Sunday, July 26, 2009
Au soleil, sous la pluie, a midi ou a minuit
Il y a tout ce que vous voulez aux Champs-Elysees
- Joe Dassin, Les Champs Elysees
By now, the morning after a veritable army of French public servants have swept and sprayed the detritus of the 2009 Tour de France from the cobbles of the Champs Elysees, you’ve probably watched, read, and heard just about all you can stand about the race. Every angle of every stage has been analyzed, every alternative outcome dreamed up and debated, every quote taken out of context and scrutinized, every over-the-top paintjob and shiny new bauble photographed, measured, and spun. I know that I, for one, feel sort of overstuffed, like I’ve put on a protective and nourishing layer of cycling-coverage blubber to feed off of until the Giro di Lombardia in October, if not longer.
That said, I still have a need for closure, or maybe it's just the need to force dessert on already bursting dinner guests, I don’t know. So without further adieu, here’s the Service Course’s parting shots from the 2009 Tour de France:
- Some folks have read what I’ve written over the last several weeks and concluded that I don’t like Lance Armstrong (Astana). I can understand that, but as I see it, like or dislike doesn’t really enter into it. I’ve primarily commented on two issues regarding Armstrong. The first is the media campaign Armstrong and Johan Bruyneel have waged against Alberto Contador before and during the Tour de France. True, I found the whole thing weird, questionably effective, and distasteful – but not so much because of what they said as the fact that so many people, including many who should know better, bought into it and poured gas on the flames on their behalf.
The second issue I commented fairly frequently on was the expectation of how Armstrong would fare at various points in his Tour return. Simply put, I wasn’t entirely convinced that, at 37 years old, with 3 years out of competition, and coming off a broken collarbone, he was going to come back and contend for the win as so many seemed to assume, with some fervor, that he would. Frankly, I'm not sure he was sure either. In the end he didn’t really contend for the win, but what he did do given his circumstances was very impressive – moreso than I expected, to be honest. Chapeau. The more impressive thing, though, was that, for all the backbiting and polemics, Armstrong never for a second rode against Contador. When the interpersonal warfare is already that open, not crossing that line shows a considerable amount of restraint.
- OK, OK – one more thing regarding Armstrong. It remains my official position that the infamous, twitterific “Contador dropping Kloden” issue on Stage 17, while maybe not the ideal move by Contador, didn’t really matter on the stage, had no effect on the overall, and wasn’t worth all the hubbub. But I’m curious – as much attention as that move was given, why has nobody pointed out that the reason Contador and Kloden were facing both Andy and Frank Schleck instead of just Andy was that Frank jumped away while Armstrong was messing around playing brakey-checkey with Brad Wiggins (Garmin)?
- People will interpret this as they will, but really, isn’t it just less awkward for everyone that way?
- Speaking of awkward, does anyone know if Contador is going to ride the Vuelta? I’m guessing if he does, it’ll be Alain Gallopin behind the wheel of the car, and Johan Bruyneel will be nowhere to be found. Or, Bruyneel will be at the Vuelta, but only to sign riders for Team Radioshack. He always has had a thing for Spaniards. Must have been all that time at ONCE.
- During our Friday-Sunday siesta, Mark Cavendish (Columbia) picked up a few more stage wins. One of them was in Paris yesterday and the other was somewhere else on Friday – after awhile it just gets tedious to keep track of the details. But I do know that the final tally was six stages (or 28.57% of the stages on offer), which has to be inching towards some sort of modern, post-Merckx-and-Maertens era record. Anyway, anything that can be said about Cavendish winning stages has been said at least twice by now, so I’ll shut my trap on that.
- In between that Cavendish stage sandwich, Phil and Paul’s favorite name, Juan Manuel Garate (Rabobank) won on the Ventoux. That, of course, is awesome, both because it was a good ride and because it will give them a reason to say “Juan Manuel Garate” every time they spot him in the peloton for the remainder of his career. I have to admit, it does roll off the tongue. I like Jussi Veikkanen (FdJ) for the same reason, and I'm not just saying that to pander to our Finnish demographic.
- Garate’s win saved an otherwise dismal Tour for Rabobank, but you have to wonder about the team’s long-term prospects. Long the pride of the Netherlands, the team’s current GC guy is Russian, and the other guys who actually win races for them are Spanish. It hasn’t really been that long, but the days of Boogerd, Dekker, Van der Poel, and the like are getting to feel pretty distant. With their first Tour de France under their belt, is Skil-Shimano setting up to become the defacto home team, with Rabobank just becoming the mercenary ProTour squad that lives there? Maybe Lars Boom and Robert Gesink can fuel the Dutch revival, as long as the team gets that whole Hemopure issue sorted out.
- Garate saved Rabobank’s Tour, but nobody did a damn thing to save Quick Step’s. Although I did enjoy several stages of daily updates on the delicate and evolving state of Tom Boonen’s bowels, that certainly didn’t earn them any wins or money. In fact, it may have cost them some Swiss francs, depending on how and where Boonen chose to relieve his afflictions. After all the hubbub about whether Boonen was in or out, and then the disappointing and abbreviated performance once he got there, Allan Davis must be one bitter man.
- If we can jump back to the Ventoux for a second, can someone explain to me why Tony Martin (Columbia) looked dead during the entire ascent? Don’t get me wrong, he rode superbly, especially considering that he was called on to lead out Cavendish in Mark Renshaw’s absence the previous day. He just did not look, you know, “among the living” as he rode up the climb, what with his eyes rolling back in his head and whatnot. It was kind of freaking me out.
- Did you catch the Versus coverage on Friday’s Stage 19? There were some great moments in there, but the best, bar none, was when Phil was doing a prewired in-car interview with Cervelo DS Alex Sans Vega and asked him what the status of the injured Jens Voigt was. Which would have been a good question, except that Voigt rides for Saxo Bank, not Cervelo. Man, that double-whammy Sastre+Cervelo defection from CSC/Saxo Bank really screwed with Phil’s head - it was the second or third similar slipup that I saw. In the interests of full disclosure though, I was once a question into an interview with Brad McGee when I realized I was thinking of Scott McGrory's palmares when I was formulating the question, so I shouldn’t throw stones. Fortunately, McGee, like Vega, was kind enough to play along until I got my head right.
- Last year, with co-conspirator the Unholy Rouleur, we did a little examination of Tour related wine and cheese. This year felt more like an examination of whine and excuse me’s. This Tour had more apologies than a game of Sorry. Let’s recap the highlights: Armstrong apologized to Carlos Sastre and Christian Vandevelde for calling last year’s Tour de France a joke in the prelude to a new biography; Mark Cavendish apologized to Thor Hushovd for calling him a big whiney baby-man after Cav pushed him into the barriers; and Carlos Sastre apologized for apparently being rude to nearly everyone he encountered. There are a few others I’m forgetting – sorry about that.
- Once person not apologizing is Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto), who says he thinks less of the media than he does his own feces. Judging by what we know of Evans, that might not be too much of an insult, as I’m sure he believes his own feces to be quite attractive and free of harsh odors. That's more than most people think of journalists, and we know it. But come on, Cadel, when you’re second overall on GC for a few years in a row and then can’t get yourself out of the grupetto the next, people are going to ask you why.
- With the Tour over, much discussion is now likely to revolve around who will ride for Radio Shack next year. Contador pretty much ruled that out yesterday. Thank god.
- Do you remember those Saturday Night Live sketches where Jon Lovitz plays the Master Thespian? I sort of half expect the whole Contador-Armstrong fight to end with one of them turning triumphantly toward the camera and booming out, "But I was only acting!" Then Contador turns around and signs with Radio Shack.
- Well, I’m beat. I’ve been trying to keep up the posting frequency during the Tour more as a challenge to myself than anything else. Now I know what the riders mean when they say they’re having a jour sans, or that they just want to make it to Paris. Or at least I know what the journalists on the Tour mean when they say it’s exhausting, and that the whole thing seems sort of silly sometimes. Anyway, the response to the site during the Tour has been fantastic, and I really appreciate all the visits, comments, and emails over the past few weeks. Thank you. And by all means, if you’ve enjoyed what you’ve read here, please recommend the site to a friend or stick a link on your site.
- Oh, and the song quote at the top? Joe Dassin's little ditty is the traditional way to get closure on your Tour de France. So here you go:
From spanish media (translated on the cyclingnews forum):
Some excerpts translated:
"A Tale of solitude. It happened on Thursday, a few hours before the Annecy ITT. Contador came downstairs to the entrance of the Palace of Menthon, the luxurious Astana hotel. The Tour was on. He looked right, then left. Nobody, nothing. No Astana cars or helpers. Cold sweat. Quick time check. Where are they? The hotel is several kilometers from the start. There he was, the leader of the Tour, in flip-flops, bag in hand and alone. He went to the hall looking for an answer: Armstrong had ordered the helpers to go pick up his wife, kids and friends to the airport.
Contador left his room last because he was the last one starting the ITT. Armstrong had managed to take away his means of transportation. The straw that broke the camel's back. Hot flashes, he was rabid. He called his brother Fran. He came to pick him up by car and took him to Annecy in a private vehicle. He left last and finished first. His best victory. In the ITT. In solitude. The same way he has won his second tour.
Contador's toughest climb was not recorded in images. It was narrated by others. It was fought in the hotel and the bus: during one stage, Armstrong sat his guests at the very back of the bus, right in Contador's usual seat. One more provocation. Armstrong to the luxury suite. Contador to sleep with Paulinho, the only ally. Same deal during the entire tour. Mouth shut, listening to Armstrong's jabs: "It doesn't take a Nobel price to figure out what happens with side winds". Contador didn't reply in the hotel. He did on the road. He attacked in the first mountain finish in Arcalis. Without permission from Bruyneel, Armstrong's DS. That night the Astana hotel was a funeral. Red eyes from the Texan (anger? crying? not sure). The first cyclist that stood up to him. And he did it in silence."
Now, you'd better step up to the plate with the cross coverage this year or we'll drop this site like a bad habit (oh, and that means you personally have to make it to Wednesday morning cross practice)
Because he's a Zombie, of course.
Didn't you see what he was pulling out of his musette bag? It was BRAINS! YUMMY BRAINS!
Nice writeup Ryan. Better than mine for sure. Thanks.
The story of Contador's quiet resistance throughout the Tour is one of the most magnificent acts of defiance in the face of extreme provocation I've ever seen in the sport.
And you're bang on about Armstrong letting Frankie boy go by track standing Wiggins and then not chasing.
Keep up the excellent posts, Ryan!!
tony martin seems to always look like the typical german rave-kid after a 3-day-no-sleep-weekend (hailing form germany i should know) when there is a lot of hard climbing involved, BUT: he almost beat garate to the finish line on ventoux after garate dropped him one k or so earlier. maybe we got us a new ulle, we'll see...
keep it up