July 13, 2007

Le Tour, so far

Avoiding all the usual "wow, the start was in London" stuff that would be expected here (and well, it was a weekend of great cheer for the capital and for Kent) the Tour has been pretty spectacular so far this year. Much of this spectacular has been down to Fabian Cancellara, whose demolition of the competition in the Prologue was only the beginning - he and CSC have worked hard to defend the yellow jersey over this first week. It's by no means standard for the winner of the Prologue to hold onto yellow for more than a couple of days, and to see the race leader attacking and taking stages for no reason other than, well, wanting to is great. It's dull, dull, dull (sorry, Lance) when taking and holding the race lead is seen simply as an exercise in mathematics.

The sprinters have put on a good show too - Robbie McEwen coming back from a nasty crash 20km before the end of a stage, getting back onto the back of the peloton and then working his way through to surprise Boonen and Hushovd with a mighty sprint out of nowhere was an awesome thing to watch, and I'm sure the people of Ghent were happy to see a Belgian one-two at the finish there after Tom Boonen... well, either let leadout man Gert Steegmans win or didn't. Nobody's telling for sure. Boonen got to break out his green shorts as a result anyway, although he's now had to give them up (possibly temporarily) to Erik Zabel, who seems to have been taking sprint points since roughly the time of Jacques Anquetil.

The British riders have distinguished themselves, too - David Millar made up for his disappointing form in the Prologue by going on a suicidal break on stage 1 and ending up in the polka-dot jersey for a few days for his troubles, and as I write this Brad Wiggins is 18 minutes off the front of the bunch on a solo breakaway. It's most likely a doomed breakaway, but if the peloton doesn't fancy pursuing him then you never know - tomorrow's the first serious climber's day with the Col de Colombiere near the end, so people will be looking to save their legs. Poor Mark Cavendish hasn't had the best of times, though, not least having had a contretemps with a spectator in Kent which led to a bike change, then the next day getting caught up in another crash near the finish.

Hero of the Tour for me so far, though, has to be Cofidis' Geoffroy Lequatre. Why? I mean, he turned pro in 2004 and hasn't got a single professional victory to his name yet, and rides as a humble domestique. Yeah, but then again, this is a guy who crashed heavily in the feed zone yesterday after his wheel had an argument with a musette, scraped himself raw and was assumed to have abandoned. But no, 44 minutes after the leaders he struggled bleeding across the line while everyone else was packing up and going home. Nobody would have faulted him for abandoning on the spot, but he still made it to the finish, just because.

This was of course well outside the time limit and by rights he should have been eliminated, but the commissaires decided to allow him to start today for 'combativité extraordinaire'. He spent the night in the hospital being cleaned up and stitched and eventually didn't start today after all, but this gesture allowed him a much more dignified exit from the Tour than being simply slung out for being outside the cutoff time. Huge respect to the man, especially in a sporting world where footballers will writhe around on the floor and have to be stretchered off whenever they sustain a slight cut to the knee.

Will Boonen regain the green jersey and hold on to it this time? With Kloden and Vinokourov both suffering from injuries, who will grab yellow from Cancellara? Will Michael Rasmussen use his mysterious alien powers to levitate up the mountains again? Will Eurosport ever start their goddamn cycling coverage on time? Will David Duffield choose a combination of shirt and jacket one day which clash so excitingly that my television actually explodes? Stay tuned for the next two weeks to find out..

Posted by mpk at July 13, 2007 1:06 PM | TrackBack

There's room in the rules for "combativité extraordinaire"? That's awesome!

Of course, I have to defend football and mention Jaap Stam getting his head stitched up on the sideline and then getting back on the field. :-)

Posted by: Kimberley at July 14, 2007 9:41 AM
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