Monday, 25 July 2011

What to do next.

Well, that’s the Tour de France over with for another year. And what an exciting last few days we had of it. They went into the mountains with Frances Thomas Voeckler (what kind of French name is that?) still wearing the yellow jersey but declaring along the way that he did not think he could win the Tour. The French people had other ideas and were rooting for him all the way but in the end he was right. I seriously thought he was going to have a heart attack at the top of the Col du Galibier.

The Norwegians were out in force to cheer on Thor Hushvold and Edvald Boasson Hagen who won quite a number of stages between them even if they didn’t make it to the podium in Paris.

We had great drama as Andy Schleck attacked on the Col du Galibier and then our old friend Contador attacked on the Alpe d’Huez. And both of them were finally eclipsed by a smiling Australian, Cadel Eva
ns, who just kept up with them all and in the end overtook them and stood on the podium in Paris with the Schleck brothers in 2nd and third places. A lot has been made of his being the oldest Tour winner in post war years. At 34 years and five months he is an OLD cyclist. Poor thing!!! But he showed them!

The ITV 4 presenters were possibly more excited about our own UK success than about the final overall result. Having
lost the great UK hope Bradley Wiggins to a broken collar bone early on in the race, everyone’s eyes were on Mark Cavendish, a sprinter from the Isle of Mann going for the Green Jersey for the best sprinter.

He almost didn’t make it as he found the mountains very hard and kept being docked points for not quite getting home within the time limit. On the Alpe d’Huez he was lucky not to be eliminated but they would have had to eliminate about half the riders and so he got away with it. And then in the final stage in Paris, he almost lost it
when he had bike problems and had to swop machines and catch up with everyone. But he made it in the end: dramatic stage win on the Champs Élysées AND confirmation of winning the Green Jersey. Oh, he was a happy boy!

Another North of England boy shone in the final stage, making a breakaway rather nicely and showing what he could do even if he didn’t win the stage. As he was interviewed later we thought we heard a slight Manchester accent there so I Googled him. Born in Rotherham, Yorkshire, he started riding for Mossley CRT, a cycling club just down the road from us which is noted apparently for helping young cyclists to develop their skills. Small world, isn’t it?

But what happened to Alberto Contador? We mustn’t forget that he worked his way up from 75th on day one to 5th on the final stage, which is pretty impressive.

Maybe he was too ambitious; apparently he wanted to try and win both the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France in the same year. Possibly that was a mistake.

Then, he seemed to be dogged by bad luck. On day one he was held up by the big crash and it does seem that if you don’t get a good start it’s hard to catch up later. He had a couple of falls himself and injured his knee, which can’t have done him any good.

He and his team manger Bjarne Riis also reckoned that the team was not as good as they would have liked. And certainly he wasn’t getting the organised support that Andy Schleck and Mark Cavendish got from their teams.

He reckons that he knew he’d finally lost it when Andy Schleck made his very successful attack going up the Col du Galibier. After that, despite doing well on the Alpe d’Huez and on the team trial he appeared to just settle down and enjoy his cycling. After all, there’s always ne
xt year.

In the meantime, I now need to find another obsession to occupy some of my time. No more Tour de France on ITV 4 in the afternoon. Maybe, as French philosopher Voltaire said, it’s time to “cultiver notre jardin”. The tomato plants are doing quite nicely thank you.

And finally, here’s a nice little alphabet of the tour from El País.

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