Go Dad Go!

A self-important blog about riding bikes, raising kids and the all-too-rare nexus of these two pursuits.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Final Tour Email

Please indulge me as I offer a last bit of "conventional wisdom" about this year's Tour (apologies to Newsweek.)

Lance Armstrong: UP. Formerly known as arrogant and even vengeful, the States' Official Affiliation with the Tour has redeemed himself in the eyes of most. He raced with savvy and spoke with respect and sophistication, offering apologies to Sastre and daily press conferences. His Astana situation, we're learning, was far from placid, but he held his tongue -- and maybe his legs -- in playing a support role to Contador's victory.

Johan Brunyeel: SIDEWAYS. His rider wins a Maillot Jaune for the ninth time, but he can't shake the conviction that he's following his riders, not the other way around. Contador would have won this Tour if he'd been riding for Agritubel; meanwhile, if this is how it appears when Brunyeel manages competing egos, what does strife look like?

Mark Cavendish:
UP. This could have gone sideways, but his mastery of sprints is becoming absolute, and any guys who wins six times, including riding every other racer out of the camera frame on the Champs Elysees, deserves an "up" arrow.

Alberto Contador:
SIDEWAYS. This is the best rider we've seen in a generation, maybe two, but his tactics and his post-Tour comments -- not to mention his poor fielding of drug-use suspicion volleyed his way -- may have sullied his reputation. Assuming he stays clean (or unbusted) he'll win many more Grand Tours, but my guess is that while the Spanish will love him, he'll prove unpopular elsewhere, including among his fellow riders.

Drug Testing:
SIDEWAYS. Is it a good or bad thing that no one has been busted this year? A look at average speeds up climbs and in time trials would suggest that we have some statistical anomalies at play -- but it's nice not to read headlines about postitive testing every other day.

Hincapie, Hushovd and Voigt.
UP. These guys are the fan favorites. They're gutsy riders, getting by on "HTFU"-style riding and seeming almost like regular people. They're built sort-of like us, they don't seem to have inherited Mt. Olympus-rendered VO2 maxes, and they come across as likeable. We find out that Hincapie raced the last few stages with a broken collarbone (including overwhelming Garmin's long early lead-out attempt with one power-pull on the Champs); we see Hushovd teach Cavendish some truly Northern Eurpoean manners with his masterful point-winning solo effort on the Stage 17 climbs; we learn that Voigt is promising to ride next year's Tour within 24 hours of breaking his cheekbone and jaw(!) in a brutal crash (and that he has five kids(!!) and we like these guys.

The Polka-Dot Jersey:
DOWN. I say this as an avowed fan of climbing and climbers: this thing's becoming an anachronism. Who believes Pellizotti is this year's Tour's best climber? We all know who that is; Pellizotti might crack the top ten in a drag race from the bottom of Mt. Ventoux to the top. Certainly we need this prize to generate some excitement on the smaller, non-race-ending climbs (especially with this year's route), but it seems a bit silly to call its winner the "Best Climber."

The Schlecks:
UP. They may end up being Malone to Contador's Jordan, or (more accurately, perhaps) Sosa to his McGwire, but people love the Schlecks. We love their skinniness, their fraternally mutual support and their awkward, Luxembourgian attempts to become press stars. Should they find some time-trial prowess in the wind tunnel or through other means, they could push Contador. Regardless, fans seem to love them.

The Tour: UP. As I've written, this wasn't my favorite Tour. Yet it provided, again this year, many glorious moments. Riders scrambling, like their contracts depended on it, to close gaps on the windy stages; Voeckler and Haussler taking improbable, audacious attacks all the way to the finish line; David Millar doing his damndest to shake off demons and just once win a Tour stage without suspicion or doubt; the Schlecks never saying "die"; and Cancellara doing his thing time and again -- it's all worth following, and it all makes me an even bigger fan than before.

See you next year.



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