"After the crash, I had a big rush of adrenaline. I told myself 'Come on Lance, you must win the Tour today,"'

The gap widened as Lance passed the lone breakaway rider and finished the stage with a win, while Jan pounded the pedals to keep the gap as slim as possible. All told, Ullrich's 15 second gap behind Armstrong has now been lengthened to 1:07.

For a detailed account of the stage, I recommend the live blog coverage of stage 15 by Locutus over at Daily Peleton... you can really can feel the excitement just reading his breathless, moment-by-moment account!

I was amazed me at todays stage not only for the wild racing action, but because of Ullrich's sportsmanship. Lance had extended the same courtesy to Ullrich in a previous Tour, where Ullrich had gone off the side of the road and Armstrong waited to make sure he was OK and safely back on the road with him before continuing the race.

I love Ullrich's quote about the incident today:

"I have never in my life attacked someone who had crashed. That's not the way I race,"

Very classy. It's not hard to see that these two respect each other very highly and can separate fierce competition from real life. It's not often you see this kind of respect and sportsmanship in modern sports. I'm glad it's still alive and well in cycling.

I'm pulling for Lance to win his 5th Tour and I think he may just pull it off, but my respect for Ullrich is very high. Besides I wouldn't count him out until the last seconds of the last individual time trial stage of this wonderful Tour de France.

Hang on tight, it's gonna be a wild ride! :-)

Saturday
Jul192003

La Grande WEBlock Boucle Bar

On Friday I finally got around to trying the La Grande WEBlock Boucle Bar which was mentioned in a comment on a previous Le Tour post. Hey this thing is quite nice! Essentially it's a webpage that combines Danish live TV coverage of the Tour (in Windows Media), official minute-by-minute coverage from the official Le Tour website and now, buttons to launch audio coverage in English, German, French, Spanish and Dutch (which load in external audio players).

Here are the site's instructions for English visitors:

The WEBlock presents 'La Grande WEBlock Boucle Bar' - a sidebar for your browser. This sidebar provides you with a minute-by-minute report of the race AND a live TV stream of the Tour de France! To use 'La Grande WEBlock Boucle Bar' you can follow this link or drag the La Grande WEBlock Boucle Bar link to the linksbar in your browser. A version for Netscape and Mozilla is available here.

If you use Internet Explorer on Windows, you can get the Boucle Bar to load into a sidebar, or if you prefer Netscape browsers, you can use an alternate link to just load the Boucle bar into a regular page (maybe in a separate tab you can check regularly).

Pretty slick! I'm especially glad to see that the audio feed feature was added this week, since this is the part I'm enjoying the most. :-)

Have a great weekend!

Thursday
Jul102003

Le Tour Memories

I'm actually not the biggest cycling fan out there, but I do really enjoy the Tour de France and keeping up with race coverage across the big pond.

Today, I was thinking of all the fond memories of past Tours, and how they have inspired me to get out and ride. Some of my oldest memories were from the 70s and 80s, when as a kid, I loved watching Tour highlights on ABC's Wide World of Sports. I still remember how just one hour of Tour highlights on a Saturday afternoon excited my friends and I about cycling for the rest of the summer.

After college, in 1992, I happened to have cable TV and ESPN carried coverage of the Tour daily (well, it was at 3am). I felt fortunate, since I could tape that day's stage and watch in the evening after work. Wow, what a great Tour! Miguel Indurain, Greg LeMond, Laurent Fignon, and all the other greats, battling it out for the win. That year I was challenged to buy and refurbish an old steel frame racing bike and retrofit it with new components. I had a great time building my ride, which I still ride to this day.

I also recall a nice service AOL offered in 1995, where an on-location cycling reporter followed the Tour and sent out email updates to the subscribers of the list. I still recall dialing in by modem to download the latest descriptive post while I was visiting friends in Germany, as the Tour was taking place in nearby France.

And of course, this year I find myself enjoying Tour coverage offered by websites, weblogs and particularly by Outdoor Life TV in the form of live and archived audio feeds. I feel honored to hear Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen making the call on race day, while I work. In fact it brings back fond memories of 1992 when Phil and Paul made the call for ESPN.

After writing this post, I can't wait to get out on my road bike tomorrow morning! I can't wait to smell the fresh air and feel the wind in my face. I'm looking so forward to seeing the green of the fields and woods flash past, feeling the rumble of blacktop under my wheels, sensing the rush of flying full speed downhill and the challenge of spinning my way up hills. And of course there's that wonderful feeling of endorphins being released and the tension you feel in your legs after a nice morning ride.

Man, it's great to be a cyclist in July! :-)

Wednesday
Jul092003

Le Tour Fever

I'm a fan of cycling riding and following cycle racing, so this time of year is always a great one for me because of the Tour de France. This year in particular it's more exciting, because I and two friends have been training indoors since January and riding our road bikes outside since May, so I've been in much more of a cycling state of mind this summer.

I knew that the Tour began this Saturday, but today (Wednesday) I think I've caught the fever big time, learning of US Postal's Team's huge team time trial win today in stage 4. Lance Armstrong heads the US Postal Team (afectionately known as the Posties or the Blue Train) and is going for a 5th consecutive win of the Tour, to match the great Miguel Indurain.

So, with my thoughts turning to cycling and Tour de France results, I thought it might be nice to share some of the bits I've been collecting since the weekend for readers interested in the Tour. Enjoy!

First, there's of course the Tour de France Official Site, with all sorts of news, information and goodies in many languages.

Outdoor Life TV is showing 2 hour blocks of coverage on US cable TV and has an Official Tour website featuring live and archived audio feeds (Windows Media Player required), which are great for listening to in the background while working.

VeloNews, is covering the Tour as well, and includes rider diaries and excellent interactive flash-based Tour coverage.

Eurosport has a nice cylcling section covering the Tour, CyclingNews.com has good info but a confusing site and Graham Watson's Photo Website has some excellent photos of the riders in action.

The USPS has a Postal Team site up as well, for Lance and Postie fans.

I've found only one weblog completely focused on the Tour: Le Blog de France, but I'm sure there must be more. If you come across a good one, please let me know.

Lastly, the weblog Nicest of the Damned has a nice beginner's guide on the Tour for those new to cycle racing and the Tour itself.

Oh yes -- a Dutch company called Deepweb has release a neat little Palm OS Tour de France reference application called Le Tour 03 (thanks PDANews24!) which shows details on the stages, teams and riders. It's free to check out, though a small $3 donation to Deepweb is certainly in order if you like it and use it.

Cheers too all the road cycling fans out there -- enjoy the next month! :-)

UPDATE: 2003-07-10
I had to add two new Tour Blogs I've learned of via the comments on this post:

Frank Steele from Nicest of the Damned has a great Tour de France 2003 blog site up and running with the latest news (thanks Frank!).

Meanwhile, Dutchman Oskar van Rijswijk has his own LOGos Tour Blog with excellent coverage and a ton of great Tour-related links (thanks Oskar!).

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