Friday, July 17, 2009

Stage 13: Vittel - Colmar 200km

I almost didn't make it up in time for coverage to start. I didn't oversleep, but I definitely contemplated staying in bed a bit longer. For some reason I did and I was compelled to check the cyclingnews live ticker, because I was curious to know about the break. I don't know that I had a feeling that something good was going on, but I certainly felt the overwhelming need to check it. So I did.

And then I promptly flipped out. Anyone following me on Twitter immediately noticed this because I totally lost my shit. My two favorite riders, in a break together? What more (at that point) could a girl ask for!? I knew that chances were that if the break stayed away, one of them was going to win. The question became different of course, Sylvain being my favorite, did I want him to win? Or, because Sylvain already won a stage of the Tour, did I want my second favorite, Heinrich, to win a stage? Turns out I wanted Sylvain to win, but if for whatever reason he couldn't/wasn't going to, then I wanted it to be Heinrich. Little did I know what the stage held in store for me.

I know there were other things going on, like a battle for the King of the Mountains and struggles with the weather (plus two riders being shot with air guns), but at the time, none of that mattered. And, save the shooting incident, all that other crap doesn't matter to me in the least. The things that matter are Sylvain and Heinrich, they are the only things that matter to me. Anyway.
As much as I loved the fact that for a good bit of the stage the two boys were riding together, this stage was hell on my emotions. I'm one of those live and die by my teams/favorite athletes and both Heinrich and Sylvain ran me ragged (drove me?). Before we knew that Sylvain just didn't have the power in his legs (I kind of thought Paul & Phil might be right, but upon further reflection, Sylvain's not stupid enough not to eat enough), I was kind of freaked out because Heinrich was taking all the risks and Sylvain was taking none.

It turned out that Sylvain hit the wall. I knew he didn't really like the rainy/cold weather (even though previously he'd said as much and has won several races/stages of other races in shit weather), at least not as much as in the past, so that probably contributed to his mediocre (though not poor) performance. But no matter what he did, eating/drinking/etc, he just couldn't catch up once Heinrich dropped him. It broke my heart to watch him struggling so much. But he finished the stage (he later gave credit to the DS in the care, saying that without him, he didn't know how he'd've finished the stage).

And then there was Heinrich. Turns out the boy loves the cold, rainy weather. Someone, Renshaw maybe? Said on twitter that Haussler looked more Germany than Australian, because Aussie's hate the cold weather. I thought that was hilarious, though I've no idea if it's actually true. Not that it matters, really. Anyway, the point is that Haussler put the pedal down and never really looked back. His post-stage remarks were fasicnating. He confessed that he had no idea, until about 1k to go, or maybe a bit more, that he really didn't know he was going to win the stage. He also said he felt great and once he figured out that Sylvain wasn't going to give chase, he just went for it.

It was fucking brilliant to watch. He took risks on the descents and later I learned that he actually had no idea that Sylvain was in a bad way. He said something like he thought Sylvain was playing with him, some sort of cat and mouse game I think. But he wasn't having any of it (even though Sylvain was just really suffering) and that's when he let loose. It was so much fun, especially when he finally figured out he was going to win. Aside from Sylvain winning races, I have never been happier about a cyclist winning a stage. Watching Haussler cross the line in tears was a beautiful thing. I'm so proud of him and I'm not ashamed to say I cried.

Stage 13, not unlike Stage 19 last year, is my favorite of this tour. I just hope there's another one – this time when Sylvain's the winner.

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