Monday, July 28, 2008

Tour de France 2008 Wrap-up: All For Carlos

There's always that odd sensation when the Tour ends, like coming out of a tunnel. All of those tasks and thoughts and issues that got pushed aside for three weeks come back into bright focus, to mixed effect. Ah well, all good things as they say.

Carlos Sastre may just have given "tranquilo" back its good name. In recent years, that word has been uttered by many an accused doper, only to be followed by confession or definitive proof. But this tranquilo was about Sastre riding his race, not getting caught in the trap of outside pressure or team politics or trying something different at the last minute. He celebrated as he wanted on L'Alpe d'Huez, and he didn't blow himself up trying for too much on the TT. He had the luxury in the TT of knowing things were going his way, but in both cases he went with the attitude of doing his own thing and letting the chips fall where they may. I'm no expert, but I imagine relaxation opens the blood vessels - he may be onto something.

It seems that the way to win is either being a cold killer or a cool customer. That in-between where your heart and head get too stirred up seems to get you in trouble. I don't think it's the emotion itself, that emotion kept Cadel Evans going after he crashed, and got him his first yellow jersey. I was glad to see how much he wanted it and how much it meant to him. But it's the energy it takes, energy you need in the final race to the line. Perhaps unfair for a number of reasons, but I already find myself seeing Evans as the next Jan Ullrich. It won't be the same guy he loses to each time, but it could be a succession of little Spaniards if Alberto Contador is back next year. I haven't caught up on all the analyses, so I don't know if it's been discussed somewhere, but Evans' position in the TT seemed awfully f***ed to me. His arms were so low, it looked like he could topple forward at any moment. It may be aerodynamic, but can you get power? Surely they check that in the wind tunnel too.

George Hincapie put in a heroic ride, 10th in the TT, a shredded left side not stopping his usual solid performance. He talked so matter-of-factly about his injuries afterwards, it's moments like that that always make me pause and think about what these riders go through. Unbelievable pain, all in a day's work.

It was Jens Voigt who talked about this year being "all for Carlos," and I couldn't be happier for Voigt and the whole team. All that second-guessing about doing too much work and not taking enough time at the right spots, I'm really glad it worked out for them and they got to take home yellow for Carlos and for the team classification. It was an awful bit of luck, yet somehow fitting that Jens managed to actually work his butt off and lose his saddle in the final laps on the Champs.

Frank Schleck reaching for Andy as they crossed the line was a poignant moment in more ways than one. The brothers were celebrating their dream of just being there together, let alone their joint success. But the other telling thing was that at the moment Frank was reaching out, Andy had his eyes on Carlos. He held hands with Frank briefly, but then moved up to Carlos for an arm around the shoulder. Now, the brothers will be sharing memories of this Tour in their living rooms together for the rest of their lives, but I think Andy was looking at where he's headed in years to come. He will surpass his brother, as Frank himself acknowledges, and I hope it stays the same between them as that happens.

The Champs-Elysees is a grand finish any way you slice it, and is another one of those reminders that the event is bigger than any one rider. The peloton, the big wide monster that ate up the narrow country roads, suddenly looks tiny as they rattle over the cobbles towards the Arc de Triomphe. Likewise, the riders on the final podium always look like little kids, in wide-eyed awe of where they find themselves.

Speaking of where they find themselves, Garmin-Chipotle was such a great source of joy, inspiration, and just plain fun for the whole three weeks - thanks boys! Christian Vande Velde has wisely and thankfully gone the cool cucumber route with his newfound status. He too rode his own race in the TT, and finished ahead of all the GC contenders. If he hadn't have fallen in that descent, Vande Velde would have been on the podium for sure. Which is fine, he fell and the others didn’t, no complaints there. The point is what that means for the future - his talent and durability are right up there with the top contenders.

Christian is already looking forward to next year, aren't we all! Heck, even Kimmage is on board. My wish list: a TTT with real time gaps, a healthy Dave Zabriskie, and a fit Tom Danielson. It may still be tough to end up with yellow in Paris, but if we had all that next year, he'd be in yellow at some point! You know what would be really fun - if there was a TTT and an opportunity to pass the jersey around - let Danny Pate have it for a day, see if that finally makes him feel good! I love Danny, he is a hoot in his interviews, what a sweetheart. It has been great to see the Tour through his eyes, and those of Will Frischkorn, who wrote such wonderful diary entries for VeloNews. They were a great insight into a first Tour experience.

David Millar provided great insight into a man's soul with his diary - no ghost writer needed when he writes his book! His heart was on his sleeve, on and off the bike, and as I commented on the team site, his heart fuels this team. Millar was at once humbled and elevated by his team and what they accomplished their first time out. One of the great quiet moments after the TT was Millar waiting patiently, standing off to the side with his head down, as Vande Velde was interviewed by Neal Rogers for VeloNewsTV. When VdV was finished, he walked away from the camera, noticed Millar, and the two exchanged a warm grasp. Another glimpse into what makes Garmin-Chipotle special - these guys aren't just teammates, they get each other, they give "believe in each other" a whole new meaning.

And it's for that reason that I gain such pleasure from a silly little thing like having the Garmin team car on my GPS. Every time the drive home was getting boring and endless, a quick glance over to the little dots of argyle driving along with me gave me a smile and sent me reminiscing about the glorious past three weeks. And now it's on to the next… Wishing a safe and healthy Olympics for all our boys!


Nikki said...

Julie - Thanks for the great writes again through another great race!!! And I'm not just saying that because I totally agree with & LOVE your writes on our garMEN either!!! Go Argyle!!!

Thanks Julie!!! Hope you make it this way sooner than later!!!

Anonymous said...

Nice post to sum things up! I'm certainly missing the race, but am definitely looking forward to next year, too.