Well, another Tour de France is over. And it was a great one.
Some of the things I liked best:
– Lance Armstrong. What a surprise I should pick him. He’s a master. He and his coaches put together the best team on the planet, combined with the best training, and proved what can be done with enough determination and money.
– The sprints. Unlike the Giro d’Italia, where the sprints were positively boring by the end because of the total domination of the Fassa-Bortolo squad. In the Giro, every flat stage ended with 7 or 8 Fassa riders leading out Pettachi, and a couple of guys hoping to hold onto Pettachi’s wheel, and the totally predictable win for Pettachi. I don’t know if it’s because Fassa-Bortolo concentrates on the Giro the way US Postal concentrates on le Tour, or just that there were so many other good teams in the Tour, but Fassa never managed to put together perfectly coreographed lead-outs and there were always several riders in contention. But Robbie McEwan always seemed to be popping out from some crowd that you thought had boxed him in to get a high place if not a win.
– The mountains. I’m not sure if I like having all the mountains on the back end of the tour like that, but it sure made for some nail biting days.
– The surprises. I thought that the main contenders in the GC would be Lance Armstrong, Jan Ullrich, Tyler Hamilton, Roberto Heras and Iban Mayo, with maybe Bobby Julrich an outside chance. Instead Heras and Mayo dropped out of contention early, and Hamilton abandoned, and suddenly I’m watching with great interest Basso and Kloden who I hadn’t really thought about before.
– Lance’s sprint to beat Kloden after the commentators had given the win to Kloden.
– Vokler’s determined rides to keep the yellow jersey in the mountains as long as he could. He performed way, way above himself, and you could see the pain it was costing him. It’s too bad he lost the white jersey as well.
– Lance proving he was “The Boss” by forcing Filippo Simeoni to give up any hope of winning a stage and get the hell to the back of the pack. The OLN commentators were pretty cagey about what was going on there, but from what I gathered a while back Armstrong called Simeoni a liar because Simeoni said that Armstrong’s doctor was giving the riders illegal drugs, and Sineoni is suing Armstrong for defamation. So when Simeoni attempted to join a break-away that the peleton had no interest in chasing, Armstrong went with him, knowing that would force the peleton to chase the break-away down. The other riders in the break-away forced Simeoni to drop back to the peleton before he ruined it for everybody else, and Armstrong, his point made, dropped back with him. Simeoni spent the rest of the day at the very back of the peleton. The next day I saw another US Postal rider purposely blow his nose at Simeoni as he rode past him.
Some of the things I liked least:
– All the crashes. I don’t know whether it was poor course planning that put too many turns near the ends of bunch sprints, or pack nervousness because without any early mountains or time trials, there wasn’t any big time divisions yet.
– The new time limits on the team time trial. Ok, maybe that’s because I was rooting for Lance Armstrong and under the old rules he would have had a minute more advantage early on than he did. But I feel that if you ride a minute faster than the other guys, then the GC times should reflect that.
– The crowds interfering with the riders. I could see the gendarmes working hard to keep people under control, but more than once I saw a rider have to shove somebody out of the way. One time Kloden shoved a guy running along side with a German flag who was interfering with him and Ullrich.
– Bob Roll’s pronunciation of “Tour DAY France”. It’s “tour duh fraunce”, dumbass. It’s funny, because weird hand jestures and all, Roll is a pretty decent commentator, but his pronounciation of french words sends a shiver down my back. I even discovered that one cycling news site had reference to the “Bob Roll Drinking Game” where everybody had to drink when he says “Tour DAY France”.