Page 1. The Tour de France is grueling bike race that attracts the best riders in the world on their best form. In order to reach that top step on the podium, you need the complete support from the entire team. Only nine men are permitted on a team and given the work needed, eight of them must, I mean must be dedicated to only one goal. Bringing their leader to the top of the podium.
When you think about it, 8 domestiques are barely enough. They need to be able to ride for hours on end setting tempo on the flats. They need to pace the peloton across mountain stages that resemble the business end of a saw. They need to protect you from accidents in the finale of a stage. During the stage, they need to protect you from wasting any energy in the wind, getting water and food. And that’s if everything goes right.
When things go wrong, all must rally around to minimize the damage. If that means sacrificing themselves to pace you back to the peloton, then so be it. You should never lose a tour because a crash at a meaningless time in a meaningless stage. If there are any cracks in team loyality, other teams will sense it like blood in the water. Like shark, they will relentlessly attack your weakness.
Page 2. That’s it, there is no page two. If you don’t do page one right, I don’t care how much you train, you can’t win. Take this from a man who won seven straight.
I had this fear from the start. Astana is a team formed around one man, Alexandre Vinokourov. He put together the sponsorship out of the Liberty Seguros ashes. The problem is they forgot to tell Andreas Kloden this when he joined. Hearing Andreas put caveats at the end of every statement of support for Vinokourov led me to believe that if Vino needed Andrea, the german would not be there. And that’s what happened.
If Lance Armstrong fell, you would see eight US Postal/Discovery riders drop back and pace him to the peloton without even thinking about it. Where was Kloden? You bring strong riders to your team for reasons like yesterday. With Kloden’s strength, he should have been able to pull Vino back or at the very least cut that minute twenty deficit down dramatically.
Instead, when the team leader called, Kloden walked away. Now with Vinokourov in a deficit large enough to be noticed, expect the fracture to widen. I expect Kloden to take this as further evidence that he should lead Astana not Vinokourov. This does not bode well. Vinokourov now has an competitor within his team.