July 2, 2011: 339 Days to Vendee

Posted: July 28, 2010 in It's All Important Stuff

Sniff, sniff, the 2010 Tour de France is over. Well done to Alberto Contador (Yellow Jersey), Alessandro Petacchi (Green Jersey), Anthony Charteau (King of the Mountains), Andy Schleck (White Jersey), Team Radio Shack (Team Classification) and Sylvain Chavanel (Combative Rider).

These are my favorite moments of the tour this year…

Stage 15 from Pamiers to Bagnères-de-Luchon, the obvious choice as most dramatic. Andy Schleck began the stage in the Yellow Jersey with a 31 second lead over Alberto Contador and ended the day 8 seconds behind Contador . . . a total loss of 39 seconds. Wait a minute, that is significant because it is the exact same time by which he lost the tour. It is also significant because of the circumstances under which Schleck lost the lead to Contador. Clearly they were the class of the field and the only real contenders for the jersey. Armstrong, Evans, Basso and Leipheimer had all cracked at various stages of the race and apart from Schleck and Contador, the only riders who were consistently in the small but elite peleton at the end of the mountain stages were Sammy Sanchez, Denis Menchov, Jurgen van den Broek and Robert Gesink.

About three quarters of the way up the climb, Andy Schleck attacked Alberto Contador and, for the first time in the entire Tour, Contador could not respond. In that moment . . . when Schleck finally had the measure of his great rival, a truly bizarre thing happened, Schleck’s chain came loose. Suddenly, instead of adding critical seconds to his lead, Schleck was desperately trying to get his chain fixed before the others rode away from him. People will argue for years to come as to whether or not Contador should have taken advantage of Schleck’s misfortune or else waited for him. Contador claims he didn’t realize Schleck was having a mechanical problem and he also couldn’t afford to let the likes of Sammy Sanchez and Denis Menchov eat into his slender 2 minute lead. The issue was argued on these very blogs and it was suggested that if Contador had waited, Sanchez and Menchov would have waited too, but how was Contador to know that? There was no time for a round-table discussion and, rightly or wrongly, Contador, Sanchez and Menchov all headed for the summit without Schleck. Schleck showed tremendous courage and did his best to reduce the deficit but he didn’t have a big enough group on the descent and ended up losing 39 seconds to Contador along with the yellow jersey. Those 39 seconds proved decisive.

The Prologue, according to Phil Liggett, was the most decisive stage as Andy lost 45 seconds.  “Andy can’t time trial.”  Proven untrue when Andy really scared Contador in the final time trial.   It turns out that Andy needs 2 1/2 weeks of hard racing to properly warm up for a time trial.   Go figure.  Perhaps that is my problem.

The Tour organizers had decided to incorporate 7 sections of cobblestone roads to the stage 3 and  many felt this would disadvantage Alberto Contador who had very little experience of riding on the pavé, but Contador only lost 1 minute 13 seconds to the Saxo Bank contenders when he was expected to lose quite a bit more. If anything it was a disaster for the Saxo Bank team when Andy’s brother Frank had to abandon the tour after crashing on the pavé  and breaking his collarbone. One can only wonder how differently the Tour would have turned out if Andy had had his brother Frank to help him in the Pyrenees!

And finally, Lance bid his final adieu.  I think that the old guy really showed himself well.   We look forward to seeing you at Kona next year.

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