Sunday, July 8, 2012

Premiere Semaine: le Tour de France (et de Belgium et de Switzerland)

I've been an inconsistent viewer during this first week of the TDF--full live stages some days, last twenty minutes of the stage on others. Thus, I'm not sure how to focus my observations about the nine stages the peloton's raced so far; should I note the beautiful, undulating French/Swiss landscape of the initial mountain stages, Christopher Froome's remarkable victory on Les Plances des Belles Filles, or the myriad and inevitable crashes of the flat stages in the Ardennes?

Maybe the first week can best be summarized by Tyler Farrar trying to bust open Tom Veelers's trailer, on camera, fresh with both road rash and road rage. Or Peter Sagan revolutionizing the post-stage celebration with a little something he likes to call "the Forrest Gump". Or that the most famous Americans in the race seem stressed and oddly low profile (although an analysis of USADA's current investigation can wait for another post...). Or that two great Garmin riders, Tom Danielson and Ryder Hesjedal, were early casualties. Or the paucity of Scandinavian cyclists this year, and thus the excitement of Sweden's Frederik Kessiakoff earning the King of the Mountains jersey. Or Phil and Paul musing on French horses and cows. And the list goes on...
Rock on, Tourminator
I suppose I could say that I liked the odd symmetry, today, of Bradley Wiggins, a Brit, bearing the maillot jeune through Switzerland's fertile valleys, having just taken it from Fabian Cancellera, the Bear from Bern, while over at the All England Club Roger Feder, another supremely talented Swiss, wrested the Wimbledon title from Andy Murray, a Scot (and the first from the British Isles to reach the final in seventy-four years!). 

Also, today a supremely talented young Frenchman, Thibaut Pinot, won the stage, which means that the entire nation of France is throwing a party as I type. It also means that tomorrow the front pages of every French newspaper will trumpet Pinot's victory (and hopefully include some photos of his team manager in the race car, who almost fist-pumped himself out the window during the last 1k), but say nothing about the fascinating duel between Cadel Evans and Bradley Wiggins for the maillot jeune
Wiggins vs Evans
And what would they say? Perhaps that two of the most incredible cyclists, each exemplars of good sportsmanship, each supremely talented time trialists and climbers, race within ten seconds of one another. It's true that unless Wiggins cracks, either in a time trial or on one of the mountain stages, his small lead may be impossible for Evans to overcome. Team Sky possesses many strong lieutenants ready to protect their English leader...then again, so does BMC for their Australian one. And something tells me that at 35, Cadel is unwilling to leave France without another title. 

So who knows? There are still two weeks left. And if the Tour can be relied upon for anything, it's sheer unpredictablity. On that note, maybe I should just bet on Phil and Paul... 
Montbéliard vache froHaute-Saône.  According to Liggett and Sherwin, culpable of sour Swiss cheese when running.

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