July 25, 2009
The Old Lance
Posted by Gordon Smith

Today's penultimate stage of the Tour de France was a race up Mont Ventoux. The most striking thing about the race was the number of people on the top of the mountain, blocking the wind and accosting the riders. Compare this year to Lance's famous sprint up the mountain in 2000:

Lance has obviously slowed a bit since then, and I suspect we will be watching Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck battle things out for many years to come. Unless Greg LeMond is right about Contador doping.

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July 04, 2009
Happy 4th of July!
Posted by Gordon Smith
July 13, 2008
Stage 10
Posted by Gordon Smith

Let's say you are mildly interested in the Tour de France, but you aren't glued to the television every morning in July. Nevertheless, you wouldn't mind watching one stage ... but which one?

You could do worse than Stage 10 on Monday. Here is the profile:


Those are two "off-category" climbs at the end, including the legendary Col du Tourmalet. We can expect a shakeup on the leaderboard as Columbia Sportswear's Kim Kirchen yields the yellow to ... Cadel Evans.

Actually, if asked to pick a winner for Monday's stage, I would go with Carlos Sastre, with an assist from Frank and Andy Schleck. Cadel will not be far behind, however, and he will pull on the yellow jersey.

I am very curious to see how three other riders perform on Stage 10: Christian Vandevelde (the top American in this year's Tour ... contender or pretender?), Alejandro Valverde (can he finally reach his Tour potential), and Riccardo Ricco (wow ... can he follow Sunday's triumph with another great ride?).

The mountains are where the Tour is decided, and these stages are by far the funnest stages to watch. Some great stages are set for later in the Tour (Stage 17, for example, features L'Alpe-d'Huez), but Monday's stage promises to be a great sifter.

UPDATE: I finally was able to see the Versus pre-race show and noticed that Paul Sherwin embraced my analysis almost exactly, but Craig Hummer again made the best call, tabbing Frank Schleck as the stage winner. Schleck didn't win the stage, but he came close.

And the stage was a sifter. Valverde and Damiano Cunego may have lost the Tour today. My pick, Carlos Sastre, rode well, but he didn't distinguish himself from the other GC contenders.

Ricco and Vandevelde remain compelling stories. This is the best Tour in years.

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July 05, 2008
Versus Ad: "A new stage begins"
Posted by Gordon Smith

Have you seen the new Versus ad for the Tour de France? "A new stage begins" is an in-your-face rejection of Jan Ulrich, Michael Rasmussen, Floyd Landis, Alexandre Vinokourov, and other past dopers. A clean Tour? I am not so sure, but I think we can safely say that we are all happy to see the end of the "cyclysm" ads.

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"Christmas in July for U.S. Tour fans"
Posted by Gordon Smith

That's how TDF Blog describes Versus television coverage this year: "Gone is Al Trautwig, who combined bombast and ignorance in staggering proportions." With at least one exception, that would most certainly be the consensus view. Here is a funny post from La Parisienne:

I love waking up at 6 am on a Sunday morning to watch the race go through the mountains. I love the constant commentary of Phil Ligget and Paul Sherwen. I love watching the primetime coverage in the evenings when I've already seen the morning live coverage. I love correcting Bob Roll and Al Trautwig during the primetime coverage when they get the name of a rider or location wrong. I love yelling at the TV before anyone is awake. I love complaining about the riders I hate when they do well, and boasting when my favorites win. I love the dumb look on everyones face when I tell them that I like to watch the Tour de France, and then proceed to not shut up about it for at least an hour. I love that I am the only person I know that I can talk to about this sport at the level that I love and understand it. I love walking into bike shops and asking what race they are showing on their TV in the winter, and then when I proceed to detail what happens throughout the race, who wins, who crashes, who tried hard, who didn't try hard enough, only to have the staff at the bike shop look at me with the sort of admiration I have when I look at Phil Ligget and Paul Sherwen.

I love the month of July like you wouldn't believe.

I love the Tour de France.

I love that it starts in less than 12 hours.

And another from Bike Dummy:

I love the Tour de France for the same reason I love lots of sports.

The thrill of victory!  The agony of defeat!  The rivalries, the scandals, the awesome athletic achievement!

But mostly, I love watching the Tour because I love the live commentary.
I think Paul Sherwin, Bob Roll and Phil Liggett make the best team in sports.  (Thank goodness they finally ditched Al Trautwig)

Bobke is the most colorful - "It'll be a virtual schmegelfest of subhumanoids." Sherwin is the set up man - "the peleton is nervous today, trying to avoid the fracas at the rear."

But personally, I love Phil Liggett.

No prologue this year, and that's another bit of good news for Tour watchers. The first stage was more exciting than usual.

As you can see in the following video, Craig Hummer has replaced Trautwig. He made a longshot call on the first day (Riccardo Ricco), and the other announcers were incredulous. But Ricco finished fifth -- higher than any of the other picks! Nice start for Hummer.

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July 03, 2008
Le Tour de France
Posted by Gordon Smith

On Saturday one of my favorite summer rituals commences. Le Tour de France is laboring under the weight of recent drug scandals -- Floyd Landis' long challenge may finally be over and Michael Rasmussen just won compensation of $1 million, even as he was being banned for two years -- but the Tour remains a great spectacle. And I love rising in the morning to the sound of Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen calling the race. Here's a classic moment that caused me to jump out of my chair when I saw it live ...

I have been in Europe for the race, but unless you are actually at the stage, it's just not as fun as watching at home. For one thing, the race happens during the afternoon over there, but I have come to prefer the Tour over breakfast.

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April 07, 2008
Tour de Donut
Posted by Gordon Smith

As longtime readers know, I am a big fan of cycling generally and particularly the Tour de France. The old Gordon would have had a shot at winning the Tour de Donut, just up the road in American Fork, Utah, but the new svelte Gordon is unlikely to be a player. The rules:

It's simple. Race 21 miles and see who is the king donut! In circuit style, ride 7 miles, then eat as many donuts as you would like. No limit. Then, ride 7 more miles, eat more donuts, then ride the last 7 mile lap. Glory and adulation are waiting for you at the Finish Line....

Time Bonuses

Did I forget to tell you? For every donut you eat, subtract three minutes from your time! Ten donuts? 30 minutes right off the top.  Finally your appetite and your pot belly are your greatest assets!

One catch, further down the page: "BTW, puking is not allowed."

I know some of you were wondering about that.

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September 12, 2006
Bike Helmet Paradox
Posted by Fred Tung

According to traffic psychologist Ian Walker at the University of Bath, wearing a bike helmet can make you less safe on your bike.  Drivers apparently view a helmeted cyclist as more experienced, and therefore more comfortable having close shaves with cars!  Drivers on average came three inches closer to the helmeted cyclist than to the unhelmeted.  Scientific American has the podcast here.  So an ounce of prevention is worth . . . ?

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August 05, 2006
Landis & Pereiro
Posted by Gordon Smith

Last week we did a poll on Floyd Landis, and our readers were split: 51% believed him, and 49% did not. Did today's test results change opinions? When the topic arose at a dinner party tonight, people were mostly cynical.

The big question has been: why was Landis' testosterone elevated on one stage but not on the stages before or after? One of the guests at the dinner party, a hospital administrator, told us that doctors in his hospital pointed to "Mexican beans." Hmm.

In any event, it looks like the Tour de France will go to Oscar Pereiro. If you were following the race, you might remember that Oscar was almost a half hour behind the leaders before he broke away on Stage 13 and earned the yellow jersey. NYT has a nice retrospective on Pereiro's improbable Tour victory.

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July 28, 2006
Floyd Landis Poll
Posted by Gordon Smith

Floyd Landis denies doping: "I declare convincingly and categorically that my winning the Tour de France has been exclusively due to many years of training and my complete devotion to cycling."  He claims that his body naturally produces high levels of testosterone. Which leads us to the poll question ...

Create polls and vote for free. dPolls.com

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July 27, 2006
Too Good To Be True?
Posted by Gordon Smith

We were all amazed by Floyd Landis' ride in Stage 17 of this year's Tour de France. Now we learn that he tested positive for excessive testosterone in a sample taken immediately after that stage. According to his team, Landis will "ask for the counter analysis to prove either that this result is coming from a natural process or that this is resulting from a mistake in the confirmation." Here is the mother angle from ESPN:

Arlene Landis, his mother, said Thursday that she wouldn't blame her son if he was taking medication to treat the pain in his injured hip, but "if it's something worse than that, then he doesn't deserve to win."

"I didn't talk to him since that hit the fan, but I'm keeping things even keel until I know what the facts are," she said in a phone interview from her home in Farmersville, Pa. "I know that this is a temptation to every rider but I'm not going to jump to conclusions ... It disappoints me."

One of our commenters raised this possibility right after the stage. I am sad to see that commenter's suspicions appear to have been justified.

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July 22, 2006
Congratulations, Floyd Landis!
Posted by Gordon Smith

Even if something horrible happened on Sunday, my offering of congratulations to Floyd Landis would not be premature. His ride on Thursday was historic, and his time trial on Saturday was efficient. I had not been a big Landis booster, but he made a fan out of me during this Tour. Bobby Julich captures the spirit of Landis:

He's not as calculating, but he's just as serious [as Lance Armstrong] about cycling. Anyone that knows him, anyone that's ever trained with him has never doubted Landis' drive. He's a rider you can have a beer with, he's a character. He doesn't have that aura around him that Armstrong does. Landis also won without the overall dominant team we've seen in past Tours, i.e., the "Blue Train" of Armstrong's wins. Landis has a little bit of the maverick in him, he lives on the edge and takes a chance.

After tomorrow, the big question will be whether Landis can defend his title in 2007 after having hip replacement surgery this fall. If Floyd is in France, I will be cheering for him.

UPDATE: I am happy to see that nothing horrible happened, and that Floyd has his Tour de France victory. Chris seeks to put this Tour in perspective at Podium Cafe:

Landis is a transitional figure. Obviously his win will go down as one of the great unforgettable moments in the race's history, and I'm talking way high up on the list. But in all likelihood he's a bridge to the next era, not the subject of it. He'll make medical history if he so much as finishes another Tour, and my guess is that it will take him more than a year to even approach his former level. The muscle trauma of surgery just seems too over the top.

And, of course, speculation about next year has begun already. I am liking Damiano Cunego.

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July 20, 2006
Tour de France Drama
Posted by Gordon Smith
July 14, 2006
"Argie bargie"
Posted by Gordon Smith

Paul Sherwin, commenting on the nature of a sprint finish in the Tour de France. Nice.

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July 01, 2006
"He's riding like a man possessed!"
Posted by Gordon Smith

Somehow this expression, used often by Paul Sherwin, did not make Phil and Paul Bingo, but Paul pulled it out for the Prologue of the Tour de France today.

Pretty exciting for a Prologue. I was rooting for George Hincapie to win, but he missed by less than a second.

Did you notice how Phil, Paul, and Bob mocked Al for predicting that Thor Hushovd would win the Prologue? Never bet against a determined Norwegian!

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