It was a great day in the Tour if you love sunflowers. The countryside of France is saturated with yellow in the summertime, which I suppose must be why they chose yellow for the leader’s jersey in the first place. At times today the cyclists seemed like a backdrop for the scenery, and this is a representative sample of Phil Liggett’s race commentary:
There are 19 mills in this region – 9 are windmills and 10 are water mills. And it really is very beautiful indeed.
It seemed like a downright pleasant day to be a Tour rider. Several times we were treated to the weird sight of Lance Armstrong actually smiling and enjoying himself, despite – or maybe because of – the fact that he is increasingly irrelevant to the overall picture, 25 minutes back in 36th place. Meanwhile, back in the U.S., fellow ex-champion Greg LeMond is apparently salivating at the prospect of being able to say some Bad Stuff About Lance in a public forum:
Three-time Tour de France champion Greg LeMond has been served with a grand jury subpoena as part of a federal investigation of possible fraud and doping charges against Lance Armstrong and his associates, according to the New York Daily News.
“We are overjoyed,” LeMond’s wife, Kathy, told the newspaper. “I hope the truth will come out.” (AP)
It was another slow day on the Tour, at least until the last few kilometers, when things heated up a bit. Alexandre Vinokourov, who had been in the breakaway all day, was one of two riders in front as they approached the top of the last climb of the day. It was generally assumed at that point that Alberto Contador would stay in the peloton and let his teammate Vino go for the stage win.
But no – with about 2k to go, Contador shot out of the pack followed by Joaquin Rodriguez and they quickly caught Vinokourov. It was never entirely clear if this was a planned move by the Astana team or just Contador freelancing as he is wont to do. Soon Vino dropped away and it was just Contador and Rodriguez sprinting to the line. Rodriguez took the win, but Contador was happy because he had gained some time on Andy Schleck, who was unable to match Contador’s acceleration. Vinokourov came in 3rd, pumping in his fist in what I thought was victory but could just as easily have been frustration.
After all that, Contador erased one-quarter of Schleck’s 41-second lead and is 31 seconds behind with 12 stages and almost 59 hours of racing in the can. With any luck, they will duel all the way to Paris. This has the chance to be the most dramatic Tour in many years; let’s keep our fingers crossed.
Meanwhile, I’d like to talk a little about the movie Inception. My one-word review: Disappointed. (more…)
These are the dog days of the Tour de France—not only is it butt-ugly hot out there, melting the tarmac and gumming up everybody’s wheels, but we’re in a post-Alpine, pre-Pyrenean part of the race that’s testing the patience of even hardcore fans. It was possible to nod off for long stretches today without missing anything, and the result was another ho-hum victory for Mark Cavendish, his 3rd of the year and 13th overall. Cavendish was helped a bit by some tough-guy tactics from his teammate Mark Renshaw, who used the business end of his helmet to move aside fellow leadout man Julian Dean near the finish line.
Race officials took a dim view of Renshaw’s move and immediately kicked him out of the Tour, although it was not entirely clear who the instigator was. That will complicate things a bit for Cavendish, who counts on Renshaw to put him in the right position to sprint for the line, but I’m not sure it qualifies as news. Who cares about the sprinters, really? They’re mostly a bunch of pretty boys who ride really fast for a couple hundred yards at a time and spend the rest of the time trying to avoid being eliminated from the Tour.
The real action that settles who’s going to win the whole kit caravanserail won’t start till the weekend, so why belabor the point? I think I’ll go enjoy the sunshine instead.
Here's the polka dot dress I mentioned the other day. Tragique, no?
I’m sure that there are days when the Tour riders don’t feel like getting up in the morning and riding another hundred miles through the mountains, just like there are days when I don’t especially feel like writing about it. Today is one of those days, in part because I enjoyed last night’s Los Strawberitos postgame celebration just a little too much; but as Captain Beefheart said, I’m gonna do it anyway, then I’m gonna get right out of town.
They are saying today that Cadel Evans rode yesterday’s stage with a fractured bone in his elbow, and that’s why he gave such a terrible performance. I suppose I ought to feel bad for him, and ought to feel guilty for more or less calling him a big pussy in public. Somehow I don’t. Funny, that.
Today was Bastille Day, which is always a big day on the Tour. Big crowds of people who have the day off for the holiday line the route, and this makes the French riders somewhat less surrender-prone than usual. A few Frenchies got into the breakaway and about the only drama of the day was whether one of them would manage to win the stage. Alas and alack, it was not to be; the fastest man was Sergio Paulinho, for many years a Lance Armstrong domestique, who was given the freedom today to do as he pleased. The French do hold the top three places in the polka-dot jersey (King of the Mountains) competition, which is nice for them. (more…)
Cadel Evans got crushed on his first day in yellow. Here his teammate is either comforting him or trying to put him out of his misery.
I hate to say I told you so, but Cadel Evans went to pieces today at the first sign of trouble. He cracked badly early in the climb of the Col de la Madeleine and ended up losing 8 minutes to Contador and Schleck, who engaged in a spirited duel on the way up. Schleck kept moving a little ahead, testing, teasing, but Contador was up to the challenge and they stayed together all the way to the finish.
With Evans out of the picture, that puts Schleck in the yellow jersey and Contador in second, 41 seconds behind. It’s shaping up to be a two-man show from here on out, which doesn’t come as much of a surprise. It could end up being a replay of the 1989 mano-a-mano between Greg Lemond and Laurent Fignon, where Lemond came from 50 seconds behind on the last day to break Fignon’s heart and those of all France. (more…)