Go Dad Go!

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

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Cadel Holds off Contador While Thor Holds onto Yellow -- Stage Four Recap

OK – the trivia question was a bit obscure. But it hit me while watching the final moments of today’s stage, as one skinny climber after another moved to the front of the pack, and then danced his way up that painfully steep, two-kilometer drag; Cadel Evans appeared out of place as he grunted away, in the saddle, Ullrich-like, but he’s no Gulliver among tiny rivals – but lurking just behind, sometimes dangling dangerously far from the front, but then inexorably closing gap after gap was mighty Thor, indeed looking like a god among mortals. And I asked myself: How much more weight is that guy pulling up the hill than the others?

67, 62, 69, 63, 72, 82, 65

1st place Cadel Evans: 67 kg

2nd place Contador: 62

3rd place Vino: 69

4th place Uran: 63

5th place Gilbert:72

6th place Hushovd: 82

7th place Frank Schleck: 65

You few who are hoping to win this game with a statistician’s orientation can see it: that’s two standard deviations, baby. I’m no Malcolm Gladwell, but I’m pretty sure that’s an outlier.

Put another way: ask Contador or Uran to tuck a “big plate” from the gym in a jersey pocket, all 45 pounds of it, and then see how nimbly he can scoot up a 10% grade.

Thor Hushovd is the dominant figure of this Tour, proudly defending the Yellow Jersey, and he looks courageous doing it. That name, that “massive carcass” (Paul Sherwin’s term, not mine), those oddly flared nostrils – it all forms an impressive image.

(That siren you hear in the distance? That would be your man-crush alarm, and I know for whom it wails; yep, I’m right out front saying it – it wails for me.)

In 2009 Hushovd won the Green “Sprinter’s Jersey” not with final-meters closing kicks, but by setting out on what then appeared a fool’s errand, a solo breakaway over mountainous terrain. But as long as he stayed away, the errand provided him with chances to earn points towards the Jersey; Mark Cavendish, surely a faster sprinter but either unaware of what was happening or unable to follow over those mountains, failed even with six stage victories to amass enough points to surpass Thor’s total.

But the fierceness with which Hushovd held onto the Maillot Jaune today was surpassingly thrilling, even compared to that heroic stage in 2009. To see his hulking, yellow-clad back rising behind those of skinnies like Contador, Schleck, Gesink and Van Den Broeck, and to watch him remain fixedly determined not to let a gap remain, to stay in contact with Cadel Evans, just one second away from stealing the Yellow Jersey – that was my high point of the Tour thus far.

Though this stage had much more to offer: Farrar’s outright, no-excuses beating of Cavendish in the intermediate sprint; Contador laying down the gauntlet, making it clear that he would not go quietly into the night of the remaining pre-mountain stages; and of course Evans, fighting like his contract depending on his not allowing Contador to steal back even a second – this was an awesome stage. Chapeau to the Tour organisers* for inserting some drama into this first week of racing by adding these “lumpy” stages and uphill finishes.

Not that there’s a whole lot of drama in our game – yet. Marissa, who holds all of the “protagonists” from the Tour thus far (save Tyler Farrar) actually put a few points into chasers Pete and Phil. There are a few interesting elements emerging below her, including me, my mom and now my brother all sharing fifth place, while Phil’s pick-the-best-names strategy is playing out nicely (and he hasn’t even tapped Levi, Fabian or Roman).

Tomorrow’s a flatter stage – but windy! Maybe more drama on its way.

Have a great night –


*Today’s pretentious European spelling.


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