Monday, July 18, 2011

Notes on le Tour: Part Deux

The peloton is now riding towards the Alps, and it's hard to believe the Tour's more than half over. Some quick observations at this point in the race:

A tip of the chapeau to Johnny Hoogerland. And a big fat you're on notice! to the TV car driver who slammed him into a barbed wire fence (and sent Juan Antonio Flecha spinning across the road skin-side down) during Stage 9. Thirty-three stitches later and Hoogerland lived to wear polka dots for another day.

Nationalistic bright spots. The sentimentalist in me really likes that American Tyler Farrar won his first Tour stage on July 4th, and that Thomas Voeckler wore (and kept) yellow on Bastille Day. Likewise, Norwegian cycling fans must be ecstatic that their two compatriots in this year's Tour have both won stages--Edvald Boasson Hagen on Stage 6, and Thor Hushovd on Stage 13.

Speaking of that speedy Norwegian...My shock at watching Hushovd retain the maillot jeune through the Massif Centrale has been supplanted by my even greater shock at him winning Stage 13. No one's ever uttered "Col d'Aubisque" and "stage-winning sprinter" in the same sentence--at least, not in my lifetime. I was very, very, very surprised!
The Col d'Aubisque: where sprinters (used to) go to die.
Them's fighting words. Tyler Farrar, after just barely losing to the Manx Missile in Stage 15, gave my favorite post-stage interview of the Tour thus far to Robbie Ventura. Still slick with sweat and breathless after the finish-line sprint, Farrar emphasized Cavendish's "remarkable" comeback after "being dropped by the gruppetto for about 70k yesterday", reiterated how frustrated he was, and then stepped away from the camera. I was impressed. Farrar's perennially good-natured, and even when voicing his displeasure he remained relatively polite--which, of course, just underscored how angry he is. Farrar-Cavendish showdown on the Champs d'Elysees!

Jens Voigt is indestructible. I know that everyone likes to cite Chuck Norris as the bar by which all feats and phenomena may be measured (i.e. "When it rains, Chuck Norris doesn't get wet, the rain gets Chuck Norris'd", "Chuck Norris got his driver's license at the age of sixteen seconds", etc.), and that recently Super Sam Fuld of the Tampa Bay Rays has been experiencing the same mythic treatment ("Manny Ramirez retired shortly after testing positive for Sam Fuld in his blood stream", etc.), but let's be honest: neither could endure what Jens Voigt has survived--nay, thrived upon--in his cycling career.

For example, on a long descent in yesterday's Stage 15, Voigt crashed twice, but seemed annoyed rather than rattled. Last year, his front tire exploded and he crashed on an alpine descent, but despite significant road rash, fractured ribs, and a host of other injuries, he continued to race. In 2009, I thought I'd witnessed my first fatal Tour casualty since Casartelli when he crashed on the Col du Petit San Bernard. Etc etc etc. And yet he continues to drive the Shleck brothers down the roads of France with brute force. He's also forty and has six children despite sitting twenty-plus years in the saddle. Take that, Chuck Norris.
The Man. The Myth. The Legend.
Tom Danielson rides in the GC Top Ten. I'm very happy to see Tom Danielson riding so well in his first Tour. I've been a fan of his since he signed with Discovery back in 2005, and can't imagine the frustration he must have felt during the last few years (starting with that bout of undiagnosed giardia). I've also been a fan of his wife Kristin, who was a cycling star at Fort Collins, and who used to have a great mountain biking blog on cyclingnews.com that I loved to read back in grad school. All in all, very happy to see the Danielsons on the (inter)national stage!

Now on to Stage 16...allez, allez, allez!

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