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July 21, 2012

Great Britain, pop out the champagne!

Filed under: cycling,racing — Tags: , — Roger @ 12:38 pm

The only suspense left in this year’s Tour de France is whether British cyclist Mark Cavendish will win Sunday’s final stage on the Champs-Elysees and surpass Lance Armstrong (22 Tour stage wins) on the all-time list.

Barring a major disaster, Bradley Wiggins will become Great Britain’s first-ever Tour de France champion. Wiggins convincingly won today’s Stage 19 time trial. Wiggins covered the 33.2-mile course in 1:05:13. That was 1:16 faster than fellow Brit and Sky Proracing teammate Christopher Froome.

The win puts Wiggins 3:21 ahead of Froome in the general classification. Italy’s Vincenzo Nibali will join them on the final podium.

Meanwhile, the changing of the guard of American cycling continues. Tejay van Garderen has clinched the white jersey for the best young rider and fifth place overall. The 23-year-old van Garderen is 6:13 ahead of France’s Thibaut Pinot in the young rider competition and is 11:04 behind Wiggins in the general classification.

The “old man” of the American contingent at this year’s Tour, 40-year-old Chris Horner, is 13th overall.

Tomorrow, 39-year-old George Hincapie will tie the record for most Tour de France finishes (16). He holds the record for most Tour starts (17). This is the final Tour de France for Hincapie, who plans to retire after the USA Pro Cycling Challenge next month.

Levi Leipheimer, 38, is 32nd overall going into the final stage. Christian Vande Velde, 36, is 60th overall. David Zabriskie, 33, is 100th overall. Tyler Farrar, 29, is 151st overall.

The changing of the guard will be further illustrated next Saturday at the London Olympics men’s road race. Hincapie, Leipheimer, Vande Velde and Zabriskie won’t be competing in the Olympics.

All four have been reported in various publications as having been contacted by either a federal grand jury or the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency in connection with the probe of doping allegations against Armstrong. Leipheimer also is nursing a leg injury.

Representing the United States in the Olympic road race July 28 will be van Garderen, Horner, Farrar, 29-year-old Timothy Duggan and 21-year-old Taylor Phinney, who will be the sole American in the Olympic men’s time trial on Aug. 1.

The Americans will be hard-pressed to earn gold. The host nation’s team for the road race consists of Cavendish, Wiggins, Froome, David Millar and Ian Stannard. Wiggins, who dominated the Tour’s major time trials this year, and Froome are the United Kingdom’s representatives in the Olympic time trial.

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July 9, 2012

Wiggins solidifies Tour de France lead

Filed under: cycling,racing — Tags: — Roger @ 11:13 am

Great Britain’s Bradley Wiggins gained considerable time on his rivals in the Tour de France by winning the Stage 9 time trial today.

Wiggins completed the 25.8 mile time trial in 51 minutes, 24 seconds. His primary rival, Australian Cadel Evans, finished 1:43 back. Wiggins had a 10-second lead over Evans going into the time trial, and the time trial win puts his lead at 1:53. Christopher Froome is 2:07 behind Wiggins, his Sky teammate.

American Vejay van Garderen had a strong time trial perfomance. Van Garderen finished fourth, 1:06 behind Wiggins. More importantly, van Garderen moved back into the white jersey for the top young rider. The 23-year-old Tacoma, Wash., native now leads Estonia’s Rein Taaramae by 42 seconds in that competition. Van Garderen is in eighth place in the general classifcation, 5:14 behind Wiggins.

The Tour de France takes a rest day Tuesday, then it’s on to the Alps. Stage 10 on Wednesday is 120.9-mile jaunt from Macon to Bellegarde-sur-Valserine that includes one beyond-category climb, the Col de Grand Colombier.

Armstrong sideshow continues: Back in the States, Lance Armstrong is asking a federal judge to issue an injunction by Saturday to block the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency from proceeding with its case against Armstrong.

In a lawsuit filed today in U.S. District Court in Austin, Texas, Armstrong contends USADA rules violate athletes’ constitutional right to a fair trial and that the agency doesn’t have jurisdiction in his case. The Associated Press reports that the lawsuit accuses USADA’s chief executive, Travis Tygart, of waging a personal vendetta against Armstrong.

Saturday is the deadline for Armstrong to indicate whether he plans to challenge the USADA charges or whether he’ll accept possible sanctions.

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July 7, 2012

Tour de France: The racing really begins

Filed under: cycling,racing — Tags: — Roger @ 12:04 pm

During the first week of the Tour de France, it’s easy to get distracted by sideshows such as the Lance Armstrong doping controversy, the sprint competition and the crashes.

But the race really started to take shape today. Fabian Cancellara had held the yellow jersey and a 7-second lead over Bradley Wiggins since last Saturday’s Prologue, but Wiggins took over yellow today with a convincing performance.

While Christopher Froome won Stage 7, which finished with a Category 1 climb to La Planche des Belles Filles, Wiggins and defending champ Cadel Evans finished 2 seconds back. Wiggins now owns a 10-second lead over Evans in the general classification.

American Tejay van Garderen had owned the white jersey for the top young rider during the first week of the Tour, but he lost that today. After today’s stage, Rein Taaramae took a 2 minute, 37 second lead over van Gardenen in that competition.

Although van Garderen slipped from fourth to 18th place, he remains the top American in the general classification at 3:09 behind Wiggins.

As for other Americans still in the race, Chris Horner is 24th (3:09 behind Wiggins), Levi Leipheimer is 27th (3: 47 back), George Hincapie is 46th (10:18 back), David Zabriskie is 130th (27:29 back), Christian Vande Velde is 142nd (28:57 back), and Tyler Farrar is 177th (46:32 back).

Monday’s 25.8-mile time trial from Arc-et-Senans to Besançon could shake up the leaderboard some more.

As for the sideshows:

Crashes: I definitely don’t mean to minimize the effects of the crashes in this year’s race. American Tom Danielson and a slew of other riders, including Giro d’Italia champion Ryder Hesjedal of Canada, have been knocked out of the race because of them. Hesjedal, was considered a major contender, but a left leg and hip injury forced him out of the Tour. Hesjedal, instead, will focus on the London Olympics, ESPN reports.

The crashes also have hurt British sprinter Mark Cavendish, who remains in the race but is far behind in the sprint competition.

Sprints: Much was made of Peter Sagan’s three stage wins this week, making him the youngest rider since Armstrong to win a Tour stage. But I don’t think I’m quite ready to annoint him the next Armstrong quite yet. He’s definitely an exciting racer in the sprint stages and has seen fine results in other races. The 22-year-old Slovak still holds the green sprinters’ jersey and is in 51st place overall, 12:11 behind Wiggins.

Armstrong: I’m sure Armstrong would prefer not being in the headlines duinrg this Tour de France, but that’s not the case because he’s still the Alpha and Omega of cycling for casual American fans. First, there was the filing of formal doping charges just before the start of the Tour. Then, there was the revelation Hincapie, Leipheimer, Vande Velde and Zabriskie will be called to testify in the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency case. Travis Tygart, chief executive of the agency, told The New York Times no individuals had yet been punished in the Armstrong case. A Dutch newspaper had reported the four would receive six-month suspensions.

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June 30, 2012

Hincapie sets Tour de France record

Filed under: bicycling,racing — Tags: — Roger @ 11:00 am

The Tour de France is just a few hours old, but one record already has been broken.

With his 17th Tour de France start, American George Hincapie has broken the record for most Tour de France starts. This also will be the last for Hincapie — he turned 39 Friday – who first rode the race in 1996. The old record of 16 was held by Dutchman Joop Zoetemelk, who raced his final Tour in 1986.

Hincapie will be playing a familiar role this year. He’ll be one of the top lieutenants for defending champion Cadel Evans on their BMC Racing Team. Hincapie is best known for being Lance Armstrong’s top lieutenant during Armstrong’s run of seven Tour wins.

Should Hincapie finish the Tour de France — he’s only failed to finish one, his first — he’ll tie the record of 16 set by Zoetemelk.

While Hincapie is best known for his supporting roles in the Tour, he’s seen success in other racse. He’s a three-time U.S. professional road champion, and he won the 2006 Tour of Missouri. He also won Gent–Wevelgem in 2001 and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne in 2005.

As for this year’s Tour, it could be a fine one for the British Commonwealth. Evans, an Australian, is a favorite to defend his title. Top challengers include Great Britain’s Bradley Wiggins (Sky Pro Racing)  and Canadian Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp-Barracuda), this year’s winner of the Giro d’Italia.

Britain’s Mark Cavendish (Sky) might sneak in a few stage wins, but he’s already said his primary goal this year is to win gold at the London Olympics — the road race is July 28 — rather than win the Tour’s green jersey for top sprinter. The Tour will end July 22 in Paris.

After today’s prologue, Wiggins is 7 seconds behind winner Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan). Evans is 13 seconds back and Hesjedal is 18 seconds back. Hincapie finished 20 seconds back and is in 22nd place after the prologue.

American Tejay Van Garderen (BMC) finished fourth, 10 seconds back, and grabbed the white jersey as the Tour’s best young rider.

Other Americans who started today include Levi Leipheimer (Omega-Pharma Quick Step) and Garmin teammates Tyler Farrar, Christian Vande Velde, Chris Horner and David Zabriskie.

Watching the Tour: You can watch this year’s Tour de France mostly on the NBC Sports Network, although there are some days where the coverage will be on the main NBC network. Check the schedule for times (all EDT). As usual, the coverage will be repeated during the day and evening. That schedule is here.

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February 6, 2012

‘This is a sad day for our sport’

Filed under: cycling,racing,Uncategorized — Tags: — Roger @ 1:37 pm

Alberto Contador today became the latest — and arguably the most prominent — cyclist to be taken down by a doping scandal.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport stripped the Spaniard of his 2010 Tour de France title, loss of all his results in 2011 and 2012  – including the 2011 Giro d’Italia — and gave his a two-year racing ban, which is retroactive to January 2011 and is expected to end Aug. 5, which will allow him to race in this year’s Vuelta a Espana.

“This is a sad day for our sport,” UCI President Pat McQuaid said in a statement.

Indeed, it is. On Friday, federal prosecutors ended their probe of seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong, although he remains under investigation by a U.S. anti-doping agency.

During the 2010 Tour de France, Contador tested positive for clenbuterol. He contended the substance was a result of contaminated meet. The court rejected that ruling.

Now that the Tour de France title has been stripped from Contador, it will go to Andy Schleck. The only other cyclist to have had his Tour title stripped was 2006 winner Floyd Landis, who was found to have had excessive amounts of testosterone in his blood stream.

Contador and Landis were one-time teammates of Armstrong. I’m sure that will be noted by Armstrong’s critics.

I still want to believe Armstrong is innocent, especially because of all the good he has done for cancer patients through his Livestrong foundation. But it’s hard to ignore the smoking guns around him.


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July 2, 2011

Tour de France 2011

Filed under: cycling,racing — Tags: — Roger @ 1:36 am

In a matter of hours, this year’s Tour de France gets under way.

Rather than a prologue, this year’s Tour begins with a 131-kilometer road stage from Passage du Gois to Mont des Allouettes. Sunday’s second stage is a 23-kilometer team time trial.

The first major climbs in the Pyrenees comes July 14. Stage 18 on July 21 features 3 HC climbs in the Alps. The only individual time trial is a 42.5-kilometer trek through Grenoble.

This could be a milestone Tour de France for American George Hincapie, who was one of Lance Armstrong main lieutenants during his 7 Tour victories. If Hincapie, 38,  finishes the race, he will tie Dutch rider Joop Zoetemelk in completing 16 Tours.

As usual, Versus will have plenty of coverage of the Tour. Most days, the live coverage begins at 7 a.m. CDT. Take a look at the Versus schedule for more details.

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July 24, 2010

Landis hits the airwaves

Filed under: racing — Tags: , — Roger @ 2:06 pm

In case you missed it last night, ABC’s “Nightline” featured an exclusive interview with Floyd Landis about his doping allegations against Lance Armstrong.

Above is a summary of the story aired on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” You can see four  segments from the “Nightline” program at the show’s website.

Landis repeated many of the allegations he made in an interview published three weeks ago in The Wall Street Journal before the start of the Tour de France.

Armstrong and his camp deny the allegations.

“Landis is a confessed perjurer and he is a liar, and I think, as Lance said … when you taste milk to see if it’s sour, you take a first taste and you don’t have to drink the whole carton to know it’s all sour,” attorney Tim Herman said on the program.

The “Nightline” story also includes an interview with Emma O’Reilly, the former U.S. Postal Service staff member who said she saw evidence of drug use by U.S. Postal riders, but never saw Armstrong take illegal drugs.

Also interviewed was Betsy Andreu, the wife of former Armstrong teammate Frankie Andreu. She discussed her court deposition in which she said Armstrong told cancer doctors in their presence in 1996 he had doped with EPO, growth hormone and steroids.

As for today’s racing, Armstrong finished in 67th place in today’s Stage 19 time trial from Bordeaux to Pauillac. He was 7 minutes, 5 second behind stage winner  Fabian Cancellara.

Nevertheless, Armstrong and his Team RadioShack teammates will be making a trip to the podium Sunday.  RadioShack has wrapped up the team competition, holding a 9:15 lead over French team Caisse D’Epargne.

For all practical purposes, Alberto Contador clinched his second straight Tour de France title. Although Contador finished a disappointing 35th in the time trial, he still managed to increase his overall lead over Andy Schleck to 39 seconds.

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July 22, 2010

Schleck wins stage, but Contador keeps yellow

Filed under: racing — Tags: — Roger @ 12:52 pm

Andy Schleck won the battle with Alberta Contador on the Col du Tourmalet, but he didn’t win the war.

Schleck won Stage 17, but Contador was right on his tail. That meant that Contador kept his 8-second lead in the general classification of the Tour de France.

“I am very happy to win this stage. I tried to take the yellow jersey today, I tried to attack him, but Contador was too strong today,” Schleck told VeloNews. “I know that Alberto is stronger than me in the time trial. Who knows what will happen? I will keep fighting.”

Saturday’s time trial is the last chance for Schleck to regain the yellow jersey.  He pretty much has sewn up the white jersey for the best young rider because he holds a 6 minute, 33 second advantage over Robert Gesink.

American Chris Horner had a solid performance in Stage 17. He finished 1:45 behind Schleck and moved up to 10th in the general classification.

Team RadioShack teammate Lance Armstrong finished 17th, 4:12 back. More importantly, he moved up to 25th in the general classification.  That’s a major feat for the 38-year-old Armstrong, considering he was 38th after Sunday’s Stage 14.

Armstrong, of course, gave it a real shot in Tuesday’s stage by finishing in the lead pack. Armstrong had made it goal to win at least one stage of the Tour, and tomorrow’s flatter stage might be his last shot. I just can’t see him beating Contador or Schleck in the time trial. The sprinter’s duel between Thor Hushovd and Alessandro Petacchi probably won’t be decided until the Champs-Élysées on Sunday, so I can’t see Armstrong winning there, either.

But Lance has surprised us before, and he just might have one final surprise for us.

Who had the most disappointing day? Levi Leipheimer. The American RadioShack rider was seventh in the general classification going into the stage, 5:25 behind Contador. Leipheimer finished 43rd today, 8:59 behind Schleck. That put Leipheimer in 13th place overall, 14:24 behind Contador.

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July 19, 2010

Bad form at the Tour de France?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — Roger @ 12:50 pm

@ Yahoo! Video

Alberto Contador took over the yellow jersey today at the Tour de France, and Andy Schleck’s none too happy about the way he did so.

On the final climb of the day on the Port de Balès, Schleck’s chain slipped off and jammed his rear wheel. Contador took advantage of the mishap and turned what was a 31-second deficit in the general classification and turned it into an 8-second lead.

“My stomach is full of anger,” Schleck said on BBC Sport. “I would not have raced like that and taken advantage of that situation. For sure these guys don’t get the fair play prize today.”

Contador defended his actions by saying he was not aware of Schleck’s mishap at the time it happened. “I planned to attack anyway, and when I knew what had happened to him [Schleck] I was already ahead and racing,” he said.

There’s an unwritten rule of bicycle racing that you don’t take advantage of a leader’s mishap to gain time on him.

A classic example of that came during Stage 15 of the 2003 Tour de France. Lance Armstrong and Iban Mayo crashed when a spectator’s bag go caught in Armstrong’s handlebars. Armstrong nearly fell again moments later when his foot slipped out of his pedal.

Jan Ullrich, Armstrong’s biggest rival at the time, avoided the crash, yet Ullrich waited for Armstrong and Mayo to recover before he started racing again.

“Jan is a good guy, he’s an honorable guy,” Armstrong said at the time. “He probably didn’t forget that when he crashed in 2001, in what appeared to be a serious crash, I told everyone: ‘We can’t race until he gets back up.’ As we say in English: ‘What goes around comes around,’ and so I appreciate him doing that.”

As for the Contador-Schleck incident, Armstrong said in The Wall Street Journal that he didn’t want to pass judgment until he’s had a chance to analyze the situation, but he said it would not be an easy call, he said. “It was the last climb, so the race was on.”

Contador was booed when he walked up on the podium to get the yellow jersey. We shall see whether Schleck is able to get his revenge.

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July 18, 2010

Not a banner month for Lance

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — Roger @ 5:58 pm

July hasn’t been a very good month for cycling superstar Lance Armstrong — both on and off the bicycle.

Today at the Tour de France, Armstrong struggled in the first of four stages in the Pyrenees. He finished 70th in today’s Stage 14, 15 minutes 14 seconds behind stage winner Christophe Riblon.

Even worse, Armstrong fell to 38th in the general classification, falling 39:44 behind yellow jersey holder Andy Schleck, who still holds a slim lead over Alberto Contador.

Armstrong isn’t blaming his performance on the off-road distractions being caused by a federal investigation of allegations of doping at Armstrong’s former U.S. Postal Service team.

“I might be distracted, but I’m not distracted on the things people are speculating I’m distracted on,” Armstrong told VeloNews before Sunday’s stage. “I don’t have any fear about any of that. I know what’s gone on in my life. I rest at night perfectly well.”

But the off-road distractions are casting a big shadow over Armstrong in this, his final Tour de France:

  • On July 3, The Wall Street Journal published an extensive interview with former teammate Floyd Landis, in which he detailed allegations U.S. Postal members, including Armstrong, received blood transfusions and wore testosterone patches.
  • Last week, the Journal reported federal investigators want to talk to former Armstrong teammates George Hincapie and Tyler Hamilton.
  • On Friday, the New York Daily News reported three-time Tour de France champion Greg LeMond has been subpoenaed to testify July 30 before a federal grand jury in Los Angeles  looking into the doping allegations.
  • LeMond added fuel to the fire in an interview published today in the French newspaper Journal Du Dimanche. “Up until now, he has achieved great things, if you consider he did it fairly, which I don’t believe,” LeMond said. “For him, it’s the beginning of the end.”

On the bike, Armstrong has struggled with crashes the past two weeks. He crashed Saturday during the neutral start of Stage 13. Armstrong crashed during Stage 2, when half the peloton went down on an oil-slicked descent, and during Stage 8, when he clipped a pedal in a roundabout and crashed.

Racers face two more Pyrenees stages Monday and Tuesday before getting a rest day Wednesday. The race resumes Thursday with the climb of the Col du Tourmalet, then hits the plains near Bordeaux on Friday. The sole individual time trial stage is Saturday, and the race closes in Paris next Sunday.

Armstrong is hoping to salvage a stage win out of this year’s disastrous Tour.

“I’m going to do my best, but it’s not easy. I think every rider in the bunch knows I want a stage,” Armstrong told VeloNews.

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