Also check out my
Daily-diary pages while I was in
France as well as our headlines from the front page of our website.
Saturday July 19th,
Toulouse to Plateau Bonascre 197.5km
This page was
originally going to be just race photos, but guys like the Aussie in
the photo to the right, climbing the nasty Bonascre with a Kangraoo
hitching a ride... well, they're very much a part of the spectacle
that is the Tour de France!
Lance not at this best, about 2km into the final climb to Bonascre.
His results in this stage, as well as the time trial, cast many
doubts as to his ability vs Jan's. This is a very different
Jan as well; check out the nasty expression... he looks mean!
Most others look pretty much as they usually do, including Tyler
(towards the left in the red & white CSC jersey) with his angelic
later the first of the domestiques roll through. These are the
guys who hang in there through the first two-thirds of the climbs,
helping to protect and position their team leaders for the finish.
When their job is done (as in their engines have blown) they cruise
to the finish at moderate speed, hoping to conserve enough energy to
be useful the next day. It's important to realize that these
are not the guys who have been blown off the back, but rather used
up & essentially discarded. Their role is not to place highly,
but to make sure their team leader does.
Sunday, July 20th
Saint Girons to Loudenvielle 191.5km
Rather than do a
longish ride out to the race and then an even longer (much
longer) ride back on a bus, we rode the Col d' Aspin in the morning
and then got back in time to watch the race in a bar/restaurant.
Monday, July 21st
(Bagneres de Bigorre to
Luz Ardiden 159.5km)
What is it
like to have the best seats in the house for the greatest race in
the world? This picture, from the top of the Tourmalet, tells it all. Lance & Jan
battling it out, with Mayo and Zubeldia in tow. Couldn't get
much more dramatic, with the race seriously in question (Lance's
lead down to under 20 seconds) and their magical emergence from the
clouds. I had wondered what it would take to make that gnarly
climb up the Tourmalet worthwhile... this was the answer.
Check out more on my France
'03 diary page detailing this day's exploits.
Some of you
may think it's a chore to keep your wives or husbands happy, but, as
a business owner, I have employees to think of as well, and Bruno,
service manager in Redwood City, wouldn't be too happy if I didn't
get any photos of Richard Virenque wearing the polka-dot climber's
A bit later the clouds move back in as we await the Lantern Rouge
(the last rider). You can see from the photo that we've got a
great line of sight both down the hill and up to the top.
Again, more on this great day of riding and viewing the race can be
found on the diary page I've
maintained during the Tour de France.
Friday, July 25th, Bordeaux to Saint-Maixent-l'Ecole
what's it like being at a feed station? In your mind you have
visions of something like a mail train, where you run alongside the
rider and they grab the bag from your outstretched arm. Turns
out that's exactly how it works!
Basically you have a bunch of guys (and one woman, in the CSC
jersey) all lined up towards the top of a small hill, each wearing
the jersey of their team. They carry between a couple and
maybe five or six musettes (feed bags, and hand them off to either
one or a couple riders, who distribute them among their fellow team
mates. It's pretty wild and somehow goes off without a hitch.
July 26th, Final Time Trial to Nantes 49km
it was wet, yes, it was windy. But conditions were identical
for both Lance and Jan, since they left within three minutes of each
other on the final Time Trial of the 2003 Tour de France. It
was with a great amount of fear & trepidation & nail biting that we
watched the race unfold on the TV in the blue-collar bar we staked out, about
2.5km from the finish.
Lance and Jan were posting nearly-identical time splits until Jan
went a bit too hard into a corner and slid out, crashing out of
contention. He got back up pretty quickly, but his hopes of
doing the ride of his life to take back the minute deficit and beat
Lance Armstrong were gone. As was a good chunk of his shorts,
as you can see in the photo on the left!
JULY 27th, TDF Finale in Paris
a tough job but somebody's got to do it. Not just Lance
winning the TDF (5th time!), but me braving the crowds on the final
circuit in Paris. Nothing quite like it... you wait for hours
to watch maybe an hour of racing (and most of that is waiting for
them to come back through each lap; you only see them six times), then wait for a couple more
hours for the final procession. It makes no sense, but you're
drawn to it like a moth to a light bulb.
Unlike the mountain stages, it's virtually impossible to get decent
photos at the finale, due to the crowds. But you still have to
make it there sometime. Or maybe you don't, because, once
there, you may want to keep going back for more. Just like
those moths to the light bulbs. --Mike--
SECRETS OF THE '04 TOUR DE FRANCE
How many bikes did
Lance use? 4 different models. A stock 5500 (same
frame as the 5200, but with DuraAce components), a revised 5900
(redesigned fork that allows use of standard headset), the new
Madone that you've read all sorts of stuff about and has that weird
semi-aero look, and the standard TimeTrial bike, little different
from last year.
If you've read all the hype about the Madone, you may have come to
the erroenous conclusion that it's the lightest bike in Lance's
stable, but that's not the case. The revised 5900 is actually
lighter, and that's the reason why he chose that bike for all of the
nastier climbing stages. The Madone looks cooler, and will
appeal to the crowd that has thought of TREKs as being rather
ordinary looking, but if you want the absolute lightest, strongest
machine available, it remains the domain of the 5900.
What happened in
Lance's crash at Luz Ardiden? What indeed! We know
what caused it; Lance rode too close to a spectator, and a bag strap
snagged Lance's handlebar, and down he went. Mayo immediately
crashed on top of Lance's bike, and what many don't realize is that
Lance's chainstay was nearly smashed clear through. Lance
didn't know that at the time, nor did his mechanic who was almost
instantly on the scene and gave him a big shove back up the hill.
But remember when Lance slipped on his pedals? That was
actually from his gears skipping out on him due to the frame issue.
He assumed it was a derailleur problem but somehow found a gear
where things settled down, and the rest is history (he went on to
win the race and finally add enough time over Ullrich that victory
for the TDF appeared likely). It was noted that the force of
Mayo's impact on the bike would have broken any other ultralight
frame into separate (and useless) pieces, but the OCLV is so
overbuilt that the other side held things in place for the remaining
6 incredibly-hard miles up the hill.
What about that final time trial in the rain? The one
that David Millar won, and Ullrich crashed in? What wasn't
shown on TV was that Millar had also crashed on the course, and yet
he still won. How did he do it? Partly due to differing
conditions, as Millar rode quite a bit earlier than Lance, Ullrich &
Tyler and, while it continued to rain nastily the entire day, the
huge tailwind during Millar's run had all but disappeared when it
came time for the top riders to start.
Tyler Hamilton is older than Lance! Yes, it's true, the
choir-boy-faced kid that rode to 4th place (after breaking his
collarbone in the second stage of the race) is six months older than
Lance, so for those who figure that, after Lance is finished trying
to get #6, there will be plenty of time for Tyler to win one or
two... that's just not the case. Tyler will be going for it
all next year, no question. But wait, there's more- Tyler was
slated to become a free agent at the end of this season, and, had
Lance fallen apart and decided that it was over for him (which was
not an unlikely scenario after his terrible first
individual time trial)... well, with all the rest of the US Postal
team signed up for one more year, would it have been too much of a
stretch to sign Tyler as a replacement for Lance?
Wheels used by US Postal were, for the first time, Bontrager
through-and-through. The same Bontrager wheels you'll be able
to shortly walk in and buy at your dealer. And hey, if they're
strong enough for cyclocross use (remember the stage where Beloki
crashed in front of Lance and he had to take the shortcut through
the field?), they'll work wonders on the road. Durability is
simply not an issue.
headlines from the front page
of our website, put up during
my 4th TDF visit. --Mike--
LANCE HAS DONE HIS JOB, AGAIN.
With a consistency that's scary,
earned a fifth consecutive TDF victory, and odds are he will be
back to try for #6. We'll move most of this off the front
page shortly, but first I have to make my way back from France
and catch up on a bit of sleep! --Mike--
NOT THE WAY ANY OF US WANTED IT TO HAPPEN,
as Jan Ullrich crashes out
of contention in the final Time Trial stage of the Tour de
France. If you look at the photo, you can even see the
place where his shorts are torn.
Tomorrow I ride in a special commemorative event with 9,999
other cyclists, doing a lap on the Champ d Elyssees.
for me in the Yellow Jersey. Oh, right, 9,999 others will
be wearing the same thing! --Mike--
FRENCH AND POSTAL! People
are under the mistaken impression that the French don't like
Lance. Not true! This young lady was quite French
and, as far as I could tell, not ostracized by her family
standing with her. Don't believe what you read in the
papers- the French press may be anti-Lance, but not the people. 7/24
YOU WANT TO GO TO A STAGE
START WHY? As you
can see, it can get pretty insane at a stage finish, this one
being in Bordeaux earlier
today. Do yourself a favor if
you visit the TDF and make sure you see a mountain stage...
on a mountain, of course!
photo above right was taken as Jan and Lance crossed the summit
of the Tourmalet on July 21st. Did I have the best seat in
the house? If not, pretty darned close! Check out my
France diary entries for this
trip, along with another page for
misc race photos.
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