Thank you all so much for writing! I heard from so many of you, and the general consensus is that WE LOVE OUR BIKE BOYS! But, before we get on to that, there are a few little details that did not make my column yesterday due to the fact that I was beside myself over the epic battle, but which I must include today:
Firstly, I know I mentioned the entire Postal team, and even gave Chechu Rubiera's name as an example in yesterday's paean to heroism in the saddle - but what I did not mention is how much he, specifically, was incredible yesterday. As the man at the ready to pace his fallen leader back into the battle after Armstrong was clotheslined by a spectator's musette, Chechu took calm control of a hot moment, putting up his hand as if to say "Calm down, boss, we'll get there," and then drove it for all he was worth delivering Lance into position to administer his final knockout blow. Chechu gets yesterday's MVP from the panel here. On top of that... goooood-lookin'!
Secondly, I need to take a moment to mourn the passing of two of my special favorites, Fast Freddy Rodriguez and Axel Merckx are both out of the tour. Freddy Rodriguez retired yesterday. What a bummer. I love that kid, and would have loved to see him show his class on the flatter stages to come. Alas! Axel Merckx, who has been suffering from tendonitis and knee trouble, did not make the timecut, and his loss is a serious blow to the good looks of the peloton.
These retirements, among others - the loss of sprinting dreamboat and big star of the Délicieux report, Alessandro Petacchi along with odd pick, Jens Voigt, and now Merckx and Rodriguez, has prompted one reader to wonder if there is a curse of the Jambons Délicieux. She suggests that I stop mentioning George Hincapie, just in case, he's already had enough bad luck this year.
I don't believe in curses, though, so without further ado…
Qui est plus délicieux ? The Readers Speak!
Let's kick off with this letter from Kyle in Murietta, CA, who speaks for many of us when he says that every man who takes the start in Le Tour is to be saluted! Let's call this the Vive Le Tour! Category:
I nominate all of the participants in the 2003 Tour de France.
This has been an epic year in the Tour de France. These 196 men have ridden through a mountainous incinerator of boiling tar and jagged peaks... through fields and into ditches. They've been broken and bloodied, giving chunks of their soul, just for the sake of cycling. This sport takes years from their bodies and loved ones from their life. What kind of inspiration, dedication and class it takes to be a professional cyclist. I don't know... I can't know. I'm just a guy, trying to relate on my little bike jaunts when I can get out and sacrifice time with my wife and kids to pedal my own little personal Tour...or on my rides to work when I sprint through a stoplight. Though, it pales in comparison to the weeks and months they spend suffering away from their loved ones, some not even to better their own cause, but to sacrifice their being for another.
Today was a day that I will never forget. Like the day when Lance looked back at Jan, the moment is frozen in time. It is in my little mental time capsule that has changed the fabric of my soul. Today I was able to witness what it is like when a handful of champions fight head to head, and play fair. All the other professional sport "Hero's" need to take notice of what happened today and learn what true sportsmanship is all about.
Gentlemen of the 2003 Tour de France, hat's off, I salute you.
- Kyle Mangrum
Amen to that... I'm not sure how much direct resemblance to Kyle's sentiment it bears but there's also this:
I would make-out with the entire top 10 in a NY minute. Every one of them is a total stud!
- Elizabeth H.
Lance Armstrong - Le Plus Délicieux
Lance Armstrong's huge ride on Luz-Ardiden, in which he finally adopted that look of steely determination where you just know that there is nothing whatsoever in his mind but the road ahead, the rhythm of his cadence, and the sheer will to make it happen finally dislodged the always charming George Hincapie from the top spot. Lance's exploits on Luz-Ardiden left many a heart all a-flutter!
I'm going to have to give top honors to Lance Armstrong. He has had everything but the kitchen sink thrown at him this Tour and has come out of it a winner. This Tour has humbled him in a way that makes his victory even more moving and him even more attractive than ever before. As hot as he was while totally dominating the Tour, it has increased exponentially with every struggle and set back that we have had the pleasure of watching him fight through. This must have been what he looked like when he was fighting through cancer and chemo convinced that he could win no matter how many people were counting him out. He has never been more attractive than watching the joy on his face on the podium yesterday, and that's saying something.
***Honorable mention: The entire rest of the field***
Lance, of course, is the rider Plus Delicieux in the tour. There IS no
competition. His quiet strength; blazing eyes that declare he will not be
denied; his lithe form bobbing up and down with no apparent effort when he
gets out of the saddle to seemingly frolic up the hor categorie climbs; his
lean, chiseled cheekbones; his lashless, intense eyes eying only the prize;
his close-cut hair; the sheer compactness of everything about him -- he's
just an exquisite work of art.
Le plus delicieux? I have to say Lance, Lance, Lance. Sir Lancelot,
strong-armed with spear, racing forth on his shining mount. Like a hawk in
his chiseled, lean perfection, with limpid blue eyes. He inspires us; he
makes us weak in the knees. And a special honorable mention to his eight
knights in shining armor, Beltran, Ekimov, Heras, Hincapie, Landis, Padrnos,
Pena and Rubiera. What a ride they're giving us!
- Carol (I, too, can write purple prose)
#1 - Lance Armstrong - Words cannot describe this man, he is the epitome of a
Tyler "Nails" Hamilton - Lord of Studsville
Lots of votes for Tyler. No surprises there...
Tyler "Nails" Hamilton, all the way baby.
Tyler is the epitome of cycling manhood. This guy is devoted to his wife and his dog-he even *writes* about his dog. The way he speaks with the press is so erudite and endearing all at once-he is so well spoken it makes one weak in the knees! He's an astute observer of what goes on during the race and behind the scenes. I adore his diary entries-I can't wait to read them every day, and I'm mildly disappointed when he doesn't make a contribution. Finally, racing on fractures and pinched nerves is either crazy or studly. Maybe both, but Tyler is definitely suited to those qualities. He continues to prove one doesn't have to be 18 years old to kick some ass. Those skinny climber guys are just plain hot. Skinny, boyish, with those smooth cut legs and great bike tans!!!
If I ever meet Tyler Hamilton, I'll buy him a drink. Hell, I'll buy his wife and his dog a drink, too.
Or how about this?
Tyler Hamilton is indeed a stud. But, wow, his wife is a babe.
Postal Domestiques Get ALL the love!
I have only just started reading your Jambon Awards
but I made sure that I checked out the results for
Stage 8. I have to say that I was quite disappointed
that little Roberto Heras was not given a more
prominent mention. I mean, the adorable little
Spaniard fell on a descent, gashed his knee open, did
not seek out medical attention, and yet still managed
to ride a pretty damn good stage. How sore must he
have been after that? And the next day too! For such
a talented man to sit back and be an outstanding
domestique in race where he could be a serious
contender in the mountains is amazing enough in
itself. But for that same man to such loyalty to his
team leader as to forget about his own well-being and
keep pulling himself back up to help after crashing is
completely without equal! He gets my vote for best
domestique, best rider, best everything during every
You're overlooking that adorable workhorse Roberto Heras, who has been off
the pace struggling with bronchitis this year, and not had an opportunity to
show off what those magnificent quads can do like he did last year in some
of the mountain stages. But what wonderful long lashes and puppy dog eyes!
Get well, Roberto.
Readers named Joan seem to all love Chechu!
Chechu Rubiera has to be at the top. Not only is he adorable, quick to smile and just a super nice guy, he is the "unsung" hero in USPS. Would Lance have won stage 15 without Chechu? Probably, but not by much. And don't forget whose bike Lance crossed the finish line on in stage 1 (all those voting in the Cliffbar Domestique contest take notice). Like Roberto, Chechu does his job no matter if he is sick or injured without making excuses or whining (a lesson for David Miller?) he's just always there giving 210%. My hat is off to all the Posties and it was really hard to choose, I just love Roberto, Chechu, Eki and all the rest, but for this tour Chechu gets my vote. Go Posties! Go Lance!
CHECHU CHECHU CHECHU! Oh my God - Chechu! He rises from the dead to come back and pace Lance again and again. And then yesterday finishes high up on the overall looking peaceful and serene and FRESH! He is surely the most delicieux!
Viatcheslav Ekimov - SEXY!!!! STRONG!!! WISE!!!! I'm not sure what it is, maybe experience, strength, great lips, beautiful blue eyes, but Viatcheslav Ekimov makes me swoon!!!!!
Finally, there's George - who might want to consider changing his name to LL Cool G:
The Most Delicious title has to go to George Hincapie. To sacrifice all
personal ambitions in the Tour for 5 years, to give everything he has to
another rider, to ride hard every day in support of his team leader... that
smile, those eyes, and even the ears. He is délicieux through and through!
- Trish Albert
George Hincapie! Without a doubt, easily the best-looking man in professional cycling! I keep hearing that George doesn't have a girlfriend, how can that be? Not that I'm sorry to hear it... Note to George: I'm available!
My most scrumptious rider is George Hincapie. The way he looks in his lycra and rides the tour is hot, but the way he looks all covered in mud after riding Paris-Roubiax... Heaven help me!
- Lena S.
Can't pick just ONE?
It's tough, when there are 100's of 'em to pick just one...
I've been sitting here trying to pick the one rider that I believe to be the most délicieux rider in the peloton. An impossible task, for to pick one means leaving two others behind. So if you don't mind, I'll stick with these three.
1. Lance Armstrong - 'Any thing that can go wrong, will go wrong' This seems to be his story this TdF, but through it all he is still wearing the Yellow Jersey. The man is tough, studly and steely. He sends shivers down mine spine when he attacks. He gives me shivers in 'other' places when he's smiling on the podium.
2. Jan Ullrich - The man is a true champion. All the hardships and misfortunes. The alcohol and drugs... but ya know what? He stood tall, accepted his punishment with grace and came back stronger than before. On top of that, he's one classy guy. Honestly, the TdF is the only time I don't root for Jan, and that's because I'm rooting for Lance! May he have many more victories (but not this TdF).
3. Tyler Hamilton - To me, Tyler IS the TdF. He's what sporting contests are all about. To bad the football/baseball/basketball crowd aren't paying attention. Tyler is all class and one tough stud. If he wasn't injured, I bet he'd be kicking some Texas and German ass. As it is, he's showing the world who the real pussies are in the peloton.
And because I'm on a roll, how about these for honorable mention:
Allesandro Petacchi - One hunky man (yes, I'm still rewinding the video to view his, hmm.....lycra!). I've never been a fan of the Giro, so I didn't watch it this year, but you can bet your ass I'll be watching next year!!!
George Hincapie - I was touched by the way Lance saluted him today. It shows just how close of friends the two of them are. That's one of the reasons Postal is so good. The more I hear and see about George just makes me like him all the more. He truly is a special person. I hope he wins P-R next year!
Johan Bruyneel - I have to mention him because I think he is, hands down, the most gorgeous man in the entire world of cycling. I just love that dimple!!!
And finally, Frankie Andreu - That hair. Those eyes. What a babe!
I'd better stop now. The way things are going with the Jambon reports curse, I just took out the best part of the peloton.
- Sharon Downey
Lance and Ullrich! this is truly what cycling is about!! what courage,what bravery, this is truly what life is about. for these 2 competitors do have the class to race to the finish, the rest of the sports world should take heed to these 2
cyclists. the best race ever.
- Mike & Cindy C.
Marco Velo: the most gorgeous blue eyes and and completely off the wagon, not to mention a bit of a lunatic... but in a nice way. Gilberto Simoni: even if winning a gran'tour or two (or not), always in the mood for a nice chat and a close look to his nice hairdo. Juan Antonio Flecha: cuter than cute, nicer than nice, helpfuller than helpful to introduce the whole team to me.
You have Petacchi, you have the other subjects like Mayo and Rubiera, even Hincapie... but no, yours truly is going to vote for a double numer one in Orange!
Unai Etxebarria and Inigo Landaluze - Sure I know why, but I will share it with you!! In Paris, at the prologue I spent some time wandering around in between the parked buses. Following my soft spot towards the Orange Men with the Big Orange Bus, I had to stop near some warming-up men in lycra. The usual noise came from Mr. R. Laiseka himself, greeting every man he knew (and in my humble opinion also the ones he did not know...) with a loud shouted HOMBREEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!
As they do have much sheep in the Basque country I suppose one man from origin Venezuala and one other Basque followed his example. And when they discovered one standing there and watching them for more than a sec they were much willing to share some Hola's and other friendly words. And, for sure (made me very happy…) most willing to behave a bit like idiot kids when I tried to take some nice pics. Now I do like the less posed, less looking right into the lens kinda thingies, but I can assure you, these two are real champions in playing with the lens, as in ducking and laughing the head off afterwards, but eh, there is just one other-orange girl that can beat them... and the results you already could see on the other rest-day's photo fearture!!
So to stand for my choice, sure they look cute, you get deaf after spending some time near them, and you get a chance to practice your "Hola's," but most of all, the fact that they are so nice, so willing to open up the team, their riding to one more or less just walking by... makes a girl hanging around hooked for life...I'm afraid...
- Anita Van Crey
It may be a cop out, but I would also have give this distinction not to one single rider but to the top 3 riders in the GC, Lance, Jan and Alexandre.
ARMSTRONG: En route to his toughest Tour win by far, Lance has fought like a lion and, more than ever shown that he is a true champion. He overcame severe adversity to fight back and to come out on top. However, I hope Lance decides to step down after this year, step down as a champ, so that he does not have to go through what all other 5-time champions before him went through: Returning for No. 6 but then finishing with the pack.
ULLRICH: Jan has also overcome incredible adversity over the past few years and is giving Lance an incredible battle. It's not just his personal problems (knee injury, ecstasy abuse), it's all the problems with his (former) team Coast, turned-Bianchi as well. It's incredible how well he rode in Tour. Jan has all of Germany glued to the TV in a way that typically only soccer can. It's 1997 all over again.
VINOKOUROV: Alexandre has had an incredible year with numerous wins, but finishing third in the Tour would be his biggest feat. Another true fighter who never gives up and who has the guts to attack whenever there's the chance. He has become very well-rounded as a cyclist, and has saved Team Telekom's Tour.
- Patrick Kessler
The Roads Less Traveled, but no less Délicieux!
You are so right about Axel Merckx! That big Belgian dreamboat is my number one pick. I think he should get a new uniform, too, though. I think he should join Postal.
- Jen Evans
I just wanted to put in a plug for Santiago Botero. Sure he is unpredictable but that is part of what makes him so great. Also, he was awesome in his work in getting Vinokourov back to the group. That was pure beauty.
I love your column and I especially loved your photo coverage. So many of us know what is hidden under those helmets and sunglasses but it's nice to see these exceptional cycling hunks up close, thanks!!! I would just like to ask if you could round up some pictures of Jens Voigt to include in your next group. I'm also wondering if you have any of Stuart O'Grady because my cycling team (Desert Foxes out of Tucson, AZ) just can't decide if Stuey has the best package out there or if it's those green lycra shorts of Credit Agricole???
We're anxiously awaiting your continued coverage of TDF.
Note to Karen: I don't think it's the shorts. (Did I just write that?! Bad Jane!)
Tune in tomorrow for our regularly scheduled programming!