April 2006

By Graham Jones
Cycling Historian





Did You See That?

“Did you see that? He gave him the Armstrong look!” So said the commentator on our local TV station as we watched the 2006 Boston Marathon unfold. Not only did he give “the look” to the runner beside him but, in Armstrong fashion, Kenya's Robert Cheruiyot broke away and went on to win the 110th edition of the race.

It is at moments like this that you realize just how deep the Armstrong legacy has penetrated the American popular culture. But although the commentator did well to try and explain “the look” to his audience, he could do little more than say that it originally happened at the Tour de France.

It is this paradox that is so astounding about our sport. The Tour and the Yellow Jersey in particular, are possibly the most famous of sporting symbols. Yet beyond those images few can add much detail. As an example, my long suffering family has come to accept and even enjoy my passion for cycle racing. Yet still they have a big problem understanding how races like the Tour work. In 2005 on Stages 17 and 18 combined, Lance was almost 34 minutes behind the respective stage winners. He had not yet won a stage whereas two of his teammates had. “How come he is in the Yellow Jersey ?” This is how the general public views the race. They do not understand it, but they celebrate Lance's multiple wins with enthusiasm. And now it seems that even memorable moments like “the look” have entered the collective conscience.

Cycle racing fans are a little closer to the sport than the general public. They understand how the race classifications work. They know who the main contenders are. Their race viewing focuses on the big names but with days like Stages 17 and 18 in 2005 they are seen as “boring”. Watching a bunch of “no names” ride away from the field, stay out there for hours and then ‘stealing' the stage is of little interest to them.

Race connoisseurs savor their sport in the same way that a wine connoisseur appreciates great wines. The nuances, intrigues, dynamics and sheer complexity of the event are all there for the discerning connoisseur to enjoy. In 2005 before Stage 18's big break formed, Alex Vinokourov went hard for the first intermediate sprint at 13km. His second place earned him valuable seconds in his quest to move up the GC table. Following the sprint a group of notable riders formed a break. Discovery hunted them down. At about 40kms another break formed which contained no dangerous names in terms of the GC. Discovery and the other teams let them go and Marcos Serrano (Liberty Seguros) won the day in lone splendor. Behind him Discovery destroyed the peloton and Armstrong, Basso, Ullrich and Evans came in ahead of the remnants of the bunch.

So during last years Stages 17 and 18 we saw Basso trying to get closer to Lance. Ullrich was trying to eat into Rasmussen's lead in order to claim third place on the podium in Paris . GC places five to ten saw a daily struggle between Mancebo, Leipheimer, Evans, Vinokourov, Landis and Moreau. They were all eyeing the long time trial on the penultimate stage. Meanwhile the Points race and the Team race held their own dynamics to add more complexity to the daily battle.

So with the first of this year's Grand Tours just three weeks away you can look to CyclingRevealed to provide a daily “Race Connoisseurs” view of the Giro d'Italia.


“Did you see that?” We did!



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