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?