A couple of months ago we were asked by the good folks at Bicycling if we’d write a short piece for their “Sound Smarter” column – a somewhat cheekier commentary on different topic each month.
The folks at Bicycling Mag – demonstrating their keen sense of astuteness, wanted a little piece on pro racing – about the subsequent successes of US Postal domestiques who’d left Lance’s aid to try their luck against him in the Tour de France.
We were flattered to be asked, and if you turn to page 41 of the July issue – here’s what you’ll see:
When your peloton starts debating whether leaving Lance will pay off for Floyd Landis in this year’s Tour, remind them about the curse of domestiques past…
Lance is well known for assembling the strongest team to help him win those 6 – maybe 7 – Tours. Inevitably, some of these guys, who ride for Lance at the expense of their own ambition, eventually leave his side to pursue dreams of the maillot jaune, but none have even come close to beating Lance at his game of Le Tour.
Tyler Hamilton showed us promise – after guiding Lance through the mountains in his early Tour wins, Hamilton’s star rose when he leftPostal in 2002 for CSC. But the man once viewed as Lance’s successor developed a penchant for surfing pavement and had a major Grand Tour crash every year since. His recent suspension for blood doping may have sidelined him for good.
Levi Leipheimer never rode with Armstrong in a Grand Tour, but after his third-place finish at the 2001 Vuelta a Espaсa, his ambitions were greater than USPS could offer, and he joined Rabobank. He’s since had mixed results, including eighth in the ’02 Tour, ninth last year, and is now with Gerolsteiner.
Roberto Heras won the Vuelta for the second time in ’03 before succumbing to his desire to go after cycling’s holy grail and joining Liberty Seguros. But his spindly climber’s demise on last year’s pavй reminded us this race is about more than mountains.
Will Landis fare any better? Team Phonak’s big hope showed his class in ’04 TdF, but he’s still riding against his old team—which hasn’t lost the Tour since the dot-com boom, and which knows more about winning Le Grande Boucle than the rest of the peloton combined. So the short answer is no, but maybe it’s not because there’s a curse of domestiques past. Perhaps it’s the curse of riding against Lance.
Okay – so maybe I just let the cat out of the bag on the story – but can you blame me?
The July issue of Bicycling Magazine is on news stands now, and is filled with a bunch more cycling info and entertainment easily worth the cover price (under $5 bucks), presented in their usual easy-access format to appeal to you, your less-serious but still interested significant other, and even your cubicle-mates who wonder about those chain-ring marks on your calf.
You can also see ’em online at: Bicycling.com.