Saturday, July 28, 2007

TdF Stage 19: Unchain My Heart

Yes, it's almost time for the Tour to set me free for another year, but I'm savoring every last drop. I can't say it was as emotional as in some years past, but the final TT was as thrilling as it gets and I was literally on the edge of my seat (when I could stay seated, that is). I was rooting hard for Cadel Evans and Levi Leipheimer, but also wanting Alberto Contador to make it through safe and sound. I'm always so relieved when nothing weird happens on the course, so it's just a true race against each other. Poor David Millar doesn't have that satisfaction, but I can't imagine he would've beaten Levi today. Levi finally showed that full fire, and took a well-deserved monster win.

I can't do the whole "8 Seconds" thing, it just makes me think of Luke Perry and a sad story about a bullfighter dying young. (Although, that would fit right in with Versus.) I know, 8 Seconds in the Tour means LeMond, but they didn't make a major motion picture called that, so I go with Luke. Anyway, the chain incident does indeed come back to haunt Levi - he was penalized 10 seconds in Stage 8 after getting a little extra help returning to the peloton after his mechanical. Would he really not have made it back to the pack without that? Who knows, and I doubt Levi will dwell on it.

I also don't think he (or we) should dwell on questions of sacrifices and maybe not having to lose as much time on Cadel. If Levi didn't take the second place bonus on Stage 16, you might have an argument, but he did and he was going as hard as he could, so I don't know that he could've taken much more time from Cadel there than he did. Levi had plenty of opportunities in the early mountain stages and in the first TT to get time or keep even with Cadel, but he just couldn't bring it. And it was Contador's success that blew Evans up on Stage 14, where Levi took over a minute on him. So I think it all pretty much shakes out in terms of Levi and Contador helping each other. All three of these guys are obviously pretty evenly matched, so it could have gone another way, but I don't think anyone was robbed by the way it did go. Levi seemed very happy and at peace with his emphatic stage win and his podium finish, as he should be.

Cadel might have gotten it if he didn't blow on 14, but maybe he had to do that to learn how to go in the remaining stages, so again, I think it all works out in the end. They can all be happy and proud of how they fought to the last and made it through. May they all be back again next year, when the lines are (hopefully!) more clearly drawn. Which perhaps would mean Levi needing to find another team, is Slipstream still looking for a top GC contender??

Hat's off to Carlos Sastre for holding his fourth position. And to Popo and George for making it four in the top ten for the TT for DC. Fun times tonight in the Discovery camp. And to Chris Horner and Christian Vande Velde, they've both had a great Tour, great attitudes, and they both finished strong.

I don't think Cadel will try anything tomorrow, the green jersey is still up for grabs and the sprinters won't let that opportunity go. Discovery will have to be attentive, though, and watch for the gaps at the end. Levi has already promised not to "pull a Vino," probably helps that he was on the receiving end of that one a couple of years ago.

Lance was pretty subdued. Probably jet lag, but also probably doesn't know what to do with not being the center of attention at the Tour. And he wouldn't want to be, but it will still probably be weird for him to take a back seat at the victory party.

There's talk of a major rider statement on the Champs tomorrow, that should keep things interesting. Again, we've got green up for grabs, but if they do something on the first pass and then let the stage run out, maybe everyone will be happy. Riders taking a stand is crucial, but so to is showing that the race lives on. The race was alive with a great three-way battle for GC today, so here's hoping the top three sprinters give us another thriller tomorrow in their battle for green.


cat2bike said...

Julie, did you notice that Lance's hair is no longer graying??? I haven't seen him for so long, that was the first thing I noticed! At least the time gap is 9 seconds so we don't take anything away from mr.LeMond.
Lance reminds me of the president. Not hands on, but called in at the end to raise moral! I know, these guys were motivated, and they all respect Lance; but I don't know that his presence in the car affected much, except Conti is so young, it could have. I thought it was interesting that on the flat part of the course he was losing time, and he salvaged things, on those climbs.
I'm amazed at what you remember about the stages! I agree, these three where so evenly matched it was uncanny. I'm looking forward to tomorrows stage. It's like a vacation, when you are gone from home, and get home exhausted, need to unpack to start back your regular life, I kinda looking forward to the end of the Tour. Just so I get more sleep!!!

Anonymous said...

I really appreciate all of your excellent writing during the Tour, Julie! You always seem to be able to put into words (more eloquent than my own) what I've been thinking. These three guys were simply awesome today and just gave me chills. They should all be incredibly proud of both their athletic accomplishments AND of their professionalism in a Tour frought with turmoil.

You're exactly right in your comparison to returning from a vacation, T! Sleep I haven't been getting - household chores that haven't been done for FAR too long - friends I haven't called - appointments I haven't scheduled. Everything has taken a back seat, but damn what a great ride!

Anonymous said...

Sorry....that was me

Phil said...

Just finished watching the last day. CBS's retrospect/wrap up was awful. 80% doping scandal and 20% the race.

VS coverage much better and of course Julie's commentary which should be on one of the bigger sites..I've enjoyed it very much.

Great TT, great finish, and all in all, a great Tour. I'm sorry it's over.

Camille said...

Juuuuuliieeeeee.... any parting thoughts or did you fade out? Say the latter ain't so...