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Tour de France - 2003 (12 hour)
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Amazon.com (ISBN 097439310X, DVD)The 2003 Tour de France was the Centenary version, and it lived up to its title, producing the most exciting and dramatic Tour in over a decade, perhaps ever. Lance Armstrong sought to join four other cycling immortals in the five-time TDF winner's club, but the obstacles emerged from the start. The blistering heat melted tires, Armstrong was not on his usual form, and his opponents attacked from the start rather than waiting for Armstrong's usual soul-crushing attacks in the Alps and Pyrenees. The race featured numerous heroes, courageous and tragic. Tyler Hamilton broke his collarbone in a Stage 1 crash but soldiered on through unimaginable pain not only to win a stage in dramatic fashion but to just miss a place on the podium. Joseba Beloki, looking as strong as he ever had, was not so fortunate. A horrific crash on a high-speed descent in stage 9 knocked him out of the race with a fractured elbow and wrist and broken femur. Richard Virenque pleased his French fans by capturing another polka-dot jersey as the best climber, though Iban Mayo showed signs of emerging as the world's top pure climber, winning the race up the historic switchbacks of Alpe D'Huez. Alessandro Petacchi dominated the first week of the Tour and in the process announced himself as the premier sprinter in the world, only to abandon in stage 7, and the competition for the green jersey came down to the final sprint down the cobblestone streets of Paris.
But the focus, again, was on Armstrong, and for the first time since his comeback from cancer he provided images of mortality and vulnerability in the race he had dominated for four years. He failed to capture a single time trial and didn't win an individual stage until stage 15. In stage 9, Armstrong, right behind Beloki when the Spaniard crashed, swerved and bounced down a hayfield, only to hop over a ditch at the bottom and rejoin the race on the road below. In stage 12, Ullrich put a minute and 36 seconds into the Texan who crossed the finish line dehydrated, his lips white, caked with salt. And on stage 15, when Armstrong's handlebars caught on a spectator's musette, dumping Armstrong to the pavement on the final climb of the day, it appeared he would finally lose. But the man who had survived cancer would not stop battling, and he climbed back on his bike to not only catch but pass all his competitors to win atop Luz Ardiden. It set him up for a final dramatic showdown with his chief nemesis Jan Ullrich in rain-swept Nantes in the final time trial.
The race footage, as usual, comes from all angles (motorcycles, helicopters, automobiles, fixed cameras) and has the immediacy of a guerilla documentary. As usual, the video is accompanied by the dulcet tones and florid metaphors of Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen, one of the finest announcing duos in sports. Unlike some of World Cycling Productions early videos of Armstrong's Tour victories, the footage is provided free of a musical soundtrack. It's fitting; this was a Tour that needed no artificial drama to amaze and captivate. --Eugene Wei
NOTE: The 12-hour version of the DVD provides more historical context and race coverage than the 4-hour DVD. For example, on stage 8, the 12-hour DVD has a featurette on the history of the Tour at Alpe D'Huez and a retrospective on the career of Richard Virenque before beginning race coverage with the Col du Galibier, the second-to-last stage of the day. The 4-hour DVD cuts right to the heart of every stage, showing just the highlights or final climbs and cutting out a lot of the contextual features. On stage eight, the 4-hour DVD jumps straight to the base of Alpe D'Huez, the final climb of the day.
(retrieved from Amazon Sun, 24 Jan 2016 17:01:47 -0500)
Coverage of the 2003 Tour de France through race footage, interviews and commentary. Lance Armstrong becomes the second man in Tour history to win in five consecutive years. This was one of the best Tours of all time that saw Jan Ullrich's return to greatness, the surprise ride and numerous attacks of Alexandre Vinokurov, and the "don't take me off the bike" attitude of Tyler Hamilton.
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