Talking the Tour

The Tour de France has not been much of a topic here on Low Cadence. I’m not a professional cycling expert. I am a fan and on this first rest day of the Tour, I think we fans need the rest as much as the riders!

When I say I am a fan, that does not mean I am a fanatic. My relationship with pro cycling is a complicated one. I don’t have much trust for it. However, I can’t help to be drawn into the spectacle of it all. The Tour de France is like a novel with intertwining plots and sudden surprises waiting behind the next turn of the page. Sure, the book may be a fantasy, but the storyline is captivating. You get drawn into the experience regardless of whether the characters are real or not.

Yet, they are real. This Tour more than any other in my short cycling experience has shown the frailty of the human element in this sport. With 18 riders having abandoned in this first week – most due to injuries from crashes – I’m emotionally beat up. I’m happy to close the book for a moment and leave the plot behind.

The emotions come from my own experience. There was a time when I would see a wreck on TV and I would feel bad for the rider. However, I was a spectator with really no emotional connection to the event.

Now days, with each accident it is more like a scene from Harry Potter where the dementors suck the happiness from the soul with each pass of their dark forms. I”m not putting myself on the same level as Johnny Hoogerland, but as the tears came when he stood on the podium to receive the polka dot jersey, I could feel his emotions. I’ve cried those tears before.

They are tears of pain mixed with relief. They are the result of survival followed by questions of the future. It is the expression of a body and spirit that has overcome — but with a price.

Meanwhile, we find Tommy Voeckler climbing atop the podium. A grown man looking like a school boy. His excitement over taking the yellow jersey was obvious.

It is going to be an interesting rest of the Tour. Here are my thoughts going forward…

BMC

Okay, I admit I have a soft spot for this outfit. It has a couple of Greenville connections and is a ProTour team with an American history. With Cadel Evans they definitely represent the underdog persona.

Let’s face it, they are one of the only teams with a GC favorite that has their whole team available. In this Tour that is saying something! However, in the back of my mind I can’t just help wondering if that is enough.

I envision a day in the high mountains when Cadel will be isolated with no teammates to help him battle the various attacks that are sure to come. I do hope I am wrong. Obviously, the team has met every challenge so far. Besides, Cadel always has the individual time trial to help level out the mountains a bit.

Contador

Seems to me that if Alberto Contador is to win this Tour, he is going to have to do it by himself. His Saxo-Bank team seems disjointed and is not a full strength. They seem to have no chemistry on the road.

Perhaps he is riding into form, but the Spaniard also doesn’t seem to have the punch you see in other races. Could it be the multiple crashes he has had? Could it be the distraction of the drug allegations?

Bottom line is that I could be wrong, but I don’t see him taking back the time he has lost. No doubt he will try and may even cut into the deficit, but it is a mighty challenge awaiting him… pretty much alone.

Who am I watching out for?

Leopard Trek has quietly been carrying on business. When I see Cadel Evans isolated on the climbs, it is the black and white kits of the Schleck’s team that I see pressuring him. Perhaps they have not lived up to their super-team status so far this season, but barring some unforeseen event (and this year that can’t be ruled out) I see a very good finish for Andy or Frank.

I always enjoy watching the sprinting machine that is HTC. However, I keep seeing Tony Martin popping up here and there. Not a bad individual time trial rider there. With his teammate, Veilts, there challenging for climbing stage wins, I will be interested to see how they counter punch the Schleck duo.

But really, what do I know? Could be that Contador has just been playing around with us and is waiting to “dance on his pedals” to the top of the podium. Then again, it could very well be as some others have said, “It will all come down to the rider who hasn’t wrecked himself out of the Tour.” I hope not. I hope this rest day staunches the bleeding — figuratively and literally!

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About Jonathan Pait

Jonathan started riding mountain bikes in the early 1990s. After discovering the ride can start at the end of his driveway, he moved to the road in 2006. Little did he know that first pedal stroke would lead him on an adventure that has become much larger than the bicycle.