Stage 17 - Nice shootin', Tex.

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The monster took another win.

Weíre all still shaking our heads over here. Four victories in five stages? The four toughest stages of this yearís Tour, and he takes every single one? And this one in a sprint? Not even leaving a single smidgen of honor for the other racers to fight over?

Uh-uh. He came here to do one thing this year: destroy everyone.

And thatís what heís done. If the French were a bit sick of him winning before, this year will drive them mad with jealousy. But this year, itís almost become comical how unbeatable heís been. The other racers are clearly demoralized. Psychologically ruined. Done. Cooked and waiting for next year to try once again.


We spent the day chasing (or pre-Chasing) Lance again. We got an early start (7am) in order to make it to the Col de la Madelaine before the peloton arrived. We climbed the monstrous Col du Galibier (summit of almost 9000 ft) and then enjoyed a stupefying 36k descent, dropping 6800 vertical feet in about an hour. Unfortunately, we barely got to the Madelaine in time. The publicity caravan arrived 40 minutes early, which was exactly how much time weíd budgeted to climb up halfway to watch, and instead the Gendarmes forced us off our bikes to walk. Half our group just ducked into the nearest bar to watch on TV and then dart out onto the street when the peloton would pass, while the other half decided to pick our way up the mountain, getting back on our bikes whenever the Gendarmes werenít looking. Iím sure we looked like the ugly Americans, disobediently cycling up the col in the ìno movementî time between the caravan and the race, but we only cycled when there were no cars or motorbikes moving along. We picked a spot, then scrambled up the road to fetch water and sandwiches. But the peloton arrived a good 40 minutes early, too, and before we could eat, we found ourselves running with the racers again. At this stage in the race (less than halfway through), a few were off the front trying to gain King of the Mountain points: Simoni and a CSC rider were in the front, with Moreau and Virenque only a minute behind. Two minutes later, the peloton rolled through with Pavel Pardnos driving the Blue Train up front. Lance was safely tucked in behind George Hincapie about four riders back. I ran with them for another ten second sprint, snapping a good dozen photos (in complete focus, this time) before the road got too crowded to continue.

After the mayhem subsided, a few of us descended the Madelaine for a beer in a pub with a TV.

It was clear at this point that Postal was just trying to limit the leaderís gains. A few hours lateróafter our group had returned to the lodge courtesy of a 30 seat bus (with no air conditioning), we watched the fish on TV. At this point, the leaders had been reeled back in by the heroic efforts of one Floyd Landis, tugging Lance and about four stragglers along. The final 15k was a decent, and weíd all hoped that Lance would help Floyd get the win, but despite a strong descent by Floyd, soon Ullrich (who is normally not a strong descender) had bridged up and Lance would be forced to keep him or the other GC contenders from the win and time bonus. With about 1k to go, Kloden launched a staggering attack that looked sure to stick. We really didnít think the others would catch up once Kloden got a good 50 meter gap. But suddenly Lance attacked with only maybe 250 m to go, andówho knows how he did itóthe sucker bridged it and got the win at the line. In a sprint. The guy can truly do it all: climb, time-trial, sprint, you name it, heíll serve it up.

So four wins in five stages. Looks like this will be his most crushing Tour victory yet. Only one more flat stage tomorrow, then the final TT in BesanÁon, which Iíll be surprised if he doesnít win. Perhaps Jan will salvage at least a stage win by taking that TT, but I think Lance will be riding such a wave by then that no one will touch him. Crossing the line today, he looks like heís having the time of his life. All those who predicted that at 32 he was losing his form are eating a nice slice of crow about now.

Given the difficulty of getting online here in the middle of the Alps, I probably wonít have another update until after the final TT. Weíll be riding in to Italy to summit Sestriere tomorrow, then watch the TT in the nearest bar. For Sunday, some of our group go home, a few will trek off to Paris to see the final cruise along the Champs Elysees, and a handful of us will trek over the Col du Glandon for our final ride of our journey.

Hope this Tour has been as inspiring to you as it has to me. Our group is having a wonderful time and couldn't ask for more. I think weíre seeing sports history here, and I predict the cover of Time Magazine will say as much in a weekís time.

Cheers. And thanks for the fine show, Lance.

photos:
w: Sue on Galibier:
GalibSue.jpg


Galib1.jpg


GALIB2.jpg

W/ Geoff Rogers on Galibier:
GalibGeoff.jpg

Publicite caravan:
CaravanMad.jpg


The Blue Trqin on Madelaine
PostalMad1.jpg


Chasing the big man:
LanceMaD.jpg

2 Comments

Amazing!

I can't believe those pictures! Maybe chasinglance.net can have a photo gallery some day?

The funny thing is that Mark is himself having the performance of his career - writing about Lance's victories. I thought mark might run out of ways to describe Lance's heroic moves, but I'm "eating a nice slice of crow about now."

Rock on, guys,

Nate

Seriously, this reporting is awesome. I cannot believe you were this close to these guys. I am curious though Mark, do you bring an extra set of break pads in case the descent burns out the ones on your fork?

Brent

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