There was so much certainty in Phil Liggett's voice on Thursday as he declared Andreas Kloeden the winner of Stage 17 of the Tour de France that a viewer was tempted to wonder if Liggett, an Outdoor Life Network announcer, has not recognized that after winning five consecutive Tours, Lance Armstrong can do what he wants when he wishes.
With the finish line nearly in sight, Kloeden bolted from the lead pack and Liggett said unequivocally: "The race just got won here by Andreas Kloeden. It's all over." The race wasn't over yet, but Liggett said that Kloeden "is about to get a stage win here."
With even less time to go, he added, "Kloeden doesn't have a lot left, but it's enough to win this stage." No doubt, he said, Kloeden would get the 20-second bonus for winning.
Liggett had now entered the territory of "Dewey Defeats Truman."
It was an incredible gaffe by Liggett, who was then compelled by reality, not hasty clairvoyance, to make this final call: "The man in yellow is running at him with the usual determination. Ullrich in the slipstream. Armstrong is coming with an incredible rush and Kloeden has realized it is too late. Is there any stopping Lance Armstrong in this Tour de France? And the answer is no, there is not."
Armstrong's victory in the final 100m gave him an overall lead of 4 minutes 9 seconds and makes him, barring a catastrophe, the probable winner of his sixth successive Tour on Sunday.
Liggett and his OLN partner, Paul Sherwen, maintained an obsession through a large part of the stage that the German Jan Ullrich would attack. Surely they know Ullrich's history and tendencies, but their fixation on what would, but did not happen, was comical: He has to attack, they said. He will attack. He's ready to go.
"He's a beast of a man," Sherwen said of Ullrich, high in his saddle, ready to take control and put Armstrong in his place.
But even after admitting that Ullrich ultimately could not attack because of pressure by Armstrong's US Postal Service team, Liggett said that "Ullrich is the man to beat" and that Kloeden would be the "pacemaker for Jan Ullrich to win the stage."
Armstrong's almost unprecedented dominance has turned him into one of the word's most famous athletes and personalities. The transformation is stunning because cycling, at least in the US, is a niche sport. But Armstrong's success and his recovery from cancer have given cycling a much higher profile in America.
And he is enjoying the spoils of being a symbol of athletic excellence and cancer survival.
His numerous and lucrative endorsements US$17 million a year, said Bob Williams, the president of Burns Sports and Celebrities, which matches athletes and entertainers with advertisers.
"He has broken out of the traditional guidelines of being a successful sports endorser," Williams said. "You almost always need to be in a sport with lots of fans in attendance and with big ratings."
‘GREAT EVENING‘: In the women’s singles in Rome, Simona Halep and Karolina Pliskova advanced, while Rafael Nadal swept into the quarters in the men’s singles Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei and Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic on Friday had to dig deep to advance to the semi-finals of the women’s doubles at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome. The top seeds, who did not drop a game in their opening match on the clay courts at the Foro Italico, battled to a 7-6 (7/5), 6-4 victory over sixth seeds Veronika Kudermetova and Katerina Siniakova in 1 hour, 39 minutes. The reigning Wimbledon champions saved nine of 11 break points and converted three of eight, winning 56 percent of points on their second serve and sending down two aces
’SO CONSISTENT’: The victory gave the world No. 1 and world No. 2 a 21-1 win-loss record and their fourth title of the season after successes in Brisbane, Dubai and Doha Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei and Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic on Sunday cruised to their fourth women’s doubles title of the season at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome in their first tournament back since the suspension of the WTA Tour due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The top seeds took just 63 minutes to complete a comprehensive 6-2, 6-2 victory over unseeded German-Romanian duo Anna-Lena Friedsam and Raluca Olaru at the Foro Italico. It was the Taiwanese-Czech pairing’s first outing since they won the Qatar Open in February. “After five months, you don’t know what to expect,” Strycova told the WTA Web site.
‘FUN TIME’: Denver’s Nikola Jokic said that his team would not accept that anyone else is better than them and the opposition need to play much better than they do Just about everyone had LA versus LA written in for the NBA’s Western Conference finals, but the resilient Denver Nuggets have crashed the party. Behind Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic, the Nuggets advanced to the conference finals for the first time since 2009 to face LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers. Game 1 is scheduled to be played tomorrow. This was no ordinary road. The Nuggets fell behind 3-1 in their first-round series against the Utah Jazz before bouncing back with three straight victories. Then they went down 3-1 to the Los Angeles Clippers in the second round before winning in Game 7
‘GREAT COMPETITOR’: Former French Open champion Garbine Muguruza was tested by American teenager Coco Gauff, before the Spaniard advanced in three sets Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei and Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic on Thursday cruised into the quarter-finals of the women’s doubles at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia by handing their Japanese opponents a rare “double bagel,” a feat matched by US Open losing finalist Victoria Azarenka in the women’s singles. Top seeds Hsieh and Strycova took just 49 minutes to see off the challenge of Japanese duo Nao Hibino and Makoto Ninomiya 6-0, 6-0 on the clay courts at the Foro Italico in Rome. The Taiwanese-Czech duo saved both break points they faced and converted six of 14, winning 62 percent of their first