Howdy everybody -- Greetings from Barcelona. Sorry about the slight delay. Looking forward to fielding as many TdF questions as I can over the next 50 minutes!
Bonnie,One of the questions yet to be answered is whether Lance's ability to put in a tough stage and then do it again the next day is the same as it used to be. We'll probably get part of the answer when the Tour hits the mountains, but I was wondering if there's been any word on where Lance's VO2 max is these days. It usually goes down as we age. He reportedly had an insanely high VO2 max (c. 85), but that was a few years ago.Thanks
Hi Tom -- Great question. We won't know the answer to that for a bit, as tomorrow's mountain stage is followed by a rest day. And... we don't know if LA will be a protected rider for his team yet.
Your thoughts on how the ear-piece ban may affect the race and/or specific riders during Stages 10
I'm curious to see. It's not as if they're going to race with earplugs -- riders will do things the old fashioned way, dropping back to the team car for info and getting time gaps from the race officials on motos. The ban applies only to car-to-rider radio -- directors will still have race radio. Biggest effect may be psychological. The Tour organizers tried to pick stages that were interesting but not decisive for the overall -- though as we found out a few days ago, sometimes "predictable" stages have unpredictable outcomes.
In your opinion, what is the Queen stage of this race. I have yet to hear anyone talk about one. Is it Mont Ventoux?
It's the queen, king and ace of spades. I really do think the podium will be decided that day... we may have the top three secured but they could be shuffled.
Why do the organizers believe that radios are a problem? That entire experiment seems ridiculous.
Hi Ken -- There is a school of thought that the car-to-rider radios make racing a little too PlayStation-y. Tour organizers floated the idea of doing the entire race without them, but got a lot of pushback. The athletes have gotten used to having them and they can be critical for safety. I personally wonder if there will be more team cars slaloming around to try to communicate. It is what it is -- an experiment that could go well, or not.
Do you think Lance will make his move today, or will he wait until the mountains to try to make his move to get the yellow?
We don't expect a change in the overall standings today, MIke. The biggest question is whether the breakaway will stay clear or whether the sprinters' teams will bring everyone together for a mass finish. The gap is pretty small right now (1:28) with 40 K to go, and under normal circumstances catching the break would be a slam dunk.
Bonnie, what is the likelihood that Astana will sort out its leadership roles in the first mountain stage tomorrow? If they don't, for instance because Contador and Armstrong finish together, at what point might we expect to see one of them working for the other?
That is the billion dollar question, and there are as many theories as there are reporters in this room. I think it'll be game on tomorrow.
Astana has four legitimate GC contenders. Is anyone going to back down in the mountains, or will we see a series of within-team attacks?
Leipheimer and Kloeden are not here to win, but could pursue podium ambitions depending on how things play out.
Lance and Bruyneel have a long history together, do you think their relationship will play a part in Team Astana dynamics as they search for a number one rider on the team
I do, Dillon, but I do think Bruyneel wants a winner, and if Contador were clearly stronger he would invest in that horse.
With many top contenders out of the running after below-average TTT results and various crashes, who is a dark horse to look out for going into the mountains?
Great question -- we were just talking about that very thing around the water cooler yesterday. Could be someone under radar, but it will be hard to elbow through the Astana crowd. Monfort or Rogers could get into the mix from Columbia. Saxo Bank's Andy Schleck (who was included in most people's lists of pre-race dark horses) is still well within striking distance.
Isn't this Tour really suited for the climbers? If so I gotta think that Alberto has a huge advantage to win. Lance is a good climber, but not in the same league.
That was most people's thinking going in, for sure. 11 years' age gap is significant. We should get a more definitive radar readout tomorrow.
Just had a crash, folks, Michael Rogers involved.
Haven't teams had 2 "leaders" before? Hinault and Lemond were on the same team, right?
Yes, it's not that uncommon, but can lead to some interesting cloak-and-dagger stuff. Many, many tactics in cycling are open to subjective interpretation and what happened with LeMond-Hinault is still a Rashomon type debate.
Tremendous volume of questions, thanks! I'm trying not to lose contact with the peloton...
Can CVV win or podium?
It would be a heckuva story if he did. The acronym stands for Christian Vande Velde, who fractured five vertebrae, his pelvic bone and a rib in early May in the Tour of Italy.
Given the language barrier between Armstrong and Contador, have the two riders discussed strategy as to who will be the top rider? Also, do you think Armstrong will be able to continue at this torrid pace considering that he is a geriatric rider who had retired from the sport for 3.5 years?
I don't think they've had any deep discussions. Armstrong said last week he really didn't know Contador. There's a lot of race left and in some ways, the gun goes off tomorrow.
David Millar is off the front by himself. Huge story if he pulls off a stage win but odds are long at this point. Could really turn on weather conditions... 25 K to go, 1" gap.
Is Montjuich really that difficult? it is just a small hill for chrissake!
Yeah, but after 180 nervous K... if it's a bunch sprint, that's a painful little interval.
At what point will the GC contenders (Menchov, Sastre, Evans) attack Armstrong and Contador to make up this time lost so early?
I think some guys are going to have to try to make up time tomorrow...
How come the Tracker isn't up and running today? I am missing all the action and have no idea whats going on.....
We'll try to get an answer for you, Brett.
Bonnie, Earlier in the week we saw a crosswind wreak havoc on the draft. Does you forsee any more wacky wind days or does it seem to be dying down a little?
It's been wacky all week and I don't expect the rest of the Tour to be without tricky weather.
Is Lance in position to get the yellow jersey?
Not today unless something strange happens.
With Lance near the lead will the Tour test him more than a normal rider considering they all think he was cheating before anyway?
He's been tested an awful lot going in the nine previous months and I expect that to continue, as it will for all the top guys...
Millar is doing a time trial at the front...
Let's say Lance breaks on the climb and Contador proves to be clearly the stronger. What does this do to LA's image and or reputation? Will it depend on how well he takes a subservient role?
I suspect whatever happens will be Shakespearean, and fascinating.
The last time Lance Armstrong competed in the Tour de France, there were concerns about his safety - to the point that an armed bodyguard even rode behind him in the team car during time trials. Has this issue been raised during this year's Tour? If not, what changed?
There is always a police/security presence around the Astana team, and believe me, they need it. Their team bus is always dangerously mobbed by reporters, "VIPs" and fans. No talk of any individual threats to Armstrong, but I'm sure they wouldn't share that with us anyway.
Folks, I'm going to have to go -- stage is careening to a finish. Thanks so much for joining me today.