Lance Armstrong’s Analysis of the 2019 Tour de France

Le Boss traveled to Santa Fe, New Mexico, on July 3 to launch this year’s edition of THEMOVE, his daily podcast covering the 2019 Tour de France for Outside. If you tuned in to our recaps last summer, you know that, as commentators go, Lance Armstrong punches hard but seldom punches below the belt. And unlike the milquetoast play-by-play and punditry the networks deliver in their coverage—it’s tough to bite the hand that feeds—he’s not afraid to rip into Tour organizers, team managers, competitors, and drunk fans making a nuisance of themselves. Lance knows what plays. But with the help of his inquisitive non-cyclist sidekick, JB Hager, and the thoughtful (and better-looking) former pro George Hincapie, who brings a welcome calming influence to the show, the Redacted One also provides the most insightful Tour analysis we’ve seen. 

Our coverage begins with a preview on July 5 and Stage 1 on July 6, then wraps up three agonizing, dramatic, bloodstained, and glorious weeks later on July 28. Live television does a decent job of showing you the race. But it takes Lance, George, and JB to explain what the hell just happened.   

Stage 1: Fuglsang Draws First Blood (His Own), and Sagan Gets Poached by an Unknown

Remembering Paul Sherwen: [Lance and George took a minute to remember the racer, team manager, and longtime race commentator who was there for George’s first race as a World Tour rider and was still on the scene 19 years later for his last.] Lance: I miss Paul. We were friends for a long time. 

Another Nod to the Manx Missile: George: How can you leave him off the squad? It’s Mark Cavendish. He’s won 30 stages. He should be there. 

Lance: I’m not trying to be critical about Mark. I love Mark. But he can’t finish within the time cut. You can’t go to the Tour de France if you can’t finish with the group. Mark Cavendish would not have been better than fourth place today.

Lance and George Make their Picks for the Overall Win: Lance: I basically said in the preview show that Jakob Fuglsang was my pick. But his Tour ended today with his crash. I believe that. [A bruised knee and a cut above his right eye sent the Astana captain to the doctor, but he finished without losing time.] 

George: The crash should never have happened. Lance crashed once in seven and a half years. That’s hard work, not luck. For me to see Jakob in the middle of the group, that’s unacceptable.

Lance: You have to use the team to stay on the front. Crashes happen in the front, too. But the stats show they happen more in the middle and back. Now he has a big cut on his eye, lots of blood coming down. Everything is different after a crash. You sit different. You ride different. You think different. He’s done.

George: I have a dark horse pick, which is Vincenzo Nibali, if he has truly recovered from the Giro. We’re talking about one of the best bike handlers in the bunch. And Geraint Thomas crashed again today. I’m picking Nibali. 

Lance: He’s one of these guys that as soon as you pin a number on his back he’s a favorite. He can ride a bike.

A Surprise Winner Takes the Yellow Jersey—By Inches: [Dutchman Mike Teunnisen from Team Jumbo-Visma beat Peter Sagan by a bike throw in today’s stage.]

Lance: His leader Dylan Groenewegen goes down and then it’s Peter Sagan in front… Nobody  would have picked Teunissen. He’s the first Dutchman to put on the yellow jersey in 30 years. That’s too long for a country like Holland. But he’s not a complete unknown. He won the amateur Paris-Roubaix as a junior and has won some races this year. As he came to the line Sagan gave him a look like, Who the fuck are you? It was that tight of a finish.

George: I think Jumbo is going to keep winning at the Tour especially if Groenewegen recovers. But today it was Teunissen that said “see you in the douches” to Peter Sagan. That means see you in the showers. 

As Predicted, Geraint Thomas Hits the Deck Again: Lance: My source at Team Ineos confirms that he’s fit and flying, but their biggest concern is how much he crashes. It’s not his fault. It just happens.

A Full Gas Stage: [The peloton averaged 44.5 kph according to George’s early calculation.] George: I would have guessed it would have been a little easier today. The team directors were probably saying last night to stay out of trouble and save something for the team time trial. But the last 70 km were fast.

Concussions in Cycling: [A crash in the final kilometer left a racer seemingly unconscious in the road. He was seen moving after the crash.] 

Lance: If you take a big hit like that in most other sports there’s a protocol and they’ll pull the athlete off the field. Not so in cycling. This is not football or hockey. That guy hit the deck hard and didn't move. It’s time that cycling institute some concussion protocols. 

Team Time Trial Tomorrow: Lance: This is the earliest I’ve ever seen a team time trial. I have to give a shout out to [Outside contributor] Joe Lindsey. He pointed out over a tweet that today’s crash is relevant for tomorrow. The teams start in reverse order tomorrow and Team Ineos was last because of the crash. That means they go first tomorrow without having the benefit of seeing the splits. 

George: We used to get that message from [former U.S. Postal Director] Johan Bruyneel. “I need three of you to finish near the front so we get a good placement in the team time trial. That didn’t happen with Ineos today. 

Shut Up Jens? [Lance takes a gentle dig at commentator and former pro Jens Voigt, who is enthusiastic but whose German is a bit tough to understand.] 

Lance: Jens Voigt is still on TV. Ugh.

Listen to the full episode of THEMOVE here.

Preview: Chris Froome's Momentary Lapse of Judgment. And What's Your Prediction for the Fight, Champ? 

[Lance and Company’s first 2019 TDF podcast came to us live from Santa Fe, New Mexico, home to THEMOVE media partner Outside. Stage one begins this Saturday, July 6 in Brussels—home of the legendary Eddy Merckx. But first, in this preview episode, Lance, George, and JB talk about the road ahead.]

Doom and Gloom Without Froome and Dumoulin: [The two biggest general category stars are out of the 2019 Tour de France with Tom Dumoulin (knee injury) and Chris Froome (broken leg, ribs, and elbow) watching from home. Will this make for a dull TDF or will it mean more fireworks? Lance thinks it will bring the heat.]

Lance: Whenever you look at the TDF before the racing starts you look at the course and the athletes. On paper is the course is not overly exciting. But the athletes bring the drama. You can’t avoid the fact that Dumoulin and Froome are not here. But that almost makes it more exciting. It’s truly anyone’s race.

What Was Froome Thinking? Lance: What happened to Chris Froome? If we believe everything we read, he was out pre-riding one of the time trials on his aero bike. As the story goes, he had taken a hand off the bars to blow his nose. But in a video just before the crash he’s putting a raincoat on with no hands on the bar. The bike was shaking. And we know the ending. His teammate was telling him not to take risks, it’s a pre-ride. This is totally unacceptable, especially from a veteran rider like Chris Froome. He’s 35. That’s a potential career ender. I don’t see him coming back.

George: It was a momentary lapse of judgement. I tried to remember the times I took both my hands of the bars on a time trial bike and the answer was never. Those bikes are twitchy. I’d like to see him come back. I’m not going to count him out yet. 

[The boys also bemoaned the absence of U.S. fan favorite Lawson Craddock (the guy that rode the entire Tour with a broken scapula last year) and sprinting superstar Mark Cavendish.] 

Lance and George Handicap the Favorites

Last Year’s Winner, Geraint Thomas: George: I’m interested to see how he rides this year. Everything went perfect for him last year. But this year he has not had the same buildup. 

Lance: I’ve heard that Thomas is riding really well right now. But I’m guessing he has less than 20 race days in his legs. We tried to get 40 days in before the Tour. That 20 extra days of riding in the group in a race setting can’t be discounted. Especially with somebody with less than perfect bike-handling skills like Thomas. 

George: The hard crash he had at the Tour de Suisse will be in the back of his mind. I see that as a bit of an issue.

The Colombian Prodigy, Egan Bernal: Lance: I don’t know a lot about Bernal because he’s only 22 years old. But he’s had some incredible results this season. I find it hard to believe that a 22-year-old can win the Tour de France though. The one thing I was worried about earlier was that, as a skinny Colombian climber, he wouldn’t be able to handle himself and the bike. But in the Swiss Tour he came into a corner hot. Ninety-nine percent of the peloton would have crashed. But he pulled it out. Then I learned that he was top three in junior world championships on the mountain bike. You have to be a good rider to finish that well. He can handle the bike. 

George: There are mental mistakes to be avoided too though. The chances of a more veteran rider having a bad day is less than a 22-year old. 

Danish Pro Jakob Fugslang: George: He has to be one of the favorites. Very complete rider. Podium contender if not the winner. 

Lance: If he wants to win, this is the year. He has the experience, the form, and the team. If somebody was going to force me to pick a favorite I might pick him.

The Yates Bros, British Siblings Adam (Team Leader) and Simon (Climbing Lieutenant): George: I like those guys. They’re super aggressive with a strong team [Mitchelton-Scott GreenEDGE] behind them. 

Inconsistent French Star Thibaut Pinot: George: He’s a candidate for the podium in my opinion. We’ll see him up there.

Inconsistent Colombian Star Nairo Quintana: Lance: I’ll stop short of saying he’s a choker, but there’s always so much expectation that he doesn’t deliver on. The Colombian story in this year’s Tour will be Bernal. The Colombians want their first winner. 

George: Quintana has won a Grand Tour before. He has the experience. I agree he hasn’t lived up to his potential. I won’t count him or Rigoberto Uran out. Between those three Colombians, one might be on the podium. They are all 1,000 percent committed to the sport. Living thousands of miles away from your home does that to you. 

Lance: But Quintana is splitting team leadership with Mikel Landa and Alejandro Valverde, and Quintana. Hard to manage that situation.

A Nation Turns Its Lonely Eyes to Romain Bardet: Lance: Lot of question marks about his form. But he could be playing possum. I think his team is better than they were. It’s not a bad team. And there aren’t any major time trials so he has a chance.

Lo Squalo dello Stretto (“The Shark”), Vincenzo Nibali: Lance: Never say never. He’s won the bike race before. He’s leading the team. He did the Tour of Italy. He’s a real bike racer. 

Tough Season for Richie Porte: Lance: I believe he can win the Ironman one day. He grew up a swimmer.

George: He’s not living up to his potential this year.

Peter Sagan for the Green Jersey: Lance: I think he looks better. He’s my pick for the stage one yellow jersey. The finish is 4.5 to 5 percent uphill. That’s challenging enough that the others won’t be fast. He’ll wear the green jersey too.

George: He’s been altitude training in Utah. He’s in good form.

Why Just One Wimpy Time Trial? Lance: This pisses me off. It’s the Tour de France, the greatest bicycle race on earth. And it only has 16 miles of individual time trialing. Now you bring all these other players that can’t time trial back into the fold. Including the French guys. It’s unacceptable. But maybe it will be more exciting because of it. 

Who Takes the Stage 2 Team Time Trial? Lance: I like Michelton-Scott. It’s a complete team. The thing you have to look at is that it’s truly an eight-man team. It has to be as balanced as possible. I wouldn’t discount EF Education First either. And Quick-Step has won 46 bike races this year. Compare that to Trek—all the money they spend and they’ve only won six bike races. 

George: I’m going with EF Education. Tejay [van Garderen], Simon Clarke, Michael Woods—they have a lot of strong rouleurs. 

Where is the Yankee Stadium of Climbs? [The 2019 race is devoid of famous climbs.] Lance: The only one we can single out is the Tourmalet. Typically you’d have that and Ventoux and Alpe d’Huez. This year they go up the easy side of the Galibier. Where is the Yankee Stadium? We’re playing at the Little League field. 

George: I think we won’t have a lack of hard finishes at this Tour—although we won’t have recognizable names.

Three More Americans to Root For (in Addition to Tejay)

Ben King Lance: If you want to root for an American this year, Ben King is a great story. From his site: “When I’m guttered out in some windy wet field, eating road dirt from the wheel in front of me and suffering like a pig far from home, it’s nice to know that people actually care about what we’re doing.” 

Chad Haga George: He won a stage at the Giro. I was super excited to see him win that time trial. Maybe he’ll win the time trial here too. 

Joey Rosskopf George: I’m excited to see him back. Really pulling for him.

Listen to the full episode of THEMOVE here.

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