Twitter is all a-tweet with carping about Lance’s move today in the Tour. Lance rode off with a breakaway that opened a nearly 40-second gap on the peloton, which included most of the favorites. Good old Lance, you can always count on him to do the right thing in the clutch!
Lance of course is supposed to be “supporting” putative team leader Alberto Contador, as well as secondarily teammate Levi Leipheimer. Didn’t happen today. Probably isn’t gonna happen. As I’ve noted before, we all know who’s the leader of any team Lance Armstrong rides for.
I can see a conspiracy here, because team Columbia led the breakaway, and they’re American-based (San Luis Obispo), they speak English, and they have a notable Friend of Lance (George Hincapie) on the case. Maybe they slipped Lance a word on their strategy.
But Columbia couldn’t have prevented Contador and the others from joining the break. Plus the weather conditions facilitating the break — variable side and head winds — weren’t predictable enough to warrant a nefarious plot pre-stage.
Finally, we’re only talking half a minute here. Yes, seconds matter in the Tour, and yes, Greg Lemond beat Laurent Fignon by 8 seconds in the closest Tour on record.
But this early in the race, 30 seconds matters little. We’ve got a long way to go to Paris.
In reality, Lance probably took advantage of a random opportunity. But if you want my real take on conspiracy theories, it’s this: Nothing draws media attention like a little internecine spat at the start of the Tour. And no one is a bigger media magnet than Lance. Put the two together, and you’re guaranteed the big bucks that come with worldwide marketing hype.
There’s a chance Lance will take the yellow jersey after tomorrow’s time trial, but that’s only if the whole team really works to promote Lance. If there’s a less-than-100-percent effort from some high-profile team members whose initials may be A.C., we’ll know the gloves are off internally in Team Astana. But I doubt that will happen. Instead, look for an all-out effort, Lance getting the yellow for a day or two, and then things going back to normal with Alberto asserting himself as soon as the mountains loom.
My theory meshes with the report from a French rider that Contador let the break happen deliberately. Contador’s/Team Astana’s strategy: Give Lance his day or two in the sun. It’ll get worldwide notice, juice interest in this year’s Tour, Lance will be happy, and in a day or two the race can get back to May the Best Rider Win (as long as it isn’t Lance!).
Velo News: Was Lance sending Contador a message?
Universal Sports: “You have to pay attention,” Lance the Wise One tells his slow-witted teammate Contador.
Bike Radar: Contador deliberately let the break get away.