Tour de France 2020

Americans at the Tour

There will be only one American team at the Tour de France this year, Lance Armstrong’s U.S. Postal Service formation. The expected debut by Mercury-Viatel was thwarted in May by the Tour organizers’ jingoistic wild-card choice of two extra Division II French teams, as opposed to a second Division I team from the U.S. Despite that, there could still be as many as nine Americans on the start line in Dunkirk. Here is a quick look at each of them, with a review of their 2001 preparation and prospects. Lance ArmstrongAge: 29Height: 5 ft. 11 in. Weight: 165 lbs.Hometown: Austin, TXTeam: U.S.

One U.S. team, but probably nine U.S. racers, will contest the Tour

By The editors of VeloNews

Americans at the Tour

Americans at the Tour

Photo:

There will be only one American team at the Tour de France this year, Lance Armstrong’s U.S. Postal Service formation. The expected debut by Mercury-Viatel was thwarted in May by the Tour organizers’ jingoistic wild-card choice of two extra Division II French teams, as opposed to a second Division I team from the U.S. Despite that, there could still be as many as nine Americans on the start line in Dunkirk. Here is a quick look at each of them, with a review of their 2001 preparation and prospects.

Lance Armstrong
Age: 29
Height: 5 ft. 11 in.
Weight: 165 lbs.
Hometown: Austin, TX
Team: U.S. Postal Service
Number of Tours: 6

Scouting report:
To say that Armstrong is a shoo-in to win a third straight Tour is to minimize the opposition and belittle the Tour de France. You won’t get the Texan making the mistake of underestimating either his rivals or the enormity of the Tour. That means that the Postal team leader and directeur sportif Johan Bruyneel are taking Armstrong’s preparations for the 2001 Tour just as seriously as they did in 1999 and 2000.

His schedule this year is:
-A solid base of winter miles and gym work.
-Meaningful race-situation tests, including strong performances on the mountain summit stage finishes at the Setmana Catalana in March and Tour of Aragon in April.
-A peek at the opposition with his lone World Cup ride, when he finished second in the Amstel Gold Race.
-Road training camps in May to explore the Tour’s key stages in the Vosges, Alps, Pyrenees and Massif Central.
-Final build-up, including climbing power tests near his European base in Spain, and his last pre-Tour races: the Classique des Alpes on June 9 and Tour of Switzerland, June 19–28.

Americans at the Tour

Americans at the Tour

Photo:

Unless Armstrong experiences one of the training crashes that plagued his 2000 season, he should be ready both physically and mentally for the challenges that await him in the Grande Boucle, or “Big Loop,” as the French like to call their favorite annual sports event.

David Clinger
Age: 23
Height: 6 ft. Weight: 175 lbs.
Hometown: Woodland Hills, CA
Team: Festina
Number of Tours: 0

Scouting report:
Just 23 years old, Clinger is now in his second full season in Europe. He experienced a lot in that first year, riding a heavy schedule of World Cup classics and small stage races in the early part of the year. In August, he took a promising 13th place at the Clasica San Sebastian and won a stage of the Tour of Galicia, and he ended his season with a solid 71st-place finish in his first grand tour, the Vuelta a España.

Clinger gained valuable experience in the Vuelta, working for Festina team leader Angel Casero, who held the race lead for three days. That experience will pay off if the young rider is called upon to ride this year’s Tour, where he would likely find himself working for Frenchman Christophe Moreau, and also mixing it up in the field-sprint finishes.

Tyler Hamilton
Age: 28
Height: 5 ft. 8 in.
Weight: 140 lbs.
Hometown: Marblehead, MA
Team: U.S. Postal Service
Number of Tours: 4

Scouting report:
His compact build and sometimes fragile health give no clue to what lies inside this longest-standing member of the Postal squad: a big heart and infinite determination. Those qualities have enabled Hamilton to perform some amazing feats over his four Tours de France, mainly in the service of others—most particularly his current team leader, Lance Armstrong. Who can forget the way he performed in the Alps during the 1999 Tour? One day after crashing heavily on a rain-slick descent just before the finish of the stage to Sestriere, Hamilton was the only Postal rider left with Armstrong to set the pace on Alpe d’Huez and enable his leader to ward off threats to his yellow jersey.

In return for such duties, Hamilton has been rewarded in other races—such as the 2000 Dauphiné, in which Armstrong coaxed and coached his lieutenant on a key breakaway that clinched the overall title for the New Englander. Hamilton wasn’t defending his Dauphiné title this June, as the team chose instead to contest the Tour of Switzerland, which has a 30km uphill mountain time trial (to the ski resort of Crans-Montana) similar to the Tour de France’s stage 11 (to the ski resort of Chamrousse).

As an ace time trialist and the course record holder for the ultra-steep Mount Washington Hill Climb in New Hampshire, Hamilton should do well in both those tests — assuming that he recovers successfully from the broken elbow and rib he suffered in late April. Maybe the first of those time trials could help him win the Swiss tour, and the second could give Armstrong the standard he needs to conquer another maillot jaune. But what is certain is that Hamilton will again race into the red zone at the Tour for his training partner from Texas.

Americans at the Tour

Americans at the Tour

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George Hincapie
Age: 28
Height: 6 ft. 3 in.
Weight: 175 lbs.
Hometown: Greenville, SC
Team: U.S. Postal Service
Number of Tours: 6

Scouting report:
For years, Hincapie has been regarded as the best one-day threat that the U.S. has to offer. This spring he delivered, scoring his first win at a major European classic, Ghent-Wevelgem. After his demanding spring campaign, Hincapie had to turn right around and get ready for a demanding summer, culminating with the Tour de France.

Following the Amstel Gold Race, Hincapie returned home to South Carolina, where the preparations for the Tour de France would begin, first with a little rest, and then with lots of hard training. In June, he was heading to Philadelphia, seeking to regain the USPRO Championship title he won in 1999. And then came the final preparations—probably including the Tour of Catalonia—leading up to the start of the Tour in Dunkirk on July 7.

Bobby Julich
Age: 29
Height: 6 ft.
Weight: 150 lbs.
Hometown: Reno, Nevada
Team: Crédit Agricole
Number of Tours: 4

Scouting report:
Remain healthy and avoid crashes. That has been Julich’s mantra for the past year, ever since allergies wrecked his preparations for the 2000 Tour de France, in which he finished a disappointing 48th overall. The native Coloradan wants to retrieve the form and consistency that saw him finish third at the 1998 Tour, and not have another crash like the one that eliminated him from the ’99 Tour on the stage 8 time trial. Part of his “rehabilitation” was to move his U.S. home back from the Philadelphia area to altitude, near Lake Tahoe, Nevada. That’s where he was spending four weeks until late-May, doing the type of training—to hone his climbing and time-trial skills—that could bring him to optimum fitness by the time the Tour starts on July 7.

During the spring Julich showed signs of his former self, placing top 10 in some time-trial stages and testing himself in long breakaways, like the one he shared with eight others for most of the last 80km of the Liège-Bastogne-Liège classic. That hard work might be rewarded when the Tour races on some of the same roads in the finale to stage 3, Antwerp- Seraing. And assuming Julich has a morale-lifting ride in the prologue and a top-five placing with his powerful Crédit Agricole teammates in the stage 5 team time trial, then the American could be on his way back.

Kevin Livingston
Age: 28
Height: 6 ft.
<b<Weight: 155 lbs.
Hometown: Austin, TX
Team: Telekom
Number of Tours: 4

Scouting report:
Over the past two years, Livingston has built a reputation as one of Lance Armstrong’s most trusted teammates. Indeed, ever since riding in his first Tour in 1997 (for Cofidis), Livingston, a Missouri native, has played the role of a top lieutenant with the talent to be a major GC threat on his own. With Cofidis, he placed 17th overall in 1998, while helping teammate Bobby Julich finish on the podium.

So it came as only a small surprise when Livingston was ready to accept an offer to assume a leadership role on the Linda McCartney team last fall. The British squad was on a recruiting drive and Livingston was a solid choice as a team leader for a major tour. Providence (or good sense) intervened and Livingston’s deal fell through—two months before the team itself collapsed under the weight of serious financial troubles. Livingston was almost immediately snatched up by Telekom, the team of 1997 Tour winner Jan Ullrich.

In May, before heading to Italy to contest his first Giro, the 28-year-old Livingston said he was ready to put as much energy into securing Ullrich’s second Tour de France win as he did in helping Armstrong win his first two.

Fred Rodriguez
Age: 27
Height: 5 ft. 10 in.
Weight: 150 lbs.
Hometown: Emeryville, CA
Team:Domo-Farm Frites
Number of Tours: 1

Scouting report:
Riding in his first Tour last year for Mapei-Quick Step, Fred Rodriguez took care of business, helping to deliver sprinter Tom Steels to two early stage wins and Stefano Zanini to victory on the final stage in Paris. When he had a chance to ride for himself on stage 17 around Lake Geneva, the Californian managed a third-place stage finish in Lausanne.

Now in the colors of the new Domo-Farm Frites squad, Rodriguez won’t have Steels to lead out, but may find himself working to set up Australian sprinter Robbie McEwen or world champion Romans Vainsteins. Or, Rodriguez himself may emerge as Domo’s stage-win threat.

With Domo’s powerful classics squad at work all spring, Rodriguez was able to prepare for the Tour at lower-key spring races and then head back to the States to defend his USPRO Championship in Philadelphia before starting the Tour preparations in earnest.

Christian Vande Velde
Age: 25
Height:5 ft. 11 in.
Weight:150 lbs.
Hometown: Boulder, CO
Team: U.S. Postal Service
Number of Tours: 1

Scouting report:
In his first Tour de France in 1999, the then-23-year-old Vande Velde was an instrumental teammate for race winner Armstrong. He was looking forward to filling that role again last year, but an infected spider bite just before the start of the Tour left him out of the mix.

His Olympic-year disappointments continued in the fall, when he traveled to the Sydney Games but could muster only a 12th place finish in the individual pursuit.

With his focus 100 percent on the road now, Vande Velde was again living up to his promise this spring, including fourth place overall at the Three Days of De Panne, 17th at the Tour of Flanders and 22nd at the Amstel Gold Race.

With 2000 behind him, Vande Velde will once again be called on as one of Postal’s main workers to defend Armstrong, especially with the retirement of long-time lieutenant Frankie Andreu.

Americans at the Tour

Americans at the Tour

Photo:

Jonathan Vaughters
Age: 28
Height:5 ft. 11 in.
Weight: 135 lbs.
Hometown: Denver, Colorado
Team: Crédit Agricole
Number of Tours: 2

Scouting report:
The 28-year-old Vaughters is one of the top climbing talents in the world, as he proved two years ago when he set the course record for climbing Mont Ventoux in the Dauphiné Libéré. He has the talent to go head-to-head with anyone in the mountains.

Unfortunately, when it comes to the Tour, he has had nothing but bad luck. In 1999, a crash before the Tour prevented him from starting. And then last year in his first Tour, Vaughters crashed out on the epic Dax-Hautacam stage, just as the race hit the mountain roads that he craved.

This year, the Crédit Agricole rider enjoyed a quiet spring before returning home at the end of April. Most of his Tour preparation would take place at altitude at home in Colorado prior to rediscovering his climbing form at the June 10–17 Dauphiné.

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