The Lance Gambit and Stage 5


Lance and Johan are bluffing. But before I explain what I mean I just want to mention that because of the excellent ending of Stage 4 of the 2009 Tour de France, we’ll be live chatting Stage 5 on Wednesday. After that we’ll take a day off and then cover Stage 7, the first mountain stage–which is where Astana says the race leader will be decided.

Now back to the subterfuge.

When Lance said he was coming back to the Tour, he said he was going for the win. Then he said that they had to figure out who the team leader was. Then he said that they’d know by the first stage who the leader would be. Then he said that they’d know by the mountains.

I’m calling bullshit. After watching Johan avoiding answering direct questions about who the team leader is, I think they’re repeating the gambit they played in 2001 when Lance pretended to be in distress and then came back to crush the opposition. Writing for the Guardian, William Fortheringham wrote:

“A little grimace on Armstrong’s usually expressionless face, a little shake in his shoulders in the blue jersey, the fact that he was not riding right at the front: it all indicated that the man who had won the Tour for the previous two years by flying up the mountains was struggling.”

I think that’s what’s going on now, and I think that’s what we caught a glimpse of today. Lance’s playing the slightly aging guy who might not make it. And hey, if it turns out that Lance isn’t the strongest, then they’ve already laid the groundwork for someone else to come to the front and win it for the team.

Why is Brunyeel willing to do this? Because he’s going to join the Nike-sponsored team that hasn’t yet been announced, but will absorb the riders of Astana next year when Vino comes back.

****Editor’s note: My wife just pointed out that if the other teams read this, they’ll figure out the Astana strategy and I’ll have ruined the tour. Please don’t tell anyone else about this. Thank you.****


I’m not totally sure what your conclusion is, but my own is that any suggestion that Contador isn’t the leader or that he intends to win is just bluffing, his usual M.O.

Johan Bruyneel is not a master tactician who can overcome what he has to work with.  In ‘06, the best he could do is pretend that Hincapie is a GC guy.  The Next Big Thing (tm) just dropped into his lap the next season, Lance showed up again two years later… but deciding between the two is easy—with both proven winners, all you have to ask yourself is whether you want to hitch your wagon to the imminent past, or move on into the future.

Naah can’t agree with Champs, you hitch your wagon to the sponsor - and those bucks follow Armstrong and still will for quite some time.

Like Sherlock Holmes or was it Occam’s razor or something from a 70s detective show, possibly Columbo that said, “it’s usually the simplest thing.” I think it’s way less complicated and it isn’t Lemond and Hinault. There’s no way a team could ride that well in the TTT with any animosity at all. You can see it in their faces, Levi gesturing wildy before the corners. And if the reports that Contador gaped the peloton in the Stage 4 wind attack are true, then he had something to prove. They’re going for the win be it Lance, Contador, or Levi and geezus they’ve got 3 guys that can do it.

Also, credit should go to Hincapie for making le Tour into a race. I didn’t see it, but think he gave Lance a nod to jump on the train, cause it was leaving the station.

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