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« Driving Around Cyclists for Dummies | Main | Who’s watching Sammy? »
Monday
Jul252011

A Perfect Result

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.

 

                        

Reader Comments (16)

Dave, it is interesting to read your post. TdF excitement seems to got hold of you. Yet in one fairly recent post you wrote about performance enhancing drugs in cycling, also mentioning Contador. There seems to be some imbalance.
I can understand that at some (superficial) level this extreme race is exciting.
Yet at another level there are plenty of drugs behind it. So on one hand you criticize them (or some of them) to some degree, yet on the other hand you melt all over them. So Contador, Armstrong, and others took PEDs, and others were able to keep up with them...without taking PEDs? How's that possible? Either they were superhuman or they took PEDs, as well. The latter seems more logical explanantion. OK, so all of a sudden this year's TdF was a clean sheet of paper, eh? No PEDs, very clean and fair. Except how can they have very similar times to the previous, drugged, stages? How can any person fairly consistently keep on riding so fast, so far, so frequently, under so challenging conditions naturally? The human body hasn't been designed for such extremeness. I could understand placing well in a stage here and there, but doing it on a more frequent bases? I've read Paul Kimmage's book. There he describes how it is to ride without drugs. Yes, there surely are riders more fit and stronger than Paul was, but still... I would think it would take an amazingly healthy person to be able to ride for three weeks at such a high speed in any terrain under any conditions consistently well. Even though the riders may be very fit, I seriously doubt they are 100% healthy. So all this is very suspicious, yet you seem to be all over it this time. What gives :-) ?

July 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMicheal Blue

Agree and Hoogerland was a stud. TdF 2012 should be great, the French have new hopes for stage wins (maybe a shot for a jersey?) and admittedly it will be tough with all the best riders back. Cavendish will be aiming for more stage wins and Contador says “The Tour is the most important race, ... I’ll never race the Giro again.”

July 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJack

No mention of Cavendish and the HTC train?

July 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterStephen Almond

Michael Blue,
To give up on pro cycle racing and the Tour de France entirely I may as well stop watching all sports. I may as well give up on life and believing in human nature. Our economy is also bad, and if I didn’t believe it will get better (eventually) I may as well shoot myself.

Yes I have been critical in the past and even said I might not watch this year’s Tour, but I did and I was entertained in the best way I possibly could; I couldn’t ask for anything better.

As I said, Contador proved he was human and you can’t ride the Giro and the TDF and do well in both. He has just announced he will not ride the Vuelta Espana, his own national tour.

Both Contador and the Schlecks were extremely gracious in defeat and won a lot of fans over, including me.

After such a great TDF I have to believe the sport is finally making a turn for the better. If I am proved wrong, I will be greatly disappointed, but I will never give up on it entirely.

Stephen Arnold,
Yes I should have mentioned Cav and the HTC team, but the piece was getting too long as it was. His picture is at the top and of course he was very much a part of the great entertainment.

Their win in Paris was spectacular; to organize the train on the last half lap and win when the break-away hadn’t even been brought back was unbelievable.

Dave

July 25, 2011 | Registered CommenterDave Moulton

Another top notch post Dave. It seems during the last 10 days or so of this year's tour I was going to bed every night muttering "attack, attack!. Why won't anyone attack?"
Andy's work on the Galibier stage was inspiring to me and made me hope for, finally, a tour victory for the Luxemburger. However, Cadel was valiant in the mountains and his ride in the race of truth was monsterish.
I'll miss Vino next year, as well as I would imagine, Chris Horner. Or do you think there is ANY chance he will be back?
However, Van Garderen will be an exciting new rider for many years on the tour. As will young Master Wiggins from the "sceptered isle".
Much excitement to come in future tours.

July 25, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterskylab

I have thoroughly enjoyed your TdF posts, Dave. Like you, I was so weary of the doping scandals and the back-stabbing and the Lance-baiting that I expected to ignore the whole thing. But no...somehow this year's race was more real, more human, if that makes any sense.

What happened to Hoogerland was unacceptable and I hope he has a kick-ass lawyer, as I suspect he does.

Your posts are always educational and entertaining and yeah, if this economy doesn't perk up soon shooting myself won't be an option because I'll have to eat the bullets and pawn the gun. TJ

July 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTim Joe Comstock

Dave, I was also thrilled by this year's Tour like few before it.

Cadel Evans definitely deserved his win ... and my wife was thrilled that "her man" won and another one of her heroes, Mark Cavendish, took the stage in Paris.

"Both my guys won today," she exclaimed.

The early crashes were disconcerting, however. I think the amazing speeds had something to do with it.

Here in Canada, of course, we're proud of our man Ryder Hesjedal (particularly here in his hometown of Victoria) and the Garmin-Cervelo team for their triumph.

During the commerce breaks, I enjoyed seeing safety tips for driving safely around cyclists. All road users can learn to be more careful and predictable--even those in the TdF motorcade!

July 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRamond Parker

Dave, agreed, it was the best tour I've seen in years. Cadel finally took charge and rode like you have to ride to win a grand tour when he closed down 2 minutes on Andy Schleck on the Galibier.

Even with my Australian bias I didn't believe that he could close down that much time in an ITT but I was very pleased to be so wrong!

I think the fact that the major players had "off" days shows that they're not doping. Remember Vinokourov? Or Ricco? No one was able to take off or have a dramatic recovery like that, and when they crossed the line on the mountain stages the exhaustion was clear on their face.

If critics of pro cycling don't think drug cheats are prominent in other sports then they're kidding themselves.

TJ, Johnny Hoogerland, not being from the land of litigation, will not be suing anyone. That's how people live outside of the US, much to the chagrin of lawyers.

July 25, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterlemmiwinks

READ MY POST the last one on the previous subject

July 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJohn GRUMP

I agree 100% with you Dave. I stopped paying attention to the TDF there for a few years. But this one I followed everyday all the way through. I wasn't cheering for anyone in particular this year, but was very happy for Evans. He earned it. No scandals or controversy's....and no doubts about who should have been standing on the top of the podium in Paris.

July 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDoug

Vöckler's fourth place was not really unfair. You must remember that he got such a great time gap as a gift when the peloton stopped riding after Vinokourov's and JVDB's crash. He defended the shirt with courage but without the gift he would have lost it at least one stage sooner.

July 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTorben Putkonen

I wanted to ask, what gives? No love for Cav and his team? But I see your response above. Cav and the HTC guys had to fight like hell for the green jersey, including on mountain stages just to make the time cuts. And you really saw what a group effort his success is on some of the stages where the leadout team wasn't able to assemble at the finish, and Cav was simply not there to sprint. Like a number of other great sprinters he is a bit of a fancy lad but you have to love how he wears his heart on his sleeve and the respect he always gives to his teammates. He is one of the all time great cyclists and it is always amazing to watch him and HTC crank it up.

July 26, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterrezilla

Agreed - this year's Tour was fantastic.

July 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDan O

...and Jens Voigt!
A consummate professional, a dedicated family man, as example of how to ride a bike even when it seems more like bull riding.
Like life, he got back on his bike and proceeded to kick ass.
This has been a Tour of bygone days; something to carry with us proudly.
It was a good ride…

July 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

Let's not forget the voices of the tour. Phil Liggett! Listening to his commentaries makes the boring parts of the tour come alive! And when he says stuff like "the riders are in for a day of pain and tourment", you gotta love it! Bobke gets a close second as far as entertainment value goes. I also got a kick out of Paul Sherwen's descriptions of the many French castles and chalets - often right out of nowhere!

Great tour all around. Even my wife got into it (and she despises getting little packages from bike stores)!

July 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAndy Katz

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