Armstrong To Ride in 2005 Tour de France

Greg Galitzine : Greg Galitzine's VoIP Authority Blog
Greg Galitzine

Armstrong To Ride in 2005 Tour de France

Lance Armstrong confirmed today that he would take part in this year's Tour de France.

Armstrong announced his initial 2005 racing schedule, which includes the Tour de France, next month's Paris-Nice classic, the Tour of Flanders and the Tour of Georgia in the United States.

Mar 6-13 — Paris-Nice
Apr 3 — Tour of Flanders (Belgium)
Apr 19-24 — Tour de Georgia (USA)
Jul 2-24 — Tour de France

This is exciting stuff. I’m glad Lance decided to ride in this year’s Tour, rather than put it off until 2006, when he would have had an even more difficult time defending his streak of six consecutive wins. No longer sponsored by the U.S. Postal Service, Lance's team now competes as the Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team.

The Paris-Nice race will be an indication of early season fitness and will also serve to show which riders are the biggest threats to Lance in July. Last year, only Ivan Basso proved to be a contender, with would-be challengers like Jan Ulrich and Tyler Hamilton essentially falling flat.

This year’s Tour de France will feature two stages in Germany, continuing the long-standing tradition of having at least one segment of the 3,500 km race in a country outside of France. As for the difficulty of the race this year, I personally can’t imagine anything tougher, but the experts seem to agree that this year’s course will run slightly easier than in 2004. Here’s an excerpt from a report I found on describing this year’s course:

The race route […] is more spread out and diminishes a large emphasis on one or two stages. The result:  [2005] could be hard-knock fight for any single team or rider to control, placing a pricey premium on team strategy and tactics.

The race kicks off in the western Vendee region with a 19-kilometer time trial before beginning a clockwise loop around the country. The time trial, instead of a short prologue that is traditional Tour protocol, will likely allow pre-race favorites to make their mark early.

Riders will also see more climbing stages. The peloton will zoom in the Vosges Mountains in the eastern Alsace region during Stage 9, climbing the historic Ballon d'Alsace 100 years after the same climb became the first official mountain pass in the Tour.  

This climb does not rival the Alps or Pyrenees in terms of difficulty, however its narrow sinuous roads are deceptive and tricky. In 1969, Eddy "The Cannibal" Merckx took control of the race here, winning his first ever Tour stage on the way to his first of five Tour victories. And in 1997, climbers Richard Virenque and Marco Pantani put yellow jersey leader Jan Ullrich into a panic with a surprise attack. 

Organizers have also added a final climbing day in the Massif Central only four days from the finish with a stage leading to Mende. It was here in 1995 that Frenchman Laurent Jalabert scared Miguel Indurain, another five-time winner, with a long breakaway on the steep climb towards the town airport for a stage victory.  

But while the early time trial and moderate mountain stages promise to provide diversity, the emphasis on the Alpes and Pyrenees as well as time trialing will be slightly eased. 

Only one other significant time trial, a 55-kilometer affair on the penultimate day of the race, is scheduled. Three stages will end with mountain-top finishes in the Alps and Pyrenees. 

"This year's race will be dense, with difficulties more spread out," said Jean-Marie Leblanc in his overview. "The course is such that it should be animated practically every day. We wanted to open up the battlefield so the favorites could take more initiative." 

And, while Lance Armstrong has to be the favorite (it’s tough to bet against a guy who’s won six of these things in a row) riders to watch this year — if they’re able to stay healthy — are folks like Alexandre Vinokourov, the ever-present Jan Ulrich, Ivan Basso, Levi Leipheimer, to name but a few.

I might just cancel my Cablevision service and get a satellite dish instead; at least this way I can watch some of the cycling season on Outdoor Life Network. (OR MAYBE CABLEVISION WISHES TO START CARRYING THAT CHANNEL???) Side benefit: I would be able to sign up for Cablevision’s triple play (VoIP, digital cable, high-speed data) as a new customer after three months, thus getting the full triple play pricing advantage that’s currently unavailable to me.

You knew I’d work VoIP into this article all along, right?

Featured Events