| Friday I had some coworkers ask me, "what time does the tour air on tv today?" This was a bit of a shock, since none of these people ride a bike, but yet, they knew the biggest bike race in the world was upon us. Over the weekend we saw Lance Armstrong's form is right where everyone thought it was going to be. But I was more impressed with the number of possible contenders who made the top 20 in the GC after the prologue. Aside from Sevilla, most of the heavy hitters were about 20 seconds from the Texan. A good indication that despite all the talk about an easy tour, Armstrong will be challenged and this may be, as he put it, his toughest tour yet. To say that the last week will have more fireworks than the 4th of July is an understatement. Can we just fast forward to the Pyrenees and Alps?
Jean Marie Leblanc is doing his best to improve the level of cycling in his native country. And after leaving behind such quality teams as Coast and Acqua e Sapone (lets not mention SAECO!!!), monsieur Leblanc must be praying his local riders show the French tricolore with a victory. True that Stephane Berge is wearing the Polka Dot jersey and
his "red" number shows that he has been the most aggressive rider so far, yet what the French people and for that matter the rest of the world expects, is a victory from one of the French boys. I predict one on Bastille Day , if not, JML will have to reconsider next year before he leaves bigger teams out of the race in order the improve the Gallic pedigree.
Who are these guys?
First, Rubens Bertogliati surprises everyone by putting such a massive attack (it even hurt watching it on the tele), to take stage 1. The entire peloton left it to team Telekom to bring him back, and yet, the feisty Swiss hung on to clinch his biggest victory to date. And according to some, that's just the beginning of a very promising
career. Lets hope he keeps a cool head on his shoulders, we all know what has happened to a few talented youngsters in the recent past. And Oscar Freire is not a surprise winner, but according to his comments right before the Grand Boucle took off, not much was expected from the World Champion. Call it bluff (ala Armstrong) to take away
some pressure, when it comes to sprinting, Freire is on a class of his own. Just like Bertogliati, I hope another "unknown" rider comes to the front and spices things up in the next few days.
More sprints and an interesting team time trial. Get used to the pink Telekom train leading out Zabel, and every other sprinter (Steels, Freire, McEwen, O'Grady and co.) cueing up behind the German's back wheel, ready to spoil their party. Notice I mentioned Steels. Despite the "hammering" he has taken on our message board, I,
just like a few of you, still believe in Tom. A past winner can't just be ignored and true fans will stick with their favorite riders, through thick and through thin. Will we see a bunch of you, who have ditched Tom, jump on the "Steels Bandwagon" once he wins a stage? Who cares if he finishes the tour. Like someone said about Super Mario, "he gets paid to win sprints, not to haul his body over the mountains". Sprinters are in the race to win stages, the flat ones. Let the "mountain angels" handle the ascents.
The main GC riders will continue to hide and will probably fire the first warning shots during the TTT. USPS and ONCE are set for a "mano a mano", with a tired Credit Agricole team, looking for some redemption. By this time next week, we will have a clear picture of who's in for the podium fight.
We are set for an exciting race, and don't think for a moment that LA
will have an easy victory. I'm sticking to my prediction, once the mountains arrive, the Spanish Armada will set the roads on fire. But it will be up to the challengers (Gonzalez de Galdeano, Beloki, Sevilla, Leipheimer, Hamilton, Moreau, Kivilev and any other prospect who thinks he has a chance) to make the race. Lets get it on!
Bicycle Tour of Colorado
Any readers making the pilgrimage to Gunnison, Colorado for the annual Bicycle Tour of Colorado? If you are, let me know, I'll be there trying not to get dropped on the climbs. And if you are going to France to catch a few stages of Le Tour, lookout for the wild bunch from Atlanta. They are going to be loud and crazy, have fun guys!
Ride hard, ride fast!
Questions and comments: