I struggled with what to write about the finale of this year’s Tour de France. Even though the Tour lasts for the better part of the month, when it ends, I always feel like it went by too fast. I love the spring classics season but they are just one individual day of drama compared to the saga that is the Tour. The Giro is like the kid brother and does little more than to prime the appetite for what’s to come in a few weeks. Of course there’s the Vuelta but if the Giro is the kid brother, the Vuelta is the red-headed step child of the Tour.
Alberto Contador won his third title and is beginning to cement his place in history as one of the best grand tour riders of all time. Can Andy Schleck finally take the next step and beat Contador or will he continue in futility just as Jan Ulrich did to Lance all those years. At least Jan got one Tour before Lance began his unprecedented run of seven straight Tour victories.
Reportedly the Schleck brothers are trying to start their own team but perhaps it would be better for them to stay with whatever Saxo Bank morphs into next year. Another option that I think would be a great fit would be to see them join Team Radio Shack. There’s no arguing that Bruyneel is the best in the business and if he can’t get Andy to the top step of the podium, no one can. Either way it will be interesting to see how the Schleck scenario plays out in the coming months.
Then we have the absolute dominance of Mark Cavendish in the last two Tours. His win today and his win Friday were both by at least five bike lengths; he is the BEST SPRINTER IN THE WORLD, PERIOD. Alessandro Petacchi won the green jersey and that is a great story in itself; at least he won two stages. I don’t think I could have stomached Hushovd winning another points competition with only one stage win. I think Thor Hushovd is a great rider but he is now a classics rider and not a sprinter. Sure Tyler Farrar is making improvements but as much as I would love to see an American emerge as a top sprinter; Mark Cavendish will be the best in the world as long as he stays hungry. I hope he is hungry for a long time.
Then there’s Fabian Cancellara who is having an amazing year. His two-time trial wins at the Tour and his dominance in the spring classics were absolutely brilliant. All that’s left for Spartacus to achieve is the Road World Championship; will this be the year?
And then we have the unfortunate ending to Lance Armstrong’s career. He has been a hero of mine since I was a teenager and I’m a year older than Lance. I read an article in World Magazine about a teenage triathlete named Lance Armstrong who was beating grownups. My fascination with him and endurance sports was born on that day.
I and I know many others had high hopes for Lance in this year’s Tour. He appeared to have the form as evidenced in the opening prologue but unfortunately he did not have the luck. We were left with the consolation of Radio Shack winning the team competition and at least getting to see the Tour’s greatest champion on the podium one last time.
Thanks for the memories Lance!
For more great Tour analysis, visit my good friend Tim Liew @ The Armchair Sportsfan.