Tuesday, 27 July 2010

the tour

and again the tour is over. so how was it?

first things first. contador/schleck. i warmed more to contador this year than i had last year not least because of this advert. but at the same time it turns out that contador and schleck are so chummy off the bike they're not long off holiday together. problematic in a stage race i'd say (fignon - what a guy!). so chaingate? i was surprised when it happened but in retrospect it's a race. what're they going to do next? hang back because someone - evans/basso - isn't feeling well? schleck should've had his bike maintained/changed gear properly.

plus i don't think contador was in the best form. sure schleck attacked a bit but not as much as he could have. the time trial was great for him but just showed how off contador was even allowing for those wags in his team car lying to him about his 'deficit'. i think contador's emotion at the end gave an insight into the true story.

it was interesting too to see his relationship with vinokourov. vino's always going to be a tainted pleasure now but great to see him doing his vino thing again and better than in the giro. tho at the same time still riding for the team.

the mountains. anthony charteau. who? great result and one fo many for the french who got their best haul of stage wins since the eighties. laziness coupled with waaaay too much time in front of eurosport had me not reading the french papers but i'm guessing it was a mix of francocentric glee coupled with the usual handwringing about the state of french cycling, the demise of the tour and how it was better in the old days.

the points. poor old thor hushovd just doesn't have the legs for it these days which is a shame as tactically he seemed the most able. a shame too for robbie mcewan who you have to feel could've snatched more had he not had to cope with photographers flinging themselves at him. as it was a fine victory for pettachi, who's now got the points jersey in all the grand tours, a record that was overshadowed by the contador/schleck shenanigans but will be rearing its head in a drug investigation soonish. as for cavendish. what a great finish in the last stage. he may be many things but not quick at the end isn't one of them.

the race. i thought it was great. i loved both the avoriaz and tourmalet stages and the arrangement of the stages generally. there wasn't that dip in the third week for breakaways/sprinters and i didn't miss (surprisingly) either the team time trial or a second individual time trial. and it was great to see more and more young riders coming through in a grand tour.

which of course means armstrong. basso was poorly but had been poor anyway. poor old evans was broken but you have to feel that maybe, just maybe the efforts of the pair of them in the giro were coming back to haunt them. someone whose efforts in the giro extended only to the prologue was bradley wiggins. sky must be thinking about all that garmin transfer money as he failed to much of anything beyond moaning about his form and wearing progressively more comedy sunglasses. given the general arrogance of sky it's hard to feel much sympathy tho well done to thomas lofkvist who finshed in a cheeky seventeenth and surely must be a better all round prospect than wiggins who should maybe concentrate on his speed rather than climbing.

but armstrong, poor old puncturing, crashing armstrong who loves the tour so much he kissed the ground more than the pope. this was cheery armstrong rather than the stone faced patron of yesteryear which would've been good had it not also been past your sell by date armstrong. worse still, esp in light of the contador/vino pairing at astana, it was an armstrong who may not have been at his best but still didn't discernably ride for leipheimer or anyone else, somewhat ironic given chris horner's performance. at thirty nine. thirty nine lance! armstrong it appears may be be many things but a team player rather than a leader isn't one of them. and all this before the comedy of the jerseys on the last stage. one could almost hear the collective grinding of teeth of the world's accumulated lance haters.

of whom i'm not one but i'm still glad to see him gone. i got a real sense this year of that old era of cycling passing and new names emerging to take their place. true, cycling will never be drug free but i'd like to think drug use will never be as endemic as it used to be. of course it's not quite gone as the fda investigation in the wake of the landis accusations will doubtless roll on and on but it's on its way.

which begs the question. what will the lanceophiles/phobics do now? better yet, what next for greg lemond? i've been bemused by the frequency with which lemond's 'pure' tour has been referenced this year. as opposed to what - the other two, or the two that he didn't win? i feel sorry for lemond, he hasn't had the best luck either professionally or in business, even before a vast lance centred conspiracy theory and i find it difficult to watch his old performances now in the light of that.

but surely there should be some sort of special legal categorisation known as the lemond defence. i think the cycling armchair warriors have missed out on this. aside from a couple of odd blood results, the 'i only took multivitamins' excuse, lemond's commitment to pushing performance in every other area except drugs which he would never, ever do, aside form all of that lemond should be commended for the 'everyone else is doing this but not me, i rose above it all' line that should now be called 'the lemond defense'.

witness in recent times. richard virenque. richard, your entire team are doping, we got the drugs, your team mates are telling us you doped. virenque employs the lemond defense. it wasn't me, i am the only pure cyclist - and then employs a spin on the lemond, the virenque blub.

tyler hamilton. tyler, tyler after all those broken collar bone heroics how could you? but he did. and he too tried a variation. the 'it was my dead unborn twin what did for me' get out. but it didn't.

floyd landis. the signs were there early on that landis wasn't going to master the lemond defence as he touted a skinful of alcohol as a performance enhancing drug rather than a godawful attempt at masking the shedload of testosterone he'd got down him. this before some shameful blackmailing attempts and then of course he makes the cardinal error of admitting it was true all along.

but of course lance armstrong. possibly the most convincing practitioner of the lemond defence since...lemond. a denial so cast iron that the denial itself begins to look doubtful. why is lemond so pissed off? because lance has stolen his fire. armstrong has taken the lemond defense and made it his own. in the future maybe it'll be known as the armstrong defense and lemond will fester and sue. but then only the most commited of online presences will surely care.

in the end all that bothers me is how it affects those on the hard end of the livestrong campaign. seeing that level of belief at first hand is really quite affecting, if not disturbing. whatever the truth of the allegations the effect on those people is something all of those in the lance debate should be squaring with their own consciences. because that really isn't about a bike race.


kate said...

i couldn't agree more with your thoughts on this years tour. very rare that the planners get what they want and like you say, the race itself was great.

road cycling is so unique, it appears to be one of the few sports that loves/obsesses its own history. it also seems to revel in moments that it knows will become history. there's so may layers of drama within the racing and unfortunately doping is just another one being played out. and like all good actors, armstrong knows his lines and is sticking to it. i for one can't stop watching!

swiss said...

of course i forgot about stage 3aand the cobbles, crashes etc but i was away so only saw the highlights of that.

it's a shame the giro gets less attention. i've got more into it this last couple of years as racing wise it's more intense and the climbs are just mental. the zoncolan this year and a real man's performance from evans.

as for the history, that's a funny old thing. i'm doing that man of a certainage thing and accumulating many cycling books these days in the way i used to read climbing books when i was younger. i love all that old race stuff but what i really like is the glimpses into the social history behind it.

i'm just into matt rendell's olympic gangster which is turning out great. i've atually got a spar copy of this so if you fancy it you can have it, just let me know.

swiss said...

and, given the running content, i felt i had to add these armstrong videos from last year. i want a frog watch!




Titus said...

Really enjoyed the post once we got on to the doping bit!

swiss said...

i was on steroids for that bit...

Dominic Rivron said...

Hurrah for blogging. I've been following the TDF and reading about it on the net. This was one of the most enjoyable reads I came across. Correction: the most. Spot on.

swiss said...

why thank you. there was so much (much,much,much)more i could've gone on about. still, there's always next year!