Le. Tour. De. France.
As I mentioned during last year’s Tour, the departure of Lance Armstrong, the United States holder of a record 7 maillot jaune will separate the jingoist fanboy wannabes from true aficionados of professional bicycle racing at its highest level.
I have to admit that I’m probably closer to a fanboy and what I don’t know about the sport is an ocean in which my drop is hardly noticeable. It is on my list of weird sports that are wildly popular in the rest of the world and virtually ignored in the States as are Football (as opposed to Throwball), Formula One Racing, America’s Cup, Rugby, Cricket, and Curling.
Ok, so maybe Curling is not so wildly popular but it looks like it would be a hoot to play.
Equally my hands are not clean on the jingoist front though I can at least plead historic interest in the career of Greg LeMond who wore the maillot jaune on an (at the time) record 5 occasions. Unfortunately Greg has shown himself recently the pettiest kind of jealous record holder by lending his vastly diminished credibility to the witchhunting of Lance Armstrong.
I expect that personally Lance is the arrogant jock type that it’s painful to hang around with for more than 5 seconds at a time, what I know for a fact is this- he was the most aggressively drug tested athlete in his sport, perhaps in all sports. He never, ever tested positive.
As opposed to Alberto Contador, three time champion, twice consecutive. On July 20th the day before the final rest day of the 2010 Tour they detected traces of blood doping in his urine and on the 21st he tested positive for clenbuterol which he blames on tainted meat.
For once I agree with Armando’s prediction (kiss of death, I know) that the likely outcome this year is another Contador victory, followed by an August hearing that strips him of his 2010 title. Other outcomes are possible, it’s important to remember Contador only won by 39 seconds over Schleck (who lost his brother who was also his primary leadout guy to an accident in the second or third stage) and a mere 3:40 covered the top 4.
This year they’ve made some adjustments to the points. They’ll start with a fairly long flat stage today, part of it over a bridge that is underwater at high tide. This is intended to be a stately grand entrance, like Monster Trucks parading the Stadium before qualifying. No racing is expected, that will happen tomorrow in the Team Time Trials.
On the other hand one of Lance’s keys to success was his Tiger Woods work ethic. He always came to play so there could be some surprises. Race organizers want it to be more exciting than a Prologue which are quite exciting indeed.
My Dad had the experience of visiting along the route of a race in the U.S. that featured Contador last year after Le Tour and the Peloton passed by twice. He said it was a notable event, sucked the air right out of the street.
Coverage starts at 7 am on Vs. Mostly nothing notable happens but there are constant repeats so I’ll try and keep track of events you might want to look for.