Sunday, July 25, 2010

Final Thoughts- Stage 20

Once again the famed Champs-Elysee greeted the peloton, but more importantly, the 'Gang Going for Green'. And once again, Mark Cavendish made it look like HE was the PRO, and the others should be racing 'REC league'. To beat the best sprinters in the world 15 times over the past 3 years is one thing- to do it by boatloads of bike lengths, puts a whole new dimension on 'domination'.

We'll all have to wait another year to find out if Farrar or Boonen's best can rearrange the cosmos, but for the foreseeable future, when it comes to speed, it's Cav's World. Everyone else is merely along for the ride.

Alberto Contador confirmed his 3rd 'yellow' in as many tries. It remains to be seen whether the Spaniard will soar to higher heights as easily as we once thought, and become the undisputed General of his generation, or whether his duel with Andy Schleck will give Tour fans a Titanic tussle worthy of the legendary rivals of the sport.

21 days. Countless memories along the way. History records the winners, but rarely does it ever do justice to the sacrifice. The Tour has prospered for many reasons, least not of which is, for 198 men a month ago, the 'road' may have been mapped out, but no one ever truly knew where that would lead them. At the Tour, and in life, it's the JOURNEY that is awe-inspiring, and why it's all worthwhile.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Final Thoughts- Stage 19

It was the ending we had all hoped for and anticipated. The last two men out on the road drew their swords, shouted "Charge", and took on each other and the 32-mile course.

Andy Schleck seized the early advantage, but whether it was the adrenaline wearing off, or fatigue finally taking hold, Alberto Contador would take the upper hand and never look back.

Alberto has now won FIVE consecutive Grand Tours, and within that run, stood on the top step in Paris three times. He is the greatest of his generation, but Andy is nipping at his heels.

Not to be lost in the excitement, Fabian Cancellara wins yet another time trial and now has SIX Tour stage wins in his career. There is NO ONE who can match his maneuvers against the clock.

Tomorrow, Contador is crowned 'King', but the sprinters get one last chance to go for "Green". Petacchi and Cavendish renew their rivalry on the most famous avenue in the world. It will be a dash to determine speed supremacy.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Final Thoughts- Stage 18

The 'greats' make it look oh, so easy. Mark Cavendish continues to amaze with his unmatchable acceleration. He rewarded his teammates for all their hard work by delivering the final blow and taking home his 14th Tour de France victory.

In some ways, Cavendish makes it look like he's taking candy from a baby! This was his most explosive and emphatic win so far. And even though the Green Jersey isn't decided, Cav's focus will be on repeating as stage winner on the Champs-Elysee.

A quiet day for Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck as they prepare for tomorrow's race against the clock. No change in the yellow and white jerseys, but GREEN goes back to Petacchi. He'll have to defend his coveted color a final time in Paris, but it looks like he's booked a place on the top step of the sprinter's podium.

Tomorrow, it's one more chance for Andy Schleck, but the time trial should seal the deal for Alberto.

And a quick "BTW"- you know it's a 'fashionable affair' when Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz stop by to pay their respects to the riders, and honor the Dynamic Duo of Alberto and Andy.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Final Thoughts- Stage 17

Eye to Eye. Heart to Heart. Mano a Mano. What a way to pay homage to the mountain that is the Tourmalet. As predicted, Andy Schleck and Alberto Contador were locked in their duel, and are now linked for the ages by their desire.

The scorecard will show a Schleck victory, but it won't bear witness, or do justice, to the magnificent final fight through the mist. This high altitude pass has provided angst and aggression for 100 years, the latest chapter as pivotal for a podium position as we've ever seen. Contador keeps the 'maillot jaune', and should start last in the time trial on Saturday. He proved yet again, Grand Tour climbing is his domain, and his reign could continue for quite awhile.

Behind the Dynamic Duo, Chris Horner's excellence was like a beacon in the fog. Having worked for almost three weeks for Lance and Levi, the Team Radio Shack rider climbed for himself- proving his talent yet again.

The Tour waves good-bye to the Tourmalet and the mountains for another year. What a spectacle we've all witnessed.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Final Thoughts- Stage 16

It was an effort worthy of winning, but Carlos Barredo was caught with 1 KM to go! Amongst the breakaway was the American legend himself, Lance Armstrong. HE did everything he could to stamp a fairy-tale ending on his time in France. But like the 2 1/2 weeks prior, luck was not on his side.

There was a truce in the physical and psychological war for the 'maillot jaune'. Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck were content to coexist on some of the most historic climbs the Tour can serve up. They'll rest for 24 hours, then resume the hostilities when they revisit the Tourmalet on Thursday.

While it was a day off for YELLOW, GREEN was on Thor Hushovd's mind. The God of Thunder proved his metal yet again, crushing climbs that make mortals cringe, and winning enough points in the final dash to reclaim the prize he considers his own.

A much needed rest day, then a final 4 day dash into Paris...

Monday, July 19, 2010

Final Thoughts- Stage 15

This year's Tour is quickly becoming a Pyrenean classic! The French earned back to back wins in the mountains, giving them 5 stages this year.

But the explosive news of the day was the 'mechanical' that cost Andy Schleck his ACCELERATION up the Port de Bales, but more importantly, his YELLOW JERSEY. As opposed to earlier in the Tour, no one was willing to wait for the Maillot Jaune, so Schleck turned himself inside-out to limit his losses, eventually relinquishing the most coveted color in cycling.

The duel will continue, as will the debate- were Contador's actions 'honorable' and is this the way to win the Tour de France? For 2 1/2 weeks, Andy Schleck has been extolling his firm friendship with Alberto, today he made no secret about his resolve for revenge.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Final Thoughts- Stage 14

The Pyrenees are this year's proving ground. Not only for men to justify why they are here, but for 'super' men to show why THEY deserve to be called 'champions'.

It seems fitting that a Frenchman would win from a breakaway to mark the 100th anniversary of these mountains in the Tour. But behind Christophe Riblon today, the heavyweight title fight looked more like a game of Cat-and-Mouse.

Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck renewed their rivalry on both climbs, it was Contador who attacked most often...Schleck always had an answer. Towards the finish, they only had eyes for each other as they marked move after move, losing any chance of winning the stage, but more intent on NOT losing time to their rival.

We promised you a four-course feast here in the Pyrenees, and the appetizer was worthy of any gourmet cycling celebration. By the time we get to dessert, not just the riders, but also the fans, may have run out of energy.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Final Thoughts-Stage 13

Alexander Vinokourov felt he missed a golden opportunity yesterday. TODAY, he made sure he was holding the 'golden ticket'.

Throughout the day, the sprinters were licking their chops as they kept contact with the breakaway, but their hopes would be dashed by a bold move off the front.

Alessandro Ballan made the first move on the last climb, but the final blow was delivered by Vino. Officially, it becomes his 4th win at the Tour, but emotionally, it means much more. Finally allowed back into the 'Grand Boucle', he's hoped and dreamed for a win like this.

The first to congratulate him was his teammate, Alberto Contador, who still sits 31 seconds behind Andy Schleck, and his ultimate goal of the yellow jersey. Contador holds most of the cards by virtue of his time-trialing strength, but the Pyrenees will play no favorites. Starting tomorrow, there is no where to hide.