A Tour of missed opportunities

News & Results

07/17/2005| 0 comments
by David Cohen
A great win - but Hincapie is no threat for the podium. Photo copyright Fotoreporter Sirotti.
A great win - but Hincapie is no threat for the podium. Photo copyright Fotoreporter Sirotti.

A Tour of missed opportunities

The ?queen? -- Stage 15 ? is history.

The ?queen? -- Stage 15 ? is history.


Is the 2005 Tour de France also history? 


Probably ? as far as winner, Lance Armstrong, and runner-up, Ivan Basso, go.


The last podium position may change.  The Great Dane, Mickael Rasmussen, raced gutsily today after his poor showing in Stage 14, and he has a chance to make the podium in Paris ahead of Jan Ullrich.


Stage 15 kept its promise as the Tour?s greatest challenge?and potentially its greatest source of opportunity riding up the ladder of the GC.


But nobody rose to the challenge.


Except perhaps George Hincapie, the winner who found himself in a group of peloton escapees who built up leads as high as 18 minutes prior to the last four climbs.  They were whittled down to Hincapie and Oscar Pereiro (Phonak) on the final climb, and big George easily took the sprint at St-Lary-Soulan.



But Hincapie is no threat for the podium.


There was speculation that Armstrong himself might try something special on this very special stage.  But he contented himself, as he did on Saturday, with being a protector (of his GC lead) rather than being an animator.


He left that role to Alexandre Vinokourov (T-Mobile), who once again attacked at the critical point on Pla-d?Adet ? and then quickly faded, as he did during Stage 14.


Ivan Basso tried to escape soon after Vinokourov?s bid but his was a tentative thrust, and Armstrong, as he did on Saturday, got off his seat and quick-cadenced himself up to Ivan with little effort.


Basso, a very good time-trialler, will likely do well in the 55km 20th-stage time trial at St. Etienne, and thus be able to remain runner-up to Armstrong, as he was last year.


There will be those who will ask: was it a mistake for Basso to race in this year?s Giro d?Italia as well as the Tour?


Possibly, especially if not racing in the Giro would have increased Basso?s strength for the Tour. 



Lance Armstrong is as strong as ever but he is not overwhelming his opposition.  He has taken advantage of his opportunities, and has stayed out of trouble.  Unless befallen by some disaster, he will wear yellow in Paris.


But could a stronger challenger have toppled Lance this year?


That may well have been a more rested Basso.  Alejandro Valverde, who bested Armstrong mano a mano on the Courchevel in Stage 10, may have presented Armstrong with a real challenge.  But Valverde had to retire with an injured knee during Stage 13.


And Ullrich?  Discounting his bad-luck accidents before and after the start of this year?s Tour, could he have prevailed against Armstrong?   Perhaps, but not likely.  His climbing style, high-geared, steady grinding, can?t compete with Armstrong?s high-cadenced, low-geared dancing in the mountains.  At critical moments Jan grinds and grinds while Lance dances away. 


There were opportunities in this year?s Tour for Armstrong?s challengers but so far they have gone untaken, and will likely remain possibilities instead of realities.

Your comments
Your comments
sign up or login to post a comment