Wednesday, July 19, 2006

"He looks bad today, as bad as a David Hasselhoff music video"

Wherein I doubt you can show me a finer day of competition in any sport any time this year

A day like this is why a Tour de France mountain stage can be one of the most exciting sports events you can watch. I'm reading text updates every few minutes and can't wait to watch the three-hour replay tonight.

It's the second day in the Alps with four vicious climbs and another summit finish. Guys are burnt from yesterday's l'alpe d'Huez finish and no one has stamped their authority on the race. Floyd Landis has looked strong, but hasn't ridden anyone off his wheel. With today, another mountain stage tomorrow, and a time trial Saturday, I consider this race a tossup.

...With the race concluded all I can say is "dude, that rocked!" It had an epic breakaway, a valiant chase, and world talent blowing up like Gordon Ramsay over a broken sauce. I've never raced but used to do a fair amount of distance riding. Plenty in the 100-125 mile range and a handful over 150 miles. Worst ride was maybe an 80 miler I attempted about a week after recovering from the flu. Had a couple climbs steeper than I thought and I had a total bonk 50 miles in. I was completely destroyed and it took me almost three hours to go thirty miles. So to watch a major contender just completely run out of gas as his hopes float away knowing there's not a damn thing he can do is gutwrenching. And utterly compelling.

For race highlights:
  • Cycling News has the complete stage report. This is one I keep minimzed and refresh every 10 minutes. Also where the title quote came from.
  • TDFblog covers the final climb

If you've never watched cycling and want to learn what goes on in a race, I always recommend Frankie Andreu's diaries. He's an American who rode support for Lance for a few years. He's retired and now shows up on OLN doing mind-numblingly boring reports and interviews from Le Tour. Still, his diaries are often funny and provide insights into cylcing tactics, team dynamics, and occasionally gossip.
  • 1998 TdF.
    Tonight at dinner our French rider Jean-Cyril was talking with our French waitress about what was for dinner. Tyler interrupted asking a question in English, and the waitress answered in English. Jean-Cyril surprised that the lady spoke some English said, "Ah, you speak very good English" The waitress turned to Jean-Cyril and responded, "Thank you, and you speak very good French." We were laughing the whole nightlong. She thought because we were an American team that we all were Americans.

  • 1999 TdF.
    George, being the nice guy that he is, decided he was going to toss one of his bottles to a guy waiting on the side of the road. He gently tossed it at him and it hit him square in the chest. It almost knocked the guy out. George didn't realize that when your going 40km/hr a water bottle can became a bullet when you throw it at someone. Even worse was that the bottle was half-full.

  • 2000 TdF.
    After completing two of the mountains my group was flying down a descent. The group was all strung out in one line and at the bottom of the hill the road shot straight back up for the start of the third climb. I was sitting in the middle of the group and as I looked up the road I saw this brown blur cutting across the fields in front of us. We were going sixty km/hr downhill and this blur, which I thought was a dog, was sprinting at about twenty km/hr. All of a sudden the brown blur, like an arrow, shot straight into the group and hit Guesdon (Francaise des Jeux) on his bike and leg. That's when I saw it was a deer. Amazing as it sounds Guesdon didn't crash but the deer was messed up . When I passed the deer it was on the ground having convulsions, I think it broke it's neck. Guesdon later on had to do a bike change but other than that he was fine. One last thing about my group, on the last climb Ritssel (Mercury Card) looked like he was in a huge gear. I looked at his rearwheel and I swear it was only a 21 instead of a 23. I asked him, why he was riding a 21? He looked at me in shock, he thought he had a 23 and couldn't figure out why he felt so bad.

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