Ian comments on the happenings in the world of cycling.
So the Tour has finished for another year. Maybe life can get back to normal for me. Living down here in <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" /?> Australia, if you want to see anything other than a nightly 30-minute slot, we have to keep the coffee brewing as live broadcasts begin at around . Is it worth it? You better believe it! I can?t imagine a more wonderful feeling than that which I felt last Thursday, propping myself up on my desk, fuelled on disgusting amounts of thick, strong coffee having had a little over three hours sleep after watching the Alpe d?Huez time trial. Hell, this was bike racing, this was the Tour and what a stage this had been! Never mind the stage, what a race we were treated to. <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" /?>
Armstrong showed that last year was merely a blip on the road being ploughed out by the Postie Express, carrying their leader on to become the greatest Tour rider of all time. That?s right, the greatest Tour de France rider of all time. Over the past six seasons, Armstrong has won the prologue, individual and team time trials and the mountain stages. He?s often won on his own up until now but this year, just as he did way back in 1993 for his first ever tour stage victory in Verdun, Armstrong showed that he could sprint and win from a small group. Yes, he?s not won as many stages as Merckx, for example, but I think it?s probably fair to say that there are now a greater number of challengers shooting for the Maillot Jaune than there were in the 70?s and that it would be unfair to judge all Tour winners based solely on stage wins or days in the yellow jersey alone. Look at the bigger picture here, see where this guy has come from and see what he?s done for the sport. I work with a bunch of people who wouldn?t even know what a bike looked like if it slapped them around the face but they all know who Lance Armstrong is. It?s only my humble opinion and I?m sure you won?t all agree with me, in fact, I?m sure it?ll probably be the hot topic in bunches and cafes the world over for many months to come. And here?s something else for you to mull over, should he continue or should he retire? Personally I?d love to see Armstrong moving on to tackle some of the other great races in our sport, paving the way for some of the younger riders to really scrap it out next July but then again, the prospect of seven tour victories in consecutive years?
Besides Armstrong, new talent has emerged in the legs of Ivan Basso, Andreas Kl?den and Thomas Voeckler; three riders destined to be banging on the podium door for years to come. Iban Mayo had, in all fairness, a disastrous July, but he?ll be back stronger than ever and I?m sure that one day we?ll see him celebrating in Paris. Jan Ullrich has again, eventually, proved