I have been putting this off for long enough. I think it's about time to finally post about the final stage. It was, if nothing else, not predictable -- though it seemed to be at first. It was like every other final stage for Armstrong. The mini party on the bike, the pictures and laughing. Then they got down to a bit of racing for time, it was fun to watch Vino and the Gerolsteiner riders fight for time. And then things got a bit crazy.
The weather decided not to co-operate and suddenly it was decided that the time would stop the first time the peloton crossed the finish. That was okay, I guess. It sort of ruined the chances of Vino getting fifth, but there were still time bonuses, or so we thought. As they were rounding a bend, three Discovery riders went down (and blamed it on Phil Gilbert of FDJ) and it was decided to cancel time bonuses -- at least that's what we were told.
So instead of a wild sprint to the end with Vino and Levi clashing with the sprinters, it'd just be the sprinters. Okay, I thought, this will suck. And then the attacks began. They were ruthless, nothing comes between a cyclist and his will to win. But nothing was really solid until Brad McGee went off the Front. Vino followed close behind. And I was screaming for Brad, I wanted him to ride faster. And then suddenly there was Vino and I couldn't believe it. I was yelling for Vino (GO GO VINO BIKE! as my sister suggested I say, she regretted it afterward) to and he did. And, honestly? Two days later, I still can't believe it.
I thought the stage was going to suck, what with Armstrong having won his seventh and the fact that Robbie would probably win the stage and take the green. But sometimes things work out a bit the way I want. And this stage made up for all of that. I am so proud and pleased that Vino won the stage. I just hope that he can find it in him to win the tour.
Just amazing. So, okay, everything this tour was, in some ways, amazing. The fact that one of Lance's teammates, Yaroslav Popovych, could work for Lance and still win the white (best young rider) jersey, still blows my mind. And then there's Thor Hushovd, the first man from Norway to wear the green jersey. And the fact that he beat out Robbie and never won a stage. And, of course, there's Michael. Amazing and wonderful Michael. He tried so hard, not unlike Voeckler last year. But completely unlike Voeckler, he was able to keep his jersey and he deserved it.
I suppose I should talk about Lance, but I'm not ready yet. Let's talk about Basso and Ullrich. I am very happy that Basso was second. I think he'll win next year, even though I'll be rooting for Vino. I think he's strong enough and smart enough. He's the only guy who could, the past two years, consistently ride with Lance. But I think he probably has to worry about Ullrich. But if he doesn't win next year, he will win, but only as long as he stays at CSC. I think Riis knows how to get him to win and I'm glad he chose not to go to Discovery.
Now, Ullrich. This man is, as I told my dad yesterday, amazing. He's ridden in 9+ tours and has never, NOT EVER, finished lower than fourth. And in 1997 he won the tour. I am tired of everyone (I know that I'm generalizing, so shush) saying how much he sucks. If there's one thing these seven years of the tour have proved about Ullrich is that he does not, under any circumstances, suck. He never gives up, he has always been there. It'd have been nice if he'd been able to win once, but sometimes it's just not meant to be. Ullrich became a tour contender at the wrong time. If it wasn't for Armstrong, Ullrich would have dominated the tour. I honestly believe that. And I think he has a strong chance of doing it now that Lance is gone. I'm not sure I want that, but I think he will be able to. Especially now that Vino's gone from T-Mobile.
See the daddies? Or, as cyclingnews called them, 'tour daddies.' So cute.
Now, one more thing before I talk about Armstrong. There is one team that, no matter how many times I think about it, does not scream 'team' to me. There is in fighting and it seems there always has been. Certain riders are left to go on their own and others go on their own. And the past three years of my watching? There's been no real team to support their team leader. And yet, this year? They won the team competition.
Somehow, T-Mobile beat Discovery by fourteen minutes in the team competition. The most unlikely team to slip past CSC (they were in third) and Discovery. But they struggled had men in breaks and Ullrich, Vino and Kloedi were always near the to ten, if not part of the top ten. But, good for T-Mobile. It's too bad Erik wasn't there, though.
But, now, Armstrong.
We were all witness to history. Unbeatable history, or that's how it seems. As much as I didn't want him to win, I can't say that I was sad he won. It's nice to witness history, I just wish it wasn't at the expensive of my boys. But then again, that'll always happen.
I must admit that his kids (and Basso's) were darling. I thought it was cute how he brought them on the podium with him. And his speech was nice, though I wish he would have spoken a bit of French, if even to say 'thank you' to the city and the country. But it was nice of the tour organizers to let him speak. I doubt they will ever do it, or have the need to do it, again.
As for the man himself? I don't know. I'm glad he's gone, I'm glad his reign, so to speak, is over. I'm ready for more excitement, a tour de France on part with the Giro or the Vuetla. I'm ready to move on, but I fear the cycling world is not. And in some ways that's okay, because the more Lance does for cycling in the states, the more OLN will cover cycling events.
So, Lance, thanks for your run. Congratulations on winning seven Tours de France. You've proven that you're the best Tour rider ever. Thank you for introducing me to cycling, now go home. I'm ready for someone else to win.