Monday, July 17, 2006

Rest Day 2 - Monday, July 17: Gap

There are some items in the news I want to talk about and they do concern the tour, but I'm not going to mention them here. I'll write about them later tonight in the regular blog. But for now, my 10 things from the second week of the tour.

1. Competitiveness. This second week of the Tour has, beyond a shadow of a doubt, been one of the most exciting weeks in bike racing. At least for me. Not only did the jersey change hands three times, but there have been stages where anything was possible. I won't get into too many details, because I want to talk about some of the specifics, but suffice to say that I have been excited about every single stage (more than during the first week of the tour). It's not just because they're mountain stages, because they weren't all focused on that. It's because this tour acknowledges and embraces the fact that anyone (sort of) could win. And I just love that.

2. France. It was not a good day for the country on Bastille day. Only one Frenchman made it into the break and he ran out of energy before the line. The next day wasn't any better. But yesterday, Stage 14 proved to be a wonderful day for France. Pierrick Fedrigo surprised everyone (including possibly his country) but winning from a break that was almost caught. Now if only a few more French cyclists could gather some stage wins, it might make up (a tiny bit) for the WC loss.

3. Floyd Landis. He is the man, no doubt about it. I don't care if he wins or not, the fact that he's contending and on the bike every day even though he's got that hip thing is pretty awesome. But aside from that, he was in yellow and it was fantastic. I hope he's in yellow come Paris, but only time will tell.

4. Sylvain Chavanel. I know, I probably should have him in the 5 below, but I can't. Because no matter how much he might screw things up (like the end of Stage 13), he remains my favorite cyclist. He has the guts to admit he screwed up and promises to at least try to go again. I hope he does. And I'll keep rooting for him, regardless of what happens.

5. The Oscars (and no, I don't mean the award show). Yeah, I've got it bad. I will confess, right now, to adoring both of them. I was Freire to steal that green jersey from McEwen, but I'm almost certain it won't happen. Especially now that there's talk (rubbish, I hope) of some sort of Disco-Rabo partnership stuff. I also adore Pereiro. Not just because he's in yellow, but because of how he got into yellow. Because he's so shocked and surprised and refreshingly humble.


6. Crashes. Basically they suck. And they keep sucking. And unlike previous tours I've watched where there have been some bad crashes, but people basically seem okay and there are only a few that are just horrible, this tour is different. I don't know if it's the weather or the fact that everyone is fighting hard because the race is so open, but whatever it is, it's causing riders to drop, well, like flies. Yesterday was no exception. Two riders from a break had to abandon and it's a miracle a third was even able to get back on his bike, much less complete the race. I like excitement as much as the next person, but I could do without the horrific crashes.

7. Discovery. Now that Savoldelli's gone, there's no need for me to pay attention. And their attempt to win a stage on Sunday was just pathetic. I'm not one of those people who think that Popo's win (though he is truly adorable) was just what Discovery needs to get back on track. In fact, I think it probably hindered them instead of helping. They still don't have a clear leader and until they cut ties with the past, it's going to remain that way. I do adore several riders on the team, I just don't think they know how to function properly anymore. Or if they ever did. And this tour is just making them look like crap.

8. Teams in general. There has been a lot of odd team stuff going on. Teams going to the front and doing work for no reason. Teams criticizing other teams about not doing the work, when they should have been doing it themselves. Far too much backstabbing for me. Sure, it happens all the time, but it doesn't need to happen so publicly. I'm not a fan of calling people out -- your whole team maybe (if they're sucking), but not other teams and definitely not specific people (not that that's happen, it's just carryover from a few football/soccer incidents before and during the WC). Teams need to protect their own and go from there. If you want to chase down the break, do it. Don't rely on other people to do your bidding. It turns out that they won't.

9. The "real" Tour. Yeah, I'm tired of that crap too. The real Tour started on July first. And guess what? It's still going on. It consists of three weeks of bike racing and all of those stages are real. None of them are better than the other. Sure, some of them are more exciting and some of them are harder, but I'm sorry. Just because a stage is flat doesn't mean it has no impact on the rest of the tour. Things happen, crashes happen, breakaways happen. In this Tour, more than any others recently, all stages matter. Even if nothing really changes, things happen. And I'm tired of people talking about the mountains as if they are the only stages that matter. To me it's like saying that Armstrong is cycling. He's not and there are more stages to the Tour than just the mountains.

10. Commercials. I know this isn't directly tied to the race itself, but on OLN we get tons of them. I don't mind them too much because I'd rather watch them and get to see the Tour than not get to see it live at all. But I know lots of people are pissed off. Well, I'm tired of it. Just suck it up and deal. I know you'd rather would cover the tour -- but it can't. And no amount of whining about it (unless you're going to tell OLN that they need to stop showing commercials and just cut the ad revenue and thus stop showing the Tour completely) is going to change it. Cycling isn't like football where stuff happens all the time. I love the sport, but hell yes things sometimes don't happen for an hour. Of course, the timing of commercials is a whole different matter. I agree with Chris over at Podium Cafe when he says that there shouldn't be commercials at the start of the climb. But other than that, commercials are a fact of life. OLN can't be like and we just need to accept that and get over it.

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