Monday, July 06, 2009


Sticking to the Script

Most Tour de France previews, at least those that are published on nice glossy paper, are outdated by the time they hit readers’ mailboxes. That’s not an indictment of the work that goes into them, or of anything really, it’s simply a matter of long printing lead times combined with the reality of Tour rosters, politics, and court cases that continue to evolve right up until that first rider rolls out of the giant hot dog explosion. (Or is it some Birth of Venus thing? I’m torn.) Sure, there’s a good chance the dates and route maps printed in those previews will still be accurate when July rolls around, but the rest is a little more speculative.

Take the 2004 Tour, for instance, when Matt White, warming up for his prologue ride, slid out on an electrical cable cover and broke his collarbone, sending reserve rider Peter Farazijn on a police-escorted 200km road rally across Belgium to fill in. Farazijn is probably the only rider in the modern era to start the Tour with a few beers in him, and for that alone we love him, but that’s not the point. The point is that every magazine is obligated to do their preview and to speculate about rosters and the roles each rider will play, but doing so is like laying down a bet on the Superbowl after the first playoff game. You have a little information, and you have to try to pick a winner. Unfortunately, you’re just not quite sure who’s playing yet.

But the first two days of this year’s Tour? Those were a gift to those poor sots who, with some hesitation, put their pencils down back in May and gave the order to roll the presses. A 15.5k opening time trial? Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank) sounds like as good a bet as anyone. Second stage likely to end in a sprint? Mark Cavendish (Columbia-HTC) is pretty much the only name you should write down. Those two prognostications had all the risk of picking Armstrong as a Tour contender in the early half of this decade, but I can’t say I blame anyone for making them. They were correct, of course, and besides, there’s plenty more stages, attrition, and dramatic collapses waiting in the wings to make a mockery of late race predictions.

While the clockwork reliability of Cancellara and Cavendish certainly endears them to people like pundits, team directors, and sponsors, it doesn’t make for particularly exciting news when they win. We all expected them to win, and they did. So I don’t have much to say about that, except to say nice job and just call a bit of attention to all the hard work those guys have to do to make it look so easy come race time. I’m also going to try to avoid the trap of demanding that they notch further victories or continue to win by greater and greater margins to “keep it interesting” or “dominate.” In an era that’s conditioned to value repeat wins, I think it’s worthwhile to remember what an accomplishment each stage win is. After all, numerous bars and cafes have been opened in small European towns on the strength of a single Tour stage win, the story of which is undoubtedly recounted over the rail every year around this time.

That said, nobody will be surprised to see either man on the stage winner’s podium again later in the race.

Race Radio


submit to reddit
always a nice read. thanks!

Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?