Sunday, July 02, 2006
AN AMERICAN LEADS IN GERMANY AFTER STAGE 1
HINCAPIE IN YELLOW ALREADY. It didn't take long for an American to grab the lead of the Tour de France, did it? Big George Hincapie was just .73 seconds behind Thor Hushovd (what a name!) after Saturday's brief Prologue. He gained a few bonus points (translating into a precious few seconds of time) in an intermediate sprint during Sunday's flat stage to edge ahead Hushovd in the General Classification. He will wear the Yellow Jersey, the Maillot Jaune (in French), what the American riders affectionatly call the "mellow Johnny," during Stage 2.
A BIT OF PERSPECTIVE. To keep some things in basic perspective...
- George Hincapie leads the Discovery Channel Team. He is the only American to have been on the team as a supporting rider during each of Lance Armstrong's seven consecutive Tour de France victories.
- Hincapie has won at least one stage of the Tour de France in the past. He has won numerous prestigous races in Europe over the past several years. Hincapie certainly has the potential to win the Tour de France, but he has always been in the service of Armstrong. So, it is not known if, having others to serve him, whether or not he can catapult his abilities into a Tour victory.
- Hincapie did not win Stage 1 on Sunday; but he now has the best overall time...and it is the rider with the best overall time at the end of each stage who wears the Yellow Jersey of the race leader.
- Frenchman Jimmy Casper one Stage 1 on Sunday, nosing out Australian Robbie McEwen at the line. Casper will wear the Green Jersey of the best sprinter (or points leader) during Stage 2.
- Another American was wearing the Maillot Jaune after Stage 1 last year; do you know who it was? Hint: He is on the Discovery Channel team and is close behind Hincapie in overall time.
- Overall Leader - the "general classification" contest for the best overall time for the Yellow Jersey. This is what Lance Armstrong won seven straight times.
- Sprints - the contest for the best sprinter for the Green Jersey; during each stage there are usually several "intermediate sprints" for points and usually there is a sprint at the finish line for more points. Sprinters like Tom Boonen and Robbie McEwen usually dominate the headlines during the Tour's relatively "flat" stages during the first week.
- Climbing - the contest for the best mountain climbers for the Polka-dot Jersey (Maillot Pois); there are points up for grabs for each mountain pass difficult enough to be categorized.
- Best Young Rider - riders under age 25 view for the White Jersey.
- Team - the team with the lowest collective time.
- Combativity - There is also a contest for the most combative rider, though no jersey goes with this.
LOOKING FORWARD. Don't expect things to be calm during the first week of the Tour de France. The Yellow Jersey may change hands several times. Sprinters will charge to the intermediate lines and finish lines in huge bunch sprints that sometimes cause huge crashes. The Tour usually loses some good riders due to serious injuries during the first week. The goal of Discovery Channel team will be to (a) not lose any riders and (b) not lose any significant time to rival contenders for the Yellow Jersey. This race is a three-week drama and the first week traditionally is for the sprint specialists - their quick acceleration abilities are a thing to behold. But the "real race" will begin in the mountain stages of weeks two and three.
YELLOW: GOOD AND BAD. For those who are flipping channels between the World Cup games and the Tour de France: a yellow card in World Cup is bad; the Yellow Jersey in the Tour de France is very good. Interesting to have Germany and France in the World Cup semi-finals while the Tour de France wheels through Germany and France. The time for the Prologue in Straussburg, Germany, was adjusted in order for fans to be able to watch both on TV. You might call the Tour de France the "World Cup of cycling.
DOPERS CONVENTION. I think there should be a special Tour de Cheat for those who choose to cheat at their sport. Bring together all the banned riders and let them shoot up, use EPO, have blood transfusions galore, use exotic and risky drug protocols, and work with shadowy physicians. Put them all on a level playing field and let them go at it. Have a race just for cheaters. Have a baseball game just for dopers. See who shows up. None would. That's the nature of cheating and the sin of cheaters -- they don't want to compete, or can't compete -- on a level playing field within a legal and fair range of permissible advantages.