Thursday, June 30, 2005

Who Lance has got to beat

The Seattle Times: But if anyone can defeat Armstrong in July, it will probably be Armstrong himself.

Good point--how much motivation is a seventh victory?

Four men have won the Tour 5 times; only Miguel Indurain has won five consecutively, as Lance has:

Jacques Anquetil (France): 1957, 1961, 1962, 1963 1964

Eddy Merck (Belgium): 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1974

Bernard Hinault (France): 1978, 1979, 1981, 1982, 1985

Miguel Indurain (Spain) 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995

This kind of streak has occurred roughly once a decade; Anquetil, Merck, Hinault, and Indurain are, respectively, the 60's, 70's, 80's, and 90's. But all these guys are retired (if not dead); none of them is ever going to threaten Lance's streak.

Additionally, Indurain's window was continuous and recent enough that not many others have had the chance to win between his streak and Lance's. After Indurain and before Lance, there were only three winners:

Bjarne Riis (Denmark): 1996

Jan Ullrich (Germany): 1997

Marco Pantani (Italy): 1998

So these guys are the only ones who have a chance a the moment of matching or exceeding Lance's streak. But any one of them would have to win 5 more to tie or 6 more to beat Lance, and that task is going to take a while. The fact that their victories are 7-9 years in the past is no help, either--this is definitely a young man's sport (for the most part; there are exceptions, of course).

Bottom line: Lance's record is going to stand for a long, long time, whether or not he makes #7. As a result, he just may not be quite motivated enough this year. But, as quoted yesterday, if the race is to be won in the mountains, that is on his home turf.

(best name I've seen so far belongs to a 28-year-old Spaniard, riding for Spain on the Liberty Seguros team: Angel Vicioso)


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