Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Independence day!

The celebration of Independence Day is pretty subdued here in France. Actually, it's downright nonexistent. Weird. I celebrated as best I could by eating a cheeseburger (not an easy thing to find in France), drinking beer (the price of Budweiser here is shocking), and then lighting a trash can on fire and pretending it was fireworks. Oh well.

Team SRAM Red 2012 p/b Bojangle's still maintains the lead in the Luna Cycles Big Deal Fantasy Tour de France presented by Uncle Chuck's New School Pregreaser, but there is a lot of shifting around going on below that and some teams may be starting to come into their own now that the first few days of unpleasantness have gone behind us.

The big news was the large crash that occurred toward the end of the stage and which sent Mark Cavendish to the pavement. With his heart not really in the Tour this year and his focus firmly set on winning the Olympic road race in London in August, I'd be willing to bet he'll exit the Tour very soon. With Cavendish out, look to Andre Greipel to take the helm as the dominant pure sprinter of this year's race with Peter Sagan sticking his nose in with the pure sprinters, the rouleurs, the puncheurs, and any other categorization of bad ass you want to come up with. I'll bet the Liquigas boys start to rally around the Tourminator quickly given that Basso is not much more than a super-domestique and Nibbles Nibali hasn't come through as a rider that can close the deal, yet. While I'm in extemporaneous freestyle prediction mode, let me just congratulate myself on NOT picking Thomas Voeckler this year for my team. Voeckler's tremendous Tour performances follow a 10 year comet-like cycle and he will be retired before the next orbit is due to return. Last year was his last good year at the Tour and he will now fade into Tour obscurity (at least for this Tour). Sure, he may get a stage win, but he won't crack the top 20 in GC. Pierre Rolland on the other hand is looking to make a jump to a bigger squad and should uncork something pretty spectacular in the mountains.

In honor of the 4th of July, let us remember all of the American pioneers in the Tour de France:

Jonathon Boyer was the first American to race in the Tour de France in 1981.

Greg Lemond was the first American to finish on the podium of the Tour de France with 3rd place in 1984. Lemond was also the first American to win the Tour de France in 1986.

Andy Hampsten was the first American to win the White Jersey of Best Young Rider at the Tour de France in 1986 with an overall finish of 4th place. (His La Vie Claire teammates took the top 2 podium steps the same year - Lemond 1st and Bernard Hinault 2nd) Andy Hampsten is still the only American to have won the Giro d'Italia.

The first road stage win by an American was in 1986 by Davis Phinney, a fearsome beast of a sprinter.

With this Tour de France start, George Hincapie has bested Joop Zoetemelk for the record number of Tour de France starts with a staggering 17.

Laura Antoine became the first American Tour de France podium girl in 2009.

There is this near mythical story that I have read about in several places, but can't track down any definitive proof of an Italian-American cyclist in the 1950's, who stayed in Europe after the end of World War II and ended up racing professionally. He is believed to have raced in the Tour de France in the early 1950's, which would make him the first American to race in the Tour de France by three decades. If you know of anything pertaining to this story, I'd love to hear it.
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