Monday, July 23, 2012

The Tour Was Better With Armstrong

The four jerseys of the Tour de Franc

Another Tour de France has come and gone. I had been super-excited about this year's Tour but then found myself so overwhelmingly busy over the last three weeks that I missed all but one of the days' races (I saw Pinot of France attack on an early climb and narrowly hold the gap to the chase group. A great stage to have caught). Results and summaries show that I really didn't miss much. Most of the Americans crashed out in the first week, the Schleck brothers were MIA, Contador is on suspension, there were few if any meaningful attacks or breaks in the mountains. The arrival of young Slovak rider Peter Sagan was noteworthy in that he captured a Tour stage on his very first try. One lucky s.o.b. He topped himself by riding off with the Green Jersey a couple weeks later. Voeckler of France rode off in Polka-Dot (k.o.m).

The Armstrong investigations reared their head once again and marred the career ending Tour of beloved and heavily decorated American rider George Hincapie. Sad and unfortunate but keenly reflective of the current state of cycling. As this mess drags on and Armstrong and his legacy at the Tour become more polarizing it struck me how easy it has become to forget how dominant he was. Especially after a bland Tour like this year's race, re-watching clips of Armstrong thrash dudes in the mountains is extraordinary.

A clip from 1999 when he captured his first Tour victory - already in yellow at this point Armstrong attacks the lead riders on the climb of the Sestriere. They're all caught unaware since the yellow jersey generally covers attacks rather than gambling with attacks of his own. A few riders manage to ride back onto his wheel, but he attacks again on the descent. Nasty.

Armstrong's most memorable attack was on the Tour's most iconic climb, the Alpe d'Huez in 2001. Before blast-off, Armstrong pivots in his saddle and stares into the face of his closest rival, Jan Ulrich, telegraphing to him that he was going all in, right there right then. He proceeds to bury Ulrich and the others, claim the yellow jersey, lock up his third Tour, and cement his legend.

Related Posts:
 - The Santa Fe Century and Gran Fondo


  1. Yeah, a pretty dull tour. I don't think George's ride was marred by the leak. I think if he tells the full story he will come through it OK.

  2. Todd - thanks for the note. I followed the race online and I got the sense that at a minimum there was a shadow over most of the Americans in week one due to the details of the Armstrong investigation. It was compounded by the crashes and injuries from the days' stages.

    I don't think it's any secret that tour teams engage in doping, but it seemed a shame to highlight that sordid business as the guy was pedaling his farewell from the sport. Such is life.



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...