Well the tension has broken, the suspense has given way to action, and the hype has vanished in the face of results. The Tour is on, as the riders today bolted through the 6.1km course in the streets of Liege. Like I have for the past two years, I will be giving daily Jambon reports of the race where I will look at the tactics and humor of what happens on the road. To assist me in this endeavor, Crazy Jane will contribute her periodical insights into the style, beauty, and heart of the sport with her Jambons Délicieux reports.
For those of you who don't remember, here is the scientific language that the DP's linguistic engineers created to describe that certain aspect of the sport of cycling: ham-gaze verb: 1) in cycling, the practice of watching other riders make the race; to sit on while other riders take off down the road. 2) the act of staying in the peloton and watching the "hams" of other riders in front of you. 3) the visual aspect of going off the back when other riders increase the tempo. noun: ham-gazer. synonyms: ass-watch, rear-view. antonyms: attack, hammer.
Golden Hams of the Day
Ham-Gazers of the Day
- Fabian Cancellara (Fassa Bortolo). The young man from Switzerland showed his quality this Spring with a 4th place finish in Paris-Roubaix. Today he stormed the short course to shock the world, winning the stage by almost 2" with a time of 6' 50.94". This is a huge victory for the man in his first Tour, and an exciting surprise for his Fassa Bortolo squad who thought they'd spend the first week just looking after Petacchi in the sprints. They'll still do that, but now they will have the Yellow Jersey for at least a day as they bask in the glow of their new young star.
- Lance "El Jefe" Armstrong (United States Postal Service presented by Berry Floor). "El Jefe" is back, and he looks to be pissed off with a point to make. He came in 2nd at 1.64" behind Cancellara, but at least a dozen seconds ahead of all of his major GC rivals. Sure, the light drizzle might have caused some of his rivals to take a more cautious approach to this opening Prologue, but Lance's message today was still delivered loud and clear. The prologue is obviously not that important when it comes to the final GC, but you can bet that men like Ullrich and Hamilton will not be happy with the amount of time they gave up to the five-time champion over such a short course.
- Thor "Thunder God" Hushovd (Credit Agricole). The Norwegian double-champion came in 5th at 10" behind the winner. More importantly, he took a lot of time out of his sprinting rivals who will be vying to take the Yellow Jersey via the time bonus sprints over the next few days. Hushovd took 8" from Hondo (Gerolsteiner), 10" from Boonen (Quick Step-Davitamon), 12" from Cipollini (Domina Vacanze), 15" from Zabel (T-Mobile), 17" from Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo), 20" from Cooke (FDJeux.com), and 23" from McEwen (Lotto-Domo). Hushovd will have his hands full with such a talented group of sprinters, but for now he has taken charge of the flatlanders heading into their preferred terrain. The many Belgian bumps in the road tomorrow might actually suit a complete power rider like Hushovd, so look for Thor and his boys to make a lot of noise in the days to come.
- Christophe "Bug Taster" Moreau (Credit Agricole), Bobby Julich (CSC) and Carlos Sastre (CSC). Moreau waved his tongue to victory in the Prologue a couple of years back, so today's result of 8th at 11" may be seen by some as a disappointment. However, he took some important time from some of his GC rivals and looks to be in fine form as he tries to repeat his top ten finish from last year. Julich has had many bad years in the Tour, but today the former podium finisher continued his resurgence as he finished ahead of the likes of Ullrich and Hamilton by taking 9th at 11". His teammate Sastre, a pure climber, delivered one of the biggest surprises of the day, as he flew along to a 14th place finish at 14". While Basso struggled, CSC still put four men in the top fifteen to show that once again they are ready to blister the roads of France in July.
Grazed Hams of the Day
- Haimar "Zorro" Zubeldia (Euskaltel-Euskadi). Last year he got 3rd in the prologue behind specialists McGee and Millar, but today he languished in 56th at 26". Perhaps he is sick or just had a bad day. Whatever the case, this can't be a good sign for the men in orange as they are already down to eight men and one of their leaders is now struggling.
- Jan "U-Boat" Ullrich (T-Mobile) and Tyler "Nails" Hamilton (Phonak). They finished respectively in a disappointing 16th at 16" and 18th at 17". They may have been cruising a bit because of the sprinkling skies, as both look to be extremely fit and motivated. Over the next few days, these two will have to be extremely careful, as the roads contain many places where the field can split and where crashes are likely. If big Jan and tough Tyler can reach the Team Time Trial in Stage 4 with only this same small gap to Armstrong, both will forget this minor disappointment and count their blessings.
- Ivan Basso (CSC) and Roberto Heras (Liberty Seguros). These two climbers suffered mightily on this windy course, crossing the line respectively in 70th at 28" and 104th at 36". Again, that's a lot of time to give up to a man like Armstrong over such a short stage. However, both will be saving themselves for those final nine days when the mountains strike with a vengeance. Then they will have their chance to take back that time and more. If they can stay out of more trouble until then, that is.
- "His Royal Highness, King" Richard Virenque (Quick Step-Davitamon). His worship finished today in 174th at 50". Someone bothered to remind him that the race had started, right? Maybe he's just giving his rivals a royal head start, a sporting gesture from the reigning King of the Mountains. Kidding aside, Virenque has clearly given up any GC aspirations and will only be chasing Polka-Dots and stage wins. When the slope of the pavement begins to rise, you can bet King Richard will be there to launch several of his trademark gangly attacks. Until then, don't bother him, because he's trying to get some rest.
Crazy Jane's Jambons Delicieux
- Michael Rogers (Quick Step-Davitamon) . The young Aussie GC hopeful wasn't having his best ride, but things went from bad to worse when he tried to pedal out of a corner and caught his left foot on the ground. His feet stayed in the cleats, and he did a complete sideways roll on his bike after sliding on his belly for a bit. He crossed the line in a disappointing 121st at 39" (which was still 11" better than his teammate Virenque). Here's hoping that his injuries are limited to a little road rash and a bruised ego, and that the talented young star can rebound over the next few days to take his place near the front of the race.
Ladies and gentlemen, the mother of all races is on, and we at the Crazy Jane copy desk officially declare that Tour de France is, like always, Deliciuex!
The kick off today in Liege was as beautiful as ever, with all the color, drama, and pageantry; and of course, busloads of smooth, brown legs and lycra. You gotta love it. As usual, when you round up more than 200 guys who look good in a skinsuit and parade 'em out one by one while they work up a good lather, You'll get no complaints out of this reporter. Also as usual, there were a few especially delicieux standouts:
- I'm going to have to kick it off with today's big winner, Fabian Cancellara. I had no idea this 23 year old Swiss rider was so darned charming. Today was his first day ever in Le Tour, and I'd say he ended it in fine style, by looking handsome on the podium, accepting his kisses from the pretty girls, and trying on all the jerseys. Sports glory is always deliciuex, and the Tour de France serves it up in abundance every day, but it's even better when the good-looking one wins, and really feels the joy of his victory. Since I'm a girl, I won't bother to deny that I was a sucker for his tears of happiness when he knew that he had won, and the pleasure in his face on the podium was truly beautiful. What can I tell you, ladies, we're going to have to keep an eye on this one. I'm making a note in my little book: Fabian Cancellara - Deliciuex!
Since Mr. Cancellara won today, and we love it when the good-looking ones win, he's the prologue posterboy. The Daily Peloton's own Anita Van Crey took a great picture of him today that you can see in the Fassa Bortolo Tour de France team preview, but I had to do a little research to find one without all the headgear...
Fabian Cancellara: Oh yeah, baby.
Photo by Christine Grien
- As usual, Big George Hincapie was looking good out there (what's new?), and, is it just me, or did he actually put in a faster time than Jan Ullrich and Tyler Hamilton? George gets more votes for the delicieux distinction than any other rider, and I won't squawk about it. This is Big G's 9th Tour de France, and he always makes it look delicieux.
- There's a reader out there who's going to kill me if I fail to give due attention to the charms of Iban Mayo. He's got great bone structure and looks like a rockstar in his sunglasses, but at 6 feet and weighing in at 157 lbs, I think someone better get that kid a milkshake or something. Word is he recently had an offer to pose in his birthday suit and turned it down... which I think was probably a good move.
- Despite a somewhat unfortunate haircut, Jan Ullrich is looking as tall, rock hard and Germanic as ever. He was serious in the start house today: seriously hot, that is. Our beloved Phil and Paul just about went all potty over his "huge muscles" and "firing pistons;" I think Paul even finished that of with a great big "MY GOD!" I kid, but I was right there with them, and I have to admit that I had chills watching him start - he looks formidable indeed, and he's working a rig that just won't quit.
- I should probably warn you all right now that Tyler Hamilton will be a fixture in this column. His ride last year insured that. When the drizzle started in Paris today and it's accompanying possibility of slick roads, my stomach was in knots. Tyler, do us a favor, sweetiepants, and DON'T CRASH!
- Finally, I can't wrap it up without mentioning The Boss. Lance Armstrong's chiseled beauty is always nicely showcased by a little bit of intensity, and even though he finished second today, he certainly put the other guys on notice: gentlemen, he's ready to rumble. He looks different from every other man on the bike - smooth and still on the top, with the legs just pounding it out. He set the best time amongst the real contenders, and he did it looking trim, fit, and well-oiled.
There was a lot to love about the tour today - it was awesome to see that apple-cheeked little creature Oscar Sevilla out there, Jens Voigt is looking as incredibly charming as he always does, ditto for Bradley McGee. Norwegian double champion Thor Hushovd was rocking a big fat necklace, but I guess that's ok if you're the thunder god, and Tom Boonen, with his smooth, honey-colored skin, looked like a big giant 14 year old boy. And finally, I think tour officials should always leave Mario Cipollini's fancy costumes unaltered!
I could go on, but there are 22 days of pure bike racing heaven to go, so I'll save a little of my effusive admiration for later... Au revoir then, my dears, until tomorrow!
As usual, the panel here at Crazy Jane's always welcomes your contributions! I'm sure there's some high-wattage charm on the roads in Liege that I missed in my report, so please feel free to send me your picks at email@example.com!