Golden Hams of the Day
From our man on the scene, Locutus!
Ham-Gazers of the Day
- Lance "El Jefe" Armstrong (US Postal Service presented by Berry Floor). He was focused at the start line, showing up early to weigh his bike and looking as though he could barely tolerate the presence of others. He just wanted to get up that climb and once again show why he is the man. This will go down as one of the classic victories of all time, the great man in Yellow putting a 1' 01" spanking on his rivals. He is now 3' 48" up on Basso, and looks sure to pad the lead in the final time trial. Armstrong finished the day like he began it: owning this Tour de France.
- Andreas Klöden (T-Mobile). I got a cranky email recently by a reader who commented that I was discounting Klöden's ability to time trial. Consider me corrected. The German Champion came in 3rd today at 1' 41", and now stands in 3rd on GC at 5' 03". He now looks to be a serious threat to not only land on the podium, but also challenge Basso for that 2nd step. With the top step of the podium looking sewn up, it's the battle for 2nd that should be outstanding over the next few stages.
- Jan "U-Boat" Ullrich (T-Mobile). Sure, he lost 1' 01" to Armstrong, but he was no longer in contention for first anyway. At the start line, he rolled back and forth, weaving between the horde of Tour workers and press, looking like a caged tiger ready to pounce. Now he stands in 4th on GC at 7' 55", and needs to overcome a 2' 52" deficit to his teammate to get on the podium. That is a tall order, but with the stages remaining, big Jan just might be able to pull it off. More than that, though, he rode like a champion today. There's no "quit" in that guy.
- Francisco Mancebo (Illes Balears-Banesto). Mancebo was laughing and joking at the start line while his main competitors looked tense. Maybe he should have been a bit more serious, as he came in 24th at 3' 40". He has dropped back to 6th on GC at 9' 20"… and there is still that long time trial to come. Mancebo will now have to do something special tomorrow if he wants to land in the top five come Paris.
- Georg Totschnig (Gerolsteiner). The Austrian gave a mediocre performance today to land in 16th at 3' 14". This puts him in 7th on GC at 11' 34". For Totschnig, this is still a strong performance, but the promise for a top-five finish just a few days ago seems to have faded.
- Roberto Heras (Liberty Seguros). Heras is the last climbing superstar in this race, but his face in the starthouse said it all. He's having a dismal Tour de France, and today he managed a time of 5:37, only one second faster than that of sprinter Stuart O'Grady. Perhaps, at this point, Heras has given up the ghost on this tour, and is looking towards the Vuelta for vindication, but one thing is certain, this tour is a bust for the Spanish climber, and the comparison between him and his replacement on the US Postal Service, Jose Azevedo, who now sits in 5th place overall despite working to keep Armstrong in position, is particularly stark. Here's hoping Heras finds his legs again!
Crazy Jane's Le Tour Delicieux!
What did I tell you yesterday about what was coming down the pipe today, people? As I believe I have previously noted, Lance Armstrong, at this juncture, would have to develop a sudden case of debilitating encephalitis and in his delirium, make a wrong turn and ride of the edge of the flat earth to lose his 6th Tour de France now, and that is just NUTS. One Tour de France victory is an unbelievable accomplishment, but six in a row? We all know it has never been done in 101 years of Le Tour, and that's because it's crazy talk. It's well known that Armstrong's father hasn't ever been a big factor in his life, and my latest theory on that is because his father is from Krypton, and his name is Jor-El. You people have seen that little Superman curl Lance is working, right?!
But, of course, he's not superman, he's just a man, and that is the source of everything that is most remarkable about Lance Armstrong: he shows up, and makes it happen. Armstrong inspires people to strong emotion and it runs the gamut from those who seem hate him with the white hot intensity of 1000 burning suns, and those who love him with nearly religious devotion, and I think they were all on that mountain today. In the center of that whirlwind, there's a man in single-minded pursuit of a simple mission: to win the Tour de France. Lance Armstrong's face in the heat of battle, his hollowed out cheeks, and the way he looks up at the road; the pure, unadultered presence and committment he brings to his work, is truly awe-inspiring. I have to admit that I am amazed by him. I've said before that Lance never looks hotter than when he's driving it up a mountainside in the Tour de France, and that has a lot to do with the chiseled intensity of his face, that flawless 1950's astronaught-style haircut, and the way it shows the compact neatness of his figure to particular advantage when he's dancing on the pedals, but the real source of his potency is just the fact that he's there, and it's happening. Armtrong's remarkable performances are ephemeral, and they're over when they're over, but I always feel lucky to have been witness to something truly transcendent; but at the same time, incredibly, grounded in this flesh and blood man.
Lance Armstong, King of Le Tour
Photo by Christine Grein
Armstrong gave his rivals a lesson today, but that doesn't mean they weren't brilliant as well. I have to, again, take my hat off to Jan Ullrich today, who is as incredible as Armstrong is, in his own way. Ullrich returns, year after year to this battle, and he's not quite the machine of perfection his rival is, but there's something in that that just makes you love him. Watching Ullrich grind relentlessly up the Alpe d'Huez today, turning over his huge gears, his mouth wide open, and his face registering all the pain and effort that Armstong's rarely shows, especially when you know he's lost, is just so spectacular. Ullrich's riding into form a little late, it seems, and I know he's made his own bed by arriving at Le Tour not quite ready to face the opposition that awaits him, but his effort is still heroic, and without a true battle from a man like Jan, Armstrong's victories would ring less clearly. I can't help cheering for Jan. He's been on the ropes more than usual in Le Tour this year, but he's still riding like a champion, and that rules. Also, he has fabulous German bone structure, and a great rig.
I'm sorry to tell you, though, that there were some decidedly un-deliciuex things about today's stage of Le Tour. That's right, people; we have a big problem. OLN's most delicieux commentator, (a man so authentically charming it's literally incredible, and one who should definitely have a LOT more to do in the OLN broadcast than he does) Frankie Andreu, reports the following in his Tour Journal on the US Postal Team site:
"Many riders talked about the negativity of the crowd. Lance alluded to it, but from talking with other riders, I knew what he meant. It wasnt only Postal. Many riders were booed, spit on, and yelled at. Rubiera looked like he was going to cry at the finish because he was so upset at the reception he received from the crowd.
I talked with Jens Voigt and he said the same. It was the Germans who were going off on their non favorite riders. They yelled and spit on Jens today because he helped to pull back Ullrich yesterday in the race. Jens just couldnt understand it and hes German.
I don't think I have to say how totally uncool it is to spit on Jens Voigt, who is total quality, and a full on cycling rockstar. Has anyone noticed that no matter how german he is, he is not riding for T-Mobile? Drunken idiots will be drunken idiots, I guess, but race fans, I have to draw the line at Chechu Rubiera. The next person who spits on Chechu better be ready, because I will buy a ticket on the next plane for France, track your stupid ass down, and heads will roll. I'm not the only one, either; the defense of Chechu is the topic of most of today's mail to the Crazy Jane copy desk, and let me tell you, there is a veritable army of ladies ready to dish out retribution. Chechu, I hope you're smiling now, because we love you to absolute pieces over here!
Finally, there's some unsettling news on White Jersey Watch. It looks as if the heroic efforts that made Thomas Voeckler's tenure in the Maillot Jaune the most scrumptious moments of Le Tour so far, are catching up with that dear creature. Today he finished 88th, over six minutes behind Armstrong, but more importantly, he lost loads of time to Sandy Casar, and even more to Vladimir Karpets, who now truly threatens our hopes of seeing that lad framed by the Arc de Triomphe, wearing the Maillot Blanc. There are some rough days to come, people, so start sending Mr. Voeckler your good vibes!
Achtung, race fans! Don't forget to send me your picks for the Delicieux distinction! We need all the help we can get over here, so e-mail me your choices at firstname.lastname@example.org, or post your comments at Le Tour Delicieux!