Sunday, July 19, 2009

Uncovered: Tour de France conspiracy

As many of you know, I'm on a self-prescribed blogging taper as RAGBRAI gets fully underway. Putting my entire blog training plan at risk, I decided to put in a little post today as some material was simply too good to pass up.

Anyone following the Tour has undoubtedly seen or heard the drama that developed when Big George got away in a break with some serious horsepower that managed to stay away. The US-based team Garmin-Slipstream worked hard on damage control for some vague unknown reason, with a little help from Astana in the beginning.

Armstrong: “When the break got to be about five or six minutes, we put two guys on the front so it didn’t get to be 10 or 11 minutes. There were 13 guys in the break and two guys riding moderate tempo. That is by no means a chase. It’s the Tour de France. You can’t let a break have 15 minutes. When George became the virtual leader, AG2R decided to ride. We immediately stopped, everybody back in the peloton. They started to bring it back, and they got it down to about a minute. Then Garmin came and closed the rest.”

This caused Hincapie to miss being in the yellow jersey by a mere 5 seconds. Big hit for George, great guy, helped Armstrong win all of those tours, late in his career, and really just deserved to be in yellow.

Bruyneel: “I think it was more personal, or a clash between two American teams, and one American team not wanting another American team, or another American guy, in the yellow jersey. I don’t think that is nice. Everybody, of course, has to decide what they want to do, but I think if you start to race against others having his moment of attention. If Hincapie takes the jersey, I don’t think it affects anything in terms of Garmin’s race.”
Being George you had to imagine he was pissed, and he was. Lots of friends in Garmin and worked so hard as a lieutenant for Lance all those years. I knew there had to be more to the story, and to get that extra information I turned to the pulse of cycling, recreational riders such as myself who simply watch the Tour. The following is true depiction of a conversation overheard this morning.

Cruising along by myself, enjoying the scenery, I started to overtake a small group of 3 friends on a small incline. Not wanting to be one of those riders who gives it everything he has to pass someone, then dies 30 feet in front of them, I decided to hang behind and wait for another small incline where I could pass without "wasted efforts".

I mentioned, "hey, just letting you know I'm back here. Let me know if that's ok, not really feeling the power to pass you right now." The rider in front indicated it was no problem at all, while simultaneously surging to pick up the pace.

Lead Rider: "Did you hear what happened in the Tour the other day? Just goes to show there is more going on then what we're told."

Chase Rider: "What happened?"

At this point the lead rider was picking up the pace so much he was dropping one of his friends and a good-sized gap was growing. I proceeded to pull up along side the friend and ask if he'd like me to pull him back to the group. He gave me a sort of angry, "no just go", so I swung around and caught back up to the lead rider, anxiously wanting to hear the rest of the story about the Tour conspiracy.

Lead Rider: "Some American rider was very upset because he was positioned to be in yellow and some Swiss team worked to close the gap."

At this point I wasn't sure how to respond, I assumed the American rider mentioned was Hincapie and the Swiss team mentioned was Astana, but even having a hard time getting excited about watching the Tour at times myself at least I knew that much. The little devil on my shoulder told me to construct an amazing story about the politics involved with the move and hope like hell to hear the story propagated to legendary status, but just at that time they pulled off to wait for their dropped friend.

So the inside story on Hincapie not being in yellow is, "Some American rider was very upset because he was positioned to be in yellow and some Swiss team worked to close the gap." I know this new and highly enlightening information was worth the 2 minutes used to read this blog. Have a safe week out there and back to my taper.


BadBeard said...

Brilliant theory! As a brit I'd like to think that Garmin forged ahead to keep Mr Wiggins in the game. Go Bradley!

Bike Lemming said...

That could easily be BadBeard. Reportedly Dave Zabriskie said they were just "pawns in the game" and Wiggins said, "[I don't] quite understand what went on today. George Hincapie is a legend and deserves to be in yellow tonight!", so it sounds like they had no idea either.

Poor George, no wins at Paris Roubaix despite desperately trying to hard at it all those years and no yellow either.

Richard said...

Some American rider? (rolling eyes) A "Swiss" team? ... Maybe they were talking about the MS-150. I hear it can be brutal.

Bike Lemming said...

Ha ha, I know. Not knowing who Hincapie is not acceptable, but not even knowing Astana, that's way out there.

Nick said...

Big George is just too big to wear yellow. The jersey wouldn't fit, they did him a favor.

I feel worse for Levi. The man has been a machine.

Anonymous said...

I have been a Tour fan for years but stopped following pro cycling entirely after the doping wars just wore out my patience. I am only marginally following this year because the real cyclist in the house is interested again due to Lance's return (don't get me started). I agree that George seems like a nice fellow but it boggles my mind that people think all the teams have some kind of obligation to award him the jersey?! I'm sure there were reasons, whether logical or not, for the teams on the front to be asked to pull, and isn't Lance the one who once said "no gifts"?