It’s barely mid-November, and already Jan Ullrich is getting it in gear, gaming up for what could be his most difficult Tour de France to lose since, like, 1998. Good for him. Chances are, the big German won’t have to worry about George Hincapie; he’s been selected as a “protected rider,” which has been an absolute kiss of death in your choice of Paris–Roubaix races from the Postal years. Some highlights include riding the final 100k without any teammates (2004, link under “your”), and the infamous “Domo-Sandwhich” (2001, link under “Paris”). Only in 2000 did he recieve any notable team support. And don’t write in telling me Tom Boonen was “team support.” In 2002, Hincapie should have been pulling Boonen, not the other way around.
Interestly, though, Postal/Disco’s inability to protect anyone not named “Armstrong” might prove to be a saving grace, as Gorgeous George is only one of several options for next year’s TdF. Last time the squad went into a race with such a scattershot approach, Viatcheslav Ekimov came within a second of victory on the Roubaix Velodrome. Of course, if any rider wants the Yellow Jersey in ’06, chances are, they’ll have to tear it away from Brad Wiggins. In this article, with quotes that were, in all likelihood, translated from English into Italian and then back into English, the Olympic Pursuit champ unveils his plan for a Piece of the Fleece next July. Despite the fact that David Millar will be back and no doubt riding with a front derailleur, these dang trackies have a way of getting what they want.
And what better preparation for the ’06 Giro presentation this weekend than toss out a few leaked route descriptions? I wonder if race routes have this sort of tendency to leak out for the Tours of Britain and Germany? Oh well. Anyway, it beats the hell out of rehashing the Heras story (pop quiz, kids: which Rs does Eurosport fall victim to here?). Liberty Seguros is going to fire Heras if his B sample is positive? No way! You mean, they’re going to follow the rules instead of letting themselves be kicked off the ProTour, thus incurring millions of dollars in lost revenue and being labeled as soulless, dope-happy paraiahs forever? Gee whiz! Well, at least they’ll be extra-sure about whether it’s positive or not. Unless, the labs disagree, which I’m sure never happens.