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What if...
By Tick
Date: 4/25/2005
What if...

I recently read a short story dealing with a discussion of writing about "alternate worlds" - one where almost everything is the same as in our world, but not all. For example, what would the world be like today if Columbus had not discovered America? If Napoleon had won at Waterloo? If the Wright Brothers had failed in their attempts to fly? If Lance Armstrong had never won the Tour? Let's take a look at what might have been...

A Look Back at the 2005 Season

The big innovation of the year - the UCI's "Major League" - has proved to be a resounding flop. The new "League" was introduced in hopes of eliminating the way a few riders and teams dominate the pro cycling scene. And as we all know, it sure didn't work out that way!

There is no more World Cup, but so what? Who dominated the Spring Classics again? And took the World Championships, as well as the Giro de Lombardia? That master of the one-day race, Rabobank's Lance Armstrong, of course. Milan-San Remo, Paris-Roubaix, Amstel Gold and LBL - four big wins, plus podium places in all the others!

What's the secret of his success? "After my cancer surgery, I knew my body had changed and that I woud have to change my professional focus. I tried everything I could to become a Grand Tour specialist, but I just didn't have the power in the mountains, nor did I have the strength and endurance to hold out three weeks. After finishing second several times in the Tour, it became clear to me that while I was good, I just wasn't good enough. I'm an 'all-or-nothing' kind of guy, so I decided to find a field I could dominate!" And he certainly did!

The other dominant figure in cycling this year was, of course, Jan Ullrich, who became the first rider ever to win the Giro and Vuelta in one year. "I know my fans were disappointed that I left out the Tour this year," he chuckled. "But I've won it so often already - last year I was a whole 32 minutes before the second-placed Davide Rebellin! - and I just decided to look for new challenges this year."

Ullrich gives credit to his success to his sporting Director, Bjarne Riis. "Ever since Bjarne took over here at Gerolsteiner, I've felt like a new man. He has laid down the law for me, told me exactly what to do and not do. He has given me the discipline I need. Bjarne has also helped me with my weight problem - I no longer have to stuff myself silly in order to keep my weight up!"

And who can forget this year's Tour de France? What a race! Up until the last minute it was unclear who would win, which of the four contenders would take the victory and which of them would not even make the podium. But we can safely say that Discovery's Jörg Jaksche, CSC's Alexander Vinokourov, T-Mobile's Ivan Basso and Lampre's Tom Boonen are all champions!

The other Tour jerseys all went to the expected winners. Credit Agricole's Rolf Aldag won his fourth consecutive mountain jersey. Liberty's Damiano Cunego took the green jersey, and the Young Rider's white jersey went, of course, to Phonak's Marcus Fothen.

And let us not forget Euskatel's Giuseppe Guerini taking the World Time Trial title!

Sadly, both Armstrong and Ullrich are calling it quits after this season. The debate will last a long time over who is the best rider of this era, the one-day specialist or the Grand Tour specialist. What a pity that they so seldom raced against each other. And how fascinating to speculate what might have been, if they had gone head-to-head against each other for years in, for example, the Tour de France...

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