Thursday, July 17, 2008

Tour de France 2008 Stage 12: It Happens

There's always some sadness when guys get caught, just because you know how it's going to play in the MSM. But today's departure of Riccardo Ricco was mostly relief for me. Last year, when Rasmussen was yanked, there had been so much turmoil that there was oddly little relief. But we got this done before the Alps, before Ricco took his coveted Alpe d'Huez stage and climbed into the top five and secured the mountains and young rider jerseys. Now, we'll see who else does supernatural things on the day, but at least we've eliminated a few of the major suspects.

I was surprised to read around the web that people were big fans of Ricco, believing and excited about the young new star. I envy their ability to still believe whole-heartedly. Not that I automatically condemn anyone who rides away from the peloton, but I can't help but at least ask the question of anyone who does. It just seems so clear now how unnatural it is to easily ride away on multiple occasions.

Which brings me directly to my next point. These Lance retrospectives on Versus are bizarre to watch, especially at this time in the sport. If they were put into full, open perspective, they might still work. But to just run them straight, as if nothing fishy was going on, and then go right back to ripping Ricco a new one and praising Garmin and Columbia and the new era - it all gets a little Twilight Zone. And we haven't even had the week of Johan Bruyneel yet, I shudder to think. I'll give this to Bob Roll - he is always very careful to add some variation of "now" to his rants against current dopers.

I guess the shock and outrage seen in force today comes from being a fan, and loving the sport. But David Millar is right, it's never going to end. We shouldn't be any more surprised by it than we are by drunk drivers or embezzlers or identity thefts. People break the rules in every profession, in every sector of society. Cycling can't expect to be any different.

And as such should also not be seen as a farce or not worth contesting. Yeah, I'm talking to you Michael Wilbon. I love you most days, but make very rude gestures at my TV screen whenever you open your mouth about cycling on PTI. Is baseball a joke? Football? Should we not bother with the World Series or the NFL Playoffs? What do you think we would find if we tested several players each day? This is what ticks me off about days like today. That this makes the headlines and not Christian Vande Velde. That people think this means it's the dirtiest sport around, instead of becoming the cleanest. David Millar, eloquent and moving as ever, writes about how unfair this is to Vande Velde in today's diary entry.

Millar also has kind words for Mark Cavendish, and kudos to him for win number three today. Columbia did another impressive job in the final Ks, but Cav himself was left to his own devices right towards the end and came through admirably.

I wondered how Cadel Evans could ever work his way into my heart, but he seems to be getting there. Doesn't mean I have to love him head to toe, but his podium emotions and his love affair with his stuffed lion have quite endeared him to me. I'm a sucker for a stuffed animal, and I just love how he kisses it like the podium girls and snuggled with it on the rest day. As for those contretemps with the reporters - shoot, can you blame him? I mean really, touching his shoulder? We saw how he favored it and how it was bleeding through his jersey, what was the reporter thinking? I do have to disagree on the kit choice. I'm with Kim Kirchen, I prefer just going yellow on the jersey and not the shorts for a workaday ride, but Evans earned the thing, I guess he can dress however he likes.

This is what I really need to know - did Garmin-Chipotle owner Doug Ellis, Garmin-Chipotle manager Jonathan Vaughters, and Chipotle CEO Steve Ells all go glasses shopping together? Or is that what drew them to each other? They saw those snappy little black frames across a crowded room and the sparks flew and they knew they all had to go into business together.


Courtney said...

Julie! Come on! You cannot let Evans worm his way into your heart after hearing his evasive, non-response when asked about Ricco and the doping scandals. Here he is, donning the mantel of champion complete with Landis/Lance bodyguard and shunning interviews because he is much too busy and important, and when a time comes to take a stand on something other than Tibet -- for f*$%^s sake! -- what does he do? "I can't comment," and "it's sad for cycling." As if he talking about a sudden weather change or a deer that ran in front of the peloton. Please! Read his comments, listen to the ITV podcast, and tell me that this ineffectual, toothless little wimp is getting to you.
(Love your blog, by the way.)

Courtney said...

Also, if I haven't ranted enough, here he had an opportunity to act like a true champion, and what does he do? Evades and defers. Sound like anyone we know from our past, Mr. Bruyneel?

Julie said...

Thanks Courtney. I definitely still have some issues with Evans (Ventoux anyone?), but I have to disagree with the wimp label. Anyone who can ride a big mountain stage towards the front with their entire left side raw gets my respect, whatever their personality is.

Not sure which comments you're referring to, were they right when the news broke? Because the comments of his I saw were plenty expressive, praising the progress and standing up for the sport of cycling. (Reported at both VeloNews and Cyclingnews.)

Anonymous said...

I think Cadel is great, and is NO wimp. A wimp would say "I'm in too much pain from my crash to try hard in the mountains. It's not my year."

And call me crazy but he's even endearing to me when he swats people like flies for doing something unnacceptable (like threaten his and everyone else's safety, or hitting him on his bleeding bruised shoulder). I don't know, I just like the guy. He has *earned* wearing all yellow. Wimp -- NO way.

Courtney said...

Okay, maybe not a wimp. But not a champion. He is too nervous, too insecure, too whiney and too evasive to really steal my heart. Try to picture the real patrons of the peloton: can you see Indurain or Mercxx swatting journalists? I did see the follow-up comments he gave about the doping, but listen to the ITV podcast after the news hit. Very disappointing.

Julie said...

Well, we could go 'round and 'round forever I suppose. But the shoulder reaction looked like a natural reflex to me. He had an open wound, no doubt irritated by hours of riding, I think he reacted as anyone would in that situation.

He is not an extrovert. Some people's brains are wired differently than others, and react differently to the onslaught of the scrum. As Bob Roll said on ITV, you just can't imagine it until you're in it. If CVV gets third in Paris, it's the thrill of a lifetime. If Cadel got third, it would be a failure. He came in as the overwhelming favorite. He had a potentially serious crash. He's trying to win his first Tour de France. If he shows the pressure of all that off the bike, as long as he's just a bit prickly and not vicious or unfair, I don't fault him for that. He speaks frankly about his team, and doesn't say anything everyone else isn't saying. What matters is what he shows on the bike, that's what makes him a champion. So far, he has withstood it all on the bike and come through with strong performances.