Friday, July 23, 2010



Brought to you by DIRK HOFMAN MOTORHOMES!*

My Tivo cut off the last several kilometers of yesterday’s stage to the top of the Col du Tourmalet. At the time, it was frustrating, and I cursed the damn thing and it’s seemingly non-existent understanding of bicycle racing, but once I was able to see the final kilometers, I realized my dear Tivo was really just trying to save me 20 minutes.

Like so many things in life, Stage 17 didn’t quite live up to the hype, at least from the heavily worked “final showdown” angle. To many, it seemed that Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) had quaffed some sort of psychotherapeutic Pepto Bismol to quell the anger in his stomach. And Alberto Contador (Astana), having keyed in on the readily apparent truth that people hate it when he attacks but love hollow dramatic gestures, holstered his pistola, made the peloton wait for Sammy Sanchez (Euskaltel), and gave away a stage win. Could it be that Contador is finally getting his head around this whole PR business? Because after yesterday’s charm onslaught, if he promises lower taxes and reduced unemployment, he could be well on his way to public office.

But before we get too down on Stage 17, let’s remember that it’s been one of the first excitement deficiencies of this Tour. The start on the narrow roads of the Netherlands, the Stage 3 cobbles, and the Ardennes all lived up to their billing, one way or another. The Alps showed us the fall of Armstrong, the struggles of Evans, and the tenacity of the French; the Pyrenees brought more of the same, plus the drama of the chain drop, the last waltz, and Jens Voigt on a circus bike. Remember last year, when nothing happened for two solid weeks? Yes, this year’s battle for yellow has been, with one glaring exception, a fairly uninspiring case of waiting and waiting some more, lasting so long that now all we have to wait for is a final time trial. And let’s face it, those final time trials are only truly climactic once every 10 years, and I’m doubting that this is that year.

Which isn’t to say that the last few days of this Tour won’t feature some interesting racing. By the time this is posted, we will have seen another green jersey showdown in Bordeaux, and depending on how the sprinters have come through the mountains, the tight battle between Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre) and Thor Hushovd (Cervelo) could carry all the way to the finish of the world’s greatest criterium on Sunday. And though I like to dismiss time trials, Saturday could produce some surprises as well. I think it’s a given that Denis Menchov (Rabobank) will overtake Sammy Sanchez (Euskaltel) to take the third spot on the podium, provided he can keep his TT bike upright. What I’ll be interested to see is how close he can come to Schleck and a Contador who many seem to doubt will be the same as the Contador we saw in last year’s TT closer. Nearly four minutes is a huge gulf, so I don’t expect Menchov to get across it, but the final podium spread could be a lot closer than it is now. The other thing I’ll be on the lookout for is whether Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Transitions) can improve on his current 8th place standing. While 6th place Robert Gesink (Rabobank) might be too far afield at 2:37 up, 7th place Joachin Rodriguez (Katusha) might be accessible at a 2:15 advantage.

The other final question to be answered, assuming all works out as people assume it will? How gaudy will Contador's Champs Elysees bike and kit be?


*Not really, but something tells me Dirk Hofman doesn't mind a little free advertising from time to time.

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You know, I'm going to give the AS v AC on the Tourmalet less grief than others do. I read somewhere that Andy said he surged at least 15 times. You know what, 2 guys of relatively equal ability going up that mountain are not going to put in big, dramatic, "look, I'm throwing my bike around to attack" sprints. That doesn't fly. Yeah, it would drop you or me or Levi, but not contador. And if it's not AS' strength, then he's going to do it his way. He's going to try and ride at his limit and then surge and surge and surge, imperceptibly to the TV, but not to the legs of Pistol-boy, and hope that AC cracks for just a second. AC didn't crack, but I'm sure that they weren't just easing their way up the mountain. It wasn't "dramatic" only because neither of them cracked.

I thought for a few seconds that AC was going to make the douchebag move of the century and pip Andy after following him for the last 10K. That would have cemented him as the biggest d-bag in the sport and also the most hated. His DS must have been screaming "no no no" as he started to slip to the inside...

Yes, get those people off the road. How much energy do the riders waste worrying about whether they're about to get hit in the handlebars by some idiot or have a flag catch in their chain.

how about smiling Chris Horner now the Shack GC leader in the top 10.
I was thinking the same thing about the barricades; there was no way either could attack in the final 2 or 3k just due to lack of space.

I didn't think the stage was boring or anti-climatic; AS was taking many digs/upping the pace, but without desired effect.

AC had good cause to ride defensively, thus AS was screwed unless he could drop him.

The defensive tact was even more relevant following AS's quick response to AC’s one big attack. If AC went again, he risked a fatal AS counter, so why bother?

AC would have been certainly would have bee vilified again by many if he had sprinted. But perhaps he is maturing considering a GC win w/o a road stage victory is most often seen as lacking.
'a GC win w/o a road stage victory is most often seen as lacking' - but isn't it really just the perfect strategic race, the perfectly economical outlay of energy by Contador, now about to win his fifth Grand Tour (in a row)?

Contador's easy to dislike - he's too good. And he comes across without much personality to us English speakers.
Ryan - what say you to some contentions?

At the Giro, the contenders race to win. At Le Tour, the contenders race to not lose.

The most surprising occurrence on 17 was not the sheep or Sanchez' resurrection, but briefly seeing Dr. Scott on the side of the mountain in a Coppi jersey, and he didn't appear to be talking at the time.

Ale Jet has been killing himself to get over the hills with Hushovd and not get cut. For his part, superior climbing Hushovd seems to like riding alongside the slavering, bouncing-on-the-bike Petacchi, trying to get him to stop drooling long enough to chat. Bastard move by Thor, classy, or cool psy-ops?

If there was a "most courageous rider" jersey, who'd be leading? Crazy brave attackers like Voeckler, Moreau, Casar, pick-a-Russian-domestique, and Sastre? Or one of the combat wounded like Sanchez, Voigt, Evans, or the rest of the infirmary crew? Who'd be wearing it after 17?

The morning Versus broadcast is to the evening broadcast as ______ is to porn. Fill in the blank and explain your choice.

That neither Contador nor Schleck could get away proves (1) they're both gutless, at least this year; (2) the fix is in; (3) they're riding clean, and an example of current human physiological limits.

That DVRs the world over cut off with the stage 1:49 from being over was (a) a travesty; (2) predictable; (iii) a rare act of mercy in technology's war on our collective psyche.
Versus seems to not stick to alloted times even on the tape delayed stage coverage. And my DVR doesn't get the idea, either, So, I have to remeber to record the show that is on right after the scheduled coverage is over. It's a pain...
If I'd watched that climb without knowing anything that happened in the first 16 stages, I might have thought that Schleck was more concerned with putting time into Menchov than with dropping Contador.
scott t: you must have missed with Rasmussen finally dropped contador with their constant attacking.

that was some exciting stuff.
And Rasmussen was doped to the gills wasn't he...
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