The best and worst of Tour 2005
By Andrew Hood
Stick a fork in it – the 2005 Tour de France is over. It’s been a long, yet wonderful three weeks in France (with a day in Germany and time enough for a quick coffee in Spain). Sometimes the pace of the Tour leaves little time for reflection. So as Lance Armstrong celebrates a magnificent seventh win, we offer VeloNews’s annual web awards for the best moments of the 92nd Tour de France. IT’S A HORSE RACE Best Reason Why You Better Win a Sprint: Robbie McEwen, after Davitamon-Lotto gave chase for more than 100km in stage 13, catching Chris Horner and Sylvain Chavanel about 150m from the line.
“I felt obligated to win after all that work,” McEwen said. “I’m not so sure I would have done that.” Get Out the Magnifying Glasses: Rabobank’s Pieter Weening edging T-Mobile’s Andreas Klöden by two millimeters in stage 8 to Gerardmer.
“I didn’t know I won until someone told me,” Weening said. Stacked Up for Wrong Reasons: Riders slid into each other like bowling pins on the greasy final corner coming into Nancy on rainy roads at the end of stage 6.
“That last corner was like ice,” said Fred Rodriguez, who also went down. Sharpen the Edges: Lorenzo Bernucci (Fassa Bortolo), who made it through clean into Nancy to win the first stage of his career. Worst Way to Lose the Green Jersey: McEwen, who was relegated in stage 3 after leaning heavily into Stuart O’Grady, forfeited 30 points that would have put him in the green jersey.
“Riders like Eddy Merckx and Sean Kelly said I shouldn’t have been relegated and I trust their opinions more than some one on the jury,” he said. TIME IS ON MY SIDE What a Way to Make Your Tour Debut: Dave Zabriskie, who beat Lance Armstrong and earned the yellow jersey the first 21 minutes of his Tour de France career.
“I think tonight it will be difficult to sleep,” he said. Exiting Through the ‘Puerta Grande:’ Lance Armstrong goes out with honors by winning the last real race of his 14-year career with his three children watching.
“I wanted the last image of their father as a sportsman to be that of a champion, and that means being in the yellow jersey,” he said. Worst Meltdown: Michael Rasmussen, who crashed twice, flatted once and changed bikes three times in the penultimate stage to plummet from third to seventh in the overall standings.
“He was nervous before the start,” said Rabobank sport director Erik Breukink. Toughest Luck: Zabriskie, who crashed out of the yellow jersey when his rear wheel slipped out from underneath him about 1.5km from the line in the team time trial.
“I’m extremely disappointed because we were very, very close to winning the stage and I was close to keeping the yellow jersey,” Zabriskie said. Greatest Escape: Luke Roberts, Bobby Julich and Ivan Basso, who narrowly missed crashing into Team CSC teammate Zabriskie when he hit the deck.
“I saw a lightning bolt come down and strike a guy who definitely didn’t deserve it.” OVER THE HILLS AND FAR AWAY Sign that the World is Upside Down: George Hincapie, a classics specialist, winning the hardest mountain stage of the Tour.
“I can’t believe I won the hardest stage of the Tour de France. It’s a dream come true.” Sign that the World is Upside Down II: Paolo Savoldelli, a two-time Giro champion whose best wins come in the steep mountains, winning in a long breakaway into Revel. Hello, It’s Me: Alejandro Valverde, shooting past Armstrong’s shoulder to win at Courchevel. “I’m in the clouds. I can’t believe I beat Armstrong, jostia!” Splendid Isolation: Armstrong looking around and not seeing Chechu, Triki, Savo and Popo anywhere near on the Cat. 2 climb in the Vosges.
“That was a crisis moment, for sure,” Armstrong said. Winner of the Richard Virenque Scholarship Fund: Michael Rasmussen, who took a page out of Virenque’s tactics, went on the attack two days in a row across the Black Forest and the Vosges to grab the King of the Mountains jersey. IT’S A LONG WAY TO PARIS Crash-Test Dummy: Jan Ullrich, who plowed into a back of a team car in a pre-Tour training ride and then again in the Vosges.
“I never hurt so bad in a race,” Ullrich said. Best Stab at a Stage Win, Huh? Tour rookie Chris Horner at 33 riding like he really loves it. Horner’s enthusiasm for the Tour won him legions of fans.
“There are eight more stages left,” on asked whether he’d try again after getting caught 150 meters from the line in stage 13. Best Lover’s Spat: Armstrong and Floyd Landis. A day after Landis was quoted in the French sport’s daily L’Equipe that Armstrong rode strictly for business, journalists saw Armstrong giving Landis some lip. Rebound for the Vuelta Award: Roberto Heras and Iban Mayo, who both tanked for second year running.
“The world didn’t see the real Iban Mayo,” the Basque rider said, who promised to be back next year. Heras, meanwhile, vowed to skip the Tour and focus on the Giro instead. Best Way to Get on Armstrong’s Black List: Cadel Evans, who shot past Armstrong coming into Mende to beat him for 11th place, prompting Armstrong to mutter, “Was that necessary?”
Evans later said: “Armstrong was pissed at me that I sat on and sprinted for the group. You put a finish line in front of me and I’ve got to sprint for it, I’m sorry.” You’re Know You’re In Trouble When…: You get onto the hard-drive. An angry Armstrong said he “downloaded onto the hard-drive” stories that suggested he was “lucky” to wear the yellow jersey after Zabriskie crashed in the team time trial and disrupting what appeared to be a winning ride by Team CSC. Cycling Powerhouse: Lance Armstrong won for the seventh time in a Tour marked by an incredible U.S. presence. Three Americans won stages –Zabriskie, Hincapie and Armstrong – and five Americans finished in the top 20: Armstrong, Levi Leipheimer sixth, Landis ninth, Hincapie 14th and Bobby Julich 17th. The View’s Good from Here: Iker Flores, a Basque rider on Euskaltel-Euskadi, “winning” the Lanterne Rouge for the second time. In 2002, he was 153rd at 3:52:52 back.