Wednesday, July 06, 2005

French force Armstrong into yellow jersey

Ah, the French. They are so easy to hate because they make it so easy.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Tour de France, world's premier bicycle race, the overall leader after the previous day's stage has the honor of wearing a yellow jersey in the current stage, and he wears it until he loses the lead. Lance Armstrong of the U. S., who has won the last 6 consecutive Tours, a feat never before equaled, won yesterday's 4th stage and also has the overall lead, therefore rights to the yellow jersey.

However, he quite likely won yesterday's stage due to a last second crash of the leader at the time, fellow American David Zabriskie. It is a Tour custom that if a rider earns the yellow jersey due to an unfortunate crash of a rival, the winning rider refuses to wear the yellow jersey. It is a sign of respect for the unfortunate invovlved in a crash. According to a Tour history,
in 1971 Eddy Merckx didn't wear the yellow the day after he'd won it because leader Luis Ocana crashed on the Col de Mente climb.
In 1991 American Greg Lemond didn't wear the yellow after winning it when Rolf Sorenson broke his collarbone during the final kilometer of a stage.
And in 1998 Erik Zabel refused the yellow for a day after leader Chris Boardman crashed out.
Lance Armstrong's response, as a true sportsman, was:
"In light of the tradition of the last 30 or 40 years, no one really takes it if there is a crash" involving the race leader, Armstrong told reporters. "We decided to leave it empty today."

"For me, it wouldn't be right to wear it," he added.

Armstrong's Discovery Team director, Johan Bruyneel, also added, "It would have been likely that Zabriskie would have kept the jersey," Bruyneel said. "You don't take the jersey from somebody who has crashed out."

"I watched the replay of the crash on television last night," the six-time champion said, "and without that crash, Zabriskie would still have the jersey. So I didn't feel correct about wearing it."
But wait, it's an American who has rubbed the French snooty noses in it for six consecutive years. So the French race officials go to the fine print in the rule book and come up with a rule that states that the previous days winner must wear the yellow jersey.

When the Texan was wheeling toward the start line, however, officials insisted that he had to wear the yellow jersey or face ouster from the race.

"If you don't start with that jersey, you don't start the race," Armstrong quoted officials as having said. "So I said, O.K., give me that jersey."
Armstrong is probably lucky that French race officials didn't allow him to race today without the yellow jersey and then disqualify him from this years race and ban him for life.

Here's what the Minneapolis Star Tribune, newspaper of record for the guys at Power Line, reported:
Armstrong forgoes yellow jersey in Tour de France's fifth stage
Lance Armstrong set off today with the Tour de France lead, but decided against wearing the yellow jersey that he earned a day earlier.

Citing "respect" for Zabriskie, Armstrong opted to forego the privilege of wearing the yellow jersey for the fifth stage.
Oops. He wore the jersey all day. If their intrepid reporter could have waited for another 15 minutes before filing this bogus report, he could have told the sports fans in Minnesota what actually occurred.

To be fair, I found this error in more than one newspaper report. There was no wire service credited, so it must have been some freelancer selling reports to more than one newspaper. You get what you pay for, boys.

UPDATE: Via Wade's World. The threat that Armsrong would not race tomorrow WAS a threat to disqualify him. The "tomorrow" referred to Thursday's Stage 6. So Armstrong, thinking quickly, started the race without the Jersey, but as soon as the peloton hit kilometre zero of the official start, 187 riders stopped while Armstrong put on the maillot jaune.

Linked to:
OTB - Armstrong a good sport.

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