Monday, July 21, 2008

Tour de France 2008 Stage 15: Mix of Sun and Clouds

Sun: Garmin-Chipotle boys Christian Vande Velde and Danny Pate - both showed great form, hanging tough and doing the Argyle proud in both exciting finishes - that for the stage and that for the GC contenders. After all of Jonathan Vaughter's dreams and plans for these two, to get them where they rightfully belong in the sport, and to promote the environment in which they can rightfully succeed, he must have been thrilled to see Pate contesting for the stage and Vande Velde still contesting for the jersey. Why do I get so emotional about Christian's success? This excellent article on VdV by Paul Kimmage pretty much says it all. If that one doesn't have you reaching for a hanky, well, you probably enjoyed Versus' coverage tonight.

Simon Gerrans - I really don't know much about him, but P&P certify him as one of the nicest guys in the peloton, and his salute was adorable, as was his big smile on the podium. He started with a closed mouth, probably a reflex with his braces, but forget that, this is the Tour de France podium! He let loose, and it was a beautiful grin. If Danny had to lose to somebody, I'll take Gerrans.

The Brothers Schleck - the cute brother story pays big dividends as Andy gave everything but a kidney to get Frank in yellow. Andy attacked, fell back, clawed his way to the front again, and rinse and repeat for several cycles. This not only helped Frank, but also Carlos Sastre, who gained back some much-needed time. Cadel Evans looked vulnerable a couple of times, we'll have to see if that was just him getting his Alps legs, or if he's in real trouble. Seeing the brothers work together, and Frank's sparkling eyes as he received the yellow jersey, I couldn't help but think back to that heart-stopping crash last month at the Tour de Suisse, and how all of this might not have been. The whole CSC-Saxo Bank team buried themselves again today, and will have a nice rest day to enjoy being in yellow - jersey and numbers.

Clouds: Oscar Pereiro's crash. I didn't like the looks of this descent, from the moment Danny Pate was trying to zip his jacket right before the first hairpin bend. The pictures of Pereiro looked awful, the riders who had seen it looked horribly shaken, and those were very tense moments before we learned that he was moving and that the injuries were not critical. Whatever other issues there are with Pereiro, I was impressed with how loyal he was this Tour to Alejandro Valverde's interests. Phil always liked to joke about that time Oscar fell off while eating his lunch a few years ago, probably time to retire that one.

Round-about Rink: Mass carnage on both sides of the circle, including most of the Garmin-Chipotle squad, not the usual pretty site for that particular traffic furniture. Glad to hear everyone apparently made it through alright, and will hopefully get things all patched up on the rest day.

I'll be here all week: Yes, it's Johan week on Versus. His comments themselves this evening were fine for the most part, so that was something of a relief. Of course they stayed safe, nothing in the doping arena, and were generally focused on and respectful of the race at hand. As for his friendly American book signing crowds, they must have those Bush-Cheney screeners out front gathering loyalty oaths. Not that I would pull a Jane Fonda on him, but there are hard questions to be asked.

The most disappointing part of the evening was the absence of Frankie Andreu in the booth. Obviously they aren't going to be there at the same time, but I was happy when I saw Bruyneel would be doing just part of the broadcast, and held out hope that would mean we would still get our Frankie fix. Not tonight, I sure hope he comes back on Tuesday, because if he doesn't, that would be seriously wrong. The whole Take Back campaign already had its farcical elements, but if they give Frankie the boot in favor of Johan, it's all over.

Even if Johan was an angel, it's still kind of annoying. Here we have a great new clean American team, and a really nice, clean American guy holding his own in the Top Five on GC. Let's focus on that, let's celebrate that. We don't need the Pavlovian "Lance" bell to garner interest from the home viewer. It just pulls us back, instead of moving us forward. And forward is definitely where this sport needs to go.

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