Golden Hams of the Day
- Lance "El Jefe" Armstrong and his US Postal Sevice Pro Cycling Team presented by Berry Floor. In the even that there was any doubt left in anyone's mind about who wears the pants in the Tour de France, I think its pretty clear now, right? Armstrong put another 61 seconds into his nearest rival on the stage, Jan Ullrich; and he's now 6'38" ahead of the next man on the GC. Meanwhile, 6 postmen finished in the top 16 today: Floyd Landis 4th, Chechu Rubiera 9th, Jose Azevedo 10th, George Hincapie 11th, and Viatcheslav Ekimov 16th. Any questions?
- Andréas Klöden (T-Mobile). Klöden rode the time trial of his life, gaining 1'23" on Ivan Basso, which move him into second place in the GC. He also kept pace with his teammate and for today, rival: time trial monster Jan Ullrich. Klöden will take Jan's usual place in Paris, and that's an incredible ride.
- Ivan "Bello" Basso (CSC). Basso moves down one step on the podium, but he gave it everything, and he rode well enough to finish 6th on the day; a very impressive ride for a man not normally known for his scorching Time Trial. Basso was also the only man who could keep pace with Armstrong in the mountains this year, and he's improved on his Tour ride every year. Basso is a contender, and I can't wait to see what he does next season. If he can improve that time trial, he's going to be dangerous, and that is a thrilling proposition.
- Vladimir Karpets (Illes Baleares-Banesto). Though he started the day 45" behind this morning's Maillot Blanc, Thomas Voeckler, he rode well enough today to stamp his authority all over this year's title for the best young rider in Le Tour. Karpets finished 8th today, ahead of some very big boys, and only 3'33" off of Lance Armstrong's blistering time. He sits 13th in the GC, and takes the Maillot Blanc by 3'42" over Sandy Casar. Not bad for a young sprout!
- The Americans. What a great day for American riders! Three of the top five today: Armstrong, Landis and Bobby Julich (CSC), who has definitely found his legs this season after a long time in the wilderness of indifferent form. With Big Hink in 11th and Levi Leipheimer (Rabobank) in 12th, it's been a darn good showing.
Ham Gazers of the Day
- Jan "Big Diesel" Ullrich (T-Mobile). Jan burned up the roads today, but it was too little too late. Good lord, how I hope he cleans up the loose ends and brings his A-game next season. He's so strong, and this year, it would have been a real battle if he had been ready to race in the Pyrenees. Come on, Jan! Please?!
- Thomas Voeckler (Brioches la Boulangere). It pains me to put this totally bitchin' little man in the gazer's column, but today he watched the Maillot Blanc ride away from him, and it was so painful! I wanted to jump into the TV and push him all the way home, but alas, it was not to be. Voeckler rode his heart out in the Maillot Jaune, and with the final week of the tour piling on the tough days, it seems as if it was just too much for him. Voeckler rode like a hero in this tour, and I can't imagine that anyone watching will ever forget his brave ride on the Plateau de Beille. It's been wonderful to watch him. Here's hoping he goes on to great things!
Crazy Jane's Le Tour Delicieux
People, this is an editorial column, and you're in for it today. Yesterday, as one of my readers put it, I took the 5th, but today I'm going on record: Lance Armstrong is completely incredible.
In my (often very silly) column, I've tried to give about equal time to the higher things: the commitment, courage and grace that are the elemental content of this uniquely beautiful sport, and all the heroism of its protagonists, but I've also been blissfully trivial, and relished pointing out what any girl with eyes in her head can easily see: these guys are wearing lycra costumes, and it looks good. What I've most wanted to communicate is a thorough-going appreciation of the entire tableau that is presented to us by this sport from top to bottom, and of the remarkable creatures who make it such a remarkable and epic narrative.
First among these creatures, people, is Mr. Lance Armstrong, and he is winning because he is the best, period. Physically and mentally, he is head and shoulders above the others. Think what you want about him, but Lance Armstrong is a legitimately amazing man, and this year he steps into the illustrious history of Le Tour with an unbelievable feat of athletic excellence.
The voices of Armstrong's detractors are louder than ever this season, but his answer to them has been this unstoppable performance. As far as I know, despite the fact that there seem to be about a gazillion people who would love to see him fail or fall from grace, Lance Armstrong has not been found guilty of anything more than being a serious hard ass. People, did you think that the six-time winner of the Tour de Frickin' France would be a fluffy little bunny who cares if you approve of his every move? It's not in his job description to be charming all the time, it's in his job description to win the Tour de France. I'd say he's taking care of business. Has anyone considered that the things that make him prickly are the very things that make him a 6 time superstud? Get over it, people! It's like criticizing Bono for being an egomaniac! Duh!
As for the de rigeur doping allegations, you can decide that he's dirty and secretive, or you could take him at his word. As someone who loves cycling, I am going to choose the later. If Lance Armstrong is dirty, it would be a crushing blow for this sport, especially in America. It would be a huge disappointment to all the people who look to him for hope and inspiration. For my part, I am going to go ahead and break out the benefit of the doubt until someone's got some proof, because that's the way we roll in America, and I think making allegations in the absence of proof is just irresponsible. I know, I know: I'm a fool, and it's impossible to win the tour without being doped to the eyeballs. I'm duped by my romantic imagination, and probably believe in the tooth fairy, too. So be it. I'd rather show a little faith than be cynical about it all. Lance Armstrong and his awesome teammates tore the road up today, and I really enjoyed it.
Delicieux today: Jan Ullrich and his huge muscles. If only he could have ridden faster earlier in Le Tour! I had so wished for a pitched battle, but I hold out hope for a glorious ride in the Olympics for Der Kaiser. Meanwhile, I have to admit that as much as I was pulling for Jan, Andréas Klöden has had a brilliant ride today, and he's not half bad lookin', either. I'll never get tired of the way George Hincapie's face is so calmly untouched by the effort in the time trials. It's got to hurt, but it's as if he has completely transferred the energy to where he needs it, and there's nothing left for making faces. Nice. Also, Ivan Basso, ladies! Sweet Jesus!
Photo by cyclingpictures.de
White Jersey Watch has sad news today. Little Tommy Voeckler is out, but people, he's still le plus delicieux. Vladimir Karpets takes over in the Maillot Blanc just in time to stand on the podium in Paris. Mr. Karpets is still in the dark about the helmet sport hair requirements, but we have to make peace, people. It is what it is!