Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Restday 1 - Tuesday, July 15: Pau

Here they are, my rest day top five good and bad things of the tour.

1. The Crowds
With all the doping scandals out there, lots of people thought that the crowds wouldn't come. They were wrong. In fact, the crowds are rather huge for this early in the tour. The mountain stages are crammed with people and when the riders go through small towns, it's almost like the whole town is out there (and usually it's close to being the whole town). It's fantastic to see that fans keep coming. I mean, I'm watching still, but I can do that from the comfort of my own couch. But these people have to weather oppressive heat, extremely high gas prices and the drama of the sport they love. And they keep coming. Cycling continues to do something right, no matter what goes on. And I hope they can keep it up.

2. Sylvain Chavanel
I really considered putting him under the bad things, too. But I didn't. Mostly because I'm extremely proud of him. Even though he only held the KOM jersey for one day, I was impressed with his ride. He knew when to stop and when to keep going and didn't press the issue when he sat the day he got the KOM jersey. It's just really too bad that he appears to be suffering, or at least hanging out near the back of the race. My theory is that he's saving himself for the coming stages, and I hope to see him in a break or two as we get into the second week. Another great thing is that he's keeping a diary for cyclingnews. It's fun to read and I hope he updates it soon.

3. Yellow Jersey
We'll talk about Evans later, but aside from him, it's been quite a shocker of a yellow jersey. Sure, the jersey has switched hands previously, but this time it seems a lot more fun than a lot of other years. The jersey keeps changing hands and even when Kim Kirchen had it for four days in a row, I didn't mind. I hope that, come Wednesday, it changes hands again. And yeah, Frank Schleck, I don't mind if you put it on. But I'd rather it be Christian Vande Velde.

4. Mountains (already, yes!)
I've always loved almost all the stage of the tour, even the so-called boring ones. But since the mountains started so early (at least that's how it feels) this year, it seems like the cyclists have been duking it out since day one. And man, they have been totally impressive. Not only because they're spectacular, but because the cyclists are using them the way they're meant to be used in a bike race. They are tools for attacking as well as gaining glory. Whether it's the glory of the win, or being in a break, these mountains leave us wanting more. As they should always do.

5. Mark Cavendish
Last season, this boy annoyed me. I didn't pick him for my fantasy team (and I should have! I even thought about it and dismissed him) and didn't expect to care how he did. But I must say he's really grown on me. Two (well, now three) of the four (well, five) videos I've posted have been related to Mark. Who knew? I never really liked T-Mobile after the whole Christian Werner thing, but I'm liking Team Columbia an awful lot. I hope Cavendish makes it to the finish and can take at lea


6. Philippe Gilbert
I will be happy if he finishes the race, but I'm really not impressed with his performance. I expected a lot more from him. Not a higher place in the standings, definitely not a jersey and maybe not even a stage win. But he hasn't really shown himself yet. No breaks of any note, either. Maybe he's just having a bad tour, but damn. It's depressing.

7. Crashes
These have been pretty bad. They started on day one and they just haven't let up. This picture is of Lilian J├ęgou after he hit the tree. It was terrible, even though we didn't see the actual crash. We've lost several riders to crashes, including KOM favorite Soler. Two of the big favorites, Evans and Valverde have had really hard crashes, but both seem to be recovering. Every year I list crashes, but they are a part of racing. It just hurts to see them, especially when they happen so early. Hopefully we won't have any mass pileups. And I hope I didn't just jinx the tour by saying that.

8. Doping (duh)
I actually debated including this in the good half because it's good to catch dopers. But I decided against it because doping is, as we all know (and oh how we know it), a very bad thing. See, the deal here is that Beltran manage to screw up what was turning out to be a wild tour. Of course, we should have seen it coming. Why? Because every time someone says 'oh, this tour is wide open,' people test positive for something (whether it's EPO or blood doping or testosterone). It's just the way things work. Sure, this tour is open, but will we have more positives? Will we ever find out who those remaining nine riders are? While we all hate dopers, I have a secret theory that we like all the scandal and drama. It makes things exciting and makes us appreciate more those we believe aren't doping.

9. King of the Mountains
Though Sylvain wore this jersey for one stage, the KOM competition sinks down into the crap half of my top ten. Why? Because it's been a joke of a competition. Not that it's switched hands, not that I don't think the riders who wore it deserved it. But because it's been a non-contest. Maybe I'm pining for the days of Richard Virenque (if which I am suitably ashamed). But I'm just not impressed with how the KOM competition is playing out. Even the green jersey seems to be more exciting. I think, though, this might be because it's so early in the tour. Maybe, once we get into the end of this week and into the final week, I'll be happier. Only time will tell, of course.

10. Protesters
Normally I support protests. And, to be honest, I don't mind when they briefly stop stages. I don't mind them along the route, or even near the finish. People have the right to have their protests on TV. But I don't like when they get in the way of things. For example, holding up a race for 5 or more minutes? Not cool. And getting in the middle of a podium celebration? Not. Cool. Luckily for Dumoulin, Bernard Hinault is a badass and took care of it. But, seriously, who thought that getting in the way was a good idea? Because they were wrong.

And let me just say, I love modern technology. I like that I can watch the stages on my computer and take screencaps. I like that I can go to youtube and pick out videos. I think it's fantastic how I can use technology in my blog. That's definitely a good thing.

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