Lance Wins His Last Stage

July 23, 2005

Bicycling


I love the Tour de France. And today has been a most memorable day.

Lance Armstrong has won his first indiviual stage of the 2005 Tour de France. And he has won the last “test of truth” for his career. Along the way, he beat his nearest competitor (Jan Ullrich) by 23 seconds. Jan Ullrich is a fighter. I sure hope the German press offer apologies to der Kaiser. He had an amazing ride. He was second only to Lance Armstrong. And he has climbed onto the podium. Lance will be on the podium with the two men that have challenged him the most during the last seven (7) years (Jan Ullrich and Ivan Basso).

Unfortunately, not everyone had a great day. This morning, Michael Rasmussen started as the third-best rider in the peleton. But he had a horrific day in the saddle. He had two crashes and had to change bikes four times. He will not be on the podium in Paris. But he will leave the Tour with a stage win and the King of the Mountains jersey. This has been a great year for him. And he has many more years to come.

And while the GC leadership was decided, the entire American cycling contingent had a superb day. Four of the top ten cyclists [Lance Armstrong, Bobby Julich, Floyd Landis and George Hincapie] were Americans. And all four can claim ties with DS Johan Bruyneel, the US Postal team and Lance Armstrong. These four men have shown that Americans can compete in the highest levels of worldwide cycling.

At the end of the day, the GC standings are compelling.

1 Lance Armstrong (USA) Discovery Channel 82.34.05
2 Ivan Basso (Ita) Team CSC 4.40
3 Jan Ullrich (Ger) T-Mobile Team 6.21
4 Francisco Mancebo (Spa) Illes Balears-Caisse d’Epargne 9.59
5 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Gerolsteiner 11.25
6 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) T-Mobile Team 11.27
7 Michael Rasmussen (Den) Rabobank 11.33
8 Cadel Evans (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto 11.55
9 Floyd Landis (USA) Phonak Hearing Systems 12.44
10 Oscar Pereiro Sio (Spa) Phonak Hearing Systems 16.04

Every man on this list has had a memorabe Tour.

  • Oscar Pereiro has been amazing. He has won a stage and contested many others. He was huge in the mountains. And he will be someone to watch for the next few years.
  • Floyd Landis has been a great leader for Phonak. This team has had to struggle with the loss of its erstwhile leader (Tyler Hamilton) amidst blood doping charges. Yet the team has two riders in the top 10.
  • Cadel Evans has had an amazing three weeks in the mountains. He has earned the honors received this year.
  • Michael Rasmussen is the next great Dane. He is the KOM winner. And he won a solo stage. With some time (and a little more TT training) he will contend for overall leadership in the Tour.
  • Alexander Vinokourov has shown his relentless, attacking style throughout this year’s Tour. T-Mobile will miss him in the future. Whoever picks this man up will have a gem – with a few rough edges yet to be polished.
  • Levi Leipheimer has been wonderful this year. He has now made a op five finish. What an accomplishment. I guess the Specialized folks will be glad about their investment.
  • Francisco Macebo has shown continued improvement. He has placed high in the mountains and kept close in the time trials. He will challenge many in next year’s Tour. In the meantime, I think he may be a serious challenge to Roberto Heras in this year’s Vuelta.
  • Jan Ullrich has done it! He will place third on the podium this year. That means that he has had a podium finish in seven of his eight Tour finishes. I can’t think of a better way for Lance to exit the stage than to have Jan at his side.
  • Ivan Basso has won second place in the Tour de France. After losing this spot to Andreas Kloden last year, I am sure that he is thrilled to be second only to Lance Armstron. He will be the favorite to win next year.
  • Lance Armstrong has won his seventh consecutive Tour de France. There are no superlatives that can do justice to this accomplishment. With today’s stage win, Lance has won twenty-five stages of the Tour de France (including three team time trial victories). He has worn the leader’s jersey for eighty (80) days. And he is the only person to ever win seven consecutive Tours. I doubt that anyone will break this record – at least, not anytime soon.

Tomorrow is the ceremonial parade into Paris. This will be a parade into history. But history is something that doesn’t stand still. Lance will continue to make history in his life – whatever he chooses to do. At the same time, the Tour de France will move on as well. There will be new Tour champions and new revelations every year. So while the “Tour de Lance” is over, the Tour de France remains.

-CyclingRoo-

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