Tour de France 2010, Stage 19

Posted in Tour de France on July 24th, 2010 by bill
The agony of defeat.

The agony of defeat.

There were no miracles today. Just for a moment there, it looked like Andy Schleck was going to shock the world by beating Alberto Contador in the time trial; he was up by two seconds at the first time check, but as time went on Contador’s superior speed reasserted itself. In the end Contador bested Schleck’s time by 31 seconds, extending his lead in the Tour to 39 seconds.

Interesting, that, given that 39 seconds was the exact amount Contador gained in the controversial Stage 15. This will give fans something to debate for years to come: Is Contador’s victory tainted by the fact that he transgressed the unwritten rules, taking the yellow jersey due to a mechanical issue? I for one am inclined to say it is. You could say that Contador not only cheated Andy Schleck out of the jersey, he cheated us out of the prospect of the Tour entering its final day with two riders exactly tied, which I don’t believe has ever happened before.

I’m not sure what would have transpired in that case. It’s hard to gain time on the final day, which is always a flat ride into Paris. Someone might have ended up winning the Tour by a fraction of a second. But it would have been a dramatic stage fraught with tension, where any advantage gained would have been decisive. Instead, we will get the usual ceremonial procession with Champagne, and most likely a Mark Cavendish stage win. Oh well. Like the man says: Of all the words of blog and pen, the saddest are “it might have been.”

Tour de France 2010, Stage 18

Posted in Tour de France on July 24th, 2010 by bill
A hot chick and two douchebags.

A hot chick and two douchebags.

They tell me that Mark Cavendish achieves a top speed on his sprints of something like 74 kph, or 46 miles an hour. Some people, especially in my neighborhood, can’t go that fast in a car. This is why Cavendish wins stage after stage after stage; Stage 18 was his 4th this year and the 14th of his career.

To put that in perspective a little, Cavendish’s coach and mentor, Erik Zabel—a cycling legend in his own right—had 12 stage wins in a long and illustrious career. Cavendish is barely 25 years old and already has 14, maybe 15 if he takes the final stage in Paris as he did last year.

The record for most career stage wins is held by Eddy Merckx with 34, and you’d have to view Cavendish as a threat to this record, though Cavendish will never in a million years be the cyclist Merckx was. Merckx was a dominant all-around talent who won five Tours and might have won more if he hadn’t been punched in the kidney by a spectator. Cavendish is a specialist who struggles to get through the mountains without being eliminated; he currently sits 154th in the general classification, 3 hours and 49 minutes behind Alberto Contador. But in the last 200 meters or so that determine who is going to win a bunch sprint, Cavendish makes the other very fast professionals look like toddlers riding trikes. In Stage 18 he was without his leadout team but still shot out of the pack and won going away.

Contador still sits an agonizing 8 seconds in front of Andy Schleck, who was powerless to make any headway on a flat, straight stage. He did get to meet Cameron Diaz and Tom Cruise, who presumably were in France to promote that movie they made together. They also stood on the podium with Contador at his behest. Is it worth having to put up with Tom Cruise if you get to hang out with Cameron Diaz? That’s a personal decision, I guess.