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.