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Le Tour won't be a cakewalk for Lance this year ...(10 posts)

Le Tour won't be a cakewalk for Lance this year ...NeedSpeed
Jul 10, 2002 8:29 AM
I think contrary to popular belief, this tour is going to be a tough test for Armstrong if for no other reason than other teams will gang up and conspire to defeat him. ONCE has mulitiple mountain threats and so does Kelme. Most of the other teams, except for Rabobank and CSC don't really have climbers who can compete for the Yellow or podium spots. That leaves the rest of the French and Italian teams to fight it out for stage wins in the flats and Telekom to keep Zabel in green.

Here's the problem: the Spaniards will seek to attack and isolate Lance. Now if this isn't the strongest climbing Postal team ever, he's gonna be in trouble. Remember last year how Rubiera and Heras waned and recovered to save Lance's bacon during the final climbs on stages 12 and 14? Now Lance was the strongest, but he didn't have to face multiple attacks from three different teams. Look at the numbers: three mountain supporters for Lance (okay four if you want to count Pena). Kelme has Sevilla and Botero; ONCE has Beloki and Gonzalez de Galleano and Euskatel has an entire team of climbers.

If those three Spanish teams conspire to burn out Postal's support and isolate Lance in the high mountains, he'd have to cover multiple attacks from podium contenders all by his lonesome, unless Heras, Landis and Chechu can hang with him. If Lance is isolated, it's good for ALL the other teams with podium aspirations.

So how can Postal keep Lance in yellow to Paris? I think ironically, they may have to work with Rabobank, CSC and even Telekom. Rabobank and CSC have GC contenders who can climb and time trial and will want to limit any losses in the mountains as well. Plus, Lance has relationships with the Leipheimer, Hamilton and Livingston (though he's not a GC threat). I think Postal would be more likely to work with these teams to limit mountain attacks and then settle things at the final (Stage 19) TT before the sweep into Paris. I say forge an alliance with Telekom now to help set a pace to tire Zabel's rival sprinters and their teams and then count on a bit of mountain support for them to help chase down the Spanish attacks. Damn, this is exciting! What do you guys (and gals) think?
Nice analysis & prognostication...AllisonHayes
Jul 10, 2002 8:39 AM
Your analysis helps we ignorant ones have a deeper appreciation for the subtleties of racing and particularly the TDF. You should be a color commentator.

Thx :)
re: Le Tour won't be a cakewalk for Lance this year ...gregario
Jul 10, 2002 8:48 AM
Great commentary. All I can say is I'm about as geeked as I can get for this year's Tour. I hope to make it over there for when (and IF) Lance goes for #6.
one flawmr_spin
Jul 10, 2002 8:59 AM
It sounds so simple to gang up on Lance in the mountains, but it's not. For every attack ONCE or Kelme or whoever makes, they also have to respond. If Galdeano attacks, Lance has to respond, but so does Beloki! If Sevilla attacks, Lance has to respond, but so does Botero! How does that help ONCE and Kelme? Trying to wear down one rider tends to wear everyone down.

ONCE tried this recently on a stage in the Midi Libre (I think), and it didn't work. Lance made no gains, but he followed every attack. Eventually the attacks stopped when everyone had burned themselves out. At that point, some other rider rode away and won the stage! And Lance ended up winning that race. Lance is one of the most tactically smart riders today. I don't think he'll fall into any traps that he can't get out of.

Also, forming an alliance with Telekom won't work. Lance isn't exactly on friendly terms with two of their three mountain guys, former teammates Julich and Livingston. Either one would love to do him in.
Spanish teams conspire?Glory Hole
Jul 10, 2002 9:01 AM
Hell, they can't even let an unknown rival Spanish team member get 15 secs up the road on a flat stage without chasing it down. They're almost as bad as the Dutch teams.
USPS proved they can protect Lance from multiple attacks in Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré.
The Spanish teams will probably concede the yellow to Lance and concentrate on duking it out for the remaining podium spots. In the mountains, I imagine a Spanish team will attack, and another will chase them. Lance will use their rivalry to simply follow the Spanish team that counters.
Jul 10, 2002 9:03 AM
I thought everyone was claiming this year's Tour would be completely boring, as Lance was the pre-determined winner? What's changed?

Sure, others can give Lance a run on any particular stage. But, can any any of the others do it on enough stages to accumulate time on him? Any one rider beating him on any one stage doesn't really hurt, if they can't do it several times. It seems like the other climbers have one or two good days, but fall apart on the time trial or even on other mountain stages. Also, recall that Mig's wins never included mountain stages. No one can do anything to hurt on the individual time trials, collusion or not.

not to mentionrufus
Jul 10, 2002 9:22 AM
that during last year's tour, when it was telekom pushing the pace for ulrich, lance was the only rider able to stay in contact. botero, beloki, sevilla, de galeano, none of them were able to maintain the pace. this wasn't even a matter of following attacks, but just maintaining a pace set by telekom's workers, or even rubiero and heras for usps.

of course, this year could be different, but those guys would have to be in top form and lance would have to be off from last year for them to be effective. it seemed to me that besides armstrong and ulrich, the two strongest climbers last year were rubiero and heras. they constantly came back from being dropped to get to the front and pace armstrong.

and again, you have the matter of the time trials, where most of the other climbers probably won't be able to match lance. all he has to do is keep them close, not blow up drastically.
re: Le Tour won't be a cakewalk for Lance this year ...NeedSpeed
Jul 10, 2002 10:00 AM
(Thanks, Alison).

I agree with all of you that the TTs will be key and are Lance's ace in the hole. However, I think that with Ullrich's TdF plans being in limbo since basically January, you can't tell me that motivated other GC contenders. If it didn't something's wrong. Plus, I think Beloki has something to prove ever since he blew up in tears in last year's Vuelta.

True, Telekom set a pace that dropped many of the Spaniards and only Armstrong (and later Heras and Chechu) could keep up with their attacks. But remember that on two of the mountain stages, the finishes were exactly in the order of the 2000 tour's GC and that Sevilla recovered to finish with a good time on Stage 14.

What will be different? Well, besides the fact that Sevilla (if fully recovered from his crash), Beloki, Gonzalez de Galleano and Botero should be in better form than last year, their teams can set a faster pace in the earlier mountain passes to drop most of the other teams (probably easier since so many don't have climbers) and narrow things down to the GCs and their supporters. It is true that when someone attacks, all have to respond at some point, but the whole of Postal didn't do much work on the front at all in the mountains last year until the late passes where Chechu and Heras set tempo, dropped the hangers on, and left Lance to twist the knife slowly in Ullrich. This year, there are just so many climbers on the Spanish teams (and I haven't even mentioned iBanesto's climbers) that it could be a matter of sheer numbers. Each team sets a tempo and sacrifices some domestiques to split the field, trying to get Lance isolated. I know Lance can keep up. But can he keep up and counterattack (and attack) time and again over all the mountain stages? I hope so, but we'll see. If you are Kelme, do you pick a mountain stage and send Botero and another climber on an attack midway through to try and stay away, forcing USPS to chase and neutralize, tiring themselves so you can launch Sevilla on the final climb to put minutes into Lance?

It could be as simple as two teams coming to the front, setting tempo and then someone launches an attack,forcing Postal to fight through the blockade and chase the attackers. I think Postal has to be smart and that they must form alliances with CSC and Rabobank to collectively police the Spaniards's attacks. Otherwise, you're asking a lot of Landis, Heras and Chechu to chase down attacks all by themselves in addition to protecting and setting tempo for Lance until he attacks. Contrary to what some think, I'm certain the Spanish teams will work together to further their climbers podium hopes.

I still hope Lance will win, I just think that with Ullrich's absence, other teams are going to form alliances in a free-for all for the podium. Three support climbers for Lance last year was plenty. But will it be enough for this year?
It's already over? The TTT sure made things easier for Lance.Sintesi
Jul 10, 2002 11:07 AM
All the spanish teams are now down by approx two minutes, except Once headed by Beloki and Galdeano. I don't see Botero on the podium at this point. I see him contending for KOM and trying for the odd stage win as he likes to sit back and dose his performances for certain days.

Beloki has alway been able to hang on and time trial decently but I've never known him to drop anyone of true class. Galdeano? Man, I dunno.

Once seems to me to be the only team with a shot. If lance can mark them, he can allow a few Kelme and iBanesto to go off the front w/out too much worry.

Having said that, I hope I'm wrong (I like a good contest like anyone) and you might be right -breakaway territory coming up. It's a long ways to the mountains this tour. : )
re: Le Tour won't be a cakewalk for Lance this year ...Shad
Jul 10, 2002 10:14 AM
I think you make a good point. Gonzalez De Galdeano & Botero can both climb and time trial well. If Lance were isolated they (other teams working together) could theoretically keep alternating attacking him to weaken his legs long term. Will it happen? Don't know, it would make it interesting though. The other wrench in this theory is that the Spanish teams take the overall team competition so seriously. It's not a big deal in the US, but it is to the Spanish. That may prevent these normally opposing Spanish teams from working together.

It will be interesting to see what happens...