Friday, July 23, 2010

Le Tour 2010 - Stage 17 - Armstrong wishes he was younger, faster: don't we all? Well some of us anyway

Le Tour - any Grand Tour, in fact - is a beautiful thing to watch, and this one is no exception. It has had the scenery, the colour and spectacle; the bare, stripped humanity of pain, suffering and glory; as well as the day to day grind and the tactical toing-and-froing that makes long stage racing so engrossing. You can keep your World Cup football, thanks: as wonderful as that round ball game may be it still boils down to short games of skill played by 2 opposing teams on flat pitches; whereas a 3-week bike race is a far longer journey made by individuals and teams over almost insurmountable obstacles, both literally and figuratively, where they all end together, covered in glory. 

Anyway, it's also boiled down to a battle between 2 riders for top dog status, and that's what we expected anyway. So no real surprises there. And if Contador wins overall in Paris we still won't be surprised. Sure there have been other surprises along the way, and lots of colourful detail to savour. So it remains compelling, whilst perhaps not being the best example of a Tour de France to date. But it is the one we have.

Armstrong: I Wish I Was Younger, Faster |
Did the RadioShack team leader have any regrets this year? “I wish that I was younger, faster. I’ve had my time and I’ve got a long history with the Tour de France. I’ve had lots of good moments, got lots of good memories, I’ve also had some good luck, so I can’t complain and I won’t complain.”
PezCycling News - What's Cool In Pro Cycling
By the time Andy Schleck and Alberto Contador reached the final three kilometers of Stage 17 – and this goes for all the riders behind them as well – there wasn’t much else for them to do but maintain as high a steady pace as they could. At the intensity they were holding, and at that altitude, you only have the potential for one or two big accelerations, and pulling the trigger on those efforts could just as easy backfire on you and push you over your limit. So don’t mistake what you saw in the closing kilometers of the Tourmalet today for a passive ride to the summit; it becomes increasingly difficult for racers who spend very little time competing at elevations above 5,000 feet to launch searing attacks on the upper slopes of the high mountains.
PezCycling News - What's Cool In Pro Cycling
As the gradient kicked in, Boasson Hagen was the first to be jettisoned from the leaders, Burghardt and Kolobnev pushed on leaving the others floundering in their wake. Meanwhile Saxo were setting up the play for Andy Schleck. Cancellara, followed by Chris Sorensen and then Fuglsang layed down a blistering pace sending many riders out the back; Basso and Evans the most notable, later to be followed backwards by Vinokourov!
PezCycling News - What's Cool In Pro Cycling
All the pressure was on the young Luxembourger, he had to lead Contador, Schleck needs time in hand for the time trial, but with only 5 kilometres to the line he was running out of road to make his move. The gap between the Schleck/Contador tandem and the hopefuls was creeping over 1 minute.

Nico Roche was yo-yoing just behind the chasers, showing how just how fast the climb was being ridden (and how good he is!). Schleck wanted Contador to come to the front, but that was not going to happen and then at 3.8 K’s Contador shoots past, but Schleck counters and rides up to his shoulder.

Looks were exchanged between the two that would have killed lesser mortals.

Through the mist and the mad crowd the two battle on, as they come to the 1 kilometre flag and the barriers to give them a clear road to the line. 500 metres and Schleck is still on the front as both struggle towards the finish. Out of the darkness Contador comes next to Schleck, but he crosses the line half a wheel behind the young rider.