Thursday, July 4, 2013
5 things to know about Tour de France
MONTPELLIER, France -- Here are five things to know as the Tour de France enters its seventh stage on Friday:
1. LOTTO'S LOTTERY: Thursday provided mixed fortunes and emotions for the Lotto-Belisol squad. The morning mood was despondent after team leader Jurgen Van den Broeck, fourth overall last year, pulled out because of a crash injury to his knee a day earlier. Tough luck for the Belgian: He had also dropped out in 2011 after a brutal downhill spill that left him with broken ribs and a fractured shoulder. But after a bus pep talk by team manager Marc Sargeant and a skillful ride, Lotto shared hugs of joy at the Stage 6 finish after burly German rider Andre Greipel bulldozed his way to a sprint victory at the end of a flat 110-mile ride from Aix-en-Provence to Montpellier. Mused Greipel: "Sometimes happiness and sadness can be so close together."
2. MORE MISERY: Flat stages often elicit tense, high-speed racing as riders jostle for position in the pack. Thursday's hot, windy conditions didn't help -- and a lack of luck bore down on the Astana team. Its Slovenian team leader Janez Brajkovic, who won the Criterium du Dauphine in 2010, dropped out after injuring his chin, breaking a bone in his left hand and opening a deep gash in his knee after crashing into a traffic island during the stage. The spill left him dazed and seated on the road asphalt before he got up to finish -- but the damage was done. His teammate Fredrik Kessiakoff of Sweden also abandoned the race; he couldn't keep up amid pain from injuries to his elbows, right forearm, chest and left knee in a crash a day earlier. The team from Kazakhstan is down to six of its original nine riders: Andrey Kashechkin dropped out earlier in the race.
3. HISTORICAL REVISIONISM: With its revisions, and names and feats crossed out, the Tour's official history guide is starting to look like a kid's homework book: a complete mess. The reason? Doping. Organizers have gone through the tome with a pen and ruler. Lance Armstrong's name and all seven of his wins from 1999-2005 have lines through them. So do 20 of his stage wins. Lines have also been drawn through the names of George Hincapie, Levi Leipheimer and David Zabriskie, who testified to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency that they were involved in doping while riding with Armstrong. Authors of the "historical guide" had already been forced to rewrite history even before Armstrong was exposed last year as a serial doper. There's an asterisk next to the name of Bjarne Riis. More than a decade after Riis won the 1996 Tour -- past the statute of limitations for penalties -- the Dane admitted to doping. Tour historians' erasers may soon be busy again: A French Senate panel later this month is expected to name other riders who doped in the 1998 Tour.
4. PEANUTS FOR PRIZE MONEY? The Tour can pay out more in glory than in bank notes. Take the Orica GreenEdge team. The payout they will get -- for all nine riders and support staffers -- for winning Tuesday's team time trial is $12,900. Individual stage victories bring just over $10,000 to the winner, $5,000 to the second-place rider, etc. And riders do also cash in on individual sprints and mountain climbs. The biggest prize of all goes to the Tour winner. The man who takes home the leader's yellow jersey gets $581,000 along with it. Daryl Impey of South Africa, who seized the yellow jersey on Thursday, said he didn't even know how much he was owed for the Orica GreenEdge time-trial victory. "Money? I don't know how much it was, but we don't do it for the money, we do it for the pride, you know?"
5. MOUNTAIN HORIZONS: On Friday, the Tour continues its westward swing, negotiating four moderate climbs that will serve as an appetizer for far more severe ascents in the Pyrenees, beginning Saturday. The riders start Friday where they ended Thursday, in Montpellier, and ride 127.7 miles to Albi.