I have watched some great racing this year, the Spring Classics, the Giro d’Italia, and the lead up races to the Tour de France. The Paris/Niece, the Criterium du Dophine, the Route du Sud, and the Tour de Suisse. I have not written a single word about any of them here on my blog.
The reason, whenever I do it turns into a discussion on doping, and quite honestly if I am in the middle of watching a race, or I have just watched it, it spoils it for me. It is not that I am in denial, or that I am so naïve to believe that doping doesn’t still go on, but I do believe that the sport is in a better place than it has been for a long time.
The fact that no one rider is dominating the sport anymore, I feel is an indication of that. It makes for better and more interesting racing. Here we are approaching the Tour de France, with four favorites. Contador, Froome, Quintana, and Nibali.
The winner will be whoever hits peak form during the race, so don’t rule out Tejay Van Garderen. Sure Froome beat him in the Criterium du Dophine, but only by 10 seconds. And if Tejay peaks at the Tour that could change. Nibali did nothing in the same race, but then again he did the exact same thing last year but appeared to peak at the Tour.
The same goes for French riders Thibault Pinot and Warren Barguil, and young British rider Simon Yates. Any of these could peak at the right time and cause an upset. All are in with at least a chance of a podium place.
Froome has a good chance of winning if he doesn’t fall off his bike. But I would take bets on him falling off over winning. I read a quote somewhere, that Chris Froome’s riding style is like “An octopus falling from a tree.” Not a pleasing rider to watch. Sure he gets the job done, but Contador climbing out of the saddle is more like watching a ballet, and a joy to behold.
Contador has the Giro d’Italia in his legs, which could either help or hinder his chances, depending on whether or not he has taken all the right steps to recover. On the penultimate stage of the Route du Sud that included three category one climbs, Contador looked extremely strong, but Quintana was able to meet his every attack. In the end it was Contador’s superior bike handling skills on the final descent that won him the stage and the overall race.
I would like to see Contador win, if only to see him pull of the Giro/Tour double. He will almost certainly retire at the end of this year if he does. He is a joy to watch, and tough as nails, remember he dislocated a shoulder in a crash in this year’s Giro, and carried on to win. Quintana could win too, Froomey and Nibali I could care less really.
So let’s have all the anti-doping rhetoric now while I have a week to forget about it. Then I can sit back and enjoy the racing. It promises to be a great one.
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