Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Lanterne Rouge 1999 & 2000

Blasts from the past:

Here's a piece on the battle for the Lanterne Rouge in 2000. (Thanks for the link, Bob!)

And from the 1999 Tour, by Andrew Hood:

"The last-place in the Tour de France isn't a bad place to be. At least you're still in the race, something more than 20 racers can't say midway through the 1999 Tour.

Tour organizers eliminated the "lanterne rouge" prize a few years ago because riders were purposely going slow to finish last in the stage. This year's red lantern is Australia's Jay Sweet, sprinter on the Big Mat team.

The 23-year-old from Adelaide is making his Tour debut and sits in last place in 2 hours, 4 minutes, 17 seconds in arrears. Sweet finished outside the time limit in Tuesday's stage to Sestrieres and struggled up L'Alpe d'Huez after race officials let him start the stage.

"It's been my life's dream to make it through the Tour de France, that's why I keep fighting. I hope to recover a little bit in these next few stages before the Pyrenees," Sweet told ESPN.com before Thursday's stage.

In Tuesday's stage Sweet was absolutely last in the climb to Sestrieres. After Lance Armstrong won the stage, kissed the podium girls and gave a press conference, Sweet was still suffering. It started to rain, then pour. The grupetto, the last group of riders, crossed the line 44 minutes after Armstrong's winning time, and Sweet was still suffering. He finally crossed the line alone, 56:59 later.

"It was raining so hard. There were no spectators at the finish line. Everyone was standing around waiting for me to finish so they could start taking down the barriers. There was no way I was going to stop," Sweet said.

He's still in the race, even it's in last place."

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