If you have been a fan of the Tour De France for any period longer than the "Lance" era, you'll remember a time when the winner of the Tour was also a contender for other races in the season's calendar. Lance completely re-wrote the way an athlete trains to win the tour. As the Tour moves forward, and new winners emerge, will they be capable of wins throughout the season, or has the era of the all-around cyclist come to a close? Will there ever be another Merckx? Can Boonen extend his season and talents to include a win in a Grand Tour?
Paul Sherwin has compared Lance's Tour preperation to that of a track and field athlete, that is, he prepares only for specific events. I think this tactic begins not with Lance or Yoo-han, but with the sponsors of the USPS and subsequent Discovery team. If the American population were familiar with races like Milan San Remo, the Vuelta, or Amstel Gold, then USPS's charter would be have been different, and so would the team's planning. For better or worse, it was an American mentality that changed how the Tour is fought and won.
I can remember reading an article about Lance in 2000 or 2001, where I read for the first time that Lance's only objective as an employee/professional athlete was to win the Tour. At that time, it was difficult to come to grips with the concept that a PRO team would have such a single goal, a single purpose. The Tour is the only race that means anything to most Americans; it is the biggest and the best. So why waste time on the others.
Now that Lance is retired we may see a return to a time when a Tour Champion and his sponsors will target other events in the season for more than just Tour preperation.
Photo courtesy Spider Man