The dominance of this year's Tour by Lance Armstrong and his U.S. Postal team continues.
It was a big day with extreme heat and five climbs before the finish line in Le Grand Bornand. My take was that the group may ride the first major climb -- which came after only 9 kilometers of racing (Col du Glandon, category 1 climb: over 12 miles long) -- at a reasonable pace, with such a big day ahead of them and the riders tired.
On television I saw a guy at the front motioning to the group to stay calm. That only seemed to get the guys going and a break of notables took off: Simoni, Simeoni, Bartoli, Aldag, and Martin.
On top of the Glandon, my group's viewpoint of the day, they had a lead of over four minutes. The group followed lead by the Postal train. I counted the whole team around the yellow jersey, with the red of CSC and pink of T-Mobile just behind.
The mountainous course seemed to wear the breakaway group down; Virenque and Moreau joined the remnants of the break, which in the end was Simoni and two others.
Behind, CSC were riding with U.S. Postal. In the final Floyd Landis rode hard to control the group for his leader Armstrong. It was an impressive ride, and we may hear more about it than Lance's victory. Landis even had a go in the final meters but was countered by Kloden. It looked like Kloden might get the victory but Lance's surge to catch him at the line was too much.
After the race Lance was asked by French television why he sprinted. Was it for the stage win or time bonus? Why didn't he give a little to the other riders and not contest the sprint? He said Bernard Hinault told him on the podium that it's the Tour de France and no gifts should be given out. Advice from one Frenchman to another (the interviewer) -- not exactly what he expected to hear.
On a side note, something funny happened today. At the top of the Glandon a German television crew took interest in our cycling group, which is following stages of the Tour. We rode the Glandon in the morning and had lunch waiting for the riders to pass. Once they passed and we could get back on the bikes to descend to the buses, we were told by race officials that we had to walk the final 50 meters over the top and then get on and go. It was for safety of course.
Well, I didn't take this so well, and the TV crew was hanging around to film me riding off. I was reluctant to walk-- yes walk! -- my bike up the final meters. I'm retired, but I still have some pride. So after considering the 30 minutes I would need to wait before I'd be allowed to ride over, and with unknowing guests asking me to come along, I pushed my bike to the top, and off I went. Not before the German reporter sarcastically said, "Hey Kevin you climb well."
Ahh... c'est la vie ...
Tomorrow's Stage 18 will be another tough one. Short and with a few climbs to get over we may see a break succeed with some riders lower on the overall G.C.
It depends whether the duo of Kloden and Ullrich want to have a go at Basso for some time.
July 21: Stage 16: Alpe d'Huez TT.
July 20: Stage 15: Welcome to the Alps.
July 18: Stage 14: Gonzalez makes his presence known.
July 17: Stage 13: More carnage in the Pyrenees.
July 16: Stage 12: Armstrong's back in business.
July 15: Stage 11: Moncoutie scores another win for France
July 14: Stage 10: Virenque for France on Bastille Day
July 13: Stage 9: Back to work day
July 11: Stage 8: Hushovd takes cold, rainy day
July 10: Stage 7: Petacchi out Pozzato in!
July 9: Stage 6: More crashes and scares
July 8: Stage 5: The big breakaway day
July 7: Stage 4: Postal takes command, Lance in yellow
July 6: Stage 3: Cobblestones prove critical to Mayo
July 5: Stage 2: Hats off to Hushovd
July 4: Stage 1: Kirsipuu takes the opener
July 3: Prologue: Cancellara was man of the day
July 1: Preview: Lance, Jan and Tyler poised for podium
Former pro cyclist Kevin Livingston is in the unique position of being the only rider to have ridden on teams with the three top favorites of the 2004 Tour de France: Lance Armstrong, Jan Ullrich, and Tyler Hamilton. After retiring in 2002, Kevin started Kevin Livingston Consulting in Austin, Texas. For a complete bio click here.