Road Bike Rider (please
check out their site):
In less than 48 hours the 92nd Tour de France
begins with a 19-km (11.8-mile) time trial. That's a remarkably
long distance for a race-opening TT, one reason why this Tour
will be unlike any other.
But what really makes it special is that it's
the last event of Lance Armstrong's historic racing career. The
cancer victim once given a 30% chance of surviving says he will
retire on the Tour's final day, July 24, win or lose. If he does
win, it will be his 7th consecutive victory, a feat that no one
could believe if we hadn't seen it play out since 1999.
Each morning in the U.S., we can watch Outdoor
Life Network's live coverage of the day's stage, then see taped
repeats during the afternoon. Each evening, OLN
will televise stage highlights and other features (schedule
below). All Tour all the time -- gotta love it!
For online reports, check the Tour's official
and our 2 favorite news sites, http://www.cyclingnews.com
as well as http://www.olntv.com.
For more sources, run a search at google.com and go nuts.
With the opening stage looming, Armstrong proclaimed
himself "strong on the bike" and said he had dropped
3 pounds in the last 3 weeks. The weight loss will help, he predicted,
because "this year, the Tour will be won in the mountains."
And don't worry if you see recent photos of Lance
looking like he's been in a barroom brawl. Those scrapes and bruises
aren't serious. He fell off his bike, reportedly while simultaneously
starting a ride and swatting a wasp. The fall was hard enough
to break his helmet, all the more reason every roadie should wear
one on every ride. Think where Lance might be today if he'd headed
out bareheaded. Accidents happen.
Tour, Stage by Stage
a list of the Tour's 21 stages to help you anticipate the daily
Fromentine-Noirmoutier, July 2, 19-km individual time trial. Other
than an arching bridge soon after the start, the course is coastal
flat and described as a "drag strip." But strong crosswinds
are possible. Armstrong, starting last of the 189 riders as defending
champion, will hope to make a strong psychological impact as well
as open significant first-day time gaps on the climbers.
Challans-Les Essarts, July 3, 181 km. A flat stage for the sprinters
while everyone tries to avoid the adrenalized crashes that have
plagued the early stages of past Tours.
La Chataigneraie-Tours, July 4, 212 km. Three small climbs should
barely be noticed in a stage that favors a sprint finish after
long, tailwind-aided breakaways are reeled in.
Tour-Blois, July 5, 67.5-km team time trial. A key stage for revealing
team strength and establishing time splits among the overall ("general
classification" or GC) contenders. The course is flat until
the final 20 km, where a series of short climbs will test strength
as well as cohesive teamwork. Like last year, time losses will
be determined by finishing order. The second-place team will drop
20 seconds to the winner. Each subsequent team will lose an additional
10 seconds. Thus, the 21st and slowest team will lose 3 minutes.
Chambord-Montargis, July 6, 183 km. The course is only slightly
undulating and not expected to spawn decisive moves, so look for
another bunch finish -- unless a group without GC threats succeeds
in staying away, as one did early in the 2004 Tour.
Troyes-Nancy, July 7, 199 km. Four mild, category 4 climbs could
spark breakaway activity. The final hill, 3.2-km long at a 5.2%
grade, comes 13 km before the finish and could be key.
Luneville-Karlsruhe, July 8, 228 km. Another stage that favors
a bunch finish with the sprinters leading the charge. It ends
in Germany, but favorite son Eric Zabel won't win. The veteran
was left off T-Mobile's Tour team.
Pforzheim-Gerardmer, July 9, 231 km. The biggest climb so far
(a category 2) comes 15 km before the downhill finish. That should
animate the stage-hunters while GC contenders play it cool ahead
of the first mountains.
Gerardmer-Mulhouse, July 10, 171 km. Six categorized climbs, including
this Tour's first category 1, are sure to open some lungs. Experts
are predicting that this stage will shatter the field, ending
the hopes of some GC riders with more than half the Tour remaining.
Grenoble-Courchevel, July 12, 192 km. After a rest day, the Tour
enters the Alps. The category 1 Cormet-de-Roseland comes just
past halfway in this stage, rising 20 km at an average 6% grade.
The finish line is atop the 22-km, 6.2% Courchevel at 6,561 feet.
In past Tours, Armstrong has proclaimed his dominance on the first
mountaintop finish. No one should be surprised if he tries to
do it again.
Courchevel-Briancon, July 13, 173 km. Here's a day for the stars
to come out to play. The stage features two "beyond category"
climbs, the Col de la Madeleine (25.4 km at 6.1%) and the Col
du Galibier (17.5 km at 6.9%) with the category 1 Col du Telegraphe
between them. All serious challengers for the yellow jersey should
reach the Galibier together, where epic action is expected. A
fast, 40-km descent will deliver the leaders to the finish line.
Briancon-Digne les Baines, July 14, 187 km. On Bastille Day, look
for French riders to be feisty. This third Alpine stage isn't
nearly as severe as 10 and 11 on paper, but Armstrong predicts
"it's going to be a hard day. There will be some surprises
for a lot of people, especially if it is very hot."
Miramas-Montpellier, July 15, 173 km. After the Alps, the riders
take this relatively flat route toward the Pyrenees. It'll be
an on-bike rest day for the GC leaders, giving ambitious also-rans
the chance to break away and duke it out for a stage win.
Agde-Ax 3 Domaines, July 16, 220 km. A hard stage with the beyond-category
Port de Pailheres (15 km at 8%) immediately followed by the finish
atop Ax 3 Domaines (9 km at 7.3%). All that climbing is packed
into the final 50 km.
Lezat sur Leze-St. Lary Soulan, July 17, 205 km. Brutal stage.
Four category 1 climbs deliver the riders to the Tour's third
and final mountaintop finish, the beyond-category Pla d'Adet (10.3
km at 8.3%). Not incidentally, it will be the final mountaintop
finish of Armstrong's storied career. You know how Big Tex reveres
Mourenx-Pau, July 19, 180 km. After the second rest day, the peloton
rides out of the Pyrenees, but not without one more beyond-category
climb, the Col d'Aubisque (16.5 km at 7%). Should an overall contender
escape on the mountain, opposing teams have 50 flattish kilometers
to pull him back before the finish.
Pau-Revel, July 20, 239 km. This Tour's longest stage (148 miles)
has a profile like saw teeth. A category 3 climb (2.7 km at 5.1%)
near the finish could spring the day's winner.
Albi -Mende, July 21, 189 km. Now in the Massif Central mountains,
this stage has 5 categorized climbs. The last one is the toughie:
the Cote de la Croix-Neuve, 3.1 km at 10.1%. If the GC is still
close, the battle for precious seconds could be intense.
Issoire-Le Puy en Velay, July 22, 153 km. With a huge time trial
to follow, no yellow-jersey contender is likely to lay it on the
line in this hilly stage. A category 2 climb comes early. Look
for riders who couldn't care less about the TT to hunt a stage
St. Entienne-St. Entienne, July 23, 55 km individual time trial.
Forget a flat, simple TT. The course is almost never horizontal
and even includes a category 3 climb (5.7 km at 4.5%). As usual
with a late time trial, this one could decide the Tour for the
yellow jersey wearer. He could confirm his superiority by winning
the stage . . . or lose everything. Could this Tour come down
to a one final mano-a-mano battle between Armstrong and Jan Ullrich?
Corbeil Essonnes - Paris, July 24, 144 km. Traditionally there
is no racing in this stage before the peloton enters Paris for
8 laps of the Champs Elysees finishing circuit. It's a feel-good
procession until the top riders on GC get safely out of the way
of last-minute glory seekers.
2,236 miles (3,607 km) with 112,600 feet (34,320 meters) of climbing.
you want to key on critical stages, veteran Tour reporter John
Wilcockson, writing for http://www.velonews.com,
says pay close attention to 1, 4, 8, 10, 11, 14, 15 and 20.
will stand atop the podium in Paris? The betting line says to
put your money on 1. Lance Armstrong; 2. Jan Ullrich, the German
T-Mobile strongman who has finished second five times; 3. Ivan
Basso, the new Italian star for Team CSC who was third in the
addition to Discovery Channel's Lance Armstrong, 7 Americans are
racing in this year's Tour: George Hincapie (Discovery), Bobby
Julich and Dave Zabriskie (both CSC), Floyd Landis (Phonak), Levi
Leipheimer (Gerolsteiner), Fred Rodriguez (Davitamon-Lotto) and
Chris Horner (Saunier Duval-Prodir).
schedule for the July 2-24 Tour de France:
8:30 - 9 a.m. ET
stage coverage, 9 - 11:30 a.m. ET
12 - 2 p.m. ET
2:30 - 4:30 p.m. ET
5 - 7p.m. ET
show, 8 - 8:30 p.m. ET
coverage, 8:30 - 11 p.m. ET
coverage, 9 -11:30 p.m. PT
12 - 2:30 a.m. ET
from Road Bike Ride
(please check out their site).