Still a slave to my competitive spirit.

Today I was out for a long bike ride. I was 35km into what was shaping up to be a 50km ride – my previous longest ride this year was 40km or so. The combination of the pea gravel and the headwind on the canal path was kicking my ass, and I was barely holding 18 or 19 km/hr. (There will now be a short pause while real cyclists laugh themselves silly at how slow I go and what I consider a long ride.) I passed a cyclist going in the other direction, and paused to do one of those standing stretch things that provide temporary relief from a sore butt and stiff legs. But as I was doing it, the cyclist I’d just seen going in the other direction now passed me going in my direction.

I couldn’t help it – I sped up a bit, and when I realized I was going almost as fast as him, I sped up some more and tucked into his slipstream. I soon found myself going at 26km/hr but not working any harder than I’d been going 19km/hr alone. He kept glancing back at me but he powered along. I saw he was riding a much newer bike than mine, with a lot of gears in the back sprocket – probably nine or ten, and he was in the smallest. When I was riding more 20 years ago, the Shimano XTR with 8 gears was considered almost too much. I couldn’t see the front rings so I don’t know if he was in the biggest one. He was also dressed in shorts and had regular toe clips rather than the SPD clip less pedals like I have, so I figured I looked more the part even if I wasn’t as fast as him.

Anyway, I didn’t want to lose the free ride so I put in an extra effort to stay behind him, but after a few minutes I was feeling I’d gotten some rest and was more energetic, so when his speed dropped to around 23 km/hr, I pulled ahead. He said something about me enjoying the free ride and hoping I’d return the favor, so I resolved to take a pull. At the front, I made sure I maintained that same 26km/hr he had, and he tucked in behind me for a long pull. It felt like I’d been in front for more than my share, and we were just coming into Schoen Place, where you kind of have to slow down anyway, so I was planning to let him take another pull after we’d cleared the village, but then he pulled off! So unfair.

Thoughts on the Tour

When they initially announced the route of this year’s tour, I knew that Andy Schleck wouldn’t be winning it. That was before Nissan-Radio Shack-Trek turned out to be the biggest disappointment of the entire season, never really getting any good results through the spring. Other than Fabian Cancellara’s prologue and winning the team category, they’ve really been a team in complete disarray and it’s shown. I have heard rumours that they won’t be around next year, and that isn’t at all surprising after all the bickering and infighting in the team.

I don’t know if Frank Schleck’s positive test was some sort of sabotage, or just the fact that with Bryneel occupied elsewhere, they made a mistake in their doping program. Schleck’s team mate Chris Horner wrote that when you’re not the biggest team in the race or not one of the top contenders, you *do* sometimes end up drinking from those bottles that spectators try to hold out to the riders – the guys you see on TV sometimes take them and dump them over their heads to cool off, but they never drink them because you never know whether it’s fresh water or water from the streams beside the road, which are probably half beer fueled piss by the time the riders get up there. And as the tacks on the road proved, there are people out there willing to sabotage the race. I could easily see somebody putting drugs in their bottles and offering them to riders they dislike. On the other hand, as I see stages being won by men who’ve served two year suspensions for doping, I wonder if we’re even yet seeing a clean race. I want to see an end to doping, but I suspect while we’ve still got team managers who admitted that they doped when they rode in the tour, I don’t think it’s going to happen.

I’d hoped that Cadel Evans less than perfect showing in the Dauphine was just him getting into form to peak for the Tour, but it was obvious when the Tour hit the Alps that he just wasn’t as good as he was last year. I wanted to see him repeat, but that’s racing for you. If you’re not perfect at the Tour, you’ve going to get beaten by somebody who is.

Even before the Tour, Bradley Wiggens and Sky Team looked like a team dedicated to and perfectly capable of being as dominant in GC as they ended up being. But I really wondered why they wanted Mark Cavendish or why Mark Cavendish wanted to be on Sky. We knew he wouldn’t get the lead-out train like he had for his winning seasons at HTC Highroad/HTC Columbia. He proved early on he could win as a scrambler like a Robbie McEwan, and be he also proved that not being a priority for your team can end up with you being in a pile of riders in the road with a broken helmet. Fortunately his team decided they were comfortable enough on GC that they could give him a decent lead-out on Stages 18 and 20. But I wonder if his reason for joining Sky wasn’t more about the Olympics than the Tour? Certainly not being the focus of his team’s efforts meant he wasn’t expected to get the Green Jersey, and it gives him a chance to ride with other British riders who he’ll probably be riding with at the Olympics. Wiggens and Froome could very well end up leading him out to a sprint finish in the Olympic road race.

No offence to Wiggens and Froome, but I miss the slashing attacks and mountain top finishes of the Armstrong and Contador eras. This year seemed more like the Indurain era, where everything was predicated on not losing any time in the mountains in order to win it on the time trials, and I’m sorry, but time trials are boring. Maybe next year they’ll have more mountains, and it will be Froome’s turn to win?

I was disappointed that Ryder Hesjedahl crashed out of the Tour. Nobody is ever going to win the Tour and the Giro in the same year in this era, but it would have been great to see how he did against Nibali and the others who did both.