Watching the Tour throughout most of the month of July leaves little time for such unimportant things as sleeping, working, and eating, but they must be done. I am already dreading Monday morning, when I will inevitably turn on the TV and find that the voices of Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen no longer fill my living room as I shuffle over to the kitchen for my first cup of coffee shortly before sunrise. I suppose I should prepare myself now.
This Tour has been full of bad luck for some - Cadel Evans' broken elbow, Tyler Farrar's broken wrist, Frank Shleck's broken collarbone, to name a few. Some have abandoned, some have soldiered on. Chapeau to Cadel for hanging in there, and to the sprinters for making it over the Alps and the Pyrenees. Tough lads, they are.
Some surprises - Lance losing time on the cobbles, Contador not winning a stage, Levi falling back in GC, and Chris Horner currently sitting at #10. I'm so happy for Chris, he is one tough guy, and I've enjoyed his daily blog posts in the Oregonian.
It's been filled with some drama too - from Renshaw's expulsion from the Tour after Stage 11, to Contador's attack when Andy Schleck had a mechanical on Stage 15. But what kind of a Tour would it be if there were no questionable tactics, no death-defying descents, no nasty weather, no situations where you can easily argue for one rider or another "well, that's bike racing". Reminds me of short track and Apolo Ohno always insisting at the Olympics that he can be the most fit, the most prepared mentally and physically, but once on the ice, anything can happen. "That's short track", he said in 2002 after crawling across the finish line following a dramatic pile-up when last-place Aussie Steven Bradbury glided across the line to capture the gold.
So, this bike racing, it is endlessly fascinating to me - every year I learn more about it and it becomes even more so. Why is that? After having seen the film "Chasing Legends" lastnight, could it be because I'm forming a list of the "Hottest guys in the Tour" calendar? No, that's not it - the Tour for me is not just about shaved muscular legs and fit bodies in spandex. It's about so much more than that. The passion for achievement, the willingness to "turn themselves inside out" as Paul Sherwen says, the sacrifices the domestiques make for the team, the strategy of one rider against another, team against team, rider against doubt, weather, injury, illness, fatigue. The beauty of France unfolding under each pedalstroke of the peloton, the crowds who come out in their crazy costumes, their skimpy clothing in the heat, waving their flags, shaking their fists at the riders, running alongside them, screaming "ALLEZ!!! ALLEZ!!!!" Willing them up the mountains, propelling them upward with the sheer passion of an entire country - the world, it seems, with all the flags representing so many nations waving in the wind. I even saw a University of Oregon flag on one stage flying next to an American flag! One day, I thought, I'd love to be there, but I don't think I'd scream and run alongside the riders. Just imagine camping there for days, waiting in anticipation, writing names in chalk on the road, meeting people from countries you've never been to, and then suddently, the motorcade arrives, the riders pounding out a rhythm with their bikes, their eyes looking ahead, unphased by the mayhem. How they manage to concentrate amidst all that chaos is beyond my comprehension! Some day, I shall ride up one of those climbs on my bike and await the peloton so I can experience it myself.
Until Monday, I will enjoy every minute. Can Andy Schleck gain time on Contador in tomorrow's time trial, an event Contador has been steadily improving in? Will Fabian Cancellara dominate as he did in the prologue? Will youngster Tony Martin outride Fabian like he did in the Tour de Suisse? Will Lance's farewell Tour end in a dramatic fashion? We shall see.
Well, That's It For The Year! (Kinda)
2 hours ago