I waited to the last minute to write the column. Heck, I think it was over a
month since my last entry, but as usual, I have plenty of excuses for my
lateness, none of them, however, can be blamed on my training or riding, since
I have had to cut it down considerably this season. Amongst all the coming and
goings, the summer finally arrived and with it, the most important bicycle race
in the world.
Checking some of the latest information about the race coming via magazines,
internet sites, news wires and such, I happened to notice some of the media is a
bit confused about this year's edition. It's the 100th Anniversary and
not the 100th Edition, since the race was stopped during both World Wars.
Nonetheless, the excitment is greater than ever with the possibility of Lance
Armstrong winning his 5th consecutive tour and thus, equalling the mark set by
the great Miguel Indurain.
Speaking of the Spaniard, I just finished the latest book about the man from
Navarra, "Indurain: A Tempered Passion." If you consider yourself a true
"Big Mig" fan, then this is a must. You will be taken back in time, through his
early years, his highs and lows, and will find that the man we all thought to be
an "extraterrestrial" was (is) indeed a true legend. The author gives details
accounts of those classic battles between El Diablo, Bugno, Rominger,
Riis, and all the other greats of the 90's. Again, a very good book for any
Back to the Tour, I spoke this week with Glenn Stilwell, host of Wheels of
Steel. In his last show, we discussed the chances Armstrong has to win his
5th tour in a row. Nothing is 100% in life and for sure, in cycling, so although
he is the main favorite, many things have to gel together in order for LA
to enter into the Mount Olympus of the cycling world, to sit next to the other
gods of the sport. But from the tone of several of the main contenders, things
will be different this year.
And if we just looked at two key races, Liege-Bastogne-Liege and the Dauphine
Libere, it seems like the fear most riders feel when Armstrong is in the
peloton, may have started to disappear. Tyler Hamilton took his chances and
grabbed LBL by the horns. Iban Mayo gave LA a run for his money at the Dauphine,
and this was noticed by other riders, who for sure, will have to bring a
different attitude to France, because after all, the Tour is Le Tour.
One rider who will cause all sorts of fuss once the mountains arrive is
recent Giro winner, Gilberto Simoni. The Saeco captain expressed his intentions
of challenging Armstrong in the mountains, because according to the Italian, LA
hasn't met with a true, in form climber in July. I have the feeling that Simoni
will not finish the Tour, but before he goes back home, he will have caused
enough chaos in a mountain stage or two, that LA's cage would have gotten a
serious rattle. Beloki says this is his year and he's coming to fight for first
place. Supported by an always strong ONCE-Eroski squad, it's up to Beloki to
show his true colors.
But I'm interested on those who haven't said much. Levi Leipheimer has kept
quiet as usual, but I'm thinking we will see a very combative Rabobank leader.
Tyler Hamilton perhaps holds the key to dethroning Armstrong, not only for his
talent, but for the fact that the man behind his team car's wheel is the one
with the recipe on how to end a Tour winning streak. And Ullrich; with the team
issues a thing of the past, very good form, and the birth of his baby daughter,
the German finally has something to be positive about. His entourage, who at
times put extreme pressure on the rider, have gotten things together and despite
a potential catastrophe with Coast, kept their cool and allowed Ullrich to
continue to progress, without an ounce of pressure put on him. He's saying that
his tour will come next year, but don't be surprised to see him leading the way
up Luz Ardiden.
Plenty of talk from all sides, and now is time to walk the walk for those
with big aspirations. My lazy boy is ready, the satellite dish has been checked
and double checked, OLN signal is strong and clear, and just like Michael Buffer
says, "Let's get ready to rumble." We are about to witness history in the making
once again. Lance Armstrong can see the top of Mount Olympus, with Anquetil,
Merckx, Hinault and Indurain all waiting for him at the top. The road to
greatness will be hard, but that's just the way the man from Austin, Texas likes
Ride Hard, Ride Fast!