Armstrong Stage Win...So Close and Yet So Far...


Well, if you were watching the Tour de France yesterday, it was a whirlwind of emotion.  Personally, I woke up to the exciting news that Lance Armstrong was in a breakaway with about a 10 minute lead on the main group with only 30 or so KM to go.  Excited, I ran over to my computer in the hopes of finding some free service to watch the end of stage 16.  I eventually found one at cyclingfans.com and managed to grab a couple screen shots to talk about the action (They're not great quality...but I don't happen to be in France right now on the back of a media motorcycle with a foot long camera lens...although I'd like to be).

In the above shot, you'll see that "Groupe Armstrong" has about 15km to go.  I'm not sure if Carlos Barredo had broken away at this point yet, but it was right around here.  That guy gets the Thierry Marie award of the day (that award goes to the guy who breaks away for the longest amount of time without eventually winning the stage).  It was ridiculous, Barredo sat there about 20 seconds ahead of the group until the last kilometer or two.  I was starting to think they weren't going to pull him in...but apparently they were just playing games because when they really wanted to, they shut Barredo down relatively quickly.  Still, it looked a little reckless with the stage on the line, etc.  However, I guess those guys know what they're doing.
In this image you see Lance (21).  He's just kind of biding his time while Chris Horner works like a beaten mule to keep things under control so Lance has a chance to win.  Seriously, I bet Horner was as lathered as a hard-worked horse by the end of the event.  He was HAMMERING it, keeping the race under control, doing everything so that Lance could get the stage at the end.  Excellent work Chris!However, at the end of the day, Lance just didn't have the legs.  He made a bit of a sprint, but it wasn't going anywhere.  He seemed to be on the wrong guys wheel and he also seemed to figure it out pretty quickly.  He sat up before he even got to the line, and even Chris Horner passed him.  I don't know, after the effort that Horner gave earlier in the day, it would have been nice for Lance to push through all the way to the end.  But I suppose when you're used to winning 7 consecutive TDFs, one little stage isn't enough for you to really get all that worked up over.  More than ever, it is pretty apparent how much of a swan song this is.  Lance's heart just doesn't seem to be in this event like it has been in recent years.  Hats off to him for continuing along and making moves like the one we saw on Stage 16.  The spirit is willing but the body just doesn't seem to be there.
That's how it turned out.  It almost would have been nice to have Armstrong working for Horner (remember the Tour DuPont bike spike that brought Horner to fame all those years ago?).  Somehow I think a stage win has more value for a guy like Chris Horner than it does for Lance at this point.  Still, when those last few kilometers were ticking off, I felt my heart rate go up significantly and I started to reminisce about all those great Armstrong stage wins from the Motorola days.  It's a rare thing to be able to watch a guy like Lance Armstrong race the TDF, and sadly, those days are numbered now.  We'll see what's yet to come, but I'm thinking that stage 16 is as good as it's going to get for Lance in 2010.


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