Monday, July 31

Hot! Hot! Hot!

I went out to attempt my long run early this morning. But, I only got in 12 very feeble miles before I had to give in to the heat and humidity. My legs felt like Jello. My clothes were drenched. I thought I was going to melt away. It was only after I got back into the house that I discovered that the heat index was already at a hundred degrees! Yow!

Sunday, July 30

50 Until the 50

We're now just 50 days away from the Tennessee leg of the Endurance 50. Dean Karnazes is attempting an extraordinary 50 marathons over a 50 day span in all 50 states.

To prepare for this feat Karnazes, author of the bestselling Ultra-Marathon Man has been in intense training. Just this year he has already run the LA Marathon, Boston the?American River 50-Mile Run, the Whidbey Island Marathon, the Miwok 100K, the Big Sur International Marathon, the Mt. Diable 50K, the San Diego Rock 'n' Roll Marathon, the Western States 100-Mile Endurace Run, the Vermont Trail 100-Mile Run, and the Badwater Ultramarathon. In the next couple of weeks he'll add the San Francisco Marathon, and the Leadville Trail 100-Mile Run. Whew! And that is in addition to his regular 80 miles or so of regular workout runs every week. Oy veh!

My training has not been nearly so intense. But, it has been a full schedule nevertheless. I have run three half marathons, one full marathon, one 10-miler, two 10K races, and five 5K races so far this year. In the next couple of weeks I have three more 5K races and one 10K race in addition to my regular workouts before I attempt the Endurance 50 Marathon in Memphis followed by the three-day, nine-stage, 175-mile Uttermost along the Natchez Trace.

Friday, July 28

St. Louis Running

I've been in St, Louis for several days. The hill running here has been pretty incredible--and difficult. But, I am glad for it. On Monday at home, I ran five flat miles. Then afterwards I spent an hour on the eliptical doing intervals. Wednesday here in St. Louis, I ran three very hilly miles and then swam some good laps for about thirty-minutes. Yesterday, I ran another four.

Hill running has a way of reminding me that I am not quite as far along as I thought. That's good. Keeps me on my toes.

Next week, I'll reup my commitment to the hills, I'll rachet up my eliptical training, and I'll begin some serious cycling.

Floyd's Woes

Oh how quickly the tides can turn. Though Floyd Landis has never tested positive for any illegal drugs at any time in his long and storied cycling career, initial tests have shown abnormalities in his testosterone levels--and already the court of public opinion, especially in France, has ruled against him.

The sad fact is that the notoriously unreliable testing process for this particular abnormality can be skewed by any number of things. And besides, no one has ever determined any benefit that artificial testosterone use can offer an endurance athlete.

But for now, none of the facts really matter. Floyd is going to have to climb another mountain in an unlikely bid to reclaim his hopes for the Tour title--and this just four days after he thought he had won it.

Sunday, July 23

Tour de Landis

Floyd did it! Twenty-five years ago Americans were only starting to ride in the Tour de France. Now, they have won it eight years in a row. In fact, over the last two decades, they have won it eleven times! What a remarkable tour--if this can't inspire me to get out there and work hard, nothing can.

Saturday, July 22

TdF: Stage 19

Barring a bizarre finale--and given how unpredictable the race has been this year, a bizarre finale is certainly not beyond the realm of possibility--Floyd Landis should ride down the Champs-Elysees tomorrow as the victor in the Tour de France. With yet another stunning comeback in the final time trial, Landis reclaimed the famed yellow jersey today along with a 59-second lead. That should be more than enough to ensure he will stand atop the victory podium in Paris. But, the operative word here is "should."

Really, the only thing that is certain is that the cycling-mad host nation is more than a little uncomfortable and chagrined--after all, this is starting to look like the eighth year in a row that an American will have dominated this great event.

Thursday, July 20

Getting in the Miles

I am preparing for two huge events. On September 18, I will run the Endurance 50 edition of the Memphis Marathon. It is going to be a very special event--the second day of a 50-consecutive-day epic effort by Dean Karnazes to run 50 marathons in all 50 states! I'll just be a part of the pace team--but then again, it is a still marathon! 26.2 is 26.2 no matter how you run it.

Then less than a month later, on October 12, 13, 14, I will run and ride in the first annual Fitness Systems Uttermost. It is an event that I am actually directing myself--in an effort to raise support for several charaties that I am particularly commited to: Servant Group International, African Leadership, Mercy Children's Clinic, Blood/Water Mission, Franklin Classical School, and Artios Academy. It will be three days of running and biking across 175 miles of the Natchez Trace.

Both events are going to be really, really tough. So, obviously, I am now in the thick of the training program to get ready. This heat wave we've been experiencing is not exactly helping matters, but I got in 6 miles on Monday, 6 on Tuesday, 3 on Wednesday, and 12 today. I am going to go nice and easy tomorrow but then whallop the asphalt on Saturday.

Floyd!

Freelance writer, Andrew Hood, has written a great article for ESPN about the epic ride of Floyd Landis in today's Tour stage:

Floyd Landis was a dead man walking in the Tour de France.

Written off by pundits and rivals after bonking spectacularly in the yellow jersey in Wednesday's climbing stage and tumbling out of the top 10, Landis bounced back Thursday to deliver one of the most incredible resurrections in cycling history.

Now third at just 30 seconds back, he's in the pole position to win the 2006 Tour after winning Thursday's stage with an emphatic solo attack in the style of cycling's greatest heroes.

"What Floyd Landis did today was something mythic," said Juan Fernandez, Landis' sport director on the Phonak team. "This is something you can write in the history books, like the exploits of Eddy Merckx or Bernard Hinault. He was like a wounded lion. He wanted to take out the spine in his back and show the world who he was."

Fueled by anger, frustration and determination, Landis executed one of the most audacious attacks in cycling lore.

Defying conventional wisdom that says the favorites must wait until the final climb, Landis had nothing to lose and attacked on the lower reaches of the Col des Saisies, about 65 kilometers into the 200.5-kilometer stage.

Riding with wild abandon, he reeled in and then dropped an early breakaway, and then drilled it over four more steep climbs, including the knee-busting steep climb over the Col de Joux-Plane, towering 12 kilometers above the finish line in Morzine.

By the time the overall contenders organized a chase, it was too late. Landis beat second-place rider Carlos Sastre by 5:42 and race leader Oscar Pereiro by 7:08, clawing back out of the grave, moving from 11th at 8:08 back to third at 30 seconds back of Pereiro.

"This morning I saw the papers and they said I was out of the Tour, that made me mad," Landis said. "It wouldn't be any fun if I told you what happens next, but I think it's pretty obvious. I'd like to win the race."

The idea that Landis could win the race seemed unimaginable 24 hours ago and his comeback has few comparisons in the annals of cycling's century-old history.

"Floyd Landis turned himself around from a defeated, broken man to a probable Tour de France winner in the space of a six-hour stage," said Paul Sherwen, a former pro and play-by-play announcer for OLN's live Tour coverage. "What he did today was ride himself back into contention. Theoretically, that was impossible."

There have been equally spectacular bonks and there have been even more incredible comebacks, but having both packed into a 24-hour period is unlike anything seen before.

During Lance Armstrong's seven-year stranglehold on the Tour, the authoritarian Texan never truly had a bad day on the scale of Landis' implosion.

In 2000, Armstrong bonked over the Joux-Plane and suffered a similar fracture in a 2003 time trial loss to Jan Ullrich, forfeiting less than two minutes each time. He would shrug off those hiccups and roll on to overall victories.

In 1998, Ullrich cracked over the Col du Galibier to surrender the race leader's maillot jaune to Marco Pantani, but bounced back to win the next day's stage. But Big Jan only finished second to The Pirate.

The seemingly unstoppable Miguel Indurain bonked up Les Arcs in the 1996 Tour while trying to become the first man to win six Tours, but he wasn't wearing the yellow jersey at the time and never really recovered, finishing a distant 11th overall in his final Tour.

For similar exploits, you have turn back several pages in cycling's rich history.

In 1989, Greg LeMond came back from a life-threatening turkey hunting accident to win the Tour in a gripping, final-day time trial showdown in Paris. LeMond started the 24-kilometer stage 50 seconds behind race leader Laurent Fignon, but used special aero-bars and helmet to win the race by 8 seconds, the narrowest margin of victory in Tour history.

Italian attacker Claudio Chiappucci went on a similar suicidal attack over the Alps in 1992, winning at Sestrieres, but he never could steal away the yellow jersey from Indurain and settled for second overall.

Merckx, cycling's greatest racer, had similar extreme swings during his reign in the late 1960s to mid-1970s.

In 1971, Merckx was the heavy favorite for a third Tour when Spanish rider Luis Ocaña took a nine-minute lead midway through the race. Ocaña showed no signs of cracking, but Merckx went on a daring attack on the Col de Mente only to crash. Ocaña also crashed and was hit by another rider and was forced to abandon with severe injuries. Merckx refused to wear the maillot jaune the next day, but went on to win.

Ironically, it was a Merckx who had a hand in Landis' revival on Thursday. His son, Axel, is one of Landis' key teammates on Phonak. Team manager John Lelangue is also the son of Robert Lelangue, who was the sport director at Merckx's Molteni team in 1971. Both the elder Merckx and Lelangue called Wednesday evening to tell the team nothing is impossible in the Tour de France.

"My father called me after Wednesday's stage and told me, 'The race isn't over,'" Lelangue recounted. "Eddy Merckx was also on the phone, trying to give us some advice. He said the race is not lost and told us to go on the attack."

Landis woke up Thursday intent on erasing the image from the previous day, when he was bonked and beaten, looking defeat in the face. Just what did Landis eat for breakfast to propel him?

"He had muesli, an omelet, pasta, cereal, and a lot of belief," said Allen Lim, Landis' trainer. "He never doubted himself, even after the bad day, because it was just a bad day. Today was a good day."

With Saturday's decisive 57-kilometer time trial on tap to decide the overall winner, Landis once again is poised to become just the third American to win cycling's greatest race.

Everyone had written him off 24 hours ago. Now, Landis is writing the story for the ages.

TdF: Stage 17

Wow! What a stage! American rider Floyd Landis moved back into contention for the Tour de France title Thursday, winning the last tough Alpine stage in a heroic solo finish. Landis seemed to have fallen out of contention yesterday when he lost the leader's yellow jersey after struggling at the brutal uphill finish on the L'Alpe d'Huez. But today, he burst ahead of the main pack in the first of three tough ascents in the 17th stage. "He reacted like a great champion," said France's Cyril Dessel, who entered the stage in fourth place.

The American clenched his right fist in celebration as he crossed the finish and hopped off his bike after completing the punishing 200.5K ride in 5 hours, 23 minutes, 36 seconds. He cut 8 full minutes from his deficit and now only trails the overall leader, Spain's Oscar Pereiro, by 30 seconds.

With the tough Alpine climbs over, the individual time trial on Saturday shapes up as a crucial test to decide the winner of the first Tour since Lance Armstrong won a record seven straight titles. After 17 stages, the overall standings are now:

1. Oscar Pereiro (Spain)
2. Carlos Sastre (Spain)
3. Floyd Landis (USA)
4. Andreas Kloden (Germany)
5. Cadel Evans (Australia)
6. Denis Menchov (Russia)
7. Cyril Dessel (France)
8. Christophe Moreau (France)
9. Haimar Zubeldia (Spain)
10. Michael Rogers (Australia)

As for the other Americans: Levi Leipheimer is in 18th place; Christian Vandevelde is in 23rd place; George Hincapie is in 32nd place; Christopher Horner is in 62nd place; and Dave Zabriskie is in 79th place.

Wednesday, July 19

TdF: Stages 15-16

There is no more spectacular finish in the Tour de France than the 21-turn, 14K climb up to the top of L'Alpe d'Huez. This year it came at the end of an already demanding 187K stage that called for the beyond-category Col d'Izoard climb and the category-two Col du Lautaret climb. Needless to say, it was a bear of a day yesterday. Amazingly, though Floyd Landis was not able to win the stage, he was able to gain enough time to claim the yellow jersey.

But, his moment of glory was short-lived. Today, the race crossed the giant of the Alps, the Col du Galibier and the Col de la Croix de Fer before the finish at the ski station of La Toussuire. And it proved to be too much for Landis who lost a nearly insurmountable eight-minutes. He fell completely out of the top ten in the overall general classification.

The news was not much better for any of the other Americans, though Levi Leitheimer may have suffered the least-the Discovery team for instance, is not even among the top-ten teams on the Tour thus far. It looks as if Lance Armstrong's cohorts are having a hard time living up to his remarkable legacy:

1. Oscar Pereiro (Spain)
2. Carlos Sastre (Spain)
3. Andreas Kloden (Germany)
4. Cyril Dessel (France)
5. Cadel Evans (Australia)
6. Denis Menchov (Russia)
7. Michael Rogers (Australia)
8. Christophe Moreau (France)
9. Levi Leipheimer (USA)
10. Haimar Zubeldia (Spain)

Sunday, July 16

TdF: Stage 14

The 180.5K fourteenth stage of the Tour de France was difficult and dangerous. Three different crashes shook up the entire peloton--and actually knocked Rik Verbrugghe of Belgium, David Canada of Spain, Magnus Backstedt of Sweden, and Mirko Celestino Italy out of the race.

Pierrick Fedrigo outsprinted breakaway companion Salvatore Commesso at the finish to hand France its third stage victory in the Tour. Oscar Pereiro held on to the yellow jersey--with Floyd Landis nipping at his heels, just 1:29 behind. At 15th, Levi Leipheimer is 07:08 back. And at 38th, George Hincapie is 24:28 back.

Tomorrow is a rest day. And then the decisive part of the Tour really begins with three days of tough climbing--and an anticipated battle for the yellow jersey--as the peloton rides into the Alps.

The overall standings remain:

1. Oscar Pereiro (Spain)
2. Floyd Landis (USA)
3. Cyril Dessel (France)
4. Denis Menchov (Russia)
5. Cadel Evans (Australia)
6. Carlos Sastre (Spain)
7. Andreas Kloden (Germany
8. Michael Rogers (Australia)
9. Juan Miguel Mercado (Spain)
10. Christophe Moreau (France)

Saturday, July 15

TdF: Stage 13

Another surprise stage. Today, Floyd Landis let a breakaway steal his yellow jersey. But, it was apparently all a part of his larger strategy heading into the Alps. The brutal 230K stage from Beziers to Montelimar, the longest of the race, was won in a two-up sprint by German Jens Voigt. His breakaway partner, Spaniard Oscar Pereiro profited from their half-hour winning margin to take the yellow jersey. The newly shaken up overall standings offer new life to several heretofore struggling teams:

1. Oscar Pereiro Sio (Spain)
2. Floyd Landis (USA)
3. Cyril Dessel (France)
4. Denis Menchov (Russia)
5. Cadel Evans (Australia)
6. Carlos Sastre (Spain)
7. Andréas Klöden (Germany)
8. Michael Rogers (Australia)
9. Miguel Juan Miguel (Spain)
10. Christophe Moreau (France)

Friday, July 14

TdF: Stage 12

On a day when the French media was crowing about the demise of Lance Armstrong's legacy at the Tour de France, three of Lance's lieutenants made a big splash during the 12th stage of the grueling event. Less than 24 hours after it did indeed seem that Lance's team and his friends were crumbling under the pressure of a rugged five-climb stage across the Pyranees, the Discovery Channel riders redeemed themselves with a great strategy that culminated in stage win by Ukrainian rider Yaroslav Popovych. And Floyd Landis, another of Lance's old teammates, held on to the maillot jaune after he won it decisively during the mountain stage the day before.

The torrid 211.5K stage from Luchon to Carcassonne featured a brilliant breakaway led by Discovery's George Hincapie before the final successful attack by Popovych. It appears that the rumors of the demise Lance's legacy are more than a little premature.

Once again, the General Classification standings have been shaken up in this most surprising and exciting of Tours:

1. Floyd Landis (USA)
2. Cyril Dessel (France)
3. Denis Menchov (Russia)
4. Cadel Evans (Australia
5. Carlos Sastre (Spain)
6. Andreas Kloden (Germany)
7. Michael Rogers (Australia)
8. Juan Miguel Mercado (Spain)
9. Christophe Moreau (France)
10. Yaroslav Popovych (Ukraine)

Tuesday, July 11

TdF: Stage 9

Today was the last of the flat, fast stages in the Tour de France. Oscar Freire prevailed in the battle of the sprinters in this turbo-charged prelude to the Pyranees, just thrusting his wheel ahead of Robbie McEwen to win in a heart-stopping charge to the finish. It was the Spanish sprinter's second stage win. Erik Zabel snuck past a frustrated Tom Boonen to grab third place on the 169.5K stage from Bordeaux to Dax. Though the results may shake up the battle for the green jersey, the overall GC ranking remain unchanged. Tomorrow though, oh boy, watch out. It's going to be a battle royale as the mountain stages begin at last.

Sunday, July 9

Limping Toward Victory

The Tour de France's status as the world's most physiologically demanding event is largely unquestioned. The riders cover 2,272 miles at an average speed of 25 miles per hour, roughly the equivalent of running a marathon every day for almost three weeks. In the Pyrenees and the Alps, they climb a vertical distance equal to three Mount Everests. In order to do that, they burn off up to 10,000 calories per day, elevating their metabolic rates to a level that, according to a Dutch study, is exceeded by only four species on earth. It is a remarkable feat just to compete in the Tour much less to win it.

Floyd Landis wants to win it. And, after eight stages, he is in a position to do so--most of the sport's pundits have named him as the most likely successor to his former teammate and mentor, Lance Armstrong.

But, like Armstrong, Landis will have to overcome almost impossible odds to do so. You see, Landis has a degenerative disorder that will require hip replacement surgery shortly after this year's Tour. He lives with constant pain. He walks with a noticeable limp. He can't cross his legs. He can barely get on his bike. But, once on that bike, despite the grinding of bone against bone, he is among the world's greatest athletes.

His disability, just revealed today, is likely to become the story of this Tour--and all the more so if he actually succeeds in arriving in Paris two weeks from now wearing the maillot jaune.

Cup and Tour

It probably was little consolation for France that despite their loss in the World Cup, they were able to claim a win in the eighth stage of Tour de France.

The decisive World Cup game between Italy and France was highly entertaining, hard fought throughout, and finally won in stunning fashion by a penalty shoot-out. But, this World Cup final will be probably best be remembered for Zinedine Zidane's career-ending disgrace. During the second overtime period he appeared to have lost his cool, head-butting an Italian defender after a heated verbal exchange. It was a shocking display of impudent unsportsman-like conduct. He was summarily red-carded and sent off the pitch. It was a revealing turn-about for the wily veteran. The French side somehow held on to the end of that overtime period, but then lost the shootout, 5-4.

In the Tour however, a French star shone brightly. On a long breakaway the unheralded Frenchman Sylvain Calzati attacked solo and then held on to finish the 181K stage across the hilly Brittany region. Meanwhile, Ukraine's Sergei Gontchar and America's Floyd Landis safely finished in the main bunch, 2:15 back, to retain the top two spots in the overall standings--in fact, all of the top twenty-five places remain unchanged:

1. Sergei Gontchar (Ukraine)
2. Floyd Landis (USA)
3. Michael Rogers (Australia)
4. Patrik Sinkewitz (Germany)
5. Marcus Fothen (Germany)
6. Andreas Kloden (Germany)
7. Vladimir Karpets (Russia)
8. Cadel Evans (Australia)
9. Denis Menchov (Russia)
10. David Zabriskie (USA)
11. Matthias Kessler (Germany)
12. Christophe Moreau (France)
13. Paolo Savoldelli (Italy)
14. Eddy Mazzoleni (Italy)
15. Sebastian Lang (Germany)
16. Carlos Sastre (Spain)
17. George Hincapie (USA)
18. Oscar Pereiro Sio (Spain)
19. Thomas Lovkvist (Sweden)
20. Didier Rous (France)
21. Tom Boonen (Belgium)
22. Christian Vande Velde (USA)
23. Yaroslav Popovych (Ukraine)
24. Rubiera Jose Luis (Spain)
25. David Millar (Britain)

Saturday, July 8

Ultra Ultra

The venerable marathon has assumed a sacred place in the heart of athletics. 26.2 miles. More than 45,000 strides. Agony and euphoria. Some have described it as experiencing all of life's emotions in one, four-hour span (or five-hour, or whatever).

This fall, Dean Karnazes will attempt to run 50 of them: 50 marathons, in 50 states, in consecutive 50 days. No really!

Known as the North Face Endurance 50 (or E50 for short), this test of human fortitude will begin on September 17 at the Lewis and Clark Marathon in St. Louis, Missouri, and conclude 50 days later in New York's Central Park, at the finish line of the legendary New York City Marathon on November 5. Think of it! 1, 310 miles in 50 days, scattered out across the whole US, from Alaska to Florida, from Hawaii to Maine, and everywhere between. Wow!

Karnazes is known for his extraordinary physical feats--documented in his bestselling book Ultra Marathon Man. He has run a marathon at the North Pole. He has won the shoe-melting Badwater 135-mile race across Death Valley. He has even run a world-record 350 consecutive non-stop miles--without sleep! But, he considers the E50 his greatest test to date. "To my knowledge, no one has ever attempted anything like this before," he says. "It combines the physical element of running 50 straight marathons and the adventurous, logistical element of trying to get from state to state."

And, there is a good point to it all too. Karnazes hopes to raise a million dollars for charity along the way.

The really exciting part of all this is that Karnazes is asking for runners and endurance athletes from all over the country to help him achieve his goal by running with him. I'm still working on logistics, but I think I am going to try to run one, perhaps even two of the legs of this adventure (on September 17th, the Lewis and Clark Marathon in St. Louis and/or on September 18th, over the course that the St. Jude Marathon follows in Memphis). Could be amazing fun--to say nothing of the training boost it would give me for my own staged ultra in October (details to follow soon).

Tabitha House 10K

What a difference a few degrees and a change in the humidity can make. On Tuesday, I ran the local Firecracker 5K and withered woefully. But today, I ran in the Tabitha House 10K and enjoyed it nearly to the very end (when I simply gave out due to poor conditioning). The temperature was cooler by only about eight degrees at the start of the race. But, the humidity was down substantially. It is amazing what a difference such a seemingly small change can make.

TdF: Stage 7

It was a disappointing day for most of the Americans at the Tour de France. Floyd Landis came in second to Ukraine's Serhiy Honchar, who set a blistering pace for the individual time trial through the Brittany countryside. But, George Hincapie was only able to manage a disappointing 24th, trailing Honchar by 2:42. Levi Leipheimer placed 96th, a disastrous effort, more than 6 minutes behind Honchar. And Bobby Julich crashed out of the race altogether, losing control of his bike while negotiating a tight curve in the course. Julich, who finished third in 1998, was taken to a local hospital after hitting the ground hard and slamming into the curb. Through there is a lot of riding still to come over the next two weeks, the leader-board was really shaken up in this surprising stage:

1. Sergei Gontchar (Ukraine)
2. Floyd Landis (USA)
3. Michael Rogers (Australia)
4. Patrik Sinkewitz (Germany)
5. Marcus Fothen (Germany)
6. Andreas Kloden (Germany)
7. Vladimir Karpets (Russia)
8. Cadel Evans (Australia)
9. Denis Menchov (Russia)
10. David Zabriskie (USA)
11. Matthias Kessler (Germany)
12. Christophe Moreau (France)
13. Paolo Savoldelli (Italy)
14. Eddy Mazzoleni (Italy)
15. Sebastian Lang (Germany)
16. Carlos Sastre (Spain)
17. George Hincapie (USA)
18. Oscar Pereiro Sio (Spain)
19. Thomas Lovkvist (Sweden)
20. Didier Rous (France)
21. Tom Boonen (Belgium)
22. Christian Vande Velde (USA)
23. Yaroslav Popovych (Ukraine)
24. Rubiera Jose Luis (Spain)
25. David Millar (Britain)

Friday, July 7

TdF: Stage 6

The sixth stage of the 93rd Tour de France was through 189 kilometers of the beautiful, rolling hills of Brittany from Lisieux to Vitre. It was the final opportunity for the sprinters to seize a stage win before tomorrow's big time trial. Robbie McEwen, the leader for the green sprinter's jersey by a single point, won his third stage in another wild and frantic finish--though his chief rival, Tom Boonen, maintained his hold on the yellow jersey for at least one more day. The overall standings saw only a few minor adjustments:

1. Tom Boonen (Belgium)
2. Robbie McEwen (Australia)
3. Michael Rogers (Australia)
4. Oscar Freire (Spain)
5. George Hincapie (USA)
6. Thor Hushovd (Norway)
7. Paolo Savoldelli (Italy)
8. Floyd Landis (USA)
9. Vladimir Karpets (Russia)
10. Serhiy Honchar (Ukraine)

TdF: Images




Thursday, July 6

TdF: Stage 5

The battle for the green jersey--the sprinter's prize--continued apace in the Tour de France today. Robbie McEwen and Tom Boonen are now neck-and-neck in the standings after a furious finish at the end of the 225K stage under overcast skies. But, it was Spaniard Oscar Freire who outsprinted the field to win his first Tour de France stage since 2002. The three-time world champion won the chaotic drag race down Guillou Boulevard in Caen, near France's northwestern coast and the beaches of Normandy.

The overall standings remain stable with six Americans still in the top twenty-five:

1. Tom Boonen (Belgium)
2. Michael Rogers (Australia)
3. Oscar Freire (Spain)
4. George Hincapie (USA)
5. Thor Hushovd (Noresy)
6. Robbie McEwen (Australia)
7. Paolo Savoldelli (Italy)
8. Floyd Landis (USA)
9. Vladimir Karpets (Russia)
10. Serhiy Honchar (Ukraine)
11. Matthias Kessler (Germany)
12. Cadel Evans (Australia)
13. Christophe Moreau (France)
14. David Millar (Britain)
15. Patrik Sinkewitz (Germany)
16. David Zabriskie (USA)
17. Andreas Kloden (Germany)
18. Marcus Fothen (Germany)
19. Cyril Dessel (France)
20. Bobby Julich (USA)
21. Eddy Mazzoleni (Italy)
22. Yaroslav Popovych (Ukraine)
23. Christian Vande Velde (USA)
24. Vaugrenard Benoit (France)
25. Levi Leipheimer (USA)

Wednesday, July 5

TdF: Stage 4

There was little drama during the fourth stage of the Tour de France as Robbie McEwen extended his lead for the sprinter's green jersey and Tom Boonen kept the yellow jersey one more day. In addition, Americans George Hincapie and Floyd Landis kept pace with the front of the peloton, maintaining their frontrunner status through these flat and fast early stages-and Hincapie's Discovery Channel team has established a dominating presence with riders in the third, fifth, and seventh positions. As for the other Americans: Dave Zabriskie is in 17th place overall; Bobby Julich is in 22nd place; and Levi Leipheimer is in 27th place

It is not likely that we'll see any more drama (aside from the occasional accident perhaps) until the mountain stages next week. Thus, the overall standings are now:

1. Tom Boonen (Belgium)
2. Michael Rogers (Australia)
3. George Hincapie (USA)
4. Thor Hushovd (Norway)
5. Egoi Martinez (Spain)
6. Robbie Mc Ewen (Australia)
7. Paolo Savoldelli (Italy)
8. Daniele Bennati (Italy)
9. Floyd Landis (USA)
10. Vladimir Karpets (Russia)

Tuesday, July 4

Firecracker 5K

It was hotter than the firecracker it was named for. Nevertheless, more than 1300 people turned out early this morning for this annual 4th of July run at the Brentwood YMCA here in Middle Tennessee. Between the high humidity and the long delay at the start, the morning was not looking too promising at first--but once things got going, the fun really began. I was slow and sluggish, but no matter. I just love the atmosphere of a race. I love getting together friends that I might not ever have the opportunity to know otherwise. I love the comraderie. I love the charged atmosphere. I love the encouragement that seems to be the common currency of all runners. What a great way to start the 4th.

TdF: Stage 3

In a stage marred by crashes, including two ugly pile-ups that resulted in broken collarbones for American Fred Rodriguez, Erik Dekker, and yellow jersey hopeful Alejandro Valverde, the Tour de France saw a stunning sprint finish on the infamous Cauberg climb. Matthias Kessler--caught 50 meters from the line in the second stage--launched a last-minute attack on and won the third stage by just about the same margin. Then, his T-Mobile teammate, Michael Rogers, won the furious field sprint five seconds back.

At the end of the day, world champion, Tom Boonen, took over the yellow jersey at the end of the hilly 216.5 stage from Esch-sur-Alzette in Luxembourg to Valkenburg in the Netherlands--just in time for a triumphant return to his homeland, Belgium, in the next stage.

Despite all the fireworks, Americans George Hincapie and Floyd Landis maintained their hold near the top of the overall standings:

1. Tom Boonen (Belgium)
2. Michael Rogers (Australia)
3. George Hincapie (USA),
4. Thor Hushovd (Norway)
5. Paolo Savoldelli (Italy)
6. Daniele Bennati (Italy)
7. Floyd Landis (USA)
8. Vladimir Karpets (Russia)
9. Serhiy Honchar (Ukraine)
10. Matthias Kessler (Germany)

Monday, July 3

Inspiration

Spurred on by both Tour de France and World Cup fever, I had a good, full, weekend of workouts. On Friday I was only able to run a three-miler. But on Saturday, I had a great five-mile hill workout and on Sunday, I knocked out seven flat miles. In fact, this morning I was a little sore. So, I just ran an easy two-miler. I want to be fresh and ready for the annual Firecracker 5K in Brentwood first thing tomorrow morning.

TdF: Stage 2

The flat Stage 2 of the Tour de France from the Alsace region of France and Germany into Luxembourg was dominated, not surprisingly, by sprint specialists like Belgium's Tom Boonen, Norway's Thor Husovd, and Australia's Robbie McEwen and Stuart O'Grady. Thus far, no real surprises. Two Americans remain in the top ten--with George Hincapie and Floyd Landis demonstrating that their early status as frontrunners was well warranted:

1. Thor Hushovd (Norway)
2. Tom Boonen (Belgium)
3. Robbie McEwen (Australia)
4. George Hincapie (USA)
5. Alejandro Valverde (Spain)
6. Stuart O'Grady (Australia)
7. Michael Rogers (Australia)
8. Paolo Savoldelli (Italy)
9. Floyd Landis (USA)
10. Manuel Quinziato (Italy)

Sunday, July 2

TdF: Stage 1

George Hincapie became just the fourth American to earn a leader's yellow jersey in the Tour de France ever--following in the footsteps of seven-time champion Lance Armstrong, three-time champion Greg LeMond, and time-trial specialist David Zabriskie. After a strong prologue time trial--just edged out by Norway's Thor Hushovd--Hincapie is among the new favorites following the withdrawal of Ivan Basso and Jan Ullrich on Friday because of doping allegations.

Though Jimmy Casper of France won a sprint finish to capture the first stage, Hincapie was able to gain precious seconds at an intermediate sprint near the end of the first stage held over a 185-kilometer course. Hushovd on the other hand was left lying on the ground with blood pouring out of a cut on his right arm after he appeared to have been hit by a spectator, as he jostled to get into a bunch sprint. Hushovd would have retained his lead had he finished among the top three on the day.

The overall standings are:

1. George Hincapie (USA)
2. Thor Hushovd (Norway)
3. David Zabriskie (USA)
4. Sebastian Lang (Germany)
5. Alejandro Valverde (Spain)
6. Stuart O'Grady (Australia)
7. Michael Rogers (Australia)
8. Paolo Savoldelli (Italy)
9. Floyd Landis (USA)
10. Benoít Vaugrenard (France)

Saturday, July 1

TdF: Prologue

Thor Hushovd won the 7K prologue of the Tour de France. He'll be wearing the yellow jersey as the first stage begins tomorrow. The Norwegian sprint specialist narrowly edged American George Hincapie by a mere 73/100ths of a second as the short time trial wound through the streets of Strasbourg.

Hincapie was followed by last year's time trial winner, American David Zabriskie. Yet another American, Floyd Landis, finished the day in ninth place, just nine seconds off of Hushovd's pace, which is just about the amount he lost when he showed up late to the start line. Apparently, Phonak team officials spotted a flaw on Landis's rear tire at the last second and pulled him out of the start house to change the wheel, hoping to avoid a flat, which would have lost him even more time.

So, after a shaky start--with a host of contenders dropped from the race under a cloud of doping suspicions--the Tour de France is underway with three Americans on the leader board and two Discovery Channel team members in the top ten:

1. Thor Hushovd (Norway: Credit Agricole)
2. George Hincapie (USA: Discovery Channel)
3. David Zabriskie (USA: CSC)
4. Sebastian Lang (Germany: Gerolsteiner)
5. Alejandro Valverde (Spain: Caisse d'Epargne)
6. Stuart O'Grady (Australia: CSC)
7. Michael Rogers (Australia: T-Mobile)
8. Paolo Savoldelli (Italy: Discovery Channel)
9. Floyd Landis (USA: Phonak)
10. Vladimir Karpets (Russia: Caisse d'Epargne)