July 27, 2003
Sally Jenkins takes us beyond what Lance Armstrong has done to what does Lance Armstrong mean? Was his success, even in the face of cancer, predetermined by his genes, or is there something more at work?
She compares Lance's stage win with the way he fought his cancer:
He fought like that on the climb up Luz-Ardiden to victory in the Pyrenees, after crashing last week. The thing you can't know about Lance on a climb, until you've seen him do it in person, is that the effort is so severe that his eyes become completely bloodshot from burst capillaries.
"Why do you do it?" I asked him once. "What's the pleasure in riding a bike up a mountain for six hours?"
"I don't understand the question," he said.
"Well, there has to be some pleasure in it," I said. "I mean, your back hurts, your neck hurts, your butt hurts. What's the payoff?"
"I still don't understand the question."
I went away baffled -- and convinced that unless I could get him to talk to me on the subject, I'd never understand him. After a couple of days of thought, I realized I'd been asking the entirely wrong question.
"You don't do it for the pleasure," I said. "You do it for the pain."
"That's exactly right," he said.
If you want to know to what extent Armstrong's success comes from being a mutant, and to what extent it results from pure will, check out this column.
At right, Armstrong with Bernard Hinault, Eddy Merckx, and Miguel Indurain, the other living members of the 5-Timers Club.
Some shots of the Tour's publicity caravan, which precedes the riders along the Tour route.
I can't speak for Tyler Freaking Hamilton, who completed a tremendous feat of arms today, made worse by the cobbles of the Champs Elysees. I'll let the man speak for himself:
"The way you deal with the low points in your life is what makes you a person," Hamilton said Sunday, "and I think I dealt with a difficult situation the best I could."
He wound up fourth in the overall standings, 6 minutes, 17 seconds behind five-time champion Lance Armstrong.
"I'll always look back and think, 'What if?"' said Hamilton, speaking on the train taking cyclists to the outskirts of Paris for Sunday's final stage.
"But that's life. Life is a roller coaster ride."
Update: We need a Tyler Hamilton picture, so here's one. As always, click through to see the source, in this case Yahoo! Sport's AP photo gallery.
The illegal US Postal jerseys are in the picture at left.
Big Jan was philosophical about his 2nd overall, for the 5th time:
"After all that I've been through, to be in the Tour de France this year was a reward and, overall, I cannot be sad," said the 29-year-old.
"I challenged Lance Armstrong as I was only 15 seconds behind him after the Ax-3 Domaines stage but I'm a little surprised everything went so well.
"I only came to the Tour hoping to prepare for 2004."
Check the footage for the gray USPS jerseys. The official Tour website reports that the gray jerseys "are the same as the original colors of the US Postal Service". The team was fined 4500 Swiss francs (about $3350), and each rider 200 Swiss francs (about $148.50).
Armstrong's purse for the Tour win was 400,000 euros (about $459,500).
Over at NYTimes.com, Samuel Abt offers probably the best 2003 Tour wrap-up so far.
At a news conference afterward, Armstrong, the leader of the United States Postal Service team, returned again and again to the problems, mainly physical and tactical but including two crashes and one near-crash, he had encountered. Some, like sickness, struck him even before the three-week race began on July 5.
"I think this year I had to rely more on strategy than on physical gifts or physical fitness,'' he said. "I think I can improve over my best, but certainly improve over this year. This year was not my best.
"We're very lucky to be in this position now. In many ways, it felt like an eerie Tour. This race should not have been this close.'' He won his previous four Tours by not less than six minutes.
Perhaps the brightest spot of the Tour for the French was the polka-dot jersey won by Richard Virenque, formerly of the banned Festina team:
Virenque's victory equals the six best climber's wins of Belgian Lucien Van Impe and Spain's Federico Bahamontes.
It also completes his redemption as a former doped rider who was at the centre of the Festina doping trial in October 1999 where, after months of denials, he finally admitted to systematic doping with his team.
The fall-out from the 1998 Tour brought shame on the sport and almost brought the race to its knees.
Virenque, who many feel was made a scapegoat for practices that were said to be widespread in the peloton, was banned for six months and his career hit the skids.
Although a seventh polka dot jersey looks to be within his reach, Virenque - who also wore the yellow jersey for a day this year after his seventh stage win - is in no hurry to get started.
"I want to appreciate the moment. We'll see after if the polka dot jersey is an objective," added Virenque who said he is not yet ready to retire.
"As long as the flame is still burning inside me, then I'll still be on the bike."
Tour de France director Jean-Marie Leblanc said he could not have hoped for a better race to celebrate the centenary of cycling's biggest event.
"It was better than my expectations. What was unexpected was the quality of the race," he said on Saturday, the penultimate day of the Tour.
"It was superb, the best race in 20 years or at least since 1989 when I took over as the Tour director."
Leblanc said he thinks the popularity of the race may justify tighter control of the crowds in the future:
"This popularity is a little frightening, we must try to channel it," he said. "The time has come to say stop."
"Now I've got both feet square on the ground. Before the Tour started I was very confident I'd win but I won't be so confident before next year's Tour," Armstrong said Sunday.
"Now I know that guys like (Jan) Ullrich and (Joseba) Beloki are strong, if not stronger than before and I've learned that anything can happen in the Tour de France.
"Fortunately I think it has set me up perfectly for an attempt for win number six."
The Texan, a personal friend of U.S. President George W. Bush, had not exactly been France's most-loved athlete in recent years and was booed on the climb to the Mount Ventoux last year.
But despite Franco-American tensions over the Iraq war, there was no animosity whatsoever from the crowds this year, and fans seemed won over by Armstrong's struggling and suffering in this year's race.
The American, who made himself available to sign autographs and always spoke a few words on French television at the end of stages, said he had felt the difference.
"There were a lot of American flags this year," he said. "They scream and it's a French person - Allez Lance! It's a little bit strange, but it happened many times."
Tour headline du jour: Lance Has A Chat With Television Crews
14 H 43 - Lance Has A Chat With Television Crews
At the moment, the only point worth discussing is the coversation Armstrong is having with a few television crews on the road. The rider in the yellow jersey has dropped back to sip from a glass of champagne with his team director, Johan Bruyneel who is driving the team car at the back of the peloton.
From the official Tour website.
Cooke and McEwen, who were chasing the green jersey awarded to the winner of the points competition, were touching shoulders as they crossed the line.
And it was Cooke who was awarded second place by little more than an inch, giving him the green jersey by just two points from McEwen.
Alexandre Vinokourov, who finished third overall, was the most aggressive rider during the race.
Stage 20: Nazon takes stage, Cooke takes green, Armstrong takes yellow
Jean-Patrick Nazon secured another stage win for France, beating the other sprinters to the line on the Champs-Elysees. The win should help to salvage the Tour for the Jean Delatour team, which many commentators felt didn't deserve to be in the Tour.
Baden Cooke, who had held the sprinter's green jersey for much of the Tour, then lost it during Stage 18, was second (in a photo finish) at the line, just ahead of fellow Aussie Robbie McEwen of Lotto-Domo, to take the overall green jersey, joining McEwen as the only Australians to take the points prize. Cooke and McEwen split the two intermediate sprints on the day.
Lance Armstrong finished well back in the peloton, which was cracked by the high tempo set by the sprinters' teams. As a result, Armstrong lost 15 seconds to Jan Ullrich, riding in the first group. Armstrong's final margin of victory was 1:05 in his 5th Tour de France victory. Armstrong joins Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault, and Miguel Indurain as 5-time winners. Only Armstrong and Indurain have won 5 consecutively.
As expected, Richard Virenque won the King of the Mountains jersey, and Denis Menchov of iBanesto.com took the white jersey for outstanding young rider.
OLN good, CBS bad, last day
If you're wondering why there's no live OLN today, it's because CBS takes precedence on the broadcast rights. CBS has a sponsorship that allows them to show the Sunday stages as part of their weekend sports telecast, and part of that contract allows them to broadcast them before other American outlets (i.e., OLN).
OLN will be doing a full broadcast tonight at 8. The heavily abbreviated CBS coverage is this afternoon, between 2 and 3 p.m. (both Eastern time).
Samuel Abt talks to a number of riders and former riders on the team radios used by riders and team managers in the Tour. Perhaps not surprisingly, almost all the retired racers oppose the system, while all the current riders favor it.
Hennie Kuiper, a Dutch rider and team director, is an outspoken opponent of the system:
"A true professional doesn't need to be told about his every move," he said. "The radios do more harm than good."
Frankie Andreu, the former Motorola and US Postal pro who is working with the OLN TV Tour crew, thinks the radios have made an important contribution:
"The best thing about the radios is that the race is safer. That overrides everything else. You don't have team cars coming up to the pack when you're going 40 miles an hour and telling the riders to move to the front or move back.
"Not having the cars coming up is a huge difference. It used to get scary."
The rider's name hasn't been released, pending a second test.
[S]ources close to the Tour organization said it was not a "major" rider and that his team had been advised of the result Thursday.
Urine tests to detect EPO have been organized on the Tour since 2001 and only one rider, Spaniard Txema Del Olmo, has been found positive, in 2001.
Between 80 and 90 riders had been tested for EPO on this Tour, organizers said.
cyclingnews.com looks at the Tour's finishing promenade today down the most famous street in Paris:
Closing the Champs-Élysées to traffic was not so easy but after long negotiations, the then-Mayor of Paris Jacques Chirac (now President of France) said yes and the first finish on the Champs-Élysées took place in 1975.
The avenue goes from La Concorde to the Arc de Triomphe, is 1,910m long and 70m wide and is closed only twice a year: for the for the military parade on Bastille Day and for the Tour de France. The tightly packed crowd on 'Les Champs' are part of the atmosphere of the Tour's last stage and the race finale also sees the publicity caravane, team parades and award ceremonies.