This Sunday morning’s (American time) stage of the Tour de France was pivotal. Into Switzerland’s Alps those athletes rode, up ascents 7, 8, 9 miles long. Including the final push up the biggest climb of the day.
Alberto Contador, you know, Lance Armstrong’s Astana teammate, the guy who won in 2007, proved it’s a young man’s sport. At the start of the final ascent, he rocketed away from the pack. He looked like he was hardly even breathing hard. He won easily — if you can call biking up a steep mountain easy at the end of five hour ride — to capture the yellow jersey and become odds on to win this year’s Tour.
I don’t pretend to understand the sport, the team strategy, the races within the race. But I know that today’s stage was positively exhilarating to watch. (Watch I did. Which I’ve chosen to do, since the leaders of the British Open are just beginning the final nine. Here are world class athletes competing in the sport’s premier event along roads lined with throngs of people who are close enough to touch the competitors. Which plenty of them, many in costumes, many waving flags, try to do.
The Tour day started with controversy over the finish of yesterday’s stage. Apparently all the teams are pissed at the Garmin Slipstream crew who accelerated the pace of the peloton at the end, which prevented American George Hincappie, a favorite among the riders, from capturing the yellow jersey, if only for a day. Of course, the ever abrasive Lance Armstrong lead the charge of criticism.
Armstrong, competitor he is at age 37, rode a worthy race and remains among the leaders. Okay, he’s actually second, a minute and 37 seconds behind Contador. But it will take a stupendous performance, among the greatest in the history of sports to win this thing.
For now, Alberto Contador is Da Man.
Do yourself a favor, if you have the ability, tune into Versus next week and watch the final stages of this amazing sports event. Intense competition. Glorious countryside to watch. Fascinating crowds along the routes. Pretty nifty.
– Seedy K