The past week has seen some real edge of your seat viewing for any cycling fan . Some stars have fallen whilst others have catapulted to the top of the GC .Even though Cadel Evans has the style of a donkey on a bike he has shown the heart of a lion all season and is probably one of the greatest World Champions to wear the rainbow bands ever , and now he is in yellow too !
Andy Schleck has lost his brother Frank to a crash on a day over the cobbles when he was expected to fail , but thanks to some fantastic team work by the strongest rider of his generation Fabian Cancellara , Schleck junior defied the odds to ride most of the pre race favourites off his wheel . His stage win today after an attack on a climb which Alberto Contador could not follow now marks him as the man to beat in this years Tour . His only achellies heal may be the Time Trial on the second last day . However, he has improved his riding over the cobbles to such an extent that I for one look forward to seeing what his team mate the World Time Trial champion Cancellara , may have drilled into him over the past few months . On paper he should lose three minutes to Contador but what if he has improved enough to half this deficit . That would really make for a spectacular final week .
Nicholas Roche has emulated his father and King Kelly by giving the general public in Ireland someone to cheer for who has a real chance of a top ten finish overall in Paris . Today he dropped from eight overall to sixteenth , but that is as far as I can see him falling . Over the next two weeks he looks determined and classy enough to make his way back into that elite arena of the top ten on GC and with the whole country behind him he may just pull it off .
Team Sky have put all of their eggs in the Wiggins basket . A seemingly unlimited budget may buy a space age team bus but the professional arm of the British cycling federation is now far removed from the controlled environment of the velodrome . Whilst maths formulas may produce gold medals on the track , there are a lot more uncontrollable variables on the road and especially at the tour . Armstrong may have made it seem otherwise , but just look at him this year . I think Bradley will do well if he manages to finish within the top ten in Paris . Given the huge amount of money Sky have invested will this be viewed as a success or a failure ?
Tom Boonen’s absence seems to have been a blessing for Quick step . Chavenel has won 2 stages and worn yellow on 2 separate days whilst Pineau is currently leading the King of the Mountains competition . The question now being asked on the team bus is Tom Who ?
Today Lance Armstrong was just not up to the task in hand and lost almost 10 minutes . Every multiple winner before Armstrong had a ‘day of collapse’ when they crumbled never to reach the dizzy heights of Tour success again . Today was Armstrong’s . When he retired after 7 wins and setting a record which will be almost impossible to equal , he retired at the top . I could not fathom why he came back last year as he was 95 % destined to end his career on a low , plus it was bound to ignite further questions around the whole issue of whether or not he was doped when he won . I’m sure he expected some journalistic investigation but the can of worms that has now been opened will forever tarnish his career , whatever the outcome . Will he finish out the Tour this year . AT 4 pm today I was convinced that he was about to pack , but now , as this is his last ever Tour I think that he probably will continue to Paris . He will try for one last stage win and act as a super domestique for Levi Leipheimmer . If he were to take the final stage in Paris i’m sure the atmosphere would be electric .
And then there’s Cav . Mister I don’t give a f**k but actually I can’t even sleep at night I’m so hurt by what the papers are saying about me . His stock hit rock bottom at the recent Tour of Switzerland where he acted like a real scumbag , but one case of the wahwah’s on the podium and all is forgiven . George Hincapie says that this is the real Cav and who could disagree with him . It’s as though he had some sort of epiphany . He is now humble and contrite in interviews and seems to be wearing his heart on his sleeve . Chances are that someone as emotional and fiery as Cav will reoffend are high but perhaps that sort of emotion and lack of self control is what makes him the fastest man around . That and Mark Renshaw who would be a great ambassador for An Post he is so efficient at delivering his prized package to the exact required location at exactly the right time .
GAA fans have only one All Ireland hurling final each year , but cycling fans get three weeks of the tour which is like an All Ireland final every day . Every day that is except for the bloody rest days . Now if only Eurosport would do a 4 hour show from the team hotels and with the mechanics and soigneurs we would not have to suffer the withdrawal symptoms that a rest day with no coverage brings .
Actually one thing I will not miss on the rest day is ‘ Hi , I’m Tyler Farrer . Team sprinter of Team Garmin Transitions and I use ………..’ Between Tyler Farrar and Pippo the oily rake with the Sidi shoes I’ve missed a good few minutes of the Tour due to enforced channel flicking . Can we have some new ads please @spokesmen or cycling.eurosport.com . Padraig O’Cuin (our former Ras team manager ) is doing a great job on TG4 but my Irish just isn’t good enough to watch it all day . And I do like to support the local lad of the Kelly’s on Eurosport with his impossibly acurate reading of the race each day and the young lad of the Harmons knows his onions too !
Here is some action which may not have made it onto the TV coverage
Armstrong’s crash ;
Handbags after the finish ;
Robbie’s crash after the finish line ;
Enjoy the rest of the tour ,