Vive le Tour

World cup is over. Tour de France is half way over. And boy am I exhausted. Happy, but exhausted.

Why?

The tour is getting more and more exciting.

It started amazing and for me it keeps getting better. The cobble stones of Belgium and north France proved selective as expected. Lance losing a minute. Franck Schleck losing the race.

Then a few stages for the sprinters, with Cavendish’s demise and comeback within 24 hours.

Then the mountains. Every year they prove selective, and this year they claimed all but the two top favourites by the second big stage. First great mountain stage proved to be the real curtain on Lance Armstrong’s tour career. The second claimed the rest.

And if it is not hard enough to be cycling up and down mountains, long stages and all, mother nature comes and turns the oven on. It is very hard to cycle when it is over 25 degrees centigrade. It is harder over 30. Today it hit 41. It is a temperature too hot to go to the beach.

First, Lance

His comeback is a success. Period. He came from four years’ rest to finish on the podium. This year he shows great fitness, but even greater bad luck. A giant like him must, in my opinion, continue as long as he has the passion. Forget about “quitting while you’re ahead”. If you’re ahead, why quit?! If you’re still enjoying it – keep on.

Second, Cadel Evans

Cuddles is known for his bad luck. If bad luck had a currency, he’d be the Bank of Bad Luck. I hoped that his win of the Rainbow Jersey would negate his normal bad luck, double jinx call it if you wish.

Though this year was very good for him, Cuddles proved you can’t escape your (bad) luck. A Crash on stage 9 fractured his elbow. It is hard to cycle on a flat with a fractured elbow. It is even harder up a monster of a mountain that Col du Madeleine is. It is even harder when you are wearing the yellow jersey and everyone wants to attack you.

Cuddles cracked. A crack he will not be able to mend. The tour is over for him. You can’t help but feel sorry for a guy who can cry when putting the shirt on, even more than when taking it off.

Wouldn’t you?! Take a look at the profile of this ‘hill’

Profile of Col Du Madelein. What a beast

'tis a hill I tell ya!

And this brings me to the only contenders left. Andy Schleck and Contador aka il-pistolero!

Contador and A.Schleck at podium of 09 tour

2009 tour podium. From left: A. Schleck, A Contador, L Armstrong.

The climb to the Madeleine showed how much of a class apart these two are from the others, with regards to climbing. Contador, though being 40 secs behind is still favourite. As he can also time-trial. And this brings me to the key point of this tour.

No supermen, almost

No one appears to be a superman. If the last 10-15 years taught us anything in cycling, is that supermen are likely to be dopers. A point many use against Lance Armstrong, and his sometimes super-human performances.

This tour has not such super-humans. Well, maybe two.

Superman#1 Il Pistolero –  Contador. Schleck is a pure climber and is expected to lose the equivalent of years in the last time-trial. Contador, though being an amazing climber can also time-trial. Two very different disciplines. He is in a class of his own, when it comes to a grand-tour.

Superman #2 Jens Voigt – the German rider can suffer like no other. He will never win the tour. He’d be lucky to win a stage. But if you look for a rider to die for his team – Jens is your man. If you’re looking for someone to go beyond his abilities to pull his team-leader – Jens is your man. Jens is the people’s superman. You know you can’t be Lance, or Andy or Contador. But you wish you could be Jens.

Here is a video of Jens trying to die. Literally. A horrible crash that could’ve killed anyone, except this amazing German:

Can Contador be really so fast?!

Can he suddenly be faster than, say, a super time-trialis, Olympic champion, like Fabian Cancellara? Well, in a grand tour yes. Out of a context of a grand tour it is all about your ability to crush those pedals for an hour. In a grand tour you have to take into account all the previous days of cycling and the accumulated fatigue.

One of the things that make Contador such a great grand tour rider is his recovery. The very thing that abandons older riders, like Lance Armstrong. Contador can recover like no other. Maybe Andy Schleck can recover well as-well. But his ability to crush those pedals on the flat is lacking, on a good day.

So, is the tour over and we can go home now?

Well, not quite. We are just half way through and anything can happen. Contador can fall and be forced to leave. Andy can show that he actually learned to time-trial. His brother, Frank, proved this year he can seriously improve.

Half way through, and everything to play for. And I haven’t mentioned anything about the last step of the podium.

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About snailonabike
I cycle, I run, I live, I have a family, I write code for a living, I have an opinion

One Response to Vive le Tour

  1. Tim says:

    Jens Voigt is one of my favourite cyclists in the entire peloton. Here is a man who suffers for his team willingly, burying himself day after day and always maintaining a smile. There are many unsung heroes among the teams’ domestiques, but no one quite like Jens!

    If you’re interested, I am doing daily updates on the Tour over at http://thearmchairsportsfan.wordpress.com/. I’d love to share your thoughts and views!

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