Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Tour In Summary

First let me apologize to you all for completely dropping the ball on the last 3 stages of the Tour. I was on vacation and was having a hard time watching the Tour much less blogging about it. The race is over and we all know what happened and how each of the last few days played out on the road so recapping each day would be pointless. Instead I am going to offer my thoughts on what transpired over the 3 weeks and how I see things shaping up for the remainder of the season and next year.

First the Good....

  • The revelation of this year's Tour has to be Bradley Wiggins. Wiggo was able to stay with the big guns in the mountains and while not TTing as well as he has in the past he was still good enough for 4th place. If he continues to work toward the Tour for the next 2 years as he has said he would, Garmin has two legit Grand Tour GC guys in Wiggo and Vande Velde.
  • Lance's return-The guy is 37 and has been out of competative cycling for almost 4 years, yet still manages to return and finish on the podium. I think that his time away really hurt in the mountains where he was dropped by Contador and the Schlecks a couple of times and 10th and 14th in the two Time Trials would be completely unacceptable to the Lance of old. It will be interesting to see how he and Johan build Team Radioshack for next year and if another full year of training will make a difference in the 2010 Tour.
  • No postive doping tests (so far). Was this really a clean Tour or did the next generation of undetectable doping product make its debut? I really hope it is the former and not the latter.
  • Cavendish's six wins. The guy is virtually unbeatable inside of 200-250 m to go. He won on flat sprints, an uphill finish, and on Stage 20 where there was a Cat 2 climb near the finish. This is also a huge credit to the Colubia-HTC team for showing how teamwork and selfless dedication produce results.
  • Contador winning his second Tour and making it 4 Grand Tours in a row overall. The guy is a real douchebag but you can't argue with what he can do on a bike. He out TT'ed the best guy in the world (Cancellara) and out climbed everyone in the mountains. That is a combination that is hard to beat.
  • The "also rans" of the Tour. BBox, Skil-Shimano, and Agritubel all were very active in the breakaways and managed to get a few stage wins in the process. They all gave the Tour organizers exactly what they were looking for when they were invited.
  • Rinaldo Nocentini-Pulled a "Voeckler" and wore the Maillot Jaune for 10 days. His career is set from now on.
  • The Schleck brothers-Both had a great Tour and climbed very well. Andy did a phenominal job in the final TT to secure his second place position on the podium. No doubt Andy will win the Tour sooner rather than later.
  • The Bikes-Giant, Scott, Specialized, and Trek all rolled out new TT bikes for the Tour and they were all HOT!! The Giant bike (Trinity SL) will be available to consumers next year. You can bet I will be riding one as soon as they come out.

The Bad

  • Cadel Evans-One of the strongest individual riders in the Tour, his team let him down (are you reading this Contador??). This coupled with his incessant whining about how weak his team was really turned alot of people off to him as fans (myself included).
  • Denis Menchov-Classic example of how hard the Giro/Tour double is to accomplish. A combination of not being recovered and just plain bad luck made this a Tour to forget for Menchov.
  • Alberto Contador's "tactics"-he was obviously riding for himself and himself only in the mountains. To quote a certain 7 time Tour winner..."There is no "i" in "team". Without the team you don't win." And you certainly don't attack your own teammates twice!
  • Garmin-Slipstream pulling back the Hincapie break to the point that George was out of yellow by 5 seconds. Easily the winner of "Douchy-est Move of the Tour" award. There was no reason for it other than to prevent Columbia from having the Yellow Jersey for a day.
  • Only three mountain top finishes in the entire Tour-I understand that by design the race was supposed to be decided on Mt Ventoux and to a degree it was (at least second and third place were), however I feel like the organizers took too much of the sting out of the Pyranees and Alps by only having one summit finish in each. I would have liked to see another ITT in the second week also.
  • Carlos Sastre-Paging Carlos Sastre, Sastre, S-A-S-T-R-E. Was he even in the Tour this year? I can't recall another year where the defending champion was more anonymous.

The Ugly

  • Jens Voigts crash-Here's to hoping big Jens is fully healed and back on the bike soon. He is a great guy and a great rider. I got to meet him at the Tour de Georgia in '04 and he couldn't have been nicer.
  • The infighting at Astana-even though publically it wasn't there, privately we all could tell what was going on. It is hard to have more than one rooster in the hen house.
  • Levi Leipheimer crashing out of the Tour- Levi was riding strong when he overcooked a seemingly innocent curve and broke his wrist. Lance lost a valuable ally in the mountains and Levi may have lost a podium position as well.

The 2010 season seems to be shaping up to be a great one. The introduction of a new American team (Team Radioshack), Alberto vs Lance vs Wiggins vs The Schleck brothers, the Tour of California moving to May and competing against the Giro.

It will also be interesting to see who comes over to Team Radioshack with Lance and Johan. From everything I have read Levi, Kloden, Popovich, and Zubeldia are following from Astana. You have to assume that Chris Horner will do the same as will Jani Brakovic. After Jonathan (D-bag) Vaughters public statement of "all of our riders are under contract and loyal to the team, blah blah, yada, yada, meow, meow" it will be interesting to see if anyone jumps ship over to Radioshack. I don't see Vande Velde or Wiggins leaving since they are both team leaders on Garmin and would be support riders at Radioshack. I also don't see Tom Danielson leaving since Johan never gave him the opportunity to ride the Tour, but in fairness neither has Vaughters. Dave Z is the only one I could see maybe moving over, but again he and Johan didn't have the best relationship at US Postal so that one is a pretty small possibility as well. It could be some of the younger developmental riders leave and jump over as Taylor Phinney did last year.

All in all it was a great Tour and I really hated to see it end. For those of you who are newer cycling fans I encourage you to watch the Vuelta Espana (Tour of Spain) on Universal Sports. It is a 3 week Grand Tour like the Tour de France but without alot of the big names and not as good of scenery.

Until next time thanks for reading!

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