2006 Tour was "loco" -- but magnificent!

News & Results

07/24/2006| 0 comments
by David Cohen
Floyd Landis - Tour champion! Photo copyright Ben Ross/Roadcycling.com/<A HREF="http://www.benrossphotography.com" TARGET=_BLANK>www.benrossphotography.com</A>.
Floyd Landis - Tour champion! Photo copyright Ben Ross/Roadcycling.com/www.benrossphotography.com.

2006 Tour was "loco" -- but magnificent!

Oscar Pereiro (Caisse d?Epargne-Illes Balears) called the 2006 Tour de France ?loco??Spanish for ?crazy.?  He was right?but this was one of the best <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" /?>
Tours
ever.

Oscar Pereiro (Caisse d?Epargne-Illes Balears) called the 2006 Tour de France ?loco??Spanish for ?crazy.?  He was right?but this was one of the best <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" /?>
Tours
ever.

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At its start, this year?s edition looked distinctly unpromising. Operation Puerto, the Spanish doping investigation, eliminated the two top contenders for the yellow jersey ? Jan Ullrich and Ivan Basso. Francisco Mancebo, another possible podium finisher, also was named in the investigation and sidelined.

But the Tour proved resilient.

 

Crowds lined the race routes and the riders rode magnificently.  And the villages, towns, and cities of
France
once again revealed their chateaux, soaring steeples, winding byways, and a thousand other attractions that make this country so tour-able.

 

 

This year, the Tour emerged from the Age of Armstrong.  For seven years Lance dominated the race.

 

Yes, he had his nervous moments, his brushes with fate, his magnificent triumphs.  But often ?too often ? the
Tours
des Lance were humdrum.

 

The Tour of 2006 was anything but humdrum.

 

Right up to the penultimate stage, yesterday?s ITT, the race was undecided.  Going into it, Pereiro, Floyd Landis (Phonak), and Carlos Sastre (CSC) each had a shot at yellow in
Paris
. Landis prevailed with Pereiro coming second and Andreas Kloden third.

 

Landis prolongs the American hegemony of the Tour de France. But he is a much different champion than Lance Armstrong.

 

He won this Tour without a great team behind him.  Neither does Landis have Armstrong?s talent.

 

 

But with sheer determination  -- guts ? he prevailed.

 

The 2006 Tour put the individual ? as opposed to the team ? back in the race.

 

The Tour began in 1903 as a race of individual racers, unaffiliated with anyone except themselves.  Mostly they raced alone, often in the dark.

 

This year?s Tour did not of course re-create such conditions; but it did see some magnificent individual efforts.

 

Jens Voigt?s daring solo victory in Stage 13, Oscar Pereiro?s vaulting into yellow on Stage 14 after being a half an hour down in the GC the previous week, Michael Rasmussen?s emotional solo win in Stage 16, and Landis?s amazing recovery in Stage 17 after his collapse the day before proved that individual effort still can make a difference in the Tour.

 

Landis at the start of Stage 16 looked like a sure thing for yellow in
Paris
.  His collapse with 18 km to go in that stage sent him on a slide down the GC to 11th place, over 8 minutes in arrears to Pereiro. He seemed done like dinner.

 

But his ride the next day was one for the ages -- an amazing victory ridden solo for about 125 km .

 

Never did a rider more richly deserve to wear yellow in
Paris
.  And rarely has there been a Tour de France as special as this one.

 

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