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Saturday, June 3, 2006

Road to the 2006 Dauphiné Libéré #6
(A look back at recent editions of the race)
Inigo Landaluze, 2005 Dauphine Libere winner

June 12, 2005, Stage 7: Morzine-Avoriaz to Sallanches , 128km

When the 2005 Dauphine Libere began with a prologue in Aix-les-Bains, any number of riders would have been good guesses for an eventual overall winner.  The previous three years had been won by logical winners (Lance Armstrong in 2002 and 2003 and Iban Mayo in 2004).  But with Armstrong having decided after his difficult 2003 Dauphine win to no longer go too deep in June, and Mayo having gotten caught in the venus flytrap that this race can be (particularly for winners who don't handle the inevitable pre-Tour increase in media pressure well) and having decided not to return in 2005, and 2004 runner-up Tyler Hamilton serving a suspension for doping, there certainly was no clear rider who'd be the one to succeed Mayo.

Americans had dominated the prologue, won by George Hincapie.  (Levi Leiphimer finished second by just 1 second, Floyd Landis was fourth at 5 seconds, with Lance Armstrong 5th at 6 seconds.)

A clearer picture started to emerge after the long stage 3 time trial of 47km.  Or so we thought.  Though Santiago Botero won this time trial, Leipheimer, again finishing second by just 1 second, this time grabbed the yellow jersey.  Fans of Leipheimer's Gerolsteiner team raised team flags in the wind on the next day's stage to Mont Ventoux and Leipheimer controlled the stage perfectly to retain the leader's jersey.  Armstrong for that matter was also impressive on Ventoux, where he never won during his career, and used the stage, won by Alexandre Vinokourov, to move into second place overall behind his former teammate, just 21 seconds back.  Leipheimer was glued to Armstrong's wheel up the "Giant of Provence," before the latter got a little gap in the final 100 meters.

It all fell apart for Leipheimer on the next day's stage.  When a break was allowed to get away, it included a rider by the name of Inigo Landaluze of Mayo's Euskaltel-Euskadi team.  Landaluze had finished 10th overall in 2004 and was not someone you wanted to allow to get too far up the road.  But allowed he was and he grabbed the yellow jersey.  Making matters worse, Leipheimer crashed during the stage.

But it still wasn't obvious that Landaluze would be able to keep the race lead to the finish.  First of all, he'd started the race with only five teammates instead of the allowed seven.  That decreased to four teammates after stage two. (before he had the race lead)  It was down to three teammates at the end of stage 5 when he grabbed the race lead.  By the time Landaluze crossed the finish line in stage 7 in Sallanches (photo), he had no teammates left in the race!  But he'd managed to win the overall, by just 11 seconds over Botero.


- In a statement yesterday, World Anti-Doping Agency president Dick Pound threatened to sue "any organization, including UCI, that may publicly adopt (the conclusions of the Dutch investigator Emile Vrijman)."  Is he going to sue if someone points out how awkwardly worded the statement was and how maybe he should get out of the kitchen?

- The UCI responded to Pound's statement by calmly suggesting he respond to some troubling questions raised by the independent investigator.  It would seem they definitely have Pound up against the ropes.
Friday, June 2, 2006

New OLN Video Player

OLN video player

OLN TV has a new video player.  And their final installment of Giro d'Italia video clips is online.  We've added links to them in our list of Archive video clips.

Race/Official site
Euskal Bizikleta (Spanish)
Google-translated (English)
(La Bicyclette Basque)
(The Basque Bicycle)
Spain, May 31-June 4
Live ticker (Google-translated) (English)

etb sat video (reports, some live)


- As we reported nearly a week ago, it looks like a Kazakh sponsor is stepping in to replace Liberty Seguros.

- Phonak has removed Giro runner-up Jose-Enrique Gutierrez and Santiago Botero from competition pending investigation of their possible involvement in the doping scandal in Spain.  Floyd Landis may be about to lose his two biggest helpers for the Tour de France...

- The UCI is studying the report of the independent investigator, Mr. Emile Vrijman.  The report, according to the UCI website, "exposes the irregularities committed by WADA".  (We expect to complete our own review of this report this weekend.)

Road to the 2006 Dauphiné Libéré #5
(A look back at recent editions of the race)
George Hincapie, 2005 Dauphine Libere prologue

June 5, 2005, Prologue: Aix-les-Bains , 7.9km

Discovery Channel's George Hincapie, in ripping form and wearing his trademark Oakleys, is less than a minute into his ride in the 2005 Dauphine Libere prologue.  He is powering up the climb (photo).  He would finish the 7.9km course in 9:55.  But there were dozens of riders left to ride.  None of them, not even Hincapie's teammate Lance Armstrong, riding in his penultimate race as a professional, would beat Hincapie's time though and the American would be the race's first leader.

Hincapie was in the middle of a career season.  Already reaching the Paris-Roubaix podium for the first time in April that year, he'd add a second stage win in the Dauphiné when he and teammate Yaroslav Popovych escaped in the final stage.  He'd go on to win the big mountain stage of the Tour de France, as well as the GP de Plouay.

Hincapie is expected to be one of the Discovery Channel leaders in the Tour; it is hard to imagine him being asked to sacrifice himself for an unproven new Tour team leader after being the only rider to ride with Armstrong in all 7 of his Tour victories.  But what kind of form is he in after his crash in Paris-Roubaix that knocked him out of competition for over six weeks?

The Dauphiné Libéré is the perfect race in which to find out...

Thursday, June 1, 2006

Note:  We have decided to postpone comment for the moment on the report of the independent investigator regarding L'Equipe's allegations of doping by Lance Armstrong.  We are studying the full report (.pdf, 132 pages) and will comment only when we feel ready to give it the attention it warrants.  Below is a summary, however, of today's media coverage in France...

Media response in France to Dutch investigator's report:

Radio:  France Inter radio announced this morning that Lance Armstrong "has been found innocent" of doping.

IHT:  Sam Abt's article was on page one of the International Herald Tribune.

Le Parisien:  L'Equipe's sister newspaper did not mention the report at all.

L'Equipe TV:  L'Equipe's television station did not mention the report at all today.  L'Equipe's website has a very minor article that mostly just talks about the fact that the report was leaked to the media in Holland and how the UCI and WADA are not happy with that.

L'Equipe:  The sports daily of course had plenty to say.  Their editorial blasted the report while also pointing out they hadn't had a chance to actually read it yet.  They questioned the independence of the investigator who, like former UCI president Hein Verbruggen, is Dutch.  And they suggested the report is all a smoke-screen to obscure what's going on with the doping scandal in Spain.  (Oh, and Lance is responsible for global warming too...)  Presumably they have actually read the report today, so who knows what they've come up with for tomorrow's Friday edition.

At the top of L'Equipe's cycling page, they actually re-printed their "The Armstrong Lie" cover from last August, to illustrate an article by none other than Damien Ressiot who, as we reported yesterday, might be doubly ticked off because a judge confirmed his indictment late last week in the Cofidis Affair.  (These doping reporters just don't get no respect!)  Ressiot has a long article criticizing the report....but he, like his editors, hasn't actually read it yet.

The fact that L'Equipe felt compelled to respond to the report, both with an editorial and with Ressiot's piece, without even having read it yet suggests that the French sports daily is reeling from the few details that it had yesterday evening.  This is going to get ugly on the lead in to the Tour de France...

Road to the 2006 Dauphiné Libéré #4
(A look back at recent editions of the race)
Iban Mayo on Mont Ventoux, 2004 Dauphine Libere

June 10, 2004, Stage 4: Bédoin to Mont Ventoux, 21.6km
Individual Time Trial

Remember Iban Mayo, the swashbuckling Basque climber who pushed Lance Armstrong to the limit in the 2003 Dauphiné Libéré?  (He would go on to win the stage to Alpe d'Huez during the 2003 Tour de France and finish 6th overall.)

Mayo returned to the Dauphiné Libéré in 2004 determined to improve on his second place finish the year before.  He used the mountain time trial stage to Mont Ventoux to grab the race lead.  Mayo powered up the climb to the lunar-like surface at the top, rode out of view around a corner (photo) and pretty much hasn't been seen since.  He shattered Jonathan Vaughters' 5-year old record up Ventoux by about a minute, grabbed the yellow jersey and won the overall a few days later.  With all the attention for his feat, he asked the media to leave him alone.  He then had a disastrous Tour which he didn't finish.

Mayo is expected on the start line at the Dauphiné this weekend.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

News flash:   Armstrong cleared of doping in '99 Tour

The heat is on the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and France's top anti-doping laboratory at Chatenay-Malabry today.  We'll comment tomorrow and let you know what L'Equipe's inevitable Thursday editorial says about the report of the independent Dutch investigator.

Road to the 2006 Dauphiné Libéré #3
(A look back at recent editions of the race)
David Millar on Mont Ventoux, 2004 Dauphine Libere

June 10, 2004, Stage 4: Bédoin to Mont Ventoux, 21.6km
Individual Time Trial

Scot David Millar, wearing the rainbow jersey as the UCI World Time Trial Champion, is in the final kilometer of the Mont Ventoux mountain time trial (photo).  Behind dark glasses, the intensity of his eyes is nonetheless unmistakable and one wonders if they communicate his suffering on this climb or his off-the-bike worries.  Probably the latter as Millar would finish far behind the stage winner in 76th place at over 12 minutes.  This is the year of the Cofidis doping scandal afterall and for Millar, the heat is on.

Implicated earlier in the year by his former teammate Philippe Gaumont, who the following year, in 2005, would pen a tell-all book about his years at Cofidis, Millar has denied taking performance-enhancing drugs and has suggested that Gaumont is a nut case.  But just two weeks after this Mont Ventoux time trial, Millar would be in police custody in France where under pressure he would admit to doping.  He would further voluntarily acknowledge having used drugs specifically to win the time trial world championship and would give up the jersey to the runner up, Michael Rogers of Australia.  Millar was suspended for two years and will be eligible to ride again at the 2006 Tour de France, with the Saunier-Duval team.  To his credit, and despite his initial denials, Millar took responsibility for his actions.  It remains to be seen how he'll be treated by fans at the Tour prologue, in Strasbourg.

Beyond doping, the Cofidis Affair illustrated the overzealousness with which both French police authorities and journalists have pursued athletes.  Earlier this month, on May 16, 2006, a French policeman was given a 10-month suspended prison sentence and fined over $12,000 for forging evidence in 2004 against former Cofidis rider Cedric Vasseur.  Vasseur endured a suspension by his team because of it but ultimately was vindicated.  And just five days ago, on May 26, 2006, a judge in Versailles confirmed the indictment of two L'Equipe journalists who are accused of breaking the law in publishing sensitive information related to the Cofidis investigation.  Though the journalists were not named on May 26, we know them to be Damien Ressiot and Dominique Issartel.  Ressiot is also the journalist who last August claimed to have proved that Lance Armstrong doped during the 1999 Tour de France.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Road to the 2006 Dauphiné Libéré #2
(A look back at recent editions of the race)
Lance Armstrong and Francisco Mancebo on the Galibier Pass

June 14, 2003, Stage 6: Challes-les-Eaux to Briançon, 153km

It has not been an easy Dauphiné Libéré for Lance Armstrong.  Racing to fine-tune his form before the Tour de France, Armstrong has seen his authority challenged by Iban Mayo.  How badly does Armstrong want to win this race?  How deep is he willing to go?  Can he be challenged on these climbs, the same ones which will be featured in the Tour de France in a few weeks?  Mayo wants to find out...

To make matters worse, Armstrong had a rare crash the day before, just after the stage 5 start in Morzine.  A minor descent, someone's water bottle jarred loose by a pothole, bottle on the road, Armstrong's wheel on the bottle, and down he went.  Armstrong was down!  A French rider, who will remain nameless, picked that moment to attack.  He'll later claim, no doubt truthfully, that he didn't know the yellow jersey was down.

A scary crash, a rider attacking when you were down, and who is this Mayo guy anyway?

Now in stage 6 Mayo has once again drawn his sword, attacking Armstrong on the Galibier.  Armstrong, his right elbow bandaged due to the previous day's crash, has to react as race leader and has Francisco Mancebo on his wheel (photo).  Mayo's lead is up to 30 seconds at the summit.  But Armstrong flies down the other side of the Galibier and catches him.  Juan Miguel Mercado, not a threat to Armstrong in the overall, would win the stage and Mayo would gain three seconds on Armstrong on the tricky finish at Briancon.  But the victory was assured with just one stage to go.  But at what cost just weeks before Armstrong would attempt to join Anquetil, Merckx, Hinault and Indurain in the "Club of 5"?  After the Dauphiné, Armstrong would say "Never again"...never again would he go that deep just weeks before the Tour.  Would his rivals heed that lesson in subsequent years?

Tour de Luxembourg starts tomorrow

Thomas Voeckler wins stage 1, 2003 Tour de Luxembourg
May 29, 2003, Tour de Luxembourg
Thomas Voeckler, left, who wouldn't become a household name
in France until a year later when he grabbed the yellow jersey
at the Tour de France, glances over at breakaway companion,
Piotr Wadecki, before turning on the gas and winning the sprint
on the stage 1 final climb in the city of Luxembourg.  Voeckler
went on to win the overall, with Wadecki second.  Voeckler
is tough to beat in a two-man sprint, as Jens Voigt found out
in stage 5 of the 2006 Tour of the Basque Country.  But
he doesn't often find himself in such situations in ProTour races.

The Skoda Tour de Luxembourg starts tomorrow and runs through June 4.

Skoda Tour de Luxembourg on RTL TV

It looks like there will be Tour de Luxembourg TV reports each evening at around 19:45 CET (1:45pm U.S. EST) on RTL (Radio Television Luxembourg).  RTL video streaming is available and we've added the link to the Scheduled race replays and reports section above.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Road to the 2006 Dauphiné Libéré #1
(A look back at recent editions of the race)
Lance Armstrong and Iban Mayo on the Col de la Ramaz

June 12, 2003, Stage 4: Vienne to Morzine, 237km

Iban Mayo, a media-shy but daring bike racer from the Basque Country, is taking the race to Lance Armstrong.  The two have already traded blows with Mayo taking the race lead after winning the prologue only to lose it in the stage 3 time trial (33.4km) when Armstrong put nearly 1:30 into him.  On the Col de la Ramaz (photo), a climb that just weeks later will feature in the centenary Tour de France for the first time in over 40 years, a swashbuckling Mayo is determined to test Armstrong.  The peloton has exploded on the climb and the pair will catch Francisco Mancebo on the descent to Morzine.  Mayo wins the three-man sprint for his second stage victory of the race.  He trails Armstrong by 1:15 in the overall but is already thinking about the Galibier Pass two days away...

Introducing France 3 Evening Race Reports

France Television Cycling Coverage

France Television (France 2 and 3) is the longtime official broadcaster of the Tour de France.  Every July, they broadcast hours of racing and Tour-related programs in France...and of course provide live feeds around the world.  Less known, even in France, are the evening reports France 3 provides for smaller races as part of regional news broadcasts...and the fact that these broadcasts are temporarily archived online.  During the 2005 Dauphiné Libéré, for example, the evening broadcasts for the Rhône-Alpes/Auvergne regions were the only way to see any daily video of the race.  Perhaps you viewed them via a link we provided.  The situation is significantly improved this year with live coverage from Eurosport 2 (for those that have it) and .  (More on all that later in the week...)

But there are of course races smaller than the Dauphiné Libéré, a lot smaller.  Some you may have never even heard of. (ed. - Some of these races are news to me too.)  Our U.K. correspondent follows the scene closely and we're pleased to now be able to give you quick and easy access to France 3 video clips of races, pro or amateur, however small, wherever they're run.

Introducing Ventoux TV


Interested in France's mythic Mont Ventoux, either as an eventual personal challenge on the bike or as the terrain for battles in the pro peloton?  A group of audiovisual and journalistic professionals in the Mont Ventoux region have undertaken a project, Ventoux TV , designed to promote the region and its events.

One recent event had Frenchman Jean-Pascal Roux establishing a new record for the number of Mont Ventoux ascensions within 24 hours.  (Yes, including climbing up the "Giant of Provence" at night.)  Roux climbed Ventoux 11 times in 24 hours from the town of Bedoin earlier this month.  Ventoux TV has a video report about the feat.  Click the link below, then click the Jean-Pascal Roux link or click "OK" on the virtual remote control unit, then look for the Jean-Pascal Roux thumbnail:

A stage of next week's Dauphiné Libéré finishes on Ventoux.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Below is a guide to live internet coverage of the 2006 Tour of Italy

Giro:  Basso, in a class of his own,
set to wrap up first Grand Tour victory

CSC's Ivan Basso is clearly in a class of his own in this Giro d'Italia.  And while the degree to which he crushed his rivals (second place Jose-Enrique Gutierrez is a whopping 9:18 back, third place Gilberto Simoni 12 minutes!) is a surprise, the victory itself simply confirms what, on paper anyway, was likely to happen: a man with two Tour podiums in the past two years, and the only one able to stay with Lance Armstrong in the mountains, will win the Giro if he makes it an objective.  And as we've seen many times before, the great champions will win no matter what course the organizers come up with.  But as cycling journalist Sam Abt likes to say, races are rarely run on paper.  So all that remained for Basso and his CSC team was to take it to the road, show they can deal with the pressure, and avoid incident and illness.  They've now done that (barring a catastrophe today), almost as if it were a formality, so convincing was this victory.

This Giro did not live up to its potential, at least the perceived potential, in the race for the pink jersey.  The reality is that as great as the Giro is, with its fabulous history, this edition had no one in the top 10 overall who has even come close to Basso's performances in the Tour de France.  Basso has three top-10 finishes in the Tour, including his two podiums.  The other nine riders in the top-10 of this Giro have exactly zero top-10 finishes in the Tour combined.  While Gilberto Simoni (twice), Damiano Cunego (once) and Paolo Savoldelli (twice) are great past Giro champions and sit in 3rd, 4th and 5th places overall, respectively, in the current race, they haven't even come close to accomplishing what Basso has in that big race in July that most of the best in the sport target each year.  Simoni, despite a long career, has only even participated in three Tours, with one stage win.  Cunego has yet to race the Tour; if he competes this year, he is sure to be even more demoralized than he's been at this Giro given all the time-trialing in the Tour.  Savoldelli has by far the best shot of those three for a top-10 at the Tour if healthy and if the Discovery Channel team has him target a top spot in the overall.  The surprising Gutierrez should prove valuable support to Floyd Landis in the Tour.

The race for the Giro overall can be summed up:   The Giro winner, Basso, is going on to the Tour to try and win it.  The Giro runner up is going on to the Tour as a support rider.

With Italians occupying five of the top 10 in the overall, and nine of the top 20, the Giro remains essentially an Italian race, not that anything is necessarily wrong with that.  And that is unlikely to change if the non-Italian Tour contenders continue to skip the Giro or use it for training...

Tomorrow we'll tell you about a new streaming video TV station you might find of interest...

On through May 28: Tour of Belgium   LIVE: Stage 5 ticker

Guide to live race coverage on the internet/web
Tour of Italy 2006

Ivan Basso (Team CSC)

Notes:  (coming)

Related content:

Sam Abt
Sam Abt:
Cycling: Above the pack, but not suspicion?
International Herald Tribune

Copyright © 2005, 2006 Pete Geyer

Giro d'Italia 2006, Italy
May 6-28
Stage 21: May 28
Museo del Ghisallo to Milano, 140km
(Tour of Italy)
(Tour d'Italie)

Live video coverage:

RAI Sport Giro live video stream
(Stream usually available after 15:00 CET (9am U.S. EST))

Gazzetta Giro live video streams
realPlayer DSL - 56k
Windows Media DSL - 56k
(Final 15 minutes only of Italy's live television coverage)

Live audio coverage:

(15:05 CET (9:05am U.S. EST))
Check schedule

Radio Tour graphics:

Gazzetta Giro real-time graphics
(go to site, select language)

Live tickers:

Copyright © 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006