Now that Tour withdraw jitters are ending and I’m not twitching while watching summer reruns in the evening instead of one of the best Tours in history. I’ve made a list of winners and losers from the month of July in France.
1. The fans. What a race filled with a wide variety of stories, one of which is no Tour positive drug test to date.
2. Alberto Contador who wins his second Tour and now has Four Grand Tours wins that he’s entered in a row. The Tour in 2007, The Giro 2008, the Veulta 2008, and now the Tour again. Looks like he’ll be winning many more in the coming years. He also did this as a champion and with as the French say, Panche. He made a tactical error or two, but can over come that with raw talent. He may have been forced to take the risk on Andorra Arcalis in stage 7 to show his own team, whose boss now.
3. Lance Armstrong and Cancer victims around the world. Lance’s second comeback to cycling is nearly as impressive as his first after cancer. To retire for three years and race at this level at 37 years old. If they ever make a movie about his life this would be the perfect start of the sequel, which might just end with him as Governor of Texas or a member of the Senate.
4. The Brothers Schleck, what a dynamic duo of talent like we’ve never seen in cycling before riding for the same team, Saxo Bank. Without them challenging Team Astana the race would have anticlimactic. Add Fabian Cancellara to the mix and Saxo Bank was the straw that stirred the drink as the saying goes. This was a team of great talent who know how to spell team without the “I”.
5. Team Garmin-Slipstreem and Bradley Wiggins. His talent was without question, but his ability to ride three weeks and climb the Pyrenees and Alps with true climbers surprised even him. Christian Vande Velde, who suffered five broken vertebra in a crash in May, rode in support guiding Wiggins through the mountains and still finished eight overall. Tyler Farrar never won a stage, but came close and will in the future.
6. The Sprinters Mark Cavendish and Green jersey winner Thor Hushvold. These two went head to head in the sprinters competition. Cavendish won six stages with his legs, while Hushvold won the jersey with craftiness and desire.
7. The Liquigas team with two in the top ten and King of the Mountain winner Franco Pellizotti who came here to win the polka-dot jersey and win a stage. He did one of the two finishing second on stage XX. Maybe to make up for not winning a stage he was named as the most aggressive rider for the Tour. Vincenzo Nibali, 7th and Roman Kreuziger 9th are on the heals of Andy Schleck for future Tour winners.
8. Journeyman Rinaldo Nocentini joined an early breakaway heading out of Barcelona on the way to the mountain top finish at Andorre Arcalis. Little did he know his fourth place finish on the day would put him in yellow for the next seven stages.
9. Johan Bruyneel who has now delivered nine Tour winners in ten years. No other team director has those stats. He also had to put his friendship with Armstrong aside and win the race. He held the team together even with the many mixed signals, which speaks well of how professional the origination is. He’ll have a solid resume as he looks for a new job, but if he thought he Kazaks were difficult bosses his new boss might be even tougher.
1. The over zealous doping controllers who targeted a number of riders for as many as 20 test in a 25 day period. Testing is needed and targeted testing makes sense, but so does some respect for the riders and their needs to survive a three-week tour. Riders have difficulties finding time to rest, eat, and sleep due to the demands of the race. There’s team, sponsor, media, and drug testing responsibilities. When testers call so early in the morning not only taking urine but blood samples as well this is an added train to a riders system.
2. Carlos Saste, last years winner who finished 17th over all this year. He rode with style and at least attempted to attack the other leaders but failed. During the second rest day the pressure of not doing well got o him and he blamed others. He later redeemed himself and showed the world his true character with an apology both through the media and to the individuals he blasted.
3. Cadel Evans who went down under to finish 30th place after finishing second the past two years. His Silence-Lotto team let him down at the start and he let them down later. They signed two riders to help him with the Tour with questionable reputations, both cut from the squad. Evans too took risks to try and make time, but ultimately paid the costs and lost greater time.
4. The American media who started nearly every story with Lance Armstrong. Sure he’s important to American cycling fans but he did not always play a role in the race on any given day. It’s time for the media to report on the race as a whole with all the stories, not through a single set of eyes. On top of this he choose which television reporter who would speak with from VS, Frankie Andrue and then controlled most of his information and quotes through Twitter.
5. Local favorite George Hincapie who could a and should a been in yellow except for the pace making of his former teammates on Astana and rival American team Garmin-Slipstream in stage ??. Then a crash on stage 17 broke his collar bone, but wanting to finish the Tour for the “lucky” 13th time he wouldn’t see a doctor. He did finish in Paris and now will have some time off to heal. Maybe he should really be in the winners list, except for bad luck.
6. Denis Mencov started as a favorite to add yellow to his Giro pink jersey in one season, but finished 51st instead.
7. Quick-step and “star” Tom Boonen who needed lawyers to get him in the race a day before the start to never compete in a field sprint. Leaves you wondering how Alan Davis who was replaced by Boonen might have fared. Boonen dropped out before stage 15.
8. Greg Lemond’s opinion piece in Le Monde during the Tour questioning Contador’s performance on the final climb to Verbier is not what cycling needs. Lemond teamed with former Festina’s team trainer Antoine Vayer who claimed impossible levels of VO2 max and watts needed for Contador and others to climb Verbier in the time they did it. Other experts have questioned their math and results. While we need champions against doping in cycling, they need to make sure their math is correct. It might have been better to find another expert to partner with as well. Festina was the team thrown out of the 1998 Tour for the biggest doping scandal of Tour history.