Sunday, July 29, 2007

Spaniard Takes France

Alberto Contador Captures Yellow Jersey in 94th Tour de France

I have to admit, my boy Paul S down in FLA got this one right. Last Monday he called the race for Alberto Contador, even though he wasn't even the captain of his own Discovery Channel squad; that would have been the alliteratively named Levi Leipheimer, who finished 3rd, by a mere 31 seconds.

There was a time when I used to tape every stage of the race religiously, which years back ran late at night on ESPN2 ... Me and Paul would both tape as much of it as we can, then watch it over and over, and that was even before Sir Lance-A-Lot starting winning the first of his 7 Tours.

Lance did win a major stage in 1995. So the potential was there even before the New Lance miraculously emerged from the ashes of a debilitating disease.

The first Tour de France I remember really being into was '95, which was Miguel Indurain's last of 5 straight Tour wins. Nobody thought that record would be broken, 5 straight; Eddy Merckx had won 5 overall, but not 5 Tours consecutively. And the French dude on Greg LeMond's team in the '80s, Bernard Hinault, also won 5, but not in a row. Greg LeMond could have easily won had he not deferred to the captain.

Greg LeMond is also unfairly overshadowed by Lance, through no fault of Armstrong's. LeMond singlehandedly put American cycling on the international map, and he had a miraculous comeback of his own, recovering from a life-threatening hunting accident in 1987 to win two more Tours for a total of 3 overall.

Despite Lance eventually shattering his record, I still rate Miguel Indurain the best cyclist I ever saw: a big powerful time trialer, yet he didn't give it back on the tough mountain stages. And most of all, no suspicion of doping or cheating that I know of.

I only caught a few highlight shows this year, and my interest has gone downhill pun intended ever since Lance retired and the drug scandals overwhelmed to the point of detracting from the race itself to an alarming degree. Nobody thought it could get much worst than last year, when Floyd Landis captured Yellow but was immediately tested positive for performance-enhancing substances and forced to relinquish the title. But the black eyes kept coming for professional cycling, culminating in this year's fiasco, with the tour leader booted mid-race. In no other sport could that happen.

Maybe the Tour needs to be scaled down a little, maybe design the course on a more human level as opposed to a super-human challenge of endurance and pain. Maybe these riders look at the grueling course and gravitate toward chemical-enhanced guidance. I know I might, and I wouldn't be the only one, human nature being what it is.

If your shrunk the course down to two weeks, chopped off a few mountain stages, added a few more team and solo time trials -- at least for a few years until you filter out the drug use, you might have something there.

It's worth a try. All they have to lose at this point is further embarrassment.


jimithegreek said...


Johnny Starr said...

Viva La Tour De France!!