Let the bidding begin

July 24, 2009

With this Tour all but over, it is clear that the boys from Astana will part ways just as fast as they can pack and catch a taxi to the airport.  Lance will go to Radio Shack (I’m sorry with all due respect to the electronics company, I’m having trouble with this one) Johan will probably follow.  I expect Johan to pack a few other Astana riders with him on his flight to the US.

The question on everyone’s lips is where will Alberto Contador end up?  We heard the strong rumors of home team Caisse d’Epargne before the Tour.  Even Jonathan Vaughters was rumored to be negotiating with the Spanish rider.  One thing is for sure, with his palmares, there will not be a shortage of suitors for the best Grand Tour rider in the game today.  The question will move from who to how much? 

Starting a cycling team?  Better go back to your sponsor for some more cash and get ready for the biggest auction cycling has seen in a while!



Will Radio Shack stop selling Garmin GPS devices?

July 23, 2009

ESPN is reporting that the new sponsor for the Lance Armstrong/Johan Bruyneel team is Radio Shack.  This piece was discovered when ESPN found the URL teamradioshack.com was purchased by Capital Sports & Entertainment.  CS&E is Lance Armstrong’s management company.

We’ve all had questions, now we have answers.


You can’t beat Father Time

July 22, 2009


The 2009 Tour de France has become one of those events that has permanently etched itself in my memory.  It is one of those events where I will remember every detail of my life during these three weeks.

This tour will etch itself forever as the Tour of Transition.  The Tour where the heroes of yesterday pass the torch to the heroes of tomorrow.  It is tough to see Lance Armstrong left behind by an acceleration.  He still has the strength and stamina but as they say, he lost that first step.  As we know in cycling, the key is getting the gap in those precious few seconds at the start of an acceleration.

There is absolutely no equivalent comparator in all of sports to getting dropped in cycling.  It is the cruelest and most visible form of sporting Darwinism.  We have all felt it.  You desperately try to hold the wheel in front of you.  Then a space of two to three feet opens between you and the rider in front of you and you know what is coming.  Immediately after, the world knows too.  “Look, he’s getting dropped!”

Lance Armstrong got dropped by the most relentless of competitors, Father Time himself.    Not content on taking Lance from our midst but he seems to have picked up Geroge Hincapie in his broom wagon.  George sounded very melancholy after losing on what is probably his last chance to wear a Yellow Jersey.

There was  one rider who I thought had the best chance of winning his race against time.  I can picture his familiar grimace while trying to stoke his big diesel engine to outrun the scythe wielding specter.  Father Time had to take out the rear wheel of Jens Voigt in order to end his Tour.  It may be the last time we see Jens at the head of the peloton.

I have hope that the next generation of cyclists will do Lance, George, and Jens proud.  Andy Schleck, Vincenzo Nibali, Jurgen Van den Broeck, and of course Alberto Contador should do OK.  I look forward to many exciting years ahead.

Two-thirds through and what do we know

July 18, 2009

The Tour de France organizers stacked the deck for the last week so before the fireworks begin tomorrow, let’s take a look at where we are.

Meet the new boss.  Same as the old boss.

As the kilometers go by, Lance is looking more and more like he never lost a step, er stroke.  He looks strong in the mountains, mostly. He also is acting like the leader of Astana, not a leader of Astana.  Listen to Lance’s measured reaction after Contador’s attack on the Arcalis.  Compare that to the same parental tone he had in previous Tours when he was disappointed in his team.  It also seems that in the battle for team support, the deck is stacked in Lance’s favor.  Lance suffered a big setback when Leipheimer broke his wrist and was forced to abandon.

To win, Lance needs to keep Contador close tomorrow.  Someone, probably Schleck will attack.  Be first on the wheel.  Even if Contador follows, you stay together.  Second, ride like the wind in the final TT.  Channel your past Tour TTs to grab yellow at this critical juncture.  You need to be in yellow at the base of the Ventoux.  If not, all bets are off.

Et tu Brute?

Johan Bruyneel knows that he has the two strongest riders in the Tour.  Any doubts about Lance Armstrong are gone.  Externally, no contender has stepped up to challenge the team and its two men.  Evans and Menchov have fallen away.  Only Andy Schleck has stayed around this long.  His problem is he can’t stay too much longer.  With the TT ahead, he needs to begin to ride like he is 1:30 – 2:00  behind because he is.  I can even see a scenario where Schleck loses three minutes in the TT.

With two riders on the same team that can win the tour, the decision falls to the Director.  Johan has to decide who he will make king.  While it is not a no-brainer, it is an easy decision.  Alberto Contador is the strongest rider in this race and currently the best stage racer in the world.  That should make Johan pause for a second or two.  Balance that with the persistent rumors that Contador was looking to leave Astana and go to Caisse d’Epargne or Garmin.  Regardless of why, Johan must feel that Contador is disloyal.  On the other hand, you have a seven time winner and close friend.  Done, decision made.

So how does a Director give the win to Lance.  While I said that Lance looks strong in the mountains, he has one weakness, speed.  He has strength and stamina but when attacks came, he was the slowest to respond.  Not really a problem since most contenders do not have the pure climber’s acceleration.  One contendor does and that is Contador.  Even though tomorrow is the second of three stages with a mountain top finish, I expect Johan to try to get his team to be conservative tomorrow.  Knowing the current Yellow Jersey holder will crack, let the other teams attack. Astana does not have to.  I really believe this strategy, which sounds rational, is designed to delay a Contador attack for as long as possible.  Like Arcalis, a late attack by Contador will only net small time gains.  Should Contador attack early, look for Lance to get a free ride off a panicking Schleck’s wheel.

At the end of tomorrow, the Director will have his man in perfect position to take yellow in the time trial.  The time trial is the only place where you can “attack” a yellow jersey worn by your own teammate.  With Lance in yellow on the Ventoux, Contador is muted.  The only potential problem with this strategy is if Schleck attacks early and Contador, with his bigger acceleration, get’s his wheel first.  Look for the two to work together to put time into everyone else.  I’m sure Bjarne is thinking about this stuff too.

Don’t shoot yourself in the foot.

The world’s best rider with the world’s worst nickname, Alberto “El Pistolero” Contador can’t seem to win a Tour and enjoy it at the same time.  His first victory was gained in the wake of the Rasmussen and travelgate.  Now, he is on perfect position to win his second and he has worry more about the enemy within than any other challenge.  I can even see the team party where champagne glasses are raised and accolades are professed through gritted teeth. If you take lemons and make lemonade, let’s say that this one will be the sweetest because of how much he overcame to gain the top step of the podium.

To get there, you need to ride well two more times.  The first challenge will be tomorrow.  Lance should not attack.  He has shown he does not have the breakaway ability he once had.  Combine that with the category one climb and it is not a good launching pad.  If you are in yellow Sunday night, then Phase one is complete.  Phase two is the TT.  I know you are the Spanish Time Trial Champion.  That means nothing in the final TT of the Tour.  Someone will do something special, someone always does.  One person in the race may be the best final time trialist the Tour has ever seen.  Expect something special from him.  You need to perform beyond yourself.  If you end the TT in yellow, then you have won the Tour de Astana.  The Tour de France victory will be much easier.

One note of advice.  Lose the nickname.  Whenever you give yourself a nickname, it can’t be good.  Just ask “The Hoff.”

I can’t wait.

Editor’s note. While I don’t get many comments, I get a fair number of emails.  Some have suggested I have it in for Lance Armstrong.  Quite the contrary, I am a huge Armstrong fan.  Armstrong is a true champion.  If you look at the greats they all have that drive to succeed.  Lance’s face is not unlike Tiger Woods expression at a major event.  I am just commenting on asking that type of person to take a role that runs against his very DNA.  For a guy who looks for the humor in life, this is a situation that is too good to pass up.

While I don’t mind the emails, I’d rather have the comments since that can spark a discussion which will probably be more interesting than my actual posts.

Class, you all get an A for today

July 10, 2009

I really enjoyed today’s stage.  Contador attacked as we all thought he would/should.  If you are a Contador fan, you have to be giddy about today.  He not only took the lead in the Tour de Astana race, he is not put in a position of defending a lead in the Tour de France.  Lance also looked good.  He obviously does not have the snap of his youth but who of us does.  He showed a little slowness on any fast acceleration but the form and stamina was there.

That responsibility goes to the best possible place.  AG2R.  A French team holds the Yellow Jersey.  With two hard days ahead you need a team willing to destroy themselves to keep the jersey.  What better motivation than a home team?  If they get through to the rest day, then the Italian rider with the jersey will ride into Italy with the race lead.  Can you script it any better?

With all this, what do you think was my favorite part of today’s stage?  It was the site of Fabian Cancellara descending.  In order to recover from two flats, Cancellara needed to do some nifty descending.  This is one of those skills that is so wonderful to see performed.  It shows why the sport these men enjoy is totally different than the sport we enjoy.

Should Contador attack tomorrow?

July 9, 2009

I’ve been back and forth on this one.  Tomorrow is the first mountain stage but it is very early in the race.  I’ve landed on yes but it is not a “no brainer.”  Here is a peek in my internal debate.

Do not attack:

  1. It is only stage 7.  If you attack and get the yellow jersey then the odds are you will need to defend it for two weeks.  That is a long time to defend.  If Astana has a weakness, it is too strong a team.  What I mean by that is if you think of the old US Postal/Discovery teams, they were very strong.  The key difference is they were 8 domestiques working for one leader.  There was no ambiguity in that regard.  With Astana, there are three and possibly 4 individuals who may think of themselves as the leader.  With that ambiguity, do you really think Levi Leipheimer will sit on the front and ride tempo for kilometer upon kilometer across a flat stage?  Will Lance Armstrong turn himself inside out to pull back a break.  For that matter, will Andreas Kloden fetch water and food for Contador?  I tend to doubt it.  Having 8 individuals who do not care about placings or time gives you 8 strong men who will do whatever is necessary to deliver a victory to the team.  If Contador takes a strong lead tomorrow, what will happen when the true domestiques tire in about a week.  Who will defend the jersey during the all-important last week?
  2. Second, this climb does not fully suit Contador’s style.  This climb is for the power climbers.  There is not a lot of changes in gradient and ultra steep sections for a pure climber to gain a lot of time.  Contador may spend a lot of energy for very little time gains.  That could make him vulnerable.


  1. If you don’t some else will.  Evans and Menchov need time.  A lot of time.  They need to attack everywhere they can.  This is a good finish for Evans to attack and possibly gain time.  In the end, he may just end up pacing the true contenders up the climb. 
  2. Contador needs to stamp his authority on Astana first, then the rest of the Tour.  Look for an early attack at Astana’s pretenders to the throne.  I think if there is a pause, Leipheimer may go.  Once a teammate goes up the hill, Contador will need to remain in neutral with the pack.  Normally sending a teammate up the road is a very effective way to soften up other teams.  In this case, there will be other motives.
  3. It is who Contador is.  Alberto Contador is an attacking personality.  He needs to ride to his strengths.  If you hold back a thoroughbread, you risk losing the race.

There is my brief synopsis.  I’d love to hear yours.

Thomas Voeckler finally wins a stage

July 9, 2009

Some people like Lance Armstrong, some people don’t.  Everyone likes Thomas Voeckler.  In 2004, Thomas Voeckler captured worldwide attention when he valiantly held on to the yellow jersey for 10 days.  Voeckler exuded tenacity as he turned himself inside out to buy one more day in yellow.  During that time, Voeckler even got to Mr. Armstrong himself.  When Lance assumed the race lead, it was clear he felt like the school bully taking the jersey off the young Frenchman’s back. Voeckler did all this without actually winning a stage. By the end of that Tour, Voeckler lost Yellow as well as the White Jersey (best young rider) but won the hearts of the world.


Well, now the man with the ugliest climbing style has added a Tour de France stage win to his palmares.  If the legend holds that a Frenchman who wore yellow will never have to buy dinner again in France, then Voeckler has guaranteed a check-free existence in that country for the remainder of his life.

Why do we like him so much?  Well, for most of the world, his youthful look combined with his visible effort to while riding give him an everyman appeal.  We like people like us as “Davids” competing in a race filled with “Goliaths.”  He also never says the wrong thing or does the wrong thing.  He is the quintessential good guy.  The French like him because he does not win. We like him because he is not really French.  He comes from the Caribbean island of Martinique.