brian on 2003.07.13
at 02:37 pm
I have been terribly remiss in not mentioning one of my favorite annual events, le Tour de France. This is the 100th year of the world-famous event, which was initially conceived to help sell copies of a struggling (and long now defunct) sporting newspaper. It has since established itself as one of the most difficult sporting events in the entire world. The event covers 3,427.5 kilometres of the beautiful French countryside from July 5th to 27th.
This year's event could make Lance Armstrong an immortal within the sporting world. Lance is going for his 5th consecutive general championship (overall victor, based on cumulative time, indicated by the current leader wearing "le mallot jaune" the "yellow jersey." Only a few of history's greatest riders have won five, and few (two, I believe) have won those consecutively.
Lance is riding as an American on the only American-based team, whose title sponsor is the US Postal Service. Wearing blue, white and red, the team rides American-made, stock-production Trek OCLV-carbon racing bikes. They are only team not using fully custom bikes. There are a few other Americans on the team, along with riders from other countries, including Russia and Columbia. Other Americans are riding on European teams, like the talented Tyler Hamilton of Marblehead, MA who was a star for the USPS team before moving from under Lance's shadow to captain the Danish CSC team. Without doubt, Tyler is the second best American in the race, next to Lance, and just above Georgie Hancappie (USPS).
These three represent US cycling very well. The US is certainly not considered a powerhouse within the sport of cycling which is huge in Europe and other countries. However, the US riders are certainly starting to reach world-class, just as our national soccer team is starting to achieve world-class status. All this while most of the country has no clue.
As I type this, I'm listening to a live audio link to the 8th Stage, which is a climbing stage, going over the most famous climb in cycling, L'Alpe d'Huez. They have just reached the base of the big climb, and as expected the USPS team attacked, launching their main man, Lance, and his right-hand man, Roberto Heras, to the front of the field. Team tactics within cycling strategy are complex (yes, believe it or not, cycling is first and foremost a team sport), and I won't get into them here.
Unsurprisingly, Lance attacked and shot straight up the mountain, just behind the stage leader Iban Mayo. However, the big surprise was Tyler Hamilton! Tyler crashed on the first stage of the race, double fracturing his clavicle. No one expected him to continue, let alone ride injured with Armstrong's chase group (including some of the sports best) on the the most famous climb in cycling. Amazing.
Notice I said I was listening to the race. Normally, I would be watching this on the Outdoor Life Network. But for some reason they decided not to air the most dramatic stage live. Instead they are airing fishing shows! So I've tuned into their WMP audio stream. It's very disappointing. Never the less, the race is quite exciting, just wish I could see it!
Epilogue: Iban Mayo, a Spanish rider from Team Euksatel, has taken the stage, by himself at the top, only two minutes or so ahead of Armstrong's chase group. Armstrong finished third, capturing the Mallot Jaune for the first time in this year's race.
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