What a great Tour de France! I don’t think I have been this consumed with a sporting event since England won the FIFA World Cup in 1966. What a great thing for the sport of cycle racing in Australia.
On Saturday I had to forgo my usual bike ride to watch the final time trial. Like most I expected Cadel Evans to take it, but thought it would be close. I didn’t expect Evans to bury the Schlecks by a minute and a half.
A fitting ending; anything less than a win by Cadel Evans would have been an injustice. He had never been less than fourth in the General Classification from the very start of the race, and he had fought every inch of the way.
Not to take anything away from Andy Schleck’s brilliant solo ride in Thursday’s 18th Stage to win on the Col du Galibier, but Evens fought back with no help from anyone, and dragged Frank Schleck up the mountain to a podium place.
No one can fault Frank Schleck for not helping to chase down his brother, but I would have liked to have seen him attack earlier on the final climb instead of a final kilometer sprint for second place. By attack I mean an all out commitment, not just a 200 yard sprint, then look round type of play that we saw earlier in the Pyrenees.
Defensive riding or defensive play in any sport may be a sound tactical way to win, but for the fans, the people watching, it is boring. And ultimately it is the fans who finance all sport either directly or by supporting the sponsors by buying their products and services.
It was great to see Alberto Contador prove he was human after all and completely crack on the Galibier, but what was even greater was to see him come back the following day, with nothing to lose, and attack from the start of the first climb.
He went all out for the stage win, but only managed third spot in the end. This was okay in my book; he gave his all, and accepted defeat without regrets or complaints. He even had enough energy to give a fan a right hander as he neared the top of L’Alp d’Huez. (Picture below.)
It seems to me that cycle racing and in particular the Tour de France is the chosen spectator sport of the European version of the Red Neck. This loser goes to all the trouble to dress up as a fake doctor; then waits on a mountain top for hours for Contador to come by.
Then he gets in Alberto’s face in some kind of anti-doping protest, and all he gets for his effort is a smack in the gob. Does one brag about that after? ”I got punched in the mouth by Alberto Contador.” Or does one keep quiet and hope no one recognizes you?
I would think these fans keep the whole French camping vehicle industry employed full time. I can’t understand why such companies don’t have a pro team in the Tour.
For sheer guts how about Johnny Hoogerland? After being forced off the road by a French TV vehicle and thrown into a barbed wire fence; he not only finished the stage, by went on to be featured in other later break-aways. When interviewed about the incident, he said, “It was just an accident, at least I’m not dead like Wouter Weylandt.”
French rider Jeremy Roy got the most combative rider award; he was involved in every single break in this year’s race. (Amazing.)
Who can forget Thor Hushovd’s two wins, and the only other Norwegian in the TDF, Edvald Boasson Hagen also won two stages. Philippe Gilbert another rider who is a joy to watch, one of the sport’s great entertainers. Gilbert wore all the Tour’s Jerseys at different times this year; quite a feat
On the day that Tommy Voeckler lost the Yellow Jersey, the French fans had consolation in that Pierre Roland won on L’Alp duHuez beating Sammy Sanchez and Alberto Contador. In doing so he took the “Best Young Rider” Jersey.
I believe the reason we love sports so much is that they mirror the everyday struggles of life; those who take chances are eventually rewarded for their efforts. International sports are “War without tears.” If we lose, nothing is hurt but our national pride.
One small thing spoiling the perfect result of this year’s Tour; if there was any justice Tommy Voeckler would have made third spot on the podium instead of Frank Schleck. However, herein lies another lesson; that life is not always fair.