2009 Tour in Review

Another Tour comes to an end.  There will be the myriad posts and articles about “Tour Withdrawal”, and to some degree I can understand it.  But for me, there is a certain sense of relief.

You see, since the race takes place a good 6 time zones away from here, I have to keep myself oblivious during the workday – not the easiest of tasks when you’re in front of a computer 8 hours a day.

That being said, the conclusion of the race also allows for some perspective.  Like every Tour, there was much more than the chase for Yellow.  In line with the Tour giving us multiple competitions to follow (Yellow, Green, Polka-dot and White jerseys), I have organized my thoughts along the following categories.

Huzzah!

There were two performances in this year’s race that really stuck out in my mind as showing great competitive spirit.

    – Serguei Ivanov on stage 14.  Attacking out of a soon-to-be-caught breakaway and going full-gas for the solo win ahead of a charging peloton was a thing of beauty.  The sight of him sitting on a curb next to his bike in a heap panting for air to recover was just awesome.  Talk about leaving it all out on the road.  Chapeau.  That was Big Ring.

    – Thor Hushovd on Stage 17.  Tuning in to see this stage in progress was my first genuine WTF? moment of the Tour.  A sprinter leading over two tough mountains in the Alps?  We’re more likely to see Stuart O’Grady cry.  I couldn’t believe it, but there it was.  A lone maillot vert leading the stage.

      Not content to listen to the Cavendish honks gripe about the Manxman’s relegation, Thor was determined to show that he was indeed the stronger rider.  I stand corrected: the only thing less likely than Hushovd leading in the mountains is Cavendish leading in the mountains.  Dude wouldn’t even go to the front of the Grupetto.

    –  I’m not a Cavendish hater (I generally hate haters), so I will give the mandatory and well-deserved props to Mark for winning six stages.  That takes some serious talent and a great team to put it into action.

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Buzzkill

Jens Voigt’s crash.  You really hate to see it happen to a guy like that.  He was the victim of such bad luck.  First that crappy wheel change from the neutral service car, costing him a place in a breakaway, then that awful crash.

Honorable mention goes to Tyler Farrar.  So close and yet so far.  One of these days he will have a breakthrough and win his share of sprint stages.

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Dude!

Contador’s attacks.  His ability to spring out of a lead group on a steep grade looks almost effortless.  I hate to even utter it, but I sincerely hope it is a result of natural talent and hard training.  I’ll stop there.

Also worth noting is his time trialing.  What was once a weak spot has become a strength.  It seems that it is the one discipline that can be most affected by training and dedication.  His TT metamorphosis reminds me of what Levi Leipheimer did after the 2006 Tour.  He rededicated himself to the time trial and said that he spent every third day of training on it.  It paid off for him and it paid off for Bert.

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Meh

Thanks to my DVR, I did not have to subject myself to either Craig Hummer or the same collection of tired ads every stage.  I was blissfully treated to the commentary (pronounced “Common-TREE”) of Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen.

I did check in on the “expanded coverage” a few times, and to his credit, Hummer was better than last year.  However, that’s like saying an F is better than a zero on your exams.  He has to step up his game again next year.  His pronunciations were better and he understood more about cycling, but I just don’t get that vibe that he is a real fan of the sport outside of the Tour.

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So that’s it.  Another Tour done.  There were some fine performances and even the French got to savor some stage wins.

Am I sad to see it go?  No way, it’s only one race on the calendar; even if it is the biggest one.  There’s still San Sebastian, Worlds, the Vuelta, Lombardia, Missouri, and the list goes on.  If you really love the sport you want to see good racing and there is a lot to be had.

Now maybe I can get some work done.

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