Monday, July 14, 2008

Tour de France 2008 Stage 10: I Will Possess Your Heart

The symbol of this year's Tour is a heart, and I found mine overflowing today. I love this sport. I love the riders who leave it all on the road, for nothing else than to help a teammate. I love the fans who come out in enormous numbers and cheer every last rider. I love the directors in the cars who look after their boys all along the route. I love the leaders who use years of sacrifice and training and hard knocks to keep going when all others fall away. I love how we all love it, how we throw all rationality out the window and go on pure heart - to compete in it, to stand on the side of the road, or to squint at computer screens for hours on end across the world.

"How I wish you could see the potential…" No, I'm not stalking Christian Vande Velde, but Death Cab For Cutie's brilliantly creepy song aptly describes the relationship both rider and fan have with the Tour. The Tour calls to us, sucks us in, and won't let us go. The tiny voice in the back of Vande Velde's head all these years has grown large and in charge as he is finally reaching his full potential, holding his third place in the high mountains. To get to that familiar mountain scene, the tiny select group out of which the final winner is likely to come, and to see Vande Velde comfortably in that group, is a very beautiful thing. There's a long way to go, but this was a very big test, and Christian passed with flying colors.

The whole Garmin-Chipotle team worked their hearts out today, first the guys chasing down that big ole break at the start, then the rest of the guys hanging as long as they could on the climbs. How sweet was David Millar, suffering up the Tourmalet, calling out an apology to director Matt White. Whitey handled it beautifully, reassuring Millar and telling him to take care.

Boing! Jens Voigt finally got to uncoil his spring today (Where Is Jens? clip), and he and his teammates left a trail of bodies in their wake. I just had to laugh and laugh as we saw one of the greatest displays of The Beast ever. The Bear did his share as well, Fabian Cancellara turning himself inside out in the break. In what other sport do you have such a scenario - a world class superstar one day, just another cog in the team wheel the next. It was a brilliant strategy by Bjarne Riis, putting Cancellara out front, setting Jens and friends loose, and having them meet up in the valley to close the door on Alejandro Valverde and Damiano Cunego. It's too bad they missed yellow by just a tick, but I'm sure they'll take satisfaction in moving Frank Schleck and Carlos Sastre up in the standings, and seemingly eliminating some of the competition.

Versus has been playing a great commercial the past few days, with Jonathan Vaughters' voiceover about jumping out of your car in your underwear to appreciate crashing in a professional bike race. Cadel Evans brings to mind the part they leave out - do that, then scrub the wounds raw, then get up the next day and ride your bike for four-plus hours up some of the most difficult climbs in the world. All due respect to Evans for hanging tough today and taking yellow. And for being overcome with emotion on the podium. I can't help taking him to heart after that.

I'll enjoy the rest day as much as anyone, sleep is always nice, but I'm with Christian Vande Velde. It's a shame there isn't another stage tomorrow, after such an inspiring day as today.

No comments: