Sunday, July 02, 2006



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...

FIVE CONTESTS WITHIN THE TOUR. There are five "contests" within the Tour de France:

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.

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