Sunday, July 27, 2003

Well, Lance Armstrong has won his fifth consecutive Tour de France, joining Miguel Indurain of Spain as one of the two men to accomplish said feat. Jan Ullrich of Germany was second and Alexandr Vinokourov of Kazakhstan was third. Today's stage was largely ceremonial, since it was held over a flat course; everybody can keep up with the peloton when the course is flat and the stage win goes to one of the several guys at the front who sprint the final couple hundred meters or so--but nobody gains any overall time on anybody else in the general, as opposed to stage, classification. Time is gained and lost on the mountain stages and the time trials.

Yesterday was the last competitive stage of the race, a time trial ending in Nantes. As soon as I saw the weather I said, "Looks good for Lance". It was cool, wet, and windy, just the kind of weather Armstrong likes and American cyclists often do well in. (It is said that Mediterranean riders don't like the bad weather, sort of like dome teams in American football.) Then I saw Jan Ullrich on this weird bike with the handlebars way low, more aerodynamic but harder to control and balance, and the announcers said that he'd never used this bike before in competition and I said "He's gonna crash". It was a nasty time trial and guys were crashing all over the place, including the stage winner, David Millar of Great Britain, who got up and just kept going. Ullrich left next to last and he was pushing the curves to the limit on the wet asphalt. Armstrong, knowing he had more than a minute to play with, didn't take risks. Ullrich couldn't gain any time on Lance, though, and two-thirds of the way through he did crash. Fortunately, he wasn't hurt, but that put the kibosh on his chances. Millar was first, Tyler Hamilton was second, and Lance was third. Great day for les anglosaxons.

The reaction of the Spanish commentators was perfectly reasonable; of course they were rooting for the Spanish riders, but they were fair to everyone else. It was clear that their sympathies were not with Armstrong, but that's understandable since it's much bigger news if someone beats the champ than if the champ wins another one.

Can Armstrong win next year? Who knows. He just proved he's still the best, but he won by only a minute this time, not by six or eight like he has in the past. However, there are no truly brilliant young stars coming up to take his place, though there are, of course, a lot of excellent riders. How about this: I wouldn't bet against him.

In other sports news, FC Barcelona plays Juventus tonight in Boston in a game that I will be boycotting due to Barca's hypocrisy in dissing America and then going there to make some big money--they'll receive $1.1 million for their American tour, $800,000 more than they got for playing against Qadafi's son's team. Watch out for flying pig heads.

Barcelona forward Patrick Kluivert had a few difficulties getting into the US. Seems he has a conviction for vehicular homicide and reckless driving in Holland. He was also acquitted once on rape charges. Anyway, Dutch people normally need just a passport to get into the States, but convicted felons need a special visa. Kluivert forgot this, which is kind of dumb of him because we already refused him entry once a couple of years ago. So he shows up at the airport, flies off to Boston, and they don't let him in because he doesn't have his visa. They sent him back to get the visa here and he'll be back in the States on Monday. Of course, he misses tonight's game.

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