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Thursday, July 13, 2006

Today's stage forecast:
Tour de France fireworks, St. Dizier, 2003
Tip:  What's the fastest way to see photos from the Tour?  Click on the "Yahoo photo gallery" link in our "Live Guide".  AP and AFP photographers are equipped to transmit photos from the road.
Tip:  There will likely be very heavy usage of video and audio streams for stage 11 today.  Try to get in early.  If you are unable to get access, keep trying and/or try a different stream.
Note:  There will be no hiding today and we'll be able to separate the contenders from the pretenders.
Note:  Serbian TV is showing highlights of yesterday's stage first, should go live to today's stage around 16:30 CET (10:30am U.S. Eastern Time)

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

In "The Start Ramp," veteran cycling cyber-journalist Sarah tracks and reports on the Tour's Young Rider Competition (riders under 25 on Jan. 1) and Tour first-timers.

Thomas Lovkvist
Thomas Lövkvist
Française des Jeux
Rider profile: Thomas Lövkvist

Thomas Lovkvist, 2006 Paris-Nice prologue

Thomas Lövkvist was born on April 4th, 1984 in Visby, Sweden. He's riding in his second Tour de France and he is the youngest member of the peloton at age 22. And as the youngest, he read the loyalty oath before the prologue of the 2006 Tour:

"Speaking on behalf of all my colleagues as the Tour's youngest rider, I undertake to respect sportsmanship and the ethic of the great competition we are going to take part in and to display loyalty in all circumstances." ( )

Lövkvist finished 61st out of 115 riders in the 2005 Tour de France and his most recent win was the Swedish Road Race Championship.

His previous teams include Bianchi and later (now Française des Jeux). His first year as a professional was in 2004. In that year he won the Swedish Individual Time Trial Championship, the Circuit de la Sarthe as well as stage four of the same race. He also won stage 10 of the Tour de l'Avenir, eventually finishing second overall. He finished second at  Paris-Camembert and third at the Criterium des Espoirs.

In 2005 he finished second in two stages of the Tour de Pologne. He eventually finished fourth overall, and won the points competition. He also finished 12th at Paris-Nice, winning the young rider competition. He had three other top twenty finishes. And, in November of 2005, he was named the Swedish Male Cyclist of the Year .

Although the 2006 season is just over halfway finished, Lövkvist has already turned in several good results. In addition to being the Swedish men's road race champion, he won the young rider competition at the Tour Mediterranean, finishing sixth overall. He came in second on stage two of the same race. He also finished second in the Swedish Individual Time Trial Championships. He was third in the young rider competition at Paris-Nice and finished 19th overall at that race.

Lövkvist started his professional career strong, and appears to be keeping that up. He has a bright future ahead of him and is definitely someone to keep an eye on -- no matter what team he's riding for. Hopefully we'll see him in the white jersey one of these days!

Monday, July 10, 2006

Today is the first rest day at the Tour de France, in Bordeaux.

360 degree view of the Bassin d Arcachon
360 degree view at the Bassin d'Arcachon near Bordeaux
The Bordeaux area is cycling-friendly with two-lane bike paths from the city to the Atlantic coast
( is producing superhigh resolution panoramas of some of cycling's most mythic locations from the Col du Galibier to Mont Ventoux to the Avenue des Champs Elysées.)

Floyd Landis
Floyd Landis
(photo P. Geyer)

Floyd Landis facing hip replacement
Samuel Abt
International Herald Tribune
Tom Danielson
Tom Danielson
(photo P. Geyer)

American Tom Danielson of Discovery Channel won the week-long Tour of Austria which ended yesterday.  For more, click here .

Sunday, July 9, 2006

"Houston, we have a problem"
Bad day overall for Americans at the Tour
T-Mobile shows strength, Gonchar in yellow

It was a good day for Discovery yesterday as they carried out a successful spacewalk outside the space shuttle.

The Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team, however, seems to have returned to Earth at the Tour de France after seven years in orbit.

Team CSC (CSC is an American company, the team is Danish), with the ambitious mission this year of achieving a rare Giro-Tour double, is grounded.

And Levi Leipheimer, who just last month landed on the lunar landscape that is Mont Ventoux, at the Dauphiné Libéré, grabbing the yellow jersey, has dug himself a hole so deep at the Tour that the "Baby Jessica" rescue crews perhaps should be mobilized to get him out.

Just like that, Americans went from a position of strength in their goal of reaching the podium to one where they may need a telescope just to see it!

Well, except for Floyd Landis that is.  And you knew if someone was going to be different it would have to be Floyd.  Landis was the best yesterday of the favorites for overall victory, finishing second one minute behind T-Mobile's Serguei Gonchar who also took the yellow jersey.  Gonchar, known for leaping into the air when up on the podium, seems to be trying to get into orbit himself.

After Landis, there was stage favorite David Zabriskie finishing in 13th place (hope he's not superstitious) nearly two minutes behind Gonchar, then George Hincapie in 24th at 2:42 and Leipheimer in 96th at 6:05!  Leipheimer, known for his consistency and seemingly sure to at least reach the podium with all the big favorites out of the race, for various reasons, saw his hopes disappear in one afternoon.

Discovery Channel had only one rider, Paolo Savoldelli (19th), in the top 20 yesterday.

Team CSC's problems continued when American Bobby Julich crashed out of the race, a repeat of his exit from the 1999 Tour, again on the first big time trial.

Landis is now the individual favorite in a race that really has no favorites and T-Mobile is in a position of strength in what likely is not a very controllable race.

Can Landis win this thing?  Sure, though one bad day and he'll be singing the blues.  But rumor has it that longtime Tour director Jean-Marie Leblanc, who has as many job titles as Gonchar has spellings of his name and who will retire later this year to spend more time with his family and with his music, was practicing a blues version last night, on his saxophone, of a well-known guitar riff from ZZ Top...  Poor Jean-Marie.  His reign began with Greg Lemond's win in 1989, saw seven consecutive years of Armstrong domination, and just might end with a win by yet another American.

French sports daily L'Equipe, meanwhile, is so preoccupied with the FIFA World Cup (France plays Italy in tonight's final) that page 18 of its Saturday edition, which was meant to be dedicated to details of the stage 7 individual time trial, was instead an accidental reprint of Friday's entire page 18.  An entire broadsheet page in error.  Many in France had to do a doubletake, perhaps wondering if this was the Tour's version of "Groundhog Day" (the movie).  Of course, that's what Armstrong's reign must have felt like to many here, especially at L'Equipe.

Speaking of Armstrong, it appears he will now be in France for the final week of the Tour afterall.  Who can blame him?  With A.S.O.'s Patrice Clerc announcing the Grand Tours will never join the ProTour (the equivalent of taking their ball and running home from the playground) and UCI president Pat McQuaid reminding him that WADA head Dick Pound said the Tour (or was it cycling generally?) is "in the toilet," who would want to miss the arrival of the race in Paris?  Go get 'em, Lance, beat 'em up.

In "The Start Ramp," veteran cycling cyber-journalist Sarah tracks and reports on the Tour's Young Rider Competition (riders under 25 on Jan. 1) and Tour first-timers.

Fothen Rides Strong Time Trial

Yesterday was a fantastic day for Germany. Not only did Germany win the third place match against Portugal at the FIFA World Cup, but a T-Mobile rider won Stage 7 of the Tour and, in the young jersey competition, a German is back leading it. Marcus Fothen rode one of the strongest time trials of his career. In a day when the so-called big names failed to perform to their potential, Fothen finished seventh, only a minute and forty one seconds back from the stage winner Serguei Gonchar.

Fothen now leads the young jersey competition by a minute and eleven seconds. Sweden's  Thomas Lövkvist is in second, followed by Andriy Grivko (Milram). Grivko is Ukranian, like the stage winner. Grivko was born in 1983 and this is his second Tour. He previously rode in 2005.

Joost Posthuma finished 10th on the stage, with Lövkvist finishing 20th.

Not only is Fothen leading the young rider competition, but he's currently in fifth place overall. Lövkvist is nineteenth, only three minutes and one second off of the lead. Today's time shook up both the general classification and the young rider competition. Yesterday's leader, Benoît Vaugrenard, finished about four minutes back and is now fourth in the young rider's competition. He rode hard but Fothen just blew everyone away.

Fothen told that "I have pain in my whole body but it's been a really good day for the team because we had Sebastian Lang in third place, I'm seventh and so we have to be pleased." He went on to explain that his priorities are to help Totschnig and Leipheimer in the coming stages and then, if that goes well, he'll focus on the young rider jersey.

Vaugrenard told Cyclingnews that he rode well in the first part of the course, but like so many he just didn't have the power to keep it up through the second half. He said "I knew it was not possible to keep the white jersey after this stage but the most important thing for me was to ride within [myself] today."

In "View from the Finish Line," Bernie S. comments on whatever catches his attention in the world of cycling.  Bernie also hunts down video streams for

Vladimir Karpets
Vladimir Karpets
Sunday, July 9, 2006

---- This first week of the Tour has been full of crashes, notably Valverde's, but surely Julian Dean of Credit Agricole holds the record for bad luck. Not only does he fall off his bike after leading out Hushovd but he then gets fined for impeding somebody else and Hushovd gets relegated to last. Next day, all bandaged up he falls again.  If his fellow New Zealanders riding for French clubs were watching they must be asking themselves if they really want to be pros!

---- Most extraordinary interview with Bjarne Riis on TV: he appeared totally disinterested in the questions being asked and the answers he gave were virtually throwaway remarks. It was as if sans Basso he knows CSC are bit players.

---- Going into bookshops what is noticeable is the dearth of books published this year to coincide with the Tour.  Maybe this is a consequence of the absence of Lance this time. Like Agassi in tennis or Jordan in basketball, Lance brought a clientèle to the sport from outside and I feel we are going to miss this more than we realise. The NY Times reported that TV viewing figures in the US are down by 50% over last year already.  (ed. - Well, the Walsh/Ballester book is out, again, in France just in time for the Tour.  New cover but none of the supposed new revelations that Walsh has long promised.  And with the number of English-language publishers who won't touch it rising beyond 20, it looks like Walsh's grandchildren will have to learn French if they are ever to read it.  There is also a new book, just published, by a French author that is a tribute to Armstrong; we'll be talking about that soon.)

---- Comment of the week surely goes to Dave Zabriskie of CSC who was asked if the mayhem of crashes scared him.  He replied he thought the most scary thing he had seen was Vladimir Karpets' haircut.

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