Having watched the TdF closer this year than any other year before (for the record, I have watched this race live on TV for 20 years now, and have seen it for real as well) I am astonished to see the weak perfomances of so may top riders. Mayo came into this years race as a serious contender and threat to LA, only to be dropped by the main field, who at the time was not attacking. Tyler Hamilton who famously defied the pain of a broken collarbone last year, struggled to keep up almost all week, and then abandons. Ulrich as always comes into the tour with a reputation, and has up to now still failed to deliver.
Given some riders have been involved in crashes earlier in the Tour, I still am disappointed in their perfomances, and wonder if the stricter doping control has someting to do with it.
This has truly been a baffling week in Central and Southwest France.
USPS has been riding at a level they have not achieved in previous Tours. Hincapie is older and he has never been a mountain man, but he is setting tempo like he has never set before. Armstrong is clearly dominant and presently riding as strong if not stronger than ever. None of these things make a great deal of sense when correlated with age, not that they are so old as to preclude their riding at a high level. But they are clearly riding in a higher gear than everyone else.
CSC is the only team that has been able to keep pace with USPS, and Basso the only rider. Basso was nowhere on the radar charts this year and now he is dualing with Armstrong on the steepest cols. I wish there were an emoticon for confused.
The one thing that has completely caught me off guard is how demoralized some of the top contenders have become. Mayo climbs off the bike and wants to quit. Why? Heras' crash was not catastrophic, yet he still loses what, 20 minutes?
Zubeldia apparently had an injury that forced his retirement as did Hamilton.
I hope Ullrich is smart and doesn't throw in the towel. There are still 4 hard days remaining, three in the Alps and the ITT. But he is down on a rider he defeated in the TDS, Totschnig. Go figure.
Transition Dirtbag, Kona Roast 2002 and specialized BMX
I don't know too much about it. But I heard one of those brit announcer guys saying there overall pace (average speed) is faster than in previous years (unless I misheard them) Could it be burning them out quicker?
there overall pace (average speed) is faster than in previous years
That's the only explanation I can think of... the peloton is burnt out by the accumulation of two weeks of fast tempo. Thing is, it hasn't really been *that* fast, or at least not until the last third of each stage, when they decide to chase the break-away.
Maybe, just a lot of things just went wrong for the other big GC contenders:
Ullrich - too much weight loss too late, and too much effort to get TdSuisse win just prior to TdF
Mayo - peaked too soon... scoring new Alpe d'Huez record
Hamilton - there's no evidence of this, but maybe peaked too soon, plus dog dying.
Heras - the LS team is still in shambles from last year. Robertos training program just isn't up to snuff.
Beloki - seems to be his own worst enemy. I'm guessing he didn't have time to come back from last year.
Meanwhile, people nobody has been paying attention to come to the fore, e.g. Kloeden & Voeckler. Both European Nat. Champs, so they can't be too shabby. Basso has kept a very low profile so nobody has paid much attention to him prior to Le Tour.
That's an awful lot of planets that have to be perfectly aligned.
Or USPS has bought off all the other GC contenders!