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Awesome Tour introducion...(2 posts)

Awesome Tour introducion...SteveO
Jul 3, 2001 1:09 PM
Pantheon Power; or Fat Lady Sings the Déjà Vu
By Tim Maloney, correspondent

After his recent win in the Tour Of Suisse and ascension to the #1 slot in the UCI rankings, Lance Armstrong now seeks entry to the "pantheon" of Tour De France greatness as he looks for his third straight win in Le Grande Boucle. Only 3 other cyclists have ever achieved this lofty goal; Louison Bobet (53-54-55), Jacques Anquetil (61-62-63), Eddy Merckx (71-72-73) and Miguel Indurain (91-92-93).

Indurain went on to post an unprecedented 5 consecutive wins, Merckx and Anquetil added one more to their triples before they faltered and Bobet never won another Tour. In 2001, Armstrong has followed his usual meticulous preparation and reinforced his United States Postal Service team in the off-season with top talent like 2000 Tour of Spain winner Roberto Heras to be ready for the challenge. If one examines the history of the Tour De France on paper, the odds are against Armstrong that he will post three straight wins. Lots of doubles, so few triples...but overcoming insurmountable odds is nothing new for Armstrong; his winning struggle against life-threatening testicular cancer is well know around the globe.

It is said that world class athletes at the top level of sport are so close in ability that it's often the mental game that counts for victory. Simply stated, no one in cycling today has the mental acuity and determination of Lance Armstrong when it comes to the Tour De France. Can Armstrong's main rival Jan Ullrich and his powerful Deutsche Telekom team be a threat to prevent Armstrong from winning a third straight Tour? Ullrich, the newly crowned German champion said after his win that "my form is good and my morale is even better."

Should Lance have a bad crash or a "jour sans" at a crucial moment, or if Ullrich rides to his true potential as he did in the 2000 Olympic Road Race, he can be a real danger man for Armstrong.

It's simply part of the legend and lore of the Tour and why it's the greatest cycling event on planet earth. There is so much at stake, every day, all day in the Tour. Every rider is totally keyed up, ready to race each stage like a World Championships. Lance's meticulous preparation, laser-like focus and an uncommon ability to suffer will serve well should a shadow of misfortune fall on him or the hammer man come to take his blows on the defending champion. It ain't in the bag yet folks, the fat lady don't sing 'till Paris, but barring bad luck or an unexpected defaillance, Lance will gain access to hallowed ground, those Elysian Fields of three time Tour de France winners Indurain, Merckx Anquetil and Bobet.

Against the backdrop of Lance Armstrong vs. Jan Ullrich, the drama of the 2001 Tour De France will feature four acts. The curtain rises on Act One in the opening week of this years Tour in Dunkerque, with an 8km prologue time trial. The first week will certainly will feature the Battle of the Beastly Belgians, with a hungry and dynamic Domo-Farm Frites team, a well-prepared Lotto squad ready to fight for the Maillot Jaune as the Tour traverses their homeland.

Prologue specialist and rouleur extrordinaire Rik Verbrugghe (Lotto) will have a great shot at grabbing the Yellow Tunic early on, as will newly crowned Italian Champ Daniele Nardello (Mapei-Quick Step). While Mario Cipollini is relaxing at the beach in Viareggio during this year's Tour, look for Belgian super-sprinter Tom Steels (Mapei-Quick Step) to battle emerging Italian Alessandro Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo), World Champion Romans Vainsteins and German powerhouse Erik Zabel (Deutsche Telekom)

After 5 days of racing comes the entr'acte spectacular of the Team Time Trial on Stage 5, and a transition day on Friday 13th's Stage 6, where French teams will be looking for their moment of glory while all the other teams are relaxing.

Act 2, the Backbone Blues opens on Bastille Day, July 14th. Woe to any r
And now, the rest of the story...Lazy
Jul 3, 2001 1:38 PM
Act 2, the Backbone Blues opens on Bastille Day, July 14th. Woe to any rider who isn't on his game on this tough, intense stage from Strasbourg on the French-German border that traces bumpy backbone of the Vosges Mountains into Colmar; A perfect stage for LFDJ's up and coming climber Sven Montgomery to show his stuff.

Then on to the redoubt of the Alps. After another long transition stage to Aix-les-Bains, where Armstrong retired from the TDF in '96 on a cold, wet day, a pair of crucial mountain stages in the Alps will shake up the classement and show which rider has the best chance of taking the Maillot Jaune back to Paris. Stage 10 encompasses 208km from Aix-les-Bains to L'Alpe D'Huez over climb two tough passes (Madeleine and Glandon) before the mythical assault of L'Alpe.

Day 12 will show who has the legs to win the 2001 Tour De France; a 32km individual time trial on Stage 11 from Grenoble including a tough 18.7km climb to the summit of the Col de Chamrousse, a winding 7.1% average gradient. Following his recent win the uphill TT in the Tour de Suisse, Lance Armstrong should be a favourite to take both the stage win and the Maillot Jaune of Tour De France leadership. But with the Pyrenees looming ahead, Lance and his USPS boys will now have a major challenge to keep the Maillot Jaune all the way to Paris.

Act 3 might be called Summit Meeting or A Pyrenees Passion Play. After a long rest day transfer to Perpignan on the Mediterranean coast, the next three stages (12-13-14) should determine the 2001 Tour. Three consecutive mountain stages with three mountaintop stage finishes present a difficult challenge for both the defenders of and the pretenders to le Maillot Jaune.

Stage 12 is short and intense, with the first-time climb of 9.4km at 7% to the Bonsacre Plateau near Ax-Les-Thermes. Bound to see some fireworks. But Stage 13 is the key to winning the Pyrenees. With 7 climbs totaling 68.4 km over a distance of 222 km, Stage 13 presents a huge challenge, especially four major ascents including the mountaintop finish of Pla d' Adet in the last 70km. Armstrong will be counting on his USPS boys to counter the onslaught of attacks from Ullrich, O.N.C.E's Joseba Beloki, Francesco Casagrande (Fassa Bortolo), Haimar Zubeldia (Euskatel-Euskadi) and whichever riders have the legs to go after him on the tough Pyrennees climbs.

After the second rest day at the conclusion of the Pyrenees, it's Act 4, the Final Countdown, the true test of the 2001 Tour De France. Whomever has the Maillot Jaune on the morning of Stage 16 in Pau will have three difficult 200km+ stages up through the corrugated underbelly to defend the race lead until the decisive 61km final time trial in Montlucon on Stage 19. Once the final results of the fast, rolling time trial are known, the Tour De France 2001 peloton will take the TGV train to Orleans for the final two stages.

189 riders will assemble in Dunkerque, France this Saturday for the 2001 Tour and as always in the Tour De France, anything is possible in the toughest, most unpredictable cycling circus on Planet Earth. But as the fat lady sings from the top of the Eiffel Tower about 5pm on Sunday July 29th, don't be too surprised if you get that déjà vu feeling as the strains of the Star Spangled Banner waft once again across the Place De La Concorde.