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In the 18th stage of the Tour

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 23, 2004

In the 18th stage of the Tour de France, Armstrong chased down an off-the-bike rival, forcing a retreat from the breakaway group back to the peleton.

Reader comments

PaulJul 23, 2004 at 7:02PM

I’m missing the significance of what happened here. Can anyone explain?

djJul 23, 2004 at 7:15PM

Armstrong didn’t want Simeoni to have any chance of succeeding in the tour.

In 2003, Simeoni accused Lance Armstrong’s doctor of developing methods to avoid doping tests. Lance Armstrong called him a liar. Simeoni claims that this effective ended his career and endorsement opportunities (not the fact that he’s a crappy rider) and is suing Lance. Today, he wanted to be a part of a breakaway group that had a chance at winning a stage. Lance Armstrong rode to the front of the pack, and basically said “I’ll let one of you win, as long as you don’t ride with this asshole.” So they all “asked” Simeoni to return to the main pack, where he finished just behind Lance.

MikeJul 23, 2004 at 7:18PM

A 6 man breakaway was ahead of the main peleton. Simoni (Simeoni?) bridged the gap to it. Armstrong doesn’t like Simoni (Simoni is sueing him for slander after Armstrong called him a liar), so he bridged the gap to the breakaway himself, and had a word with Simoni. Simoni wouldn’t repeat what was said, and Armstrong wouldn’t elaborate, but Simoni dropped back from the breakaway with Armstrong. and rode at the back of the field for the rest of the stage.

The other main contenders let Armstrong go ahead, so they must have kown he too would drop back.

Bike racing is like chess at 40mph…

dolfaceJul 23, 2004 at 7:19PM

there was no tactical reason for armstrong to chase down simeoni and bring him back to the main pack, since he wasn’t in the running for the general classification.

the article implies that armstrong reeled him in to prevent him from having a chance at a stage win as punishment for saying that a doctor armstrong has worked with showed simeoni how to use epo (a banned performance enahncing drug).

LukeJul 23, 2004 at 7:30PM

In terms other Americans might be able to understand:

The Green Bay Packers are beating the Chicago Bears 160-0 in the Super Bowl, having scored 20 touchdowns and all two-point conversions. (The rules have been changed to allow two NFC teams.)

Near the end of the game, the Packers defense — exhausted and seeing no point in making it a total rout — decides to let the Bears score a touchdown, enough to make them feel good but not enough to threaten the lead.

The Packers concede the field, but then they notice that Jim McMahon has the ball. “Jim McMahon?” they say. “What an asshole! We don’t want him to score!” So the defense starts jogging along with him and whispers in his ear, “Sure you want to do this? If we wanted to we could crush you like an aluminum can.” McMahon gets the point and laterals to another Bears player, who proceeds to score.

Lance Armstrong is Green Bay. The breakaway riders are the Bears. Simeoni is Jim McMahon.

BobJul 23, 2004 at 7:55PM

So apparently if you cross Lance Armstrong on or off the bike, he’ll ruin your career and chances at happiness. Pretty rough punishment for a guy who says he only wanted to clean up the rampant drug abuse in sports. What I wonder is, does Lance’s action endorse a “code of silence” for those who know about drugs being used? He made a “zipped lips” sign to the cameras later in the day…

LukeJul 23, 2004 at 9:19PM

What you say is true, Bob, if you assume Lance is guilty. I do not. If you assume he is innocent, then it is Simeoni who is out to ruin a career, and in a much more thorough and dastardly way than simply denying a stage win. If someone spread false allegations about me, I’d try to ruin his day, too. (And it’s just a stage win. Simeoni presumably still has a full career and chances of happiness ahead of him.)

Zipped lips? Good for him. Actions speak better than words. It would be just so American of him to have instead talked trash, whined and postured for the cameras.

Speaking of, Graham Watson’s photo gallery from today captures all the drama very well.

timJul 23, 2004 at 10:04PM

Simeoni presumably still has a full career and chances of happiness ahead of him

actually, probably not. Simeoni is 32 years old, which is nearing the end of his competitive cycling career. He’s only won 7 races in his entire career. This VeloNews article offers a bit more detail about the politics than the one Jason linked. There’s a lot more going on here than is apparent:

http://www.velonews.com/tour2004/details/articles/6647.0.html

MikeJul 24, 2004 at 6:52AM

The majority of the Peleton congratulated Lance on what he’d done (chapeau!). A few other Italian riders gave Simeoni a hard time once he rejoined the Peleton, which is why he sculked (sp?) at the back for the rest of the stage.

The other riders will all know exactly what happenned, and why, and they’re with Lance…

DiegoJul 24, 2004 at 9:24AM

>> The majority of the Peleton congratulated Lance on what he’d done

>> The other riders will all know exactly what happenned, and why, and they’re with Lance…

The other riders might as well consider Simeoni as some kind of “traitor” because of his statements regarding drug abuse in the cycling scene. I believe that Simeoni is today (after testifying against Dottore Ferrari) one of the very few “sober” riders in the peloton …

What will Armstrong and the others say if Ferrari is sentenced in Italy?

>> not the fact that he’s a crappy rider

Come on, don’t you think that being one of the 200 riders in the peloton of the world’s greatest cycling race makes you anything else but a “crappy rider”?

David JacobsJul 25, 2004 at 10:18AM

Simeoni just tried to make a run on the last stage approaching the Champs Elysee, breaking an unwritten rule that you always let the yellow jersey lead the last stage. The peloton blocked his way so that he couldn’t escape the crowd.

stijnJul 25, 2004 at 1:57PM

“The majority of the Peleton congratulated Lance on what he’d done”
That’s what Lance said. Actually a lot of them didn’t understand why he acted that way.

timJul 25, 2004 at 3:02PM

unwritten rule that you always let the yellow jersey lead the last stage: again, not exactly true. the tradition is that you just don’t try to break away from the group at the start of the last stage.

HoudiJul 25, 2004 at 4:09PM

So Armstrong is obviously the good guy here then? Is this the same Armstrong who left a stricken Joseph
Beloki lying screaming in agony after crashing in front of him on a mountain downhill section in last years
tour in order to gain precious time. Wouldn’t a decent human-being have at least comforted Beloki until the
medics arrived instead of trying to gain advantage. In his early days, a member of Armstrong’s own team
actually crashed and died from his injuries in similar circumstances. Knowing this, didn’t he feel even the
slightest bit remorseful or even ashamed? Instead, some of the tv media even praised Armstrong as a hero
for avoiding the crash and carrying on. Here’s one person who doesn’t regard him as a hero.

Dinu.Jul 25, 2004 at 6:35PM

err… this is not a friendly bike ride with friends Houdi, this is the Tour De France. Lance isn’t there to be best buddies with his rivals, he’s there to win the race.

Beloki had teammates on the course, as well as a support crew that was there to take care of him. The whole peloton did the same thing this year when Iban Mayo was dropped in a crash, he lost a lot of time and nobody was weeping for him either. Crashes are part of the sport, sometimes you’re unlucky, but I bet if you asked Beloki, he wouldn’t have been crying that Armstrong left him to the care of others who would be along shortly, he understands what the race is about.

HoudiJul 25, 2004 at 7:45PM

I expected this sort of reply. How can you compare Iban Mayo’s crash with Beloki’s? Mayo continued the race for several days whereas Beloki was rushed to hospital and still hasn’t fully recovered yet. Okay, so it’s the Tour de France. I didn’t realise this meant you could watch someone crash going down a mountain and ignore his wails of agony (which could be clearly heard on tv) and ride on regardless of the fact that those injuries could have proved fatal. I suppose you would say the same thing if he’d been mown down by a support vehicle - tough luck, eh, it’s part of the sport. Lance Armstrong, what a guy.

JonathanJul 26, 2004 at 2:00AM

This is a bike RACE, not a social club. Lance rocks.

MikeJul 26, 2004 at 4:10AM

Lance had a split second to react to Beloki coming off in front of him. I doubt Beloki had even started to react vocally to his accident by the time Armstrong was half way down the field.

BTW, this is the same Lance Armstrong that slowed down and allowed his main rival, Ullrich, to catch up after crashing on a decent.

nickJul 26, 2004 at 8:05AM

People who don’t think that a degree of ruthlessness isn’t part of bike racing don’t know bike racing. This Tour saw the transformation of Armstrong into a patron to rank alongside Merckx or Hinault. And I sort of like that, because we’d become used to the kind of dominance established by Indurain: one measured in the time trial, not among the peloton. Some people have compared Lance’s attitude towards Simeoni to that of a mob boss. And that’s not far from the truth: the capo, the intense group loyalty, and the code of omerta all apply to bike racing.

And remember that Hinault actually punched other riders for getting out of line. Lance isn’t quite there yet…

wayneJul 26, 2004 at 10:16AM

I agree : Armstrong isn’t quite there yet and never will. In the sense that he
is not at the same level as Hinault or Merckx: they were competing the full season against strong rivals and not dedicating full life, full time to a single race. If Merckx would have done the same he could have won a dozen Tours.
Yes: Armstrong is not quite there and nerer will.

JPJul 26, 2004 at 1:28PM

Simeoni testified against his own doctor (Ferrari) who also happens to be Lance’s doctor. Lance claims to be a champion of anti-doping efforts, but he has nothing but venom for those who testify to doping in the peloton (Jesus Mazano). When it comes right down to it, Simeoni’s testimony is between Ferrari and Simeoni - Lance should keep his beak out of it. His behavior is lacking a great deal of class and that’s a shame.

JonathanJul 26, 2004 at 3:46PM

Whether he should mind his own business or not, the fact that he had the strength and determination to chase down Simeoni’s one strong run shows that he dominates. Simeoni should show hae matched the strength and stepped to the challenge. That would make for some great racing to see the two battle down to the finish. Who knows, maybe Simeoni could have taken Lance out of his gameplan and worn him down enough on that stage to change the dynamics of the Tour. Instead of complaining about Lance, who owned the Tour, why not question Simeoni’s decision to move back into the peloton? It is just silly to feel sorry for him.

BobJul 26, 2004 at 4:39PM

Houdi, there were dozens of people close to Beloki’s crash with extensive medical training, and hundreds more coming within seconds with greater ability to comfort him than a sweaty Lance Armstrong. Lance should have helped him more? The best he could do is get out of the way.

JPJul 26, 2004 at 5:07PM

Of course Lance dominates Simeoni. That’s not the issue. For Simeoni to attempt outrun Lance, and the subsequent furor of the peloton, would make for about two minutes of idiotic racing.

I frankly don’t care whether Lance is on dope or not. I am concerned about the image that is portrayed when the greatest cyclist of our time publicly humiliates another rider. It’s not a moment I will soon relay to my son.

HoudiJul 27, 2004 at 4:12PM

I’m surprised you even got to hear about it JP. Armstrong actually asked - or should that be demanded - that French Televsision did not show the incidents with Simoni. Obviously Armstrong doesn’t want the general public to witness his underlying ruthlessness.

Mark CraneJul 27, 2004 at 5:32PM

The Tour is a European race, governed by internal rules. That’s why Lance got reamed out for “giving” stages to other riders (which is acceptable) but then bragging about it (which is not). This isn’t Breaking Away folks.

amJul 28, 2004 at 4:14AM

Disrespecting the greatest athlete of all time only makes you look bad.

JP you need to get on a bike and ride over to the first cat 5 race you can find. Cat 5 is the beginners class. In your first race you will learn all about the ruthlessness of the sport. I promise you will feel humiliated when you finish.

Ruthless is having your (French) team captain fire you after seeing you throw up in the hospital. Lance was once a 80 pound hairless mass, sick from chemo, with no insurance, and no other form of income.






HoudiJul 29, 2004 at 4:09PM

Am, no one disputes that Lance Armstrong is a great athlete, but a great sportsman? That is a different matter. Many great sportsmen of our time have also been respectful, humble and everything else that Lance Armstrong is not. But, hey, he’s American and the rest of us have come to expect this sort of ruthless mentality that appears to be inbred in the American race. Sorry to be be blunt but that’s how most Brits see it. I bet you thought we all liked and respected Americans. Dream on.

MichaelJul 30, 2004 at 9:07AM

Good lord, what a jerk. Luckily, all British people are not like you, else the world would dislike them as much as you claim they dislike the Americans.

As has been said many times, you obviously don’t have a clue about bike racing or, equally as obvious, about tact.

LaraJul 30, 2004 at 10:48AM

I am new to cycling, but would like to add a comment or two to the above exchange…

Maybe what Lance did to Simeoni wasn’t the best PR decision he’s ever made, but we have to remember first
and foremost that the “cycling gods” are a society all their own and that most of us mere mortals will never
be privy to the complete understanding of the rules that govern that society. Yes, Lance went after Simeoni,
but had he not had the approval and been backed in that action by the members of the peleton, would they
have sat back and watched him ride away without question or chase?
As far as the recounting of the conversation with Lance on the way back to the peleton by Simeoni, it’s strictly
his word against Lance’s. It’s hard sometimes to chip away fact from fiction, but also keep in mind a couple
of other things…some people will say anything for money (or in exchange being pardoned from their own
sins…you can’t believe everything that is reported by the media (especially when vendetta’s have already
been formed against a certain person or subject)…and the anti-doping commission has been dogging Lance’s
heels for years, so any small and hollow victory against him (like discrediting him and humiliating him
publicly, through more accusations and controversy) is good enough for them.


AliJul 30, 2004 at 1:23PM

All this stuff about Lance and his actions on the bike and whether or not he is of noble character! Well, I invite any of you to go to the site of the Lance Armstrong Foundation and see what this man has done in the wake of his own battle with cancer. I do not believe that Lance dopes. After you’ve been hooked up to toxic chemicals and you think you are kissing your sweet life goodbye, EPO or any other drug just really doesn’t have any appeal. For that matter, I think looking at death in the eye would crystallize for anyone what their purpose in life might be. There is no doubt that Lance is ruthless. Every world class athlete is ruthless and I believe cycling is the most demanding sport out there. Plus, riding all day on a bike and training every single day—well it takes a certain temperament. Lance likely has no patience for Simoni’s whining. life is too short; every second counts.

HoudiJul 31, 2004 at 9:43AM

Hey Michael - The whole world does dislike Americans. Perhaps if you managed to get out of planet America for five minutes you’d find that out.

MichaelJul 31, 2004 at 10:38AM

Actually, until a year and a half ago, I lived in Germany, and I still spend a few months of the year overseas. I just got back from France, and in a week and a half I will be heading back to Germany for a few weeks.

Maybe if I were out of America for only 5 minutes, as you suggest, and ran into you, I’d think like you do.

But I’d suggest that perhaps if you managed to get out of Planet Idiot for a while (not just 5 minutes), you might realize that not everybody is like you - thankfully.

HoudiJul 31, 2004 at 5:47PM

Oh so you’re one of the few Americans who deosn’t think that England is a small town on the outskirts of London. Hardly fair to call me an idiot. I’ve watched the American version of Weakest Link.

SunnyAug 02, 2004 at 11:20PM

No Michael is one of the guys who realizes that although the empire went down the tubes, it did little for the ingrained superiority complex of the Brits.

Now I really know what Eurotrash means.

This thread is closed to new comments. Thanks to everyone who responded.