Tuesday, July 05, 2005


In the Aftermath of Stage 4

TOP TEN...FOR NOW. After Stage 4, the ten cyclists with the best overall times are:

  1. Lance Armstrong (USA - Discovery Channel)
  2. George Hincapie (USA - Discovery Channel) - 55"
  3. Jens Voigt (Germany - CSC) - 1’04"
  4. Bobby Julich (USA - CSC) - 1’07"
  5. Jose Luis Rubiera (Spain - Discovery Channel) - 1’14"
  6. Yaroslav Popovych (Ukraine - Discovery Channel) -1'16"
  7. Alexandre Vinokourov (Khazakstan - T-Mobile) -1'21"
  8. Benjamin Noval (Spain - Discovery Channel) - 1'26"
  9. David Zabriskie (USA - CSC) - 1'26"
  10. Ivan Basso (Spain - CSC) - 1'26"

WHERE DOES THIS LEAVE OTHER CONTENDERS? With each rider accepting the overall time of his team in the Team Time Trial, several of the pre-tour "top contenders" have lost some pretty significant time to Armstrong. Above, you see those who remain within 90 seconds of the champ--Vinokourov, Voigt, Basso (Note: Even though Zabriskie and Julich are faring well, they not considered contenders to win the Tour; they are riding in support of team leader Ivan Basso). Here are the placements and times behind Armstrong of other contenders.

14. Jan Ullrich (Germany - T-Mobile) -1'36"
18. Igor Gonzalez Galdeano (Spain - Euskaltel-Euskadi) - 1'44"
20. Floyd Landis (USA - Phonak) - 1'50"
27. Santiago Botero (Colombia - Phonak) - 2'18"
28. Andreas Kloden (Germany - T-Mobile) - 2'29"
29. Fabian Cancellara (Switzerland - Fassa Bortolo) - 2'30"
30. Levi Leipheimer (USA - Gerolsteiner) - 2'31"
31. Joseba Beloki (Spain - Liberty Seguros) - 2'43"
36. Roberto Heras (Spain - Liberty Seguros) - 2'58"

CAN THEY MAKE UP THIS TIME? Good question. Two or three minutes can be recovered...but not until the mountain stages that come on Saturday and Sunday. The current standings will likely remain the same until the weekend as the next three stages are relatively flat--a paradise for sprinters, none of whom are contenders for the overall victory.

DO THEY HAVE THE RIGHT COMBINATION? Remember, a top contender to win the Tour de France must have a combination of excellence in time trialing, mountain climbing, and team strategy and support. He must also take advantage of rival setbacks and plan on at least one "break out" day--a day in which he takes a risk and out-distances or out-climbs his rivals. The best Armstrong's rivals can do is to (1) plan on out-climbing Armstong in the mountains and (2) to hope he has at least one bad day out of 21.

HANG ON...ARMSTRONG HAS NOT WON. None of the riders listed above is conceding the Tour victory to Armstrong. And no one in America should walk away from the coverage in the assumption that Lance has it in the bag. It ain't over til it's over. There are nearly 1800 miles of competition over some of the most challenging mountain passes in the world ahead of these guys. Anything is possible.

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