Contador, Menchov, and Snachez, expect a call from your mothers.

July 19, 2010

Character is doing the right thing when nobody’s looking.  There are too many people who think that the only thing that’s right is to get by, and the only thing that’s wrong is to get caught.  ~J.C. Watts

Well Alberto, you got caught.  I have always been a fan of your ability.  I rooted for you when it seemed that your whole team worked against you last year.  Unfortunately, today your career may have been defined by one classless move. 

Ironic isn’t it.  Lance Armstrong who is known for breaking an opponent physically and mentally could not get into your head.  Then some kid from Luxemburg who by most accounts is a happy-go-lucky kid forced you to make a completely classless move.  You, Menchov and Sanchez took advantage of a situation that you were honor bound to uphold.  Odds are you could have taken Andy in the Time Trial.  I guess you could not wait.

I am reminded of a Shakespearean quote.

Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none. 

Also, own up to your actions to say “When I launched my attack, I was not aware of the incident. When I was told about it, we had a solid lead and we were going full gas.”  Passing a guy dressed in yellow bent over his chain is kind of hard to miss.

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You can’t beat Father Time

July 22, 2009

Father-Time

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.


Tour Predictions – My Fave Five

July 7, 2009

I know we already started.  I jotted this list down on the plane home from vacation.  I could make some changes after Cadel Evans lost over two minutes today and Lance is looking like a top 5 contender, but I’ll leave it alone.

  1. Alberto Contador ( surprised?)
  2. Andy Schleck (Don’t screw up the time trial)
  3. Roman Kreuziger (I don’t know, I just like him)
  4. Levi Leipheimer (Serving two masters will take a toll)
  5. Cadel Evans (Sorry mate, this is where you belong)

Apologies to Carlos Sastre, Lance Armstrong and Frank Sckleck.  Carlos, your team is not very strong so you’ll lose time in the TTT and have little support in the mountains.  Lance, I don’t think you’ll have the snap to stay with Contador on his attacks. Frank, your brother is much better.

Give me your Fave Five