Friday, July 22, 2011

July 22, Stage 19: Modane - Alpe-d’Huez 109 km

I don't really want to write about this stage and I'm not sure I know how. It was a stage, just like lots of  others. Stuff happened, much of it didn't go the way I hoped, but that's the way sporting events go. You win some, you lose some. But at the time I would've been thinking about writing this stage, I found out about the bombings in Oslo and all thoughts of writing about the stage vanished. And then I had to watch the stage (which screwed up taping and so I watched half on Versus and half on a Eurosport d/l), which didn't grab me, no matter how hard I tried. And I was fighting with my internet (thanks for nothing, Comcast) and so I just didn't care that Pierre Rolland won the stage. I didn't care that Andy Schleck was in yellow. I just didn't care.

And the more I thought about it, the more I knew what would happen on Stage 20. Even though I hadn't finished watching the stage, I knew who would win this Tour and as happy as Leopard Trek/the Schlecks were, I knew it wasn't going to last. When things are predictable (and they have been, on this Tour, just like all the previous ones), there's just no excitement left. Perhaps I'm missing something, maybe I've stopped liking cycling the way I used to (but not the way I should -- because there's no wrong way). But Alpe-d’Huez did what it was supposed to do and gave us a winner.

About the stage itself, not my hindsight, let's just say that Pierre Rolland's win was, er. It was a win, I guess? Good for him and good for Europcar getting something at the end of this Tour (barring a disaster for Rolland). I mean, Thomas Voeckler again loses everything and rides into Paris empty handed. I'm glad that I don't care about him/his team anymore. That's a lot of heartbreak that I just don't need in my fandom life. That's not to say that Voeckler and Rolland didn't bust their asses, because they did (they just had help, clearly). And it's not to say that they didn't earn the jerseys and the win, but there was never any way that Voeckler was going to wear the yellow jersey into Paris.

As for Andy Schleck? The only person he had to beat was Voeckler and he just had to gain 15 seconds. In the scheme of the TDF, that's not hard nor a lot. In the stage itself, it was both. Funny how that works. Schleck did it and he ended the day in yellow, which was inevitable. I know, I suggested that it would Cadel in yellow (and hindsight makes me wish he had), because that's what he wanted, but it didn't really work out that way (which seemed to be the best for Evans in the end). A little bit of me was amused to see Andy Schleck in yellow -- but with the ITT on Saturday, there was absolutely no way that he was going to win the whole thing. No matter how much his time trialling had improved, Evans wasn't going to let this get away from. 57 seconds separate Cadel (in 3rd) and Andy ( in yellow) at the end of the day. It was nothing

The thing that bugged me, though, that made me kind of annoyed, was that I actually cared about Contador. I mean, yes, he's a doper and probably shouldn't be racing (but they're all dopers, so maybe that's less important than it could be), but at the same time, the amount of anti-Contador I've seen totally outweighs all the other anti-Evans (does that exist?) and anti-Schlecks (it comes and goes). And because I'm who I am and I hate winners (winning is for losers) and the underdog (even when he shouldn't be), I couldn't help but want Contador to do well. And he tried. Fuck, he tried so hard and he just couldn't do it and it broke my heart just a little bit. Which is weird, but there you go.

Unrelated to the GC: Sylvain finished 39th on this stage, which was fuck yeah awesome. I'm so proud of him for making it the whole way with his shoulder issues. I love that dude, he is my favorite and the rest of them can suck it (or not, but you know what I mean). And, okay, so the time cut thing. I'm sorry, but people have got to grow up. As hilarious as it would be to see 87 (or whatever) riders kicked out of the tour for failing to keep up make it to the finish in time, it was never going to happen. It's not like the rule didn't exist, it's not like it wasn't there for a reason. And as for the points punishment? You cannot play favorites. Mark Cavendish deserved all the points deducted just as much as the last dude in the gruppetto. And for all the bitching and whining, they knew how hard it was going to be. Yesterday and today's stage were hard and perhaps the Tour ended up being harder than expected with all the crashes -- but the route never changed and it's not the race's fault that the gruppetto was too slow. The TDF folks did what they had to do -- not because the Green jersey was in there or because of the French RR jersey (fuck you for saying so) or because of who else was in the autobus. They did it because the rules allowed them to and there are consequences to actions and if you can't make it in fast enough, you either get cut or you lose points.

The time trial will decide the TDF, just as everyone expected. Because this Tour is nothing if not predictable (I know people don't agree, but when you can only pick from three or four dudes as to who is going to win it -- that's predictable). I want Tony Martin to win the stage and that's that.

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