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

My SECOND Favoite Guy: Thomas Voeckler - Stage 12 Recap

Hello friends,

I’m sure you’ll agree: our first mountain stage didn’t disappoint. And that’s because it didn’t go as scripted, or as we became accustomed in the Lance/Contador years: In the first mountaintop-finishing stage of the Tour, the strongest rider throws down his fingerless glove, emphatically declaring to his rivals that yes, he’s back for another win; he attacks, unmatched, and builds an advantage that he’ll carry through the Tour. And once he attacks – once he shifts, and stands, and powers away, it’s over.

This year, like last year, things look different. Certainly this is due to the peloton’s having been decimated by crashes, though it’s unlikely that any of the fallen riders would have been the one to lay down such an unanswerable attack. I’ll withhold my cynicism and just remark that it’s nice to see that after climbing a first category mountain, and then the feared Tourmalet, and then the ascent to Luz-Ardiden, these guys actually get tired. So that when Andy Schleck, or brother Frank, or Contador himself attacks, there’s some hesitation from the others, and the powering away doesn’t continue unabated. Which makes the stage far more interesting; we see real tactics, real dueling.

And with these top climbers riding tactically and showing some fatigue, a lesser grimpeur who rides with heart, who plumbs the deepest part of his riding soul – and whose facial expressions betray that plumbing – can stick close enough to hang on to his Maillot Jaune. And thus did Thomas Voeckler once again win our hearts – but riding with his, this time keeping his shirt on with relative ease, at least compared to the relative hair’s-breadth by which he held it when he chased Lance Armstrong and, like this year, clung to the Jersey into the mountains. I’d assumed that there was no way this Frenchman would hold the Maillot through Bastille Day, but Voeckler did, and now he seems like a good bet for keeping it until le seize de Juliiet as well.

Of course, this all happened down the road from the leaders; further evidence that we’re seeing a bit of fallibility among our favorites is that winner Sammy Sanchez and mostly unknown Jelle Vandendert (how those two didn’t make Phil Delio’s all-best-names team I have no idea) managed to hold off…Frank Schleck, whose attack did ultimately stick. And thus the surprises in this stage abounded: Sanchez winning a day over three huge passes, and Vanendert nearly matching him; the other Schleck brother winning the favorites’ race; Basso appearing as strong as his more favored rivals; Tom Danielson finishing as the first American, ahead of Leipheimer and Van Garderen – and Contador falling off of both Schlecks’ pace, and finishing down on Evans as well. Unshaken in interviews afterwards, el Pistolero declared the day a success, resorting to that odd cyclist’s vernacular: the “sensations” in his legs felt right; he remained tranquilo. But if he’s feeling at peace, or confident, it’s hard to imagine why; little has gone right for him in this Tour, and the Pyrenees are supposed to be his playground. Certainly there are many, many days left in this Tour, but this is an odd way for him to score his fourth win.

Mountain stages score double, but the top tier of our friendly competitors remains largely unchanged – though Team Carter is looking fearsome, with Phil’s wife Liz riding Sanchez’ wheel into third place. Last year it was the Clarks; this year the Carters will try to emulate the Schlecks by getting two family members onto the podium. Beneath our top five we see some exciting movement, with Jon and Nancy making some strong moves and breaking into the top ten. I, meanwhile, am despising Contador even more than before; the guy disappoints me whether I’m rooting for him or not.

This comes out late, of course, after stage 13; I’m traveling so piecing things together, and will soon resort to looking up the results, as the rebroadcast here in this sports bar doesn’t end until midnight.

A demain – or maybe the day after!



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