The question from this year's Giro d'Italia is no longer whether
That verdict came in last Monday. On the final, obscene climb of Stage 16, an instant classic, 147-mile, eight-Apennine, seven-plus-hour ordeal during which temperatures hovered around 100 degrees and the Astana team car ran out of water bottles, Leipheimer cracked like the Liberty Bell.
The 35-year-old was unable to match the accelerations not only of the men who are looking like podium shoo-ins --
That's right, when he isn't fetching bottles for his mates,
Barring a meltdown in Friday's climb up Vesuvius -- yep, they're sending 'em up the volcano; is this a cool race or what? -- or Sunday's tour-ending time trial in Rome, Rabobank's Menchov will win his third grand tour.
The question for stateside cycling fans now becomes: For whom will Leipheimer be riding six weeks from now in France? I doubt that Contador, who won this race in 2008 but isn't here this year, shed any tears upon seeing Levi crater on the Monte Petrano. With Astana rider
Ever since Armstrong coughed up nearly three minutes on the Alpe de Siusi on May 13, foreclosing his podium possibilities, he's looked sharper and feistier with each passing day. By the end of Monday's hellish Stage 16 -- many riders called it
And there was the Texan on Wednesday, surging from the main bunch on a punishing climb called the Blockhaus, nipping at the heels of eventual stage winner
After crossing the line, a spent, sinewy Armstrong was approached by a reporter. With a curt shake of his head, the Texan shut him down, as he has shut down all such requests for the better part of the last two weeks. Having kicked off this comeback with vows to open himself to reporters as never before, Armstrong now seems intent on executing an end run around them. Between his Tweets (
While the production values aren't what you would call exacting -- think middle school video tech class -- Armstrong deserves credit for having the discipline to churn them out regularly, and for his apparent determination to never resort to a second take. (The team car's warning tone goes off repeatedly during your analysis of Stage 16?
Nor is he daunted by taping segments with subjects who are, shall we say, less than voluble than himself. Levi is no one's candidate to conduct a filibuster, but the dude is
LA: "Here's some of the crew. Ryszard you've met before." [Soigneur
The camera pans to a husky man flashing a "hang loose" sign that is completely out of place, frankly, around any
"Correct," replies Alan. And so on in this vein. The video runs 3½ minutes but, like the Blockhaus, seems much longer.
Cycling's foremost cancer crusader and filter evader is doing video segments with riders requested by followers of his Twitter feed. Here's my suggestion: Sit down with Contador, Lance, and ask him who should be the team leader at the Tour. As long as you're climbing this well, you might as well try climbing into his head.