Tour de Lance

Lance Armstrong

Unless you have been living under a rock you know that the Tour de France started yesterday and that the biggest plot going into cycling's premier event in Lance Armstrong's attempt to win a six straight Tour.

This will be Lance's last year in the Tour, but it will also be his most difficult. The Tour has fewer time trials and fewer uphill finishes this year. Lance has typically distanced himself from his competition in the mountains and in the time trials. Fewer opportunities to put time between himself and his competitors will force Lance and Team Discovery to concentrate and focus on preventing the little mistakes that add precious time to a rider's total.

The element of teamwork is vastly underappreciated in the Tour. Lance depends on his Discovery teammates to protect him from other riders who would try to pass Lance. If you have ever seen some of the massive bunches that the 200 or so riders are forced into towards the beginning of the Tour then you understand the importance of having other riders to protect you.

Lance also drafts behind his teammates which helps Lance to conserve his energy for the uphill battles and time trials. Being the first rider with his face in the wind drains a considerable amount of energy from the lead rider, while allowing the riders behind him to conserve their energy. In the marathon that is the Tour de France having a good lead rider can be the difference between finishing first and second place.

I touched on the importance of teamwork on the Tour because many people have mentioned that this is one of the weaker teams Lance has had in a few years. While Team Discovery in not nearly as weak as the U.S. Postal Team from 1999 when Lance won the Tour, it is not the best team Lance has been on. Lance will to work harder this year than any of the few previous years to win the Tour.

At the same time I think this will be one of the most dominant Tours for Lance. Much like Jordan and Tiger, Lance has excelled when the pressure is on. Cycling requires more mental concentration than any other major sport. One little slip up or spill can cost a rider a race.

The other rider to watch in the Tour is Jan Ullrich, the Frazier to Lance's Ali. Ullrich is the strongest rider in cycling besides Lance, and dominates the other cycling competitions. He has finished second to Lance multiple times in the Tour but last year he finished closer to Lance than he ever had before.

As of today, Lance is two seconds behind the leader, Dave Zabriskie, after the second stage.

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