So I suppose you’re waiting for me to weigh in on how Hincapie’s win shows DC is the weakest team Lance has ever had. Well, I won’t do that today. Until Vino and Basso ripped their legs off on the penultimate climb (after which only Ullrich, Basso and Lance were left), Discovery rode a solid race, and I’ll credit them for that. What I’d like to point out is that Hincapie’s win (the first in the Tour by a rider on a Tailwind Sports-run team whose last name isn’t “Armstrong”) has been waiting to happen for years. Though the popular media likes to shake their head and sigh at the selfless devotion of Lance’s teammates, it’s not unusual to find one or two of them “sacraficing their chances for victory” by riding way up the road.
Let’s flashback to 2003. Lance looked his weakest in years, with a fiece Jan Ullrich and a decent Team Bianchi snapping at his heels. In the first mountain stage after Lance lost nearly two minutes in the first TT, leaving Ullrich just under a minute behind, Johan Bruyneel told his skinny climbers to look for the early break. Two hours later, Manuel Beltran was 17 minutes up (sound familiar) in a large break, so far ahead that he became the maillot jaune virtuel. Bianchi and Big Jan, T-Mobile and Vino and Euskatel and Mayo/Zubeldia were all unwilling to spot Triki 17 minutes in such hilly terrain, and all took up the pace, leaving a beat-up, demoralized and dehydrated Lance to recover both physically and psychologically.
The only difference between then and now was that Oscar Periro was the best placed rider in the break, and had maybe possibly almost talent enough to beat Lance, had he been allowed to make up his 25 minute deficit. So today, Disco had the oh-so-difficult task of keeping the break away at 20 or so minutes; a far easier thing indeed than drawing it back entirely. With Lance’s rivals all so far behind (and 3 of Rassmussen’s Rabobank teammate in the break) no other teams had a real interest in pulling back the escapadoes, only CSC put a little effort into the chase, allowing Disco to essentially soft-pedal behind. (Speaking of CSC, Basso threw some nasty attacks today. I was impressed, if no one else was).
This isn’t to take away anything from Gorgeous George. He had a gutsy ride. I mean, after sitting on the back and not pulling through all day, to take the win in the final 300 meters like that? He must have dug deep. Who cares how many Paris-Roubaix titles Boonen wins. Hincapie is the best classics rider because of how he rocks it in le Tour.
Anyway, none of you chose George for yesterday (surprise, surprise). There’s a 3 way tie for the lead between Knut, Andrew Gardner and Ryan VanHoff with 8 points. So far, it’s anybody’s game.
thoughts on “Tour de George – News”
George was right not to pull through.
The whole point of putting someone in it is that they can sit on the back, and demoralize the people who are pulling. In George’s case, there was the added advantage that he might get caught by the Big Boys, in which case he might be able to get Lance a water bottle before he exploded.
Either way, it doesn’t make sense for George to waste his energy pulling other riders away from his team leader.
I used to get furious that USPS refused to put men in breaks. Instead of covering them with one man, who might even get a stage win, they would have their whole fucking team towing the peleton all day long.
I agree, from a purely tactical standpoint, that George had no incentive to pull, especially early on. But in a group of 2 or 3, with your leader securely on top of the GC and a tiny lead on some chasers, it’s best to pull through, if only for etiquette’s sake.
In the 2001 edition of Amstel Gold, Erik Dekker and Lance Armstrong rode away from the field on the final climb (this was back before the race finished on the Cauberg, so the final sprint was relatively flat.). Dekker continued to pull through, even over the objections of his DS Theo De Rooy, who drove the team car illegally up to the two riders and began shouting at Dekker to sit on. Dekker still won, and avoided looking like a jerk as well as dodging the wrath of the most influential rider in pro cycling.
Also “putting a man in the break” is not such a simple thing, otherwise every team would have a rider in every break. USPS, though not as aggressive as, say, CSC or Euskatel (or as aggresive as Euskatel used ot be), has definately attempted to put riders in the break in the past.
USPS didn’t put a single rider in a break from 1999 through 2001.