Traditionally, the Boxmeer criterium in the Netherlands hosts all the top Tour de France riders the day after the finish of the race in Paris in front of 35,000 fans.
Boxmeer, along with several other criteriums in the week following the Tour, are mostly parade laps and the winner is by tradition the Tour winner. Last year Lance Armstrong participated in the criteriums, shuttling between David Letterman and other talk shows in New York and Europe for the one-hour races.
The prize lists are big along with teammate George Hincapie, Armstrong took home approximately $31,000 for appearing. But in this Olympic year, Armstrong opted out of the races to rest for just 10 days before beginning to train for the Sydney time trial in September an event he is favored to win (hes also doing the whirlwind talk show circuit again).
"This is my third Olympics," Armstrong said. "The first two were disappointments. I would like to have Olympic glory in my career."
Tour runner-up Jan Ullrich and green jersey winner Erik Zabel also skipped the criteriums this year.
Money, too, is an issue. Promoters pay start money to the big names so they will race the criteriums. This year the two big names at Boxmeer were three-stage winner Erik Dekker and Marco Pantani, who received $26,000 for racing. This year Armstrong asked for over $65,000 to start, which was beyond the promoters financial means.
"Until now we talked about 'laps around the church,' but they'd better can call it 'laps around the bank,'" one fan told Cyclingnews.
Hometown favorite and Tour star Erik Dekker won at Boxmeer, no surprise to anyone.
Blijlevens vs. Julich
As if a 48th place finish wasnt bad enough (after a third place in 1998), pre-race hopeful Bobby Julich (Credit Agricole) wound up in a fistfight at the end of the Tour de France.
Sprinter Jeroen Blijlevens (Polti) was so upset at the end of the final stage on the Champs Elysees that he went after Julich and started swinging.
I was expecting a nice little tour of the Champs Elysees, and instead I got a little cut on my eyebrow, Julich wrote on his Web site after the incident, sounding calm about the whole incident.
In the lead-up to the sprint, Blijlevens and Julich tangled, and the frustrated Dutchman threw a punch at Julich. After they crossed the line in 47th and 53rd places, Blijlevens went up to Julich and accused him of blocking him in the sprint, then swung, catching Julichs face.
"Julich hindered me intentionally several times, the same as Backstedt (Julichs teammate) did on Saturday. I wanted to talk to him after the race, but he kept nagging me. I gave him some friendly taps," was Blijlevens response. Blijlevens had finished second to Erik Zabel in the sprint the day before.
After the incident, race officials threw Blijlevens, who is not known as a popular rider, out of the race. He had been in 124th place, but will not appear on the official finish list.
Julich tried to avoid the fight, mentioning that it wasnt worth the damage to his sponsors.
This Tour was disappointing, but I have to look at it this way last year I was on a couch with a cast on my arm and three broken ribs.
USPS party at Muse d'Orsay
After Lance Armstrongs surprise victory in the Tour de France last year, the U.S. Postal Service team had a quiet celebration in Paris. But with a bit of advance warning this time around, all the stops were pulled out to celebrate Armstrongs second win.
The team and a long list of attendees had the run of the famed Muse d' Orsay museum. Comedian Robin Williams, former Monty Python member Eric Idle, Postmaster General Bill Henderson and actor Michael J. Fox were among the distinguished guests.
After Armstrong spoke, he invited Williams, a big cycling fan, to say a few words. The affable comedian, no stranger to impromptu standup, talked for 20 minutes, mentioning his admiration for the riders, likening racing to a ballet, needling Marco Pantani, and making comical reference to the Europeans knack for public urination.
Armstrong wrapped up his speech by saying: "Last year, I said that I only deserved the zipper on the yellow jersey. This year, I'll just say that I couldn't have done it without you and that I'm very proud to be part of this team."
More teams for 2001 Tour
Tour director Jean-Marie Leblanc has announced that he will add two teams to the Tour de France lineup next year, upping the total to 22. But teams will be made up of only eight riders, instead of nine. That will reduce the overall numbers of starters to 176 riders (127 finished this year).
Leblanc was very happy with the Tour this year, and called it the "most beautiful Tour since 1989," when Greg Lemond won the final time trial in dramatic fashion to beat Laurent Fignon by eight seconds, the slimmest margin of victory in any Tour.
"I'm very glad about the motivation of the riders and the team leaders, Leblanc said. I saw a new awareness within the peloton regarding cycling and racing, as well as for doping too."
Tour rumor mill: One stage will visit the Mur de Huy climb in Belgium, a famous 20 percent climb used in the early-season Fleche Wallone race; a stage will finish in Liege, Belgium; the team trial will again be included (U.S. Postal was second this year); there will only be one Alpine stage (perhaps l'Alpe d'Huez), but there will be three hard stages in the Pyreneees.