Wednesday, July 06, 2005

The Tour

Vincent pointed out recently that I haven't yet posted anything about the tour yet. Well, here's the remedy:

The Tour de France is now in full swing with the cyclists completing stage 5 today. So far there's been lots of excitment with both an individual and team time trial. Lance got the yellow jersey yesterday when Zabriskie crashed in rather dramatic fashion just over 1 km from the end of the team time trial. I've been thoroughly enjoying OLN's live coverage - my tivo hasn't yet missed a show!

If you're looking for a good read about cycling, I reccommend Lance Armstrong's War . It's not just about Lance, but includes quite a bit about cycling in general. Apparently, the Discovery team has their tires aged in a cellar for a few years before being used. I find it hard to beleive this really improves the tire...


Blogger Justin said...

For those of us that don't get OLN and aren't particularly well versed in Tour protocol, can someone explain Lance's reluctance to wear the yellow jersey today? If it is a tradition not to wear the jersey if the leader lost it by crashing, why did the organizers ask him to wear it today?

7/06/2005 02:37:00 PM  
Blogger Qian said...

I too was wondering if Ben was going to post about the Tour de Lance. Hey Ben, did you do that cycling in Kansas thing this year? I've been following the tour on during the day and catching some OLN replays at night. It looks like Lance is in very good form this year. But there's still a lot of mountains to go. Good news is Ullrich doesn't look to be in top form. But who else could challenge for the overall win? Vinokourov and Basso are hanging around, but is either a serious contender?

From what I can gather, there's been several instances where the leader declined the yellow jersey for a stage because a crash had taken out the previous leader. As Lance is a classy guy and Zabriskie is a former teammate of his and a fellow American, I can certainly understand his gesture. However, from what I can gather from an article on (much better coverage than, by the way, if you can read a little French), there's a strict new rule that requires the leader to wear the yellow jersey at all times during the race. That's the surface of the issue. I think there may be another reason for the conflict (somebody correct me if I'm off base here). Wearing the yellow jersey is like having a bullseye on your back for the whole race. For Armstrong, who's worn it so often, it might actually be a blessing to not draw so much attention to himself during the chaotic early flat stages. I think that might be why he intentionally came in second in the individual time trial. I believe the new rule is mostly aimed at Lance and is just another of those things (like that "random" drug test before the start of the tour) that's designed to get under his skin.

Tangentially, I find it hard to believe any sane person could still believe that Lance is doping or has ever doped. He's never failed a drug test and he's the most tested athlete ever of any sport. But people will be idiots, I guess.

7/06/2005 06:07:00 PM  
Blogger Eric said...

Glad to hear about Le Tour on MathHut. I doubt that a yellow jersey will increase the attention that the other riders give Lance.

7/06/2005 08:36:00 PM  
Blogger Qian said...

True, all the riders know where Lance is regarless of his jersey, but the spectators may not. If anyone decided to get in his way, he would be harder to spot if he's not wearing yellow. Not that I think fan interference is very likely, but then I never thought anyone would have stabbed Monica Seles either.

7/06/2005 10:55:00 PM  
Blogger Vincent said...

On one of the flat stages, there was very little televised coverage of Lance. The OLN commentators explained that the television feed is provided by the French, who tend to view each stage as a self-contained race, regardless of the GC standings. I'm sure Lance isn't very aware of the TV coverage in real time, but I'd guess it's refreshing not to be the focus of television coverage non-stop.

On a different note, should we be rooting for Lance to take a 7th Tour, or would it be better to see someone else win? Suppose, for instance, that Ullrich comes in second, rides the Tour next year, and wins. Wouldn't he always wonder whether he would have won if Lance competed for another year? I'm all for athletes retiring at their peak, but maybe it's best for the sport if he's not found to be unbeatable.

7/07/2005 01:04:00 AM  
Blogger Justin said...

I'm definitely rooting for Lance to take a 7th. Lance's dominance is the only thing that has caused any sort of Tour coverage in the US, and winning a 7th Tour while going out on top is only going to bolster the odds that I'll get to see more Tour coverage in the future. That, and I get a great jingoistic thrill in an American winning the Tour de France.

7/08/2005 01:31:00 AM  
Blogger Ben said...

I'm glad the coverage doesn't follow Lance on the flat stages. He'll just stay near the front of the peleton and stay out of trouble. While the ultimate prize is the yellow jersey, for most stages there's a lot more drama in the stage win and other prizes along the course.

I have to admit, I'm rooting for Lance to take a 7th, but I'm also rooting for Floyd Landis to have a good showing.

I did have a good bike trip in Kansas. The winds were much more favorable than last year, and I managed to get my first two centuries (rides of 100 miles or more) in! It was a nice change of pace - nothing to worry about longer than each days ride, getting a bite to eat, and taking a nap. True simplicity!

7/08/2005 09:37:00 AM  
Blogger Eric said...

The US media sure was happy to say how smart team Discovery was to lose the yellow jersey. While the CSC blogger wrote as if they were happy to get it. What do you think?

7/11/2005 08:09:00 PM  
Blogger Justin said...

After today, I think the Discovery take is pretty clear.

For those of use that may not be as Tour knowledgable, I've got another question. We're through 10 stages, why is it that people aren't talking about Rasmussen as a contener. I understand that there will be sprinters high in the early standings that fall out of the chase in the mountains. I understand that there are climbers that lose too much time in the flat stages and team time trial to contend. Rasmussen, though, is the polka-dot jersey holder, so he's obviously got climbing skills. He's 38 seconds back of Armstrong through half of the Tour, so he obviously didn't lose that much time on the flats. Why aren't people talking about him as the real threat?

7/12/2005 10:41:00 PM  
Blogger Qian said...

I believe the answer is the individual time trial that is still to come. On the first stage, a relatively short individual time trial (19km), Rasmussen finished 174th out of 189 riders, 3:12 behind Armstrong. The next indv. TT is stage 20 at 55km long. I do believe Rasmussen will be a high overall finisher though.

7/13/2005 09:57:00 AM  
Blogger Ben said...

Yeah, I agree with Qian - Rasmussen will probably lose a lot of time on the final time trial. I doubt he'll be allowed in any more long breakaways anymore. :)

Still, he's well positioned for a podium finish. It must be a real surprise for rabobank to have a GC contender come from nowhere like that.

7/13/2005 11:55:00 AM  
Blogger Vincent said...

Wow. That was two excellent days in a row. Discovery, Vinokourov, Botero -- good job, guys!

Incidentally, I'm avoiding checking this page (and many news sites) until I have a chance to catch the evening replay on OLN... at least on the days that are likely to have an impact on the top of the GC standings.

7/14/2005 01:06:00 AM  
Blogger Justin said...

Tuesday is the last mountain stage, so it's presumably the last chance for the pretenders to try to pick up enough time on Lance to make the last week interesting.

If you're the manager of a non-Discovery team, what's your strategy on Tuesday? Any chance T-Mobile might actually work like a team to get one of their men in a position to challenge?

7/18/2005 09:57:00 AM  
Blogger Ben said...

It looks like Lance is just too strong this year. For the non-Discovery teams, they'll probably try to hang on to a podium spot or go upwards in the GC. Tuesday's stage has one major climb, but it's with ~70 km to go so it may not be decisive.

I wonder if Rasmussen can hold onto third place? He had a good stage on Sunday losing only 4 seconds to Ullrich. It looks like it may come down to the time trial on Saturday and I could see him losing a lot of time there as well.

7/18/2005 12:09:00 PM  
Blogger Justin said...

Given the uncharacteristic weakenss in the Discovery team this year, do you think that one of the T-Mobile riders would have won had that team ridden like a team rather than as a bunch of individuals?

7/18/2005 01:21:00 PM  
Blogger Qian said...

Hmm... My impression is that the DSC team is pretty strong this year. They had one really bad day and since then has appeared to be in good form. I think T-Mobile's team effort was destroyed when Ullrich crashed the day before the tour began. CSC looked pretty strong, but losing Zabriskie really hurt them. But I think in the end Lance is just unbeatable again this year. Kind of like how Michael Jordan was able to win even when he had Luke "Sack o' Beans" Longley as his teammate.

7/18/2005 11:18:00 PM  
Blogger Ben said...

Yeah, it's really hard to measure a team's strength. T-mobile has three elite riders (Vino, Kloden, and Ulrich), but I have a feeling that Discovery has much more depth.
The announcers were quick to comment on how odd it was to have Ulrich chase down a few of Vino's breakaways. Probably Ulrich might have saved a minute or two with ideal teamwork, but I still doubt they'd be able to compete with Lance.

Longley will lead them back! :)

7/19/2005 05:35:00 PM  
Blogger Vincent said...

In fairness, the rest of Team Discovery can hardly be called "Sack o' Beans". Would Longley have been able to display Jordan-like talent even in a single game? At the very least, Hincapie is Discovery's Pippin.

7/20/2005 01:21:00 PM  
Blogger Qian said...

I didn't mean to imply team DSC are sacks o' beans, just that Lance inspires those around him to be better. I agree Hincapie is Pippen to Armstrong's Jordan. Especially since Lance, like MJ, gets all of the glory. Or did you mean Hincapie is Pippin to Armstrong's Frodo? :)

7/20/2005 10:46:00 PM  
Blogger Justin said...

Another Tour newbie strategy question-- why aren't the flat stages "interesting" in the competition for the yellow jersey? I would think that it would be possible for a team to push the pace on the flat stages to a point where the peloton just couldn't keep up just as it could on the mountain stages (obviously, it's easier on the mountain stages because there is less of a penalty for leading and less benefit from drafting).

I guess I don't understand why Lance can't realistically be pushed on all these flat stages. And if we all know ahead of time that the leader isn't going to be pushed on the flat stages, why are there so darn many of them on the Tour? Wouldn't you want to set things up so that, at least on most days, the stage was set up to encourage the possibility of an attack?

7/22/2005 04:33:00 PM  
Blogger Ben said...

Like you pointed out, it's all about drag. When a rider is in a slipstream they end up working up to 30% less. If you're traveling uphill, this percentage decreases significantly to the point where a rider's strength becomes apparent. (Also, on a climb it's much easier to loose or gain big chunks of time.)

Once a group seperates from the peleton it's all about numbers and energy output. If there are more riders in the peleton willing to spend energy chasing down the breakaway then there are riders in the breakaway it likely won't succeed. At the beginning of the day, there are many breakaway attempts that are chased down by an angry peleton because it included a rider that was too far up in the GC.

Cyclists have different builds from the heavy sprinters to the light climbers. The tour is organized to have stages for all riders, and if you're a sprinter, the flat stages are where it's at!

7/22/2005 05:21:00 PM  
Blogger Vincent said...

Delphine likes Lance. I had to read that twice because I misread the first name as Cecile.

7/25/2005 05:43:00 PM  
Blogger Justin said...

A little late, but Wired has a link to a page where Floyd Landis's power coach was keeping a blog about Floyd's power output over each Tour stage

Lots of numbers for us geeks to digest, including:
- Average power output of 232 watts
- Total of 70,914 kJ of work, enough to power the state of California for 22.69 seconds.
- A total of 74,460 Kcal burned

Incredible. The stage by stage comparisons (i.e. Landis needed 9% more power to match Lance's time in the time trial) are also fascinating.

7/28/2005 12:39:00 PM  

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