The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom. - Wm. Blake

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Vino to Seguros!

OK, I didn't talk about the Tour while it was going on, largely because I don't have cable, so all I caught was reportage by others, and it didn't seem like I had much to add. Also, frankly, I was rooting for Lance, and so was everyone else. Where's the fun in that?

But one of the most interesting stories of the Tour was Alexandre Vinokourov, the Kazakh national champion who rode with T-Mobile. (Quick background: most teams that have a rider trying to win the whole thing have a single leader, like Lance with Team Discovery Channel. T-Mobile has been 1997 Tour-winner Jan Ullrich's team for years, but last year the young Andreas Klöden actually came in ahead of Jan). T-Mobile had 3 contenders for overall winner, and apparently had no plan for dealing with this. Klöden failed to repeat his great 2004 run, so that was that, but Vino chafed under the limitations placed on him all three weeks.

In the final week, you actually saw the spectacle of T-Mobile chasing down Vino when he'd try to break away! It was like a catcher tipping pitches, or a lineman tripping his own back. In a great personal victory, Vino took the final stage on the Champs Elysees, beating out the sprinters who traditionally win in what is otherwise a parade atmosphere. Doing that jumped him into fifth place overall, but before the race was even over, it was public that Vino would not return to T-Mobile. Where would he go?

Jan Bruyneel, Discovery's director and Lance's guru dismissed Vino, which took me a bit aback. Vino had to find a strong team, but one without a clear leader. I've just learned that he ended up with Spain's Liberty Seguros-Würth, which had pinned its hopes the last two years on Roberto Heras. Heras had been Lance's super-lieutenant in '02 and '03 (his toughest ride), and was a spectacular climber. I liked him, and looked forward to his GC contention, but it turns out he's not a contender. Instead, he's riden like a bum, which is what he is.

OK, not quite, but he wasn't even climbing the way he used to, and it's become clear he'll never win. But perhaps he can be for Vino what he was for Lance. Everyone likes Ivan Basso for next year (he came in 2nd the last 2 years), but I think I've got my favorite.



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