A day before Armstrong donned his new, bulkier time trial helmet at the Dauphine, he made it known that he will be returning next year for whoever the new sponsor might be next season which will replace the soon to be defunct United States Postal Service Team Presented by Berry Floor. Thank you Mr. Armstrong, as it would have been a shame to see someone like yourself take such an early exit from pro cycling.
If a lot of cycling fans are pleased to hear this (like me), Lance’s very own TV station, OLN, is probaly throwing a block party. Armstrong will be 33 next year, since when is that old? Johan Museeuw missed that email about getting old a few years back and inadvertently put the hurt on many a hardman, and something tells me he could still do it if he felt like it. So here’s to hoping Lance stays in it for awhile yet.
Beloki Getting Worked
What did Joseba Beloki do to invoke such wrath from above? Joseba Beloki, poor poor Joseba Beloki, if it ain’t one thing, well, it’s definitely something else. First it was where to ride this year, then a big surprise (transfer to Brioches), then nagging injuries, then it was bad form, then another big surprise (Brioches will be no more next year), now it’s allergies and asthma, and after complaining about it, he looks to be staring a lawsuit in its ugly, pockmarked face. The director of the AG2R team, Vincent Lavenu is angry, no, pissed at Beloki, raging in possibly one of the best quotations of the year: “I’m indignant concerning these lies and incorrect statements, which only do damage to our sponsors and our team. I reserve the right to take [Beloki] to court.” I reserve the right to laugh at you. Um, are chill pills illegal in France too?
Mayo Out Of Control
Iban Mayo continues to impress, putting a formidable field behind him to take the Dauphine prologue, albeit by a total of 5 seconds over the next three places. It is funny to see Mayo’s very, erm, untraditional time trial weapon: a normal bike with clip-on aerobars and Cosmic Carbones. Compare that to Tyler Hamilton and Lance Armstrong’s aeroscience jet-propelled time trial space shuttles. No one would ever say anything about the subject I suspect, but Mayo is probably chuckling and Lance is probably determining if shaving four hours before the prologue instead of three cost him .002 seconds in the first kilometer, and .04 seconds every kilometer thereafter. Incidentally, Mayo won the prologue for the second year in succession.
A host of English speakers found their way into the top 10: Hamilton (2nd), Armstrong (3rd), Michael Rogers (5th), and Levi Leipheimer (10th). The prospect of a major run at the Tour for both Hamilton and Leipheimer could be a scary proposition for 5-time defending champion, Lance Armstrong. Leipheimer will be looking to show his form here in the Dauphine, but Hamilton has already confirmed. Of all of the years, it seems that the last few years’ continual hopefuls have transformed into major contenders and if Armstrong in anyway stumbles (a la last year), he could be staring a lower step of the podium in its Dementor-like face. The best part is, he probably won’t, and we’re going to be in for a major treat as everyone and his mother is going to show amazing form and this is going to be some kind of wonderful three week thriller.
Sinkewitz Confirms In Germany – Plus Some Notes
23 year old German, Patrick Sinkewitz, has taken the overall at the Tour of Germany. Jens Voigt followed in second and Jan Hruska third. Jan Ullrich finished a bit back, but still in the top 10, which was not a bad result considering the horror stories that have been circulating of late.
An intriguing side note to the Deutschland Tour was the race for the points jersey, which could be an interesting preview of what is to come. Tom Boonen is confirming himself in a big way as a sprinter par excellence, and will have a team to help him pursue the Green Jersey, the only thing left to see is whether he can go toe to toe with Alessandro “I almost got more wins in this year’s Giro than you do fingers Punk” Petacchi. Hondo showed himself well with a run of runner-up places, Zabel, however, did not, with nary a result, but as always, you don’t count out a repeat offender like Zabel. Allan Davis looked good, but does not know whether he will get a shot at le Tour. So let’s see, possible jersey contenders: Petacchi (who says he’ll finish though?), Cooke, McEwen, Boonen, Hondo, Zabel, Hushovd, O’Grady, Davis, maybe Cipo (Surely, I’m forgetting someone). This could be very interesting. Does anyone recall a more stacked Green Jersey field in recent memory? Let’s hope the Polka Dot jersey gets all hot and heavy and desirable for multiple contenders too.
US Pro Championships
What’s the deal in America these days? For the second year in a row, the US Champion did not find a place on the podium for the day. This isn’t meant in anyway as a slight to Fred Rodriguez or last year’s champ, Mark McCormack (not one bit!!!!). But maybe the US should follow the lead of the rest of the world on this one and make it an American only affair, then the winner could at least raise his arms in sweet victory instead of looking around and trying to figure out if that guy to his left is American or Italian or some other nationality. Oh wait, that’s an Italian, so I got it, oh crap, no, that’s a greenish jersey, gotta be American, no, maybe not, oh hell, I can’t tell. Definitely no time for a victory salute while contemplating such enormous complexities. Confusion of this magnitude should be left for large elections.
Was Cipo Really Considering NOT Riding The Tour?
Mario Cipollini is looking iffy at best for a stage win in the upcoming Tour. He has confirmed that he will ride, but already admitted that he will not be on top form (well, not exactly, but even hinting at it when you’re Mario Cipollini, that’s just scary). Let’s hope he is bluffing in a major way, because there would be nothing more depressing than to see Cipo take one last ride in the Tour and get pummeled.
Then again, that seems like the second method of revenge. There’s the first, which is win many, many stages and finish it off with a win in Paris, get a green bike, green helmet, and show LeBlanc who da real man is, or there’s the more pitiful 10 year old move: suffer, get destroyed, and then point fingers at LeBlanc for being 4 years late. Pray for the first option.
Saeco Says No No To Pro Tour
Ooooh la la, Saeco has made it clear that it wants nothing to do with next year’s Pro Tour by not sending in any registration materials by the deadline. This is the team of Giro winner, Damiano Cunego, and last year’s winner Gilberto Simoni mind you, as well as a host of other primo riders. Intriguing. Either Saeco is going to go its merry own way and look like a bad bad boy and be a powerful team on the fringes of the Pro Tour, or most of the team is going to exit stage left.
Classique des Alpes Wrap-Up, Plus Some More Irrelevant Commentary
Phonak continued to show its team strength with two riders taking the podium, and an orange spot reserved for the omnipresent Iban Mayo. Questions about Tyler Hamilton’s transfer to Phonak over the winter seem to be quieting down in right quick order.
Is there anyone coming to the Tour this year NOT on career form? I can think of somebody who probably comes to mind and has been in the news of late: he’s German, he’s big, he’s a tank, some call him Der Kaiser. Nope, I think there will be a lot of disappointed people when he arrives and drops some sweet love on some unsuspecting little people. Anyone who claims this man is fat and out of shape hasn’t seen him up close recently. Oh lordy, just give him the month of June…
Euskal Bizikleta – Mountain Fever!
Roberto Heras showed off his climbing legs and took a big overall win in the recent Euskal Bizikleta, which puts such climbing races as the Dauphine and the Classique des Alpes and even the Tour to shame with its ridiculous amount of climbing. Liberty Seguros almost ran away with the overall until a big shake-up on the final day put two Euskaltel riders on the lesser two steps of the podium: stern-faced Roberto Laiseka (who will not be riding in the Tour – and looks oh so bitter about it) and Samuel Sanchez.
An interesting side note: It seems that Liberty Seguros has quietly assembled a major Tour team this year. Heras won the Euskal Bizikleta, Koldo Gil took 4th, Angel Vicioso was the leader after four days until a final stage meltdown (but who cares, he’ll be a domestique in the Tour), Jan Hruska 3rd at the D-Tour, Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano 4th, and Allan Davis might find a place on the team as well after a string of second place finishes in the Deutschland Tour, as well as a victory. This team looks at least the equal to the old ONCE outfit.
Tour de Suisse
The Tour de Suisse will commence this weekend and basically every Tour de France hopeful not in the Dauphine Libere will be toeing the line in Switzerland. Francesco Casagrande will be returning to racing after nearly a year out of racing because of injury, and looks eager to make his mark. Patrick Sinkewitz will be coming down to Switzerland after a big D-Tour win, in which he faired VERY well in the big mountains, so who’s to say that a nice double isn’t possible…