Saturday, July 7, 2007

TdF Prologue: What Do You Want?

For someone who doesn't even like baseball, I have a curious penchant for quoting this movie, but another scene from Field of Dreams comes to mind. "Ray" and "Terence" are at the ball game, and Ray says, "What do you want?" Terence runs down the litany of his peeves from the past thirty years, and Ray says, "No, what do you want?" Terence realizes they're standing in front of the concession, and says, "Oh, dog and a beer."

And so we arrive at today's Tour de France Prologue, and we see who wants what. These are the best of the best, so this is not to take anything away from the field of amazing athletes who have reached the top of their sport. But to be the best, that is reserved for a very special few. They are the ones that come to win. Many come with hopes and dreams, and a more select bunch come to contend. But coming to win is a big step from coming to contend, or even wanting to win, and I believe we saw that difference today.

Fabian Cancellara, he came to win the Prologue. He felt it was just and right that the rainbow jersey fly his colors at the top of the top, and he made sure he did just that. Bradley Wiggins wanted desperately to win, but I think when you throw all those nationalistic hopes and pressure in there, it gets in the way of flat-out coming to win, and he just missed the podium. George Hincapie certainly came to contend, but I imagine it's a little bittersweet again for him this year, hanging on for third.

For the overall, Alexandre Vinokourov came to win. The feisty Kazakh who longs for the Soviet training days doesn't want to hear about short distances and specialists and plenty of time down the road - he came to win, so he put in a top performance. The rest of the GC contenders were perfectly respectable and remain within striking distance, but it would appear they came to contend, just that one step down from Vino. There will be lots of spinning about how Levi Leipheimer did fine, and is building his form. That may well be true, but I can't help but be a little disappointed that he didn't bring it from the start. It's time to rock and roll, baby, and as Sting says, you've got to burn from the first bar.

Levi wants to win, and very well could win, but he still talks the contender instead of the winner. He'll try to win, he'll think about winning, but the podium is okay for him. Maybe Disco needs to hire Ivan Basso again, give Levi his fire back! (He certainly came to win in CA and GA.) Vino talks about now or never, he's not interested in just the podium. And how many times did we hear Floyd Landis say it last year, "I'm here to win it," nothing else would satisfy.

Now, coming to win isn't the only thing, there is a long way to go, and any number of outside things can happen. So all of the contenders are still very well in contention. As I said, these are all top athletes and they will show us amazing things in the weeks to come. But there are those very special riders who simply aren't like the others. They have the extra fire, the extra capacity for suffering, the place they can take their body and mind that the other riders don't even know exists. Obviously Lance Armstrong had that, and Floyd has it (one can only hope he gets to show us more of it in the future). Just as Floyd was a step above last year, it would appear Vino is that step above this year. Now if we could only get those two in a Tour together!

But what about Andreas Kloden, you say? (Second on the day.) Ah yes, he is a puzzle. I think he comes to win, but despite himself, without really knowing it. Much will be made in the coming week, as the contenders await the mountains, of what must be a brewing rivalry among Vino and Klodi. As Phil Liggett would say, I wondah. Kloden seems to enjoy that lieutenant role, it would seem he's perfectly happy to come to contend. Someone forgot to tell his body though.

And what do the lay press want? To pump up a scandal to hyperbolic proportions, because I suppose that's what passes for sexy in our life and times. But what do the people want? Turns out they want to watch a bike race, as the throngs of crowds packing in all around the course from the first pedal stroke showed today. Vive Le Tour indeed.


Amy B said...

Thank goodness it's safe to comment here! I'm at work, (and clearly working VERY hard :) so I haven't seen any of the tv coverage, but I accidentally saw MD's headline, so I figured I might as well read all about it. What did Levi look like? Was he trying hard or saving some?

Julie said...

LOL, I'll be right there on Monday, Amy! Levi looked fine, and I think he was trying hard. I mean, he didn't need to win the stage like Cancellara, but I'm sure he wanted to make a statement among the contenders. He ended up amongst them (aside from Vino and Kloden of course, and even then, only ten seconds off Vino). A few are ahead of him, a few behind. Curiously, Pereiro was near the top of that little pack, with Evans just one second ahead and Rogers even, and the rest behind.

Anonymous said...

Hi Julie,

That was great. Very contemplative & insightful. I hesitate to write because I am just WAY TOO caffeinated today & barely controlled myself at MDs. (Actually, I guess that's up for debate... ;). But, in my defense, I was looking forward to TODAY ever since they announced it a few years ago. London is my FAVORITE city in the world & the Tour is 2nd only to the Olympics as favorite event. That the weather & crowds were both FABULOUS & no security problem occurred AND Venus beat what's-her-name a few miles away made today FANtastic! I'm STILL on a high!

I do agree that Fab was there to win it today. I was SHOCKED at how good Kloden was as I didn't think he was THAT great of a TTer. And I *am* a little disappointed at Levi's performance, but just a little & it's for selfish reasons - *I* wanted him to be in the top 3 along with DZ & George. I think he's SO spooked about last year, when he won the Dauphine & then imploded the 1st 10 days at the Tour, that he didn't want a repeat of being 'past' his form too soon. I've read they can only hold on to that form for so long. I actually, was more surprised at DZ. Maybe he's holding back too. He said in that pre-Tour article that he was just there to ride in support.

Ok, gotta get SOME work done. But I've been meaning to tell you that I'm also a big Kurt Browning fan & that he never won that elusive Olympic gold medal just shows the Gods love to joke around too much.... One of my all-time TV skating specials was Kurt's first (I think)& he did this bit to 'Singing in the Rain' where the ice had "puddles" on it & it just took my breath away.

Well, gotta go! And if I don't comment here more often it's just because I only have so much time at work to look at blogs. One of these days I'll get internet access at home!

'See ya' at Sara's!

susie b

Julie said...

Susie - on Kloden - remember, he did pass Evans in the final TT last year, and Evans is a good TTer!

Now that I've read up on the TT position controversy of yesterday (story at VeloNews), maybe that had something to do with Levi today. I'll have to watch for that on the rerun this evening, see if everyone went safe and flat on the extension bars.

Camille said...

Okay, I have some very astute cycling observations. Number one, Fabian looked really hot. And he has a nice grabbable tushie. Boonen also looked hot. And Stuart O'Grady is kinda cute. I'll be back later with even more insightful commentary. I'm going to watch it again and see if I notice anything besides who's hot.

Okay, true confessions, I was painting the whole time next to the TV, but tended to listen more than watch. I should be aSHAMED! I thought it was really cute how excited Phil Liggett got over Bradley Wiggins... who can blame those Brits for wanting their guy to win right there in London?

Camille said...

Julie, seriously, shame on me because I commented before I had even read your entry! Now that's just rude. But after reading it I wanted to come back and tell you that you just gave MD and whoever else covers the Tour a run for their money. I loved what you had to say about "coming to win." I will say I think Kloden must have a lot of that spirit, because you don't get 2nd to Floyd Landis without having shot for winning.

Excellent post, you should do an entry every stage if you feel so moved; I'd enjoy reading it!

PS... proud to "know" you :)

Camille said...

Oops, or I guess he was third to Floyd? Still... Those who shoot to win make the podium. Those who shoot for the podium don't make it. And we all know what an expert I am about all this. ;)

Anonymous said...

Excellent post Julie! I, too, am hoping you might be posting for each stage :)

I was disappointed with DZ (I SO want him to get a stage win this year), but he has been riding a LOT already this summer. I was cheering for George, but it was Fabian's day and he really smoked everyone! Kloden WAS impressive. I wonder how things will shake down in the mts in the Astana team.

I hadn't heard/read anything about the TT position. I'll have to look that up. Were they not going to let them angle their arms up? I know Levi was really having a lot of success that way this year.

How EXCITING to have things under way!!!


Julie said...

Camille - LOL! Speaking of hot, I'm checking in with Live Earth now that cycling is done for the second time today, and Sting is hotter than ever, how does that happen? Stewart and Andy look like death warmed over, but there is Sting in his slim, taut little yoga body, yum! They just brought out John Mayer and Kanye West to do Message In A Bottle with them, and Sting fit better with them!

Julie said...

And thanks, Camille and Jan, I am going to try and post regularly, but of course it gets trickier during the week with that pesky work thing!

Yes, Jan, it was the upright position thing. Apparently they've been very uneven in enforcing that so far this season, and decided, like, yesterday, to enforce it hard for everyone, so mechanics were scrambling to put straight bars on all the bikes. Levi had really dialed in on his new position, that has got to be super-annoying, as George might say.

cat2bike said...

I don't know why they are making such a big deal about the TT position! Last year they gave Floyd all kinds of trouble, which is one thing I wanted to read in his book, and it wasn't there. I guess he didn't think it was important. That position was for his HIP and other riders thought they'd try it. DaveZ worked in the wind tunnel this year; changed his position, and now I read he's going back to his "old" position, because he got better results. Funny, better results without the expensive testing of the wind tunnel!

I also read that Dave says the Zabriskies are happy in Gerona; BUT
I also remember reading early in the spring; that he wouldn't mind riding in the US more....hmmmmm....

And I'm sorry, but I'd love to see Jens and George go to T-Mobile!! Bill Stapleton is awesome, and VN says he's having trouble being accected
by the "other" Euro teams; but I think he's FRESH AIR in cycling. And to see the team he's built this year is great. I think T-Mobile is re-born!!!


Julie said...

T!! How was your ride?? Maybe you're posting over at Sara's as we speak...

Julie said...

Theresa - LOL, Ekimov was the same, knew his position better than the computers!

Jens and George on T-Mobile - how fun would that be? They would be a fortress for whoever the GC guy is in any given race!