Friday, July 11, 2008

Stage 7 - Friday, July 11: Brioude - Aurillac, 159km

So, my tape of the stage didn't quite work out. It taped blank screen and sound, but luckily there's a replay, so I watched the end of the stage. I had the prime time on, but I wasn't really watching. The end of the stage, though, it was fantastic. I mean, we're only at stage seven and yet the peloton was in shambles. It was fantastic, cyclists imploding left and right. Who knew it would happen like this? Pretty much no one.

It wasn't a good day for the boys I support, not in the least, but I'm okay with that. Why? Because I know they're not here to win the tour, because they're not here to prove that they can make it over the mountains. They've both been there and done that. They have shown the world that they can attack their way to a tour finish. Sometimes just knowing that they're there and giving everything they have (and you have to know that they are) is enough. At least for me.

And it had better be, look at these times:
93 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Cofidis - Le Crédit par Téléphone 28.29
139 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Française des Jeux 43.01
There ain't nothing like the good ol' Tour de France.

Moving on, though. There wasn't a change of the yellow jersey at the end of today's stage. There didn't need to be. Of all the things that happened, that was probably the least important. Most impressive was Luis Leon Sanchez Gil. Yeah, I know, he's just some Spanish rider working for Valverde. Maybe, maybe not. I've been following his career, not like my favorites, but enough to know that he's got something special. And, like Ricco yesterday, he pulled out all the stops. He decided that this was it and he wasn't going to take any more peloton bullshit games and he went for it.

And oh, how he won that stage. Watching him ride up to the line, glancing over his shoulder once, then twice. And you could see the thoughts running through his mind. He wasn't sure, then he kind of was. But then he looked back again and he just had to be thinking 'this is it' and then his arms went up to the sky and we all know. He crossed that line and then he knew for sure, every part of him was screaming victory and the look on his face made it all worthwhile. For him and for us as fans.

Sylvain said in his diary over at CN, that he wanted the race to be exciting. That he wanted more attacks, more hard riding (well, he implied it rather than spelling it out). CN's live ticker said that Sylvain claimed the race so far was lame. I don't think he did, at least not in his diary. But he did have a point, and oh, how the peloton responded. It was a if someone flipped a switch from idle to the highest possible setting. And they flew across the mountains. It didn't matter that Sylvain lost time or the KOM jersey. It didn't matter what happened yesterday or the day before, or what will happen tomorrow.

All that mattered, for the first time this tour, was finding that finish line. It was a real battle, the kind we've been waiting to see since all those so-called favorites fell out of favor and into the disrepute of the doping scandals. Today's stage is what every fan hopes for. Perhaps it's not what the riders wanted, but it's exactly what Sylvain hoped would happen. In his diary, Sylvain said:
I mean, you shouldn't be afraid to take a blow. It's also much more exciting for the spectators: they want us to attack - and if we blow up on the next day, it doesn't matter!
And you know what? That's exactly what happened today. I want more of it, and all I can do is hope that this new doping scandal is just one more step toward cleaning out the race. I hope that the other nine riders who are suspected are people we expect. No more of the 'oh, I cannot believe he dopes.' When Versus says take back the tour, let's hope they mean it.

Because if today's any indication, it's already one hell of a tour.

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