By Tick of
The Tour de France 2004. Everything was going to be different this
year: Lance showed weaknesses. Jan was stronger than ever. Joesba was
going to lead a small French team to victory. Alexandre and Jan would
lead a two-prong T-Mobile attack. Mario and Alessandro would dominate
the sprints. Tyler wouldn't break any bones. And it wouldn't be so
darn hot. Right?
Wrong! Ok, so Tyler hasn't broken anything -- yet. And it sure isn't
hot! But otherwise? Lance is once again proving why he is the heavy
favorite to become the first to win six Tours. Jan has perfected his
"aw, shucks" routine and is careful to point out that he is not blaming
his poor placement on the rain, his sniffles, his teammate's mechanical
problems and so on. Joseba and Alexandre are watching the Tour on tv
and the two Italians have not yet been spotted.
Did anyone really believe that it would all be different this year? Did
anyone really believe that Lance wouldn't be better prepared this year
than ever before? By the end of the fourth stage most of the favorites
had already managed to be eliminated to to have eliminated themselves.
Only Tyler Hamilton is still within striking distance and Jan Ullrich
can't be totally counted out. But many observers and fans have already
conceded the race to Armstrong.
The Tour serves another function, and that is to bring together
potential employers and potential employees -- not to mention its vital
role as a catalyst for team changes. Who wants to change teams because
he wasn't nominated for the Tour? Who feels himself not sufficiently
supported or appreciated by his team? Who thinks his chances are better
elsewhere? And which teams think, "Hmm, we hired him specifically for
the Tour, and then he wasn't even good enough to make our Tour
team..." The rumors are flying fast and furious. Mario Aerts,
Cadel Evans, Michele Scarponi, Levi Leipheimer, Dario David Cioni, Floyd
Landis -- these are the names in today's gossip columns.
And so the Tour has only just started and still already managed to bring
its usual amount of upsets and crashes and controversies and boring flat
stages...just like every year...