Monday, July 17, 2006



IN THE SHADOW OF THE MOUNTAIN. After a Prologue and 14 stages, including several punishing days in the Pyrenees, the 156 cyclists remaining in this year's Tour de France take their second break. It's really the last chance to consume energy, get sleep, mend wounds, and steel themselves before a trilogy of stages that will test the mettle of every team and rider.

LEGEND THAT HAUNTS & EXALTS. The Tour rests in Gap, a gateway to the Alps mountain range. Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday contains a plethora of "HC" - "highest category" or "beyond categorization" - mountain climbs. Tuesday's ride includes L'Alpe-d'Huez - a mountain made legendary by past Tour de France feats. This mountain both haunts and exalts. It is not the highest peak, just the one most fabled. A rider has died on this mountain. The crowds are incredible on it. Tour wins have been decided here. Whoever crests this monster first, whether or not he wins the Tour, will have ridden himself into the respect and affection of Tour fans worldwide.

TOP 15. Here are the top 15 placements in the Tour after 14 stages:
1 Oscar Pereiro (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears @ 64.05.04
2 Floyd Landis (USA) Phonak @ 1.29
3 Cyril Dessel (Fra) AG2R-Prevoyance @ 1.37
4 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank @ 2.30
5 Cadel Evans (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto @ 2.46
6 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Team CSC @ 3.21
7 Andreas Kloden (Ger) T-Mobile @ 3.58
8 Michael Rogers (Aus) T-Mobile @ 4.51
9 Juan Miguel Mercado (Spa) Agritubel @ 5.02
10 Christophe Moreau (Fra) AG2R-Prevoyance @ 5.13
11 Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) Discovery Channel @ 5.44
12 Marcus Fothen (Ger) Gerolsteiner @ 5.46
13 Haimar Zubeldia (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi @ 5.55
14 Patrik Sinkewitz (Ger) T-Mobile @ 7.07
15 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Gerolsteiner @ 7.08

REALISTIC CHANCES? Of these 15 top places, it's hard to limit even those who are seven minutes down. Levi Leipheimer nearly won the hardest mountain in the Pyreness and appears to be back on his game. T-Mobile riders seem to have the strongest team, but they were nowhere to be found at the end of the biggest mountain stage so far. Big minutes can be gained or lost quickly on HC climbs and stage-ending mountain-top finishes like L'Alpe-d-Huez. One attack at this point can catapult a rider to the top; one failure to respond to an attack can take a would-be contender out of contention.

NO HEROICS...YET. Heroic is a relative term. Every one of these riders is doing something heroic everyday that they stay in the saddle. But in terms of Tour de France heroics, we have not yet seen the kind of put-the-hammer-down climbs or blister-the-competition time trials that Lance Armstrong gave the Tour. We keep waiting for a rider to make a definitive move. But, in reality, these riders are making their moves and playing their hands very carefully. None have yet been able to dominate. Landis may, after a few more stages. Or, Australian Cadel Evans, currently in 5th, has yet to show his outstanding abilities. Heroics, if they are to come, will come in the next three days. Watch closely.

My Love Of BicyclesI have owned many different bicycles in my life. I decided in my early twenties that I could live just fine with just a few bicycles and without a car. I have different bicycles for different uses.I live in Houston and use the Houston streets for my transportation. I regularly use one of my light duty mountain bicycles for grocery shopping. The light duty mountain bicycles are not as tough as my mountain bicycles. Light duty mountain bikes are also referred to as trail bikes.I would never take a trail bike off-road. I have a really tough mountain bike with a full suspension system for taking camping. I try to get out and really ride on my mountain bicycle at least once per month. I usually know at least one person that is going cycling every weekend. It is easy to hitch a ride with them.Some of the most expensive bicycles are recumbent. I bought one for myself and I love it. It allows me to sit in a reclined position and pedal with my feet forward. My recumbent bicycle seat feels like a lounge chair. My model is one of the faster ones and I love it.I had a boyfriend once that was also interested in bicycles. We rode together everywhere and he talked me into buying a tandem bicycle. That was a huge mistake. We just could not work together on that bicycle and it amplified the problems in our relationship that were just below the surface. We broke up about two months after the purchase of that tandem bike.I was on one of my bicycles just getting some exercise last week and I rode past a retirement community and saw something amazing. I thought I was up on all of the available bicycles, but I had never seen an adult tricycle before. They were amazing. I stopped and chatted with one of the women riders and she told me that she hadnt been able to ride bicycles in about twenty years. She needed the stability that the adult tricycle had to offer and felt like she had new freedom.My nephew has recently become interested in bicycles. He wants a BMX bicycle for his birthday. He asked me for it because, as the most enthusiastic bicycle rider he knows, I am most likely to indulge his desire. I think that I am going to try to talk him into a free style bike instead. If I cant talk him into a free style bike, I may end up buying both bicycles for him. I want him to love cycling as much as I do.To learn more about everything bicycles vist my site at: BrensMartUSA Bicycles Have a geat day and stay healthy!Brenda Sue
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