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Astana not part of the Tour!

Just when I thought Astana will be the team to beat in this year’s Tour de France, I find out that the team was not invited to participate. WHAT?! After building an awesome team led by Contador, Levi and Kloden, they don’t get to join? I understand that ASO is wary because of what happened in the past. But c’mon! It’s almost a totally different team!

I was really shocked when I found out. I’m actually lost. I don’t know who to cheer for. Will it be CSC‘s year, with Andy Schleck, who’s supposed to be the next Lance Armstrong? (Good luck to you boy!)

I’m so confused by all this.

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Crazy Tour de France

Yes, Tour de France 2007 is over. It was a weird tour – really exciting, disappointing, shocking – definitely a roller coaster ride for the fans. After my last Tour post, all the excitement and shocking news happened, from the Alps to the Pyrenees to the last time trial and to Paris.Vino, the number one fave (supposedly – he definitely wasn’t MY favorite) screwed up so much in the Alps that everyone was sure he was out of contention. But in true Vino fashion, he came back – and boy he came back HARD – during the first time trial. He was probably humiliated in the mountains that he made sure he was going to win the time trial. HE FLEW. He beat Cadel Evans, who came in second, by more than a minute. People were amazed, people thought he still had a slight chance, depending on his performance in the Pyrenees – but they thought WRONG. Vino was tested positive for blood doping which resulted in Astana pulling out of the race. How sad for the team who was doing so well overall. I was especially sad for Kloden – he worked so hard for Astana, for Vino, all for nothing. I kinda like the guy.

Rasmussen, the number one fave for the King of the Mountains jersey, delivered indeed. He attacked in one of the first major mountain stages (forgot which one), got the yellow jersey, and held on to it for more than a week. Everyone thought he was going to screw up the time trial, but he surprised everyone with a strong finish. He and Alberto Contador of Discovery Channel made the Tour so exciting in the Pyrenees, with their maneuverings and attacks and all, that it became doubly disappointing when Rabobank, his own team, withdrew him from the Tour. He was withdrawn right after he beat Contador in the last Pyrenean stage. The reason was because the team found out he missed doping tests during the training, and because he lied about his whereabouts. Now, see, here’s the thing. If he missed the doping tests, why was he allowed to join the Tour? UCI also needs some cleaning up, in my opinion.

Alberto Contador – bless him – gave us something to be excited about. He attacked like hell in the mountains, until he cracked in the last Pyrenean stage. Then he won the yellow jersey, and defended it with all his might during the last time trial. Levi Leipheimer was the leader of Discovery Channel at the start, but along the way the team realized it was Contador who really had a shot at winning. And just like in the movies (okay, fine, I’m exaggerating ’cause there are not a lot of bike movies out there), Leipheimer ended up being a domestique and brought Contador to the finish line during the last mountain stage.

I need to talk about Popovych too, because HE WAS THE MAN! He worked so hard in the mountain stages and his work helped the team and Contador. His work cracked the leaders, until there was no one left with Contador except Rasmussen, Leipheimer, and Evans. I love Popo! After Georgie, he’s my next fave from Discovery Channel.

I never paid attention to Cadel Evans in the past, but after this year’s Tour, he gained my respect. HE. DIDN’T. GIVE. UP. He was dropped so many times but he kept coming back! And he’s an awesome time trialist. I wonder if he’ll ever win the Tour. Next year, maybe?

The Tour was so exciting and the final time gaps of the Top 3 riders are evidence – they were all within 30 seconds of each other. How cool is that?!

But it’s over now. Time for the teams to look for new sponsors, because there have been a number of sponsors who pulled out already. Again, damn you doping riders! You are destroying the sport that is feeding you!

Yes, it’s over. Time for riders to defend themselves against doping accusations. Damn you doping fools, you are destroying the sport! I admit, I now doubt all winners, all great rides, all comebacks, because of everything that has been happening. And I find that sad, because I am a fan. I can only find solace in the fact that they are stricter now with the controls, and slowly but surely, it seems like the controls are working.

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Tour de France Review: Prologue to Stage 6

It has been crazy in the office the past week so I wasn’t able to closely follow the Tour! I’ve been relying on the headlines of the different cycling sites. Good for me that the first few stages are flat stages, which are not as exciting as the mountain stages. Thank God for the weekend, now I can catch up.

Ah, yes, the flat stages – ‘slower’ than other stages, not as exciting – but this doesn’t mean they don’t offer drama and interesting stories. Thanks to uTorrent, I was able to watch the Prologue and Stage 1. As I write this, I am watching Stage 5, first truly exciting stage with lots of climbs, including one that’s Category 2.

The Prologue was amazing! It was all about London – the weather was perfect, the backdrop was beautiful. All of the Brits’ hopes were pinned on David Millar and Bradley Wiggins. Poor Millar felt the pressure and ended up being 13th, the anchors said he felt like a newbie the week leading to the Tour. Wiggins did better, but it just wasn’t enough. Fabian Cancellara, the winner of the Prologue, F-L-E-W. He took so many risks and they paid off! Too bad for Stuart O’ Grady, when it was his turn he was the fastest at the time check, but he crashed in a nasty turn. My favorite Georgie was out to win, what with a very disppointing second place (by a few seconds!) finish last year, but he simply wasn’t good enough. He came in third after Cancellara and Andreas Kloden. Kloden did well and ended up in second place – is this a sign of what’s to come? Will Kloden do better than Vino? (I certainly hope so.)

Stage 1 was a typical flat stage. There was breakaway, which was caught by the peloton. And there were crashes here and there. The headline story though was that Robbie McEwen, a serious contender for any flat stage, was part of a crash and was left by the peloton. His teammates lead him back to the peloton just in time. And guess who won? From out of nowhere, Robbie surged ahead of the pack and won the stage! Even the commentators were surprised. Where did he come from? See, that’s the thing with Robbie, he finds these ‘holes’ within the peloton and brings himself to the front of the pack, sometimes without a leadout man, just going with the flow and following the leadout guys of other teams. I have so much respect for him because he makes sure he finishes the Tour, unlike other sprinters who give up in the mountains and end up abandoning. Boonen, anyone?

I wasn’t able to follow Stages 2-4, but I read that Stage 2 was won by Gert Steegmans. Surprising because he’s the leadout guy of Boonen, who was out to win because the finish was in his country, Belgium. In the end he let Steegmans win, I still have to check what happened to him. Stage 3 went to Cancellara and Stage 4 to Hushovd.

And then there’s Stage 5. It’s not a major mountain stage, more of a practice stage before the Tour reaches the Alps and Pyrenees. There is a Category 2 climb, 7 miles long, hard enough to cut up the peloton to groups, but not hard enough to destroy it to bits. There were lots of crashes, lots of them silly, but the major stories were the crashes that involved Kloden and Vino. Kloden‘s crash gave him a hairline fracture, we’ll see how that will affect his performance in the upcoming stages. Vino‘s crash caused him a few minutes, even if his whole team practically came back for him (except for Kloden). He is now a couple of minutes behind Kloden. What will this mean to Astana? We’ll see.

Some people think – what’s up with cycling? It’s just a bunch of cyclists racing. But there’s so much strategy to think about, there are mountains to be climbed, sprints to be won, and tactics to be used. With Stage 5 of the Tour, CSC needed to balance defending the yellow jersey and wasting there energy. Fabian Cancellara isn’t their leader, so CSC has to conserve their energy for the major mountain stages where Schleck and Sastre (their co-leaders) might need it. But the yellow jersey is the yellow jersey, and one should never disrespect it. In the end, he kept the yellow jersey. Good job.

Speaking of respecting the yellow jersey – I remember last year when I felt that Phonak totally disrespected the yellow jersey. The breakaway had a 30 minute lead on the peloton, and it should have been easy enough to defend the yellow jersey, but they practically gave it away. I was dumbfounded, and it truly showed how inexperienced Phonak was.

Speaking of CSC – I believe they have one of the best teams (I’m having doubts if Discovery is still THE best team out there). They have a stellar line up, they prepare intensely, and they strategize well. They just lack a standout leader. If they have one, they will win hands down. I absolutely don’t believe in co-leaders. The whole team should be focused on one person alone, it should be absolutely sure as to who the leader is. This is what made Lance win 7 times. Remember the T-Mobile mess with Vino and Ullrich? It was amusing to see how teammates are going against each other, and it definitely did not help in their cause at all.

Stage 6 was won by Boonen. Need to read up on that one.

I am looking forward to Stage 7, the first of the Alps stages. (I could have been there now, sigh.) There are 4 climbs, 2 Category 3, 1 Category 4, and 1 Category 1 climb. The leaders should start emerging in this stage – hey Levi, come out now! Please show me that you can indeed win this race!

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The Greatest Show on Earth


Okay, okay. I’m biased. I know that only a few people will agree with me when I say that. To those who don’t know yet, I’m talking about the Tour de France. It just started, and I’m so giddy with excitement!

I admit, this year’s Tour is plagued with many problems, number one of which is doping. It’s not unique to the Tour, it’s a problem of the sport itself. It’s sad, but the show must go on. Sad because all winners will be doubted now, sad because so many good riders are sidelined due to doping allegations. My line now is “May the best non-doper win.” But I’m still excited, because every year the Tour has surprises, every year it offers drama. I’m still looking forward to the great (and stupid) decisions of the different teams, the performance of the peloton, the breakaways, and drama of the climbs.

A lot of people think this is Vinokorouv‘s year, but I think the race is still wide open. Who knows, we might just be surprised along the way. (Remember Rasmussen?) But I agree that Vino has a good chance of winning, primarily because it seems that he has a good team. Astana did well in Dauphine Libere, too well for my liking. The team won at least 2 stages and they did well during the time trial. Their Tour line up includes not only Vino, but Kloden and Salvodelli as well. Kloden is a good climber, and this has been proven twice when he was part of the Top 3 for General Classification. Salvodelli has won the Giro twice. But they have yet to prove themselves during the Tour.

And what about my team, Discovery Channel? They started strong this season, having several stage and tournament wins, but they were a big disappointment during the Giro and even the Dauphine. I’ve never been truly impressed by Levi, their chosen leader for this year’s Tour. Damn, he was #26 in the Prologue!

Yes, off they went. This year’s Tour de France has started, and I’m still trying to figure out how to follow it. Bittorrent, please don’t fail me. Anyway, CSC‘s Fabian Cancellara won the Prologue, even without their Director Sportif, Bjarne Riis. Riis recently admitted to doping during the year that he won, 1996. The Tour has since then taken out his name in all official publications, and they mentioned that Riis wasn’t invited this year. Well, that didn’t affect the team at all. Kloden was second – there goes Astana! And my Georgie was third! I was surprised to see another Discovery rider within Top 5 – Vladimir Gusev. It would have been great for the team but their leader was #26 – a mortal sin I think for any good leader. Not within the Top 20! I am so disappointed.

Okay, time for me to search for videos on the Prologue…

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The End of an Era

Okay, so that’s a bit dramatic, considering that Jan Ullrich wasn’t really able to fully show what he’s got. Yes, he won the Tour de France once, and gold and silver medals during the 2000 Olympics. But unfortunately for him, his peak came at a time when Lance Armstrong overshadowed everybody else. I never liked Ullrich, I’d always shrug when I hear commentators saying “the most talented cyclist on the planet”. If so, then he wasted his talent. I feel that he didn’t prepare as much as he should have for the Tour, partying, not watching his weight, not training enough. I’ve never been impressed by him in the mountains, he looked as if he was always struggling, and I’m talking about the 1999 to the 2005 tours. He seems like a nice guy, just not as determined and disciplined. As Phil Liggett would say, if only Ullrich had Zabel‘s discipline, with his talent, he would kick everyone’s butt.

The Tour isn’t just about talent. It’s about having a good cycling team in which each member is dedicated to the leader, a good team director who knows how to react to any situation, and a support team dedicated to delivering and providing the best gear. The team should be disciplined, and each member should be a professional. Lance Armstrong did not win the Tour 7 times because he’s the greatest cyclist ever. I don’t think he won 7 times because of drugs. He won because he has the discipline – he studied and took to heart the science behind the sport, watching his weight, studying each component that can increase his speed even by milliseconds, pushing his support team to come up with the best bikes. He won because he studied each and every important turn of the course. He won because he rode up the mountains alone before the actual Tour. Sadly, Ullrich wasn’t like this. It seems that he relied on his talent alone.

Why the title? Jan Ullrich just announced that he is retiring. I guess the search is on for the next ‘most talented cyclist on the planet’.

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LiveSTRONG

This is the tagline of the Lance Armstrong Foundation, a non-profit organization founded by Lance Armstrong, 7-time Tour de France Champion, cancer-survivor. I’ve been wearing the LiveSTRONG band for more than 2 years now – as I’ve said before, it’s not a fad to me. I have found new meaning in the tagline, thanks to the wonderful song of Wideawake, entitled “Maybe Tonight, Maybe Tomorrow”. I posted video and the lyrics a couple of weeks ago, and if you listen to it carefully, you’ll realize that it’s a message for everyone who’s going through a really tough time, for whatever reason.

Things happen for a reason. This too, shall pass. This will only make me stronger. All cliches, but all so true.

I can do this. With the help of real, true, friends, who are always there. With the help of family who will never, ever leave me alone. By the grace of God. I will LiveSTRONG.

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My Hero!

Watched the last individual time trial of Lance‘s career last night – and he came out on top! He had the best time, 23 seconds ahead of Ullrich, who was number 2. He actually gained more time on his rivals in the general category of the Tour de France.

I pity Rasmussen, who lost the third spot because of all the crashes and bike changes. I’m guessing it was a combination of nervousness, bad bikes, and a bad mechanic. At least he has a consolation prize – his polka dot jersey. (Which I find really ugly, haha!)

Barring any mishap, Lance will ride tomorrow to his seventh, and last, Tour de France win. I admire him for retiring now – I truly believe he can do an eight. Will he do a Jordan and come back? We’ll see. I’m actually hoping.

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Le Tour

I was so pissed at Sports Plus! They kept hyping the Tour, and they even showed the schedule – Saturday, at 7:30PM. I waited, even if I knew it was only a 30-minute highlights show. On Sunday, they even had ads – The Tour, beginning Saturday 7:30PM. Stupid stupid! It was already Sunday! Good thing there’s TV5, always reliable during the Tour. Who cares if I don’t understand anything the commentator says, at least I see the action, for 2 hours! ANYWAY…

It was a good start for Lance Armstrong. He was number 2, 2 seconds away from Zabriskie (who’s doing well this year), and very far from the main contenders. Number 3 was Vinokourov, who was 50 seconds behind. I felt so bad for Ullrich when Lance had overtaken him – in the end though he was still one of the best at Number 11 – more than a minute behind Lance.

I was so happy for George Hincapie who was Number 4 overall!

Based on what I saw, the people Lance should watch out for are Vinokourov (more than Ullrich), and maybe Landis.

I cannot wait for the team time trial!!! :)

Go Discovery!

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Tour de France

It’s my second year of following the Tour and I’m loving it! Jovan and I made sure that we taped the Prologue, which is an individual time trial. It was important for Lance (Armstrong) to send a message to his competitors, and indeed he did! He clocked a very respectable 6 minutes and 52 seconds, only 2 seconds away from the leader, Cancellara (who, I must say, is such a cutie!). What’s more impressive is that Lance is way ahead of the major contenders from the general category (GC for short). Ullrich and Hamilton, two of strongest contenders this year, were more than 15 seconds away, at 16th and 18th place, respectively.

The next stages are gonna be a bit boring, ’cause no one can really pull away in the flat stages. The battle starts in the mountains, still stages away. I hope that Lance can maintain his standing, until the mountains. There, I hope he leaves everyone else behind.

I’m sure that some of you are wondering who Lance Armstrong is. He’s a cancer survivor who beat all odds to win the Tour de France 5 times (in a row). Yes, you read that right, 5 in a row. And yes, you also read that right, he’s a cancer survivor. He was diagnosed with stage 3 testicular cancer. He was told that his chances were less than 50-50 (I think it was 2o or 30 percent). The cancer had already spread to his lungs, and even his brain. But he made it, and he became a champion. 5 times.

He’s hoping to win his sixth Tour this year. If he does that, he will be the only man with that distinction. Currently, he holds the record of 5 Tours with 4 other cyclists, some of whom are his idols.


Go Lance!
(Photo from the Lance Armstrong website.)

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WHATTA WEEKEND!

The Tour
Lance Armstrong becomes the 5th man to win the Tour de France 5 times! And he’s only the second guy to do it consecutively! We knew this since the time trial last saturday but I didn’t want to celebrate because a lot of things happened in the tour, and there was still a stage to go. Lance Armstrong – what an incredible guy.

Badminton
I played badminton with Mads (finally, after a million invites from her) in Arena. I went for the exercise, but after the 1 hour game, I loved it! I’m now planning to buy a racket and play the game regularly. 😀

Thanks also to Mads, I took out my camera from my bag. I’m planning to take pictures again.

Coup?
And then the coup attempt. Or the situation in Oakwood. Whatever it was called, it was a very serious situation. Everyone was following it on TV, and the TV stations adjusted their programming schedules. The UAAP was cancelled for the day. I sympathize with the soldiers because I believed in their complaints. Thing is, the end didn’t justify the means. I didn’t understand what they wanted to achieve with what they did. I think if it’s just about making noise, there are a million other ways to do that. In any case, I’m glad it ended the way it did, with no bloodshed.

Current Book
I read Lance Armstrong’s book, It’s Not About The Bike, last night. I finished it in one night! I told myself that I’d only read a chapter, but I couldn’t put down the book. I ended up sleeping at 4AM.

It wasn’t written excellently, but that actually adds to its charm. You know that it’s him talking, about his story, his struggles, and triumphs. It’s a very inspiring book, and it tugs your heart. Think Tuesdays With Morrie, only more exciting.