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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.