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TdF Blog: Carmichael and Armstrong Might Know a Thing or Two

timv's picture
In his Tuesday journal entry, Chris Carmichael made some rather prescient remarks about Tour de France strategy:
I was watching today's stage with Lance Armstrong and several other people, and at one point during the race, Lance and I talked a bit about the difference between racing conservatively and aggressively.
During his reign as Tour de France champion, Lance was adamant about seizing every opportunity to gain time on his rivals. The idea was to build a cushion between Lance and his nearest competitors in case he ran into problems later on in the race. A one-minute lead can turn into a three-minute deficit in just a few kilometers, and Lance and Johan Bruyneel always said they'd rather defend a lead than fight to catch up.
If you're in the lead, you have two options. You can follow other riders, and as long as you stay with them you don't lose any of your lead. Your other choice is to attack and build an even bigger lead. If you get into a situation where you're behind, there's only one option. You have to attack and drop riders who somehow gained time on you already, and there's never any guarantee you'll be able to do that.
The one thing that's certain about the Tour de France is that anything can happen, to anyone, at any time. Having the yellow jersey and several minutes of time in hand gives a rider a margin of safety; losing one minute of a six-minute lead isn't a cause for major concern. Losing one minute of a one-and-a-half-minute lead puts the yellow jersey in a stressful position and lends encouragement to the challenger.

I guess they pretty much nailed that one. It's a fair question to ask whether Floyd actually could have put more time into his rivals last week and early this week, and whether it would have been enough to matter when the bad day did come. But they sure did see it coming.

Then there's this comment from his Wednesday entry:

If Oscar Pereiro wins the 2006 Tour de France, there will be a lot of riders and team directors kicking themselves about letting him recoup a 28-minute deficit with one breakaway performance in Stage 13.

The Phonak strategy made good sense to me. Landis was protecting his position against riders like Kloden, Menchov, and Sastre. Those other guys were threatened by Periero more than Landis was, and by soft-pedaling at the front, Phonak was sending the message that those other teams should work to close the gap for their own sake. None of them took the hint, and they might be regretting it now. Pereiro sure looked strong on Wednesday. Carmichael comments that, "he was one of the only riders who didn’t look shattered as he came across the finish line." And the differences in time-trialing abilities among the top four or five contenders don't seem large enough that you can rule any of them out automatically. We'll know more in an hour and a half or so.


roadskater's picture

TDF 2006 Phonak Follies If Landis Rode Beyond His Team

Regarding that last paragraph, I think Phonak probably didn't have the budget for domestiques that Armstrong's teams did, particularly later on. I could be wrong, but it seems to me that neither CSC nor Phonak had the horses to take their riders up consistently without blowing it for the day or having a lot of resignations in the process. Perhaps this is not entirely fair to CSC, as they seemed to me second best teamish to T-Mobile (TMO).


For Phonak I felt the weakness was fairly clear, in that, give as they might, it would be mostly early on that they could help, except for Axel. I'm not an expert but this is how it seems. From my very limited viewing capabilities, via internet only and usually the last half or third of a stage, it looks like to me that Klöden and the other fuchsia lot had a real team later into the day, just ahead of CSC. I haven't looked at team stats as I write, so this could be bunko. But really if Landis or Pereiro or Sastre take it, they'll mostly have ridden the hard parts alone, and T-Mobile is tough but I don't think they have anyone close enough now to win.


One nice thing is the French, or some of them, have done well, and the Spaniards seem to really be building a nice future. Again I haven't studied the stats, but I sure have been inspired by much, and disappointed by very little, once the tour got under way.


It's interesting how little we've heard from or about those who were banned. And I wonder where Vino is these days, and if he'll get mixed up with the others on his team. I certainly hope the TdF can get back to a day where we can feel that whatever they accomplish, it was done withing rules that are clearly defined and easily enforced. Well that's another dream I guess. But the tour had a better year by not allowing monster performances that would be in question than going the way of some sports, cooking the record books forever for short-term gain.


timv's picture

Landis and His Team

I agree with your comment about the Phonak team, Blake. I saw them all there on the ride into Paris and wondered where they'd been the whole race. Perdiguero crashed out in the last week and Robbie Hunter was eliminated on time in the final ITT. But Floyd had six other teammates with him and other than Axel Merckx, who did a fantastic job coaxing him to the finish of la Toussuire and might have saved his tour, they had been mostly invisible.


I know they had work to do fetching bottles and snacks and protecting Floyd in the peloton on the flat stretches, but every team does that. When it came to the mountain stages, there're didn't seem to be any climber who could go with him the way that Postal/Disco always did for Lance. (Notably Floyd did lots of that in '03/'04.) Last year, that would have been Pereiro's job.


It was interesting after one stage (Alpe d'Huez I think) when Landis make the remark about his team showing that they were stronger than some people wanted to think. But he himself had given up the yellow jersey because he didn't want his team to have to defend it. I suppose that's what he had to say, but that seemed a bit like typical locker-room "nobody believed in us but we believed in ourselves" talk.


But it all worked out in the end.


Good observation about the French and Spanish teams and young talent too. I looked at the white jersey results and saw that 4 of 9 of the Française des Jeux riders were in that category. That's a pretty young team.



July 6
On Tuesday, the Kazakhstan sponsors of the soon-to-be Astana cycling team have bought the remaining shares of former team manager Manolo Saiz. Present at the deal was Tony Rominger, who is rumoured to become the new manager of the squad. Former pro Alexander Shefer has been named as a directeur sportif for the team.
July 21
Former T-Mobile manager Walter Godefroot is set to return to cycling by managing Alexandre Vinokourov's Astana team, according to yet to be published information from Belgian newspaper Gazet van Antwerpen. Following the chaos that led to the team not taking part in the Tour de France, and the subsequent transition to an all-Kazakhstani sponsorship, top rider Vinokourov saw that there was a need for an experienced manager. He turned to Godefroot, who retired from T-Mobile last year and has always had a good relationship with Vino. Godefroot will take care of the managerial issues, including the renewal of the team's ProTour licence. Astana should take part in the HEW Cyclassics race in Hamburg, Germany, on July 30.


For those who don't follow this really closely, the new Astana team was formerly Liberty Seguros/Wurth, and before that it was the powerhouse ONCE team. US Postal/Discovery director Johan Bruyneel rode for ONCE for about half of his career.


I thought this was also interesting regarding T-Mobile:

July 25
Were Ullrich, Oscar Sevilla and Rudy Pevenage the only ones to be shown the door? The German rumour mill is working overtime, outlining a palace coup in which the riders are banding together to boot out team manager (and owner) Olaf Ludwig as well as sport-technical director Mario Kummer.
The Tagesspiegel reports that after the suspensions of Ullrich, Sevilla and Pevenage were announced on the Friday before the Tour, "the seven remaining riders withdrew for a joint training ride and to discuss whether they even wanted to ride the Tour. Afterwards, Matthias Kessler, apparently the new strong man on the team, told Olaf Ludwig that the team had decided to ride the Tour, and how it would ride the Tour. 'We want to be in it and we want to win it,' said Kessler. And this was why Ludwig was downgraded to the role of a helper to the team, which pretty much led itself."

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