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Sports | Lance Armstrong, winner of five consecutive Tour de France races, criticizes teammate for decision

Issue: "UN's abuse of power," July 24, 2004

Uphill battle As riders in the Tour de France approached a famed climb in the French Alps, Manuel Beltran, Lance Armstrong's young teammate, decided to make a stab at ending competition for the Tour's yellow jersey early. With a sprinter's instinct, Mr. Beltran launched up the steep climb into the mountains at what Mr. Armstrong would later call a "supersonic" pace. When the Texan and other teammates followed Mr. Beltran, two of Mr. Armstrong's biggest rivals, German Jan Ullrich and Frenchman Richard Virenque, were unable to keep up. But Mr. Armstrong, too, struggled up the mountain. And though Mr. Armstrong claimed the yellow jersey because of the gambit, he criticized Mr. Beltran's judgment. Mr. Armstrong, winner of five consecutive Tour de France races, knows he'll need smart and speedy assistance from his U.S. Postal Service team to make it six. He's filled his cycling team with highly competent (and at times highly paid) riders. Longtime teammate Viatcheslav Ekimov assists Mr. Armstrong in sprints while George Hincapie is his chief climbing lieutenant. "We keep him out of the wind, keep him from going too far behind, just keep him in a good position all day -- with as little energy expenditure as possible," Mr. Hincapie said. Heat is on In terms of balancing the scales, the Shaquille O'Neal trade to Miami is as unequal as it gets. Consider: Brian Grant and Lamar Odom, the two other principals involved in the Shaq-to-Miami trade, weigh nearly 150 pounds more than Mr. O'Neal does. But it's not enough to tip the scale in favor of the Lakers. Ever since Mr. O'Neal demanded the trade, the Lakers might as well have given up hope for getting a fair deal. They settled for shipping the big fella out of the Western Conference, keeping him away from Dallas or Sacramento. But what team exactly gets the better half of the deal? Maybe neither. Instead of dealing for expiring contracts to start over, Los Angeles put themselves further over the salary cap and for longer. And even if the Lakers resign Kobe Bryant, would a team featuring Mr. Bryant and small forward Lamar Odom be very different from the Clippers? And just where will Miami go with their newfound center? Will a depreciating Mr. O'Neal make it any further with Dwyane Wade than he did with Mr. Bryant? When there are no winners, there are only losers. Around the Horn • What's eating at Marion Jones and Tim Montgomery? Not long ago both were top sprinters with 100-meter dash records. Now, neither qualified for the Olympics in that event. Mr. Montgomery could only manage seventh place in the 100-meter dash at the Olympic trials. He blamed reporters: "I've got you all on my back. I have to deal with you every day." Journalists have asked Mr. Montgomery and his girlfriend, Ms. Jones, about steroid use ever since their names were connected to BALCO, a lab under investigation. • Most NBA fans suspected that the Cleveland Cavaliers would find a way to mess up LeBron James and the Cavs' current era of good feeling. Cleveland GM Jim Paxson let forward Carlos Boozer become a free agent to sign him to a long-term deal starting at $5 million. But once Mr. Boozer was on the open market, he accepted a six-year deal with the Utah Jazz starting at $11 million. Mr. Paxson was left to seem like the sport's most foolish general manager. • Apparently Shaquille O'Neal has gravitational pull. Just as the big center was dealt to Miami, rumors leaked that a big star could be drawn to the Heat. The Chicago Tribune reported Michael Jordan could be pursuing a deal to make him part owner of the Miami franchise.

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