– That was not an earthquake you felt in the aftermath of Stage 15. It was the world’s most populous simultaneous orgasm as Lance lost nearly 2 minutes and the Haters tremored in a collective, sweat-soaked delight. For the first time in a decade Lance showed he wasn’t bulletproof. Even before the autobus reached the finish the Haters hit their keyboards hard -- their expressions of anger-glee thrust into all corners of the internet with a joy that was nothing short of frightful. I turned off my TV post-Stage 15 thinking Contador’s ferocity was something unmatchable. The uncorking of the Lance hatred, though, was terrifying in how personal it all proved to be. The near-immediate and shouting-volume schadenfreude from the Haters -- that, in fact, was the most ferocious thing on display on Sunday.
– Much sound & fury about Team Astana’s role as locomotive at the front of the peloton for the bulk of Stage 14 when Big George was up the road in virtual yellow. I’m surprised that no one has proposed this fairly logical thought: If Astana had gifted George 5 minutes on GC (keep in mind, at one point the break was well over 10 minutes up on the field), it’s a real possibility that Astana wouldn’t be able to grab the 5 minutes back later in the race.
Don’t look at George’s GC results in previous Tours. He’s never ridden for GC placing. But do look back at previous Tours to re-acquaint yourself with 2 facts: (1) He can climb like a freak. I remember one year in particular when he pulled Lance & co. up the Galibier and shredded the pack down to about 30 guys. That’s just one anecdote. I’m sure if you did some research you’d see how often George played enforcer for Lance in the huge mountains. To repeat, he can climb. Agreed, he can’t keep up with Contador’s explosive attacks. But if it’s a Tour title on the line he could likely keep the gap reasonable. (You can rest assured if he’d been in yellow en route to Verbier -- especially if his lead was significant -- he wouldn’t have lost 4 minutes like he did.) (2) George is a world-class time trialist. It’s conceivable that he’d lose zero time in next week’s Annecy TT.
Astana chased in Stage 14 for a very good reason: If George had found himself in yellow by 3 or 4 or 5 minutes with a week to go it would’ve been agony to claw the time back.
– Why didn’t AG2R add real firepower to the Stage 14 chase ’til the very end? They were certain to lose yellow on Stage 15 up to Verbier. Why not go all-in to hang onto it for one more day? I don’t recall a yellow jersey-owning team who ever spent less time at the front of the peloton. I’m not just talking about Stage 14. I’m talking about the entirety of week 2.
– And then there’s Garm*n. To their credit they kept it in their pants all day ’til it was obvious that Martijn Maaskant was wasted in the breakaway near the end. When Garm*n went to the front in the last 5km’s I figured they were trying to set up a train for Tyler Farrar to get him the maximum remaining Green Jersey points. But then I checked the stats and saw how Farrar’s a cellar dweller. He’s a distant 5th in the competition, and he ended up getting 35th in the stage.
Why, then, did they chase? Like a mid-tantrum 5 year child, if they can’t get what they want (a single stage win) their only outlet is histrionics. Garm*n is the embodiment of bike racing futility. Never in the history of the sport has there been such an inversely proportional ratio between race-day accomplishment and carpetbomb-like media coverage. In the last 2 years their palmares is neck-and-neck with powerhouses like Team Elk Haus and Vacansoleil. It’s as though up to now they could live with anemic result after anemic result thanks to the fawning media attention. Note how the news stories about Garm*n are never about a race itself. It’s their chef, their ostensibly unique anti-doping program, the zany personalities of their ex-lumberjack riders, up-close-and-personal fluff fluff FLUFF ad nauseum all the time.
Perhaps Stage 14’s chase was a crack in the façade -- a statement of Garm*n’s frustration about their dubious significance in the peloton: We can hardly win a thing, but we can still have an impact! And while I could’ve predicted shenanigans like this from certain shallow, egomaniacal members of the Garm*n organization, I can’t believe the key role played by DS Matt White -- a rider I used to really like and a former teammate of George’s from back in the Discovery days. His assertion in the press that their only goal was ‘to keep Wiggo out of trouble’ plays his audience for stupid. Being near the front and being at the front are different things. And seeing Dave Z pulling like mad was as depressing as depressing gets. We’ve made some nice dough selling about a metric ton of DZNuts in the last year but seeing him lead the chase was so unsavory that I lobbied to quit selling it out of protest, only to be
saved from myself out-voted by my two terminally sane business partners. Dave, don’t forget the Nuremberg defense doesn’t fly.
– A not uncommon bellyache heard on Twitter & the forums every time Tyler Farrar gets stuffed by Mark Cavendish in the sprints: ‘Well, if Garm*n just had the payroll for a lead-out train like Columbia’s…’ To those who buy into that, a quick reminder. Garm*n does have the payroll and they’re not spending it brilliantly.
– But I must give credit where it may soon become due: Bradley Wiggins is proving to be a whole lot more than just an All-Pro time trialist. And he’s at the heart of our favorite photo from Stage 15..
– A favor to ask: Pretty please stop calling us from 9am-10am CST. We’re here to help you, that’s our job. And the first bit of help we’ll give you is telling you whatever it is it can wait until the stage is done!
– On the top-5 list of biggest pre-Tour news stories was whether or not Tom Boonen snorted himself off the Quick Step Tour team. Based on his performance (crash after crash, nary a sighting in the mass sprint stages, then a DNS before the Alps) our question is a simple one: Why did he bother? He burned mega-PR points with fans by lobbying the UCI so vigorously to get in. Where’s the contrition? was the thought I couldn’t suppress. And now, PR points spent, to what avail were his efforts? He’s already announced that he’ll do the ’09 Vuelta as prep for the World Championships. That’s great. So why did you try so darn hard to get in the Tour?
– Speaking of the Tour and Quick Step and invisibility, did you know Stijn Devolder is in the Tour? Neither did I until somebody mentioned it to me late last week. It’s funny to remember how just a year ago he was hyped as a possible GC contender. And I don’t mention that to disparage Stijn. I adore the Spring Classics specialists, which is why I hoping against hope that Sylvain Chavanel could win in the rain on Stage 12. Rather, it’s just funny how people dream up such interesting ideasabout who might transform themselves into Grand Tour stars.
– WOW! Trek needs a spell-checker .
– I love catiness. Which is why this article amuses. Of most interest is Betsy Andreu’s comment beneath the article. Given the recent rapprochement between Lance and Frankie Andreu, her plainspoken venom is startling. And while I have no interest in discussing the substance of her assertions about this now-famous hospital-bedside chat (since it’s been discussed to death elsewhere), I wonder why I must sign in triplicate a HIPPA privacy form at the pharmacy window in order to buy non-prescription Zyrtec-D, but Lance’s intimate medical information is treated like public domain. Doctor-patient privilege, did that get replaced when I wasn’t paying attention?
– A question I don’t think anyone ever bothered to ask: If dopers suck, what should we think about the legendary ’84 US Olympic Team? Since their blood doping wasn’t illegal yet, does that put them beyond reproach? Is the act of doping only reprehensible if you’re violating what’s enumerated on a banned list? If you’re ahead of your time with your methods or substances are you pure? Mine isn’t really a question of the ’84 team, but rather of how we should think in the future of pros who make ill use of emerging products.
– A quick plug for Competitive Cyclist: We’re hiring. If you can move to Little Rock and if you can stand to be surrounded by mouthwatering bikes and great people, send us a resumé.