Sunday, July 17, 2005
Wow, what a stage. 205km over six major climbs, culminating in the hors categorie Pla-d'Adet. Wow. George Hincapie is the only rider that has been by Armstrong's side through all six Tour victories (and it's really starting to look like seven).
George is also the only Armstrong teammate to win an individual stage of the Tour in that time. USPS and now Discovery Channel were built from the ground up to win the Tour for Lance, each year making small improvements to the line up to make a victory possible. On a few occasions, they tried to get the supporting players a stage win. They tried a couple of times in 2003 to get Roberto Heras across the line first, but Joseba Belocki was just to close. Last year, they put Floyd Landis into a break, but he ended up having playing a tactical role in a victory for Lance.
The truly amazing thing is that George isn't supposed to be climbing mountains. He's a talented racer, but a big guy. His strength has always been the single day Classics, especially in the spring. Races like Paris Roubaix. Although, over the last three years, you see him more and more in the mountains, putting on that Prefontaine pressure.
I followed the stage today via www.cyclingnews.com's live update (no OLN for me this year). So I'm sitting in my office, frantically clicking "refresh" as the leaders ascended Pla d'Adet.
Wow. What a day.
In the picture, you can see a white armband on George's right arm. It says "Fabio" on it. Ten years ago, Motorola racer Fabio Casartelli died while descending the Portet d'Aspet, and the riders passed his memorial on that descent today. Hincapie and Armstrong were Casartelli's teammates.
In the last seven years, the race passed the Casartelli memorial in 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 and this year. Armstrong won the day in '01, '02 and '04, only losing out to Gilberto Simoni in '03 (the year of his 5th victory and most questionable form). In '05, it was Hincapie.