Sunday, July 25, 2010

July 25, Stage 20: Longjumeau - Paris 102.5km

I've had more than enough time to think about this stage, about the Tour. The stage itself was uneventful, the result a disappointment. Perhaps, had this been 2009 instead of 2010 and I still liked Cavendish, I wouldn't have been so annoyed. But it's not last year. It's 2010 and as much as I enjoy watching cycling, I'm really quite happy that the Tour de France is over for another year. Granted, it's been over for 11 days, but I haven't wanted to talk about it at all. So this is me, pulling my own teeth to get this post written before it ends up being December or something.

The KOM was disappointing, but at least he was French. The younger rider was Andy Schleck, who shouldn't even have been on contention, but was, thanks to all that bullshit his teammate Cancellara pulled in the second stage. Contador was the winner, worthy or not is not really important. Chaingate, as it's called, was utterly stupid and these pro cyclists need to stop trying to be nice. It's a race, not a lesiure ride, get over yourselves and embrace the fact that you're RACING. But apparently that's too much to ask (of the cyclists and apparently the fans).

The best thing about this whole tour was Sylvain Chavanel, followed closely by Quick Step and French riders winning. Obviously, I clearly want more from the tour. But two stages, two yellow jerseys, a KOM and, in the end, the most aggressive rider were even more than I could hope for. I think, perhaps next year, I need to work harder at not caring. There were many times when I just wanted to throw my hands up in frustration because it was obvious to me that I wasn't enjoying the racing.

Hopefully with team shake ups upcoming, with doping allegations going on and no Armstrong next year, things will be better. I know this is a short entry, but I'm tired of the Tour. I'm tired of all of this bullshit that comes with being a fan who actually cares about, you know, a race. For a moment, before Contador chicken the fuck out, I thought maybe we were in for something special. Sadly, this Tour didn't have that. And anyone who tries to tell you otherwise is wrong.

How I became a bitter cycling fan is a story for another day.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

July 24, Stage 19: Bordeaux - Pauillac 52km

Time trails are tricky things. Obviously they are for the cyclists themselves, but also for fans. It's one thing to watch a mountain stage where it's one rider against another, or a sprint, where the bunch finishes together and it's rarely one on one (but sometimes it is, and those can be fun). And it's also fun to watch a solo ride to the finish of a stage. But a time trial, especially the individual time trial, is something completely different. In a prologue, it's you against the clock and also against the other cyclists. In a time trial, especially one so close to the end of a stage race, it's you against the clock against the other riders against yourself. Andy Schleck was a perfect example of how it can all go completely wrong, whereas his teammate, Fabian Cancellara had been the perfect example, in the prologue, of how it can go perfectly.

Ideally, the boy in the picture, Tony Martin, would've won the stage. It would have been absolutely wonderful, but just like the opening prologue, it was not to be. Much to my annoyance and chagrin. But that's not the point. There's no way anyone other than Cancellara was going to win the stage -- if only because he's the best in the world at time trials. He's fastest and strongest and it would have taken a miracle (and maybe a few years) before Martin can overtake him (though I have faith that he will). But that wasn't the interesting part of the stage. For all my complaining about Stage 17 and the Col du Tourmalet, I secretly hoped that maybe Schleck could find those 8 seconds. It's not that I like Schleck better than Contador. It's not even that I want him on the podium instead, it's just that I like it when things get flipped around and turned inside.

Unfortunately, that wasn't to be. For a few minutes toward the middle of Schleck's time trial, it looked like maybe he had a chance. Of course it didn't happen and Contador gained time instead of losing any. The real problem wasn't that Contador was doing a super awesome ITT, because he wasn't. Instead it was that no amount of practice could make Andy Schleck into a world class time trialist. He isn't terrible, he didn't fall off his bike, but watching him as the stage was wrapping up, it was clear that he was just holding on. I don't think Schleck did himself any favors, but I don't think he shamed himself either. He should be proud of what he did, second place is pretty awesome. And the fact that both he and Contador are so far ahead of everyone else is pretty awesome.

There's one thing I haven't touched on yet, and that's the fact that people will continue to think that Contador's victory will be tainted by the so called 'chaingate' (stupid name). I think that's ridiculous. If Schleck had won, his would be tainted by the fact that on Stage 2, Cancellara made the whole fucking peloton wait for Schleck & co. I don't think that anyone should wait unless the race officials say so. Just like in footie, I don't think teams should be kicking the ball out of play until the ref blows the whistle. Of course there are always exceptions to the rules, but come on. Attacking should be what you do, not waiting. Maybe cycling is too stuck on the ideas of fair play, tradition and being a gentleman's sport. They shouldn't be. It's a bike race, not a leisurely stroll up a mountain in the summertime.

Tomorrow is the final stage of the Tour. Probably Cavendish will win, hopefully Petacchi will still be in green. My only goals for the stage would be for Sylvain to win (unlikely) and for both all the riders I like to make it home safely. I will be looking forward to the ceremony, if only because Sylvain's been chosen as the most aggressive/combative cyclist in the tour. It makes me really, really happy and proud. I can't wait until tomorrow, even though I hate the 'party on the bike' that happens for the first part of the stage.

Friday, July 23, 2010

July 23, Stage 18: Salies-de-Bearn - Bordeaux 198km

Oh look, a sprinter's stage. I used to love these stages, but I think that was because I had a lot more free time to watch them. Now I work and that's okay, because money is more important than most things these days. So what I saw of today's stage was the end (on mute) and then the very last 10k or so (on Versus). It was fun to watch it with sound, because I didn't know that the Liquigas rider, Daniel Oss, was trying desperately hard to win the stage. It was sad, in a way, to watch him fighting so hard for something he clearly wasn't going to get it. That's the downside to flat (ha) stages. People in breaks and late attackers tend to get screwed over, unless they have a really long (10-15 minutes) gap ahead of the peloton.

Obviously we know before going into this stage that there wasn't any way a break was going to last. It was nice to have one, though I didn't get to see much of it. But I didn't mind too much, because I like a good sprint. Um, but that wasn't what we got. Instead it was Mark Cavendish versus everyone else. I don't know how this happened, but it's pretty much like everyone sees Cav coming and gives up. I don't approve of this at all. I know there have been sprint crashes recently, but seriously. Seriously. Whatever happened to drag racing to the line? What happened to a little argy-bargy (and not the crack that Renshaw pulled)? What happened to a flat out sprint where two guys cross the line so closely that it takes 10 minutes to figure out who won the stage? I guess I'm no longer easy to please, which is disappointing.

Not all was lost, of course. Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz were at the stage! Okay, so that's not what I meant, but it cracked me up none the less. They were apparently there to promote their movie, Night and Day, which I saw and absolutely loved (it's hilarious) . So that was funny -- and apparently they were in the commentary booth during the final sprint, but weren't allowed to say anything (lol). Anyway, what I was going to say is that something awesome did happen: Petacchi took back the green jersey. And, holy crap, it looks like, barring incident tonight or on tomorrow's ITT, he's going to make it to the finish of the Tour. I can't remember the last time he did that, if ever. Pretty fucking awesome if you ask me. The other super great thing was that Robbie McEwen was fourth and we know I like it when he's up there.

Everything else stayed the same, which is depressing, but nothing was going to change. Tomorrow is the ITT, which should be fun and hopefully I'll be able to watch most of it live (while cleaning my apartment). I really hope that fun things happen, though I don't mean in the Rasmussen kind of way (crash, crash and then more crashes). Just in the oh, hey, the yellow is in danger. Or something fun like that. Chances are that's not going to happen. But as long as someone I like wins the ITT, I think it'll be okay. I hope.

Two days left. Let's see if I can muster up some excitement!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

July 22, Stage 17: Pau - Col du Tourmalet 174km

In the end, this stage was a huge disappointment. I mean, I know it was exciting and the break had people I liked it in. But seriously. It was the fucking Col du Tourmalet and basically nothing happened. I think my expectations are consistently too high. I can't even say I was spoiled by past Tours, because I've been victim of the damn Tour de Lance for so long. I mean, I know he was there and not winning, but come on. I wanted drama, I wanted fireworks, I wanted ... well, basically I didn't want what happened. Don't get me wrong, I really liked the climb up the Col du Tourmalet -- including the break and then the attacks, but the finish was just ... It was seriously a let down.

I don't quite know how to explain what I want. Well, okay no. That's a lie. I know exactly what I want. I want an old school type Tour where the winner isn't determined until the last day. I want time bonuses back. I want a KOM jersey that's won by someone who goes out day after day and pushes until he's got nothing left. I want Robbie McEwen in the green jersey. I want Cav to stop winning stages (that's another topic for another day). I want something that I don't think exists any more, if it existed at all. I get that people are excited that Contador and Andy Schleck are going to be a rivalry for a long time, but I don't want that. I want a wide open Tour, I want the promise of what things could've (should've) been like without Armstrong. I want so much more than the TDF is ever going to give me.

And now you see why I find the GC to be the worst part of the whole Tour. I talk about it because I have to and I get a bit pulled into the hype. But, like, it's always a disappointment. I know we say it's the Tour and anything can happen -- but it never does, not really. I really did expect too much. I thought, maybe Schleck can pull this off. Maybe, just maybe we're gong to get something spectacular. And then that happened. Which was ... not really awesome. I mean, them eying each other all the way up the mountain, the first attack by Schleck, the second by Contador. The fact that they couldn't shake the other, that was pretty cool. But the race for the line wasn't really a race. I know people keep trying to say it was a sprint type thing, but come on. Who in their right might thinks that's what happened. It was fucking ridiculous. Contador all but let Andy win. As if he deserved it. Whatever. We all know how I feel about it.

I don't know what else I'm supposed to say about this stage, you know? I was really excited for it. And a lot of it was pretty awesome. I was even awake at 6:30, so I saw stuff close to the start. I also don't think Carlos Sastre should have been punished for, you know, attacking. This is the Tour, not a leisure. But what do I know, right? I'm just a fan. I don't ride up the mountains, I barely get on my bike. I just get annoyed when these grown men who do what they love for a living bitch about things. I mean, come on. Suck it up and deal. If Robbie McEwen can do it, so can you.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

July 21, Rest day two: Pau

Hey, it's another rest day -- the second and final of the 2010 TDF. I'll if I can come up with some good and bad things. It's hard, considering how weird this Tour has been. But, let's give it a go.

The Good:
1. Mountains!
Seriously. They are so awesome. I know that I didn't get everything I wanted out of them (compared to what happened before the first rest day). I didn't even get that much crazy attacking (though we have that giant ass stage still to come, so here's hoping). But it doesn't matter, because even when nothing happens, something happens. And it's so awesome watching the guys climbing up the mountains. It makes me tired, especially when I think about the fact that I can't do any of this shit at all. I admire them (doping and all) because it's really, really fucking hard.

2. French cyclists
Sandy Casar won stage nine, Christophe Riblon won stage fourteen, Thomas Voeckler stage fifteen and Pierrick Fedrigo won stage sixteen. Four French cyclists in one week. Four. I have a soft spot for French cyclists, only partly because of my favorite being French. But, seriously. How amazingly awesome. Maybe we'll get another French win or two before the Tour's over. It's hard not to love these guys. The only sad thing is that a French rider didn't win on Bastille Day. Oh well, there's always next year.

3. Quick Step
Just a mention for the team that's somehow wormed it's way into my heart. They're doing pretty well -- with stage wins, the polka dot jersey, the yellow jersey and lots of publicity in breaks. It's pretty great to see a team that lost the person it'd normally work for (Tom Boonen) still managing to be, well, awesome. And that's exactly what they're doing. Thanks, guys. I love it.

4. Green Jersey
My green jersey boy isn't going to win it, he's not even close. I'll just pray that he crosses the line in one piece. But it's not who has the jersey that's important, it's the fact that it just keeps going back and forth. Is this the first time Petacchi will finish the Tour? Will those doping allegations get in the way of him doing anything about the jersey? Will Cav win the sprints on the last two days? Will that put him in Green? Will Thor manage to hold on? How awesome, really. More of this, please (only with dudes I like next time).

5. Drama
Oh. My. God. And y'all thought last week was bad. Apparently the 2010 wants to be the most drama filled Tour ever. And, I gotta be honest, I love it. There have been moments when I've been a bit angry (everyone flipping out about Contador taking the yellow jersey), but mostly it's been painfully fun. The Mark Renshaw incident for one -- I mean, seriously. If you can't take the heat, don't headbutt people! And, of course, the Contador and Schleck thing. They've apologized and made up. They've MADE UP. I don't even. It's so hilarious that I don't have words for it. I hope next year has just as much drama (without the headaches).

The Bad:
6. Commentators
This goes for both Eurosport and Versus, though I haven't heard too much Versus drama this year because I've been mostly listening to Eurosport. Don't get me wrong, I'd rather listen to them every day. But I get tired of hearing the same crap both on Versus and Eurosport. I get that everyone loves Armstrong, but maybe could you be a little bit less biased? I mean, it's okay to root for the Brits, you're British. But you guys don't go insane that often about them like you do about Armstrong. I just don't get it. Just as an upside, the Eurosport dudes are GREAT about answering questions (so it's not all bad).

7. Armstrong
Everywhere I turn, it's like an Armstrong love-in. Except for those awesome news articles that are slowly tearing him apart, those I love. But, seriously. It's like everyone involved in cycling loves him and wants him to do well. The word swansong was uttered far, far too many times on Tuesday. It made me a little sick after awhile and I was super glad he didn't win the stage. He's a distraction and takes away from the cycling. I can't wait until he's gone.

8. Twitter
A lot of times, this is good. But holy shit, y'all. When things go wrong or people disagree with someone, twitter fucking explodes. It's almost hilarious if it wasn't so aggravating. I'm totally guilty of this -- don't get me wrong (and that's why it's down in the bad area). Ideally, I'd like to hang out on twitter during the stage and then disappear as soon as it's over -- because even though I have my own cycling twitter, I find that I disagree with almost everyone. It's depressing, especially when I end up being pissy all day because of people on twitter being stupid. Ugh.

9. Vinokourov
I have a lot to say about him, but mostly I'm disappointed that he's back and winning. But at the same time, I've had some pretty interesting conversations with a dude who remains a Vino fan. And while I've really had a lot to think about, I still don't like Vino. I will, however, admit that even though he's gone back to doing exactly what he did before he tested positive, he's still quite an impressive rider. I just wish he wasn't such a jackass about the whole doping thing. Just man up, dude (and not just you, Vino, I mean all of the peloton -- but that's an issue for another blog on another day).

10. Cadel Evans
This is only bad because I feel so sorry for him. I'm not really a fan, but I was kind of secretly hoping he'd win, if only because everyone else is even more annoying. But it's not going to happen, because he just couldn't hack it. Kudos to him for not giving up, but ugh. It's really painful to watch him these. Go home, Cadel. You deserve a break.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

July 20, Stage 16: Bagneres-de-Luchon - Pau 199.5km

I will be upfront and honest with y'all. I really expected a lot more out of this stage. I suppose, as it was (somehow) billed as Armstrong's swansong (ha. hahahaha), there probably weren't going to be any real attacks on the yellow jersey. Sadly, this was, in fact, the cast -- the no attacks things. I guess that's the way these things go. Maybe they're saving themselves for Stage 17, which is Pau - Col du Tourmalet. That's probably the last stage where true yellow jersey attacks can take place, aside from the time trial (which might be where Alberto Contador seals his win, barring any unforeseen incidents). But, still, I was hoping for something exciting. And, well, I suppose in a way I got that.

Which is not to say that I enjoyed Armstrong in the breakaway. It actually took all of my cycling fan-ness to care about the breakaway. It was only the presence of Carlos Barredo that made me even pay attention. Armstrong is such a worthless figure and I couldn't bare to see him win. So it was basically who do I want to win that's not Armstrong. I guess it was more of an anybody but Radio Shack thing, since I also cannot stand Chris Horner (bitter, bitter). But, honestly, aside from Barredo, there wasn't anyone in the break I cared about. And I was doing a million things so it was kind of hard for me to care much about the stage (work gets in the way of fun times). But I did manage to see the whole stage. I meant to write about it earlier, but couldn't be bothered. I blame my apathy on blogging on both the weather (ugh, heat) and work.

Anyway, so the break did it's thing and nearly fell apart, but managed to hold on until the end. Luckily they made it exciting for us because Carlos Barredo attacked with about 35k (give or take) left. I wish he'd waited a bit longer because his timing was just a tiny bit off and we all know what that means. Which is that he didn't win the stage and that's just super annoying. If he'd waited maybe 5k or so, he probably would have won the stage. Though who knows with the way this tour is going. But, yeah, Barredo left too early and ended up getting caught almost within sight of the line. It was terrible and annoying because you felt like Barredo was so close and he just had to do it. But, sadly, it was not to be (damn it).

So what did happen? More ridiculous cat and mouse bullshit with the breakaway. But the worst part wasn't the BS, instead it was all the commentators who said that the break should allow Armstrong to win. I mean, come on. We've been through this many, many times. No one deserves to win, there are no gifts in cycling. Armstrong's even said as much and yet everyone seemed to think that the break was going to sit up and let him win. I cannot even begin to tell you how angry that made me. I don't understand the world's love of Armstrong. Maybe it's hero worship, maybe it's blinded by love, maybe it's stupidity. Or maybe it's fear. The man'll sue you if you talk shit about him (well, and if you're important, because I talk shit about him all the time -- but I'm not anyone, luckily). Regardless of why the cycling world seems to grovel at his feet, there's no reason to expect that they should gift him a win.

And, thankfully, that didn't happen. What did was pretty awesome. It was a weird sort of sprint (which made twitter go wtf a lot because two teams in the break had two dudes from each team and they did nothing -- one of them being Radio Shack, I love it when team tactics fail -- even at the expense of someone I like). And somehow Sandy Casar out lasted almost everyone -- except for Thomas Voeckler's teammate (Voeckler won Stage 15), Pierrick Fedrigo won the stage. I'm not a fan, but I don't dislike him, either. It was just so fucking awesome that Armstrong didn't win the stage that I was like OMG YAY! Maybe it's petty of me, but I was really hoping instead of a swansong, he'd have a swandive and ... he kind of did. Thank you, cycling.

There was also some sprint weirdness, with the jersey changing hands again -- back to Thor. We'll see what happens on Friday (sprinter's stage) and then on the final stage on Sunday. I don't know what I way any more, except maybe Sylvain to win another stage, the Tour to finish and Armstrong to go away. At least two of those will happen eventually. I hope. Wednesday's a rest day (woo!) and then Thursday is a wicked stage. If we don't see any fireworks on Col du Tourmalet, then I don't know why we even bother with the Tour. Fingers crossed for excitement.

July 19, Stage 15: Pamiers - Bagneres-de-Luchon 187.5km

Everyone's talking about the yellow jersey drama and I will too, because like everyone else I have opinions. But first I want to say that it was one hell of a stage. It was exciting, had all sorts of fun elements (drama! drama! drama!) and mountains and descents that took your breath away and and and. But, the best thing (seriously) was that a French dude won the stage. I go through periods of like Voeckler and then times where I can't stand him because I'm still bitter about all the work he made Sylvain do when they were on BLB. Voeckler had the yellow and made Sylvain work his ass off for him and then lost everything (yellow and young rider) and I was like, Sylvain could have been winning stages, but no. Anyway, mostly I dislike him, but on stage 15, I couldn't bring myself to hate on him. It was great to see him win and even better to see just how happy he was about winning.

The shitty part is that he won and no one cared because of the stupid yellow jersey drama. This, my friends, is why it's way more fun to care about stage wins. You don't get caught up in all the bullshit that surrounds the race lead. I get that what happened (which, yes, I will talk about later) was dramatic, but come on. When you spend all your time talking about the yellow jersey and ignore the French winner? Fuck you. I know, drama makes headlines and I had a huge debate about this on twitter, but seriously. Praise the stage winner, don't let the other crap (no matter how crazy wild it was) overshadow the fact that a dude from the break managed to win the day. I know the race reports will talk a lot about him, as they should. But watching the stage coverage itself (both Versus and Eurosport) were more interested in the yellow jersey. I know that I'm just spouting shit and no one really cares, but I do.

Obviously this is neither the first nor the last time the yellow jersey has overshadowed the stage winner. Granted, it usually happens on the last day and it's totally justified, but come on. First day of the last week of the Tour. Give Voeckler a little respect. If you can muster up the energy to talk about Vino all the time, why not Voeckler? That being said, I didn't agree with Voeckler when he himself said he deserved to win, because we all know that I feel no one deserves to win. Regardless of that fact, it was super awesome that he won the stage. I'm glad that a lot of the French guys have won this year (especially because two of those wins were by Sylvain). I'd like to see a few more, but I'm not overly concerned. They've been pretty good stage wins and Voeckler just to them. It was cute as he rdoe up to the line he wasn't sure he was all alone and he looked back and was like !!! and that made the rest of us go !! and smile. It was lovely.

So, now that I've gotten three paragraphs worth of stuff from the stage winner, it's time to talk about the drama that unfolded toward the end of the stage. I don't know exactly what happened to Andy Schleck, except that it was a mechanical -- either the bike screwed up or he did. To be honest, though, I don't care. Schleck, in yellow, attacked. Vino countered, soon followed by Contador, his teammate. Then BAM, somehow in there Schleck's bike stopped and Contador kept attacking and that's when everyone lost their shit. Seriously, people on twitter (and the commentators) went insane. It was ridiculous, hilarious and utterly maddening. There are two extremes: a) Contador is a dick, he should have waited for the yellow jersey and b) It's a bike race, you attack to win, you don't sit on your ass and wait for your opponent. There are people who fall between these two extremes. I will put a disclaimer on this before I give you my opinions (for those of you not following me on twitter): I do not like Contador or A. Schleck. Yes, I don't like either of them and ideally, neither will win the GC.

And now, my thoughts. I am firmly in camp b. Which means that I definitely think Contador shouldn't wait. In the past I may have felt differently, until I realized that I was watching a race, not a popularity contest. The Tour de France is not a bunch of buddies riding together and wait for someone when they have a flat or whatever. Just like I felt Cancellara shouldn't have made the peloton wait for the Schleck brothers and just like I felt even though my boy had the yellow, the peloton shouldn't wait for him either. I keep saying this over and over, there are no gifts in cycling. Why should you be forced to wait for your opponent? I thought the TDF was a race, not a tea party (as someone said). I mean, honestly. If Contador can't take advantage of a (possible) fuck up by the dude he's racing against, what's the point. I know, tradition and all that bullshit, but guess what - there are more cases of people taking advantage than there are of people being nice. It's a sporting event! You're not supposed to be nice!

Pez Cycling, who annoys me a lot of time, actually has a really good article about these two opinions that people have. I recommend reading it. But yeah, my views are pretty straight forward. Either you attack or you don't. If you can't handle the fact that it's a race, then maybe you want to reconsider your career. This is just like how I hate that no one attacks on the final stage. I don't want to tune in to watch you celebrating and drinking champagne, I want you to fucking race. And while I might not like Schleck and Contador, I'm watching to see (among other things) A BIKE RACE. Of course, you say, they're not racing for you (which I know I've said) and you're right. They're racing to win the goddamn race. And instead, they bitch and whine like little babies when something goes wrong. Come on. Even with drugs, y'all are tougher than soccer (football) players. So get off your high horses and suck it up and deal.

I hope stage 16's better (though I already know the result as I'm writing this, I'm going to pretend I don't) because I cannot stand this crap. Thank god the race is over. I may have to reconsider blogging next year -- though we're supposedly going to be without Armstrong, at last (again), so that's something to consider. And as long as Sylvain's racing at the Tour, I'll keep watching. Anyway, I'm getting ahead of myself. Time start thinking about the next TDF blog.

Monday, July 19, 2010

July 18, Stage 14: Revel - Ax-3 Domaines 184.5km

Hey, another French winner. Pretty awesome, I think. It was good (tough) stage, interesting and definitely exciting. I expected a bit more drama between Contador and Schleck, and in a way we got that, but not exactly how I (or anyone else) expected. The mountains were killer, as they always are in the Tour (which is what we fans love) and so we had a pretty decent break. I didn't expect it to last, especially when the break started to shed riders and that almost happened. The peloton started breaking up on that final climb before the finish. The real drama started on the climb to the finish, which is almost too predictable.

I was cheering hard for Christophe Riblon because I'm that kind of person. I really wanted him to stay away and win, because I like the breaks, as we've already established. And so I was pretty pleased when he did. It was fun to watch and really fun to see him so pleased about winning. I know that maybe I'm silly for caring more about stage winners than about the GC, but sometimes that's the way it works out. I used to think it was because I kept getting burned by winners, but I think that, for me, the GC isn't important. I'm not usually a fan of anyone in the top 5, much less the top 3. I think it's bitterness from being an Armstrong fan. So it turned out that, mostly, I can enjoy the Tour more when I just don't care who wins the whole damn race.

Of course, when blogging about the Tour, I just can't pretend nothing else happened. Other things did happen. Andy Schleck and Alberto Contador nearly (well, not that close) raced themselves out of the TDF lead (though I don't know that Andy would have minded). They were so busy watching each other that a few of the other contenders got away from them. They didn't gain much (any?) time, but it was fascinating -- and fun -- to watch. It was that you go, no you go, no you go kind of thing. It was pretty cool and not something we often see in the TDF in recent years. While that doesn't make me care more about the GC, it does provide entertainment. And that's what we all like about the sport (well, most of us).

Other things -- amusing comments about Anthony Charteau being in the KOM jersey when he was shitty last year (we all know why, that's how things go in cycling). The changing of the Green jersey (Thor to Petacchi to Thor to Petacchi over and over ...). The fact that Robbie McEwen is still racing and that makes him a stud and I love it. Also, the fact that Sylvain still feels he can give it a go occasionally, which we all know I like.

I guess I don't have all that much else to talk about so I'm going to end it here. I've been watching Stage 15 and I'm going to have a lot to talk about. Anyway, stage 14 was good and exciting and now we're onto another day.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

July 17, Stage 13: Rodez - Revel 196km

I should put a disclaimer on this post, explaining how I'm in a terrible mood and I am only going on what I saw of the stage while at work (and without sound), but I don't care. The only thing good about this stage was that Sylvain was in the break, and I got to see almost none of it and then he didn't win. So, if you think you can tell that I'm bitter, you're probably right. Because I really am. I know I talk about how unfair cycling is and today was a huge demonstration of that fact. I've said previously that no cyclist deserves to win -- but there are cyclists who deserve not to win. And today's stage was one of those days.

Vinokourov did not deserve to win. In fact, he shouldn't even been racing. He never confessed to doping, just served his fine and came back and did exactly what he did before he was banned. If you try to tell me I should respect him, I'm sorry, it's just not going to work. Vinokourov is a disgrace to the sport and every time I see him, I cannot help but wish him ill will. I know that makes me a bad person and a bad fan, but I just can't be bothered to care about it. I used to like him, you know. He was close to being a favorite, without being one. He was a good cyclist and I was a very, very naive fan. He destroyed my faith in clean cycling -- and I should probably thank him for that. Because without him, I'd probably still be one of those silly fans who thinks that there are clean cyclists out there (lies).

But that doesn't mean I should like him anymore and I don't. Every time he wins a stage, it makes me sick. And this is the worst. He never should've been allowed to race again, much less in the Tour. Though I suppose he fits right in, because it's as though he never quit racing for two years (hmm, I wonder why -- oh wait, no I don't). It's a huge fucking disgrace to see him win, to see him on the podium. There was a time in my life when I would've loved to see it, but that time has long since passed. Instead, I will sit here and be disgusted that not a damn thing has changed in this sport and I will accept the idea that it never will.

What else can I say about the stage? I won't know, I only saw the last 45k and I cannot bring myself to care about it. Perhaps I could talk about the beautiful scenery that Sylvain road by in the few moments that I got to see him in the break. I could talk about how shitty it is to have lead out trains and how I hate them. I could discuss the fact that Mark Cavendish getting second in the stage is also a disgrace to the Tour. Or I could be ridiculously upset about Robbie McEwen had a terrible day and came in seven minutes back (thought I see now that at least he wasn't 12 minutes back, thank god).

I said on Twitter that today was the worst stage ever and I stand by that. I wish I would have been able to watch it with sound, perhaps my hatred of Vino would've been tempered by commentators (but probably not). But as it was, I had to deal with folks on twitter vomiting their admiration for Vino. It's disgusting, to be honest. Almost as much as the blind faith that people have in Armstrong (believing all the lies he spews forth). I wish this stage had been different, I wish the result would've been better. I wish people could accept that cyclists dope and lie and that no punishment seems to work. I wish dopers would apologize, even if they come back and dope again (which they do). But instead, I'm treated to stages like Stage 13, where cheating wins. I really wish I could have appreciated this stage, but I didn't.

After leaving this for several hours, I have skimmed the post and I pretty much agree with everything I said earlier. I'm not as hostile as I was, but this stage was terrible and I can't write 12 million super long paragraphs ever stage, so this is what you get. I hope to god tomorrow's better.

Friday, July 16, 2010

July 16, Stage 12: Bourg-de-Peage - Mende 210.5km

Crazy awesome 18 man breakaway. I love it, I'm just sad I couldn't watch a lot of the middle of the race (errands and an inability to watch the stage tonight, due to the awesomeness of having a social life). But, hey, the end is the most important part, right? Okay, it's not. Especially when we get to the bigger mountains again. So, anyway, 18-man break, not really anyone in it I care a great deal for, save Carlos Barredo (because no matter what I say about not cheering for teams, i apparently have a soft spot for QS, I blame Traice). So I was cheering for Carlos and maybe Ryder Hesjedal. But, as I'm watching this (yes, I'm writing this while I'm watching the end of the stage, 4k to go seems like a good time to start writing) the break is all but gone -- save for a couple of riders: Vino (ugh ugh) and Kiryienka (Caisse d'Epargne). I'm really hoping that the peloton steps it up on this super steep climb. They're making me tired just watching it.

Anyway, the other parts of the stage. Big breakaway groups are fun, especially when they work like a well-oiled machine. It's fun to see them working together, even if (when) they're doomed. It would have been nice if they'd survived, but I didn't really expect it to happen, especially considering the way today's stage
finished. Though I'll be honest, I didn't realize until I was listening to the Eurosport commentary just how steep the final climb was. And now as I'm watching the stage, I'm totally blown away by the steepness, it's ridiculous and I have no idea how the cyclists who are already struggling are going to make it up (though most of them will, they somehow always do). I'm also waiting for the fireworks, as it were, and just as I typed that, they just happened. Unfortunately, Vino and Kiryienka (I think?) are still in the front (though as I'm editing this, they didn't last that long, thankfully!). At this point, I'd take a Contador win over Vino, to be honest (anybody but Vino! Can y'all believe I ever liked that dude?).

So the break was sort of caught, but it was more like they were broken apart, which is a little bit better than being taken nearly at the line. It is painful to watch, because these guys busted their asses as they worked together and then to watch it fall apart, through their own infighting as well as the pressure of the peloton, is kind of disappointing, but not unexpected. But what the destruction of the break meant is that the the big names, aka Contador and Schleck, could use the final climb attack each other. Their goal , as it of is, was to see if they can take out more time out of each other. Well, one of them will try, there's always a loser and as this Tour has shown, the loser can be anyone and usually they're in yellow. And that's almost exactly what happened. Contador attacked, he was joined by Rodriguez from Katusha. They caught and passed the rest of the break (Vino and Kiryienka), but what was really really interesting was the fact that Schleck couldn't follow as in the yellow jersey. The time gaps were unclear and as I was watching the finish, I wasn't sure if Andy Schleck. But by far the best part of the stage was Vino not winning, thank god.

Randomly, Sylvain totally cam in 1:19 minutes after Rodriguez won the stage . But anyway, Schleck didn't lose the jersey, but I'm sure he won't be too happy with this result. Basically, Contador out road Andy up to the finish, though was outmaneuvered by Rodriguez, who took the win. And looking at a replay of Schleck crossing the line, it's clear that he suffered. He still has yellow, but Contador is 31 seconds back, gaining 10 seconds on Schleck. He's followed by Sanchez and Menchov, both over two minutes back and Jurgen Van Den Broeck, who is 3 minutes back in 5th. What a crazy looking top five, two of those names are not surprises, the other three definitely are. I don't know what that says about the Tour, except that the so-called contenders haven't lived up to their expectations. And, to be honest, neither have Schleck and Contador, they've both had days where they don't look at their best. It's weird. I guess we're used to one rider just blowing us away constantly, so this is very different. But it's also a pretty nice change.

Things that didn't change: yellow jersey and young rider. Things that did change: green jersey and kind of the mountains. I'm displeased with both of these. Thor took back the green jersey (meh) and Jérôme lost his KOM to Anthony Charteau. Granted, it's nice that it's a battle between two French cyclists, but Jérôme Pineau > Anthony Charteau. Other than that, the jerseys stay the same. I will confess to being annoyed when the winner of the young rider competition is also the yellow jersey winner. That just seems rude, but I need to remember that cycling isn't fair (damn it).

That steep mountain at the end was also something I liked and these attacks really make the Tour fun, if hard on the cyclists. They make me tired just watching -- even when I'm not doing a thing. Tomorrow is a hilly stage and cyclingnews says it's a good day for breaks. Hopefully it'll be fun and exciting, though I'll again be watching it at work and then watching a tape delay version in the evening. Maybe a rider I like will do something exciting tomorrow.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

July 15, Stage 11: Sisteron - Bourg-les-Valence 184.5km

Disclaimer: I saw this stage on mute while at work and the final sprint (with sound) on Versus, while flipping to the Weather Channel to keep track of a thunderstorm.

Of course, that means I got to see the most important part with sound, and that's mostly what I want to talk about. But first, let's talk about other things on the stage. It was a sprinter's stage, of course, no surprise there. And we had a break that didn't survive. They gave it a really great effort and I like to see that. I especially liked how the two remaining riders, Stephane Augé (Cofidis) and Jose-Alberto Benitez (Footon-Servetto), shook hands right before they were caught. That's a good kind of sportsmanship and I totally approve of that. I think that, perhaps, the peloton needs a bit more respect for each other. Of course, that takes the fun out of it and I guess if you're a sprinter, you can't quite muster up that much respect, since you have to beat ass all the time.

The stage was like most sprint stages. Breakaway, break caught, attacks and sprint to finish. The best part of the stage, for me, was Sylvain's ill fated attack. I don't even know if it was ill-timed or just doomed, but I didn't expect it to last and it didn't. But it sure was fun while it was happening. And then came the drama. Oh, the drama on the stage was out of this world in all the best ways. You see, I love drama in all it's forms. Even when it makes me angry and livid and upset and miserable. Because without drama, this sport wouldn't be half as much fun as it is now. And this year's tour has something like 10 times as much drama and it is so great that sometimes I don't know what to do with myself.

So, the basics: Cavendish won the sprint. I booed and turned off my coverage and did work (at work) so I missed the drama the first time around, but boy did I hear about it (and upset people!). See, the thing is that I'm a firm believer that sports aren't fair, at all, including cycling. And once I accepted that (and the fact that all cyclists dope), I could completely enjoy the sport again, it was very refreshing -- even though I still get angry. And in addition, I don't like Cav so anything that slows him down (even if it's just in theory) can only be a good thing. That being said, what the judges did was ridiculous. For those of you who want a recap, basically Mark Renshaw was an idiot. He headbutted Julian Dean three times (yes, three) and then decided it'd be fun to look back, see Tyler Farrar and then totally veer off his (Mark's) line and block Tyler from doing anything.

Taken separately, each infraction is just that. But the problem is that twofold: you can't take the two events separately because they were perpetrated by the same cyclist and Mark Renshaw is not the sprinter. Sure, he's good at sprinter, but it's clear that his goal was not, in fact, to win the race. I've seen a few discussions about the incident and most of them don't seem to address the fact that Renshaw wasn't trying to win the stage. It's clear from past practices that cycling authorities let a lot of crap go, we've seen that already in this tour. As someone on a community I run said, there's a lot of inconsistency. But I have to say, I don't really care. Why? Because I'm also a football (soccer) fan and this shit happens all the time. Take two of the teams I was supporting at the World Cup (the biggest sporting event in the history of sports), the United States had several bad calls and Australia and two players sent off for ridiculous reasons. It happens and it's not fair, that's life.

My thoughts are that the referees made a bad call. It happens, everyone needs to get over it at move on. Mark Renshaw and Columbia need to accept what happened and deal with the consequences. If they -- if Mark -- can't handle it, then maybe he needs to try not do headbutt and block other cyclists. Of course it was going to be an overreaction, but that's the way sports goes. The best way to deal with it is to just move on, or, you know, enjoy it. Which is what I'm doing. Perhaps that makes me a bad person and a crazy fan, but I've never claimed to be anything else.

Once you accept that sports aren't fair, your life as a fan gets a lot easier.

Tomorrow ends on Montée Laurent Jalabert, if a Frenchman wins that would be brilliant. My hope is Sylvain or JP, but I don't know. I just want more awesome. Oh, and speaking of awesome. I totally forgot that Pettachi got the green jersey back. Not bad for an old man. Love it.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

July 14, Stage 10: Chambery - Gap 179km

Sadly, a French win on Bastille day was not to be. The first attacks, which I happened to be awake to see, didn't even involve French riders. Eventually two French riders, one from BBox and the other from AG2R, attacked. They caught up with the four non-French riders to make up a 6 man breakaway. It was my kind of stage, but sadly I did miss parts of it and had to watch the final 10k without sound because of work (and my recording stopped at noon and the race didn't finish until 12:30, annoying). It was just as well, because the results of the stage really annoyed me because I was rooting for one of the two French riders to win. Sadly, it was not to be. Instead, it was Radio Shack rider Sergio Paulinho who took the stage.

It was only Paulinho and Kiryienka (Caisse d'Epargne) who seemed able to fight to the end. The remaining four riders drifted back, unable to keep up. Two came in almost a minute and a half back, the other two took longer. The only real change, aside from Nicholas Roche moving from 17th to 13th, was the KOM jersey changed hands. Again. And it went back to Jerome Pineau and you guys have no idea how happy that makes me. I didn't even know how much I cared until he lost the jersey. What else happened on this stage? Apparently there was a decently bad crash with a few injuries, but nothing really serious after that. Aside from the KOM and Roche going up four places, nothing else changed. Schleck is still in yellow (and white), Hushovd is still in green (though there were a few points taken) and I'm hoping for a miracle, because Robbie McEwen is still racing. This makes me happy (probably for all the wrong reasons, but too bad).

So, what is it about these stages that I like? Mostly it's the scenery and the idea that the breakaway might stay away. And why do I like the latter? Mostly because I come a family who almost always roots for the underdogs (I'm a fan of teams from Cleveland, what do you expect?). I especially like it when there's someone I like in the break (and I'm not just talking about Sylvain). Sandy Casar, for example. Sadly, none of the riders I was cheering for (the French) won the stage and of course I found it annoying that a Radio Shack rider won the stage, but that's why you have to be able to take a step back. Especially if you're me, because you end up getting hung up on all the stuff you don't like and forgetting why you're a fan in the first place. It's hard to do, I know. And I tend to find it harder than others because I'm exceptionally good at holding grudges (and I don't forgive easily, it took me seven years to forgive Robbie McEwen for ... basically doing what sprinters do) and I tend to dislike way, way more than I like. It's ridiculous, I know, but it's the way I am.

And that's why I like these stages, because you can hold out hope. Breaks in the mountains are far more fun, like today's stage. Because the chances of the peloton going after them (especially if there's no threat to the yellow jersey) tend to be low and this gives little known riders (and breakaway specialists) a chance for glory. Sometimes it works out, like today, and sometimes it doesn't. But by the far the worst is when the break almost makes it and the peloton catches them at the least second. We'll probably have a few more of those, though I hope not. The other reason, which I mentioned but didn't talk about was the scenery. It's the one reason my dad doesn't always mind watching the Tour. France (and the other countries the race travels through) is beautiful and the TdF gives us some of the best views of France. Especially for those of us who can't get there (at least not yet), it's fun to see it from afar. Today's stage was quite good for that kind of thing.

Tomorrow's stage starts with a cat 3 mountain and then is mostly flat until the finish. I imagine we'll have a break, but it won't last because the sprinters will want to get some points. My hope is that Robbie McEwen shocks us all and wins the stage. Chances are high that won't happen, but a girl can dream, right?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

July 13, Stage 9: Morzine-Avoriaz - Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne 204.5km

Today's stage was crazy-awesome. I really don't know how else to put it. It was also a little heart breaking. But first, let's start with the totally awesome stuff. There was a breakaway that lasted, which is pretty awesome. It didn't last in the traditional sense, because in the end it was a few riders who were caught by Andy Schleck and Alberto Contador (more about that later). The best part was that Sandy Casar won the stage. I know, he's French and he won it a day early (whatever, maybe the French will surprise us and win it on the 14th). But I don't care, because I've always been a fan of Sandy's riding style. He's not on the best team, probably not even the best French team, but he always does his best. Plus, he's fun to root for in a breakaway. It's also really good because it means that FDJ has won a stage of the Tour, and that makes me happy (sometimes I really am that easy).

It was pretty cool that the breakaway lasted, because the mountains, especially the last one, were pretty vicious. And that's where the real action took place. It was kind of weird to remember that it was only stage 9. I say only because these stages keep making me think we're almost done with the TDF. I'm not even sure if this is the first time the lead has been up and down so early in the race, but it certainly feels like it to me. Usually somewhere around the middle/end of the second week things heat up. Though occasionally it's not until the last week (and when effing Armstrong used to race, he just carried the lead for the whole damn Tour, thank god that's not happening). Anyway, so while the break was off doing it's thing, the front of the peloton was really stepping things up.

Though Sandy Casar won the stage (woo!), Andy Schleck and Alberto Contador stole the day. Starting the stage, Cadel Evans was in yellow. At the end of the stage, it was Andy Schleck. I'm not a fan of either of those riders, or of Contador, but you'd have to be made of stone not to feel just absolutely gutted for Cadel Evans. He hit the metaphorical wall and just couldn't do anything. It was painful -- far more painful then watching Sylvain lose the jersey (if only because he has no real aspirations of being a TDF winner) . At times it even looked like Evans wasn't moving, though obviously he was. To see the yellow jersey suffering so much was heartbreaking. And then when he crossed the line, it was so sad. I feel so much for him, he lost so much time. It really put a slight damper on the exciting end of the stage, watching him being held by a teammate while being overcome with emotion. Hopefully he'll live to fight another day, though.

What caused Evans to crack was the battle between Contador and Schleck. They flew off the front, most of the effort by Andy Schleck himself. They battled each other, briefly Jens Voigt, who was in the break, did a bit to help Andy, but even he couldn't keep up. It was exciting to watch, totally the cat and mouse game that the commentators like to talk about it. Contador wouldn't go and made Schleck do all the work, before they eventually started working together. Out of nowhere, they caught up with the break away as they were approaching the line. It was totally crazy, in a good way, because everyone seemed certain that Andy Schleck was going to zoom right past them for the win. But it wasn't to be, probably because they caught the break just a little bit too far back. What was amusing is that clearly the break didn't realize Schleck and Contador were so close, and so when they showed up, the break was like, wtf. I think they probably shouldn't have been surprised because, um, they were doing the whole 'you work, no you work' thing that never ends well. Except, of course, this time it did. Sandy Casar out-thought everyone and took the stage win, much to my delight.

Andy Schleck took the yellow, most because Evans imploded. I'm not sure he wants it, though probably Contador doesn't want it either. But they've really limited their competition to basically just the two of them (though, seeing as how this tour's gone so far, nothing's for certain). It was fun to watch, even though I don't like any of them. Also, there were a lot of big names who just couldn't keep up. But if they can recover, we have plenty of mountains ahead, so it almost anything might happen.

Other things about the stage. Somehow everyone, even poor David Millar, finished within the time cut. Which made me really happy because it meant that Robbie McEwen (among a few others I like, such as Gerald Ciolek and Marcus Burghardt) finished and will hopefully start tomorrow. One other sad note, Jerome Pineau lost his KOM jersey, much to my dismay.

Tomorrow's stage is considered medium mountains and though it's Bastille Day, I do not expect Sylvain to attack. Maybe another day, but that's probably too much pressure right now. Hopefully there will be a French winner, though!

July 12, Rest day one: Morzine-Avoriaz

Every year I blog about the tour, on the rest days I write about my 5 good and 5 bad things about the Tour so far. Here's the latest addition, though it's a day later than I'd have liked. Some of these are predicted and some are not, but none of them should be that surprising. Enjoy!

1. Sylvain Chavanel
It was never a question of what was going to be the best thing about the Tour so far. We've only completed the first week and he's won two stages and had the yellow jersey twice. To most people, it's impressive. To me it's amazing and wonderful. It's been the best Tour I've had in a long time and I know it's been the most fun he's had. I'm proud to be a fan of his and I feel like to have been a fan for so long. I thought his win while he was still at Cofidis was amazing, but I'll be honest, it's even better now. I truly hope that Sylvain stays at QS. I think the team is a perfect fit for him and he can avoid the pressure of being on a French team. I suppose he'd probably like to race for a French team, but I think it would be a mistake, at least while he has so much riding left in him. I hope he wins at least one more stage this Tour. But even if he doesn't, he'll still have made me extremely proud.

2: Jerome Pineau
Not only has he been a stellar teammate for Sylvain, he's been strong in his own right. And as I'm writing this (and watching stage 9), he's in another breakaway. I'm proud of him as well -- not just for taking care of Sylvain (which he and Carlos Barredo have done a good job with), but also for his taking and then defense of the King of the Mountain jersey. I hope he keeps it for a lot longer. I also hope that he stays at QS. Like with Sylvain, it's a very good fit for him. And they work well together.

3. Robbie McEwen
There's always someone on both sides of my good and bad, and today it's McEwen. His good is brief, he's basically a stud. Stage 9 might be his last of this Tour (but hopefully not his last of all Tours). His body has basically been abused and he's still plugging along. I don't want him out, but it's amazing he's still here. He tough and even though I used to hate him, I've since changed my tune. I'm rooting for you, Robbie.

4. Drama
This year's Tour has had more than it's share of drama, but the best had to be the fisticuffs between Costa and Barredo. It was possibly the funniest fight I've ever seen. I know I probably shouldn't put this on the good side of my life, but come on. I'm a fan of this because it never happens, because neither of them got hurt. I'm not necessarily a fan of their punishment, but I'm glad they weren't kicked out of the tour and I'm glad they were made to apologize. But it was sensational and when was the last time something happened at the Tour that was so crazy -- but wasn't related to doping or crashes? And, really, watching Barredo go after him with his front tire was brilliant. Maybe I just love drama for drama's sake, but whatever. It was fun and hilarious.

5. Mountains
Technically we've only had two real mountain stages. But I'll be honest, the stage Sylvain won felt like a mountain stage. It was awesome to watch him win, but it was even more interesting watching the rest of the cyclists who were totally unprepared for the stage. But even more interesting were the events of the next stage, stage 8. I'll talk about the crashes later, but it was so cool to see the race suddenly heat up out of the blue. Sure, the Alps bring that out in the race, but to be honest, who would've thought it could happen quite so early in the Tour. It was just the first week and we've already eliminated a bunch of so-called contenders. This really sets the stage for a lot more excitement this tour. Hopefully it'll be stuff I can enjoy as well.

6. Complaints/Whining
I'll talk a bit more about this with my Cancellara paragraph, but it needs to be addressed. One of the things that drives me crazy about football (soccer) is the fact that so many of the top athletes (especially on my teams, particularly Arsenal) complain. They whine about conditions, about being subbed off, about bad calls, about missed calls, about calls that didn't even exist. They whine and whine and they aren't good leaders and yet people love them anyway. Usually whining in cycling has been limited to doping related issues. But apparently not this year. It seems to have started with the (amusing) spat between Greipel and Cavendish, but we all know sprinters love to bitch. But it all came to a head (for me) with the stages two and three. I'll leave the Cancellara thing for the moment, but the complaints about the cobbles were bullshit. I'm sorry, but if you complain about the stage the day you race it and it's not related to a) the weather and b) stuff that you didn't expect on the course, then I have no sympathy for you. And even the weather is iffy. But these guys had months to sort out the stages, to train on them once or twice, or even just look at them on a map. But instead they bitched and moaned the day of the stage and expect me to feel sorry for them. I'm sorry, but no. Do your homework, maybe that'll help. And if you don't like the stage, complain when the route is introduced. Seriously.

7. Robbie McEwen
This isn't really related to him specifically, well it is, but not completely. First off, it pisses me off that he keeps falling. But what makes me the most angry is what happened to him after stage ... 6, maybe? After he finished the stage, he was riding with the rest of the sprinters, going pretty fast as they'd just finished the stage. Then, out of no where, a man stepped out in front of Robbie's bike, knocking him off hard. It's totally fucked with his Tour and his ability to do, well, anything. It's ridiculous and what makes me even more angry is that the man who stepped in front of him barely got punished. It's not right and it's not fair to Robbie. The Tour is supposed to protect their riders to the best of their ability and ... yeah, that failed.

8. Versus Coverage
In previous years I've watched most of the Tour on Versus. I couldn't do it this year. Paul and Phil are too much. The only time I watch them is when I have to record part of the stage because I'm at work. Their coverage is terrible and even more American centric that in previous years. I understand why they do this and I know that most countries do it. But their obvious bias is a huge turn off. Usually you can ignore that type of thing, but instead of showing the race, they do all this other bullshit with talking about Americans and/or the other contenders all the time. They cut away from the race, they go to commercial breaks all the time and seem to enjoy showing themselves more than the racing. I don't know what people do who don't know about watching the Tour online. I don't know what I'd do if I couldn't watch it on the computer. Probably my commentary would be mostly complaining about Versus and less about cycling, so consider yourselves lucky.

9. Crashes
There have been so many and I know we say this every year, but it always feels like more this year. I know it's probably not true, though maybe it's that there are more within each stage than previously. They've been really bad and sometimes ridiculous. But there were some riders who crashed in almost all of them. Some who crashed in none and some who crashed in one one day and then three the next. Armstrong's was probably the most embarrassing -- 3 in one day and that put him out of Tour contention, much to my delight. I do feel bad for people who crash, even when I don't like them. Except for Mark Cavendish, because he caused that first crash on Stage 2. At least he admitted that one. I hope that we have fewer crashes, but I can't deny that they bring excitement to the race. But at the same time, we don't need more incidents like what happened to Frank Schleck. I might not like him, but that was horrible. We won't be free of crashes, the Tour never is. But hopefully it won't be as bad.

10. Cancellara
If you've been following me on Twitter, here or my blog, you've noticed by now that I've added another cyclist to my 'hate list.' There's just something about Cancellara I just don't like. I didn't feel one way or the other about him previously, but my dislike has been growing over the past few months and came to a head during stage two. Before you ask, no, it's not because Sylvain lost the jersey to Cancellara on stage 3. It's because of what he did on stage 2. It's how he tried to underhandedly make sure that the stage was neutralized in hopes that he could keep the yellow jersey. I don't care what other people say, I think Cancellara was basically cheating. There have been way worse stages out there and most cyclists don't complain. It was on Cancellara being an idiot and the peloton's inability to stand up to their fair leader. Which is bullshit. Because had it been, say, Chavanel in yellow, no one would have given a shit. As we saw on stage 3 and that's fine. No free gifts, remember? My other problem with Cancellara is that he took his selfishness out on the peloton. He made them wait for his teammates. He made them wait. In what world is cycling fair? In what fucking universe is it right to make the rest of the peloton wait for your team? There is no place where that's right or fair. Cycling's not fair. That's the point. And while some people think he did the right thing, I'm not one of them. I think he cheated.


Now that we're done with my ridiculous wrap of the first week, what do we have to look forward to? Mountains. Lots and lots of mountains. There are a couple that might work well for Sylvain. But it'll make for an interesting Tour. There is one stage that looks possibly flattish, compared to the other stages, but I doubt that it is. I expect Sylvain to try for breakaways on a few of these stages, though I'm not sure if he's going to win any more stages. If Pineau can find a decent stage, he might try for a stage win, which we know he was as well. Hopefully QS will continue to a great tour. I also would like to see a few more riders I like doing well, like, Gerald Ciolek or Linus Gerdemann. I'd say Marcus Burghardt, but he's going to be killing himself for Evans, should he keep the yellow.

I'm excited, though I expect that Robbie McEwen won't be there. Hopefully the mountains that are left will be just as amazing as the three stages we've had so far.

Monday, July 12, 2010

July 11, Stage 8: Station des Rousses - Morzine-Avoriaz 189km

This is late, but yesterday was full of sports and other things and I just couldn't be bothered. I'll do the rest day piece at some point later today. Anyway, stage eight was the first 'real' mountain and it was pretty good. I really enjoy mountain stage when things are blown apart (good job, TDF '10). It seems that not everyone recovered well from stage seven, which was okay. We know that would happened. I guess some people were surprised and disappointed that Sylvain lost his jersey, but I wasn't (and I said as much on twitter and on my blog). Not the least because I expected this to happen. I didn't want it to, I hoped it would, but I wasn't kidding myself either. Sylvain's a TDF stage winner, and he could winner smaller stage races -- but he is good at the smaller mountains (aka middle mountains) and that's what he proved on Saturday. So losing the yellow jersey on Sunday wasn't unexpected.

A lot of people said it was the pressure of being French and wearing the jersey and I can't disagree, especially regarding what happened on stage three. But there's also bad luck, hard mountains, people attacking. I've said it a million times, there are no free gifts at the tour. If I didn't remember that maybe I'd be depressed about him losing the jersey, but I'm not stupid. The fact that he's had the jersey twice and won two stages is more than enough for me as a fan. I can't say that I'm not disappointed, because I am. I'm just realistic. One thing that seems unrealistic, but keeps happening, is that Robbie McEwen just doesn't give up (hey, just like Sylvain) and even though the world seems to be against him, he manages to stick around. I hope this keeps up because I really like him, asshole or not (take that, old me. People do change.).

Okay, so the stage happened and it was drama. Lots of drama. The best part of the stage was seeing Lance Armstrong fail. Don't get me wrong, three crashes sucks and I felt a bit embarrassed for him. But come on, a little schadenfreude never hurt anyone and I'm going to enjoy this for a long time. He never should have come back from retirement and even if he's doping (which I assume he is, because I believe they all are), he's really just not that good enough anymore. It's just painful to watch him. I think people keep talking about he should retired from the Tour and I can't imagine that happening. Though if it does, it'll prove just how much of a coward he really is. But I can't see it, he's not big on quitting (and staying quit, meh). But now he's not a contender at all (and oh my GOD it is amazing).

The real question is who is? I thought I'd be happy to see Cadel Evan in the jersey, but in the ed it just made me dislike him again. There's just something super irritating about ... well, everything about him. It's not even because he 'took' the jersey from Sylvain. It's because he just irritates me. Which really limits my options as far as who to support in the GC. But ignoring that, it was fun to watch the race for the top of the mountain (have I told you that I love mountain top finishes, because I do, a lot). What's ironic about Evans getting the yellow jersey is that he was going backward when Andy Schleck took off for the win. So he got it just by the fact that Sylvain could keep up. I'm trying not to enjoy that too much, either, because I feel sort of bad about thinking that.

The final sprint (ha) as it were, was kind of crazy-wild. It's hard to believe we're only starting the second week of the tour. It was like a massive finish near the last few stages of the race. I can't even begin to imagine what it's going to be like in two weeks! One thing I do hope is that the names at the top all stay close together, time wise, at the top. I've said it before, dominating is never fun. My big question is if BMC is going to protect the yellow (or if they're even able to, because Astana looks like they might be strong in the mountains, if they can work together) or if they're even going to try. Someone 30 minutes back might end up in a break that doesn't get caught,which was similar to what happened with Voeckler. I can see BMC allowing that to happen, though probably not on Tuesday, if only because the jersey is so much (too much) pressure.

Anyway, Monday's a rest day and Andy Schleck and his stupid celebration will get to enjoy a day off. I hope that the rest day doesn't mess too much with the cyclists I like and that Sylvain can save himself up for another few attacks. I'll post a rest day thing, as I said before, later tonight.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

July 10, Stage 7: Tournus - Station des Rousses 165.5km

I'll be perfectly honest, I never thought this would happen. I mean, intellectually I knew it could because Sylvain's problems on Stage 3 were not of his own making. He punctured twice and got stuck behind the Schleck. And as I said after Stage 3, I would be happy if he just won another stage. And even if he did, I'd still be a happy fan because he'd won a stage and worn the yellow jersey. And then. Oh my god and then this happened. I have to be honest (again) and say that I'm not really sure how to deal with this kind of joy. As a fan, this kind of thing doesn't really happen to me. I am used to fleeting glory, to coming in second all the time or not even coming close at all. And then Sylvain just fucks with my whole world and it is so amazingly glorious.

I watched the early part of the stage before having to go out and then to work. All told, I missed about an hour of the race and came back just after Sylvain made his attack. I didn't know what was going on and I thought maybe I'd missed most of the stage. But when I turned on Eurosport, I couldn't believe what I was seeing. Luckily I was the only one in the office because I was jumping around and flailing and shouting at him. My stomach was all in knots and I just kept staring and hoping. And then he won and I just couldn't believe it. It was (still is) so amazing and wonderful. I'm lucky to like such an amazing cyclist. And the things the commentators were saying about him (both Versus and Eurosport) just made me so proud. Especially when they kept calling him a class act and how he rode with panache. But my favorite was one one of them Eurosport commentators said that Sylvain rode and old school race, filled with grit. Because that's the kind of stuff he's good at. He never gives up.

It's funny, when he won the TDF stage in 2008, people were surprised, but I knew he had it in him. And then when he had the great 2009 season, without the TDF win, people talked about how he should have ridden more classics (and it's true, he should, he's so amazing at them). He should have excelled in the cobbles, but it wasn't his day. But stage 2 was, because it was his kind of weather, his kind of hard, gritty racing. And I don't care what people say about that win, it was brilliant. But today's win, stage 7's win was even more exciting. He beat out the entire field. He blew them away and they never really knew what hit him. As soon as I saw he was in the lead, I thought about what he'd said in a post-stage 3 interview, which was that he was just going to save himself for the middle-mountains. Today was that day, only I didn't realize it would come so soon -- and it seems either did he. I'm so proud of him.

Okay, so there were other things that happened in this stage. Things that led up to Sylvain's win. Jerome Pineau was amazing getting points for his KOM jersey. I hope he keeps a hold of it, just as I hope Sylvain stays in yellow. He did his best and watching him cheer for Sylvain when he crossed the line was wonderful, as was their hug after the race. Other things: people kept blowing up on the road, I was surprised. But watching Andy Schleck's post-race interview on Versus really clued me in. He said he didn't expect it to be so hard, it's kind of crazy that he, and seemingly a lot of the peloton, weren't really expecting it to be hard. And yet the stage was (and once again QS knew what they were doing and did it perfectly). Another thing I want to add is that Sylvain taking the yellow jersey from Cancellara was justice being done. I don't really know how to explain that, but it's the only thing I could think of, aside from my joy. It was nice to see him suffering a lot and not being able to do a damn thing about it. It was sad to watch poor Geraint Thomas going backward instead of forward. I really liked seeing him in white.

Robbie McEwen seems on a mission to make me love him. I don't know how it started, except that he was the sprinter I used to hate and now I dislike most of them and somehow ... I don't know, he's a fighter, we knew this, but he's a fighter in so many ways. Sure, he's got ego like Cav and he's got attitude like Thor, but the qualities I used to hate about him are the ones I like now. The fact that he fights for everything, that he can win without a lead out train, that he doesn't take shit from anyone. And that he, like Sylvain, never seems to give up. I don't think anyone would think less of him if he didn't start today's stage after what happened after stage 6 and yet he did! Not only did he, but he finished within the time cut (unlike his poor teammate). Seriously, he's one big bruise and he keeps racing. Hard not to like that.

As for tomorrow's stage? I can't wait. It's the real mountains, unlike the medium ones today (that caught people off guard). I'm curious how things are going to go -- not just because I want Sylvain to stay in yellow and JP to keep the green. I'm also excited to see how the 'big names' have recovered from the hard word they had to pull in stage 7. It should be really exciting. I just read on CN that Richard Virenque (who I adore, in spite of all the doping business) won a similar stage to this one and I cannot wait to see how the rest do -- because Virenque's stage was in 2003 and that was my first Tour. I also love uphill finishes, so the end of the stage should be exciting (if tiring for everyone involved). Is it tomorrow yet?

Friday, July 09, 2010

July 9, Stage 6: Montargis - Gueugnon 227.5km

We all know how this stage ended. It was a breakaway (I was totally disappointed that they didn't stay away) and then there was a sprint finish. It was possibly exciting if you aren't me. I cannot believe I ever loved lead out trains. Seriously, they make things so dull (and sometimes dangerous, but that's okay) and when they work it just frustrates me. I think this is probably because I am tired of Mark Cavendish (already, you say? and I reply that yes, already, but really it's been coming). I know yesterday I complained about the Tour rewarding the whiners and while I still believe that, I don't see the point on complaining about it. I know that my friends who like Columbia (and Cav) are happy they won again. And I suppose it's probably a good thing for Columbia that Cav didn't let them down. But I just don't have the energy to spare caring that he won because it would just make me annoyed.

It was fun to see Sylvain and Marcus as I was watching the stage while doing work (at work). I'll be honest, I didn't pay that close attention, except for the sprint finish (which I've seen three times now). I cannot wait for the mountains, I can't wait for the KOM competition to heat up. It's weird because I used to love flat stages, and had I been at home for today's, instead of at work, I probably would have felt differently. Well, that and the winner of the stage. It was just nice to see different teams out and about. The one thing I did miss today was the great Eurosport commentary. Sadly I probably won't get much of that tomorrow either, even though I don't have to work until later (the curse of the Farmer's Market).

Anyway, the best (and worst) part of the stage happened after it was over. The first was the huge fight that happened. I have to confess, as I did on tumblr, that I kind of loved it. I've watched this video a bunch of times and it never gets old. Yes, I know, they're fighting, but they're pro athletes. They're being idiots and they're not sprinters, how rare is it that that happens? I mean, people talk shit in the press all the time and the sprinters are total assholes, but come on. Fisticuffs? How awesome is that? It's totally awesome. I will admit to being totally disappointed that they didn't get fined that much. On the Versus coverage, Phil was talking about how they should be kicked out of the Tour. I'm almost inclined to agree, even though the fighting was ridiculously awesome.

The other thing I want to talk about was what happened to Robbie McEwen. I didn't use to like him and now I do, end of story. What happened today really pissed me off. Robbie was riding with the rest of the cyclists after the stage when out of nowhere, a man stepped in front of his bike, sending him flying. Of all the cyclists to get injured, Robbie was the last one who needed it. He'd been crashing a lot and was already in a lot of pain. The dude who ran into him was apparently a tv journalist. According to Robbie's twitter, he's only been banned (suspended?) for one stage. One. Stage. Though I suppose if FIFA can refuse to ban refs who make blatantly bad calls, then the TDF folks can do whatever they want. I guess we don't know what kind of pull the TDF folks have over the TV journalists, but still.

As for tomorrow's stage? Aside from not being able to see most of it, I'm excited! It's a real mountain stage and hopefully things will, as they say on Versus, explode. I'm really looking forward to some action in the Tour. I feel bad, because like I said before, I used to enjoy the flat stages, but not so much this year. Hopefully tomorrow's result will be something I like.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

July 8, Stage 5: Epernay - Montargis 187.5km

I will admit to not paying that much attention to the actual cycling bits of this stage, before the end. I was doing about a million other things and the commentary on Eurosport was far more interesting than the race itself. That, of course, isn't a surprise because it was a moderately flat stage. Apparently before the race coverage was on tv, Brad Wiggins fell ... in the first few kms of the stage. That sound you hear is my laughing, if only because he's mostly okay. And, you know, I don't like him. But anyway, onto the stage itself. The scenery was nice, there were sunflowers and it was the first time I properly followed the stage on my new cycling twitter. It was pretty fun, and until the end, pretty low stress.

The sprint was almost awesome. I will say that I've really grown to dislike lead out trains. I used to adore them. They were exciting and usually they were working hard for a rider I liked. I believe it was Petacchi who had one of the best lead outs, ages ago. Except ... now I hate them. Not in the way I hate a lot of other things in sports, but enough that they drive me nuts. I like it when the lead out trains get all fucked up or run out of gas or a cyclist from another team gets in their way. Something similar to that happened yesterday and I was hoping that it would happen again today. Unfortunately, Columbia did everything right, much to my chagrin.

You see, I have a grudge against Mark Cavendish. I'm tired of his petulant behavior on the bike and his ego and bad attitude off the bike. I know, he's a sprinter and they're like that. But I have to say that Cav takes it about three steps too far. And so yesterday when he got screwed in the sprint, it was a joy to watch (and extremely amusing to hear about his tantrum). Today I was hoping for something similar, or at least just as interesting. Instead the Columbia train sorted themselves out, boxed all the other sprinters out and then led Cav to the win. Much to my irritation, but the joy of, like, everyone else in the world. This always seems to happen to me, damn it.

The other reason it really bugs me is because it proves, to me at least, that the sport itself, and this race (and peloton) in particular, rewards people who whine and complain. There's no punishment for Cav for throwing his bike like a little child. There's no punishment for Thor for talking shit about his fellow sprinters (though that's the least of my issues with sprinters) and there's absolutely no punishment for Cancellara's behavior on stage two. In other words, if you bitch and whine and moan, everything goes your way -- just like in football (soccer) and I hate it there, just as much. Of course it's not like anyone could do anything about it (except for, hello, fining people and so on), because I seem to be the only one who cares.

Anyway, moving on. Cav won the stage, but he probably won't the green jersey, thank god. Thor has 102 and Petacchi is next closed with 88. In other words, it's not contest which is pretty depressing. Hopefully the yellow jersey will start to heat up and people will start to fuck with each and we can all have a good time again (until someone I hate is in yellow).

Tomorrow's stage looks a bit like today's. Flattish, with a few tiny hills toward the end. Maybe it'll be the day another breakaway survives. It was pretty sad to watch today's vanish, but that's the way this sport goes. Hopefully I'll have more to say tomorrow! And I really hope someone else wins tomorrow's stage.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

July 7, Stage 4: Cambrai - Reims 153.5km

That's more like it. I was able to get a lot done this morning (before I left for work and then once I was at work) and those are the kind of stages I like. They don't stress me out or upset me and at the end, they provide the best kind of excitement. Like I said yesterday, I figured there'd be a breakaway and I was right. Alas, it was a doomed one, but I wasn't too sad because it mean we might finally have a sprint finish. And, to be perfectly honest, the Tour really needed one of those. I know, it's only stage four, but we've all been itching for it since the crashes on stage one. And, finally, here it came.

Though first the break had to be caught and the roundabouts had to be negotiated. I'll be honest, we have a couple here in the Detroit metro area and they are horrible. I know they're supposed to slow traffic, but people don't know how to drive around them and therefore they're super dangerous and annoying. And, well, kind of scary! I cannot imagine how these cyclists, going at such high speeds, negotiate them with ease. Probably it's a combination of recon of tour stages and the fact that Europe is full of roundabouts, and thus everyone knows (in theory) how to handle them. Anyway, they did a lot of stringing out of the peloton, which is always entertaining and then they hit the home stretch -- without any crashes. The Eurosport commentators were totally amused (and surprised) by the lack of crashes leading up to the finish, but I think we were all relieved, too.

Up until the last 10k or so, the whole stage was pretty laid back, even the break. They hovered around 2-3 minutes and when time came to catch them, it wasn't hard. I think everyone was ready for a break after the drama of the first two stages. I know I've talked about all the bitching the cyclists have done, but it was a relief for us fans, too. It was nice to go through the day without hating everyone, like I did yesterday (though starting a cycling-only twitter also helped). I watched an interview with Sylvain that happened after yesterday's stage (god, I adore him) and he talked about how he was hoping to take it easy today, and the rest of the sprint stages. So on a personal level, I was pretty happy with the way the stage went -- it wasn't too hard, we saw him a few times, chatting up some of his compatriots.

As for the sprint itself? My motto this year seems to be anybody but Cavendish and yet again, that's what happened. Much to my surprise (and amusement) it was Alessandro Petacchi who pulled of the win. It was like watching the Ale-Jet of old. It was also nice because the two previous times I've seen him win this year, it was because he made it out of the carnage unscathed and ended up the last man standing. Today, though, he kicked major ass and it was totally awesome. I know, I want Robbie McEwen to win, but whatever. Seeing that Petacchi still has it was way more fun. Also, because it meant that Petacchi out sprinted both Thor and Cav, and while I like Thor -- there are plenty of other cyclists I'd rather see in green.

So, it was a good stage. Happy with the winner, not so happy about the yellow jersey but it's easier to just ignore that. Tomorrow looks like another sprinter's stage, maybe we'll have a lucky breakaway that sticks, but I doubt it. I'll just hope that Petacchi can get a few more points and take the Green jersey away -- or that Robbie McEwen can overcome his injures and win a stage. And that Sylvain gets all the rest he needs before the mountains.