Over the weekend, several of Lance Armstrong's rivals abandoned the race including Tyler Hamilton, Haimar Zubeldia, and Denis Menchov. You know it had to be bad if Hamilton abandoned on a day when his foundation was running a fundraiser across the United States, that had cycling fans watching the stage in movie theaters.
Personally, I was shocked when I saw Tyler Hamilton climb into the van. He was able to survive the entire 2003 Tour with a collar bone fractured in two places, yet he couldn't climb effectively in this Tour with a lower back injury. For those of you who do not follow other pro cycling races, Hamilton has had a very good season, winning the Tour of Romandie in Switzerland, an important race to his Swiss-sponsored team.
The guy who has taken on the leading inspirational role in this year's Tour is Thomas Voeckler. He hasn't broken his collar bone like Tyler Hamilton did last year, but his never-say-die attitude has thrilled everyone I've talked to about the race. It also helps that he shows his enthusiasm when he finds a way to stay on the pace required for him to stay in yellow. He's also proven to be a good interview for OLN-- he speaks pretty good English.
There are some people whose performance hasn't made sense to me. Roberto Heras, for instance, has not had the injuries that Hamilton has experienced. There were also no concerns about his weight or form, as there had been with Jan Ullrich. In a column written for the Associated Press, Chris Carmichael said Heras may not raced have enough to reach his peak form. He did little racing in June, and I think it shows.
The big questions that remain in the Tour are:
- Did Lance Armstrong experience his entire share of bad Tour luck last year?
- Will Ivan Basso or Andreas Kloden have what it takes to seriously challenge Armstrong in the Alps and the flat time trial?