Sunday, July 25, 2010

Thoughts on the Tour

What follows are my thoughts on this years Tour de France. Please ignore if you have no interest in cycling.

Well, I just watched the final stage. It is about 4pm on Sunday, I watched the replay of the final stage on the Champs-Elysees on Versus. Oh man do I wish I could ride that.

As an aside, THANK YOU VERSUS for the great coverage again this year.

I got in a sweet 60 mile ride in today myself, from my house to New Glarus in a roundabout circular way on some nasty hills and back. I have to admit I am really starting to arrive with my cycling. The hills don't seem as tough as they used to. On the flats my average speed is much higher than it used to be. I am pretty excited.

But this isn't about me, this is about the pros and this years tour.

Subject number one - Lance.
Well, what to say. Lance himself said that he was in winning shape for this thing, but it was not to be. He still finished in the 20's, not a bad accomplishment for an old man! Such bad luck. Flats, crashes, so many things went so wrong for him - I won't complain about his performance. By the way, do you know what team won the team competition? Thats right, Team RadioShack! They won by 9 minutes over Caisse d'Epargne. I am extremely pleased with that result.

Subject number two - the chain.

In stage 15, Andy Schleck experienced what is called "chainsuck". I don't want to get into a detailed explanation here about chainsuck, but lets just say that there was a malfunction. Biking forums and mechanics have been going nuts over the interweb on the subject. It basically - and I mean basically - cost Andy Schleck the tour.

There are a lot of things in play here. I will first talk about Contador's reaction. To make it short, he wasn't exactly the most sporting about Schleck's misfortune, but there is no rule against it. For those who don't know, Contador was about 50 feet behind Schleck when the mishap happened, and Alberto put on the gas and blew by Andy when the incident occured. Contador did absolutely nothing wrong. There is no rule against it.

In the Tour, in the past, riders have slowed down to help their competitors who may have suffered bad luck, to make the event more sporting.

My take is this - where do you draw the line on this stuff? Nobody slowed down when Lance flatted on the cobbles this year. How long do you stop? These races spread out over several kilometers at times. Another point - it is literally impossible to say when a crash or mishap is caused by the rider or the equipment. Which brings me to another point.

Who is to say that Schleck didn't screw up? Chainsuck can be caused by offsetting your front and rear cogs so your chain is way off angle. Even as an amateur cyclist I know to avoid having the chain on small-small or big-big combinations. I have read a lot about Schleck's problem and a lot of people who know a lot more than me think he plain old screwed up.

In a NASCAR sort of way, isn't the equipment part of the game as well? The chairman of Cervelo said that maybe Schleck's team, Saxobank, perhaps used equipment made by the company that would puke up the most sponsorship money, rather than something of higher quality. In NASCAR people don't stop because someone blows an engine or has some other mechanical difficulty.

This discussion will go on for a long time.

Subject number three - the champion.

He deserved to win. Andy could not shake him on the Tourmalet, and Alberto killed Andy in the last ITT. I don't like him, but he is the champion, and so it goes. Team Astana was WAY better than anyone thought they would be.

Last subject - I think every pro cyclist is on dope in some form or another. The times they put up are inhuman.


Sk8 said...

Don't like him at all, and I don't believe his excuse that he didn't know of the mech failure. Andy had his chances though, so it was a clear victory for Cantador. Its just fire in the belly for Schleck to win next year. I don't see any American rider contending the GC in the near future.

Dan from Madison said...

Oh Alberto definitely knew what was going on. I don't mind that he took advantage of the situation but don't try to b.s. everybody. Lance called Alberto out on that too.

No hope for GC, but we do have a lot of good American riders that may challenge for stages, namely Tyler Farrar.

Jonathan said...

The chairman of Cervelo said that maybe Schleck's team, Saxobank, perhaps used equipment made by the company that would puke up the most sponsorship money, rather than something of higher quality.

The Cervelo guy is merely trying to deflect blame (not that he deserves blame). All of the teams use particular brands of equipment because they are paid to. Who knows in this case, but some of the equipment the teams use is probably crap. If it breaks during the race the rider gets blamed. If you or I buy it and it breaks we get blamed for abusing it.

WRT Contador, there is a fine line between competitiveness and being an asshole. My guess is that most guys who win multiple Tours are not nice guys.

Dan from Madison said...

The Cervelo guy had a lot to say about the whole deal, but that part stuck with me. I never looked into what groupo that Cervelo Test Team uses.

Carl from Chicago said...

Sorry I am so ignorant on this but what is a team victory worth vs. an individual victory? I heard a lot of people talking about the guy who won and less about the overall team victory.

I saw a bunch of it on vs. and it really showed off the countryside. Looked great in HD

Also I can't believe that people are right next to them on the hills as they go up and patting them on the back and stuff but I saw it all the time on TV. Seems like some nut is going to jump out there again

Dan from Madison said...

Typically nobody gives a damn about the team competition besides hardcore fans of the sport.

Yes, someday there will be a major issue on those mountains. I, like you, am surprised that some nut hasn't bowled one of the riders over already. I have seen some crashes caused by spectators, but nothing malicious yet.

Jonathan said...

In the early '70s some guy jumped out of the crowd on one of the mountain stages and punched Eddy Merckx.

When I used to read Velo News the riders in their diaries occasionally mentioned that they were reluctant to accept opened drinks from fans, because of the risk of infection or sabotage.

Dan from Madison said...

The French always hated Eddie. I would agree with not accepting opened bottles.